How to Navigate Rough Waters

“You know what I’d like to do right now? Go and have a coffee.” My friend had just arrived to spend the weekend with me. The official reason is a photo exhibition she’s about to open here – but it was an added bonus to have a few days together without her kids or my pressing work schedule. So we went for coffee and a second breakfast in the middle of the day.

As we indulged ourselves in pancakes and extra large coffee mugs, we updated each other on what had happened in our worlds since the last time we had talked. We shared news of friends who were struggling at work, relationships that were breaking apart, and the feeling of helplessness on the outside.
We sat there wondering, our hearts aching for all the dear people who worked so hard and saw their lives falling apart nevertheless.

I guess we’re less in control of life than we’d like to be. Often it doesn’t take much to lose it and stand in front of broken pieces, dreams, hopes.

When things on the outside start falling apart, we might have to take a closer look at the inside.
What makes life worth living?
What gives our souls its balance and our hearts its stability? 

The more I am caught up in the busyness of the working world, the seeming expectations of others and the impossibility of doing it all, the more I realize that I cannot just brush up the outside. A nice facade will only look nice until the winds of life start crashing against it.
If we want balance in our souls and lives, we need to work on the inside and create some depth that will navigate us safely through the rough waters.

Maybe this Advent season can serve as a reminder to slow down, light a candle and meditate on this simple, and yet so challenging, message.

Writing for Five Minute Friday today. Happy second Advent, y’all!

What If Christmas Was Different?

There I was in the middle of the Christmas market.
Lights were shining brightly around the square, from a distance I could hear some kids playing Christmas songs. As I took a deep breath I inhaled the smell of mulled wine, bratwurst and roasted nuts.

I had just come out of a department store where I had braved my way through crowded aisles and stressed out shoppers. Since Christmas is almost here, I couldn’t put it off any longer, I had to buy some presents eventually.

In case you didn’t know, I’m not the biggest fan of shopping. Especially around Christmas time. The shops are crowded, people are unnerved and everyone is stressed out. Christmas seems to be about brighter lights and bigger presents and more, more, more. 

Let’s travel back in time.

There he was in the middle of a simple, cold barn. The savior of the world had just been born, a baby into completely unprepared surroundings.
Instead of a majestic palace he chose a stable.
Instead of sterile cleanliness, he came into dirt, simplicity and helplessness.
Instead of hundreds of visitors and big announcements, he invited the neglected shepherds to meet him first.

Sometimes I’d like to have been in that stable that night.
I imagine it to have been peaceful.

The message of Christmas is so very different from the distorted version we’re bombarded with all around us.
It’s about less than more.
It’s about unpreparedness than perfection.
It’s about peace than noise.
It’s about God coming to break through our illusions, expectations, hindrances. 

What a gift this is.
May you enjoy it this Christmas.

One last Five Minute Friday this year. See you in 2018!

Eine Einladung im Advent/An Invitation for Advent

Am Samstag ging ich durch die Straßen auf dem Weg zu einem Buchladen. Die engen Gassen der Innenstadt waren voll mit halbfertigen Holzständen, überall lagen Holzleisten, Samttücher, Tacker herum. Es war bereits dunkel, aber man konnte die Geräusche von Arbeit und geschäftigen Menschen hören. Was passiert hier, ging mir durch den Kopf, habe ich was verpasst?

Ja, mal wieder.

In den nächsten Tagen beginnt in vielen Städten der Weihnachtsmarkt.
Nächsten Sonntag ist der erste Advent.
In wenigen Wochen ist bereits Heiligabend.

Mal wieder überfällt mich die Weihnachtszeit inmitten meines Arbeitsstresses, meines vollen Terminplans, meines leeren Herzens. Ich fürchte den ersten Advent jedes Jahr ein wenig; ist er doch wie ein Spiegel, der mir deutlich zeigt, wie beschäftigt ich bin.  

Weihnachten kommt und ich bin nicht darauf vorbereitet.

Kennst du das?

