Make Your Words Count

When I was still in school, my German teacher would always tell me I didn’t write enough. While others put down eight, ten or even eighteen pages at times, I was done after three to five pages. And yet, I managed to say what I meant and was able to score good grades nevertheless.

How many words does it take to say enough?

We probably all know people in classrooms, meetings or conferences that keep on rambling even though everything important has already been in their first few sentences. They just keep repeating themselves, but more words doesn’t always mean more content.

Make your words count.

And then there are times when we just can’t say enough about something so beautiful, breathtaking, delicious, amazing. We just need ot use our words to remind ourselves and others of the wonders this world has to offer and not everything is as dark as it seems. Our words can uplift, encourage and create.

Make your words count.

And sometimes words fail us. We experience things that don’t need words. Suffering that words cannot fathom, darkness that swallows our every thought, questions too big to put into coherent sentences. All we can do is to be silent and bear witness to what is happening.

Let your Yes be a Yes and your No be a No.
Make your words count.


This is part of the Hopewriters Spring Writing Challenge. But incidentally, it also fits nicely to today’s prompt on Five Minute Friday. Come write with us!

The Grass on this Side of the Fence

So here’s a confession: I compare. More than I actually should.
No matter how much I seem or am content with my life right now, no matter how many good things I have going on – I will always peek across the fence, observe what other people have, who they are with, what I seemingly miss in my life.
A slimmer figure.
Money to travel the world.
Better skills at writing, photography or cooking.
Success in marketing and sharing my craft.
A stable place I can call home.
A partner who loves me unconditionally.
A deep sense of belonging.
More self-confidence.
An unwavering faith.

Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. 

As I spiral down into my hole of despair, I wonder how people got to the other side of the fence. Were they lucky or did they just work harder than me? Do they know more people or did they just wait until something happened? Were they given better opportunities than me?

And that’s when it clicks and somethings shifts in my mind and heart.
It’s about opportunity.

Opportunity is actually an interesting concept because it’s not something we can earn or work for. Opportunities are undeserved gifts of grace that present themselves. 
But it is up to us what we make of them.

I am challenged to open my eyes for the many gifts that I have already been given in my life. The many little chances that could make a change in my story.
I see a woman with a nice coat – do I go over and make her compliment?
I discover the talents that are inside of me – do I use them for my career and relationships?
I hear of someone in need – do I offer my help?
I have this insane understanding of a certain topic – do I make it accessible for others?
I am a rather quiet and stable person – do I use it to create an open space for people to feel welcome?
I question a lot of things and think aloud – do I help others on their journey and engage in conversation?

The more I marvel at the many opportunities I’ve been given, I realize how green the grass on this side of the fence actually is.

I challenge you to look at the opportunities in your life: which gifts of grace have you received and what do you make of them? Which opportunities can you seize today? 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

One Thousand One Hundred and Thirty Five

One thousand one hundred and thirty five.
1135 is the amount of people who went to work one morning in Dhaka/Bangladesh in April 2013 and never came back. Just like every other person, they wanted to make money to take care of they families and have a future. So they worked insane hours in the most horrible conditions and were separated from their families for many months to somehow make ends meet. They remained unseen until this day in April when their factory building collapsed and buried them under it. 

Why should an incident that happened so far away from our home turf touch us?

These men and women were making clothes, shoes, bags and other kinds of accessories we enjoy buying from companies with big names. They suffered and sadly lost their lives to provide a luxury that we so often don’t even know how to handle. 

This tragic incident has touched people all around the world and compelled them to take action. Things like the Fashion Revolution Week that wants to raise awareness for this issue that includes us all.
They speak about where we buy our clothes and how much we actually need.
They ask big labels to be more transparent about their production line and a look behind the scenes.
They push for legislation that is beneficial for both producer and consumer.
They help us understand the ugly truth: We are the ones who benefit from this broken system, so we are also the only ones who can change the system. 

WhoMadeMyClothes_poster

Maybe it makes you uncomfortable to think about these questions.
Maybe it takes a bit of work to do your research before you buy.
Maybe you will have to give up a bit of comfort to change the way you buy and consume. 

Maybe this topic touches something inside of you that you rather stay away from.
A sense of responsibility.
A wind of change.
A nudge to action. 
A step towards transformation. 

That’s the day they become seen.
That’s the day their voice becomes heard.
And it should roar like a lion, demanding a change. 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

There are many ways for you to participate in the Fashion Revolution Week (and beyond).
Ask the brands you wear #whomademyclothes.
Choose companies that produce ethically (a list can be found here).
Buy second-hand or go to a clothes-trade.
Think about how much you really need and treasure what you already have.  

The Twist inside of Us

I sit at the table, a stack of papers in front of me. The red pen is dancing across the white sheets as I cross out something here or correct something there.
I am grading papers – one of the uncomfortable parts of my teaching job.

