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

Advent.
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.

25b20-img_5644
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. 
Daheim.


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. 

[Waiting for Him] Eat your way to Christmas

This month I am doing a series on Advent and preparing ourselves for Christmas. You can find more info on the series here. Come and join us for a month of getting ready and waiting!

In diesem Monat gibt es eine Serie über Advent und wie wir uns auf Weihnachten vorbereiten können. Hier gibt es mehr Infos über die Serie. Komm und sei dabei bei den Vorbereitungen und beim Warten!
                                           ——————————————————–
On Friday I talked about preparing yourself and your surroundings for Christmas. And I mentioned baking Christmas cookies as my first step towards Christmas.
This year I had quite a bit of time on my hand (this is what you do after graduating from university, haha), and so I could experiment with recipes a bit. These pictures should not make you jealous or hungry, but rather inspire you to bake some deliciousness of your own?

Cognac Cookies
(all measurements in grams and celcius – it’s a good exercise for the Americans 🙂 and yields about 50 finished cookies)

for the dough:
200 g flour
125 g butter (cold)
1 egg
75 g sugar
1 lemon, peel

for the filling:
100 g butter
100 g powder sugar
1 egg yolk
1-2 table spoons cognac
50 g ground almonds

decoration:
200g chocolate
75 g almond slivers


Instructions:
mix dough ingredients until well combined and cool for 1 hour
preheat oven to 175°C


roll out dough and use cookie form (stars, hearts, whatever form you like or have) to cut out individual cookies
bake cookies for ca. 10 minutes, let them cool



mix filling ingredients until you get a creamy filling

take two cookies, brush one cookie with the filling, and put other cookie on top

melt chocolate in hot water bath and brush cookies with it, decorate with almond slivers








What are your favorite Christmas cookie recipes?


Cognac Plätzchen 

für den Teig:
200g Mehl
125 Butter
1 Ei
75 g Zucker
1 Zitronenschale

für die Füllung:
100g Butter
100g Puderzucker
1 Eigelb
1-2 EL Cognac
50 g gemahlene Mandeln

zum Verzieren:
1 Tafel Schokolade/Konfitüre
75 g gestiftelte Mandeln

aus den Zutaten einen Teig machen und ca. 1 Stunde kühlen lassen
Ofen auf 175°C vorheizen

Teig ausrollen und Plätzchen ausstechen
diese ca. 10 Minuten backen, dann kühlen lassen

aus den Zutaten eine Creme herstellen, jeweils zwei Plätzchen damit bestreichen und zusammenkleben

Schokolade im Wasserbad schmelzen, Plätzchen damit einpinseln und mit Mandelstiften verzieren

Was sind deine Lieblingsplätzchenrezepte?



[Waiting for Him] Didn’t you see me?

This month I am doing a series on Advent and preparing ourselves for Christmas. You can find more info on the series here. Come and join us for a month of getting ready and waiting!
In diesem Monat gibt es eine Serie über Advent und wie wir uns auf Weihnachten vorbereiten können. Hier gibt es mehr Infos über die Serie. Komm und sei dabei bei den Vorbereitungen und beim Warten!
                                           ——————————————————–

We talked quite a bit about our expectations this Advent already. We learn to wait, but also to dream big. And most of all, that the Lord we’re waiting for knows how to exceed our expectations again and again. 
But what does that mean? He doesn’t only give us more of what we want and expect, he starts by changing and moulding our expectations. He might redirect our gaze towards someone or something we wouldn’t see otherwise. He shows his strength in our weakness. His love and compassion in our coldness. His time in our stress. 

When all Christmas cookies are baked and the candles are lit – then it’s time to listen to a Christmas story in our house. It’s the same every year, everywhere. We took that story to warm Uganda, where Christmas was rather about sweating than snuggling with a cup of tea. We turned it into a musical. Even though we’re no longer at home for the first Advent we take that story with us. Just yesterday I got to listen to it with friends. The message is the same: Christ is coming this Christmas, but it might be different than you expected. 
So get yourself a cup of tea and a warm blanket (or a cool drink if you live in the Southern hemisphere) and challenge yourself and your view of Christmas with this story: Leo Tolstoy’s “Papa Panov’s Special Christmas”.

It was Christmas Eve and although it was still afternoon, lights had begun to appear in the shops and houses of the little Russian village, for the short winter day was nearly over. Excited children scurried indoors and now only muffled sounds of chatter and laughter escaped from closed shutters.

