Thursday, November 3, 2011

Feeling Stupid

Pumpkins in the Poznan City Square
I can feel so stupid, sometimes--not just ignorant, but completely void of good judgment and good sense.  Does that ever happen to you?  The thing that gets me is how quickly this problem arises, even after I have made preparations, studied, or whatever else.

For instance, nearly two weeks ago, I was ready to take my first trip to Poland to study up on a coffee house ministry I want to try here in Sweden.

The day had been more chaotic than expected because our container came in and was being delivered to the place we'll move into and needed to be emptied within two hours.  But there were issues for driving our car out of the container and onto Swedish soil (the strangest feeling--our U.S. car of 5 years on Swedish soil--it was like time travel), offices to find and visit before unloading, etc.

By the time Phil drove me to the train station, we were sore and already exhausted.  The train station was new enough to us that we had trouble finding a good drop-off place.  We eventually found the station entrance and Phil left me at the curb, pack on my back and rolling suitcase in hand.

Enter:  My feeling of stupidity.   Where did one purchase a one-way ticket? I wondered, after taking only a few steps away from the car.  I approached the railing overlooking the train tracks to get some clue which track I needed and where to purchase a ticket.  I heard Phil yell behind me, "What are you looking for?"

I told him I didn't know where to buy a ticket.  He assured me there would be a kiosk down by the tracks, "I promise," he said.  He usually knows these city things, so I hauled my suitcase down two long flights of cement stairs to the tracks.  As I reached the platform, I could sense someone else on the stairs above me, so I acted confident walking away down the tracks.

Sure enough, there were bus ticket kiosks and garbage stands the same design, but no place to buy a train ticket.  I kept moving up the tracks and sensing that someone was behind me, following as if a shadow.  I finally glanced back only to discover Phil standing there, no coat in the wind whipping through the terminal, arms crossed, having followed behind me to see that I found what I needed before the train arrived.  He had been trying to leave this adventure to me.

He was also surprised there had been no ticket kiosk, yet.  Together we found it, almost at the end of the station.  He left as soon as he saw that I could buy the ticket.

I couldn't have been happier to see Phil--to know he is there for me like that sometimes.  Who knows how often he has been there without my knowing.  The rest of the trip worked without a hitch.  I even got home by plane, train, bus and on foot a few days later without Phil's help.

It reminds me of this old song, "Clumsy," by Chris Rice.  You might be able to pull the song up on the web, but I've posted the lyrics, here, and will tell you another of my "feeling stupid" episodes at the end of the lyrics.  Think of Jesus' disciple, Peter, and of me, another clumsy disciple.
You think I’d have it down by now
Been practicin’ for thirty years
I should have walked a thousand miles
So what am I still doin’ here
Reachin’ out for that same old piece of forbidden fruit
I slip and fall and I knock my halo loose
Somebody tell me what’s a boy supposed to do?

I get so clumsy
I get so foolish
I get so stupid
And then I feel so useless
But You’re sayin’ You love me
And You’re still gonna hold me
And that You wanna be near me
‘Cause You’re makin’ me holy
You’re still makin’ me holy, yeah

I’m gonna get it right this time
I’ll be strong and I’ll make You proud
I’ve prayed that prayer a thousand times
But the rooster crows and my tears roll down (again)
Then You remind me You made me from the dust
Find More lyrics at
And I can never, no never, be good enough
And that You’re not gonna let that come between us

I get so clumsy
I get so foolish
I get so stupid
And then I feel so useless
But You’re sayin’ You love me
And You’re still gonna hold me
And that You wanna be near me
‘Cause You’re makin’ me holy
You’re still makin’ me holy, yeah

From where I stand
Your holiness is up so high I can never reach it
My only hope is to fall on Jesus

I get so clumsy
I get so foolish
I get so stupid
And then I feel so useless
But You’re sayin’ You love me
And You’re still gonna hold me
And that You wanna be near me
‘Cause You’re makin’ me holy
You’re still makin’ me holy, yeah

Feeling stupid episode number 2:  It was the day after I had returned from Poland.  I was even more tired because everything had happened late at night, too early in the morning or loud as hostels are in the middle of the night on weekends.  It was time for my Swedish lesson, which I forced myself to attend though my brain felt like mush.  Every movement felt slow and exaggerated.

I arrived at the place and couldn't fit the car in the free parking spot I found, so had to find a place in the paid parking.  I decided to back in for easy driving away afterward.  I carefully put the key fob (to a Mercedes station wagon rental) in one section of my purse, and my smart phone in another.  I grabbed my purse and school bag and went out to buy a parking slip.  Back at the car, I placed my stuff on the hood of the car because it had been difficult to drag all that stuff between the door and the hedges.  In the time it took me to open the car door and reach in to set the slip on the dash, a man in a hooded black coat walked casually up, took my purse, walked to his bike, set my purse in the bike basket and rode away.

Two things went through my mind even as I tried to figure out if I should chase him or just kick myself for being so stupid:  "The Lord is my helper, what can man do to me?*" and "Stupid, stupid, stupid!" even as I chased and yelled after the man to come back (as if!).

