Trapped in the shadow

My husband possesses what I consider to be a quite remarkable character trait: he doesn’t worry about something until it happens, at which point he sets about dealing with it.

I on the other hand am capable of worrying about the most random, usually highly unlikely but equally highly imaginative scenarios, with great passion and backed up by research which I am quite certain is based on profoundly reliable sources.

He sees today and how today will impact tomorrow. I see a year ahead and wonder how I’m going to get there. Both have their merits but his method allows considerably more room for joy in the present.

If I turn off social media and answer the question my infinitely wise big sister asked me: “If you had nothing and nobody to compare it to, would you be happy with your life today?” The answer would be a resounding ‘yes!’

But this life and our culture forces its timings on us and its ticking hand and encroaching demands fool us into believing that something else is better. It robs us of our patience and tempts us towards things we never needed to know.

So I shall turn off social media for the next little while and instead of looking at other’s lives, I will try to divert that energy into rediscovering the beauty in my own. For it’s only by false comparison that my life looks dull. By returning my attention to my immediate surroundings, I have realised that the only reason my life had lost its shine was because I had trapped it in the shadow of another.

Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living

Dolly Parton really knew what she was singing about. We tumble out of bed, stumble to the kitchen, pour ourselves a cup of ambition and yawning, stretching, try to come to life. There’s a better life and we think about it, don’t we? It’s a rich man’s game, no matter what they call it and we spend our lives putting money in his wallet.

So why do we do it? For money? Yes we need money to provide shelter and basic needs but do we live to make money and in doing so, miss out on actually living?

Work life balance is an elusive concept. Working hard is something we are built to do. We were designed to get satisfaction from an honest day’s labour. But what that has transformed into is settling for what makes us money, no matter what the cost.

If our work satisfies us and uses our skills, making the most of who we are, then it also gives glory to God. If our creative outlet is content sat at a desk from 9 til 5, then that’s great but for those who need more, it’s worth taking a moment (or two, or five) to figure out what we could do that would truly satisfy us in our work. Even the concept of work can be expanded far beyond anything involving an office. Our work can be with the people around us, with our families or pursuing the growth of particular gifts that we have that hold great scope to impact others. The potential benefits of finding a balance that compliments where we’re at in life and also satisfies us will always outweigh any sacrifice required in the process.

Memory triggers

Scent is the biggest memory trigger. As I was making breakfast this morning, I caught the smell of fresh coffee and it made me smile. In fact, it made me very happy for that moment. There are other smells that have a similar effect on me:

Brewing coffee or fresh coffee grounds – my Oma and Opa always used to put on a pot of coffee first thing in the mornings and my happy holidays in Germany always started by waking up to the smell of coffee. It made me feel like I was waking up to a new day, to new possibilities.

Freshly cut grass – I mean, who doesn’t? I even have hayfever and I still love it! It reminds me of carefree summers, of innocent play, of the loaded possibility of fun that the summer months promised.

My mother’s perfume – a simple comfort. My mother always smells good.

Roast dinner – coming home from Church on a Sunday to the house smelling of a roast was so wonderful. It was a routine, it was familiar and of course it smelled delicious!

Bonfires – Autumn is my favourite season so the smell of bonfires is a welcome reminder of the joy that is to come

Crisp air – some may say it doesn’t have a smell but I promise you it does. When I’ve been cooped up indoors all day, then emerge into the cool evening and inhale deeply, my shoulders relax and my head clears. Especially when I’m in Germany by the woods where the air is steeped in oxygen, this smell simply gives me some perspective.

I could probably add to this list indefinitely but for now, those are what trigger happy memories and remind me that the simple things in life are, without doubt, the best.

Understanding Me

Understanding Me“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” ~ Romans 12:9-12

These verses were read at our wedding over four years ago. We chose our passages carefully, intentionally staying clear of very traditional marriage readings and instead looking for where our hearts lay. They came to rest on practicing hospitality and it is something that has been important to us ever since. As I approach the end of my 20s, there are many other thoughts, activities and hobbies that have become important to me. I’m understanding more about who I am and what makes me feel content. What better place than a blog to record them so I can remind myself every now and then.

What I know

  •  “God doesn’t say ‘I have a plan for your life’ he asks ‘can I have your life for my plan?’” One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that God is not a puppeteer who masterminds our every move. He is in relationship with us. He walks alongside us. He will guide and direct when we ask and my word if we give Him our lives for His plan, He will do amazing things.
  • There are way more important things in life than achieving my agenda and having my own way.
  • Competition is energy wasted. Every life has its ups and downs so comparing yours with someone of the same age or at the same life stage is pointless. Achievement can only be measured by who you are.

