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. 

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”

How to Battle Fall Depression

I am really honored to have my friend Tori on the blog today. We met while I lived in th US and her family has welcomed me with open arms. Since then, we’ve met up several times in different countries, and I am glad to have Tori and her thoughts in my life.

Continue reading “How to Battle Fall Depression”

[Five Minute Friday] Gift

I’ve been a little out of touch in this space lately, but there’s a good excuse. For the last two weeks I’ve been traveling around North Carolina, taking a break from work, and reconnecting with dear friends.

It’s just been two weeks, but t’s also been so much more than that.
Fourteen days of not thinking about work at all.
Of indulging in good food and free refilled drinks.
Of admiring nature’s beauty in the mountains and at the beach.
Fourteen days of restoring rest to body, mind, and soul.
Of time with precious people, talking late into the night, reminiscing of sweet memories and adding new chapters to the story.
Fourteen days of celebrating friendships.
It’s just been two weeks, but they were intensely filled with gifts.
Like all those people who opened their homes and let me crash on their couches, even though it was often late at night.
Like all those friends who drove me around and did the most ridiculous shopping trips with me.
Like entering T’s house and feeling at home right away. Such a welcoming atmosphere that made me not even think about work or stress for one minute. I was just there and could enjoy every single moment.

Like celebrating beautiful H, watching her get married to the boy of her dreams, and swing dancing the night away. Hiking through the woods and laughing about silly stuff were just the things I needed.

Like driving through beautiful Greensboro or walking around campus with T and sharing about life. Simply starting where we had left off about two years ago, as if we had never been apart. Instant connection, instant depth, and incredible blessings to my soul.

Like going to the beach with E and swimming in the ocean with the most amazing colors. Sitting at the water at night, listening to the waves, and sharing about the essential things in life. E’s view of the world, his attention to and appreciation of the little beauties in the ordinary, and his nostalgia were inspiring.

Like walking around town with ME, MB, and A or going on culinary adventures with C, E, and N made me discover hidden things, rejoice about new developments, and treasure the familiar.

Every single talk was often so much more than expected, so much deeper than hoped for, and so much more a blessing than imagined. Friendships may be silent at times, but once souls have connected they’ll always come back to each other, no matter the distance.

Thank you for the gift of friendship. Thank you for being on that journey together.
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A little later than usual, but I’m still linking up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday. Another great gift, this community of bloggers and encouragers! 

This Little Storybook that Holds My World

My passport expired a few months ago, and since I’m about to go traveling again I needed to get a new one. When the lady at city hall asked for my old passport I was startled. Did she want to take it away?
It left me wondering, Why do I care so much about this little booklet?

Among TCKs there’s a joke that the most valuable book you’ll ever possess is your passport.
This little booklet tells stories.
Stories of travels to foreign countries.
Stories of adventures in unknown cultures.
Memories of people, smells, and food so different from who you are.

Like the story when we were stuck at the airport in Entebbe/Uganda for hours because the officer wouldn’t accept our residence permits. We didn’t want to pay the customary “fee” (we would call it a bribe), so he made us wait in this unknown country. Our work and lives for the next two years would depend on this little piece of paper. When he finally let us go after lots of questions, it felt like a relief and the stamp of entry like a triumph.

Like the story when we traveled to Tanzania, a 10-12 hour bus ride. Crossing the border was a matter of hours again because the border patrol enjoyed talking to the only Mzungus (white people) on the bus in the middle of African bush land. Only when they were sure my dad was Jesus (because of his beard and longish hair), they let us pass, and we had a new stamp in our passports to remember this trip.

These stamps are not just stamps on a piece of paper. 
They serve as a conduit to our memories. 
Images of sun-drazed hills, humble yet elegant and amazingly friendly people, and the most
breath-taking sunsets come to mind when I flip through the pages of this little booklet.

Many pages are filled with visas, but in between there are also a few surprises. Like the entry stamp of Abu Dhabi I had not intended to get.
My flight to Johannesburg, South Africa was delayed, so I had an extra night to spend in this desert metropole. At immigration I was searched by a completely covered-up woman, which felt intimidating since she asked me to take off my clothes. As soon as I left the nicely cooled airport a heat wave hit me and made my clothes stick to my body. The cab passed by simple white houses in the desert, the skyscrapers downtown looming in the background. I was taken to a hotel which could’ve easily been the scene of a Persian fairytale and met some friendly fellow travelers.
The Arab letters in my passport remind me of my first encounter with the Oriental culture, even though it was just a peek.

