Embrace the Now

I am angry.
A feeling of dissatisfaction is my companion these days.
I don’t feel at home in this new place and I hate the fact that there is no time to make it a home.
My eyes have forgotten to capture, my heart has lost its song of gratefulness.
I am caught in between – between the past and the future – and that’s one of the most unsettling places to be.

I am panicked and stressed.
I am not happy with how busy I am these days and how little time there is to actually live, but many days I don’t manage much further than falling into bed with heavy legs at night. I often can’t do much more than to embrace the fact that starting any kind of new job is hard.

I am afraid to move on.
My faith feels stuck these days between not wanting to go back but also without any clue on what comes next. I fear to have nothing left.
I have to embrace the fact that being lost doesn’t last forever. And to trust that those who seek will eventually find.

In the midst of life -in the struggle of mourning the past and awaiting the future – I have to embrace the present. It’s all I’ve got right now and I have the chance to turn it into a past worth remembering.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

On Tuesday I wrote about transitions and how important it is to translate rhythms from your old home into your new life. This requires some practice and effort. Sometimes it also requires pain, especially when it comes to friends you have to leave behind.

We are really blessed in comparison to what friendships looked like a few decades ago. Facebook, Skype, Email, Letters, Instagram – we have countless ways to stay connected with friends, even if we don’t live in the same place anymore. But are we really more connected?

Every time I moved (and this happened a couple of times) I saw friendships hitting a crossroad. We had to say goodbye, but we also had to figure out how our friendship would look like from now on. Most of the time this happened rather naturally and we never really talked about.
And many times, the first goodbye was also final and I somehow lost touch with some dear people.

This makes me sad very often; I wonder how many friendships even survive the constant moving. Making friends as an adult is incredibly hard and I don’t want to do it over and over again.

In times like these I am immensly grateful for the friendships that do survive. There are some great people in my life who make the effort to stay in touch. Despite the distance and the busy lifestlyes we manage to find ways to share thoughts and lives.

Like A who I used to meet up with in my old home for dinners and movies. She was an expert in finding great films and hidden treasures. We don’t see each other often now, but when you read an email from her, you feel like she’s talking with you.

Like S who I used to visit once a week to see my  precious little godson. Being away from them is definitely hard, but pictures help a little bit. Whenever I have a bad day, P’s smiling face makes it better instantly.

Like T who lives on a different continent and most of our friendship happens online. She still writes messages and hanging out on Skype is a real treat.

Of course, none of these ways beats meeting up in person, but translating the way we live friendships can help bridge the distance a little.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

 

What a Table Can Do for Community

In my short twenty-eight years of life I’ve traveled the world quite a bit and spent
some time in different cultures. The best thing about other countries are the people
who invite you into their homes and lives to show you a few of their traditions.
Traditions I can then take back to my own life and introduce others to them.

When I lived in the States a friend invited me to spend Thanksgiving with her family.
I got to experience a whole day of family fun in the mountains, great food and good
conversations. A day to reflect, appreciate and give thanks. It was such a treat and
blessing for me. So I took this tradition back home and introduced my family to it.
Ever since then, they keep asking, “Can you please cook Thanksgiving dinner
again?”

Last Thanksgiving was a little different.

I am sharing my last Thanksgiving experiences on Kristin’s blog Turquoise Table today. Read the rest of the story here.

The Rough Parts of Transition

A few weeks ago I lost my calendar. For a teacher who has to keep track of lesson plans, class tests and endless to do lists, this is close to a catastrophe. So I needed to get a new calendar. I went downtown and thought I would find one within a few minutes.

One and a half hours later I was still roaming the streets.

I could feel frustration and anger rise inside of me.
Anger at myself for wasting all this time in search of a stupid calendar.
Anger at the city for being so new, so unknown and so big.
Frustration at my situation – I am the new person who has no clue on where to go.
I hate being lost and, more than that, feeling lost.

Moving to a new place is one thing, but making it a home is a whole different story. Transition isn’t over when boxes are unpacked and you found somewhat of a new routine. Transition takes time, and it’s mostly the little things that teach me how long it really takes.

When you uproot your life and go somewhere else you leave a lot behind that you simply can’t put in boxes.

