It’s Worth Trying Again

Life lessons are all around us.
I often have an epiphany when I spend time with my godson P. He’s about a year now and doesn’t want to sit still anymore. No matter where he is, he’ll look out for some object or wall to pull himself up. This is not an easy thing to master, and very often he’ll make it halfway only to fall back down.

This is an activity P can do a million times over.
Pull himself up, fall back down. And repeat.
He doesn’t care about all these times he didn’t manage, he cares about the next time.
That one time he’ll find something steady to hold on to and eventually make it onto his feet.
He’s got this irrepressible will to live, to move, and to explore.

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When exactly does it happen that pessimism settles in to our hearts?
Is it part of growing up that we sometimes stop fighting and investing and wanting?
When exactly does the will to persevere and explore and live leave our soul?

Yes, life kicks in and its everyday challenges certainly are not easy.
But I still hope to be a bit more like P some days.
Like a person who is driven enough by life to never stop wanting.
Whose passion is greater than the obstacles.
Who doesn’t care about all the times she’s missed a goal or failed at something, but uses these experiences to grow stronger and move forward.

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Who doesn’t stop searching until she’s found that one thing that holds her steady and safe.
There’s a life out there, waiting to be explored.
It’s not easy, but it’s definitely worth exploring.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

I Wish Someone Had Told Me This A Year Ago

It sounded so familiar.

“I am overwhelmed by everything, there is so much to do and I am so exhausted.”
” I feel like I am not good at anything anymore. Teaching is really hard and I am not sure I can do it.”
” Is it ever going to get better?”

Honest words from friends who just started teaching. They are full of exhaustion, questions, despair.
They could’ve easily been a replay of my own mind and heart just a few short months ago when I felt the exact same.
I was lost in the sea of new experiences and tasks.
I was overwhelmed by the challenges a new job brings.
I was exhausted by the new schedules that were so far from my own rhythms.
I was anxious that this would never end and I wouldn’t ever feel okay again until I retired.

Most of us have been in the situation of starting a new job. No matter if you’re a teacher or a doctor or an accountant – it’s a major step in your life and doesn’t go by without any side effects.
We struggle with new schedules and tasks. We get to know a lot of new things and people. We worry how our future will look like.

A year later I have to say that it does in fact get better.
It’s different now.
The journey from there to here wasn’t easy and took a lot of growing up.
Often, growth just takes a bit of time. But as I look back I sometimes wish that someone had come alongside me and told me a few things. Not to make everything easy, but to help me understand what was happening.

Starting a Job Is a Big Deal
When you get engaged, people congratulate you. But they also give you advice: “This is a big deal, you should take a preparation course. There’s books and premarital counseling.”

When you announce you’re pregnant, people congratulate you. But they also dish out well-meant advice and tips: “A kid will change your life forever, you should take a course. There’s books and classes.”

Life is marked by changes and transitions. Marriage or children remind us that we cannot just be the same, that we actually need to evolve and grow. That we sometimes need to lose ourselves when we’re pulled up and replanted into a completely new environment. That we need to rediscover ourselves once in a while and add new features to the old self.
Changes in life mold and strengthen us.
And it’s good to know about it and prepare for it because these changes certainly don’t come without a good deal of pain and questions and hardships.

Well, what about when you start your first job ever? When you leave behind the flexible schedule of university and submit to a routine you can’t alter? When you become independent from your parents’ or state support and need to take care of bills, insurance etc.? When you’re under pressure to do a job well because your next paycheck depends on it?
Starting a job is a big change as well.  No, you don’t have a new partner. No, there’s no child waiting for your attention. But you still cannot remain the same. So yes, it’s a big deal and you should expect challenges during the transition.

Get to Know the New ‘Culture’
I have lived in several countries and interacted with different cultures. What actually happens during such a transition?
Moving to a different country is definitely exciting as you get to experience different climate, food, languages and people. This is the ‘honeymoon phase’ when everything’s new and exciting. Take it all in and enjoy.

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There’s no fixed time, but after a while the novelty wears off and you get a peek into real life in a new culture. Things begin to annoy you, people are suddenly unnerving, and you start to miss things from home. This is the ‘depression phase’ when you feel like you don’t know who you are anymore. You’ve been pulled up from your familiar place and replanted into completely new soil. Instead of excitement there’s anger and doubt and fear. All you want to do is leave.

But as you fight and struggle through the strangeness of this new life you begin to realize that you are still the same. That you can actually survive in this new environment. That people are okay and can teach you something. That it’s worthwhile to incorporate new elements into your culture. This is the ‘resettlement phase’ when all the hardships have paid off and actually led to growth in a new place.

Entering the working world is like entering a new culture. You’re still in the same country, you still speak the same language. Yet, you’re completely lost in this new environment. You have no idea how to be and behave in this new culture, the work culture. So don’t underestimate this process and rather treat it as a cultural transition. This discovery alone moved worlds for me last year because it made the following process much easier.

