Of Losing and Finding

In the last few years I had to deal with loss quite a bit.
I saw friends losing loved ones, and having nothing but pain leaves you speechless.
I lost relationships I thought I could count on, leaving me disappointed and disillusioned.
I moved and traveled to places, leaving me with a deafening feeling of not belonging anywhere.
I transitioned from university into work life and never imagined this change would impact me so much.
I am losing, or rather rediscovering, my faith and sometimes I feel like walking alone on a wide open sea.  Continue reading “Of Losing and Finding”

[#write31days] Day 31 Two Years Later

Welcome to Day 31 of #write31days! You have made it to the end, congratulations! And thank you for reading along. 
For more information check out the series’ page
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A day in my life October 2015.
It’s been about two years since I started looking at boundaries and practicing them in my life. Many things have changed since then.
I have graduated from university and started my first real job. It’s been a crazy time of transition, saying goodbye to old lifestyles, habits – but also welcoming new tasks and challenges.
I am still busy and I didn’t just stop everything I was doing.

And yet I feel more balanced.

When I started my new job I didn’t know how exhausted I would be, so I canceled all my usual obligations. It was a bit risky stepping back from so many positions, but instead of accusations and neglect I received encouragement and help.
This was really good because starting a job (well, the first one ever) is a major transition, like being uprooted from your natural habitat and replanted into completely unknown ground. These were some tough first months.
After a few months into the job I felt like I had more of a grip on everything and I could slowly add other things to my life. Step by step I rediscovered life.
Coffee with a friend.
An afternoon in the gym.
Dinner with a bunch of people.
Staying up longer than 9 pm (if you get up at 5 every morning this is a big deal!).
A weekend away.
Setting boundaries is not about stopping life all together. It is letting go of the many nuisances and energy drainers to make space and time for life, real life.

I have become more vulnerable.
These last two years saw a few goodbyes to friends and idealized memories of the past. This was definitely a challenge accompanied by tears, loneliness and despair; and I’m not saying I’m all over it yet.
But it was also a process of refinement and immense blessing.
People have come through in unexpected ways. I received free meals, a place to stay, a space to cry, a silent hug.
People prayed when I couldn’t, they encouraged me when I had run out of words, they told me to stop when my mind was stuck in worries.
I have learned to speak my mind more and not fight every battle on my own. At first it felt like ripping out part of my soul and pouring it onto paper; now it’s more like processing out loud and inviting others into my mess. And I am incredibly blessed by people who are willing to stay and listen.

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I have become more selective.
It’s not about how many meetings I attend or how much work I do.
I still get lots of emails from people asking to me help out, join this or that committee. I check every one of them. Think about them, discuss it with others. Listen into myself for my real motivation to do it. Often I hear a NO and lately, I’ve become better at actually saying NO.

It’s not about how many friends I have.
It’s not about the many.
I rather want to find the few that are really worth investing in. These rare friendships that will last longer than a move or a change of lifestyle or opinion. These beautiful connections that go deeper than accomplishments and gifts.
There are not that many out there and it might take a long time to build and refine these friendships. But the journey I have started has been good so far.

I have become more courageous.
Building deep connections is always a two-way street and sometimes you have to make the first step. I have learned to share more of myself. Not with everyone, but with the right people. Giving away a bit of myself has helped them to open up as well.
I have made interesting and often surprising connections when I shared. Some of my thoughts end up on this blog and I’ve gotten really great responses, often from people I don’t even know personally. Life is journeying together and it’s great to travel together.31b

I have become more intentional.
Do less, but dig deeper.
I don’t cram as much work into a day as I used to; instead I learned to appreciate an hour of doing nothing or a full day of rest.
I value community and actively seek it, even though it sometimes means stepping out of my comfortzone.

Sunday has become my favorite day of the week.
It is no longer a day of work and worry, it is Sabbath. A day to do nothing or something restorative.
A day when I sleep in and enjoy breakfast.

31a
A day when I read a book, not for work, just for pleasure.

A day when I spend time with my coloring book, letting my
creative side take me to some new place.

 

A day when I listen to a sermon while walking through the woods, allowing the Lord to speak to me in some new way.
A day when I go on culinary adventures with my roommate and we enjoy new recipes or unusual ingredients.

A day when I celebrate life together with others.

Setting boundaries is a journey and I am not even close to finishing. I guess we’ll never be. But I keep on going and growing and thriving.
And I hope you will, too.

What have you learned in the course of this month? Have you made any changes? Have you experienced new blessings!
I would love to hear from you and your experiences during this challenge in the comments below!

