Why You Should Make Less Money [and Have More Life]

We have just started school last week and I am glad to be back in my routine, back with my students and colleagues. I teach a lot of the same classes with most of the same material in buildings I’m familiar with. There’s a schedule and a curriculum and all that. At the end of the month, there’ll be a pay check.
Same old, same old.

And yet, this year will be a little different.

This last year has really exhausted me. There was too much on the agenda, too many lessons, too much travel and projects on the side. Everything I wanted do for myself was pushed to the future and life seemed to be only about work.
I seemed to function during the week and try really hard to be alive on weekends and the breaks in between, which didn’t always go that well. I struggled with doubt and questions like, “What are you even doing here? Is this what life will always look like?”

Somewhere in between, a thought started to nag me.
What if you could change the way you work? 
What if you could make more time for the things besides your tasks? 

Maybe you feel caught up in the busyness of your life, trapped in people’s (or your own) expectations and long for space to breathe and create.
Maybe you question your work and doubt when and where life will actually happen. Maybe you want to change something and don’t know how.

Can anyone relate?

Rearrange your week
In order to make more time to create, you don’t necessarily have to quit your job and invest every minute in art or whatever you want to pursue. Sometimes it might just take another way to arrange your week.
In one episode of her podcast The Next Right Thing, Emily P. Freeman mentioned a technique I’ve tried out for a couple of months with some surprising results. Creative people who have so many different things on their plates can easily get overwhelmed. We have our jobs, our passions, our projects, our friends and family…and we never seem to have enough time to do it all. Our to-do lists are endless and leave us feeling unaccomplished and unfinished because we’ll never manage all of them in one day.

Emily suggests assigning each day a category of work, may it be chores at home or a passion project or meeting a friend. That way you don’t need to accomplish everything everyday and actually feel like you did something on that day. Whenever emails or requests come in, you can sort them into the day they belong to and don’t allow them to bother you today.
I have tried this method for a while now and it’s really helped me to calm my stress level. The different aspects of my life don’t overwhelm me as much and I have the impression that the actual days have become more productive and creative. 

Live curiously 
In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert speaks about creative living – which, by the way, has nothing to do with being an artist, a writer, or a rockstar. We are meant to create, to make something of our lives and to discover hidden treasures in our souls. But far too often, we don’t do anything because we’re held back by fear.
Fear of not earning enough money,
of not being good enough,
of not being successful with what we create.
We deny ourselves the joy of creation and discovery because we give in to anxiety (which is often irrational). A sentence that really hit home for me was this:

Let your life be driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.
Liz Gilbert

What would change in our lives if we listened to our curiosity some more? If we became more like children sometimes who simply follow their interests instead of necessities, their passions instead of their chores? 

At the beginning of my journey I pushed these thoughts away as foolish desires and utopian fantasies: You can’t just change things, you just don’t do that. 
I wrestled with my own fear and need for financial security and a stable routine:
What if I don’t make enough and will be lost in my week? 
I listened to advice from friends and wise words from those who’ve done it before me:
You might like it and you could always come back. 

And most of all, I couldn’t get rid of the feeling, “I don’t want to regret to not having done it.” What if I wake up with fifty and realize I have functioned all my life, but haven’t really lived?

You can’t create if you don’t try 
The other day I shared my writing ideas with a friend and immediately added, “I’m not sure I should even write about it, maybe no one will read it. Who am I to think I could write something like that?” She listened and then said very firmly, “Why don’t you think you could? You’ve already proven that you can.”

For so many of us, the biggest hindrance towards change is self-doubt. We don’t believe that we have a right to do or say certain things, we hide behind other people who might be better (or pretend to be), we question our place to be here.

