[Five Minute Friday] Encouragement

Just a few days ago I wrote this post about some of the experiences I had at Mission-Net, a major youth event I helped coordinate over New Years. What really stood out to me were not the main speakers on stage, the great messages they delivered or the music. It was the little things, often very quick and unseen, that blessed and encouraged me.
A hug. A smile. A short prayer in the hectic schedule. A cup of coffee, brought by a friend who knew I really needed it. A word of blessing.

It doesn’t take much to encourage others.

So I guess none of us really has an excuse to not do it. If we live through the day, aware of our surroundings and other people, there will be tons of opportunities to encourage someone. May it be a smile as you cross paths on the street. May it be a compliment on a friend’s new look. May it be a coffee date with someone who really needs someone to talk to. May it be a quiet prayer for someone in need. May it be a short note with encouraging words.

But most of all, may it be because you are you. You were created because the one who made you said, “I love this one. Everytime I see him or her handle her life and interact with others I am encouraged.” We are encouraged without even doing anything!
Being is enough.

So go and be – you never know how encouraging your presence or ordinary acts of kindness can be.

For more encouraging words: head over to Lisa Jo Baker‘s Five Minute Friday!

[Five Minute Friday] See

I often walk through town, and since it is a rather small town, I run into people I know.
From university, from church, friends of friends… Sometimes we just say a quick “Hey”, sometimes we just pass a smile. But sometimes we stop rushing to the next appointment and start talking.
How have you been? When did we last see each other?

Sometimes I receive a casual message from a friend, and before we know it we end up talking for hours. Sharing a bit of our lives and hearts, all the time wondering what depth we’ve just discovered about each other.

Interestingly these moments make me realize how little I actually see.
While we’re talking my start continues to race and wonder how many things I would have to kick off my to do list because it was interrupted. While I hear about another person’s life I wonder how I could miss that, how I did not come alongside them when they were struggling, or laughing with them when they saw victory.
I might be called that person’s friend, but all too often I stay on the surface and see nothing but a perfect facade.

We’ve all been given eyes and the ability to see. Yet it seems to be our choice where we look, what we want to see.
Why not make the choice this year to see deeper?
To not look away or on your busy to do list, but to see people?
See what their life looks like, see what they struggle with, see what they rejoice about.
Choose to see more than a glimpse, and let yourself be seen by others.
Not always an easy thing to do, but everytime I did it I was immensly blessed and wondered why I didn’t do it more often.

It’s Friday and I encourage you to SEE deeper into what others have to say over at Lisa Jo Baker‘s blog!

[Five Minute Friday] Fight

It’s a new year and Five Minute Friday is back! So here we go…

If you’re not into boxing then fighting doesn’t seem attractive in life. No one would look for a fight where there isn’t any, none of us appreciates struggle. And yet, when we look back on our lives it isn’t really important that we fought but how we dealt with difficulties and their results.

I am the firstborn in my family which gives me the privilege and also burden to try new things first. Moving out, going overseas, driving a car, looking for a job…There were quite a few situations I stood in front of a fight and wondered: Do I pick this fight or do I back down? What if I fail? What will come after the fight?

I remember when we came back from Uganda and had quite a rough start back home. Stranded in a small village. Suddenly no connection to the big, exciting world. No friends. No church. Even this first year was pretty hard I now realize it helped me to explore my leadership skills as well as first steps in worship leadings, preaching, or authentic Christian life.
I remember flying to South Africa after highschool graduation for a year of uncertainty, with strangers in yet unknown surroundings. Not every day was easy, joyful and exciting – yet it was the most impacting year of my life, shaping my personality, heart and soul and faith.
In retrospect my life often seems like an up and down of good and bad times. But only because I went through some tough and challenging times I can now appreciate the good ones even more.

And I remember the image of a bamboo. It looks a bit like a string of individual pieces glued together. In between the thinner parts there are thick knots. The reason is fairly simple if you look at the size bamboos can have, some of them can grow as high as 38 meters . The reason are these little knots, which stabilize the bamboo and enable it to grow even higher. Each knot means more growth, more life.

The bamboo it might serve as a good illustration for our lives. Some tough times might look like one of these knots, when we seem to be stuck with a problem or situation, when we fight with something over and over again. But later on we realize that such knots are necessary to enable new growth, new life, new depth.

So let’s move forward. Let’s pick our fights wisely, and remember the growth and depth we’ll get out of them.

It’s Friday again, and this means that the writing community at Lisa-Jo Baker‘s website is back! Go check it out!

[Five Minute Friday] Reflect

Reflect. This is a word that’s been used a lot in recent years, because it sounds so deep, evaluative, reflective. 