Your favorite coffee place.
That papeterie shop which had everything you needed.
That path on the hill where you took walks to regain perspective.
The knowledge where everything is, what ways you have to go, which routine works best for you.
All these familiar faces and beloved friends who made life in your old home so enjoyable and memorable.

Leaving the old and familiar behind in exchange for the new and unknown is scary. So how can we navigate these rough parts of transition?

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Say a proper goodbye
I’ve written about this many times before (like here or here), but every step onto new territory is shaped by how you left the old one. It’s normal to hang in the balance while you’re transitioning, but if your heart and mind are always stuck in the old place and old routines, you will never be open to welcome new places, people or routines into your life.
So settle your accounts.
Look back on what you left behind and give thanks.
Don’t compare, but welcome this new chapter with a grateful heart and open arms.

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Translate, don’t copy your routines
This is a piece of advice I received from an American friend as he was transitioning into life in Germany. You had your go-to places and people in your old home and it’s important that you find new go-to’s in your new home. This might take a while and cost you a bit of effort. Most of the time it’s not possible to simply copy old routines into a new setting. The people are not exactly the same and there’s just one favorite coffee place.

But reflect on why you love these routines so much, what kind of people inspire your life, and then go look out for them.
You might have liked the coffee shop for its style, its staff or its coffee brands – so find a place that offers these.
You might’ve had a walking route routine to clear your head – so discover new paths.
You might’ve had encouragers, activists or believers in your circles of friends – so get to know new people and explore the qualities they have to offer.
You don’t have to forget about places and people you left behind, but give new places and people the chance to inspire you in the same way – just in a different shape or form.

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Give yourself time
Again, I’m preaching to myself – transition takes time.
How much? I don’t know, it’s different for everyone. I just know that putting yourself under pressure won’t make a transition any easier.
Your apartment doesn’t have to be finished within weeks – allow yourself time to furnish and decorate it. Wait for inspiration to come.
Your go- to places might not always be the most visible, so take some time to wander the streets without an agenda or watch in mind. When a store speaks to you, go in and have a look. Pay attention to details. Get lost on purpose.
Your go-to people need time to get to know you as well, so don’t expect too much at once. Take it one step, one person, one relationship at a time. Be brave to invite others into your home or accept someone’s invitation. Do things together. Share a meal and see what happens around the table. Allow people to surprise you with qualities you didn’t know before.

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On my involuntary walk through this new city I finally decided to not give into frustration and anger, but to accept this time of roaming and searching. I opened my eyes for new shops and surprising buildings I hadn’t seen before. It made me want to see and explore more. After a while, I found a cute little place with the most gorgeous design ideas and, finally, a calendar.

No, You’re Not

Moving to a new city and starting a new job (the first real job ever) is quite an interesting thing. During the week I am incredibly busy preparing lessons and teachings, countless meetings and admin work.
But then there are the weekends or breaks when my schedule is empty and I have some room to breathe. It is in the quiet times when I realize how abandoned I am.

I’m alone.

Leaving the safe shores of faith is quite an unsettling move. As I abandon traditional beliefs and try to rediscover truth I often feel lost and confused. And deep down inside, I can’t deny that feeling of fear – what if I abandon everything and will be left with nothing?

I’m alone.

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In the midst of this emotional turmoil, the following song has been on repeat for quite some time on my phone now.

It offers a powerful response to the lie we so often believe.
That we are all on our own.
That it will always be dark.
That it will never get better.
That we are abandoned.

I know I’m pretending
When I try to have an answer
It’s not what I intended
And I don’t know what comes after

There’s still those two thoughts
One after the other:
I’m alone
No you’re not
I’m alone no you’re not
I’m alone
No you’re not
I’m alone no you’re not

– Joseph. “Honest”.

I’m alone.
No, you’re not.

Life is an adventure and there will always be times of challenge, exhaustion and loneliness. We can’t always change the circumstances, but we can choose how we feel about it.

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We can discover beauty when we rest our eyes on it.
We can experience community when we make ourselves vulnerable.
We can find faith in the mundane when we keep on searching, keep on hoping, keep on seeing.
We can breathe freedom when we’re brave enough to walk on shaky waters.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

For Those Who Are Weak

“I’ve seen video content of a child that’s the same age as mine being raped by an American man that was a sex tourist in Cambodia.

