More, Please!

I did not expect this.
After keeping it a secret for a few weeks I finally spilled the beans on Wednesday: I signed a book contract! (Insane, right? Here’s the full story.)
The entire day my phone went crazy with feedback. Some long lost friends sent me messages, people liked and shared the news, others left the most thoughtful and touching comments. Continue reading “More, Please!”

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

On Tuesday I wrote about transitions and how important it is to translate rhythms from your old home into your new life. This requires some practice and effort. Sometimes it also requires pain, especially when it comes to friends you have to leave behind.

We are really blessed in comparison to what friendships looked like a few decades ago. Facebook, Skype, Email, Letters, Instagram – we have countless ways to stay connected with friends, even if we don’t live in the same place anymore. But are we really more connected?

Every time I moved (and this happened a couple of times) I saw friendships hitting a crossroad. We had to say goodbye, but we also had to figure out how our friendship would look like from now on. Most of the time this happened rather naturally and we never really talked about.
And many times, the first goodbye was also final and I somehow lost touch with some dear people.

This makes me sad very often; I wonder how many friendships even survive the constant moving. Making friends as an adult is incredibly hard and I don’t want to do it over and over again.

In times like these I am immensly grateful for the friendships that do survive. There are some great people in my life who make the effort to stay in touch. Despite the distance and the busy lifestlyes we manage to find ways to share thoughts and lives.

Like A who I used to meet up with in my old home for dinners and movies. She was an expert in finding great films and hidden treasures. We don’t see each other often now, but when you read an email from her, you feel like she’s talking with you.

Like S who I used to visit once a week to see my  precious little godson. Being away from them is definitely hard, but pictures help a little bit. Whenever I have a bad day, P’s smiling face makes it better instantly.

Like T who lives on a different continent and most of our friendship happens online. She still writes messages and hanging out on Skype is a real treat.

Of course, none of these ways beats meeting up in person, but translating the way we live friendships can help bridge the distance a little.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

 

What a Table Can Do for Community

In my short twenty-eight years of life I’ve traveled the world quite a bit and spent
some time in different cultures. The best thing about other countries are the people
who invite you into their homes and lives to show you a few of their traditions.
Traditions I can then take back to my own life and introduce others to them. Continue reading “What a Table Can Do for Community”

Where our Cravings Find a Home

Even though I’m not pregnant, I crave a lot of things.
I crave my warm bed when I’m on my way to work early in the morning.
I crave sparkling water after a workout.
I crave a hot meal at the end of a long day.
Yes, I sometimes crave bacon.

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If we take a closer look at our lives and our souls, we’ll discover cravings inside all of us. We all long for something.

Continue reading “Where our Cravings Find a Home”

Your Best Friend – A Clock

One of the best things about being a writer is meeting lots of other talented writers. Kasia and I met as students and remained good friends. She had a baby a few months ago, and I love that she chose to write about how this experience has changed her life. I hope you enjoy her words! 

Continue reading “Your Best Friend – A Clock”

Golden Rain Drops

Anja and I met in church about five years ago. Whenever you need someone spontaneous for a movie night, a beer on the city wall or just a good talk – Anja is the person to call. She finds the most interesting events and has surprised me more than once. And she is one of the most encouraging people I know. Today I am lucky to have her on the blog and share a little bit about her work as a nurse.

Continue reading “Golden Rain Drops”

The Wonderful Exhausting Pilgrimage of Life

I got off at the airport and picked up my rental car.
And then I started driving.
It had been four years since I had driven on the left side and I was surprised how quickly I got back into the rhythm. It was dark, but with a GPS and a sort of sense of direction I found my friends’ cottage I would be staying at for the next few days.

‘Pilgrims Rest’ said the sign on the door.
How appropriate. Continue reading “The Wonderful Exhausting Pilgrimage of Life”

I Am Not Anne

When I was a young girl, my favorite book was Anne of Green Gables. I loved reading about the adventures and mishaps of Anne, an eleven year old orphan who’s adopted by two elderly siblings. She isn’t wanted at first, but eventually moves in with the Cuthberts and changes life in the small town of Avonlea quite a bit. With her very open and curious personality she falls into a few traps along the way, but somehow she always manages to win people over. No mater how selfish, bitter or traditional people are – Anne finds ‘kindred spirits’ everywhere.

I have always found Anne’s character quite appealing, considering the fact that she moves into a very tight-knit community. Everybody knows everyone in Avonlea, and everyone is somehow related. This comes with the usual conflicts and gossip: once you do something ‘wrong’ (which basically means something different than traditions) everyone knows about it. And everyone is entitled to have an opinion on it.

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Anne doesn’t care. She does things differently, ignores rules, or revises old traditions. She confuses people with her extroverted character and ideas, but in the end she brings the community closer together. People suddenly help each other out and care for each other.

Grandma’s place reminds me a lot of Avonlea. A small village in the middle of nowhere where everyone knows everyone. There are conflicts and there’s gossip. There’s one right way to do it, and a lot of confused stares and hushed comments if you do it differently.

