an update, of sorts, on my life as a missionary in stockholm...

several people have asked me lately exactly what i do as a missionary. here in sweden, missionaries are not common, and what you do is often equated with who you are. may i remind us all, however, that our identities are in Christ alone and who He has created us to be and never in a job or task or any thing. but sometimes i forget that myself. i get caught up in what society thinks. sometimes i find it very easy to answer the question posed by others, and sometimes it's a bit more difficult. lately, it's been difficult. i have succumbed to satan's lies that what i do doesn't matter or that God's not using me or that i'm not where i'm supposed to be or that i don't have a real job. but just in the nick of time, God sends people like berit* my way. she came into my office to meet with a psychologist but was used by God in the process! she came and signed in for her appointment and then, just as she was turning to leave, said, "you are always so kind. you are the right person for this job, at the right place at the right time." wow! thank you, Jesus, for speaking through that sweet woman.

other than working as a part-time administrator at a local psychiatric office, i do a lot of other administrating within church ministry. what really moves my heart and brings me deep, God joy, though, is developing and strengthening relationships. i get the greatest high from entering into intimate conversations with friends, co-workers, and strangers about the greatness and complexity that is a personal relationship with Jesus.

let me tell you about veronika*. we met and worked together for only one year, but we spent endless mornings discussing everything from life's daily struggles to meeting Jesus in the midst of sorrow and crisis. i loved spending time with veronika. we've kept in touch since God called me elsewhere, and we recently met for lunch. at one point during the fantastic conversation, she shared with me that her daughter has become very interested in Christianity, that she's started participating in some activities in the local church, AND that they've started reading the Bible at home! my heart soared! moments later, as our chat led into faith and what it really means to believe in and to have a personal relationship with Jesus, veronika said that she desperately wanted to believe but that she's afraid that she won't be able to keep it up, that she'll give into doubt. oh, satan, you're so crafty with your lies. i responded that faith was a decision and that even the "strongest" believers, if they're honest with themselves and God, have moments, sometimes even long periods, of doubt. we are still human after all...please pray for veronika and that God's Word will become living and active in her home and family as they read it and that she will dare to believe!

then there's denise*. we work together three days a week and share our frustrations and moments of joy together throughout the day. just before easter, we had a long talk about demons, the afterlife, faith, church, creation, God in psychology...you know, things everyone talks about on the job :P. she came with question after question, amazed that Christians didn't have to be boring and so far-removed from the real world as so many swedes think that they are (and often with good reason). after hours of talking with her about these things, i was filled with joy. our relationship had reached a new level of intimacy, and it was beautiful!

two days ago, after dealing with a difficult situation between myself and one of the doctors here (which had taken it's toll on me over the past month), said doctor "randomly" approached me in the hallway with a smile (instead of the usual avoidance) and said that he was sorry for things that had happened and misunderstandings that had ensued and that he hoped that we could work things out. that in itself was the answer to a prayer that i'd been praying for weeks. but what really brought joy to my heart was the conversation that ensued with denise afterward. she had overheard my conversation with the doctor and surprisedly asked how that came about. 
"well, it's the answer to my prayer," i said quite frankly. 
she then, of course, wanted to know what i meant by that and what i'd prayed. that question was followed by, "do you pray for me?"
"of course," i answered.
she placed her hands across her chest as a huge smile lit up her face. "really? what do you pray?"
"well, i pray that God will bless you...and i pray that you'll soon have a personal relationship with Jesus because i believe that you want one." (oh my goodness! did i REALLY just say that???)
her entire face aglow, she replied, "i do want that! i do!"
then a patient came in, and our exciting conversation was paused, but it WILL continue :). pray that denise's heart will indeed be open and that she'll invite Jesus in!

i have also spent quite a bit of time recently with a group of short-term missionaries from palm beach atlantic university in florida who are here working with our church. they've shared their hearts with me and why they're here, why they want to reach swedes, and i've shared my passion for reaching swedes, what's effective here and what's not, and the crazy story of how God called me here. and every time i meet with them, i get excited...excited about how God is using them, excited that people's eyes are being opened to how desperately sweden needs to be exposed to the real, unconditional, unfathomable, grace-filled love of Christ. it fills me with hope, hope that God hasn't given up on his precious children here in sweden, and that makes my heart sing. 

tomorrow i'm joining the team as they once again enter into the local high school on the island of kungsholmen (where we have a church plant), serve breakfast sandwiches and coffee to the students, and chat with them about all things under the sun. then we'll invite them to a café night we're hosting on saturday in the church and pray that they come so that we can delve into more intimate relationships with them. please pray for us!

hope, grace, and the love of Christ over you! thanks for reading and especially for praying!

