On Leslie Knope and Wholehearted Living

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Most mornings, I run on the treadmill in my basement rather than leave the house at an ungodly hour in the biting cold. The basement is dark and cold too, but it has the added advantage of a small shelf where I perch my iPad to watch tv. I’ve run through Breaking Bad, Modern Family, Scandal, Frasier, Gilmore Girls, and Friday Night Lights, to name a few. Good stories are a powerful motivator. So is cake.

Often I find myself a good five years behind everyone else in terms of entertainment. I’m a late adopter of everything. I have a weird hang-up about following the crowd when the crowd says read this or watch that. Apparently, the statute of limitations on my crazy is up after five years. I currently enjoy everything the general public loved way back in 2010. This spring, I finally started watching Parks and Recreation. I’ve had quite a few near misses on the treadmill from laughing so hard. Humor and conveyor belts are a tricky combination.

Can I tell you how much I adore Leslie Knope? I do. I find her outlook on life utterly refreshing. She is genuine and charming and  sincere, qualities your rarely see in tv or in real life. Sarcasm, snark, and delving into our own darkness make up the majority of our entertainment these days. They permeate our culture and have become our default setting when interacting with one another. I enjoy a bit of wit and sarcasm myself, but I wish I layered it with more kindness and sincerity.

Leslie Knope reminds me that we can choose to be happy, rather than perpetually disillusioned. We can believe in each other. We can (gasp) have fun at work, and still aim for excellence. Above all, she reminds me that our ordinary lives in small towns and in small jobs within our small circles of influence can be lived out with a great passion.

I want to love my small life as much as Leslie loves hers. When I fire up the treadmill for the thousandth time in the morning, when I rouse the kids from their sleep and we go through the same motions and they are arguing/ “caring loudly at me”, when I sit down to write and all that comes to mind is exploring more about what it means to belong–I want to bring the best of myself. I want to leave the sarcasm and snark behind and live with kindness, openness, and true sincerity.

Until I started watching the show, I didn’t realize how much I need lessons in wholehearted living. Five years ago, when I lived my Swiss fantasy life and “normal” felt like a distant memory, I wasn’t ready to receive it. But today, now that my flag is no longer planted on European soil and it’s firmly rooted at the crossroads of Everyday and Ordinary, I find myself listening.

Learning to live with our whole hearts invested right where we are tells a surprisingly compelling story. How are you living wholeheartedly today?

Book on my nightstand: The Business Edition

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It’s time for another round-up of books. I haven’t read as much as I’d like recently, but I plan to remedy this over spring break between breaking up fights and indulging the extreme sloth that sets in when we lack a fixed schedule. If you have any must-read suggestions, drop me a line in the comments.

I’m currently working on a writing project with a friend which promises to stretch me into new writing directions. It’s a book on leadership, a topic on which I know the sum total of nothing. Consequently, my friend recommended a few books on business and leadership to get me going. I think I dozed off when he began to read me the titles, confirming my belief that the business world and I are not what I would call simpatico.

However, I ordered the books, read the books, and now I’m writing about the books.

Who Moved My Cheese: This book focuses on learning how to “deal with change in your work and in your life”. I understand the author’s point regarding change and learning how to embrace it, but it left me feeling a bit sad. I’ve learned to accept change fairly well, but I also have a deep appreciation for history and tradition. If everyone spent all of their time chasing the latest “cheese”, who would preserve our past? How can we take the best of our past and integrate it into our future? The book came across as the classic American viewpoint that newer is always better and in order to embrace the new, you must fully and immediately abandon the old. I don’t agree, and I don’t think too many people outside of North America would either.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: Well written, but a total snooze if you’re not interested in business or teams or dysfunction. Seeing as the only team I lead is a motley crew of little people who think I’m an idiot, I didn’t find it particularly helpful. If we define puberty as a dysfunction, then you have my attention. Also, complaining, lack of motivation to complete one’s chore list, and general sassiness should appear somewhere on the dysfunctional list. That’s the kind of team I lead on a daily basis.

Death by Meeting: You may have already guessed this, but I would indeed die if forced to attend meetings day in and day out. May I suggest this title is misleading? I have never considered myself well suited for business, but this book proves it. If a meeting included a cup of tea and sharing our innermost feelings, then you might convince me. If we meet to talk about books or art, even better. I’m certain there’s an audience for this book out there, but it’s not for artsy types who feel the blood drain from their heads when faced with a pie chart or corporate speak or financial statements.

