Why You Should Make Less Money [and Have More Life]

We have just started school last week and I am glad to be back in my routine, back with my students and colleagues. I teach a lot of the same classes with most of the same material in buildings I’m familiar with. There’s a schedule and a curriculum and all that. At the end of the month, there’ll be a pay check.
Same old, same old.

And yet, this year will be a little different.

This last year has really exhausted me. There was too much on the agenda, too many lessons, too much travel and projects on the side. Everything I wanted do for myself was pushed to the future and life seemed to be only about work.
I seemed to function during the week and try really hard to be alive on weekends and the breaks in between, which didn’t always go that well. I struggled with doubt and questions like, “What are you even doing here? Is this what life will always look like?”

Somewhere in between, a thought started to nag me.
What if you could change the way you work? 
What if you could make more time for the things besides your tasks? 

Maybe you feel caught up in the busyness of your life, trapped in people’s (or your own) expectations and long for space to breathe and create.
Maybe you question your work and doubt when and where life will actually happen. Maybe you want to change something and don’t know how.

Can anyone relate?

Rearrange your week
In order to make more time to create, you don’t necessarily have to quit your job and invest every minute in art or whatever you want to pursue. Sometimes it might just take another way to arrange your week.
In one episode of her podcast The Next Right Thing, Emily P. Freeman mentioned a technique I’ve tried out for a couple of months with some surprising results. Creative people who have so many different things on their plates can easily get overwhelmed. We have our jobs, our passions, our projects, our friends and family…and we never seem to have enough time to do it all. Our to-do lists are endless and leave us feeling unaccomplished and unfinished because we’ll never manage all of them in one day.

Emily suggests assigning each day a category of work, may it be chores at home or a passion project or meeting a friend. That way you don’t need to accomplish everything everyday and actually feel like you did something on that day. Whenever emails or requests come in, you can sort them into the day they belong to and don’t allow them to bother you today.
I have tried this method for a while now and it’s really helped me to calm my stress level. The different aspects of my life don’t overwhelm me as much and I have the impression that the actual days have become more productive and creative. 

Live curiously 
In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert speaks about creative living – which, by the way, has nothing to do with being an artist, a writer, or a rockstar. We are meant to create, to make something of our lives and to discover hidden treasures in our souls. But far too often, we don’t do anything because we’re held back by fear.
Fear of not earning enough money,
of not being good enough,
of not being successful with what we create.
We deny ourselves the joy of creation and discovery because we give in to anxiety (which is often irrational). A sentence that really hit home for me was this:

Let your life be driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.
Liz Gilbert

What would change in our lives if we listened to our curiosity some more? If we became more like children sometimes who simply follow their interests instead of necessities, their passions instead of their chores? 

At the beginning of my journey I pushed these thoughts away as foolish desires and utopian fantasies: You can’t just change things, you just don’t do that. 
I wrestled with my own fear and need for financial security and a stable routine:
What if I don’t make enough and will be lost in my week? 
I listened to advice from friends and wise words from those who’ve done it before me:
You might like it and you could always come back. 

And most of all, I couldn’t get rid of the feeling, “I don’t want to regret to not having done it.” What if I wake up with fifty and realize I have functioned all my life, but haven’t really lived?

You can’t create if you don’t try 
The other day I shared my writing ideas with a friend and immediately added, “I’m not sure I should even write about it, maybe no one will read it. Who am I to think I could write something like that?” She listened and then said very firmly, “Why don’t you think you could? You’ve already proven that you can.”

For so many of us, the biggest hindrance towards change is self-doubt. We don’t believe that we have a right to do or say certain things, we hide behind other people who might be better (or pretend to be), we question our place to be here.