By “reflect” people mean the soul search you do, to look inside of you and find something deep and meaningful about life or a certain experience. Which is true.
But I believe there is more.
Reflect doesn’t only have that inward perspective, but should be directed to the outside. Show something, reveal something, reflect something to the world and the people around you. 
The question is: What do YOU reflect? What do you want people to see when they look at you? Is there anything worth showing off?
I believe this is where the two meanings of reflect come together. 
We need that look inside of us to find out what is already put in us, what our soul’s been hiding for so long. There is more than we think. 
I heard a fascinating story about a goldsmith once who gave a tour to some ladies. When he was melting amber he talked about refinement and one lady asked him, “When do you know that the piece is refined enough?”And he answered, “When I can see myself in it.” 
In God’s hands we are like amber, being refined and molded and shaped. It might take a while, but we can be sure that HE has put something of himself inside of us, his images. And that when he looks at us he sees a bit of himself in us. 
Knowing what’s inside of us is the first important step of reflection. But showing it to the outside is equally important. Discover the bits and pieces that God himself has implanted inside of you. Discover your passions, driving motivations, reasons for joy. 
Because the more you find them, the more it will reflect to the outside and others can see who you are, and who made you. 
There are many examples of great people who simply reflected what they had found in themselves. One of them is Nelson “Madiba” Mandela, the father of South African liberty, who passed away yesterday. Many things have been written about him, said about him, so I won’t say much. But since I lived in this beautiful country and fell in love with it, I cannot help being grateful for what he reflected to his society- in the midst of corruption, Apartheid and hatred. He found love and forgiveness and understanding inside himself, and he showed to those around him until they would understand. May his reflection continue to impact South Africa and understanding, forgiveness and love grow. 
One last time this year I am joining writers all over the world at Lisa Jo Baker‘s Five Minute Friday. We will take a break for the rest of December, but I will surely be posting other things! 

[Five Minute Friday] Fly

This post could go on for ages because I love to fly.
Not always the sitting in a tiny seat for a long time. Not always wailing babies who would not stop crying on a night flight. Not always the pressure on my ears while landing.

Still I love to fly.
I love the thrill I get when I only pass an airport on the highway.
I love the excitement everytime I can book a plane ticket.
I love this great opportunity to visit the most amazing places on earth and meet fascinating people, all by getting on a flying bird for a few hours.

There is a TCK saying: You know you’re a TCK when you were on an airplane before you could walk.
So it seems the “flying gene” is just within us, and all we can do is fight it or just travel, travel, travel. If you know me you also know that I always choose travelling. 🙂
And I am deeply thankful for all the beautiful places these planes have taken me to – these travels have made me who I am, shaped my behavior, my values and gave me a heart wide open to the world and its children.

Only about sixty years ago flying was not an option for people who wanted to go far.
They had to take ships, trains, or cars. It took a lot of time and was often exhausting, but it gave them time to reflect, leave the old world behind and prepare themselves for entering a new one.
With planes we can cross countries and continents within a day, distance is not an obstacle anymore – but does our soul have enough time to come along as well?
Because the soul is what makes traveling so rich and exciting, and it is our soul we’ll miss the most if we leave it somewhere along the way.

It’s Friday with Lisa Jo Baker – go check it out!

[Five Minute Friday] Tree

I bet a lot of posts today will link the word “tree” with some sort of memory. How is that?
Trees seem to be a symbol for memories, mostly from childhood. They represent safety, comfort, a feeling of home.

There was only one time in my life that I actually lived in a house with a garden.
In Uganda we had a huge compound where the entire team lived, plus a few chicken, a dog and several cats. And a lot of insects and bugs…:)
The garden was beautiful, we had all kinds of flowers in all kinds of colors and shapes; never again have I seen such a diversity of flowers. And we had trees – bananas, casava, pawpaw, nuts, and mango. This one mango tree was the largest in the area and it will always be in my mind as the image of the garden. And the amazing mangos we got from it, so delicious!

I have no idea how old this tree is, but I am sure it would have a lot of stories to tell. Of all the different white people who came to the Ugandan bush, of how they struggled with homesickness, of how they settled into life and rejoiced over every saved life. Of how children grew up under the tree, played in the garden and enjoyed the abundance of God’s creation.

O sweet memories – and all of this because a tree? Well, sometimes it just takes this one word to get you going.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on the prompt word “tree” head over to Lisa Jo Baker‘s Five Minute Friday!

[Five Minute Friday] Grace

In a society focused on hard work, success and self-accomplishment, this little word “grace” does not come up very often.
We are self-made people, we are educated in school and college, we work hard and bring home some money. We know what we want, we persevere. We build relationships and live happily ever after. We have today and tomorrow and our future planned out.
We’ve got it all. We don’t need grace.

