The Greatest Gift to Your Soul

What are you grateful for? 
When does praise come across your lips easily? 
When is it most difficult for you to give thanks? 

A friend asked us to ponder these questions this week and I realized that gratitude starts with the perspective. Before we open our lips in praise, we have to tune our hearts and focus our eyes on beauty.

In a world that propagates hatred, destruction and suffering, it’s difficult to find things we could be grateful for because all we see is negativity.
In a week when my calendar is filled to the brim and I am stressed on the outside and constantly nervous on the inside, it’s a real challenge to take some time out and give thanks.

And yet, it is crucial to our entire physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
If we speak praise into our busy schedules , we open up space for rest and restoration.
If we give thanks in the midst of the shadows, we unlock strength and courage and a deep well of joy inside us.
If we call out beauty in the places and people around us, something inside us will change.
We will see light in the darkness, hope in the brokenness, divine in the mundane. Gratitude is the greatest gift we could give to our souls.

So, here’s the challenge:

  • Watch out for beauty today. Look at the environment you’re in today. What do you see?
  • Look at the people around you. Tell someone they’re beautiful. Praise them for what they do and who they are. Acknowledge their presence in your life.

Writing for Five Minute Friday today.
featured photo: Yeshi Kangrang on unsplash

Wanderers and Wrestlers

(Picture credits go to wonderful friends who dragged me up a mountain a few weeks ago. So exhausting, but so worth it).

A few weeks ago, Addie Zierman started to pick apart the meaning of the all-too-familar phrase “Let go and let God.” And she put out the challenge to process this concept for September. So I’m linking up with my two cents on her blog today.


A few weeks before my twentieth birthday, I left my family and flew to South Africa to do ministry in townships for a year. As a Third Culture Kid who had spent her teenage years in Uganda and lived through a difficult re-entry to Germany, I couldn’t wait to get my feet onto African soil again. Little did I know that this year was about so much more than curing my fernweh for this continent.

When I arrived, things weren’t the way I had expected them to be. I shared a room in an open space with little to no privacy; we had to improvise our youth programs with the little material we had and worked in diverse teams. Living with people from all over the world and working together in the South African culture (which, in itself, is already a conglomerate of cultures) led to quite a few challenges.

It didn’t take long until I began to resent my environment, including the work and the people around me. I was knee-deep in culture shock. 

When we transition between cultures, we tend to experience a sequence of emotions.
On arrival, everything is new and we take in new places, smells, tastes. It is fascinating meeting new people who are so welcoming and different from us.
Over time, though, these differences rather exhaust than fascinate us. Communication, daily work and even downtime have suddenly become hard work. We run into conflicts and quickly become angry at the people around us and the circumstances. Everything seems too much, too overwhelming, too tiring. The new is no longer a gift but a burden.

IMG_8280Sadly, there’s no timeframe how long this period of exhaustion and struggle will take.
For some people it’s only days, others need years to adjust to a new place. As a TCK, I have had my fair shares of transitions: I have moved from place to place, from university to a proper first job, in and out of friendships. I have experienced the beauty of the honeymoon phase, battled the depths of culture shock and basked in the joy of coming out stronger on the other side of it.

And yet there is one transition that seems to be unlike all the others.
What happens if the faith we grew up with is no longer this safe haven, this firm foundation, this comforting conviction we sometimes need so desperately in life? 
How do you deal with an evolving belief system that feels like a completely unknown territory to you? 

Leaning into the battle of culture shock is both scary and liberating.
When we enter a new culture, we don’t just leave behind our familiar environment, food, people, jobs. We lose parts of ourselves and the way we used to function in our home culture. Not knowing how to speak a different language or adapt a new style of driving, working or relating to others is like taking a billion steps back in our development. We once again become little children who need to be taught the basics of survival in a new environment.
This is a stressful, enduring and often exhausting process – a journey we often aren’t willing to embark on.

But if we practice patience and presence, we might observe the changes taking place in and around us:
The first time we connect with a stranger over food, laughter and sign language.
The beauty of making a friend who opens up the mysteries of this new culture to us.
The moment we realize that our differences are what make us truly beautiful.
The strength of finding new words for new experiences.
The comfort of learning that we are still here, behind all the struggles and unfamiliarity. The joy of discovering new facets of our own personality and the richness that is now embedded deep inside our souls.
The peace that sweeps over us when we understand that this new normal is our new home.

mountain 1

And I wonder if culture shock can teach us something about our faith battles as well.
When the honeymoon phase is over and we learn that the world is darker, more lost and broken than we could imagine.
When our questions and doubts have become so big that easy answers won’t do.
When that hunger inside of us has turned into this giant hole eating us away.

When we wrestle with our beliefs and the nature of faith itself, we might have to lean right in rather than run away.
We might have to get lost for a while and return to the basics.
We might have to let go of who we used to be in our old lives with our old selves and grieve our losses.
We might have to fight for survival, keep asking, seeking, waiting and feel exhausted most of the time.

mountain 2
We might have to practice gratitude and patience and presence to observe the changes taking place in and around us:
The first time we connect with people from other backgrounds, belief systems and lifestyles to find out that our differences are what make us truly beautiful.
The strength of speaking our thoughts out loud and putting new words to new discoveries.
The beauty of meeting others out there in the ambiguity of it all who hold and protect our thoughts and questions.
The comfort of encountering God in unexpected places and learning that He is so much more than we could have ever known.
The pure joy of allowing him to unearth the depths and richness that are still inside of us.
The peace that sweeps over us when we understand that this new normal is our new home – the beautiful wilderness, the familiar unknown – the place where He has always been waiting for us. 