Of course, I went to my Swedish teacher's place, winded and full of alarm, to get help.  The remainder of the day was spent calling police, looking around in the hedges for a discarded purse (no luck), waiting with the unlocked rental car, no key, talking to police, waiting for the tow truck, and watching even the car I had driven in with drive away.

It was difficult not to take this scripture out of context, "For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them" (Matthew 25: 29). Because my identification, license, money, cards, phone and contacts, and now car all vanished within one tiresome morning.

After the car left, we had as much of a Swedish lesson as I could stand.  Then my teacher and her husband (dear friends from our church in Malmo) took me to Hunter's school so I could meet him and go home with him on the bus.

I've learned some things:

1.  Don't leave your purse on the car hood, even for a second.

2.  The advice, "don't keep all your eggs in one basket," works for stuff in a purse as well as Wall Street stocks and chicken eggs.

3.  It's good to have friends to help in times of trouble. (It was a bright, beautiful fall-color day).

4.  The mind has trouble turning off the re-play of awful events so that fear can take up residence in an otherwise adventuresome mind.

5.  All that stuff is just stuff.  But I let my mind sometimes believe that I am what is in my purse, so that it takes something like this to figure out who I am when there's nothing left.

6. That forgiveness is absolutely the only way to peace and sanity, even if I have to forgive every moment of the day until the pain stops hurting so badly.

7.  Now I feel even more deeply for those who have had to leave so much more--who have had so much more ripped from their arms.

8.  What I have should be shared, because keeping or hoarding stuff guarantees absolutely nothing.

I'm back to working on getting more sleep as well as wisdom!  Wish me well as I do you!

I get so clumsy
I get so foolish
I get so stupid
And then I feel so useless
But You’re sayin’ You love me
And You’re still gonna hold me
And that You wanna be near me
‘Cause You’re makin’ me holy
You’re still makin’ me holy.

*"So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?'"  Hebrews 13:6 Psalm 118:6,7

Friday, October 7, 2011

Month of the Pumpkin, or We're Turning into Pumpkins!

My kiddo picking out his pumpkin in Bjarred, Sweden.  He keeps asking for pumpkin pie.

Picked myself a lanky veggie--pumpkin colored, too!  What looks like a cigar is actually a carrot top.
Here we are, back in Sweden--waiting--fat and happy, I might add.  We're in a temporary rental that is beyond comfortable. 

The weather has been sunny and warm for two months, now.  Leaves are starting to change and the wind is teasing us that it might come back to live for the next several months.  Oooooo, we shiver, we are very afraid.

We're waiting for temporary residency permission, for our container to arrive, to move in to the house we will be buying in Sweden, for a financial windfall (well, aren't we all), for H. to stop growing (when will THAT be?), for sleek and slender to be our own realizations without having to try, for the Swedish language to dawn on us without any practice or study (though I am being tutored and making strides), for our U.S. house to rent, and for the Lord to reveal to us the next step we are to take.

But waiting is not so bad when you have a house to live in, a car to drive (rental), food to eat (good veggies from the pumpkin patch!), a school for your kiddo, and friends to spend time with. The people who graciously rented to us last winter/spring gave us some furniture, including beds, which we are deeply grateful for!  The only problem with waiting is our inability to predict what customs will be like when our container arrives on the ship, what things will need attention once we move into our house, and why we still don't have residency permission.

We are incredibly indebted to our dear friends and family who helped us accomplish the impossible task of moving out of our house within only two months during summer.  In fact, there are still people helping to maintain things at the U.S. house while we are away until someone rents.  I'm told my favorite plum trees are ready for harvest.  Sigh.

The dream for our time in Sweden that we had when we went home in June has gotten bigger and more amazing.  We've found people to bounce our ideas off of and to whom to be accountable.  We've found that there is so much to do before the dream even begins!  More on this dream, later.

Keep praying for us as you think of us, and we'll do the same for you. 

Time to pick the kiddo up from school.  Let us know how YOU are!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Malmo's Western Harbor! 1 day: Countdown Malmo to Idaho

People have asked me, "Do you like living at Vastra Hamnen" (Western Harbor)? "It's a rather posh place, isn't it?"

The only thing I can see out the windows are apartments and the narrow street-wide sections of sky.  The people next door are often remodeling with a cement drill loud enough to echo through the apartments connected to it, including this one.  Crowds of people get off of tour buses with their cameras and peer into the windows at us.  I tell people about these things.

But I would be lying if I said I never loved walking only one block to the sea, or one block to the grocery store, or one block to my chiropractor.  I have loved the floor plan of the house--especially that every bedroom has a door and the kitchen is full of cupboards.

We've all loved eating at Vespa Pizza, where they've come to know our names and you can watch the people on the promanade who also love looking at the sparkling sea.  I especially love to visit the coffee shop for a quick chai latte on my way to going for a walk or going back home to do housework.

They say Swedes live for summer.  From here, I can see why.   The sky is near, the green park so close to the white sandy beaches surrounding the sparkle of water under the midnight sun--it's possible to forget that nine months of wind and cold ever really happened.  This place is a little piece of heaven.  If you tour Malmo, you have to come here on purpose.  I highly recommend the side trip.

