Let’s keep it simple.

Welcome to the new year everyone! Did you have a good time with family, friends and food? I hope so.

My New Year’s Eve plans were cancelled at the last minute and I had to find an alternative quickly.  Somehow this event comes with so many expectations: the perfect location, the perfect food, the perfect conversations – the last night of the year has to be the best party ever.
The more I thought about it, the more stressed out I felt about it all. Why do we make such a big fuss about things sometimes?
We work and prepare and keep ourselves busy.
We worry what other people will think about our homes, clothes, friendships, life plans and decisions.
We try so hard to follow all the rules to please God and be good Christians. We bury ourselves in arguments and theologies, just so we know it all and deal with it all. 

This Christmas was full of people. A blogger friend from the US and my little brother from South Africa came to visit me and we spent lots of nights talking.
About the joys and pain of life.
About what it means to deconstruct your faith and rediscover old truths.
About the simplicity of it all when we watch out for it.
We laughed and we cried together and I realized: this is what life and faith are about. Relationships. Simple. Complex. Challenging. Beautiful. Life-giving.

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So if I have to say anything about this new year ahead of us: Let’s keep it simple. 
Let’s be okay to not be perfect all the time.
Let’s leave the mess for a while and focus on the people around us instead.
Let’s never grow tired of sharing our time, our hearts, our lives.
Let’s continue to look out for God in the midst of all of this, right here in the mundane.  

I ended up celebrating New Year’s Eve with a family I didn’t know that well yet and their two kids. A very small group of people, Raclette, stories, and watching the fireworks over the city from the balcony.
And it was perfect.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today. One prompt, five minutes to write and an awesome community of writers and cheerleaders. Why don’t you join us this year?

If you’re German-speaking and looking for a way to discover God in your mundane narratives, now might be a good time to start reading my book “Fliege ins Leben, lande bei Gott”. I would love to see you on this journey!

 

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.
Quiet.
Hopeful.
Joyous.
Holy.

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!

Advent… as far away as possible

Advent.

I know it’s not such a big deal in the US, but in Germany this Sunday is an important day. It marks the official beginning of the Christmas season, the official allowance to put up twinkle lights, light candles, listen to Christmas songs and bake ginger bread cookies.

Advent.

Celebrate because the Lord has come near.

What do you this advent?

As I walk through the streets where Christmas markets are setting up their stalls and hundreds of people push their way through the narrow alleys this week, I have to wonder if the Lord is really near.

We are so busy planning and preparing and buying that we can get all wrapped up our own little Christmas world. That universe of presents and cookies and songs. These are all good and valuable traditions, but I’m afraid sometimes that they actually push the Lord as far away from Christmas as possible.

Advent is our thing, our to do lists and our preparation – and then the Lord can come.

But what if he wants to be near right now? 
What if we saw him again in the middle of a crowded Christmas market or across the table at some Christmas party? What if he began to speak through the fog of bad Christmas music and holiday chatter?

As much as I dread the next few very busy weeks, I want to remind my soul that the Lord is near. Advent is his thing, his gift to me – and I want to look out for it. 

A quick note to the German speakers: Starting tomorrow, I will host a small Advent journey with texts and questions to ponder in this season. If you want to join, click here.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

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!

The Magic of the Ordinary

 

Early on Friday mornings I look for the Five Minute Friday prompt on Kate’s website and many times, I find a story to tell, a thought to share.

Lately this has become really difficult for me.

What should I write about?
My life seems plain, my schedules busy and boring, my experiences ordinary.
Every day is the same, everything is just too familiar, so what’s the point in sharing? 

They are not the same.

On Thursday I gathered friends around the table to celebrate Thanksgiving.
The table was full with good food, wine and laughter.
When we had stuffed our bellies, we filled our souls and shared what we’re thankful for this year.
Stories of recovery and health.
Stories of birth and new life.
Stories of perfect timing and success.
Stories of people who enrich our lives in unexpected ways.
Stories of the many little gifts we tend to overlook in our lives.

Sometimes the people and things in our lives become so familiar that we don’t even recognise them anymore. Naming our gifts and listening to each other does something to us: We become aware of the magic that is all around us, the blessings that are in the ordinary.
I’m grateful for nights like these around my table when others remind me that no day is the same and no life is taken for granted and every gift is unique and worthy to be acknowledged and appreciated.

I’m also grateful for inspiring people who tell their stories online. Here’s Ruthie’s story I listened to yesterday, if you’re interested.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

The Sound of Silence

What sound does silence make?
When the noise of life suddenly stops?
When busyness comes to a halt?
When the voices of “you have to, you should, why don’t you” die down until they’re nothing more than a faraway echo?
The steady movement of my torso, lifting with the inhale, falling down with the exhale.
The distant sounds of the life surrounding me.
Trains rattling.
Cars stopping and starting.
The melody of nature.
The wind blowing softly.
Leaves falling to the ground.
The inner battle raging inside of me.
Can I really rest now?
What about all that work waiting for me?
The nagging questions, the uncomfortable feeling of waiting.
The loss of comprehension, fading into quiet surrender.
That soft whisper.
Let it wait.
Let it go.
For now, stay right here.

Welcome to the silence. What can you hear?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Brave this Life

Sometimes we write, sometimes we live until inspiration strikes us.

Yesterday my grandmother came to visit me.

This is something quite special.
For the last seven years she’s been taking care of my ageing grandfather and couldn’t get out much. Grandpa died in June and now, she’s slowly rediscovering her mobility and desire to explore. So at age eighty-five, she got on a seven hour train ride to come visit her family in the South.

We went on a bus tour through the city, let the sun and a warm breeze to kiss our faces and treated ourselves to delicious ice cream. In between there was a lot of laughter and a lot of stories.

My grandmother is a wise lady and in between our conversations, she drops some knowledge that sits with you, long after the talk is over. 

Roll with the punches.
Sleep on the floor.
Try new food.
Open the champagne.
Travel the world.
Get to know people and their opinions.
Accept the course of life and practice gratitude.
Get to know the Giver of all things.
You cannot always change what happens, but it depends how you choose to feel about it. 

When we arrive at my apartment, she gets very still.
“I’m just braving myself to walk up these 70 steps to your apartment.
Let’s go.”

(She made it up there in no time. Impressive.)


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.