Well, it’s not about being always right or becoming famous with our words or deeds, it’s about showing up and giving it a try. It’s about listening to the passions and nudges deep inside of us, uncovering them and having the courage to share them with others. They will always speak to someone – even if it’s just our own timid souls. Or, as the brilliant Liz Gilbert puts it:

You will never be able to create anything interesting out of your life if you don’t believe that you’re entitled to at least try.
Liz Gilbert

So, this is me trying.
When the pay check comes in at the end of the month, there will be less money on it because I chose to work less hours. I have taken a step back from going to work in order to make time for being a work in progress: Listening, creating, wondering. I don’t know if it’ll work out, I don’t know if it’ll be successful – but at the end of the day, I want to be able to say I tried. 

What are some areas or aspects of your life you’d like to have more time for? 
How could you rearrange your week in order to make more time for the individual tasks? 
What keeps you from believing you’re entitled to try? 
What could be a first step towards trying and creating?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today. This goes way beyond the five minutes, but the prompt is START and it felt appropriate to share a writer’s progress.

This Is Not What My Life Was Supposed to Be Like (On Turning Thirty)

I turned thirty last week – a time to look back and reflect on the big things in life. 

I distinctly remember the first day at university, when I walked around campus and saw students dipping their feet into the fountains at The Square. They sat together in little groups, laughed about something and obviously enjoyed their life. I was twenty-one and had just moved to the city to open yet another chapter in my life’s story. 

And I remember imagining what the next few years would look like: I would complete my studies quickly and then move abroad for work. I would meet new people and we’d be the best of friends who make embarrassing and beautiful memories that would last forever. I would find a handsome guy and we’d get married until we started our own family around thirty. Together we would roam this planet, always in search of our next adventure. I would say later that my twenties were the best years of my life. 

Fast forward a couple of years.

Even though I was never really sure if I wanted to be a teacher, I discovered that I enjoy teaching very much and I might stay a while. So I still live in Germany, have become a full-fledged teacher and just moved into my first ‘grown-up’ apartment. I own a dishwasher and seem to be really settled.
I have graduated from university with a lot of effort and good grades, but all of this had its price. After my finals I had a burnout because I hadn’t taken care of myself. In times when I needed them the most, I had to say goodbye to a few dear friends and learn that some relationships are not meant to last.
There have been countless weddings I have attended and many happy moments when I rejoiced with friends and their kids, but with the years I couldn’t help but wonder why I am still alone. Nor the fear of always being on my own.
I have walked through the valley with friends and had to let go of seemingly strong foundations. I wrestle with questions and doubts why and how I can live my faith in this complex world.

No, this is not what my life was supposed to be like. 

As I take a walk down memory lane, different images flash before my inner eye. 

The many packed bags and suitcases that carry us from one apartment to the next and accompany us from one continent to a completely different culture. A symbol for the tension of having no real home and longing for the world that’s lingering inside of me. 

The five of us squeezed into too small cars or way too little motorbikes riding through the African jungle. Sleeping in tiny rooms and having improvised breakfasts on hotel beds. The many days and nights when we come together from all over, holding our bellies from laughing so hard and forgetting that we’re all adults by now. No matter how scattered we are: It’s always us five against the world. 

The delayed flight to Johannesburg where my twenty-year old self lives away from my family for the first time. I am culturally challenged, but gain a better understanding of myself as a TCK and my role in this world. 

Sweet memories of late nights with study friends watching movies, cycling around town and discovering what food can do for a person’s soul. 

The tiny bundle of fluff who made me a godmother and grew into such a brave, funny, intelligent boy. I can hear his chuckling laugh long after I have to leave again. 

All those weekends with my TCK family that leave all of us physically exhausted but emotionally filled to the brim. Because it’s exactly this: We have become family; people who share similar experiences and honest questions about home, identity and belonging. 

The breathtaking beauty of canyons, oceans and landscapes in all the countries I was lucky enough to travel. I have swum in all the seven seas, overcame my fear of water to go diving and climbed mountains. I got to live with people from all across the world and discovered that they are the real adventure. 

