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!