Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece
There's nothing like living overseas and getting to spend Spring Break in another country.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Happily Ever After

That was the name of our church women's retreat this past weekend. Sounds too girlie for me but it was not an overnight decision to call it that. Our speaker Mary Lewise Baker speaks specifically on our identity in Christ and how we are united with Christ as believers in Him through is death, burial and resurrection, that not only does He live in us but we live in Him and are seated in Heaven as co-heirs. That took the retreat planning team down a path where scripture talks about we were once orphans, enemies of God and then we became children of God, co-heirs with Christ, daughters of the King and have the eternal hope of Happily Ever After with Him in Heaven through Christ. So there we went with a fairy tale theme.
It was one of those things that God put together. We didn't as we talked about it and how life seems to flow in chapters and the reality that we are daughters of the King, things like the design came together because a friend of mine had illustrated a children's book and already had these "fairy tale" illustrations. It came together quite unexpectedly and quite perfectly as so many people were committed to bathing it in prayer.
For a small church plant of 8 years with a little over 300 people meeting in a middle school on any given Sunday, we had over 70 women in attendance. And God showed up. It was one of those topics that either sends you toward the amazement of how big our Savior is or how big our sin is. But either way, they are both reality.
Here are some photos from the weekend: one is of me with Jenna and Mary Lewise.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Birthday Weekend and Laryngitis

I love how God loves on me through others. My birthday has been a sweet reminder of that. I got to spend my actual birthday, Friday, with my parents. It was fun to hang out with them. Dad let me drive his F-350 dualie around Murfreesboro for the afternoon and we stumbled upon a crazy huge mansion. No one I know seems to know about it. I'll have to keep asking. It's the most random thing.
Saturday was a lot of fun. I got to go out with a lot of my friends. We went to see The Secret Life of Bees based on a novel by Sue Monk Kidd. It was meant to be part of my birthday because my friend Julie loaned me the book about 4 years ago and last year when I found out they were making a movie, I decided that Julie and I had to go see it. When I returned from Sweden, I found out opening night would be my birthday, so then it was settled. The movie was very condensed compared to the book, but when you only have two hours to tell a story, that's what happens. Other than that it was great and felt true to the book. Although they did soften the ending. I enjoyed it and I think everyone else did. Lots of us were crying. So there's the warning: it's a tear jerker.
After the movie, we went out to dinner at Marina's on the square for some great Italian food. That's when I started loosing my voice but I didn't know it until I awoke the next morning barely able to talk. The worst part was that I was meeting a guy I recently met for coffee (which became tea for me) and then off to a Black and White costume party. My friend Mandy convinced me to make a concoction of hot water, lemon juice and cayenne pepper to get my voice jump started. I'm not sure I can say it remotely helped.
So now it's Wednesday and the laryngitis is starting to give way. My mom can now hear me on the phone without me feeling like I'm yelling. The laryngitis is the result of a sinus infection that has been brewing for weeks and is now full blown. I think my homeopathic remedies are starting to help. I'll have to share those crazy things another time. But through my birthday and being sick God has reminded me how loved I am by Him and by those around me (and that includes through some inappropriately hilarious greeting cards).

Friday, September 12, 2008

When The Dog Bites

I have learned the hard way how complacent I become in things. I get used to things being as they are and forget to be cautious or my passion diminishes in other things. It's like now when I clean the bathroom and end up with slight chemical burns on my hands because I was too in a hurry to use protective gloves. This time, though, last Tuesday night, to be exact, I was reminded that my sweet, mild mannered dog of 8 years, Checkers, is still really an animal that has teeth. I have grown used to him doing exactly what I say and expecting nothing but him to faithfully obey. I assumed that we had grown to trust each other. He has been known to growl at me to let me know he is not happy with something and in those situations I back off but remind him that he still has to do what I say. Nail trims have been his most hated thing and I have warned the vet techs to muzzle him just in case. I know his signals but they don't. He has gotten where he growls as he obediently comes to the bathroom for his bath. It's like he's protesting but knows he can do nothing about it. Once he's in the water, he's fine: patiently enduring bath time. Since the nail trim has been the least pleasant experience for him, my parents and I went halves on a Peticure so they also could use it on their dog Meg. Checkers has seemingly not minded it the few times we've used it in the last month. Then, Tuesday night, although he came over and cooperated in getting his first 2 nails trimmed, he apparently snapped to the detriment of my thigh. It's wasn't a warning snap in my general direction. It was a full out assault on "the hand that feeds" him. On the third snap in the direction of my squatted self, he scored when his two canines clamped down on the outer part of my left thigh just above the knee. Fortunately, I had pants on and instead of tearing the skin, I ended up with a nice scrape and a nasty, painful bruise. Needless to say, that very night, I returned home with a muzzle. He may not trust me any more and I can say I don't fully trust him. So there is my reminder that dogs are great pets but really they are still animals with teeth, even if they are really old, dirty teeth.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Back in the USA