The first TCK conference I attended completely clueless only to be blessed by people who took me under their wings and taught me about the vastness and beauty of the TCK world. Together we have pulled off quite a few conferences and learned from experts all across Europe. 

What started out as a temporary student job became an unexpected learning experience when I ended up organizing a congress for several thousand people and was surprised how much responsibility people trusted me with. 

I have come to understand the necessity of saying No which enables me to say Yes to the right things and invest my time, thoughts and money into causes that really matter. I learn to treasure the beauty of admitting, “I don’t know.” 

I have learned to take better care of myself and open my eyes for the many blessings already out there. God was and is bigger than my concepts, questions and doubts. When I pay attention to it, I am overwhelmed by mundane gifts and the faithfulness of old companions. 

In times when saying goodbye to friendships and much-loved beliefs became really painful, I discovered writing as a helpful way to reflect and process. Many people blessed me with their encouragement and comments on-and offline, but I never imagined that my writing would end up in a book. 

I sense for the first time what it means to settle down at one place for a while and create a home – a feeling unknown, yes even forbidden, for a TCK. I meet the right people at the right time who challenge me to take risks, to stay and rest, to give something of myself. I can talk to friends who feel the same and we wait in this uncertainty together.

Why do I write these things? I don’t want to brag about myself and everything I have achieved. No, these stories are a reminder for myself to not lament the things I don’t seem to have, but to celebrate that my life has turned out so different from what I imagined it to be all these years ago. 

My life is full.
Full with tasks that challenge and inspire me.
Full with loving, creative and inspiring people who join me along the way and enrich my life with their presence, actions and words. 

My life is deep.
In the midst of my hunger and desires I discover gratitude that brings a new depth to my life. 

My life is rich.
Rich with experiences with and in this world.
Rich with memories of all the necessary steps that have brought me here.
Rich with dreams and excitement for what’s to come. 

My life is a collection of puzzle pieces which challenge me at times, but make everything more colorful, meaningful, beautiful. 

No, this is not what my life was supposed to be like.
But life is good. 

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!

Preaching to Myself

It’s been almost a month since my book was released and I am still overwhelmed with all the feedback I get from friends and strangers across the globe. Thank you!

I accepted a few speaking engagements to read from the book and put it into practice together. As I prepare for these events I often turn to my own words to figure out which texts to read and experiment with. And I noticed something interesting happening: these words have grown on me. 

In a time when I am so caught up in busy schedules and often lose sight of all the beauty around me – Change your perspective. 
In slow weeks when I feel all left alone – Remember that you are not (never!) forgotten. 
On darker days when I’m so dissatisfied with my life and think that everyone is happier and better off – Don’t focus on everything you DON’T have but celebrate the fullness of life you DO have. 

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The truth is right here, in front of my eyes, but busyness, stress, fears, worries – just life – try so often to make me blind.

So I come back to these words.
Mull them over.
Wrestle with their true meaning.
Put them away.
Come back again.

Until they finally find some roots inside of me.
Until I am ready to accept this new day, this new challenge, this life of mine.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Are you interested in an evening of life stories, life’s beauty and what God can teach us along the way? Invite me to speak at your place! More info here.

Why It’s Important to Push Each Other

It’s almost a year since I moved to this new city. Quite a crazy idea – moving during the school year when your head is definitely not in the game of making new friends and settling in somewhere. Well, sometimes work forces you to do crazy things.

A lot has happened in this almost year. 
I now know more than the way to work and the grocery store. I actually stumbled across some real beauty in my own neighborhood.
I have survived my first year of teaching and just started my second one. And I still like it. (Good because otherwise I might have a problem with my career choice…)
I have written a book which was launched two weeks ago. This is still a whirlwind of emotions and I’m enjoying every minute of this ride.

I have found people who support me.