Take Your Time
When you move into a different culture you wouldn’t expect to be all settled in within a few weeks. Why would you expect that you could adjust to a completely new lifestyle that fast? photo-1445109673451-c511bb51bd17
Take your time to get to know the new culture and how you’re supposed to act in it. Observe how people interact and deal with things. Pay attention to the little tricks here and there that might make a big difference. Don’t judge but be willing to learn something new. Open yourself up to new people and experiences.

Allow your emotions to run high and admit that things just suck sometimes.
Permit yourself to feel lost and to make mistakes at first. No one is perfect from the start.
Take things step by step. Celebrate the little victories and move on to bigger things.
Focus on tomorrow, not next week.

Seek Help
Thousands of people have made the transition into work before, they just sometimes forget to tell us about it. Things have become so natural for them that they don’t remember how hard it was at first.
Asking for help is no sign of weakness. Often it takes just one brave person who’s willing to share how things really look like that helps others to share as well. We’re stronger together, so don’t try to keep up a straight face when all you feel is lost.
Seek the company of people who are in similar situations because they’re the only ones who know how you truly feel. Friends where you don’t have to explain or justify a whole lot.
But don’t stop there. Spend time with people outside your ‘job bubble’ to get your mind off things. Don’t allow your mind to be stuck in the ever-running/condemning spiral of ‘I still have so much work to do.’

Fight for Rest
Settling into a new culture is exhausting in every aspect. I never imagined that I would be physically tired from meeting so many new people. Similarly to babies who are worn out by getting to know the world, it takes a lot of mental and physical energy to learn new names and strategies. Our body has to adjust to new sleeping/working/eating patterns and this takes its toll.

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So don’t expect that you can just continue like before. Allow your body time to adjust and give it the rest it needs.
Sleep well and enough.
Eat well.
Plan your time well, so that you actually have time to rest after all the work.
Schedule in time slots when it’s all about rest. This can be very active. Find an activity that takes your mind off work and refocuses you on the really important things in life.
This really is a fight, but if you lose it or put it off (‘I can rest later’) you’ll eventually be too burned out to do anything at all.

Focus on the Truth 
There will always be people who are better at their job. There will always be colleagues who are ahead of you. There will always be others who seem to have the right to look down on you and judge you.
Yes, being a newbie does mean baby steps again.
Yes, you do make mistakes at the beginning.
Yes, there is a lot to learn.
Yes, you’ll fall down and fail.
But you are not a failure. Not.a.failure.
There are things about you that no job you do or don’t do could ever change. Don’t allow anyone to take that away from you. Don’t compare yourself to others, this won’t get you anywhere but despair.

Starting a new job is part of life and eventually we all have to take that step. There’s no recipe to make it all easier, but knowing about the transition might make it a little smoother.
What were your first steps in the working world like? How did you cope with the transition? What would you add to help newbies with the transition?

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.

When Quiet Is the Last Thing I Should Be

A few Fridays ago the prompt for the weekly link-up was quiet. I did write something on it, but it wasn’t my first draft. What ended up on the blog were not the thoughts I had initially when I pondered the prompt a bit.

My first ideas did not seem right at that time, but they have spooked around in my head for a while now and I feel like I have to share them, too. So here are some unscripted thoughts about me no longer wanting to be quiet.


I am a quiet person and very often that’s okay.

But lately I’ve been thinking that sometimes it’s maybe the last thing I should be.

With all the stress and busyness of life going on at the moment I find myself really out of touch with the news.
I scroll down newsfeeds and take in the headlines, but I can’t talk in depth about what’s really going on. There’s thousands upon thousands of refugees coming into the country each month, and I am just overwhelmed with everything that could or should be done.

I want to educate myself and break out of the quietness, but I am often too busy (and sometimes also lazy) to really do it.

With all the hills and valleys I’ve journeyed through in the last year my faith has changed quite a bit. It has grown and the process is not done yet.
I often find myself alone and unable to connect with what I used to call church culture. I don’t want to be awkward and weird, but I also can’t pretend to belong somewhere where I don’t feel right.

This is a challenge when you’re a worship leader and often have no idea what you’re supposed to do up on that stage.
I want to evolve and grow my roots deeper into God, but I am often too afraid to share this with the people I’m supposed to lead.

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With all the growing up I’ve had to do in the last two years I often reached my limits. I just couldn’t go on anymore and had to learn that I need help. People who were allowed to see my messy apartment and to hear my confused thoughts. Places where I was allowed to just be and not accomplish anything. Friends who helped me to process out loud and discover a rhythm, rest and beauty again.
I want to grow in community and friendship, but I am often too ashamed to open up and let people in.

The world is not changed by people keeping quiet.

Things in our lives, in our world, in our churches won’t take a turn for the better if we don’t muster up the courage to share our struggles and doubts. Places can’t even begin to change if we don’t shed light on what went wrong in the first place. Hearts can’t be transformed if we don’t fight for new life and intimacy with all the hope and strength that’s left in us.

Here’s to change.
Here’s to speaking up and sharing myself.
Boldy.