Two things we did right on this big packing day:  We took a nap midway through the day, and we ate at Vespa looking out over the sea.  The packing and cleaning are hardly part of the memory.

To my friends in Idaho, see you soon!  To my Malmo friends, see you in two months!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hands! 2 days: Countdown Malmo to Idaho

The handshake of greeting and of meeting,
of those who have welcomed us to this land;
The helping hand of those who have volunteered
to help us pack, clean, store, and move--each time;
The hand raised in warning--for our safety
and for better understanding;
The beautiful hands of pianist, Lorenzo, now gone;
The tool of hand--to grasp, clasp, crimp, pull, push,
twist, wring, wrap, fold, tape, wipe, stir, kneed, wash,
the list goes on, tapped under these hands;
The hand to hold.

Of course hands can be used for ill, but I am thankful today for helpful, useful, soothing hands.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Bid! 3 days: Countdown Malmo to Idaho

It was a sleep-in day today.  The worst part about that is the rest of the day got completely away from me so that I have been unfruitful when it comes to packing, but have enjoyed some time with good acquaintances whose companies are moving them away from Malmo (all are going back to their home countries).

It is a Swedish custom to have a farewell church service at the close of the school year.  We have missed the last two for mostly stupid reasons (always packing to go back home).  Hunter and I attended today, however, and it was a very special event.  It is much like the American Baccalaureate, only for children in elementary and middle school.  It is held in a church, the priest begins and ends the service, and there are musical presentations by different age levels, as well as awards, certificates and speeches.  I am told that the past few years have been in both Swedish and English, but this year the ceremonies were separated so that the one we attended was in English only.

We took one of Hunter's friends home for the remainder of the day until the two of them had a farewell party to attend.  During that time, I received word back on our bid for a special kind of farmhouse in the country. The counter offer was acceptable.  This made my day and I felt at peace.  Praise songs to the Lord went through my head.  How to interpret these responses, I have no idea, but they are very nice for a stressed out woman standing among boxes in her soon-not-to-be-hers-kitchen while two boys make sounds like banshees from upstairs.

Offer? you read.  Where are you talking, now, Sweden or Idaho?  Well, I have not officially told you about this, so I guess it is time.

We feel the Lord asking us to move to Sweden semi-permanently. We are looking for a house to buy.  It will only be the second house we've ever owned and it will not be in the U.S, which is alarming for newby adventurers like us. 

Not only is the idea of owning land overseas alarming,  but of not having sold our house in Idaho yet, and not knowing how we will do it in the current economy, housing market, or time allotted for getting it done.  We have accumulated so much STUFF!

My friend reminded me of the phrase, "living on a wing and a prayer."  Sounds like us, right now.  We have nothing else!

We will look at one more house tomorrow night after we've packed everything else up and begun cleaning this apartment.  Then we will most likely pounce on the counter offer.  Unless, of course, The Lord shows us otherwise.  We made so many unwise decisions with our first (and beloved) house that we are shy about "leaning on our own understanding."

So much to do, so little sleep.  Pray for us, if you're into that kind of thing--and resolve to stay friends, no matter where we're off to--okay?!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Saying Yes, Saying No! 4 Days (yipes!): countdown Malmo to Idaho

Figuring out what to say "no" to and what to welcome with "yes" in life is no easy task--or character quality, for that matter.  At the end of this day, as well as the past six months, I realize I said, "yes" too often.  In some ways, I was my most efficient this busy day, but too many of the things that filled this day should have been better managed.

For instance, I said I would meet a realtor to look at a house that was far from the heaviest workload of my day.  It ended up being a waste of gas, time and angst.  Everything about the "house" monstrocity with no actual bedrooms anywhere near bathrooms, seemed was impractical.  I should have set it for a different day, if at all (we had already seen the silly floor plan).  The best part about that whole experience was telling the kind man up-front that this place did not work for us.  No need to make him wonder any longer.

I'm extremely pleased to have said "yes" to my son's request to make dirt dessert (crushed oreos, pudding and cream, and gummy worms) for his end-of-year party.  It meant a great deal to him. He told me he liked it when  I invited his class (who had been studying animals and habitats) to eat some aardvark food.  (Wait, do aardvarks even like worms?)  He told someone today that his favorite part about his whole 2nd grade year (in true boy fashion) was the party today.  He had looked forward to it and said it was even better than he imagined it would be.  It was work, but the reward of his pleasure was worth it!

It was also fun to say "yes" to a dinner invite.  The day was too full, our house packed up to the point of being difficult to cook (even the dishes I used for the dirt dessert are now packed), and, like the hostess said, we could think about something other than the move for a few hours.  It was pleasant and they had good advice for us.

When we got home, we tripped over half-packed boxes and suitcases and rushed to finish more of the things we said "yes" to that we probably shouldn't have.