Old Papa Panov, the village shoemaker, stepped outside his shop to take one last look around. The sounds of happiness, the bright lights and the faint but delicious smells of Christmas cooking reminded him of past Christmas times when his wife had still been alive and his own children little. Now they had gone. His usually cheerful face, with the little laughter wrinkles behind the round steel spectacles, looked sad now. But he went back indoors with a firm step, put up the shutters and set a pot of coffee to heat on the charcoal stove. Then, with a sigh, he settled in his big armchair.



Papa Panov did not often read, but tonight he pulled down the big old family Bible and, slowly tracing the lines with one forefinger, he read again the Christmas story. He read how Mary and Joseph, tired by their journey to Bethlehem, found no room for them at the inn, so that Mary’s little baby was born in the cowshed.
“Oh, dear, oh, dear!” exclaimed Papa Panov, “if only they had come here! I would have given them my bed and I could have covered the baby with my patchwork quilt to keep him warm.”
He read on about the wise men who had come to see the baby Jesus, bringing him splendid gifts. Papa Panov’s face fell. “I have no gift that I could give him,” he thought sadly.

Then his face brightened. He put down the Bible, got up and stretched his long arms t the shelf high up in his little room. He took down a small, dusty box and opened it. Inside was a perfect pair of tiny leather shoes. Papa Panov smiled with satisfaction. Yes, they were as good as he had remembered- the best shoes he had ever made. “I should give him those,” he decided, as he gently put them away and sat down again.

He was feeling tired now, and the further he read the sleeper he became. The print began to dance before his eyes so that he closed them, just for a minute. In no time at all Papa Panov was fast asleep.
And as he slept he dreamed. He dreamed that someone was in his room and he know at once, as one does in dreams, who the person was. It was Jesus.

“You have been wishing that you could see me, Papa Panov.” he said kindly, “then look for me tomorrow. It will be Christmas Day and I will visit you. But look carefully, for I shall not tell you who I am.”

When at last Papa Panov awoke, the bells were ringing out and a thin light was filtering through the shutters. “Bless my soul!” said Papa Panov. “It’s Christmas Day!”
He stood up and stretched himself for he was rather stiff. Then his face filled with happiness as he remembered his dream. 

This would be a very special Christmas after all, for Jesus was coming to visit him. How would he look? Would he be a little baby, as at that first Christmas? Would he be a grown man, a carpenter- or the great King that he is, God’s Son? He must watch carefully the whole day through so that he recognized him however he came.

Papa Panov put on a special pot of coffee for his Christmas breakfast, took down the shutters and looked out of the window. The street was deserted, no one was stirring yet. No one except the road sweeper. He looked as miserable and dirty as ever, and well he might! Whoever wanted to work on Christmas Day – and in the raw cold and bitter freezing mist of such a morning?

Papa Panov opened the shop door, letting in a thin stream of cold air. “Come in!” he shouted across the street cheerily. “Come in and have some hot coffee to keep out the cold!”
The sweeper looked up, scarcely able to believe his ears. He was only too glad to put down his broom and come into the warm room. His old clothes steamed gently in the heat of the stove and he clasped both red hands round the comforting warm mug as he drank.
Papa Panov watched him with satisfaction, but every now and them his eyes strayed to the window. It would never do to miss his special visitor.
“Expecting someone?” the sweeper asked at last. So Papa Panov told him about his dream.
“Well, I hope he comes,” the sweeper said, “you’ve given me a bit of Christmas cheer I never expected to have. I’d say you deserve to have your dream come true.” And he actually smiled.

When he had gone, Papa Panov put on cabbage soup for his dinner, then went to the door again, scanning the street. He saw no one. But he was mistaken. Someone was coming.
The girl walked so slowly and quietly, hugging the walls of shops and houses, that it was a while before he noticed her. She looked very tired and she was carrying something. As she drew nearer he could see that it was a baby, wrapped in a thin shawl. There was such sadness in her face and in the pinched little face of the baby, that Papa Panov’s heart went out to them.
“Won’t you come in,” he called, stepping outside to meet them. “You both need a warm by the fire and a rest.”