The more I have to tell others what they did wrong, the more I realize how twisted the mindset behind it is. We focus so much on our mistakes, call out what is not going well and complain about everything we lack. We have drilled our minds to watch out for the negative and always strive for improvement.

And while I’m not saying that we shouldn’t grow and learn and change ourselves, I wonder if this mindset tells us something about a belief we have installed in our society and allowed to trickle down into the very core of our DNA: We are not good enough. There’s always something wrong about us. 

This lie has shaped our identity from early on and affects the way we perform in school, engage in our relationships, practice our faith. In this fast-paced world of ours, we only seem to matter if we become faster, better, more effective at hiding our weaknesses.

But what if we shone some truth on this lie?
What if we celebrated our strengths and put them to good use?
What if we practiced more gratitude for the many great things we’ve been given?
What if we handed out compliments instead of criticism for a change?
What if we believed in the old words of “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing”?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

The “Good Life”

How do we measure a life? 
What determines the label ‘good’, ‘successful’, ‘amazing’?

The titles in front of our names?
The numbers on our bank accounts?
The mountains we have climbed in our careers?
The accomplishments we can brag about?
The size of our homes, cars, fridges?
The value of stuff we can afford?
The photos of our many glamorous vacation spots?
The relationship status?

What about the many little moments of happiness that show us what is really important?
The seemingly mundane days when we simply show up for work and are present in what we do? 
The many conversations that give our soul depth and new perspective?
The valleys that have taught us growth and endurance?
The cracks in our surface that allow the light to shine through?
What about the miraculous symphony of joy and pain that make life so incredibly rich? 

Maybe life isn’t supposed to be good.
Maybe it was created to be abundant. 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.
Photo Credit: Unsplash

The Reward of Letting Go

I have given you my everything
performed on big stages
attended all the must-have-been-there events
showed my face with all the right people

I have read so much about you and
was quick to give an answer
or judgment
said all the rights things and
maybe
often said too much

I have worked hard for you
exhausted myself over hours
and days
and years
not realizing that life inside of me
was
running
out

I let go of my certainties and safe answers
opened my mind to what if and maybe
fell silent when voices around me grew louder
allowed doubt to sneak in

I left behind the old trodden paths
the places that told me who I was
the world of black and white
the safe realm of knowing it all

I wondered if I had made the right choice
if returning to the old ideas would make the wilderness any more bearable
if I simply thought too much and
somehow lost myself along the way
to
find that

I have discovered infinite beauty in mundane places
the rich colors life has to offer
the depth that is born out of darkness
the light that shines through the cracks

I have inhaled the scent of freedom
the life-changing difference of must and may
the peace that is found in stillness
and an honest “I don’t know yet”

I am learning that the reward of letting go
is getting to know you all over again
falling deeper into your unfathomable vastness
only to be held by who you’ve
been all along


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

We Need More Life in Our Days

Adulting is a funny thing. We can’t wait to be done with school, graduate from university and find our first job. We move into our first home and finally create the life we’ve always dreamed of.
And before we know it, we’re knee deep in busy work schedules, endless to-do lists, messy apartments, tired feet, complicated relationships, challenging life questions.
We try to keep up with the insane pace life seems to dictate, wondering where in the world our time has gone.

I recently had an epiphany about that.

After some very intense weeks at work, I decided life could not be this way. I had worked for school all week and prepared some more for it on the weekends. If I wasn’t too exhausted from working and worrying, I managed to squeeze some cleaning in between. Everything else – connecting with friends, reading, meeting for coffee, shopping, summer plans – had been pushed to the next school break.

Wait, what? All the things that somehow made life enjoyable and ‘normal’ would only happen every seven-eight weeks? Insane. 

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Annie Dillard. The Writing Life.

Yes, there is still a lot to in my days and I can’t just drop everything and leave (and I also don’t think it should be). But I want to give my tasks the appropriate place in my week, so that I still enjoy doing them at the end of the day. I want to create rhythms, so that my days actually have more life. 

Like setting time aside to answer emails and do school work. And not be bothered by it outside of these times.
Like unsubscribing from emails I don’t read anyway and rather focus on some healthy food for thought.
Like being present for the tasks and people in front of me.
Like being more conscious about what I buy and eat.
Like treating myself sometimes .
Like taking time to reflect and practice gratitude.
Like cleaning out the messy parts and making space for new thoughts and new life.
Like taking a walk after a few hours at the desk.
Like being still and resting in the peace of the Almighty.

Something fundamental had clicked inside of me: I don’t have to live that way – haunted by my lists and unfinished business. I actually have the privilege to work and create and network – all in its appropriate time. 

When I told a friend about my epiphany, she just smiled and said, “You know, I’ve been watching you work and toil for months now and wondered when you’d come around.” Well, I finally did. It just takes a while to grow – especially as an adult.

Which rhythms can you create to give your days more life? 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.
Incidentally, Emily P. Freeman has just released a podcast episode on theme days on The Next Right Thing, if you’re interested! 🙂