Remember my saying I became the class parent representative just by being late to the first meeting of the year?  Well, I have been looking forward to that job ending as of today.  Now, I am contemplating taking the position for next year ONLY if another interested parent and I don't have children in the same class next year.  We talked about it.  It could go either way, so I'm still caught between saying "yes" or "no."  Whatever the case, I need to mean what I say and have the wisdom to think it out ahead of time.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Gotta Love These Northern Places! 5 days: countdown Malmo to Idaho

Don't ask me how this works, but I've had time to pack like a mad(wo)man, make a complete mess of the house, get ready for the end-of-year party for my son's class (including goodie bags), and still have time to watch a movie.

Maybe you've already seen "Into the Wild" about a college graduate named Christopher who went on the quest of a lifetime to explore the West, especially Alaska.  The scenery is fabulous, the cinematography well done without being pretentious, and the storyline nearly perfect.  The ending isn't what I would choose, (spoiler warning, I tell the end of the story, nevertheless this movie is a must see!)  but you can't choose the ending in a biography, especially if it is a biography honoring someone who dies.

What's strange is that I remember hearing about someone who was found dead in an old bus north of Fairbanks only a short while before I moved to Fairbanks as Phil's new wife.  Now, I am grateful to have heard the real story more completely.  If there's a book, I want to read that, too!

This movie is a thriller without being fast.  If you're not used to contemplative movies, you'll be bored within the first 10 minutes (as my son was).  It's for the thinker, reader, beauty lover.

Last summer I watched "Grizzly Man," which completely gripped me for a few weeks.  It wouldn't be difficult to compare these movies except that "Grizzly Man" had a heavy art/movie production-producer angle that "Into the Wild" doesn't have.  Besides, they are from two completely different personality viewpoints.

As you might have figured out already, I'm in love with northern places.  It's not just about the places, either, but what the extremes of such places do to the character of those who encounter such places.  Like Thomas Hardy (a classic author), I believe a place often demonstrates aspects of the human condition.  Some people are not connected to "place," but I'm in the camp of those who are.

I could go on, but I would bore you.  I'm boring myself!  See the movie if you haven't!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Brown Family! 6 days: Countdown Malmo to Idaho

Today we were invited to celebrate the fourth birthday of the Jeff Brown family's youngest child.  It is a privilege and a joy to play with all four children--this time, frisbee--and enjoy whatever Jeff sets out for the feast.  It was a smorgasbord of open face sandwiches and a lovely salad.  Dessert was a "goodis kaka," which means candy all over a scratch chocolate cake.  More and more, our time with them feels like being with family. 

It was good, beforehand, to worship at church on Pentecost Sunday.  Our friends were glad they didn't have to say any formal goodbyes since they knew we would soon be back.

I enjoyed the pressure of not packing on Sunday.  We use this day as a day of rest and recuperation.  Things are a little sparse, but not as bad as they will be tomorrow.

As I type this, a fantastic sunset is evident by the pink clouds overhead, but I'm too weary to walk a block past all these apartments to see it fully myself, which is already regrettable.

Still, I'm grateful for friends, cute little kids, good food, family and the day "the sound like the blowing of a violent wind," "tongues of fire" (Acts 2:1-4), and the gift of the Holy Spirit changed the lives of Jesus' disciples and continues to change more disciples and my life forever. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Waffles at a Seaside Resort! 7 days: Countdown Malmo to Idaho

Tomorrow is another last day.  Last day for waffles.

Of course, there will be other waffle days.  But, you have to understand, Sweden is the land of the Waffle Day!  And we've only had a real, painless, waffle iron since a year and a half ago and it only works in Sweden.  It's a sign of having to move, yet again, that I say it is a last. We will have a batch of waffles for breakfast before we pack up the waffle iron. 

We were able to pack a lot more of our things today, take them to storage, then come back and strap a couch on top of the rental car (definitely not a common sight around these parts), and take it to its new owners.  The new owners served us a lovely tea time with coffee, tea, frozen cake and pie.  It was a hot day, so we especially enjoyed the frozen cake.

Now the apartment looks like a whirlwind went through it.

Last time we had waffles was about a week and a half ago.  We decided to eat them on the upper deck where you can see one little piece of the sea and some of the boat harbor.  Phil put extra cinnamon and extra vanilla in them, and made sure the oven kept them warm until we went up to the cool breeze.  We were amazed how long those waffles stayed warm even after we'd been eating them awhile.

What's more, it was the first time since living in this ritzy place near the sea that it felt like we were living in a seaside resort.  It didn't smell like someone's cigarette, or taxi exhaust, or lighter fluid, or stinky sea grass.  The air smelled of the sea.  We just took in the sun's warmth, the warmth of the delicious waffles and acted like we were enjoying a seaside resort.  Because we were!

We may just eat tomorrow's waffles on the deck again.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wind, Waves and Word! 9 Days: Countdown from Malmo to Idaho


“A temptation arises: it is the wind. It disturbs you: it is the surging of the seas. This is the time to awaken Christ and let Him remind you of these words, 'Who can this be? Even the wind and the waves obey him.'”