There’s close community and a lot of help, too. You can call people anytime if you need homemade food, farming supplies or practical help. People reach out and are willing to care about each other. My Grandma and my mom as well are used to simply picking up the phone and calling for help. They have no problem walking into other people’s yards.

They are at home there.

As much as I enjoy Grandma’s place I realize it’s not my Avonlea.
When I was there a few weeks ago Grandma asked me to pick up some honey from the neighbor. “You can walk through the backyard”, she said.
I really wanted to.

Instead, I stood there and hesitated.

Unable to walk through the yard I realized that I know of people, but I don’t really know them. I am not the kind of person who just walks into people’s yards and lives. I am not the kind of girl who turns others into ‘kindred spirits’.

I am not Anne.

I have had my shares of adventures and mishaps (and I hope I’m not done yet!). I have walked into cultural traps and caused more confusion than understanding. I have felt unwanted and lost in tight-knit communities.

And yet I have discovered that there’s more of an Anne inside of me than I thought.

I do have a way to look at the world that some might call daydreaming, idealistic, or naïve. I call it finding beauty in the mundane. With the right mindset you can see past the worries, pain, and problems life so often throws at us.

I do clash with people’s mindsets and opinions because I sometimes do things ‘differently’. But it’s such a blessing to see how others live and think – why don’t we learn more from each other? And more than that, why don’t we practice caring about and for each other?

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Most of all, I did and do find ‘kindred spirits’ everywhere. It normally happens when I least expect it. At a friend’s birthday party, on my way home from work, in a comment below a blog post.
‘Kindred spirits’ who have traveled the world, who have lived in different countries and fell in love with several cultures at the same time.

Who know what it means to feel lost and want to belong so badly.
Who do things ‘differently’ and yet don’t want to give up themselves.

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Who might be afraid to walk through the neighbor’s backyard, but would have no problem finding a place to stay on any continent.

Who have discovered that our Avonlea is bigger than one geographical location – it can be found whenever we let each other in on the new, weird, exciting, exhausting experiences life might bring.

On Relationships (From a Single’s Perspective)

We were out of bread, so I ran down to the store to get some. I walked past a large pile of flowers in all kinds of shapes and colors. I quickly wondered, “Why do they have so many flowers in the store in the middle of February?”

It instantly dawned on me.
It’s Valentine’s Day on Sunday. The day of happy couples, flower bouquets, over-prized dinners and jewellery gifts.
Why do you need a special day to celebrate love? I hope you show your love for your partner on the other 364 days as well, otherwise you might have a bigger problem than what color of flower to pick, but that’s a different conversation.

A day dreaded by so many singles around the world because it screams in their faces how alone they truly are and how much happier everyone else is simply because they found “The One”.

A day full of sadness and disappointment because another year has passed with unfulfilled desires and an aching heart. Maybe even a sense of failure because you haven’t managed to fulfill the ONE goal in life: to find a partner and start a family.

A day often accompanied by well-meant comments of married friends. Do the following phrases sound familiar to you?
“Being married is the best thing in the world – I really hope you’ll find someone soon.”
“I’m sure God has someone really special for you, just wait for him.”
“This waiting time prepares your character and heart for the person God has for you.”
“Just pray and wait and the Right One will show up.”
“Use your time well and prepare yourself, so you’ll be ready when Mr Right shows up.”
I am sure you have a ton more of these phrases. And if we met up for a couple of beers, you’d probably have even more stories of crushed hopes and dreams, of expectations and desires and failure.

Don’t get me wrong: I might be slightly sarcastic over here (this is just my nature), but I am perfectly acquainted with that ache for someone in my life.
Yes, I believe that marriage is a special bond and a pretty great invention.
Yes, I hope to be married someday.
Yes, I could imagine having a family.

But the older I get and the more relationships I have observed and friends I have counseled over the years, the more respect I have for this whole marriage thing. It is a damn hard piece of work, and romantic notions won’t get us anywhere but disillusionment. 
Obviously I can only speak from a girl’s perspective, but I am very interested in comments and additions! So here are my two cents on what is wrong with relationships in our (Christian) society today.

If you’re single you’re missing out.
In the last two years I have been to more than ten weddings. I have rejoiced with the happy couples and enjoyed being part of their journey. I am really glad they found each other. As I said, marriage is a good thing.
What often happens, though, is the ‘Great Disappearance’. Some couples just drop off the face of the earth as soon as they found each other. It’s impossible to meet up with a friend for coffee or plan something because “sorry, I am married now”. It’s a real challenge striking up a conversation which does not permanently involve the husband, the kids, the married life.
It’s as if they have moved on to a higher level, a better world, and left you behind here in this bleak, lonely, single world.

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Yes, there are things that can only be enjoyed in a relationship.
Yes, it is a blessing to have a special someone in your life who’ll be closer to you than any friend ever can.
But is it always better?

Of course I have lonely evenings and wish someone was there to comfort me.
Of course I enjoy great things in life and wish someone was there to share them with me.
Of course I’m afraid at times and wish someone was there to hear my unprocessed thoughts.