I have officially been on US soil for over a month and thought I needed to write something to state that. So why have I not written any thing during that time, you may ask. First off, I have not had internet access at home so the blog gets pushed to the back of internet usage time. Thanks to my generous neighbors Bryan and Elizabeth, I can borrow theirs (they're the ones that keep telling me that I can use their pool anytime I want but I'm not sure about going to someone's house when they're not home). Then, we can say that July has been a crazy month with no stability and August is not turning out any better except that I have started working at my church, Fellowship Bible Church. Since I have been home I have gone through the normal unpacking a year's worth of stuff, sorting through a year's worth of mail and settling into a life that no one seems to know that you left for that long. Even I have begun to wonder if it was just another 6 week summer project to Sweden or if I dreamed the whole year. I have also spent the last month adjusting to American culture: too much stuff, too many choices (yes, the cereal isle here is insane and the bread isle is probably worse), no mandatory recycling and composting (I tried to compost for the first week I was here but then realized I didn't have anywhere to put it except with the regular trash anyway), driving my car, and loudness. Everyone asks, "Aren't you glad to be back?" Base on the previous, you can imagine that yes is not quick to roll off the tongue although I am glad to be back. Yet, I miss Sweden. I miss my Swedish friends and, of course, my Swedish bike and the bike lanes.
I have also been traveling a lot and will be until September. Mostly I have been trying to meet with my donors to get all of my support moved from Campus Crusade to FBC. But I have gotten to go to Florida to visit my sister who lives in Tampa. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean a trip to the beach. Jamie has got to be the palest Floridian down there. I have also made a trip to my old Kentucky home. I love going there to visit and I love that my parents still live on the same farm they brought me home to when I was born. For now I'm back in the Boro at my house and it's good to be back here. It's always good to come back home, wherever that may be.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

My Bike Accident

So, after living here for a year and riding a bike as my primary mode of transportation, you'd think I'd have had a few accidents. But so far I have escaped any kind of scrapes until last night. Yesterday we spent the day moving all of our furniture and household stuff into storage at our friend Sharelle's place so the next team can have it. Last night Sharelle had us over for a girls' night and I had noticed that we had forgotten to pack up our clothes hangers - those nice plastic ones from Ikea. I packed them up in a brown paper Ikea sack and clamped them on the back of my bike to take them over. It's a great way to haul things, generally. About three quarters of the way into town, I was crossing one of the main streets in front of the Lindvalls coffee factory. Right in the middle of the intersection, I hear paper ripping. I instinctively reach back behind me to try to stop whatever disaster that's about to strike. Attempt failed. 85 white plastic clothes hangers where strewn across a 5 lane road. I jumped off my bike and left it on the sidewalk while I ran out into the road. Needless to say, I was holding up traffic and probably providing some unusual entertainment. The most shocking part was that a Swedish girl actually stopped to help me toss them and kick them up onto the sidewalk. I was so flustered that I called Lindsey who was already in town for help. Then I had to collect all the hangers (which gave me the opportunity to count them) but had nothing to put them in until Lindsey arrived with grocery bags. When she arrived I was sitting on a little wall by the intersection with my bike beside me and hangers in the front basket, bungee-corded in the clamp on the back of my bike and gathered at my feet. So now our precious clothes hangers are safely stored at Sharelle's for the next stint team to have. I wonder if they will ever know the true value of those hangers for me and their history of being rescued from the middle of Kungsgatan.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sweden is not Ireland - there are snakes here...