[#write31days] Day 29 Make Rest a Habit

Welcome to Day 29 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page
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The last two years I had a really hard time setting boundaries. I worked too much and was involved in xyz projects. When I wasn’t working I was thinking about what to do next. When I wasn’t thinking I worried about all the things I hadn’t done yet and how everything would work out. Before I opened my eyes in the morning my mind was already wide awake and spinning at a hundred kilometers an hour.
It made no difference what day of the week it was, each day I was equally busy, working, worried. Restless. Never at ease or fully relaxed. I just couldn’t.

The constant state of restlessness – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually – is detrimental to our entire being. If we want to avoid total collapse we need to set boundaries for ourselves. The next step is equally as important: we need to practice rest, make it a habit.

Sleep Because He Will Take Care
I am so glad for the invention of sleep, it is a physically forced form of rest. Yet, we are not automatically at peace when we close our eyes at night.
Our minds don’t easily go to sleep, they keep us busy with thoughts of the just passed by or the one ahead of us.
We just keep on worrying because we don’t trust.
We don’t trust that we’ll have enough time to finish the work in the morning.
We don’t trust that things will work out even though we don’t worry about it all night.
We don’t trust that the work we do is enough.
We don’t trust that tasks will be completed or perfect unless we slave for it at unusual hours.
We don’t trust the world will continue spinning if we don’t push it forward.

Trust me, these thoughts are real. I’ve entertained them all in my many sleepless nights.

Not only are these thoughts presumptuous in regard to your own status and abilities; they’re also a spit in the face of the One who says of Himself:
I will never sleep.
There’s nothing that happens (or doesn’t happen) that I don’t see.
My thoughts are higher than your thoughts.
I have good intentions for you.
You may rest and I’ll take care of you.

Mark Buchanan writes:

Sleep is a necessity. But it is also a relinquishment. It is self-abandonment: of control, of power, of consciousness, of identity. We direct nothing in our sleep. We master nothing. We lose ourselves and are carried like children. […]
Sleep is also an act of faith. […] We give ourselves, regardless of our unfinished business, into God’s care. We sleep simply because we believe God will look after us. […] If God can take any mess, any mishap, any wastage, any wreckage, any anything, and choreograph beauty and meaning from it, then you can take a day off.
Mark Buchanan. The Rest of God.

400ac-dscn1892Lying down and allowing our minds to really rest is an act of trust. Committing our spinning thoughts to the One who holds the universe is like saying, ‘Okay Dad. Here’s my mess, take care of it please. I’ll take a nap in the meantime.’ And you know what? God will gladly do that. No, he won’t solve all our problems all at once. But if we force ourselves to keep quiet for a while we’ll actually hear Him whisper, ‘Don’t you worry, child, I got this’ as we drift off into sleep.

Honor Sabbath
Even though I was so incredibly busy my life got a little better immediately when I returned to a seemingly normal, and yet often neglected, tradition: honor Sabbath.

At the very beginning of the bible we can read about the invention of Sabbath:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.                                                                                                              Genesis 2:1-3

God himself rested and he made us this great gift of a full day off. Why don’t we take it more often?

I know it’s very tempting to just keep going with life even though it’s Sunday. Luckily in Germany stores are closed on Sundays, so you can’t just go shopping or working. But there’s still so much else you can do at home. Long awaited laundry or cleaning or paperwork or writing emails. It takes way more courage saying no to the work at home and turning your eyes from the piles in front of you and rather towards rest.

The excuse ‘I’ll rest later when everything’s done’ doesn’t make any sense because guess what? Work will never stop, you’ll always find something to do.
Shelley Miller writes:

I have learned that preparation is the key for successful rest. I have conquered organizing my week TOWARDS Sabbath instead of away from it.

If we buy into the lie of resting later, we actually cheat ourselves of a lot of strength. Saying YES to rest does not mean to neglect any important duties. It actually means saying NO to annoying nuisances. It means saying YES to gathering our energy for the really important things.
Living and honoring Sabbath well will make an incredible difference in the rest of your week, this I have learned in the last year!

Explore
So how can we make Sabbath more about God and rest?
Often when we’re tired of life we can also grow tired of God and making an effort in our faith life. So why not explore new ways to find and worship God?
Listen to an audio bible if you’re tired of reading it.
Meet with other Christians when you can’t seem to pray alone.
Write things down when you feel your words are shallow.
Speak plain language instead of ‘Christianese’ for once when you pray.
Leave the church and find God in nature or other people instead. 13bTake a walk and rediscover the physical energy inside of you.
Read fiction and relax your mind while doing it.
Listen to some music and take in the melodies, power of instruments or unsual words.

