This Is Not What My Life Was Supposed to Be Like (On Turning Thirty)

I turned thirty last week – a time to look back and reflect on the big things in life. 

I distinctly remember the first day at university, when I walked around campus and saw students dipping their feet into the fountains at The Square. They sat together in little groups, laughed about something and obviously enjoyed their life. I was twenty-one and had just moved to the city to open yet another chapter in my life’s story. 

And I remember imagining what the next few years would look like: I would complete my studies quickly and then move abroad for work. I would meet new people and we’d be the best of friends who make embarrassing and beautiful memories that would last forever. I would find a handsome guy and we’d get married until we started our own family around thirty. Together we would roam this planet, always in search of our next adventure. I would say later that my twenties were the best years of my life. 

Fast forward a couple of years.

Even though I was never really sure if I wanted to be a teacher, I discovered that I enjoy teaching very much and I might stay a while. So I still live in Germany, have become a full-fledged teacher and just moved into my first ‘grown-up’ apartment. I own a dishwasher and seem to be really settled.
I have graduated from university with a lot of effort and good grades, but all of this had its price. After my finals I had a burnout because I hadn’t taken care of myself. In times when I needed them the most, I had to say goodbye to a few dear friends and learn that some relationships are not meant to last.
There have been countless weddings I have attended and many happy moments when I rejoiced with friends and their kids, but with the years I couldn’t help but wonder why I am still alone. Nor the fear of always being on my own.
I have walked through the valley with friends and had to let go of seemingly strong foundations. I wrestle with questions and doubts why and how I can live my faith in this complex world.

No, this is not what my life was supposed to be like. 

As I take a walk down memory lane, different images flash before my inner eye. 

The many packed bags and suitcases that carry us from one apartment to the next and accompany us from one continent to a completely different culture. A symbol for the tension of having no real home and longing for the world that’s lingering inside of me. 

The five of us squeezed into too small cars or way too little motorbikes riding through the African jungle. Sleeping in tiny rooms and having improvised breakfasts on hotel beds. The many days and nights when we come together from all over, holding our bellies from laughing so hard and forgetting that we’re all adults by now. No matter how scattered we are: It’s always us five against the world. 

The delayed flight to Johannesburg where my twenty-year old self lives away from my family for the first time. I am culturally challenged, but gain a better understanding of myself as a TCK and my role in this world. 

Sweet memories of late nights with study friends watching movies, cycling around town and discovering what food can do for a person’s soul. 

The tiny bundle of fluff who made me a godmother and grew into such a brave, funny, intelligent boy. I can hear his chuckling laugh long after I have to leave again. 

All those weekends with my TCK family that leave all of us physically exhausted but emotionally filled to the brim. Because it’s exactly this: We have become family; people who share similar experiences and honest questions about home, identity and belonging. 

The breathtaking beauty of canyons, oceans and landscapes in all the countries I was lucky enough to travel. I have swum in all the seven seas, overcame my fear of water to go diving and climbed mountains. I got to live with people from all across the world and discovered that they are the real adventure. 

The first TCK conference I attended completely clueless only to be blessed by people who took me under their wings and taught me about the vastness and beauty of the TCK world. Together we have pulled off quite a few conferences and learned from experts all across Europe. 

What started out as a temporary student job became an unexpected learning experience when I ended up organizing a congress for several thousand people and was surprised how much responsibility people trusted me with. 

I have come to understand the necessity of saying No which enables me to say Yes to the right things and invest my time, thoughts and money into causes that really matter. I learn to treasure the beauty of admitting, “I don’t know.” 

I have learned to take better care of myself and open my eyes for the many blessings already out there. God was and is bigger than my concepts, questions and doubts. When I pay attention to it, I am overwhelmed by mundane gifts and the faithfulness of old companions. 

In times when saying goodbye to friendships and much-loved beliefs became really painful, I discovered writing as a helpful way to reflect and process. Many people blessed me with their encouragement and comments on-and offline, but I never imagined that my writing would end up in a book. 

I sense for the first time what it means to settle down at one place for a while and create a home – a feeling unknown, yes even forbidden, for a TCK. I meet the right people at the right time who challenge me to take risks, to stay and rest, to give something of myself. I can talk to friends who feel the same and we wait in this uncertainty together.

Why do I write these things? I don’t want to brag about myself and everything I have achieved. No, these stories are a reminder for myself to not lament the things I don’t seem to have, but to celebrate that my life has turned out so different from what I imagined it to be all these years ago. 

My life is full.
Full with tasks that challenge and inspire me.
Full with loving, creative and inspiring people who join me along the way and enrich my life with their presence, actions and words. 

My life is deep.
In the midst of my hunger and desires I discover gratitude that brings a new depth to my life. 

My life is rich.
Rich with experiences with and in this world.
Rich with memories of all the necessary steps that have brought me here.
Rich with dreams and excitement for what’s to come. 

My life is a collection of puzzle pieces which challenge me at times, but make everything more colorful, meaningful, beautiful. 

No, this is not what my life was supposed to be like.
But life is good. 

Can Women Make Themselves?

I am surrounded by amazing women.
Ladies who live their lives courageously and follow their dreams with a wild heart.
Women who don’t give up when crisis hits them and walk through the valleys with dignity until they come out stronger on the other side.
Friends who open up and entrust me with their pain, their secrets, their dreams.
Wonderful men and women who walk this path alongside me and speak truth when I need to hear it the most.
My grandmother became a widow in her 50s and had to manage an entire farm on her own. If you need to know anything about tough life and love, she’s your girl.