*names changed to protect privacy.


bad needles, grace, and provision

yeah, it's been awhile. it's been way too long, in fact. and of course the day i actually sit down in front of the computer long enough to write, i can barely move my left hand. no, nothing is broken. i just had a bit of blood drawn today. no, i take that back. i was supposed to have blood drawn today. the oh-so-friendly nurse who greeted me when i walked into the lab waiting room to take a queuing number said--this whole scenario occurred in swedish, but i'll save you time and translate :)--"um, we're not taking anyone else today." "yes, well, the doctor sent me up here to you and said that you would see me," i replied. "hmm," she said as she closed the door to the lab. long story short: after she unsuccessfully stuck me in each arm, she stuck my left hand, which didn't produce what she considered to be enough blood into her little vile but which shot it out like a cracked water pipe when she removed it. nice. i'll allow you to keep the last meal you ate down by not including a photo and just say this: i have a wretchedly obscene blue bruise-welt on my hand shaped like italy that makes typing a blast! thank you.

but really, that's not why i thought i should blog today. or the day before. or the day before that. or someday last week. i want to blog because i have a lot on my heart. but take a breath. i won't put it all in one blog entry. trust me, that's a relief for all of us!

what i do want to write about today is God's grace and provision. they're not exactly the same thing, but i think they're pretty closely linked. for instance, we don't deserve all the blessings God gives us, but he loves us, and he pours out grace over us, and in that beautifully inexplicable process, he provides for needs we sometimes don't even know we have.

that's how it was with suppe. i'm madly in love with him (no, that doesn't mean that he escapes from driving me totally mad some days :P), but i am constantly made aware of how God knew so much better than me--just look at my previous boyfriend choices for proof there; sorry guys--that he was exactly what i needed in a husband. God knew that i needed a man who would just envelope me and love me without words all the times that i felt that my world was falling apart (yes, i know that i can be a bit of a drama queen at times). he knew that i would need a man who wouldn't scream back at me or walk away from me in my random moments of anger (although the not screaming back can sometimes irritate me even more...i'm just being honest here). i see so much Jesus in suppe and the way he (and HE) loves me that it's almost incomprehensible...

but then there are times that we are acutely aware of our needs (occasionally leading to other moments of freaking out) and wonder if God will indeed "supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4.19). and, honestly, i want to kick myself every time i wonder and doubt that because the truth is that God is ALWAYS faithful to me (and you!!) even when we don't deserve it! 

i'll give you an example from three weeks ago. suppe and i were looking over our finances and realised that we had just enough money to buy groceries for the next few days. we didn't panic, but i'll admit that the feeling was a little scary. why should it be, though?? hours later, i talked with my best girl linds about the stress of living as a missionary/part-time administrator (and full-time student) and not making lots of money. moments later, her friend who had made a promise to God to give away $500 within a certain amount of time and who still had $200 to give away to someone in need just decided to give it to us! just like that! straight into my paypal account! WHAT A BLESSING! he doesn't even know us!!

oh, and it doesn't stop there it never does. i could give you countless stories of how God always provides for us, and my mom as well as a lot of strangers are included in quite a few of those! a few days later, we had a guest speaker/teacher/preacher in our church with whom i talked and prayed after the service. i walked away from that prayer time truly blessed, but God wanted to heap on the blessing! while i was speaking with another girl from his team, he slipped 1000 kronor (that's about $140) in cash in suppe's pocket!! wow! wow! 

that's what i mean when i say that grace and provision go hand in hand. they do. we don't deserve the grace and goodness of God, but he lavishes it out on us in incredible ways and always just in the form of blessing we need. believe it. it's true. don't let satan tell you otherwise, because he's trying really hard to make you believe anything but the truth! but that's a whole other topic for another day...

oooh, i just thought of what i want to write about tomorrow. yes, i said it. i want to write tomorrow! hallelujah! stay tuned! and be aware of the Lord's blessings, grace, and provision in your life today!