Colleagues who have welcomed me in and made me feel part of the team. Some of them have already become friends.
Creative minds who cheered for me when I signed the book contract and encouraged me to be brave with my words.
Dear friends from near and far who have overwhelmed me with their pictures about the book, cheerful posts and warm words.
Faithful souls who have prayed and believed for me when I couldn’t.

There’s no material value in support, no visible product in the end. 
But our support can mean the world to someone else. 
A word of encouragement in tough times.
A hug.
A celebration for each other’s accomplishments.
An hour of your time.
It’s like the wind in our sails that pushes us forward on this ocean of life. 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.
And sorry for being absent these last few weeks. I had a book to launch… 🙂

It’s Here! It’s Here! [plus a Giveaway!]

It’s Friday and we gather at Five Minute Friday to write about neighbors today. This week has been crazy for so many people around the world, but it has also been an amazing example of the love human beings are capable of.

It’s also September 1, and this means it’s time for the post below. This has been two years in the making and with a lot of supporting friends and neighbors it has now come into reality. I hope you join me for the celebrations!


The last few months have been a whirlwind of emotions.
There was excitement – very quiet at first because I had to keep it all a secret.
There was exhaustion – so much to prepare and so little time.
There were aha-moments – so many new things and techniques to learn.
There were doubts, oh yes – inner voices wondering whether I’m doing the right thing and whether this would all work out.

I started writing Fliege ins Leben, lande bei Gott two years ago when my faith journey seemed more like a walk through the desert and my beliefs were uncertain and shaky. This is when God stepped in and turned around my understanding of him, myself and the world. He opened my eyes for his doings in unexpected places and his presence in mundane activities.
The more I began looking for him the more my perspective changed. I had to, I just had to, write down the stories where I had met God in my journey of life. So I collected stories, thoughts, emotions and decided to share them with friends.
With some encouragement and a lot of God’s grace, these stories have turned into a book.

Today, there is a new emotion.
Today, there’s joy.
Pure, unclouded, sheer joy.

Fliege ins Leben, lande bei Gott releases today!
It is officially available everywhere!

If you’re struggling to see God in your busy life, if church traditions have become empty forms for you, if you want to add new ideas to your faith life – I hope you consider buying the book for yourself or to give it to someone who might enjoy reading it. You can buy the book here.

I’m over the moon to see my words on actual paper with my actual name on it and I’m so glad for all the friends, family and blog readers who have encouraged and cheered me on in this process. From the bottom of my heart – THANK YOU!

To celebrate the release of Fliege ins Leben, I want to share my joy with you.

GIVEAWAY

Update: The giveaway is now closed.
The lucky winners are Tabita Steegen and Markus Völlm. Congratulations!

I have five copies of Fliege ins Leben, lande bei Gott to give away for free! Just follow the instructions below and you might be one of the lucky winners.

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How can I win a copy? 
That’s easy. Just follow this blog (via WordPress or via email, buttons are on the top right), and share this post on your social media platforms. Use #fliegeinsleben as a hashtag, if possible. Then come back here and tell me in the comments: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Blog… each share makes an entry in the giveaway, so the more you share the more likely you’ll win!
Winners will be drawn on September 8 and posted here. So come back to find out if you won!
Please note: This book is in German, sorry to all my dear English-speaking readers!

Die vergangenen paar Monate waren ein Wirbelsturm an Emotionen.
Es gab viel Aufregung – wenn zuerst auch recht leise, da ich alles geheim halten musste.
Es gab viel Erschöpfung – so viel vorzubereiten und so wenig Zeit.
Es gab Aha-Momente – so viele neue Dinge und Techniken, die ich lernen durfte.
Es gab Zweifel, oh ja – diese inneren Stimmen, die mich fragen, ob ich das richtige tue und am Ende alles gut wird.