So today Darren and I biked to Sunnersta a little town about 4 miles south of Uppsala to go kayaking on the Fyris√•n  (river). It was a beautiful day - sunny and unusually warm (almost 80 degrees F). I love being on the water. And I not much unsettles me. I like mice, spiders and bugs but snakes, I don't deal with so well unless I have a garden hoe in hand and can chop it up. As we were paddling up the river towards Uppsala, I see this little thing moving across the water to intercept us. When I point it out to Darren, he says it's a snake. I think he's joking but then as we pass by, there he is. A tiny, skinny snake slithering through the cold water. We saw a second guy on the trail back to Uppsala. I didn't notice him until I saw the woman biking towards us pick her feet up off her bike pedals. I have spent three summers in Sweden and never seen a snake before here. I had allowed myself to believe that Sweden must be like Ireland where St. Patrick supposedly drove all the snakes out. I am sad to find out I'm wrong but now I'll be watching where I step.

Friday, May 9, 2008

911 works in Sweden - kind of

So, we have a Vonage Voice-over Internet Service Provider phone. That means here in Sweden, we have an American phone number based in North Carolina that connects to our internet modem and allows us for a monthly fee to call the US and people from the US to call us for free. It's great - love modern technology! My roommate Anna was trying to call her friend in the Raleigh, NC, area tonight and that area code is 919. She accidentally dialed 9119 and the rest of the number. When she realized it was wrong she hung up not realizing that it called Catawaba County North Carolina Emergency Service. So, of course, they called us back to make sure we were ok. I wish I could have heard the guy with the classic middle of North Carolina accent responding to Anna explaining that we were ok and in Sweden since the number did not indicate where we were located like normal home phone numbers do. He seemed confused from listening to her explain how the Vonage phone works and then he wanted to take our information to help 911 figure out what to do with these type of calls. The problem with Vonage phones is that you can take the thing anywhere that has broadband internet access and plug it in. So I could take our phone back to Tennessee and it would work fine but if you call 911 on it they can't trace it. We thought it would be super impressive if the Swedish emergency services showed up from us accidentally calling 911 in the US! Here the emergency number is 112. Little kids learn it by pointing at their mouth (1), their nose (1) and then their eyes (2). Cute! Too bad 911 is more complicated for kids. :) I'm hoping that we don't have to use it. We've been lucky in the emergency area. Mine and Anna's trek to the hospital via taxi in December for her dislocated shoulder is quite enough for us.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Yesterday was Valborg. It's the last day of April so it's a celebration that spring is definitely here. It's called Valborg because each day of the year in Sweden has traditional people's names that get celebrated (like October 6th is Jenny's name day) so April 30th is Valborg's name day. Here's a link to a site with the Swedish Name Day Calendar. Anyway, it's pretty much a big drinking day. Everyone starts off with a champagne breakfast. We packed our little breakfast of boiled eggs, bagels, cream cheese strawberries, grapes and champagne and headed to the river where there would be a parade of homemade Styrofoam floats that have to survive the trip over the dam/spillway. People packed both sides of the river to watch people fall off and their floats break into pieces. It was pretty hilarious to watch. Each float represents their sponsor in some way. I think my favorites were the hotdog (it reminded me of the Oscar Meyer mobile) and this one that was a cow lying on its back with its feet up in the air and the 4 people on the float were dressed in hot pink to represent the utters! (Check out the video links in my first blog to see the floats/boats.)

Then we walked to the Ekonomikum which is the Economics building of the university. We found a picnic spot for lunch on the outer edge of the park that surrounds the building. The place was totally packed with people, kind of like tailgating but more subdue. Even drunk Swedes are not terribly loud and obnoxious like Americans can be. It's amazing and sad to see so many young people doing crazy stuff because of alcohol. A lot of my Swedish friends said their top priority for the day was to get drunk and stay drunk. And at the park they were handing out trash bags hoping everyone would help keep the park clean (didn't happen) and condoms because there's some kind of STD running rampant in Uppsala.

After the park we, we went to Carolina Rediviva, the main campus library that looks down one of the main streets that runs down the hill to the river. The mayor of Uppsala gives a little speech to welcome spring and then everyone in the crowd wears their high school graduation hat (which looks like a sailor hat) and waves it in the air. There were a lot of people there young and old. Some of the older peoples' hats were even yellowed with age but they still participate. The young people head off to the nations on campus (like our fraternities and sororities) where they have champagnegloppa which is basically a big water fight but with champagne. It's totally crazy and it's even stranger to me to see all of the older people watching from the outside and seeming to think it's totally ok for students to be this drunk and doing these things.

After all that, my roommate Anna and I needed to go home and get away from all that. I got to talk to my sister on Skype and use Anna's webcam so it was the first time I've seen my sister outside of photos since July! It was so fun! Now that she has a webcam I'll get to see my parents, too, when they go to visit her.

