[Five Minute Friday] Choose

Some people say we have no choices in life.
Everything is predestined and we just need to surrender to fate.
Some people say we have too many choices, they are overwhelmed by freedom and simply lost the ability to make choices.

I believe we have a lot of choices.
We can decide what we want to wear today.
Whether it’s toast or cereal for breakfast.
We can even decide not to get out of bed all day.
We can choose what career path to follow, who to marry, where to live.

Those are choices on the surface.
They might be most visible to the outside, but do they make up life?
I believe there are choices we need to make deep down, and they will navigate us on the stormy sea of life.

Everyday we hear a million voices, telling us about the world and ourselves.
Countless people seem to know who we are and what we need. The more we listen to one voice the more this truth becomes our own.
But is it who we really are?
It is so easy for lies to take roots in our searching souls, and it is so difficult to pull them out once they’re settled. Nevertheless, for every lie in your heart God has more than one powerful truth for you.
Choose truth. 

Everyday we are facing a tight schedule, an inbox full of emails, the decision what will come first.
Do I clean my house or do I meet a friend?
Do I work all day or do I find some time for a cup of tea?
Do I wake up in the morning and feel overwhelmed already by the business that awaits me during the day, or do I start off the day with seeking my Heavenly Father first, the provider of everything I need today and more?
Choose time. Choose people. Choose the important. 

It’s Friday again, which mean I join many other amazing people over at Lisa-Jo Baker‘s Five Minute Friday. Write for five minutes flat. No editing. Just words. And a great community.

[Five Minute Friday] Small

I’ve written quite a few blog posts about this topic, and yet it is a reminder that I need again and again. Watch out for the small things (and people).
They can make a huge difference.
They can bless a truly horrible day.
They can lighten up a rather cloudy sky.
They can teach you about life.

A few small things and people I was blessed with in the past weeks…

…having a friend treat you to an afternoon out with great coffee and cake
…a little girl running towards you in church, giving you a kiss on the cheek and smiling just because you’re here
…my mom surprising me a day before my state board final exam, just to hang out, relax, massage and pray for me
…missing my bus, but realizing I am not in a hurry to go anywhere. The world does not end with missing one bus (even though we’re sometimes given that impression)
…receiving kind words, emails, texts to encourage you or “just thinking about you” notes
…skyping with long lost friends, hanging out for hours talking about nothing and everything
…waking up in the morning to the most beautiful sunny sky, or enjoying an amazing sunset from your kitchen window

All of these things are not extraordinary, super-over-the-top or organized. They just happened. They were small. And yet they fill me with gratitude and joy. And they remind me that my smallness can make a huge difference to someone else.
Watch out for the small things (and people). You never know the immense blessings they might bring to your life if you let them.

Five Minutes. Just writing, no editing. Sharing with lots of other great people around the globe. Over at Lisa-Jo Baker‘s Five Minute Friday!

[Five Minute Friday] Garden

This week’s prompt is a bit of a challenge; I might have to start off with a confession: I am not a garden person. Every plant I ever had died sooner or later, since I forgot to water them, take care of them or didn’t realize what they needed.

Given this lack of gardening skills I am not sure I’ll have a garden later on.
Even though I’d want to.
Gardens are beautiful places.
Of rest.
Of amazement.
Of richness.
Of teaching.

I cannot help letting my mind wander off to the garden we had in Uganda.
A house surrounded by huge mango trees and casava plants. In between you’d also find a few passion fruit trees finding their way along house walls or other trees. And little islands with the most amazing and diverse flowers I had ever seen. I am really bad with names, but their colors were so bright, their shapes were so extraordinary. What a place to just lie in the grass and let your thoughts wander. Take a nap, while the sun warms your face.
This garden is a symbol for a few happy and carefree childhood days.

I go further to the garden we had around our farm in South Africa.
Peach and lemon trees stood around the little swimming pool, which provided a welcome refreshment on hot summer days. We spent countless hours taking the kids into the water, teaching them how to swim and having fun. I spent quite a few mornings there, with my guitar and my bible, to meet the Lord, to hear from him. My team leader would say this garden is her little piece of paradise where God would just speak.
This garden was a place for rest, for meeting the Lord. For letting him teach me about himself and the beautiful creation he has put me in.

In gardens we can see HIM at work. In the seeds that are planted and need a while to grow. In the little plants that slowly grow bigger and reveal their rich colors. In plants dying and finishing the cycle of life. And in the hands of a skilled gardener who tends to his plants, who prunes them so they can continue to grow, become stronger, and shine for their creator.

Aren’t we also a bit like that? And do we allow the master gardener to fulfill his work in us?

This prompt was given by Lisa-Jo Baker on her amazing blog. She also has a great garden project coming up in South Africa- you should check it out!