Well, it’s not about being always right or becoming famous with our words or deeds, it’s about showing up and giving it a try. It’s about listening to the passions and nudges deep inside of us, uncovering them and having the courage to share them with others. They will always speak to someone – even if it’s just our own timid souls. Or, as the brilliant Liz Gilbert puts it:

You will never be able to create anything interesting out of your life if you don’t believe that you’re entitled to at least try.
Liz Gilbert

So, this is me trying.
When the pay check comes in at the end of the month, there will be less money on it because I chose to work less hours. I have taken a step back from going to work in order to make time for being a work in progress: Listening, creating, wondering. I don’t know if it’ll work out, I don’t know if it’ll be successful – but at the end of the day, I want to be able to say I tried. 

What are some areas or aspects of your life you’d like to have more time for? 
How could you rearrange your week in order to make more time for the individual tasks? 
What keeps you from believing you’re entitled to try? 
What could be a first step towards trying and creating?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today. This goes way beyond the five minutes, but the prompt is START and it felt appropriate to share a writer’s progress.

Make Your Words Count

When I was still in school, my German teacher would always tell me I didn’t write enough. While others put down eight, ten or even eighteen pages at times, I was done after three to five pages. And yet, I managed to say what I meant and was able to score good grades nevertheless.

How many words does it take to say enough?

We probably all know people in classrooms, meetings or conferences that keep on rambling even though everything important has already been in their first few sentences. They just keep repeating themselves, but more words doesn’t always mean more content.

Make your words count.

And then there are times when we just can’t say enough about something so beautiful, breathtaking, delicious, amazing. We just need ot use our words to remind ourselves and others of the wonders this world has to offer and not everything is as dark as it seems. Our words can uplift, encourage and create.

Make your words count.

And sometimes words fail us. We experience things that don’t need words. Suffering that words cannot fathom, darkness that swallows our every thought, questions too big to put into coherent sentences. All we can do is to be silent and bear witness to what is happening.

Let your Yes be a Yes and your No be a No.
Make your words count.


This is part of the Hopewriters Spring Writing Challenge. But incidentally, it also fits nicely to today’s prompt on Five Minute Friday. Come write with us!

The Reward of Letting Go

I have given you my everything
performed on big stages
attended all the must-have-been-there events
showed my face with all the right people

I have read so much about you and
was quick to give an answer
or judgment
said all the rights things and
maybe
often said too much

I have worked hard for you
exhausted myself over hours
and days
and years
not realizing that life inside of me
was
running
out

I let go of my certainties and safe answers
opened my mind to what if and maybe
fell silent when voices around me grew louder
allowed doubt to sneak in

I left behind the old trodden paths
the places that told me who I was
the world of black and white
the safe realm of knowing it all

I wondered if I had made the right choice
if returning to the old ideas would make the wilderness any more bearable
if I simply thought too much and
somehow lost myself along the way
to
find that

I have discovered infinite beauty in mundane places
the rich colors life has to offer
the depth that is born out of darkness
the light that shines through the cracks

I have inhaled the scent of freedom
the life-changing difference of must and may
the peace that is found in stillness
and an honest “I don’t know yet”

I am learning that the reward of letting go
is getting to know you all over again
falling deeper into your unfathomable vastness
only to be held by who you’ve
been all along


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Why You Matter in this World (Thoughts on the New Year)

I know I’m a little late to the game, but welcome back to a new year on this part of the internet!
Here’s to a new year of making plans, hard work and great achievements.
Here’s to a new year of self-doubt. 

You’re not good enough for this task. 
Don’t overestimate your own talent. 
You will never be able to see it through to the end. 
This has never been done before. 
No one will read your writing anyway. 
So you want to become famous?

I am not saying that this year all your dreams will come true. And if you’ve been around here for a while you know that I am not a big fan of New Years resolutions. I can’t guarantee that this year will be a good one for you.

But there’s something that might make a difference:
Let’s focus on influence this year.