Wir können uns dem Ereignis nicht entziehen, um uns herum funkelt die Weihnachtsbeleuchtung, es duftet nach Glühwein und gebrannten Mandeln. Wir backen Plätzchen und quälen uns durch volle Kaufhäuser. Wir schreiben Karten und packen Geschenke ein.
Wir laufen mit im Weihnachtstrott – aber sind wir bereit für das Fest? 

Im vollen Gedränge eines Weihnachtsmarktes, im gehetzten Tempo unseres Lebens ist es sehr leicht, den Blick für das Wesentliche zu verlieren. Der Grund für Weihnachten – Jesus – geht so manchmal in der Masse an Ereignissen und Aufgaben unter.
Jesus, das kleine Kind in der Krippe, der anstößige Messias, der provokante Gesellschaftsveränderer – ist uns wohlvertraut und doch gerade in der Weihnachtszeit so fremd.

Was wäre, wenn wir im Advent besonders nach ihm Ausschau hielten? 
Wenn wir unsere Augen dafür schärfen, wie er uns in anderen Menschen und inmitten aller Vorbereitung begegnet?
Wenn wir unsere Herzen dafür öffnen, dass er uns neu überraschen darf?

Ich lade dich ein, den Advent dieses Jahr nicht einfach an dir vorbeiziehen zu lassen. 
Gemeinsam innezuhalten, zu beobachten, zu warten.
Sich auszutauschen über Erlebnisse des Alltags und göttliche Überraschungen.

Das muss nicht viel sein: Ich werde jeden Samstag im Advent ein Kapitel aus meinem Buch “Fliege ins Leben, lande bei Gott” vorlesen, in denen es genau um dieses Weihnachtswarten geht. Über die Woche verteilt gibt es Gelegenheit, sich in einer Facebookgruppe oder direkt hier in den Kommentaren über Fragen auszutauschen und von eigenen Erfahrungen zu berichten. Oder auch einfach nur mitzulesen und sich mitzufreuen.

Bist du dabei? Schreib mir eine Nachricht und ich füge dich der Gruppe hinzu! 

Ich freu mich darauf, gemeinsam das Besondere an Weihnachten wieder zu entdecken!

On Saturday I walked through the streets on my way to a bookstore. The narrow alleys were packed with half-finished wooden stalls; everywhere lay wooden planks, pieces of cloth, staplers. It was already dark, but you could hear the sounds of work and busy people. What’s happening here, I thought, did I miss something?

Yes, I have, once again.

In the next few days, Christmas markets will be starting all around the country.
Next Sunday is the first advent.
In just a few weeks it will be Christmas Eve.

Once again the Christmas season breaks in on me, in the midst of my busy weeks, my more than full calendar, my empty heart. I fear this first advent a little because it’s like a mirror telling me how busy I truly am. 

Christmas is coming and I’m not prepared for it.

Do you know this feeling?

We can’t avoid this season, all around us are twinkling lights, smells of mould wine and roasted nuts. We bake Christmas cookies and fight our way through crowded department stores. We write cards and wrap presents.
We are part of the Christmas trot, but are we ready for the event?

In the midst of a crowded Christmas market, in the hasty tempo of our lives it is very easy to lose sight of the essential. The reason for Christmas – Jesus – is sometimes lost in the mass of events and tasks. Jesus, the little child in the manger, the offensive Messiah, the provocative society transformer is all too familiar to us but yet so far, especially in this Christmas season.

What if we were to look for him, especially during this advent season?
What if we focus our eyes how we meets us in other people in the midst of all our preparations?
What if we open our hearts for his everyday surprises?

I want to invite you to not let advent just pass by this year. 
Let’s pause together, observe, wait.
Let’s share everyday experiences and godly interruptions.

It doesn’t have to be much: Every Saturday during this advent season I will read a chapter from my book “Fliege ins Leben, lande bei Gott” (German only) which talk about waiting for Christmas. During the week we can share in a private Facebook group or here in the comments. But you’re also welcome to just read and rejoice along.

Are you in? Let me know and I’ll add you to the group. 

I look forward to rediscovering the beauty of Christmas with you!