No matter how many days of loneliness there are, there are far more happy days.
Days when I am glad that it’s just me (and my roommate) in the apartment.
Days when I can sleep in because no one demands my time or attention.
Days when I can do whatever I want whenever I want because I don’t have to check with anyone.
Days when I can travel, move, be spontaneous because I don’t have to fight with anyone over space, money or time.
Being single offers you a lot of opportunities and you should seize them as long as you can.


If you’re single your life is on hold.

I have talked to many single (Christian) girls, read a lot of ‘dating books’ and sat in on quite a few ‘special youth meetings’ – you know the ones where they separate girls and boys for the night to talk about relationships, sex, and stuff.
I don’t know what the guys were told, but the message ringing in my ears from the girls’ meetings was: Save yourself for marriage. Obviously, this was mostly in the sexual context, but included a much larger message.
Life, real life, only starts in marriage, so don’t waste it beforehand. Everything will work itself out in marriage.

And you see, this is where the lie comes in. If real life starts only when you’re married – what is life then before marriage? Un-Life?
People living with this kind of understanding seem to put their life on hold because… marriage. They don’t invest in real intimate relationships because…marriage. They don’t practice honest communication because…marriage. They don’t take risks because…marriage.

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Yes, certain things can only be practiced in marriage. You can’t predict how you’ll act as soon as feelings dominate your behavior.
But don’t fool yourself: Your marriage won’t be easy from the start, I can guarantee you that. Your happy clappy dream bubble might burst pretty quickly, and if you’re not ready for that you’ll be left disillusioned and disappointed.
Marriage is a hard piece of work, including a lot of investment and communication skills. These skills don’t come naturally, just because you love someone. So why not use the time you’ve been given now to practice real communication, real investment, real relationships?
Your life is NOW, no matter your relationship status. Go and live it to the fullest.


If you’re single you’re not complete yet.

Along with the lie that singles need to put their lives on hold comes an even greater twist: You cannot live your life to the fullest as a single because you’re still waiting for that special someone. Just listen to love songs in the radio or girls talking.

He’s perfect for me. He has everything I ever wanted. He completes me.

And so girls write their lists of how their Mr Right should look and be like.
They wait and hope that he shows up soon.
They dream of a perfect future with a perfect marriage with a perfect someone.

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And so somehow this lie settles in our minds that we need that special someone to make us complete. That without him we are not perfect.
The more I think about it the more confused I am. Sunday after Sunday we sing “Jesus, you alone are enough for me” or “Lord, you’re all I need” in church. And yet when it comes to marriage we believe that we need something, or rather, someone else.
We believe in a God who created a perfect heaven and earth. And then he created man and called them perfect. We are already perfect, pure, and holy. By default, we are complete.

We can’t predict what life will bring. No list and prayer in the world can guarantee that Mr Right will show up. I for one don’t think there’s only this ONE person in the world who’s right for you, anyway, but that’s a different conversation. But you’ll never be truly content with yourself and your life, if you continue to believe that you’re not 100% you, no matter your relationship status.
You are made perfect and complete. The partner is just a gift for you on top of everything.


If you’re single you’re doing something wrong.

These are probably the comments that annoy me the most. “What? You’re single? How’s that possible, such a pretty girl like you?”
Yes, really, how could I? Basically it’s my fault that I am (still) alone.
Maybe I need to go out more to meet more people.
Maybe I need to be more active in my search.
Maybe I need to ‘advertise’ myself more.
Maybe I need to work on myself more so that I am more attractive to others.
Maybe I need to pray more that God will already send Mr Right along.
Maybe I need to wait more intently and patiently.

Of course, you can’t expect anything to happen when you hide in a closet. And yes, sometimes you need to take some of the above steps.
But if we begin to understand that our value and life does not depend on whether or not we have a partner, we might finally start to relax a bit more.
Life is not just about finding a partner. If you’re single you’re not a failure.
Sometimes life is about living in the moment, enjoying what you have right now and learning as much as you can. Be grateful for what and who you have in your life.
If a great guy (or girl) comes along, then take a risk and embark on this adventure called marriage. And if not, then enjoy life to the fullest and discover the many treasures ahead of you.

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A quick note to our married friends
I am glad for the many people I have in my life who lead all different kinds of lifestyles. Singles, Couples, Families, Seniors…Life is so diverse and we can learn something from all kinds of people.
What can married people do to encourage their single friends?

Get out of your ‘Couple Bubble’ once in a while and see what life is like on the outside. It might be nice to spend a night out with the girls or have a guy’s thing sometimes. We value the time we can spend together, more than you know.

Talk to us. Don’t stay on the surface or on the ‘my boyfriend, my wife, my kids’ toys’ level. Share something about YOURSELF and show real interest in us. You might appreciate an adult friend and listener more than you’d expect.

Singleness is no disease and we don’t suffer from a permanent identity crisis. So don’t pity us or overwhelm us with rushed comments and assumptions.

As much as we singles enjoy spending time with your kids or observe your marriages we desire your interest in us. No, we are not left behind or not as good as you. We are just in a different phase of life and we have something to give. So invite us into your lives and be willing to learn from us.
Life is a big journey. Some of it we walk together, some we might have to walk alone. Let’s embrace the people and situations around us and discover the many surprises and treasures life has prepared for us.