Often it doesn’t take much to shift your perspective or sharpen your receptive canals. Wherever you are, whatever you do – God is already there and ready to meet you. Right. Where. You. Are.

Active Rest 
We often think that Sabbath is about doing nothing. And yes, sometimes it’s time to stop completely and just sleep.
But rest is far more than just closing our eyes. It’s about finding true peace for our entire being and this can’t be found in one single day once in a while.
Sabbath is an attitude and lifestyle we need to cultivate and nurture carefully throughout the week. 
It’s about getting to know ourselves and what we really need.
It’s about being fully aware of our purpose.
It’s about doing things intentionally and finding joy in it.

15aSabbath as a day is a good start to practice these habits which will then hopefully overflow into the rest of the week.
Take time to cook. Make things yourself and enjoy experimenting with different spices, ingredients, produce.
Take even more time to eat. Don’t just stuff yourself, maybe invite people over and enjoy different tastes and the blessing of community.
Find out what restores you inside, no matter how mundane or strange it may be. And then do it.
Create something. Speak life into something seemingly dead, bring new beauty into this world. Discover the power inside of you, in your mind, your soul, your hands.
Make your life beautiful. Take time to decorate, to take care of your house. Bring in colors or flowers, a bit of life into the workspace.
Give yourself room to breathe. Whatever hinders you from that has to leave.
Turn down the decibles of your problems. While it is often really difficult shutting off our thoughts, we can still quieten them for Sabbath. Write them down so you’ll deal with them tomorrow, but they’re not allowed to bother you today.
Shut off your computer or phone that keep distracting you from quality time with God and friends.

How do you spend Sabbath? Do you live towards it, do you find time to rest during the week? What do you want to change about the way you rest?

[#write31days] Day 28 Set Yourself Boundaries

Welcome to Day 28 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page
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Okay people, it’s time to face our worst enemy. The one person we can’t get away from. Ourselves.
How do we take care of ourselves and set the needed boundaries?

Listen to Your Body
The reason why so many people suffer from burnouts and lacking boundaries is because these ‘illnesses’ are unseen for a long time.
We know we’ll be coming down with a flu when our throat starts itching and our nose running.
We know we’re seriously hurt when we feel pain or see blood.
How do we know that our soul is hurting? 
It often takes a long time for us to notice that something’s wrong, so we need to take our body serious. Our outside mirrors what is inside, the good and the bad.
So listen to what it has to tell you.
And then take action.

Whenever I get up in the morning (most of the time it’s way too early) I always look forward to going back to bed at night.
Sleep is one of the best inventions ever. 17d No better cure for heavy legs or a headache.
No better way to rest.
No better resource to restore the energy I need every day.
So don’t cheat yourself out of these precious hours of sleep. Don’t survive on five or six hours when you could really use eight. A rested body will get you through a busy day; it will be a good foundation for your restless soul and mind. 

A body can’t survive on nothing. We need sustenance to keep going, we need regular exercise to keep in shape.
When life gets stressful we cut things. Less appointments, less time for everything. And somehow we never have enough time to eat, so we either don’t eat at all or stuff ourselves with junk food because it’s available.
We’re not supposed to survive on junk. Eating is more than stuffing ourselves with food, it is taking care of ourselves and treating ourselves by picking and preparing what we eat.

Especially in the last two years I discovered how much I love cooking. Trying out new recipes with new spices or crazy looking ingredients. There are amazing flavors out there and it would be sad to just stay within the ordinary.
Most of all, though, I love cooking for and with people. Creating something new together and sharing more than a meal. We share life and a bit of ourselves. We’re all stuffed afterwards – with food, with joy, with hope, with beautiful friendship.

11g
Fill Up Your Account

Taking care of yourself is more than food and sleep. Life and its challenges withdraws from our account day in and day out, so we need to make sure we fill up our account.
Even though our calendars might be full already, we need to make sure that not all of these appointments only withdraw from our account. Balance them out with appointments that deposit something in our account. 

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Make appointments to have coffee with a friend once a week.
Some time when you can share what’s going on, what you struggle with, assure each other that you don’t walk alone.

Take an hour for a walk in the woods and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Go to the gym or for a run to get some stress relief in the midst of all the thinking you’ve got to do.
Make sure you book your vacation and don’t just let it go by.

Don’t be afraid to explore new things, get to know yourself a bit better. Find out what fills up your account, even if it’s unusual. Pick up a new hobby or revive an old one. Don’t settle until you find something that gives you rest. True rest for your mind, body, soul and spirit.