Yesterday was one of those Walt Whitman days, when it doesn't matter what is in view--the sky, the trees, the grass--or what can be heard--a new songbird, the absence of the cries of seagulls--it all opens up.  Suddenly the normal senses seem dull compared to the heightened awareness of the mind's eye, ears like an arctic fox to 100 feet below the earth's surface, the slightest breeze across silken hairs like the pressure of thunder, or the slightest hint of nutmeg.


It's Aladin's lamp, Shrek's onion, Gran Telescopio Canarias  looking at stars light years away, the pearl of great price.  I am not sure what makes this happen for you, but for me it is doing a literary word study in The Bible.  


Yesterday it was what in the world do the Word of God, seeds, and the sea have in common with Jesus' disciples asking, "Who is this?  Even the wind and waves obey him" (Mark 4:41).  Chapter 4 of Mark is a series of parables ending with the story of Jesus calming the sea.  I wanted to discover why the parables and this story were strung together.  (There's a great YouTube video of a lego retelling of this story--I loved it!)

We can talk about it, if you like, but I've got to tell you that most of the fun is in finding out for oneself. I used word searches in, when I couldn't find the passages that came to mind.  Of course, the search found so many more.

I came away from this study feeling like I was on fire.  It was better than falling in love.

This feeling of being on fire has carried over into today--into a meeting at school, lunch with a friend, a trip to the Malmo Library with my son and his friend, and halfway into the movie, "Into the Wild" (don't tell me, I haven't seen the rest, yet).  


Unfortunately, it has not given me the jet power to get packing.   

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blixt och Dunder! 10 Days: Countdown Malmo to Idaho

During a five day weekend, including Swedish National Day, the weather was so splendid that the beaches, ice cream parlors, highways and touring sites swamped with people in summer clothing.  Even today, after we packed a load and took it to storage then helped someone else move from one apartment to another, we took advantage of the weather.  We biked, stood in a sweating line to get ice cream, and had a barbeque.

Funny.  Now it is all pouring rain, lightning (blixt) and thunder!  (this was written Monday, June 6, but I had trouble posting.  Today, Wednesday, the weather was fine, but raining and thunder again.)

Great days!  Great fun!

I hope you are having fun, too!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Love Locks! Day 16: Countdown from Malmo to Idaho

Some days are too boring to describe.  Forgive me if I have been guilty of boring you in the past...but today was one such day.  It was full of all that dailiness.  It ended with a nice get-together, then, of course, piles of dishes. 

When I was already in bed, I remembered my countdown.  Maybe I should have count down by weeks, instead...

On Malmo's Western Harbor (I've been referring to it in Swedish--Vastra Hamnen), there is a cement and metal jetty (not sure what they call it) hanging out over the sound.  It is a thrill to walk to the end of it, because it feels like one will certainly fall into the water.  This is especially true on a windy, white-cap day.  But it is really quite sturdy with heavy metal sides. 

The Sunset and the jetty at Malmo's Western Harbor

One day I was watching the sunset with Phil's brother when he visited.  I saw some Middle Eastern men go out onto that jetty and watched two women photograph them.  At one point, one woman pocketed her camera and said to the men in English, "Do you know why those locks are there?"

Looking toward the Oresund Bridge from the jetty.
Now, I had noticed some padlocks clipped to the metal grates on that jetty and could not imagine why they were there or why the beach officials didn't have them cut off.  So, at the prompting of the woman's question I felt myself straining to hear the answer over the wind.

Maybe you already know the story, but when the four of them came our direction, I asked the woman to tell me the story of the locks.  She told me there are places in the world, usually over large bodies of water, where lovers clip a padlock to the rails and throw the key into the water as a sign of a love that is never to be broken.  She said there are places, like Hong Kong, where there are so may padlocks clipped to the rail that the structure is nearly crushed by the weight of them.

She turned to one of the Middle Eastern men and said, "We are going to do that, here, when we are married, aren't we?

Here's to unbroken love, to the unfathomable depths of commitment, to throwing away the key!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Picincs! Day 17 Coutdown from Malmo to Idaho

Sunset clouds on Vastra Hamnen, Malmo, Sweden.  Into what kind of clouds do you think Christ ascended?

Today is "Kristi himmelsfärds dag" in Sweden (Christ's Ascencion Day).  Though people will tell me what the day means, they refer to it mostly as a "red day," which, to most concerned is simply a national holiday (read: day off of work). Because this red day happens on a Thursday, they have a sort of "rule" that Friday be a "squeeze holiday" since it falls between the actual holiday and the weekend. Furthermore, Monday is Swedish National Day, so we essentially have a five day weekend.

Enter "what does everyone do on a five day weekend," and you'll get a jillion answers.  It's obvious a lot of people are gone (dark apartment windows), but it is also obvious (since the weather is fine) that people are out to enjoy the weather, the green grass, the blue sea and each other. 

Including us.  We had three picnics today:  waffles on the deck for breakfast, a bike ride and picnic at the nearby castle park (with a stop at a technical museum), and a picnic at a nature reserve on the peninsula with friends.  Now that is a great way to spend a day off!

