[Five Minute Friday] Weary

I had it coming for a while now.
Too many weeks of running around, stressing out about all the things I had to do.
Too many days of not enough sleep, quick lunches or no food at all.
Too many hours of sitting at the computer, planning and worrying.
Too often the feeling of being overwhelmed, wondering how I could manage it all.
It started with a soft itching in my throat. Then a running nose. Then a feeling of heaviness in my legs. Now I am writing this from my bed, lying down with the flu.

I am weary. And sick.

I guess we all know this feeling of everything being simply too much. 
We work too many hours because something just has to be done.
We don’t take time to relax, to really enjoy a meal.
We take chances and keep on working even though our bed’s calling for us. Sure we can survive on little sleep, but we shouldn’t have to.
We push everyone away because we’re so buried in work and worry.
We are weary, but we won’t admit it.

A few weeks ago I complained to my roommate how everything was just too much and I didn’t know where to start anymore.
She said, “You do know you’re allowed to say NO?”
My head knows, but my heart needs to know it, too.
My hands needs to release the task I hold on to so firmly and relax.
My mind needs to let go of the thought it keeps mulling over and shut down for a while. My spirit needs to stop worrying and come to rest.
My lips need to muster up the courage and say the redemptive words:
Stop.
No.
I am weary.
I need help.

If you’re weary this week, pause for a moment.
Allow yourself to rest a bit.
Your self does not depend on what you do.
Reach out for rest.
Reach out for help.

Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

[#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.

IMAG1093

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 18 Sabbath

Welcome to Day 18 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!

Salmon Avocado Pasta

Ingredients for four people
18a4 salmons, washed

500 g Spaghetti
2 avocados
1 tomato
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
2 tsp white yoghurt
parmesan
salt, pepper, chili

boil the spaghetti in lightly salted water
season the salmon with salt, pepper, and chili (you can always add herbs if you feel like it)
fry the salmon pieces with butter/oil in a pan until soft and well-done

18bcarve out the avocados, mash them
cut tomato and onion into tiny chunks and add them to the avocado
crush garlic and add to the mixture
add yoghurt and season with salt and pepper

18carrange everything on a plate and sprinkle it with parmesan
serve with white wine

18d

[#write31days] Day 17 “Work First, Rest Later”

Welcome to Day 17 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page
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On Thursday we talked about a lie that often keeps us from setting healthy boundaries. Today, we’ll look at another popular example.

Lie #2: Work First, Rest Later”
I am writing this post on a Saturday, weekend. A full week of work is behind me, and as I look at my apartment, there’s even more waiting for me. It seems like a battle is going on in my mind:
“Come on, it’s the weekend. Rest a bit.” – “But look at all the work, when else do I have time to do housework, clean, stow things away?”
“There’s always time for this, but this time is not now. Now you’ll relax and do something fun, then you can always work later on.” – No, let me first file these papers and do a bit of cleaning, then I can sit down.”
This happens several days per week, so this post is definitely for me. 🙂

I don’t advocate a “do nothing” attitude here. There is a time when you need to pull through and work; leaving things unfinished isn’t a good virtue either. Nevertheless, the “work first, rest later” argument is dangerous. Why? Because work never ends. There’s always more. Something small, something urgent. It never ends.
Why are we so inclined to use the THEN, LATER lie so often?

photo-1415370303892-4bfee9411b52Rest is for lazy people
This used to be a saying older people would tell younger ones when they struggled at work or wanted to give in. People who had grown up after the war had to rebuild their homes they could then relax in. As long as they were able and fit they would work, work, work. At a factory Monday to Friday, in their gardens or at their house during the weekend. Rest was something they didn’t really know, and maybe weren’t even allowed to long for. 
In Southern Germany where I live, especially, rest seems to carry a negative connotation.
Rest is for quitters. For people who can’t go til the end. For lazy ones who can’t persevere. For weak ones who don’t have what it takes.
This attitude is somehow instilled in us Germans, without any formal or conscious teaching. Social conventions are embedded deeply in our genes and lifestyles. And somehow this old saying and attitude has taken over the lives of managers, office workers, business people. Yes, even ‘ordinary’ people like you and me.
Rest is for the weak and the lazy. And we don’t want to be called that, right? So we better work, work, work. 