There you have it folks. My take-away from a week reading business books? In the words of William Shakespeare, to thine own self be true. Time to return to a classic novel and a book of poetry. Have you read anything recently that feels like a departure from your usual bookish fare?

A House of Belonging

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We have a friend who falls asleep on our sofa every time he comes over. He sits down and we chat and we snack and we turn on the tv for a game and at some point in the evening, inevitably I look over to find him snoozing with his bare feet resting on the coffee table.

The first time it happened, I was confused. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, choosing to believe he finds us fascinating, and he shows it through some form of pleasure-induced narcolepsy. The second time I felt slightly offended. The third time, my husband stuck peanut m&m’s up our friend’s nose and took photos. I keep these pictures as proof that one’s early thirties are a time of extreme exhaustion from parenting small children, but still an appropriate age for indulging the inner child in all of us.

We’re in our forties now, and after many years of glancing over mid-conversation to find our friend asleep on the sofa, I choose to take it as a compliment. Our home is where he finds rest. We are his place of belonging. He knows he can put his bare feet up, rummage through our kitchen looking for a snack, leave his kids in our care, and fall asleep curled up next to our dog on the sofa.

As a rule, I wig out about before hosting guests. I worry about serving the right food or cleaning the bathrooms or making sure everything is just so before inviting people over. When I feel my inner Martha (of Mary and Martha fame) start to kick in, I remind myself what I really want to offer friends and family who walk through my front door. Do I want to offer a stressed out version of Pinterest perfection, or do I want to offer them rest? Do I want to offer them a host who is breaking down into fits of madness before opening the door, or do I want to offer belonging?

Offering others a place of rest and belonging doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m so grateful I have friends and family who don’t give me the option of holding onto my desire for order, and who refuse to indulge my crazy. They come over and put their feet up. They spill wine and eat the special treat I saved for later. They crush popcorn into my carpets and feed my dog table food when I’m not looking. They fall asleep on the sofa during special occasions. They see my carefully constructed house of cards, and they tap it gently until it topples over. They help me rebuild it into something infinitely better, a home with an open door and a comfy sofa–a place of belonging.

……..

Do you have friends who feel this comfortable in your home or vice versa?

This post is one in an ongoing series I’m writing about belonging. Meet me here weekly-ish for more. Thanks for being here today!

When Others Mock Our Faith

DSC_7109 via kimberlyanncoyle.comMy son found me in the kitchen, putting away the dishes. We made small talk for a few minutes, and then he surprised me by mentioning that the mother of his friend Brian discovered some of my writing online. She read an essay I wrote about parenting and how raising kids impacts my faith, and then she let her son read it too.

Brian then proceeded to describe it to my boy in a less than flattering light. In fact, his words sounded like a downright mockery of not only my struggles as a parent, but of my faith as well.

My face burned as my son recounted the conversation…

To read the rest of the post, join me at Circles of Faith.

Belonging and the Broken Body of Christ

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I write regularly about belonging, in part because it’s an area I struggle with in my own life, but also because I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t long for it from the center of their being. They may call it friendship or family or home, or they may call the lack of it loneliness or rootlessness or rejection. Whatever we choose to call it, a desire to belong to something and someone is essential to living a full and joy-filled life.

As we approach Easter and we as believers turn our eyes to the cross and the resurrection, I want us to remember that the longing to belong first formed in our spirits. Our deepest need and our greatest longing flows from a spirit created by God to connect with him. Every other need–for family, friends, children, home, vocation, or calling–grows out of this greater desire. Our spirit longs to belong to God, to live in communion with him, to know and be known by the one who crafted each of us with such loving attention and care.

If you find yourself struggling with your own sense of belonging, wondering where in this great, wide world you fit in, may I whisper this reminder in your ear? We weren’t made for this world. Not this broken, beat-up, cracked through its foundation planet.

We were created for more, for better, for the Garden with all of its bounty and perfection and evening walks after the heat of the day. We were made for that world, one where we were literally crafted from the very dirt of the place. How could we not belong when we held the land in our flesh and bones and the breath of God in our lungs?

We lost that world, but we haven’t lost the promise of a new one. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we can walk through the door of the Kingdom of God again. He is the key that turns the lock on the truest place of belonging our spirit will ever know. The spirit needs to find its home before we can give attention to our body and our soul.

We belong through the sacrifice of Christ. You belong through the sacrifice of Christ. Lonely you. Bored you. Confused you. Rejected you. Fearful you. You belong. There is a place set for you at this table. Come, enter, feast.