As these days wind down, I find it more and more difficult to choose only one happiness in a day.  Today contained a hundred happinesses.  That doesn't mean everything is all happiness, all the time, but it sure is amazing how many small things--when I look for them--add up to happiness.

Even with a hundred happinesses, none of them compares to the joy of knowing that my Redeemer (one who saved me from my sins) died on the cross, was raised on the third day, forty days later he ascended to rule and to reign with our Heavenly Father, and lives to do so over two thousand years later.  I know it sounds crazy.  I can hear the craziness of it--can read it for myself.  But I'm with the Apostle Paul, that "if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" (1 Corinthians 15:19 NIV).

Picnics on Ascension Day, out looking at the clouds, are a great way to wait for Christ's return.  And, of course, I could never claim to know when that is!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Poppies! Day 18: Malmo to Idaho Countdown

Today was windy and colder.  Though I spent much of the day doing research on my computer, I took time for another 15 minute walk by the sea.  It was more fun with a hot latte machiatto (sp?).

It only took a few minutes for me to realize that knee-length pants were too short and I would need to wear my wind-breaker hood up to keep my hair from entering an outer atmosphere.  The wind was so strong by the sea, the sea a frothy deep blue and green that I found it exhilarating.  I let myself imagine what it would be like to be one of the wind surfers I could see in the shallow harbor.

But, my main happiness for today, even after driving around in my favorite countryside with hubby and little boy, were the yellow poppies in the back garden.

Yellow poppies!  Have you ever seen such a thing?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Scones! Day 19: Countdown from Malmo to Idaho

Alas!  There are no photos to demonstrate what a hot, sunny, muggy day it was in Malmo.  But the seashore, the promenade, and the huge park near where we live filled up with people wearing as little as possible to stay cool and soak up the sun.  It was a nightmare to drive a car through carefree bicyclists, hand holding walkers, mother's with prams (huge sleeping strollers) and groups of children on field trips just to pick my son up from school.

At one point, after my laundry and housework was finished, I joined the throngs for a 15 minute walk.  Every tiny daisy in the vast grassy area poised for the sun, dogs rollicked in and out of the sea, people sunned themselves, read books, ate a picnic, or made out.  There was plenty of room for everyone.  The sea sparkled nearby and the Oresund Bridge fuzzed like a mirage in the distance. This is not (yet) like one of those beaches packed like seals with sunbathers.  They tell me it gets like that, but I've never been around during the heat of summer.

Just before picking my son up from school, I met a friend for a little while.  We viewed an area across town recently built up with new apartments and a new spa.  I had not eaten lunch, except for a banana, but after awhile, she opened up a bag to reveal that she brought her freshly homemade scones, lusciously lathered in butter and cheese, along with homemade juice from the elderberry flower.  They hit the spot on this beautiful, warm day.

You can probably guess that having a friend who brings fresh scones and juice is one of those things that makes a sunny day even brighter!

"The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
   the world, and all who live in it;
 for he founded it upon the seas
   and established it upon the waters."
Psalm 24:1-2

Monday, May 30, 2011

Color and Coffee! 20 Days: Countdown from Malmo to Idaho

  I hate going grocery shopping so much that when I discovered we were out of sugar, I opted to scrape sugar cubes together to get the effect I wanted on the top of another rhubarb pie.  See the crumby mess I made?  Oh, but I digress.  This is not about my hates!

See this cup and saucer?  This is the very thing that got me started wanting to share with you what makes me happy.   It is an old IKEA design, but I bought two of these at a thrift store and they have been making me happy since.  The rest of my mugs are plain white.  My fancy china cups (which also make me happy and were purchased at a thrift store) are white with gold rims.  So when I want to brighten my day or invite someone over for tea, I use these cups.  Inevitably, they are enjoyed by the other person, too.  They are big enough for a cup and a half of tea or coffee, which is just long enough to share stories about the day. Combine drinking something warm out of these cups and Bible Study or prayer and it's an even happier event!

It is common to meet someone for coffee at a konditori (sweet bakery) or cafe' in Sweden. But coffee or tea with someone in their own home is most special.  Most women have special cups to share for one-on-one fika (tea time).  During the art round, one of the homes I stopped to look at art also offered fika at the kitchen table.  There were quite a few of us around that table and it made us enjoy time with such a generous artist that much more!

Here's to what brightens your life, warms your heart and makes you happy in simple ways.  (Clink)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Daughters and True Friends! Day 21: Countdown Malmo to Idaho

My countdown is messed up because I accidentally skipped Saturday.  Saturday was the birthday of my beautiful second daughter.  She is definitely someone I am happy to know and love.  We sang to her just minutes into her birthday.

Saturday I was extremely weary from the day before and Phil had me packing things up for moving out of this apartment near the sea (the owners come back in August).  The longer I packed, the sadder I became.  I realized I kind of liked it here, that I haven't yet done everything there is to do here so that my work went slower and slower the bluer I got.

After packing and delivering the boxes to some kindly friends' house, we watched "The Terminal" with Tom Hanks.  It felt all too possible for those of us who have spent layovers in the airport. I wasn't sure if it lightened my mood or not.

