How to Fill an Empty Soul

“Are you taking a break? I haven’t seen you on Facebook and instagram lately.”

That is correct.

A few weeks ago I couldn’t take it anymore. I just felt so unsatisfied when I looked at social media posts and how polished everyone’s lives where. They all looked so happy and perfect – while I was busy and alone and imperfect. I scrolled down feeds in search of some sort of meaningful news, but all I got was videos about cats and clickbait headlines.
The more time I spent on social media, the angrier I became and the emptier I felt.

It was time to get out.

The season of Lent provided a perfect time to go offline and see how my view of the world would change (hopefully).

It was quite surprising to see how much I didn’t miss it all. The white noise of cat videos, game invitations, gifs…It was all quiet out of a sudden. Finally, there was some space to listen, to breathe, to learn.

But it was also nice to rediscover some online friends who I’ve really missed during this time, I must admit. They use media very well to open my eyes for beauty and point me to unexpected treasures in the mundane.

The most shocking discovery was to realize how much time I waste on social media. It’s so easy to just pick up the phone when you’re waiting for something or feel bored. I felt almost conditioned to move my fingers towards icons, they were already trained to swipe down, to tap. It seemed impossible to just read a book, to just watch a book, to just ficus. I always needed something else. I was hoping that someone, anything, would care about me and entertain me. Shocking, sobering, eye-opening.

When I stopped looking at my phone for direction, I suddenly had so much time.
Time to really focus on the important things.
Time to intentionally connect with people.
Time to leave the camera behind and truly see beauty.
Time to listen to birds singing.
Time to inhale the smell of spring flowers and new life awakening.

Time to fill my heart again which things that matter and life that restores.

These weeks have definitely been a learning experience. The semicolon is a good symbol for it: I want to put a period – a stop – to wasting time on nonsense distraction – but I also want to connect with God, with people and the real world – focused and intentionally. Even if this means disconnecting online.

Have you ever taken a social media break? What have you learned? I would love to hear your experiences!

My friend Marilyn has written about this topic as well, check out her thoughts here!

Psst: I’ve also been working on some exciting news. Will share more about it next week! Stay tuned! 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Embrace the Now

I am angry.
A feeling of dissatisfaction is my companion these days.
I don’t feel at home in this new place and I hate the fact that there is no time to make it a home.
My eyes have forgotten to capture, my heart has lost its song of gratefulness.
I am caught in between – between the past and the future – and that’s one of the most unsettling places to be.

I am panicked and stressed.
I am not happy with how busy I am these days and how little time there is to actually live, but many days I don’t manage much further than falling into bed with heavy legs at night. I often can’t do much more than to embrace the fact that starting any kind of new job is hard.

I am afraid to move on.
My faith feels stuck these days between not wanting to go back but also without any clue on what comes next. I fear to have nothing left.
I have to embrace the fact that being lost doesn’t last forever. And to trust that those who seek will eventually find.

In the midst of life -in the struggle of mourning the past and awaiting the future – I have to embrace the present. It’s all I’ve got right now and I have the chance to turn it into a past worth remembering.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

On Tuesday I wrote about transitions and how important it is to translate rhythms from your old home into your new life. This requires some practice and effort. Sometimes it also requires pain, especially when it comes to friends you have to leave behind.

We are really blessed in comparison to what friendships looked like a few decades ago. Facebook, Skype, Email, Letters, Instagram – we have countless ways to stay connected with friends, even if we don’t live in the same place anymore. But are we really more connected?

Every time I moved (and this happened a couple of times) I saw friendships hitting a crossroad. We had to say goodbye, but we also had to figure out how our friendship would look like from now on. Most of the time this happened rather naturally and we never really talked about.
And many times, the first goodbye was also final and I somehow lost touch with some dear people.

This makes me sad very often; I wonder how many friendships even survive the constant moving. Making friends as an adult is incredibly hard and I don’t want to do it over and over again.