...i love them, and sometimes i'm bothered by the fact that others don't seem to love them as much as i do. okay, well, maybe they do love details, just not the ones i think they should :).

for instance, i love that i just discovered the "glory revealed ii" CD on spotify. it came out in 2009, but i missed that somehow, and i'm just happy to have found it. the lyrics are songs of Scripture, God's Word in action, psalms! but how about the fact that one song is labeled "psalms 23" with an "s," in plural form. as far as i know, there's only one psalm 23, and there's certainly only one mentioned in the song. i get that in the big scheme of things that it's not so important, but to me, that mistake makes the whole CD production just a little less special [sigh]...i could go on with heaps of examples here, but i'll spare you.

that in mind, i'll share that suppe and i are reading through the whole Bible in a year, which isn't always easy to do. these past few days, we've been reading through exodus, and starting in about chapter 25, the LORD goes into great detail about how the sanctuary and and ark of the covenant, among other things, are to be built. and honestly, right about the time i got to the third two-and-a-half cubits with gold overlay section, my mind started to wander, and it ended up here: why were all of these details included in the Bible, and why in the world did it matter if something was 2.5 or 3 cubits or purple or blue? what is a cubit, anyway?

but in that moment, God spoke to me: i care about details, about all of them, and that quality of Mine is one of the greatest blessings in your life. and it is. no, i haven't missed the irony here. i'd spent the past few days complaining about others' lack of concern with detail, and here i was complaining about the Lord's over concern. but there was just so much detail in all these verses...

i started thinking about what that meant in my own life. firstly, God is God, and i have no right to question what He thinks is important or not, and, secondly, would i rather serve a god who didn't care about all the minute details?

david knew all about God's concern for detail. in psalm 139, he pours his heart out to God, saying, "13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand...(ESV).

Jesus continues this line of thinking in the famous "sermon on the mount" when he says, 30-33"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. 34 Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes" (the message).

a few chapters later, Jesus adds, 28"Don't be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There's nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands. 29-31What's the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don't be intimidated by all this bully talk. You're worth more than a million canaries" (matthew 10.28-31, the message).

okay, so i hope you get the point here. we are privileged and blessed beyond measure to be called sons and daughters of the Creator of the universe who made all the stars in the heavens and flowers in the fields and us, and even though he's running the whole world, he still knows when a hair falls from our heads or a tear from our eyes...because he's a God of grace, mercy, love, and detail.

so the next time i'm annoyed or bothered by the fact that God gives us a lot of "details" to live by, i'm going to do two things: 1) praise God for the amazing blessing of him caring about the details of my life, and 2) ask him to give me patience and understanding in dealing with the people in my life who don't seem to care or notice or place importance on the details i do.

easy? no. possible? yes. worth it? absolutely.


silly peter, silly me...

so i was reading matthew 16 yesterday, a chapter i have read more than 10 times over the years, but, as the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword...(hebrews 4.12), the Lord spoke something new to me through it as i was reading. i love when that happens, by the way. your average novel won't do that for you, you know. 

anyway, Jesus is asking the disciples who they believe He, the Son of Man, is. um, Jesus, that's a trick question, right? you just gave us the answer here... but it's not so simple. sadly, we are often as dense as the poor disciples--they were the rabbinical rejects, you know--and Jesus has to give us a little help with the answers, too. but back to the story. so good 'ole peter chimes in saying that Jesus is, "the Christ, the Son of the Living God," (v 16), and Jesus, like a proud teacher says, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock [the greek words for peter and rock sound similar] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (v18). super strong words coming from Jesus, and he's claiming them over peter and the disciples and over us as well. i don't know about you, but i'm pretty sure i'd have all the confidence in the world to kick satan's ass at that very moment...booyah! :).

but, as life goes, Jesus is soon talking about how He's going to have to suffer and die. peter, not wanting to hear that, rebukes Jesus and says that He can't go through that kind of [worldly] suffering, that it's just not okay. he's worried. just like me. just like a lot of us. and frankly, as ballsy as it sounds to rebuke Jesus, that's exactly what we do...all the time. He says "wait," and we say, "um, why should i have to wait?" or "why should i have to suffer?" or in this case, "why must You suffer, Lord?" but this is the clash between our worldly perspectives and Jesus' heavenly perspective. the way we see it, suffering sucks. so of course peter doesn't understand why Jesus, of ALL people, should have to go through what He's describing. 

but it's at this point that Jesus says something that i've pondered over for years and that my seminary classmates and i used to say to one another in jest (yes, you develop a very warped sense of humour in seminary...). Jesus says, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance [or stumbling block] to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (v 23). Or, as The Message puts it, "Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works." 