May You Find a Light

There are 12°C outside, a warm breeze and you can enjoy a coffee in the sun on the balcony.
It’s also the 24th of December, Christmas Eve. The highlight of Christmas cheer, music and cookies.
I’m not ready for this.

After many weeks of stress, running around to finish assignments, make deadlines, pass exams, fulfill expectations I don’t feel like Christmas at all.
My heart is restless. There’s no room to let in the Christmas joy and peace. My mind is too full to rejoice in the fact that Christ, our Savior, came to light up our darkness.
Christmas is coming and I am not prepared.

Many many years ago a group of shepherds might have felt the same way. They were outside one night taking care of their flock.
They might have tried to fight off sleep that wanted to overtake them.
They might have shivered in the cold night breeze.
They might have wondered what tomorrow would bring.
They might have worried if they’ll ever fit in.

They weren’t ready what what came next.
Heavens opened up, the skies were illuminated with bright light. A group of angels sang of new joy and hope.
The group shepherds decided to let go of their worries and just followed. A star led them to a baby which would become their and our Savior.
In the midst of darkness they found a light, a joy, a hope, a home.

Lost and weary traveler searching for the way to go Stranger heavy hearted longing for someone you know May you find a light to guide you homeMerry Christmas

What grace that God doesn’t wait for us to be ready.
In the midst of our  worries and darkness His light breaks through.
In the midst of our loud business His angel voices take the stage.
He invites us to let go of our worries and meddlesome lives and just follow. His light will guide us to place where we find hope and joy and peace. A place where we belong. He will guide us home.

No matter how dark and busy your life might look like right now, no matter how little ‘Christmas-sy’ you might feel at the moment – allow Christmas to settle inside your heart.
May you have time for good food and fellowship with the family.
May you experience some of that Christmas light and joy that will guide you home.
May you let your heart rest for a while and regain strength for all the new adventures ahead of you.

THANK YOU for reading along this year, for all your responses – they mean so much to me! Looking forward to more thoughts in 2016!

If you still need a bit of Christmas tunes for your soul, treat yourself to this.

[Five Minute Friday] Arrival

NOUN  /ˈædvent/
the time when something begins or comes into existence
the process of bringing something into existence or use for the first time

It’s 5.15 and my alarm goes off. Time to get up and go to work. I ride the train through the pitch black landscape and during the first lesson it is still completely dark. It feels surreal living and working when you can’t see anything outside.

The winter months are the dark ones that force us to go home early. 
To stumble through the darkness.
To accept that we are often blind and have no clue about life whatsoever. 

These dark months sharpen our endurance.
They refine our dreams.
They train our senses to wait and to hope.

Right in the middle of this waiting period Advent happens.
The arrival of the One who calls himself light of the world.
He enters our dark and confusing world with his perfect light that makes any kind of lightbulb look dim.
His light outshines our every darkness, our doubts, our hopelessness.
His light drives out any of our fears and accuations.
Flee oh darkness, for the light is here. 

His breath revives our weary hearts and tense muscles.
His glow sheds light onto our faults and pulls our broken souls out of the shadows. He illuminates the dark spots we so often try to hide. 
His healing hand mends our broken bones and broken hearts.

His light challenges us to pass it on.
To not keep it to ourselves, but share it with those who still stumble through the darkness.
To create a space where both of us are free to live in the light and share our bruises.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
Isaiah 9:2;6&7

Writing for Five Minute Friday today. The last one for this year!


[Five Minute Friday] Season

Yesterday I went for a walk with a friend. The sun was already down and we were enclosed in darkness. People brushed by us with their faces tucked away in thick winter coats. We wore hats, coats and gloves, but it was still cold.

As we walked the busy streets of our town I realized how much I detest the cold.
I don’t like my whole body shuddering in these low temperatures.
I don’t like tense muscles because I’m shivering so much.
I don’t like wet feet because the beautiful white snow has become some brown disgusting slump.
I don’t like people running past each other, everyone in a hurry to get out of the cold. We’re generally in a bad mood because, well, it’s just too cold.
I don’t like that it’s Advent, but I am way too busy to even slow down, reflect and let Christmas joy settle in my worry-haunted heart.