In times like these I am immensly grateful for the friendships that do survive. There are some great people in my life who make the effort to stay in touch. Despite the distance and the busy lifestlyes we manage to find ways to share thoughts and lives.

Like A who I used to meet up with in my old home for dinners and movies. She was an expert in finding great films and hidden treasures. We don’t see each other often now, but when you read an email from her, you feel like she’s talking with you.

Like S who I used to visit once a week to see my  precious little godson. Being away from them is definitely hard, but pictures help a little bit. Whenever I have a bad day, P’s smiling face makes it better instantly.

Like T who lives on a different continent and most of our friendship happens online. She still writes messages and hanging out on Skype is a real treat.

Of course, none of these ways beats meeting up in person, but translating the way we live friendships can help bridge the distance a little.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

 

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.

When I lived in the States a friend invited me to spend Thanksgiving with her family.
I got to experience a whole day of family fun in the mountains, great food and good
conversations. A day to reflect, appreciate and give thanks. It was such a treat and
blessing for me. So I took this tradition back home and introduced my family to it.
Ever since then, they keep asking, “Can you please cook Thanksgiving dinner
again?”

Last Thanksgiving was a little different.

I am sharing my last Thanksgiving experiences on Kristin’s blog Turquoise Table today. Read the rest of the story here.

The Rough Parts of Transition

A few weeks ago I lost my calendar. For a teacher who has to keep track of lesson plans, class tests and endless to do lists, this is close to a catastrophe. So I needed to get a new calendar. I went downtown and thought I would find one within a few minutes.

One and a half hours later I was still roaming the streets.

I could feel frustration and anger rise inside of me.
Anger at myself for wasting all this time in search of a stupid calendar.
Anger at the city for being so new, so unknown and so big.
Frustration at my situation – I am the new person who has no clue on where to go.
I hate being lost and, more than that, feeling lost.

Moving to a new place is one thing, but making it a home is a whole different story. Transition isn’t over when boxes are unpacked and you found somewhat of a new routine. Transition takes time, and it’s mostly the little things that teach me how long it really takes.

When you uproot your life and go somewhere else you leave a lot behind that you simply can’t put in boxes.

Your favorite coffee place.
That papeterie shop which had everything you needed.
That path on the hill where you took walks to regain perspective.
The knowledge where everything is, what ways you have to go, which routine works best for you.
All these familiar faces and beloved friends who made life in your old home so enjoyable and memorable.

Leaving the old and familiar behind in exchange for the new and unknown is scary. So how can we navigate these rough parts of transition?

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Say a proper goodbye
I’ve written about this many times before (like here or here), but every step onto new territory is shaped by how you left the old one. It’s normal to hang in the balance while you’re transitioning, but if your heart and mind are always stuck in the old place and old routines, you will never be open to welcome new places, people or routines into your life.
So settle your accounts.
Look back on what you left behind and give thanks.
Don’t compare, but welcome this new chapter with a grateful heart and open arms.

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Translate, don’t copy your routines
This is a piece of advice I received from an American friend as he was transitioning into life in Germany. You had your go-to places and people in your old home and it’s important that you find new go-to’s in your new home. This might take a while and cost you a bit of effort. Most of the time it’s not possible to simply copy old routines into a new setting. The people are not exactly the same and there’s just one favorite coffee place.

But reflect on why you love these routines so much, what kind of people inspire your life, and then go look out for them.
You might have liked the coffee shop for its style, its staff or its coffee brands – so find a place that offers these.
You might’ve had a walking route routine to clear your head – so discover new paths.
You might’ve had encouragers, activists or believers in your circles of friends – so get to know new people and explore the qualities they have to offer.
You don’t have to forget about places and people you left behind, but give new places and people the chance to inspire you in the same way – just in a different shape or form.