“And this child was so conditioned by her environment that she thought she was engaging in play.”

Consider him acting well or really convincing – the testimony that Ashton Kutcher gave at the Senate hearing this week was nerve wrecking. He spoke out on child trafficking and child prostitution which happens frequently, right under our eyes – online.

Human trafficking is a topic that has been on my heart for a while now (ever since I visited Vegas) and the more I read about it, the more I am horrified.
“How can people do that?” is a question I keep coming back to.
Children are weak and helpless. They can be manipulated in the most simple and horrible ways to do the most horrible things for adults. They can be abused and treated badly just because adults get a kick out of it. Most of all, they can’t speak up for themselves. If they ever make it out of it (many don’t) they are left traumatized and scared for life.

But the real problem is not far away.
It is as close as the ads we’re watching, the clothes we buy, the food we eat, or the electronic devices we use.
It is as close as the low prices we pay for cheap products and constant novelty.

Trafficking starts with all of us – whenever we allow other people to work for us. Trafficking starts when we care more for our own pleasure than other people’s lives.

Well, what can we do about, you may ask.
The solution is equally close to home.
We are solution. You are. I am.
You might feel weak. You might feel hopeless and helpless.
But you can do more than you think.

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Think about the people who made your clothes before you make a quick buy.
Consider other people’s lives before you buy a new phone every year.
Buy local food and cook seasonally.

Next Thursday (February 23) is Shine a Light on Slavery Day. Share about this topic on social media. Paint a red X on your hand and talk to the people you meet that day. Read up on the subject. Organize events together with others. It’s as easy as that.

Human Trafficking is real.
What are you going to do about it?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.
And yes, this post took longer than five minutes – but sometimes you have to break the rules.

Why I Stop Taking Pictures

My colleague threw herself into the chair next to me. “What’s wrong with us? This week is horrible as if we have no time to breathe at all.”

She was right.

The last two weeks were crazy. Well, rather perfectly normal for end of term.
Grading papers through the nights and finishing all grades for the report cards. Conferences and meetings.
Spening all day at school.
My apartment looks like a big mess because I’m hardly ever there to clean up. All I do there is sleep. Since I don’t have time to cook I mostly eat sandwiches and fast food. So much for healthy eating resolutions.
I am just rushing from one thing to the next.

I must admit I do appreciate a certain amount of stress in my life. I like it to have several things running at the same time and seeing the tables turn my way.
But there comes a time when stress becomes too much.
You know how I know?

When I stop taking pictures.

When my heart can’t detect beauty anymore.
When my eyes have seemingly become blind to the gifts surrounding me.
When my soul has become numb to the creative sparks around.
When I breathe in beauty, but have become unable to exhale gratitude.

Last Friday was such a day.
I just needed some breath of fresh air.
There was still so much to do.
There were unanswered emails, unprepared lessons, unopened letters on my desk.
I. didn’t. care.

The sun was out, so I bundled myself up in a winter jacket, gloves and hat and went for a walk. I had no specific destination, I just needed to walk.
Walking despite all the things I still had to do.
Walk off the stress of this week.
Walk against the exhaustion of these countless meetings.
Walking off the frustration with people and schedules.
Walking towards a new perspective, towards restoration.

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It took a while, but then it happened.

First I recognized birds chirping in the cold winter air.
Then I saw the snow flakes glittering in the sun.
I inhaled fresh air and felt it fill my lungs, my body, my thoughts.

It seems ridiculously easy to recharge ourselves.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Go for a walk.
Have a glass of wine.
Let work be work and treat yourself.
Read a book, just for yourself.
Take a nap.
Let the sun shine on your face.
Inhale fresh air and let it fill your lungs, your body, your thoughts.

What does a breath of fresh air look like for you?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

A Second Look Changes Everything

It’s been five months since I started my teaching job at the new school.
Five months since I got to know 250 young people who I have the privilege of teaching. Through lessons, tests and talks in between I have gotten to know a tiny part of their personality and now have to make lucky guesses on their performance and chances. Often this seems nearly impossible.