Seek inspiration for your work and creativity. If something or someone doesn’t strike a chord deep inside of you, don’t waste your time comparing yourself to them.
Discover the magic of the unsubscribe or unfollow button.
Slow down and notice the beauty around you.
Dig into a good book and marvel at other artist’s craft.
Challenge yourself and listen to someone outside your bubble, you might just find treasure.
Find your people who are brave enough to dream with you and step into the groundwork together.
Surround yourself with friends who are willing to hold your heart as it cracks open with vision and vulnerability.
Become aware of who you’re around every week and how you might influence them. Take responsibility for the impact you make on others and the world around you.

Here’s to a new year in which growth and strength will slowly, gradually conquer the spaces in our heart where self-doubt once used to sit. 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

 

Faith in the Wilderness

It has been four years since my faith bubble burst and I began my journey into the wilderness.
Four long years of deconstructing what I actually believe.
Four years of questions why I do the things I do.
Four years of doubts if this makes sense at all.

Many months of anger at people, the church, God himself.
Many months of loneliness when I just couldn’t go back in there.
Many months of exhaustion when I was about to give up.
Many months of fear if it would always be this way – uncertain, tiring, grey.

Yesterday I spoke with a friend about our journeys and she said: “If I had to boil down faith to one word, it would be still.” 

In the midst of all the questions, I still come to you for answers.
In the midst of the broken down buildings of my faith, I still find new treasures in the rubble.
In the midst of all the unknown, I still experience a peace that is not of this world.
Even though there are a lot of lonely moments, I still discover you in the least expected moments and people.
Even though there are days of exhaustion and surrender, you still surprise me and encourage me to keep going,
Even though there is a lot of grey, I still learn that it has more colors than I could ever imagine.

So I still make my way into the wilderness and find that you’ve been waiting there for me.

I’ve discovered something beautiful: the loneliest steps are the ones between the city walls and the heart of the wilderness, where safety is in the rearview mirror, new territory remains to be seen, and the path out to the unknown seems empty. But put one foot in front of the other enough times, stay the course long enough to actually tunnel into the wilderness, and you’ll be shocked how many people already live out there – thriving, dancing, creating, celebrating, belonging. It is not a barren wasteland. It is not unprotected territory. It is not void of human flourishing. […] The walk out there is hard, but the authenticity out there is life.

Jen Hatmaker in: Braving the Wilderness . Brené Brown 2017.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

The Greatest Gift to Your Soul

What are you grateful for? 
When does praise come across your lips easily? 
When is it most difficult for you to give thanks? 

A friend asked us to ponder these questions this week and I realized that gratitude starts with the perspective. Before we open our lips in praise, we have to tune our hearts and focus our eyes on beauty.

In a world that propagates hatred, destruction and suffering, it’s difficult to find things we could be grateful for because all we see is negativity.
In a week when my calendar is filled to the brim and I am stressed on the outside and constantly nervous on the inside, it’s a real challenge to take some time out and give thanks.

And yet, it is crucial to our entire physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
If we speak praise into our busy schedules , we open up space for rest and restoration.
If we give thanks in the midst of the shadows, we unlock strength and courage and a deep well of joy inside us.
If we call out beauty in the places and people around us, something inside us will change.
We will see light in the darkness, hope in the brokenness, divine in the mundane. Gratitude is the greatest gift we could give to our souls.

So, here’s the challenge:

  • Watch out for beauty today. Look at the environment you’re in today. What do you see?
  • Look at the people around you. Tell someone they’re beautiful. Praise them for what they do and who they are. Acknowledge their presence in your life.

Writing for Five Minute Friday today.
featured photo: Yeshi Kangrang on unsplash

Wanderers and Wrestlers

(Picture credits go to wonderful friends who dragged me up a mountain a few weeks ago. So exhausting, but so worth it).

A few weeks ago, Addie Zierman started to pick apart the meaning of the all-too-familar phrase “Let go and let God.” And she put out the challenge to process this concept for September. So I’m linking up with my two cents on her blog today.