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Give yourself time
Again, I’m preaching to myself – transition takes time.
How much? I don’t know, it’s different for everyone. I just know that putting yourself under pressure won’t make a transition any easier.
Your apartment doesn’t have to be finished within weeks – allow yourself time to furnish and decorate it. Wait for inspiration to come.
Your go- to places might not always be the most visible, so take some time to wander the streets without an agenda or watch in mind. When a store speaks to you, go in and have a look. Pay attention to details. Get lost on purpose.
Your go-to people need time to get to know you as well, so don’t expect too much at once. Take it one step, one person, one relationship at a time. Be brave to invite others into your home or accept someone’s invitation. Do things together. Share a meal and see what happens around the table. Allow people to surprise you with qualities you didn’t know before.

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On my involuntary walk through this new city I finally decided to not give into frustration and anger, but to accept this time of roaming and searching. I opened my eyes for new shops and surprising buildings I hadn’t seen before. It made me want to see and explore more. After a while, I found a cute little place with the most gorgeous design ideas and, finally, a calendar.

No, You’re Not

Moving to a new city and starting a new job (the first real job ever) is quite an interesting thing. During the week I am incredibly busy preparing lessons and teachings, countless meetings and admin work.
But then there are the weekends or breaks when my schedule is empty and I have some room to breathe. It is in the quiet times when I realize how abandoned I am.

I’m alone.

Leaving the safe shores of faith is quite an unsettling move. As I abandon traditional beliefs and try to rediscover truth I often feel lost and confused. And deep down inside, I can’t deny that feeling of fear – what if I abandon everything and will be left with nothing?

I’m alone.

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In the midst of this emotional turmoil, the following song has been on repeat for quite some time on my phone now.

It offers a powerful response to the lie we so often believe.
That we are all on our own.
That it will always be dark.
That it will never get better.
That we are abandoned.

I know I’m pretending
When I try to have an answer
It’s not what I intended
And I don’t know what comes after

There’s still those two thoughts
One after the other:
I’m alone
No you’re not
I’m alone no you’re not
I’m alone
No you’re not
I’m alone no you’re not

– Joseph. “Honest”.

I’m alone.
No, you’re not.

Life is an adventure and there will always be times of challenge, exhaustion and loneliness. We can’t always change the circumstances, but we can choose how we feel about it.

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We can discover beauty when we rest our eyes on it.
We can experience community when we make ourselves vulnerable.
We can find faith in the mundane when we keep on searching, keep on hoping, keep on seeing.
We can breathe freedom when we’re brave enough to walk on shaky waters.


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.”

Consider him acting well or really convincing – the testimony that Ashton Kutcher gave at the Senate hearing this week was nerve wrecking. He spoke out on child trafficking and child prostitution which happens frequently, right under our eyes – online.

Human trafficking is a topic that has been on my heart for a while now (ever since I visited Vegas) and the more I read about it, the more I am horrified.
“How can people do that?” is a question I keep coming back to.
Children are weak and helpless. They can be manipulated in the most simple and horrible ways to do the most horrible things for adults. They can be abused and treated badly just because adults get a kick out of it. Most of all, they can’t speak up for themselves. If they ever make it out of it (many don’t) they are left traumatized and scared for life.

But the real problem is not far away.
It is as close as the ads we’re watching, the clothes we buy, the food we eat, or the electronic devices we use.
It is as close as the low prices we pay for cheap products and constant novelty.

Trafficking starts with all of us – whenever we allow other people to work for us. Trafficking starts when we care more for our own pleasure than other people’s lives.

Well, what can we do about, you may ask.
The solution is equally close to home.
We are solution. You are. I am.
You might feel weak. You might feel hopeless and helpless.
But you can do more than you think.

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Think about the people who made your clothes before you make a quick buy.
Consider other people’s lives before you buy a new phone every year.
Buy local food and cook seasonally.

Next Thursday (February 23) is Shine a Light on Slavery Day. Share about this topic on social media. Paint a red X on your hand and talk to the people you meet that day. Read up on the subject. Organize events together with others. It’s as easy as that.

Human Trafficking is real.
What are you going to do about it?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.
And yes, this post took longer than five minutes – but sometimes you have to break the rules.