We are wrong.

The fact that I opened my eyes this morning, that I breathe, that I can move my fingers across this keyboard to type these thoughts – that is grace. The comfort I receive from the people around me, the roof over my head, the abundance of food, money and everything else in my life – that is grace. The safety that calms me because I know that my future is in good hands and nothing (NOTHING!) I do or don’t do changes God’s love and blessings for me – that is grace.

My life is given and enriched by grace, there is no part of my life that does not have grace woven into it. I didn’t and can’t do anything to stop this grace from pouring into my life. No accomplishment, no failure, no hard work, no friendship.
We need grace. But more than that – we need the giver of all grace. Him, the giver of truly amazing grace. He has opened the door to grace long ago, and no power on earth can ever shut it.

It’s Friday! Head over to Lisa Jo Baker to read more graceful stories!

[Five Minute Friday] Together

A normal person can call one specific place home, can name five or more friends they know since childhood, they know their little towns in and out. They belong. Even if they leave this place they just have to return home to be with people and places again. To be together.
Well, I guess I am not normal. If you ask me where home is it might take a while to explain. The places I am familiar with include the comfort of airports, the African red soil under your feet, the rain on iron sheet roofs. I can’t give you a name of my best friend, since they might change quickly. Friends are categorized by continent, country, period of my life we have spent together.
We were together then, but we are no longer now. We might be together now, but who knows where life takes me next? I can’t say.
What I can say is this: Even though we aren’t together I often wish we were. So badly that it hurts physically. No skype call (even video) can compete with a real hug, lying on the floor laughing so hard your tummy hurts, tasting new food, being still together. Technology brings you close, but not together.
While you and I move on with our lives, each in different parts of the world, meeting new people, places and challenges, we can miss and pray for each other.
This spiritual connection is such a sweet blessing to every friendship; it encourages and keeps alive the hope that we will be together again – at a place where continents, distance and skype calls don’t exist. Soon.
What a great word at Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday today! Much love to all readers and my dear, dear friends around the world.

[Five Minute Friday] Laundry

Laundry. Making dirty things look shiny again. Water. Soap.
Open the flap, put in your clothes and soap, close the flap.
Press the button.
Come back an hour later and your clothes are clean.

I guess this is how most of us do laundry.
Maybe once a week, maybe heaps of it if you have a big family.
Maybe the result is not always pleasing because you have not figured out the “separate your colors” rule yet.
This is laundry in Europe, the US or any other Western country.

But I remember a cooler, social way of doing laundry.
My childhood/teenage memories are filled with images of big pots of hot water, boiling underwear on a charcoal stove, women bending down for several hours, washing heaps of clothes by hand.
This is laundry the Ugandan style.

I remember the girl who used to help us with laundry and other things. Whenever we had a break in our home school rhythm we would sit with her, see how she washes the clothes and gave her a hand. While we rubbed the dirty pieces of clothes against each other, we would chat, exchange the latest news, laugh about the German-African differences, but also share family troubles or just life problems.
Doing laundry was not only about cleaning clothes, but also washing your heart and soul, getting rid of the week’s dirt and baggage.

How come that we do laundry so often, but don’t really take stock of our “emotional laundry”? Might be  refreshing, healing, cleansing once in a while.

It’s Friday- over at Lisa Jo Baker you will find a lot more stories on Laundry today!

[Five Minute Friday] Ordinary

I guess none of us wants to be called ordinary. We all want to be special, super talented, beautiful, funny, strong, fast, extraordinary.

We are. You are more than ordinary.
There is a God out there saying ‘I have made you, I know every detail about you, inside and out- you are dear to my heart and there is no one like you.’

And yet, I am ordinary. And that is a good place to be in.
Out of my own strength there is nothing else I can be but ordinary. I have a limited amount of strength, I can only work for a certain amount of hours, I can only put a certain degree of make-up on my face each day, and most diet programs don’t work anyway. I can take music lessons, painting lessons, do exercises, work out…but this doesn’t make me less ordinary than other people. It just makes me human.
As a human being I am so glad I got someone in my life who makes me more than ordinary. Who takes everything I have to offer – my talents, my hours of practice, but also my incapabilities, my failures and my weaknesses – and turns them into something beautiful, something extraordinary.

The tasks ahead of me often are more than ordinary; everyday requires extraordinary patience, kindness, love for other people, strength and perseverance in the midst of storms – things an ordinary person could never accomplish.
Well, good to know that the one in me is greater than the storms around me; he fills the empty spaces within me with himself and turns me into so much more than ordinary – truly extraordinary.


It’s Friday, so I am linking up with Lisa Jo Baker to hear other extraordinary stories by ordinary people. See you there?!