Inside the Mess

On Wednesday I had visitors come over who wanted to stay the night.
I was looking forward to their visit, but I was also a little nervous.
My schedule was completely packed because I had been in and out of the city for the most part of the last two weeks. There were clothes lying around on the floor, unpacked bags on the chairs, piles of paper on the table. A fine layer of dust covered the surfaces. My apartment was a mess.
How could I invite people into this place?
So I started cleaning on Tuesday night, frantically getting rid of the chaos and presenting the best version of me and my place.

Why do I do this?
Why do I care so much about what others think?
Why do we polish our lives online and offline?

Sometimes I wonder if we do similar things with God.
If our lives were like an apartment, we would only show him the living room where everything is neat and tidy.
We would clean up and present the best version of ourselves.
We would keep him away from the dusty corners and the dark sub-basement.

The visit was great and it was really nice to meet all these new people.
For those who know me a little also know that I love hosting people.
But the next morning I woke up with the worst headache.
Suddenly I felt really uncomfortable.
Me, the hostess, couldn’t host anymore.
I had to drop my facade and allow others to see inside my mess. They looked into cupboards and drawers, they moved around in my house.
They saw a little bit more of me.

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And somehow they didn’t seem to mind at all.
What if we stopped worrying for a second and decide to let go?
What if the moments of seemingly “losing it” lead to greater depth and connection?
What if God wanted to see it all?
What if he was more interested in our darkness than  our superficial perpection?
What if this mess actually leads to true healing?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Shut Up, Narrative!

You should do more exercise.
You should finish that project at work like…yesterday.
You should make more time for your friends.
You should go to bed earlier.
You should read the Bible more.

Should, must, have to.
Isn’t that the narrative constantly playing in our minds?
It pushes us to impossible heights sometimes, but mostly it drives us crazy.
It eats us away.
It kills the life we are supposed to live.

So let’s stop for a moment and dig a little deeper.
Why should we do all these things? And why do we give in to the “shoulds” so often?
Because we think we need more money.
Because we think the world will stop turning the moment we lay our hands down.
Because we think that we can rest later.
Because we think that we are what we do.
Because we think that God expects a special routine.

We think and think, and slowly by slowly these thoughts become beliefs.
Beliefs about ourselves, God and the world.

If we give ourselves permission and rest for a while, we might hear a different narrative, softly whispered into our hearts.

Hey, I’m so glad you’re here.
Why don’t you sit down and relax?
The world will continue turning, I got this in my hands. Literally.
You won’t be able to just drop everything, but you are free to choose.
Do the things that are beneficial to you. In body, mind and spirit.
Or do nothing at all sometimes because you are who you are.
And that’s enough.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

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.

I did hope for some sort of feedback, but I never imagined… this. So much love, support, interest, excitement… I can only say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.

Reading all these lovely messages totally made my day, I felt like I was flying. My insides were all excited and I couldn’t help but walk around with a big smile all day.
Encouragement is like water for a withered flower, like a breath of fresh air, like a firm rock you can stand on as you continue your journey.

So why don’t we give it more often?
More laughter.
More kindness.
More time.
More encouragement.

It doesn’t take much to encourage others.
We don’t have to wait for something extraordinary to come along to encourage someone.
A smile, an uplifting comment or a hug can make a difference already.
A sign that says, “I’m glad you’re here. You don’t have to do anything, just be. That’s enough.”


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

How to Fill an Empty Soul

“Are you taking a break? I haven’t seen you on Facebook and instagram lately.”

That is correct.

A few weeks ago I couldn’t take it anymore. I just felt so unsatisfied when I looked at social media posts and how polished everyone’s lives where. They all looked so happy and perfect – while I was busy and alone and imperfect. I scrolled down feeds in search of some sort of meaningful news, but all I got was videos about cats and clickbait headlines.
The more time I spent on social media, the angrier I became and the emptier I felt.

It was time to get out.

The season of Lent provided a perfect time to go offline and see how my view of the world would change (hopefully).