Oh, and it was pouring rain outside (as it is now, on Sunday).

We decided to go for a walk in the rain.  We weren't prepared for how soaked and cold we would get, walking in the rain along the sea.  But we walked, anyway.

Hunter collected rocks from the sand that reminded him of gold so that he proceeded to ask every question about recognizing, mining, selling and finding gold he could think of until we were weary of the whole subject.  We told him he needed to check out a book on the subject if he was so interested in it.

We tried entering one restaurant for a quick dessert only to discover everyone was dressed as if for a wedding surrounding a table piled with gifts.  We looked like drenched monks in our rain coats, so we turned back down a long pier toward shore where we found another restaurant.  By the time we entered, Phil had accepted the prospect of having to pay for a shared dessert, but was surprised when I said I wanted a steak.

Mind you, this was nearly nine in the evening (not dark yet except for the rain).

We shared a steak, dessert and some deep conversation, paid the bill then walked a different route home than along the sea shore.  This tree-lined path was full of the perfume from said flowering trees.  We wound our way around goose-poop mines.  By the time we got home, we were all tired enough to sleep, so I neglected to write.

Today started sunny but cool turning to rain.  We had a great service with Pastor Terry preaching, then came home to prepare for dinner with our friends and their baby boy.

We never ran out of things to talk about.  We ate until we were stuffed. Time with true friends in Sweden makes me very happy, because it reminds us we are not alone in this world--or stuck in an airport!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rich Mullins and the Zoo, Day 23: Countdown from Malmo to Idaho

A bus load of 2nd Graders on the way to the Skane Djurpark (Zoo), my kiddo included.

Momma Bear and three nursing cubs

Wind turbines in a field of "Raps"

Hmmm.  Today I have to pick between a bus-load of 2nd Graders, bears (and other northern animals), fields of yellow "Raps," and the devotional book I've been reading.

But I would have to say that the book I picked up for my smartphone kindle application, "Rich Mullins:  A Devotional Biography: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven," makes me happiest.  That I was on the bus with 2nd Graders on the way to see a zoo-full of northern animals with raps fields passing along the way adds to the joy of reading such a book.

Favorite quote from the book:
God has called us to be lovers and we frequently think that He meant us to be saviors.  Se we "love" as long as we see "results."  We give of ourselves as long as our investments pay off, but if the ones we love do not respond, we tend to despair and blame ourselves and even resent those we pretend to love.   Because we love someone, we want them to be free of addictions, of sin, of self--and that is as it should be.  But it might be that our love for them and our desire for their well-being will not make them well.  And, if that is the case, their lack of response no more negates the reality of love than their quickness to respond would confirm it.
 The song Rich Mullins wrote to demonstrate this was "Brother's Keeper."

Now the plumber's got a drip in his spigot
The mechanic's got a clank in his car
And the preacher's thinking thoughts that are wicked
And the lover's got a lonely heart
My friends aint' the way I wish they were
They are just the way they are
I will be my brother's keeper/ Not the one who judges him/I won't depise him for his weakness
I won't regard him for his strength/ I won't take away his freedom/ I will help him learn to stand
And I will, I will be my brother's keeper
 Now this roof has got a few missing shingles
But at least we got ourselves a roof
And they say that she's a fallen angel
I wonder if she recalls when she last flew
There's no point in pointing fingers
Unless you're pointing to the truth

Got me thinking.  Puts me in an uncomfortable place--because I haven't been so loving always, if ever.  Lord have mercy on me!  But knowing I've got a ways to go, the Lord to help me, and good books to make me thoughtful makes me very happy!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

RHUBARB PIE Day 24: Countdown from Malmo to Idaho

It has been a busy day.  I'm a class representative for my son's class and tomorrow is the big Spring Family Festival.  Each class must host a game booth for children to play complete with prizes.  I've been staying up too late and bombarded with e-mails and people approaching me in the school yard trying to organize our booth.  It's coming together nicely, however!

Then there was tea with a friend at the coffee shop across from the school.  She asked, "Why did God suddenly want to kill Moses?  I don't get it."  She found one of those "troubling passages," as my husband calls them.

I made a yummy lunch for my friends who are sisters from Hollviken.  We liked the berries and yogurt for dessert.

In the evening, our little family looked at houses for sale in the country.  It is fun to see how houses are built and decorated in Sweden.

All these things make me happy.

But today, what makes me happiest is having two huge rhubarb pies finished for the festival after ALL THAT, and it's only 11:30 pm!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dad and Family: 25 Days Left in Malmo, Sweden Before Summer in Idaho, USA

Consider this a little like a journal of gratitude, only it's a blog and I'm so many days from my last post and only 25 days before I'll be too busy to post.  The next 25 days, I want to tell you something that makes me happy.  You never know what it will be.

I might as well start with my family.  Above is a photo of my family at my Grandparents' most recent anniversary--70 years.  You can see them in the front with me, my son and my cousin.  A few important family members are missing (including my husband and oldest daughter), but my family is a blessing to me.  It would take me hours to tell you about each one and what he or she means to me--what special moments we have shared--so I won't attempt it for now.