To get a visa or entry stamp from the US is quite a journey which starts a few months before actual departure, when you go to the embassy, wait a few hours, and endure security protocol. Just to get a five minute interview in which you state that you definitely don’t want to emigrate to the US or have a secret fiancé there. The long line at the airport and a suspiciously looking border patrol officer in Charlotte, NC almost seemed like a piece of cake afterwards.

Passports tell stories.
Our stories.
Just like photo albums they take us back to adventures and memories of the past.
An invaluable treasure you don’t want to give up.

And yet, I guess that many TCKs might agree that their passports can be a burden for them sometimes.
This little booklet doesn’t just tell what you experienced, but also who you are. 
Your place of birth, your family name, your nationality.
You’re a citizen of country x. You belong to the people of y.

But what if I don’t feel like it?
What if my heart doesn’t match what it says on that paper?
What if my soul is lost in the beauty of Africa, the hospitality and openness of people with a different skin color? 
The allegiance of my heart cannot be described by one single country code.
I am German and yet I’m not. I feel African, but so many things drive me crazy about it.
I’m a mix of everything, which sometimes feels like nothing.
My passport reminds me of this cultural conflict I find myself in, this search for a sense of belonging, a sense of myself, a home.

After a bit of paperwork the lady at city hall handed me back my passport.
With “expired” written across the page in bold letters.
Even though my old passport has expired, my stories are not. 
Because I’m still here to treasure and tell them.

A few weeks later I got my new passport – many more pages to fill with new experiences.
New memories.
New stories.

[Five Minute Friday] Give

I cooked Thanksgiving Dinner for my family yesterday.
For the first time. 
In Germany we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but I enjoyed this tradition in the States, so I brought it over and thought my family would like it, too.

We should have Thanksgiving more often.

As I was standing in the kitchen almost all day I was really looking forward to the evening. 
Eating lots of good food and spending time with family. 
I didn’t look at all the work. 
I didn’t look at all the time and energy I invested. 
I was happy and excited to give. 
Seeing their happy faces and hearing their “O my gosh, this is such good food! We should have Thanksgiving more often!” I was glad. 
Giving can be so rewarding.

The thought that crossed my mind several times was, “We should invite more people.” 
Not only is it good food, there’s something about sharing meals and fellowship you can’t really explain. It is a gift we accept and give not often enough. 
Even though this world is in such desperate need of it.

While I was cooking I was reminded of a story in the bible. 
A man prepares a big feast but none of his invited guests shows up. 
Instead of pouting he goes and invites people from the streets. Strangers. People who really needed and enjoyed a good meal. People who made this feast a most memorable moment and probably turning point in this man’s life.

And if my table and hands are full – where are the people on the streets I can invite and give to? 
Where is the lonely neighbor that might enjoy a night of fellowship? 
Where is the stressed out mother that could really use a day off? 
Where is the friend that needs cheering up in the form of turkey and apple pie? 

Let’s be grateful that we can give. 
It doesn’t take much to turn someone’s day around or make it better. 
We have been given more than enough, and only if we give to others we realize the true joy of it.

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I am linking up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday today. Five Minutes of Writing. No Editing. Much sharing and encouraging. 

[31 Days] Day 21 Go

It’s Day 21 of the 31 Days in the Life of a TCK series! Welcome! You can find more info on the series here.

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It seems like my last week in the US was the best (Here‘s the whole story). 
Full of crazy adventures, late night talks over coffee, eating through every type of food. Simply enjoying the time we could have as friends. 
Saying goodbye to little things and places. 


As difficult as every beginning in a new country is – the leaving part is even harder. 


Connected to the moving is the going and saying goodbye. 
May it be that people on your base are leaving. 
May it be that it’s time for you and your family to move on. 
Going is part of a TCK’s life and no matter how often you do it, it doesn’t really get any easier.

So how then can we make the going at least bearable? 

Jesus gave us a perfect example when he left this earth. 
He reconciled things and didn’t leave anything unsettled. 
He spent time with his disciples and affirmed the relationship they had. 
He threw a farewell party the night before. 
And he spent a lot of time telling his friends where he would go and what they could expect. 
His example shows us how we can build a 

R-reconciliation: don’t leave unsettled relationships, open questions, or grudges behind
A- affirmation: celebrate friendships, lives you shared together, and the many blessings
F- farewell: say goodbye to things and people that matter to you
T- thinking ahead: what are you looking forward to at the next destination?

It won’t change everything but it will help us transition into the next phase.


How did you experience transition in your life so far?