Longing for Completion

I keep drinking, eating, stuffing myself
and yet I can never get enough
I clean out the junk I buried inside my heart
only to find
that there is nothing there
just emptiness and this hunger burning inside
eating me away

There is a gap in my life
a void in my heart that cannot be filled
an unsatiable hunger for more in life
because this cannot be
it
there has to be something
deeper
higher
richer

There is this feeling of discontent and unhappiness
lingering in the back of my mind
and in the depths of my soul
silenced by busyness most of the time
but once in a while it rears its ugly head
and reminds me how needy I really am

There is this idea of being incomplete and unfinished
there is still so much learning and growing to do
so much more transformative work
to be done within and around me

There is this still conviction
this silent prayer
that one day
all hunger will be filled
and my soul will
finally
be
complete

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

C.S. Lewis


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

The Melancholy of ‘Now’

One week of summer break left.
I have a whole week before I go back to school, and yet I already have ‘Sunday melancholy’. That feeling you have on a Sunday night before it’s Monday again and the weekend will be over.
That yearning to stop time and linger in the moment forever.
That nagging thought in the back of my mind if I have spent my time wisely, if I have taken it all in, if I have rested enough, if I’m ready for this new year.
That sensation of excitement for the new year and all its adventures.

“Be still.
Be here.”

We can’t stay in the past or skip ahead to the future; all we have is right now.
And it’s our challenge to be present in the moment, to focus on the now, to not rush by the beauty of today.
But it’s also our greatest gift – Now is where we’ll find God, each other, ourselves. 

I don’t want to rush on ahead
in my own strength
if you’re right here

I’m not in a hurry
when it comes to your spirit
when it comes to your presence
when it comes to your voice

I’m learning to listen
just to rest in your nearness
I’m starting to notice
you are speaking

Will Reagan & Michael Ketterer

Practice being present today.
What are you noticing? 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

In Search of Something Else

I’ve lived in my neighborhood for almost two years now.
I know my way around, I know the grocery stores and where to get good coffee.
I have found a few ‘favorites’ already.

But in the last few weeks I have pushed myself to explore a bit more where I live. Discover new places, new secrets, new treasures.
Just this morning, on my way home from the farmer’s market, I took a turn I hadn’t taken before and ended up in a beautiful little side alley with old houses and colourful summer flowers.

There’s always more and I want to live my life exploring and discovering everything this world has to offer.

IMG_20170707_191336

When life pushes me around and clouds my vision, I want to search for beauty in the mundane.
When they say, ‘people will never change’, I want to look closer, listen in and challenge others to be the best they can be.
When a story seems to have ended, I want to see how the narrative continues.
When my view of God is limited by what people have told me, I want to explore new ways to seek and find him.
When they say, ‘refugees deserve to drown in the Mediterranean’, I want to raise my voice for those who are silenced.
When they say, ‘Let’s close our borders and shut out doors’, I want to open my hands and heart to those who come with nothing.
When I experience fear, mistrust and hatred all around me, I want to speak up louder, love more fiercely, live even braver. 

IMG_20170430_162944

There are many ways to live this life.
May our ways always be marked by love.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

 

A Summer with No Plans

One and a half weeks until summer break.
While I am really looking forward to six weeks of no schedules, no students and no early mornings, I must admit that I’m also scared.

I’m scared that my to-do list is too full.
I’m worried that I can’t get it all done and will let people down.
I’m afraid that the six weeks will fly by and I’ll have wasted my time with nonsense. 
I need rest so desperately, and yet I somehow don’t know how. 

As I sit down and pour my heart out to you, you take me back to a familiar story.
A tale of two sisters who have a house full of guests and a long list of chores.
While one of them hustles and stresses and runs around, the other one just sits down and listens.

I identify with the hustler and sympathize with the listener, when I hear your voice ringing in my ear and heart:

Don’t do. Just be. 

The truth is so simple.
But sometimes the simple things are the hardest to practice.
I will give it a try this summer.
Thank you.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

What If…Still Then

If I am caught up in life’s busyness, blind to watch the world around me.
There’s still beauty.
If the darkness of the world seem to overpower me and weigh heavy on my soul.
There’s still joy. 
If weekly routines and relationships suck the spirit out of me.
There’s still life.
In abundance. 

If I fall short of my own or other people’s expectations and struggle to forgive myself.
There’s still grace. 
If there are more questions than answers and I wrestle with doubts about the big things in life.
There’s still truth.
Buried deep inside my heart. 

If I feel unworthy, imperfect and unfinished, unable to receive, incapable to give.
There’s still love.
Perfect, unconditional love.
Always. 

If I am called to move ahead, taking one step after the other into the unknown.
There’s still faith. 

If I feel like I’ve gone on a search to discover beauty, to experience life, to find myself and got lost along the way.
There’s still you.
Walking with me every step of the journey.
Waiting for me as I learn.
To fully live. 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.