The rest of the evening was more calm. We hung out with some of our friends from church and had a cookout and played the Swedish yard game kubb. It was a nice relaxing time. Then we biked out to Gamla (Old) Uppsala where the Viking burial mounds are to go to the big bonfire. I am pretty sure it's the biggest bonfire I've ever been to. We approached from this trail over some of the smaller hills and from above it looked like we were looking down on some kind of pagan ritual with all the people crowded around below. And that is what used to take place in that area back in Sweden's history. Very odd. It was sprinkling rain, too, which added to the effect. Apparently it's tradition for each community to have their own bonfire and people come and sing. Uppsala is the only place in Sweden where Valborg is an all day affair. Most of places in Sweden just celebrate with the bonfire that night and maybe a little cookout with friends. But in Uppsala, it's drinking party. We missed out on the major parties on campus last night where the drinking continued. And it's probably still going on this morning. I actually hear some bottle rockets going off as I write this and we don't even live in the center of town where all the action is.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Morbid Entry

Friday, I biked out to Granby on the eastern edge of town and biked around Vaksalakyrka - this cute little church - bummer I forgot my camera - beautiful day and the old cemetery there is like the one at Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala). Then I stumbled upon a modern cemetery! So that's where they bury their dead! I have asked several students about funeral home and funeral but most of them know nothing about them or have never been to a funeral. I'm pretty sure that there are no funeral homes. And I saw my first hearse in Sweden last week. I have wondered about that, too. Death is not something Swedes talk about or want to think about so only now am I really find out the answers to my questions. But then, I am an American and we have those great things called funeral homes where it's practically like a family reunion when someone dies and lots of cemeteries. I will have to go back out there to take photos.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spring Is Here!!!

The past few days have been so sunny and beautiful. It's getting a bit warmer every day so I'm sure that spring is here now. In faith, I'm going to put away my winter coat. :) The gloves and hat I still need for night time bike travels home. But it's so good to be biking again. I have missed the exercise with a purpose. To me it's like sunbathing, it's so pointless to me to just lay in the sun and do nothing. I can justify it if I'm reading a good book. So I like to feel my muscles burn after getting some kind of task done. Sunday Lindsey had a picnic after church by a lake near Uppsala. She had rented a car and driven a lot of people back and forth but the guys and I decided to bike there and back. It was great! The legs got a work out. I measured that we biked 16 1/2 miles (or 26 1/2 km)!

It's so nice out even this morning. I got to sit outside in the sun reading and drinking some Stash Raspberry White tea. (Thanks, Mandy!) It's so funny how hot it can get in the sun but in the shade it's really chilly. So clouds are a bit of a problem. But as long as it doesn't rain, I don't mind. 

Yesterday, I sat by the river with one of my Swedish friends Pia eating ice cream and sharing stories of life. It is amazing to see so many people down there. They must think spring is officially here, too. You can also tell by the bike parking. A few months ago, you could find a spot almost any where in town to park your bike in a rack but now almost all the racks are full and you have to make the most of your kick stand and part of the curb. And then there's all the dogs. I have never seen so many people walking their dogs and dog walkers with 3 or 4 dogs pulling them along. It makes me wonder how the dogs lived through the winter. So many people live in small apartments. I'm trying to picture the number of people who have been shut up all winter with their German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Irish Setters, or other large breed of dog. Although, Checkers doesn't mind if he doesn't leave the house for a while but then we're back to he is a 30 lb. Beagle who is greatly effected by his daily dose of Benedryl.

We hear that spring officially arrives on May 1st: Valborg. It's basically a big day of drinking, partying and boating so we'll see if it's any more spring like after that.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

It's About Time....

So I figured it is about time I wrote something on here. I have been living in Sweden for almost 8 months and have been an utter failure at updating my website and sharing my thoughts here. I have good intentions but bad follow through on things like this. So I have been on the phone with my old friend Mandy Guss for the last hour and 45 minutes while she drove home to Bowling Green from Louisville. Thank the Lord for modern technology like Vonage phones. I just discovered her blog while we were talking. See I'm not as great of a friend as she thinks. :) But I have been nudged towards inspiration by reading about her thoughts on her visit to Sweden a few weeks ago. So here's my official first entry. Lindsey will be proud, too. Here's to you both since Lindsey talked me into starting this thing and Mandy inspired me to write something.