Don’t Fight Alone 
It’s never easy breaking out of old habits and establishing new ones. Some statistics say it takes three weeks of practice to do something new. These weeks can be tough and we often give up because we feel we’re all alone out there.
But we’re not.
If you decide to set boundaries and take better care of yourself, make sure to take people with you. Ask friends to walk with you, encourage you, pray for you.
Maybe you’ll even find some others who have gone through similar things, learn from their experiences. Meet others with the same challenges to exchange ideas and uplift each other.
Be accountable to others. Allow them to ask how things are going and challenge you to keep going. They are not there not control or punish you, but isn’t it nice to have cheerladers along the way as you start this new journey? 🙂

Take a look at your schedule. Do you have appointments in there that will deposit something into your account or only withdrawals? Is there anything you could do to find more rest for yourself? 
I dare you to explore something new this week, no matter how small it may be. Cook a new recipe, invite some friends over and experience the blessing of fellowship. 

[#write31days] Day 27 Boundaries at Church

Welcome to Day 27 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page
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Leading worship, running Sunday school, a morning and an evening service, small group, weekly meetings to prepare for a major church outreach, having coffee with your accountability/prayer partner…it’s very easy to get caught up in that huge organism called the church.
Yes, all of these things are good. But sometimes we are so busy with church work that we forget what it’s all about: we DO church, but we no longer ARE the church. 

If you’ve been part of this organism for a while (or maybe even your entire life) you carry your scars with you. Church is a smaller or larger group of people, just people. Human beings with flaws and problems. Ordinary you and me’s that can hurt you, insult you, overlook your talents, abuse your talents, teach you questionable things. Being scarred by people who call themselves Christians – the ones with the message of love – can be really hurtful. So we withdraw.
Yes, sometimes we need to leave hurtful environments behind. But let’s not leave for the wrong reasons and miss out on the beauty a messy group of desperate people can turn into. 

God is Okay with No Work
Church normally is a smaller or larger bunch of people meeting once or several times per week to worship, read Scripture and pray. This does involve work, but sometimes it gets a little out of hand.
Of course, we all want our church to be open for everyone. Of course, we want to spread the news to our neighbors and homeless people and refugees. Of course we want to support the elderly, the single moms, and others in need. Of course we want the music on stage to sound professional.
When these ‘of courses’ turn into constant meetings and duties; when Sundays are no longer a day of rest but hard Christian work – then you need to set boundaries.

Church is a place where people meet to seek God, to lift each other up and challenge them in their faith life. Before church and other believers faith is a personal thing, the relationship between God and you.
A relationship that needs to be maintained and taken care of. It can get rooky, there will be ups and downs. Just like every other relationship it takes work and time. But how can you maintain this relationship if you’re so busy in church? No ministry and full church plan will help you fix your faith life. 
Saying NO is perfectly okay. The bible talks about boundaries and saying NO does not mean being selfish.
Faith is not about performing – even in a Christian, churchy context – but about being. It’s about discovering the amazing talents you’ve been given and using them WISELY to worship the Lord and bless others with them. Overusing or neglecting them will only destroy them and harm you in the end.

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Let the Good In, but also Take It Out
In the last year I really struggled to go to church. I was so busy with my own life, I was dealing with so many things that I didn’t feel like mingling with others. My heart was too empty to sing joyful worship songs. My hands were too exhausted to lift them in praise. My words sounded too shallow to even pray. Meeting other believers and talking about faith seemed like the last thing I wanted in my life.
So I often stayed home, trying to worship, read the bible, or pray.
It was hard.
Pushing through tough times alone can be incredibly exhausting. Finding the Lord in times of darkness and questions and doubt can be a real struggle.

We are not supposed to struggle alone.
Life is hard and full of questions and doubts and darkness – but we have been given each other to stumble through it together. Sometimes with feeble voices, sometimes with uneasy feet, sometimes with doubtful hearts.  
So reach out to each other, ask for help. Don’t withdraw from the strength and encouragement that comes from community.
A faith community.

853ab-community_collaboration_3Church is so much more than the building we go to every week. It is so much larger than the few people we gather with on Sundays. It is so much more unexpected than the four-chord-worship-songs or bible verse interpretations.
The Church is wherever people gather in Jesus’ name – in a café, in a living room. In their pyjamas, in their best suits, in their work clothes. In good and in bad times. With honest hearts, lifting up empty hands to the well that will never run out. 
Open your boundaries and let the Good come in.

How does your relationship to the church look like? Do you maybe have to do less to take care of your faith life? Do you maybe have to be courageous and reach out to an unexpected faith community? 