[Five Minute Friday] Write

Normally, the prompts for Five Minute Friday concern how we see the world, what we think of certain ideas or how we could encourage people.
Well, today it is about what we actually do.
We write.
Why do I write?

I am a very busy person. Everyday I deal with different people, issues, topics, problems, places.
At night my head often spins and I sometimes worry I might go crazy over all of this. What if I forget something? What if I can’t figure this out?
My thoughts are full of people I still wanted to write to, friends I still wanted to call, errands I still have to run or just reflections on things that just happened.

It is very easy to get confused and lost in my own thoughts.
It is also very easy to feel overwhelmed by everything I still have to do (supposedly).

This is when writing comes in.
It has a certain power to bring order into my thoughts and my life.
It helps me to organize confusing schedules.
To express what I am really afraid of.
To confess my own messiness at times. To see clearly and prioritize well.
When I put running thoughts on paper they often miraculously turn into a clear and logical structure. Overwhelming thoughts become a bullet point on a piece of paper. They are there, but they are no longer able to overpower me.

To write is to conquer.

Writing has the power to speak and see the truth right in front of you. Black letters on a blank page or screen. Letters and words of truth. Of comfort. Of encouragement. Of readjusting my focus to a godly perspective.

To write is to speak truth into something or someone.
When I write I foremost speak to myself.
But in this little space of the internet I call my own I push some of my thoughts out of the nest and see if they can fly and speak to someone else as well.

It’s great fun writing with others – over at Lisa Jo Baker‘s Five Minute Friday Party!

[Five Minute Friday] Hero

Images of epic movies come to mind.
A one-man-show of a courageous guy saving the entire planet from evil/aliens/nature.
A coach who inspires his team to keep fighting even though they are way behind.
A family who stands together through fits, struggles and misunderstandings only to experience a happy end.

But well, those are movies. How about real life?
Most of the time we’re not heroic at all.

We feel tired in the mornings even though we just got up.
We despair at the sight of the pile of work waiting for us.
Hundreds of emails are sitting in our inbox, waiting to be answered.
We do not make an extraordinary amount of money, we don’t fix problems per second, we don’t save relationships just like that.
We sometimes have to force ourselves to read the bible, to go to church, even though we actually feel lost and slightly disconnected to God.
We struggle to be perfect friends, perfect spouses, perfect parents, perfect Christians, perfect people.

We try to so hard to be heroes for ourselves, for our families, for our friends, in church – only to be reminded every day that we are just ordinary people. We fall down, we get up, we live.
And I wonder if the heroic in all of this is not the trying to be different (and failing at it), but the honesty to admit the ordinary.

Instead of upholding a fragile facade let’s promote a new culture of honesty.
Instead of holding on so tightly to an image of fake perfection, let’s celebrate our imperfections.
Let our lives and churches be places where we complement each other’s imperfections and heal each other’s shortcomings.

“Cause in the broken we shall see restored the image of the king.” (Andy Flannagan) 
[By the way: this is just one line of a truly amazing song from Andy. You should check him out at: http://www.andyflan.com/!

More thoughts on heroes? Visit Lisa Jo Baker‘s page!

[Five Minute Friday] Visit

Ever since the travel bug got to me many years ago, I have an urge to travel. To see new places, experience the smell of other countries, the rhythm of a new city, the breath taking scenery of a new landscape.

But more than that I want to visit people.
To see the way they live, eat at their favorite restaurant, dance to their favorite tune, take a tour at night around their favorite places in town.
To sit for hours and hours, with not much more than a cup of coffee, just talking about the ups and downs of life.
Sharing lives and sharing hearts.

I’ve had a few of such visits, and most of them were unplanned. No month-long planning, no detailed schedule. Just a bit of time. If you give time to a person, you are always in for a treat full of blessings. Always.

And yet, I am still here. Alone. What’s holding me back?
Well, there’s distance. Many dear friends live everywhere but close. A visit would take one or more plane rides. And a bit of a vacation.
And there’s money.

But, honestly, most of the time, it is plain laziness.
Or busyness. Or a lack of trust. Call it what you want.
Sometimes I discover myself not trusting a friendship enough.
Not trusting a surprise visit would be appreciated.
Not trusting I would be thrilled to see a friend simply showing up and “messing” with my packed schedule.
Not trusting that we should be just as fine seeing each other instead of typing our lives and thoughts.
Or not trusting I will finish the work load in front of me if I take a weekend off to spend with a friend.

Well, away with these thoughts!
Here’s to a bit more trust.
A bit more spontaneity and less planning.
A bit more friendship.
And hopefully, a bit (or a lot!) more visiting.

How about visiting Lisa Jo Baker‘s blog for more interesting thoughts?

[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!