Since I spent a few years in warmer realms I am naturally inclined towards the sun.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have summer all year round, I would suggest in my dreams.
Recently I’ve come to answer this question with no.

Despite the cold and the moody people, winter has its beauty.
There are lights and the smell of freshly cut branches in the house.
There’s baking Christmas cookies and gathering for tea times with friends.
There are slower songs that bring back memories from all those winters when we were small.

There’s a moment of slowing down, letting go, death.
Creating space for unseen things to grow and unfold.
Practicing patience while waiting for spring to bring back new life and new dreams.

Winter is a moment for the soul to pause and cleanse itself. When the first rays of sun and blossoms break through in spring it is ready to rejoice and take in new life.

Just as nature blossoms and dies we need these seasons to learn, to wait, to grow.

Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Special: Favorite Christmas Memories

It’s Friday and I meet with many fellow writers over at Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday
Today’s prompt is ADORE. 

This feeling of awe in light of what we celebrate at Christmas. 
This sensation of joy as we recall childhood memories. 
Pure adoration for Christ in the midst of gift shopping and endless loops of annoying Christmas tunes is a piece of hard work. 
It’s so easy to just fall into routine and leave our heart’s response to all of this behind. 
Traditions can help us to focus on the important things again. Treasure the little steps of preparation. Feel the excitement and joy building.
Leadings our hearts to adoration. 

As a Christmas treat I have a guest on my blog today. 
Sophie Kröher is a dear friend of mine and she shares a few of her favorite Christmas traditions from the Eastern part of Germany with us. She is also a very, very talented photographer, so of course, you’ll find a bit of her work in here, too. 🙂 
Her thoughts are in German; I have attempted to translate it below. 

Von Würstchen in Mehl

Der Schatten der sich drehenden Pyramidenflügel an der Wand. 
Feine Nebelschwaden der Weihrauchkerzchen in der Luft. 
Leuchtend gelbe Punkte der Schwibbbogenkerzen, die sich im Fenster spiegeln. 
Das Kinstern und Knacken einer Schallplatte. 
Männeln wecken. 

Mamas zerstochene Hände vom Bögenbinden. 
Stollen buttern. 
Heimlich die Butter mit Puderzucker an einer Stelle abkratzen. 
Und dann, nach schier unendlich langem Warten:  den Tannenbaum schmücken, Linseneintopf löffeln, Würstchen in Mehl wälzen, die nach Braten riechenden Haare waschen, in die Metten gehen. 
Weihnachten im Erzgebirge. 
Mein Weihnachten.

Beim Männeln wecken, Bögen binden und Stollen buttern bin ich leider schon seit einigen Jahren nicht mehr rechtzeitig dabei. 
Pyramidenflügelschatten, Weihrauchnebelschwaden und Schwibbbogenkerzenspiegelungen habe ich mir wenigstens hergeholt. 
Aber morgen geht’s heim, rechtzeitig zu Mamas Linseneintopf – dem besten der ganzen Welt und des ganzen Jahres. 
Und um mit Papa Würstchen in Mehl zu wälzen. 
Mein Weihnachten. 

Sausages and Flour

The shadow of the pyramid wings moves along the wall.
Fine mist of the frankinscence candles in the air.
Bright yellow spots of the light arc are mirrored in the window.
The cracking sound of a vinyl.
To wake up the Männel (German tradition to put up the traditional frankinscence candle men).
Mom’s pierced hands while making the bows.
Butter the Stollen (Eastern German traditional Christmas loaf).
Scratch off the butter with powder sugar when no one is looking.
And then, after a long time of waiting: decorate the Christmas tree, eat lentil stew, roll sausages in flour, wash your hair smelling of meat, go to church.
Christmas in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains in the East of Germany).
My Christmas.

I haven’t made it in time for years to wake the Männel, make the bows, or butter the Stollen. A few things I managed to take with me, though – pyramids, frankinscence, and light bow. 
But tomorrow I will go home, just in time for Mom’s lentil stew – the best stew in the world and of the whole year. Just in time to roll sauages in flour with Dad.
My Christmas.
At Home.