[#write31days] Day 26 Boundaries with Friends


Welcome to Day 26 of #write31days! 

For more information check out the series’ page
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Every day we meet new people. Every day we connect with long lost people. Some of them are acquaintances, others are supposed to become friends. How do we make good friends and how do we set appropriate boundaries?

Stop Chasing
I am a people person. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. I love seeing them thrive. I am a giver. I like to invest in others through talking, texting, writing, meeting…
Until last year.
I was so exhausted from my life and investing all the time that I just had to stop. For once I needed others to invest in me. This often didn’t happen and many friendships shattered at this T-junction. I tried to keep going, keep investing, keep hoping for others to show up.
I beat myself up, I whined and complained about friends who never called. I sent out emails and texts and then pitied myself when I got nothing in return. It led to nothing but disappointment, self-questioning, and emptiness.
Most of all, I overlooked the people who did come alongside me. Texts I did not appreciate, invites I did not accept, help I did not take – because I was too busy chasing the attention of the wrong people.
Don’t chase the wrong people. Instead of complaining about what (or who) you don’t have, focus on those you do have.
Be bold enough to let those go who don’t respond. Don’t force something that’s not supposed to be. Cut ties that will only lead to emptiness and disappointment.

26b

Open your eyes to the ones who really care about you and not just your presents. Be grateful for them and accept their help.

Rather Few than Many 
As much as Facebook tries to tell us that the more ‘friends’ you have the better – few are actually better than many.
You simply can’t invest in everyone. Keeping up with many people takes a lot of time, emotions, and energy. You’ll just get lost in too many stories, questions, and problems and won’t have time to just share life together. Having fifty friends won’t fill your life, but actually leave you empty and exhausted. 

Sometimes we have to say NO to friends. They are adults and can’t drop all their problems off to us. Yes, friends help each other out and care. But bearing each other does not mean taking over each other’s lives. Sometimes friendship can also mean telling some hard truths.
The older I get the more I realize the benefit from choosing my friends. I don’t have many, but those I have I really want to make an effort. Really listen, really care, really invest. This takes time and energy. But I know it’s worth it because I know they’ll do the same in return.

What Is a Friend?
I have talked to quite a few people about this topic and we often ended up at the same question: What actually makes a friend? What do we expect from our friends and how can we be better friends?
We meet lots of people every day, but not everyone will become our friend. With some people we connect for a while, but very few are meant to get close to us.

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This does not happen just like that. It takes an effort on both sides. 
No matter what you expect of others as friends – we have to start being good friends ourselves.
Friends are there for you. Just you, not your work, your contribution, your effort.
Friends are honest; they are willing to go deeper. Not all at once, but step by step. They are bold enough to let you in on their mess and don’t turn their backs when they’ve seen yours.
Friends can take a NO. No matter how much we like each other we also need some time to withdraw and recharge.

Setting boundaries with friends is tough because we’re often afraid to lose them. But what if it helps us to make our own expectations clear and refine the friendships we’re actually supposed to have?

Think about the friends you have. Do you chase the wrong people? Do you appreciate the ones who invest in you? Do you need to make a decision to be a good friend to few? 

[#write31days] Day 25 Sabbath

Welcome to Day 25 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page
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Setting healthy boundaries also means taking care of yourself. This also includes taking time off, making time for the things you enjoy. Things that restore your soul.
Luckily, God has set an entire day aside just for us. A whole day with lots of time to spend with Him, refresh our spirits in His presence, relax and restore. Restoration looks different for everyone; it’s just important that you find something that gives you energy, joy, and peace.
One thing that restores me is cooking. During the week it’s mostly just quick and simple, but on Sabbath I actually take time to find a cool recipe (or tweek with an old one), invest time in the kitchen, and have people around me to enjoy it with. So the Sundays of October will be filled with recipes – and if you enjoy cooking, too you might want to cook along! And if not, just give it a try, you might actually like it!

Lemon Ginger Syrup
It’s October and slowly it’s getting colder. Fall and winter also mean cold season; not the most pleasant thing to wake up with a sore throat, right? Last year I stumbled upon this recipe and this syrup has become my secret weapon against a cold. Why not try it some time?

Ingredients for 2 bottles
25a1 cup of freshly cut ginger

1 cup of sugar (or more, depends on your sweet tooth 🙂 )
2 cups of water
4 lemons
2 limes

Cut the ginger into small pieces and the lemons and limes into slices
add sugar and water and bring everything to boil in a pot
25blet it simmer until it thickens
let it cool over night
fill syrup into bottles, squeeze the fruits for some extra juice

25d25c

 

serve either cold with sparkling water or add to hot water