A few weeks before my twentieth birthday, I left my family and flew to South Africa to do ministry in townships for a year. As a Third Culture Kid who had spent her teenage years in Uganda and lived through a difficult re-entry to Germany, I couldn’t wait to get my feet onto African soil again. Little did I know that this year was about so much more than curing my fernweh for this continent.

When I arrived, things weren’t the way I had expected them to be. I shared a room in an open space with little to no privacy; we had to improvise our youth programs with the little material we had and worked in diverse teams. Living with people from all over the world and working together in the South African culture (which, in itself, is already a conglomerate of cultures) led to quite a few challenges.

It didn’t take long until I began to resent my environment, including the work and the people around me. I was knee-deep in culture shock. 

When we transition between cultures, we tend to experience a sequence of emotions.
On arrival, everything is new and we take in new places, smells, tastes. It is fascinating meeting new people who are so welcoming and different from us.
Over time, though, these differences rather exhaust than fascinate us. Communication, daily work and even downtime have suddenly become hard work. We run into conflicts and quickly become angry at the people around us and the circumstances. Everything seems too much, too overwhelming, too tiring. The new is no longer a gift but a burden.

IMG_8280Sadly, there’s no timeframe how long this period of exhaustion and struggle will take.
For some people it’s only days, others need years to adjust to a new place. As a TCK, I have had my fair shares of transitions: I have moved from place to place, from university to a proper first job, in and out of friendships. I have experienced the beauty of the honeymoon phase, battled the depths of culture shock and basked in the joy of coming out stronger on the other side of it.

And yet there is one transition that seems to be unlike all the others.
What happens if the faith we grew up with is no longer this safe haven, this firm foundation, this comforting conviction we sometimes need so desperately in life? 
How do you deal with an evolving belief system that feels like a completely unknown territory to you? 

Leaning into the battle of culture shock is both scary and liberating.
When we enter a new culture, we don’t just leave behind our familiar environment, food, people, jobs. We lose parts of ourselves and the way we used to function in our home culture. Not knowing how to speak a different language or adapt a new style of driving, working or relating to others is like taking a billion steps back in our development. We once again become little children who need to be taught the basics of survival in a new environment.
This is a stressful, enduring and often exhausting process – a journey we often aren’t willing to embark on.

But if we practice patience and presence, we might observe the changes taking place in and around us:
The first time we connect with a stranger over food, laughter and sign language.
The beauty of making a friend who opens up the mysteries of this new culture to us.
The moment we realize that our differences are what make us truly beautiful.
The strength of finding new words for new experiences.
The comfort of learning that we are still here, behind all the struggles and unfamiliarity. The joy of discovering new facets of our own personality and the richness that is now embedded deep inside our souls.
The peace that sweeps over us when we understand that this new normal is our new home.

mountain 1

And I wonder if culture shock can teach us something about our faith battles as well.
When the honeymoon phase is over and we learn that the world is darker, more lost and broken than we could imagine.
When our questions and doubts have become so big that easy answers won’t do.
When that hunger inside of us has turned into this giant hole eating us away.

When we wrestle with our beliefs and the nature of faith itself, we might have to lean right in rather than run away.
We might have to get lost for a while and return to the basics.
We might have to let go of who we used to be in our old lives with our old selves and grieve our losses.
We might have to fight for survival, keep asking, seeking, waiting and feel exhausted most of the time.

mountain 2
We might have to practice gratitude and patience and presence to observe the changes taking place in and around us:
The first time we connect with people from other backgrounds, belief systems and lifestyles to find out that our differences are what make us truly beautiful.
The strength of speaking our thoughts out loud and putting new words to new discoveries.
The beauty of meeting others out there in the ambiguity of it all who hold and protect our thoughts and questions.
The comfort of encountering God in unexpected places and learning that He is so much more than we could have ever known.
The pure joy of allowing him to unearth the depths and richness that are still inside of us.
The peace that sweeps over us when we understand that this new normal is our new home – the beautiful wilderness, the familiar unknown – the place where He has always been waiting for us.