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. 

Longing for Completion

I keep drinking, eating, stuffing myself
and yet I can never get enough
I clean out the junk I buried inside my heart
only to find
that there is nothing there
just emptiness and this hunger burning inside
eating me away

There is a gap in my life
a void in my heart that cannot be filled
an unsatiable hunger for more in life
because this cannot be
it
there has to be something
deeper
higher
richer

There is this feeling of discontent and unhappiness
lingering in the back of my mind
and in the depths of my soul
silenced by busyness most of the time
but once in a while it rears its ugly head
and reminds me how needy I really am

There is this idea of being incomplete and unfinished
there is still so much learning and growing to do
so much more transformative work
to be done within and around me

There is this still conviction
this silent prayer
that one day
all hunger will be filled
and my soul will
finally
be
complete

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

C.S. Lewis


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.