The young mother let him shepherd her indoors and to the comfort of the armchair. She gave a big sigh of relief.
“I’ll warm some milk for the baby,” Papa Panov said, “I’ve had children of my own- I can feed her for you.” He took the milk from the stove and carefully fed the baby from a spoon, warming her tiny feet by the stove at the same time.
“She needs shoes,” the cobbler said.
But the girl replied, “I can’t afford shoes, I’ve got no husband to bring home money. I’m on my way to the next village to get work.”

A sudden thought flashed through Papa Panov’s mind. He remembered the little shoes he had looked at last night. But he had been keeping those for Jesus. He looked again at the cold little feet and made up his mind.

“Try these on her,” he said, handing the baby and the shoes to the mother. The beautiful little shoes were a perfect fit. The girl smiled happily and the baby gurgled with pleasure.

“You have been so kind to us,” the girl said, when she got up with her baby to go. “May all your Christmas wishes come true!” 

But Papa Panov was beginning to wonder if his very special Christmas wish would come true. Perhaps he had missed his visitor? He looked anxiously up and down the street. There were plenty of people about but they were all faces that he recognized. There were neighbors going to call on their families. They nodded and smiled and wished him Happy Christmas! Or beggars- and Papa Panov hurried indoors to fetch them hot soup and a generous hunk of bread, hurrying out again in case he missed the Important Stranger.


All too soon the winter dusk fell. When Papa Panov next went to the door and strained his eyes, he could no longer make out the passers-by. most were home and indoors by now anyway. He walked slowly back into his room at last, put up the shutters, and sat down wearily in his armchair. 

So it had been just a dream after all. Jesus had not come. 

Then all at once he knew that he was no longer alone in the room. 
This was not adream for he was wide awake. 

At first he seemed to see before his eyes the long stream of people who had come to him that day. 
He saw again the old road sweeper, the young mother and her baby and the beggars he had fed. As they passed, each whispered, “Didn’t you see me, Papa Panov?” 

“Who are you?” he called out, bewildered. 

Then another voice answered him. It was the voice from his dream- the voice of Jesus. 

“I was hungry and you fed me,” he said. “I was naked and you clothed me. I was cold and you warmed me. I came to you today in everyone of those you helped and welcomed.” 

Then all was quiet and still. Only the sound of the big clock ticking. A great peace and happiness seemed to fill the room, overflowing Papa Panov’s heart until he wanted to burst out singing and laughing and dancing with joy. 

“So he did come after all!” was all that he said. 



[Five Minute Friday] Prepare

This month I am doing a series on Advent and preparing ourselves for Christmas. You can find more info on the series here. Come and join us for a month of getting ready and waiting!
But it’s also Friday and I am linking up with Kate Motaung. Join our writing party here!
                                           ——————————————————–

Prepare. 
I suppose this word sums up what we do during Advent.
We wait for Christmas, the birth of our savior.
And we prepare. Get everything ready. 
Clean the house.
Plan the Christmas Eve meal.
Buy presents and wrap them.
Write Christmas cards.

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,    

 

  and every mountain and hill be made low;
  the uneven ground shall become level,     
  and the rough places a plain.”
Isaiah 40:3&4

The bible calls us to prepare. The Lord himself told the Israelites to prepare. 
Make way for the Lord. 
Prepare yourselves and everything around you because I’m coming. 

So how does preparation look like back then and today?
Are we really prepared when Christmas comes or are we simply exhausted from preparing?
It is quite a big job to do to prepare for the Lord’s coming. 
After years of struggle and exile and ‘punishment’ from the Lord he wants to return. 
To be with them again. How do you get ready for that? 
The bible speaks of making a road in the wilderness and making the hills flat. 
Wow, that’s not easy.

Getting ourselves ready for Christmas can be hard, too. 
To get your heart in the right place. 
To establish a welcoming atmosphere and nurture an expectant spirit in the midst of Christmas turbulences – that’s really difficult.
But it starts with little things. 
Taking steps towards a bigger thing. 
Making a road in the wilderness, as long and dry as it may be. 
Working on one hill at a time.

Practical preparation can help us with the spiritual preparation. 
For me, Advent begins when we light the first candle at home and when we start baking Christmas cookies.
It might be in the middle of the week, in the midst of work and other challenges. 
But the moment you put on that Christmas cassette (yes, cassette!) and roll out the dough – this is when Advent begins. 
It is my first step towards Christmas. 

It would be a shame not to share some of these sweet cookie outcomes…soon. 
But before that I would like to hear from you: When does Advent start for you? 
How do you prepare for Christmas?