Vor zwei Jahren habe ich begonnen, Fliege ins Leben, lande bei Gott zu schreiben, als mir meine Glaubensreise eher wie eine Wanderung durch die Wüste erschien und meine Überzeugungen alles andere als standhaft waren. In dieser Zeit kam Gott und hat mein Verständnis von ihm, mir selbst und der Welt umgekrempelt. Er hat mir die Augen geöffnet für das, was er an unerwarteten Orten tut und mir seine Gegenwart in meinem gewöhnlichen Alltag gezeigt.
Je mehr ich nach ihm Ausschau hielt, desto mehr hat sich meine Perspektive verändert. Ich musste, ich musste einfach, die Geschichten aufschreiben, wie Gott mir auf meiner Lebensreise begegnet. Also habe ich Geschichten, Gedanken und Emotionen gesammelt und sie mit ein paar Freunden geteilt.
Mit ihrer Ermutigung und viel von Gottes Gnade sind diese Geschichten nun zu einem Buch geworden.

Heute ist da ein neues Gefühl.
Heute ist da Freude.
Pure, ungetrübte, tiefe Freude.

Fliege ins Leben, lande bei Gott erscheint heute! 
Es ist überall offiziell erhältlich! 

Wenn du dich schwertust, Gott in deinem vollen Leben zu sehen, wenn Kirchentraditionen leere Formen für dich geworden sind, wenn du etwas Neues in deinem Glaubensleben suchst – dann hoffe ich, dass du das Buch für dich selbst kaufst oder jemandem schenkst, der es vielleicht gerne lesen würde. Du kannst es hier kaufen.

Ich freue mich wahnsinnig, meine Worte auf wirklichem Papier mit meinem Namen zu sehen und ich bin dankbar für alle Freunde, Familie und Blog Leser, die mich in dem Prozess begleitet und ermutigt haben. Aus tiefstem Herzen: DANKE!

Zur Feier dieses Tages möchte ich meine Freude mit euch teilen.

GEWINNSPIEL

Ich verlose fünf Exemplare von Fliege ins Leben, lande bei Gott! Folge einfach den Anweisungen weiter unten und vielleicht bist du einer der glücklichen Gewinner.

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Wie kann ich gewinnen? 

Das ist einfach. Folge diesem Blog (entweder per Mail oder WordPress, die Buttons findest du rechts oben) und teile diesen Post auf deinen Social Media Plattformen. Nutze dafür das Hashtag #fliegeinsleben. Dann komm zurück und erzähl mir davon in den Kommentaren: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Blog…jedes share ist eine Gewinnchance. Das heißt, je mehr du teilst, desto höher sind deine Chancen!
Die Gewinner werden am 8. September gezogen und hier veröffentlicht. 

 

The Signposts of Life

When we find ourselves at a crossroads in life we need to make some tough decisions. Since we have more choices than all the other generations before us, this has become more and more difficult.

When you graduate from school and need to choose a career.
When you move to new places and see friendships change or even come to an end.
When you feel lonely and long for deep relationships in your life.
When you start questioning what you believe and are afraid to lose yourself in the process.
When your book comes out in a week (a week!) and you’re not sure if this was the right idea.

Don’t we all need some guidance in our lives sometimes? 

Unfortunately, there’s no map for this thing called life.
There are no downtrodden paths we can simply follow.

But I believe there are signposts that can help us to navigate tough waters.

There is the spirit inside of us nudging us gently into a good direction.
There are our instincts that hopefully keep us from making irrational decisions.
There are good companions who challenge us with thoughts and questions. I just spent a few days with great friends, deep conversations and challenging insights – what a blessing to have such people in our lives!
There is a God who leaves behind signs in this world for us to detect – signs to show us we belong, we are loved, we are cared for. We are not forgotten.

There might be more guidance out there than we’d imagine.
Because we can be guides to others when we’d least expect it. We can point each other to the signposts and steer through the storms together. 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.
I am serious, my book releases NEXT FRIDAY and I’m nervous, excited, freaked out…all of it! If you haven’t pre-ordered it – there’s still time!