What I enjoy

  • Life is about detail: having chocolates in a pretty tin to serve guests with their coffee, having frozen lemons and limes in the freezer ready to spruce up a G&T, having flowers in rooms that not everybody sees – it’s the small things.
  • Discipling younger women at Church. It makes me happy. Simples.
  • Baking. Or more accurately, baking for other people and taking photographs of what I bake.
  • Quiet. I am quite content without noise; without music, without the radio, just with the sounds of nature (without meaning to be overly tree-hugging, I do genuinely enjoy the ‘silence’ of the dawn chorus).
  • Reading. Anything that isn’t a screen. I’m sad that my kindle broke but pondering getting a new one so long as I can turn any backlights off. That said, good ‘old-fashioned’ books are still much loved necessities in this household.
  • Blogging/journalling. I’m not very good at keeping lots of thoughts in my head at one time. I don’t want to forget what I learn and I don’t want to allow good things to pass me by. Writing things down is my way of saving ideas, lessons, ambitions and random thoughts for posterity. Case in point with this blog.
  • Flexibility. Not having every free moment filled with pre-planned activity. I love interspersing work and seeing people with time to potter around in my own space, think, be productive or just chill as my heart pleases.
  • Being creative. Whether it’s drawing, painting, scrapbooking or playing music.
  • Movies at the cinema. They’re an escape from the world but there’s such skill in their production. They are a great art form and at their best they bring together clever scripts, breathtaking music and captivating moving image. There is something even more wonderful about seeing them on the big screen and there are so many movies I’d like to see in the coming months!
  • Baths – especially if I have a magazine or book to read that I won’t mind getting wet.
  • Getting rid of stuff, decluttering, giving things away, creating space – all variations on a theme and they all have the same affect of detox for my soul.
  • Writing postcards. They’re quick, they’re pretty cheap and they show someone you’ve taken the time to handwrite a note to make sure they know they’re loved, appreciated and thought of. So easy and the joy of their response is so worth it!
  • Brunch. Hands down, best meal of the day and totally makes a weekend
  • Kaffee und Kuchen. There are two reasons I love this. Firstly, because it reminds me of my German roots and of my grandparents – two of the wisest, most humble and most admirable people I have ever met. Secondly because cake and coffee go so perfectly together, who wouldn’t want this combination on a summer’s afternoon in the sun or on a cosy winter evening when it’s raining outside? It works all year round!

What makes me content and healthy

  • Not eating too much sugar – ironic for someone who is a self-confessed chocoholic but especially in recent months, my sweeter tooth is making me feel rough.
  • Most obvious answer? Exercise. I’ve flipped between classes, badminton, walking, running (the latter for six months last year, never again) and Tae Bo. They all have their advantages and disadvantages so I’ve opted simply to rotate them as and when I get bored and need new motivation.
  • Having my favourite Bible verses of the moment around our home where I can be regularly reminded of them.
  • When my husband is content. His happiness genuinely impacts my outlook and when he’s happy, I’m a much better version of myself.
  • Eating more fish, more vegetables, not eating when I’m bored… there’s a whole host of eating habits that make me feel healthier.
  • Spending a little time on myself – painting my nails, moisturising, getting a haircut. Simple things that show my body that it’s worth taking care of.
  • Daily time reading the Bible and praying. It shouldn’t surprise me that spending time with God quenches a thirst that nothing else can.

I’m sure I’ll continue adding to this list as life goes on. I’m sure some things on this list will change. I’m also sure that there will be many more lessons for me to learn and lessons that I will need to learn time and time again. It’s all part of the process of understanding me.

Countdown to 30

For the first time recently, I said these words: “I’m quite looking forward to turning 30.”

Granted I’m still a couple of birthdays off that age but I cannot deny that I am in my late 20s and most of my friends have turned or are turning the big 3-0.

The reason I’m ok with marking three decades of life is because I am more content in myself now than I ever have been. I know myself so much better. I know who I am, I know what I like, I know what I want, I know what’s important to me and I know who is important to me. I know what to do when I’m feeling rubbish, I know what I enjoy in my free time, I’m starting to know what I’m good at at work and I am more secure in what I believe and why, with a mind that challenges and questions more in order to find truth and meaning.

I’m not about to create a list of things I want to do before I’m 30. I don’t know what life will bring tomorrow let alone in a couple of years so I’d rather take life in the moment rather than tie myself to a list defined by an age.

What surprises me in all that I have written is the one thing that I haven’t mentioned. I haven’t said: “I’m proud of what I have achieved for my age.” I could have declared that I have an incredible husband who I’ve shared almost 5 years of married life with, a great job that I love, a beautiful flat that we own, stable finances and amazing potential for all of these things to grow. To me, these things are blessings, not achievements and they don’t define my success. When I look around at my family and friends who are approaching or have embraced this new season, they don’t all have the same accolades as I do. They have lived their own paths and they are successes for themselves, not based on a societal scale of success.

The final reason that I am starting to look forward to 30 is because I’m finally slowing down on the comparison game. I’m not looking around me at what others have achieved, I’m just looking right next to me at the smile on my husband’s face that tells me he is content and excited about life and that’s all I need, to know that we’re doing just fine.