It was quite surprising to see how much I didn’t miss it all. The white noise of cat videos, game invitations, gifs…It was all quiet out of a sudden. Finally, there was some space to listen, to breathe, to learn.

But it was also nice to rediscover some online friends who I’ve really missed during this time, I must admit. They use media very well to open my eyes for beauty and point me to unexpected treasures in the mundane.

The most shocking discovery was to realize how much time I waste on social media. It’s so easy to just pick up the phone when you’re waiting for something or feel bored. I felt almost conditioned to move my fingers towards icons, they were already trained to swipe down, to tap. It seemed impossible to just read a book, to just watch a book, to just ficus. I always needed something else. I was hoping that someone, anything, would care about me and entertain me. Shocking, sobering, eye-opening.

When I stopped looking at my phone for direction, I suddenly had so much time.
Time to really focus on the important things.
Time to intentionally connect with people.
Time to leave the camera behind and truly see beauty.
Time to listen to birds singing.
Time to inhale the smell of spring flowers and new life awakening.

Time to fill my heart again which things that matter and life that restores.

These weeks have definitely been a learning experience. The semicolon is a good symbol for it: I want to put a period – a stop – to wasting time on nonsense distraction – but I also want to connect with God, with people and the real world – focused and intentionally. Even if this means disconnecting online.

Have you ever taken a social media break? What have you learned? I would love to hear your experiences!

My friend Marilyn has written about this topic as well, check out her thoughts here!

Psst: I’ve also been working on some exciting news. Will share more about it next week! Stay tuned! 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Embrace the Now

I am angry.
A feeling of dissatisfaction is my companion these days.
I don’t feel at home in this new place and I hate the fact that there is no time to make it a home.
My eyes have forgotten to capture, my heart has lost its song of gratefulness.
I am caught in between – between the past and the future – and that’s one of the most unsettling places to be.

I am panicked and stressed.
I am not happy with how busy I am these days and how little time there is to actually live, but many days I don’t manage much further than falling into bed with heavy legs at night. I often can’t do much more than to embrace the fact that starting any kind of new job is hard.

I am afraid to move on.
My faith feels stuck these days between not wanting to go back but also without any clue on what comes next. I fear to have nothing left.
I have to embrace the fact that being lost doesn’t last forever. And to trust that those who seek will eventually find.

In the midst of life -in the struggle of mourning the past and awaiting the future – I have to embrace the present. It’s all I’ve got right now and I have the chance to turn it into a past worth remembering.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

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.

 

No, You’re Not

Moving to a new city and starting a new job (the first real job ever) is quite an interesting thing. During the week I am incredibly busy preparing lessons and teachings, countless meetings and admin work.
But then there are the weekends or breaks when my schedule is empty and I have some room to breathe. It is in the quiet times when I realize how abandoned I am.

I’m alone.

Leaving the safe shores of faith is quite an unsettling move. As I abandon traditional beliefs and try to rediscover truth I often feel lost and confused. And deep down inside, I can’t deny that feeling of fear – what if I abandon everything and will be left with nothing?

I’m alone.

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In the midst of this emotional turmoil, the following song has been on repeat for quite some time on my phone now.

It offers a powerful response to the lie we so often believe.
That we are all on our own.
That it will always be dark.
That it will never get better.
That we are abandoned.

I know I’m pretending
When I try to have an answer
It’s not what I intended
And I don’t know what comes after

There’s still those two thoughts
One after the other:
I’m alone
No you’re not
I’m alone no you’re not
I’m alone
No you’re not
I’m alone no you’re not

– Joseph. “Honest”.

I’m alone.
No, you’re not.

Life is an adventure and there will always be times of challenge, exhaustion and loneliness. We can’t always change the circumstances, but we can choose how we feel about it.

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We can discover beauty when we rest our eyes on it.
We can experience community when we make ourselves vulnerable.
We can find faith in the mundane when we keep on searching, keep on hoping, keep on seeing.
We can breathe freedom when we’re brave enough to walk on shaky waters.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.