My mother who would always say, ‘Women make themselves’, and challenged me to speak my mind and not limit myself in what I could do, may it be to set up a shelf or travel around the globe.

Women can do a lot of wonderful things, but we can’t do it all. 

We live in the 21st century, but sometimes I wonder if our minds are stuck somewhere in the Middle Ages. In our self proclaimed ‘postmodern society’, where equality and tolerance stand above it all, we still experience that women are not treated equally as men, let alone as human beings.
Women who are told from an early age on, ‘You can’t do this, you’re just a girl.’
Women who should have a career and still be the perfect mom at home.
Women who do the same work for less money.
Women who are stared at and judged for the way they look.
Women who are sold into enslaved prostitution so that others can satisfy their perverted needs.
Women who are beaten because they don’t obey their husbands.
Women who are seen as ‘little helpers’ and do all the work while others don’t lift a finger. Women who are supposed to function because men are supposed to enjoy themselves. Women who are expected to be everything and yet appreciated for nothing.
Women who are shamed into becoming something they don’t want to be because they’re too afraid to be themselves.

We have lamented this misery.
We have protested and been looked down upon with a complacent smile.
We have been promised better things, a quota in every work place.

But that’s not what we want.
That’s not what we need.
Unless our minds – and that includes men AND women – change, all policies are empty words. We together are the only ones who can bring about real transformation.


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.

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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. 

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


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

 

For Those Who Are Weak

“I’ve seen video content of a child that’s the same age as mine being raped by an American man that was a sex tourist in Cambodia.

“And this child was so conditioned by her environment that she thought she was engaging in play.” Continue reading “For Those Who Are Weak”

The Terrible Difference of Now

Now.
Now we are in the final days before Christmas. Our houses are filled with candle light and the smell of Christmas cookies. We are rushing through the department stores in search of the perfect presents and let’s hope we don’t forget anyone. We spend hours planning the Christmas meal. After a long and busy year we just long for a few quiet days with family, rest and peace.
This is our now. Continue reading “The Terrible Difference of Now”

[Five Minute Friday] Yes

Yesterday a picture went viral. 
A police officer carrying the dead body of little boy out of the Mediterrenean sea in Turkey. The boy had tried to flee across the sea and had drowned in a boat that’s been way too small and way too old for such a precious load.
This is not the first incident, it’s just the peek of inhumanity in a series of terrible events going on in Europe at the moment. People trying to enter our countries, and all they hear is NO.
NO to a place to stay.
NO to something to eat.
NO to transport.
NO to a job.
NO to them as people, as human beings who have something to offer to this world and community.
The daily news of burned down refugee homes, aggressive demonstrations and the most horrible posts on social media make it hard to believe in a bright future, in something better to come.
There’s just NO and uncertainty.

But in all that darkness, in the midst of desperation, there’s a YES.
A YES that resounds from the beginning of time when it was first spoken.
The YES that the One God uttered and then made people.
YES to create fragile, tempted, vulnerable, often horrible, hurting human beings.
YES to beloved children who make a lot of mistakes and are more lost than they would ever know, yet are also more saved than they will ever dare to hope.

His YES starts ringing like a whisper in our hearts, gaining strength until it fills our entire being.
He said YES to us. And His YES can give us the courage, faith, and strength to say YES to others.
YES to welcoming people into our countries.
YES to opening our doors to them.
YES to listening to their stories, holding their hands when they’re shaking with fear.
YES to giving away food, housing, any kind of support.
YES to mirroring Jesus in places of despair and uncertainty. 
Let there be YES and a bit more hope in this broken, broken world.

If you’re as disgusted and compelled as me by the happenings in Europe at the moment, please check out more resources. And pray, if that’s all you can do.

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Writing for Five Minute Friday today. 

 

[Five Minute Friday] Visit

Teaching isn’t always easy. 
Passing on content you’re not really interested yourself can be challenge.
Speaking about things you’re really passionate about can be a real struggle.
I enter the room and 25 more or less interested students look at me. 
Expectantly, hoping I don’t do grammar with them.
No, no grammar today.
A question instead: How many slaves work for you? 
Blank faces.
Surprise.
Question marks.
A joke about mom doing their laundry quickly dies when I ask them to do research.
They get onto the computers, visit the first websites. 
They read stories about child labor in Bangladesh to produce clothes the students are wearing everyday.
They look at pictures of Chinese production lines and people working day and night so that people over here can get a new phone every year. 
They encounter the term human trafficking for the first time and are shocked that prostitution and organized crime exists right in front of their eyes.
Ninth grader cockyness turns into surprise, horror, shock. 
I can hear quiet murmurs, people exchanging facts and questions.
Slavery is real. 
It happens right in front of you. 

In this globalized world this is our burden. 
Today is “Shine a Light on Slavery” day. 
The 27th of February – speaking up for the more than 27 million people in slavery. 
And I hope that my students don’t just visit these websites. 
That they don’t stop at talking about it. 
That their shock and surprise turn into action. 
And that I may join them.
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As always I am linking up with Kate Motaung and other fabulous writers. 
If you want to know more about this topic, start with Slavery Footprint.