Now at first, this modern-day translation doesn't seem to be saying the same thing as the more literal one, but actually, i think our best understanding comes from marrying the two. i do believe that Jesus is actually telling satan, and not peter, to get behind him here because it's blasted satan that puts all kinds of worrisome thoughts into our heads (like the ones peter's carrying around). and what do those thoughts do? they take our focus away from Jesus.

peter obviously doesn't have any idea how God works, which is what makes him a hindrance to Jesus and the work of building His Kingdom. instead of focusing on the actual suffering, which is exactly what most of us do, we must train ourselves to focus on how God can use our present situation/circumstances/issue/crisis to build His Kingdom and bring Him glory (leave a legacy). it's only then that our perspective will totally change, and we'll be a help to Jesus and not a hindrance.  

but how do we do this? really. honestly. practically. we are just like peter in so many ways, claiming Jesus' identity and power over our lives one minute and doubting and hindering him in His work the next. even as i write these words, my cheeks are stained with tears because yet another day has gone by with no word from swedish immigration. and, yet, there is a peace deep inside me that i know is there, that has come to the surface just because i have written out the Truth of God's Word here. 

we are in a battle, peeps, a battle against the powers of hell that wish to fill our lives with twisted lies and paralyzing fears, most of them based on our worldly reality. but the Good News, the amazing news, is that Jesus' reality is so much better and so much more, well, real, leaving us with several truths:

1) we've been given all the battle gear we need. Jesus even talks about it in this same chapter when He says in verse 19, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” are you claiming that in your life today? (you can also check out more about spiritual battle gear in ephesians 6.10-18).

2) we go from VICTORY to VICTORY (even though it feels quite the opposite sometimes...hello broken world) because, according to romans 8.37, "we are more than conquerors through him [Christ Jesus] who loved us."

3) the ultimate victory over sin, hell, death, and all sorts of drama and crap, is Christ's, and he won that battle on the Cross. hallelujah!

4) regardless of the lies that satan (through all of sorts of things in our world) tries to feed us about our identities, our worries, and our struggles, we can fight back each one of them (using Scripture just as Jesus did when He was tempted by satan in the desert in luke 4) with the truth of romans 8.1, which says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  none, not one little bit. crazy little thing called grace :).

so, in light of all that heavy stuff, i'm praying a simple prayer of obedience today. Lord, teach me to trust in You completely and to take my focus off my junk and place it on YOU, the Author and Perfecter of my faith. thank you for your abundant grace. amen


finding joy in florida

lindsey often gets up at five in the morning to write. i'm not ready to enter that world, but i admire what she does, and being here with her is a reminder that i want to blog more. but, what just sent me into writing mode this morning, however, was lindsey's tip on lauren nicole love's blog. and then i read some of the 50-60 comments under the blog and thought, yes, that's what i want to do. that's how i want to inspire, love, and challenge others. so here i am again, writing.

it's 9.09 a.m, and i slept for 8.5 hours, but i'm still exhausted. i'm pretty sure i've had a headache everyday for the past month or so--could i have a brain tumor??--and i cry daily, sometimes more than others. i'm exhausted, exhausted in the sense that walking downstairs to get my Bible right now seems like way too much effort [sigh].

i arrived at lindsey's on sunday night after weeping at the charlotte airport when i said goodbye to suppe, ready to rest and relax and be. i may not have been working at any specific job since 14 december 2011, but waiting on my visa to be approved so that i can go home to stockholm and living out of a suitcase for an unlimited time is perhaps the most difficult and exhausting job i've ever had.

it's 26 C (80 F) and sunny here in vero beach, florida, and the sun's predicted to shine it's warmth on us all week. for a girl who's been living through sweden's dark, harsh, seemingly never-ending winters for the past 6.5 years, this kind of weather is an amazing blessing.
so of course i have to take advantage of it. i didn't waste any time getting myself down to the beach yesterday (okay, actually i did. i can find more small, meaningless things to do to occupy my time than anyone i know...). i determined, however, that my stark-white viking skin should not be in the close-to-the-equator florida sun for longer than two hours, so no worries; time was on my side (yes, i just caught the irony of that statement, too).

i wanted to kick myself in the arse, though, when i arrived at the beach and took in its glorious, breathtaking beauty. i quickly found a spot in the sand, plopped my things down near an elderly woman who was reading and who would surely keep hoodlums away from my precious possessions, and started walking along the expansive coastline. wow! maybe this was God's idea after all that i not go immediately back to stockholm with suppe. maybe this little holiday is what i needed after all...or maybe not.

i found myself singing david crowder's "o praise Him" as i splashed along the water's edge, but i started crying 27 seconds later because that song was the exit song at our wedding and because i now love my husband and praise God for him even more than i did on that day. my heart broke...again. how can i just be God? how can i enjoy this perfect weather in this place you've painted so beautifully for me when my heart is breaking? how can i be here? sure i love the sunshine and warmth (lagom mycket), but it's suppe who'd prefer to live in the tropics, not me, and he's stuck in below-freezing temperatures with snow on the ground that won't disappear until march and a greater percentage of darkness per day than light. why? why am i alone right now? why won't immigration let me back in the country yet? how hard can it be to approve my papers?? why am i here right now? WHHHHHHHHHHHHHHY?