Once in a while, my students surprise me.
I laugh or I cry.
I realize I don’t really know them at all.

Last night I attended a concert and a lot of my kids performed. There were great pieces, but I mostly enjoyed the unexpected performances by students who seem invisible in my classes or don’t do so well.

In my weekly classes I can only see so much, all I get is a glimpse.
Last night’s performances helped me to refine the picture I had of them and correct it if necessary. Take them out of the box I had placed them in and allow them to surprise me.

It’s been more than twenty years that I am on this journey with God.
Lots of ups and downs, and sometimes it seems as if life together has become dull. As if I have discovered everything already and there’s nothing new to know.
Sometimes life gets in the way and it seems like I don’t know God at all.

I guess I might have to attend the concert of life to see God perform and surprise me. To allow him to show up in my daily routines and exhaustion, to meet me right here and now.
To overwhelm me once again when my heart has lost its wonder.
To reveal himself in unexpected ways and people.
To help me break free of the boxes that limit my view of him.
To refine and deepen my faith in him.
There is, there has to be, so much more to learn and discover.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Rest in the Middle of Life

“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly. There’s just too much to do.
Work first, pleasure later.
I can rest when I’m done with everything.”

Do these statements sound familiar to you?
These battles inside of you between what your soul longs for and what your busy mind tells you to do?

I had this battle going on this weekend. The first week back at work after Christmas Break was very stressful, and I’m not really looking forward to the next with all the things I have to do.
I really don’t have time to rest.
I never really seem to have time.

I don’t have time.

That’s probably one of the most overused excuse in our society today, and unfortunately we often feel good using it because it makes us sound productive, active and useful.
So we give in to this lie that we can’t possibly rest now.

So how can we get the rest our souls need so desperately?

We make time for it.
And we’ll discover that there is actually more time than we think.

Time to do things for us, not for anyone else’s benefit.
Time to savor and waste on something that replenished our souls.
Time to listen to our breath and that soft voice of the father reminding us of his perfect love and rest.

So, in the middle of life and its busyness I decided to rest today.
I wasted time on the couch with a good book.
I made time to spend with  friends. I savored my breakfast.
I stretched out my empty hands and allowed the father to refill them.

I wasted time and found abundance instead.


Even though I’m two days late, I’m still joining my writing peeps
over at Five Minute Friday.

The Power of Food

Welcome to the first Five Minute Friday of 2017!
I hope you had a great start into the new year and are excited for everything that’s to come. Despite all the hardships and challenges, may you have always discover beauty in the ordinary around you.

A new year is often a good chance to start or try something new.
I have lived in my new apartment for three months now. Since I also started a new job, my life has mostly consisted of sleeping, working and eating. I know the way to the grocery store, to the underground station and back to my apartment. That sounds a little depressing, I know.

In the new year it might be time to connect more.

Connect with the place I live in. This last week I wandered through the city a little bit and discovered some amazing things. Cobbled stoned, tiny streets that remind me of my last home. Market places with food from all over the world. Cafés that invite you in for a hot chocolate on a cold winter day.

Connect with the people around me.
Beautiful houses and streets are wonderful, but people are the real adventure. Their stories are what makes life rich, messy, emotional, deep…life.
So I want to meet people and listen to their stories.
I want to invite them into my home and my life.
I want to gather people from different walks of life around my table.
I want to share a meal and more than that, a bit of myself. 

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Food has become one of the most underrated things in our culture. We buy more than we need and we wolf it down on our way to the next five appointments. We go out instead of taking the time to really prepare food and then enjoy what our hands have made. We don’t appreciate the different smells and tastes anymore because we don’t make time for it.

So we miss out on so much.
We miss the memories food can bring up of childhood days and all the fun we had.
We miss the blessing of fellowship around the table that food magically creates.
We miss the depth when people answer your gift of hospitality with their gift of honesty and authenticity. 
Never underestimate the power of food, y’all.

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We all have to eat at some point, so why not make more time to do so together? 

Where and how can you connect more with the people around you this year? 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today. A community of writers gathers every Friday to write on one prompt for five minutes. No editing, just sharing. Why don’t you join us for 2017?