Interestingly, if you ask older people for advice what they would do differently in their lives, they say, “Don’t take work so seriously. Take a break and truly rest once in a while.” Our world is really upside down…

17bI can’t enjoy rest when work is still ahead of me

I always admire people who seem to have a special gift: they can turn their backs on work and simply look the other way. As if they were blind and work did not exist. Then they sit down and relax.
I am not one of these people.
I come home, and not matter how determined I am to sit down and rest – I just can’t. I see files to be stowed away, the dirty floor to be cleaned, laundry to be folded, emails to be written, calls to make.
There’s just so much more work ahead of me! As long as my to do list is full I can’t sit back and relax. My mind would not be able to shut down because all my thoughts would revolve around the things I still have to do. I would not be able to stop planning, thinking, and worrying.
The false conclusion I often draw from this, however, is to finish all my work first before I give myself some rest.
This doesn’t happen often because, as I said, when does work ever end?
If we don’t practice shutting off our minds and hearts once in a while we’ll never find true rest.

17dToo exhausted to rest
For a while we might be able to keep going, and rest ahead of us motivates us and pushes us forward.
But only for a while.
If we keep going and going, if we don’t stop working and thinking and worrying –  we won’t find rest in the end.
We’ll run out of energy and joy and love, we’ll burn out of passion and fire for what we do, and we will be too exhausted for rest.
We won’t know anymore what it means to rest, to refresh our soul with living water, to refill our mind with life-giving thoughts, to recharge our bodies with  supernatural strength.
Let’s not push til the very end, until we break down. Let’s have breaks in between, like a well in the desert, like a gas station in the middle of nowhere. Times and places that will help us recharge and refocus for the next step ahead.

Do you rest even though there’s still so much work to be done? What keeps you from letting work be for a while and rest for a bit? 

[#write31days] Day 10 The Person in the Mirror

Welcome to Day 10 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page
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We all have our shares of fights in life.
We fight with our parents, our spouses, our children, our friends, our colleages. And we all know (or should know) how to solve these conflicts.
We can move out from home, we can break up relationships, we can stop talking to a friend, we can change jobs.
But the one person we can’t get away from is ourselves. As long as we live it is our challenge and responsibility to get to know ourselves, benefit from the strengths, and accept the weaknesses. This ‘getting to know yourself’ process can be hard and there are a few traps we can fall into.

10aThe Helper Syndrome

I have a friend who is sick. Whenever we meet up she only complains about her stressful life. Too little sleep, too little time for herself, too much work to do. When I ask her about her day or why she is so busy it always comes down to the same thing: she can’t get her own things done because she is too busy with other people. Some call this the ‘Helper Syndrome’. Of course we all appreciate a friend who helps us when we’re in need. Of course we want to be there for others and help out. That is perfectly okay. Sometimes. There is a fine line between being a friend and losing yourself, and people with the ‘Helper Syndrome’ tend to overstep it. They take care of other people’s business, tasks, emotions, even lives, so much that they can’t take care of themselves anymore.

The Crowdsurfer
People who don’t ‘suffer from the Helper Syndrome’ often appear to be super relaxed and easy-going. Unless they drift into the other extreme, I call them ‘crowdsurfers’. Instead of doing the work themselves they rely on others. Instead of taking care of themselves they cry for help. All. the. time. One obvious example might be a student in his mid-twenties who can’t cook a meal, doesn’t know how to clean the kitchen, and has to call his mom to wash his clothes. Yes, I have seen examples of this species in real life. Being an adult means separation from your home to a certain extent. Being grown-up means taking care of yourself, falling down sometimes with no one else to blame but yourself.

The Runner
Sometimes when I talk to my sister on the phone I complain about the many things I still have to do. And sometimes she says, “Come on, be honest. You love to have a good amount of stress in your life!”
She’s right.
Psychologists distinguish two kinds of stress, the good and the bad one. We need a certain level of motivation and adrenaline that keeps us going. Positive stress pushes us to grow and do good things, work builds our confidence. Negative stress, however, destroys our energy, our creativity, our self-worth. If we look at ourselves and the people around us, it becomes shockingly obviously that we give in to negative stress far too often. We are not inspired, we are just runners. We keep on going and working for all kinds of wrong reasons: more money, a promotion, the feeling of missing something important, the fear of losing our value when we reveal our weaknesses…

10bThe more we give in to negative stress the more we become deaf to our body’s needs.
Sleep? Overrated, I can do with four hours a night.
Food? Not too much, I don’t have time to eat and you get fat anyway.
Holidays? I wish…
We’re afraid to listen, really listen, and then take action. Let the work be work, enjoy a meal instead of gulping it down, ask others for help to get back on track. Often it doesn’t take much to make a big difference for our soul life. 

We can talk a lot to others about setting boundaries, taking things slow, or living intentionally. But before that we need to live it ourselves. Our body is our closest friend and our toughest enemy. Let’s take it serious.

Take an honest look at yourself: Are you a helper, a crowdsurfer, or a runner?
Do you have too much negative stress in your life? What could you change?