God, i'm sorry. i don't want to complain. You are so good to me. You are here. You are faithful. You never leave me. You love me unconditionally. You are good...ALL the time. You have been in my past, are here in my present, and know what the future holds. You give me strength and joy and faith. You provide for me in incredible ways. so why do i feel like i do? why do cry so much? and why do i feel guilty for crying and feeling the way i do? is it wrong to feel like i do when i know how good you are to me? is it?

and when i pause from that line of thinking for a second, i see a little stone that's been tossed to and fro by the waves over time and think of my mom. she loves those stones, and we used to collect them together. we even walked on this same beach together when we visited lindsey a few years ago. so i start crying again...of course.

our relationship has been so broken for so many years, filled with much love but also with a lot of bitterness, anger, confusion, and misplaced blame. God's been working out things and answering prayers there in beautiful ways over the past year, in great part through suppe, but it was just last week when we crossed a major hurdle of misunderstanding and allowed the broken wounds to start healing. i even started seeing a new and beautiful side of my mom that i've longed to see for so long. amazing...

so, as i found more and more of these little stones, i cried harder. God, why has it taken so long for us to get to this point, and why now? why is all this happening when i live on the other side of the atlantic and when my mom is suffering from a fatal skin disease and other major medical issues? i screamed out in my heart. i wept. i was angry. satan, bloody bastard satan has robbed us of so much, and i hate him. and at that moment i wanted my mom to be there with me. i wanted to hold her and to tell her how sorry i am that we've missed out on so much beauty together, and i wanted to pray God's incredible healing powers over her broken body and spirit. He can heal her and free her from all the pain and sickness. i know He can. all he needs to do is speak the words. so why don't you God? why don't you heal her? what if we don't have so much more time together, good time together, before she dies? please heal her...

but who am i? who am i to question God and His ways? He created the world and controls the future and knows each hair on our heads and how many breaths we're going to breathe. He gives us mercy and grace and forgiveness everyday that we don't deserve, so who am i to question Him when He has been so incredibly faithful to me?  those questions, of course, led me to think about job (not a thing you to do make money; i'm talking about the man here) and his stupid, well-meaning friends...

and then i thought about the paralytic whom Jesus heals but first asks, "do you want to be healed?". i once thought it was a stupid question, but it's not. Jesus asked it, so it must be smart. sometimes we're so sickly content with the normalcy of our circumstances that anything else, change for the better even, is too difficult and painful for us. now, i'm not saying that that's the case for my mom or me or anyone in particular...but it might be.

so that's where i am...sitting in the florida sun with my thoughts spinning, mind racing, and emotions riding the rollercoaster SCREAM! in stockholm. i'm filled with questions, but, honestly, i know that Jesus is the answer to all of them...if i'll let Him be. cliche, yes, but it's true, and i know that. and when i truly let the truth of who God is, who Jesus is, who the Holy Spirit is, sink into and still my heart and fill it with holy love, i find that His everlasting peace was there all along. i just covered it up with a bunch of worldly worries. i'll probably do it again tomorrow, too. but as long as i come back to His truth, it's okay. because it's there that others can see His glory in me. it's there, in that state of trustful resting, that he is free to do His mighty work in and through me. and it's there that i believe i just found a little joy hiding as well :). God is good...ALL the time.


here we are...

...on the sofa in mom and randy's sunroom, seeking God and his will in the midst of the calm chaos. i'd actually like to be at work in stockholm today. i'd like to be running errands around town and coming home to eat dinner with suppe. at least i think that's what i'd like.

but here i am. here we are. and we're making the best of our married life as it is right now...enjoying the amazing southern sunshine, blogging, catching up with friends near and far, resting, praying, reading, working out, eating good food, and trying to look at things from above.

God's perspective, i was reminded as i read steven furtick's blog the other day, is not mine. i've got to start looking at the situation we're in now from above, from his aerial view, in order to put things into perspective. and, honestly speaking, as tough as putting that way of thinking into practice is, it's worth it. looking down into my i-need-to-get-my-visa-approved-lightning-fast-so-that i'm-not-stuck-here-without-suppe situation, i realise that this stuff, you know, the stuff we think to be semi-impossible, is peanuts for God. he knew that it was going to happen long before we did, and, although he didn't create the situation, he certainly can use it for his glory and honour, right here and right now.

so today, suppe and i are asking God and ourselves how we can leave a legacy in the little things we do today that points the people within our ever-changing circle of influence closer to him. we're starting with this blog, and we hope and pray that it encourages and inspires you to seek and to trust God in your life and circumstances, whatever they may be right now...