It is a blessing to have grandparents who consider the covenant of marriage so valuable that they are still married, even though Grandmother has suffered severe memory loss for quite a few years, now.

I'm grateful my parents value marriage, too.  They will be married 48 years next month!

Today, I would like to highlight my Dad.

Last week, my Father got older (catching up with my mother).  It used to be that I had to keep track of my dad's age for him because he could never remember.  But I've caught the disease of forgetfulness such that he got older than I expected while I have been exploring Northern Europe.  It hit me just today how much I value him and how much more I hope to learn from him before he gets too old to teach me (or I become too forgetful to be taught!).

Dad is the one in the center above my grandmother.  People know him as a faithful pastor, teacher and counselor, committed to Jesus Christ, the Bible and the Church of the Nazarene. He stands in the picture next to his brother and wife, my mother, and his parents, who have all supported him, kept him in check, teased him, and even worked with him in the church.  I can't imagine life without the Hunter family as well as my mother's family, the Browns!

Dad makes me happy (most times--he can make me really angry, too).  I cut my teeth on his preaching, learning a great deal from his insights and love of Scripture. As a young girl, I learned to read, standing beside him during morning devotions, while he pointed out the words he read from the Bible.  Call me spoiled, because such training taught me to love words and great literature--to seek out the truth in what is read.

Dad was the one to help me learn to ride a bike, his old vespa, built my brother a lawn-mower-engine go cart, and make sure we had the best sled run for Christmas (as long as it wasn't where he needed to drive).  He worked my brother and I hard, expected us to work beside him at home and at church, then played hard with us when he was "on vacation."

Some may know Dad to be the tinker he is.  That is not a typo,--though he is also a great thinker--he loves to tinker with mechanical things, especially old Ford's and Chevy's.  When I was a senior in high school, he helped me tear apart and put back together a beautiful old Chevy truck.  In the end, I couldn't reach the pedals to double clutch and see out the windshield at the same time, but it sure was an education and a bonding between my dad, my brother and me!  Almost as long as I can remember, Dad has used his day off--the day after Sunday--to work on cars or some other mechanical thing.

Some others may know my dad is a small aircraft pilot (I'm aware that my Grandfather and Uncle have been all or most of these things, too, but I'm highlighting my dad). We spent many hours back and forth between Grand Coulee and Spokane, Washington, so I could get adjustments on my braces and he could attend meetings.  I had motion sickness so badly that I memorized or quoted scripture for quizzing just to keep my mind off of the turbulance.  We also had our birds and bees conversation up there.  Not sure I heard everything perfectly over the roar of the propeller and the noise of the radio, but I was proud of Dad for attempting the conversation even if he needed it to be couched in so much noise.

One of my favorite things to do is get my dad all to myself so we can talk about our lives, our work, our faults, our ideas and insights.  I love how he sometimes opens up to me about himself and becomes a person just like me.  Sometimes he is so insightful, so intelligent and so belligerent (Wait! Did I say that?), that I tend to put him in a different category than human like me.  But when we get some one on one time, he shares his heart with me and I feel honored all the more to be his daughter and friend.

We asked Dad to come visit us in Sweden, along with my brother, last year about this time.  We wore him out walking him around some of our favorite sights, had him busy repairing things around the house, and made him teach a seminar and do a radio program.  It was fun to share my dad with my friends overseas.

Just the other day, Dad told me he was putting a different engine in our old lawn mower so it would be usable when we got back home.  Good ol' dad.  That really is the way to put it.  He still has so many things to do that I feel it a privilege that he shows me he loves me the ways he does.

When I was younger, I asked Dad why he didn't say, "I love you."  He still doesn't.  He said, "I put a roof over your head, pay the dentist bill, pay for groceries and you'll just have to accept the way I say 'I love you.'"  It kind of bugged me that he said it that way, but it doesn't take a psychologist to see that he sure does show it to us kids and our children.  His 'I love you's' happen most often in the garage, under the hood of one of our limping vehicles.  If you stand out there and watch, he'll hand you a wrench or a flashlight and some great learning and conversation happens out there.

Then the phone will ring and he'll be counseling, or hurrying off to see someone at the hospital, or he'll need to read several papers from the on-line classes he teaches.  Then Mom gets to visit us in the house without any interruptions or competition.  (smile)

So, Happy Birthday, Dad.  Have many more birthdays.  Happy Father's Day while I'm at it.  You taught me well--no use wasting all those sentimental words all over the calendar!

Mom, you'll be featured, too, but you never know when!

Monday, April 25, 2011

What a Woman Does

What a woman does is what
A woman must: Walk fast
In heels beside her man;
Be home in time to make
Her man feel at home
In his own house; interpret
A complete conversation
Since he obviously understands
Too little to respond; Maintain
A career and relationship
While her man keeps his career;
When he smiles, she succeeds;
Hold her man up at the end
Of his brilliant career (setting
Hers aside, even if she is an
Equally famous painter) to care
For him until there is nothing
Left to give.  Love like this is
Left out of the painting, heart
Breaking and Lonely, but we know
There are men who do the same.