Sunday, 29 November 2009

Oh, to belong to The King of England (and everywhere :))...

I wish there were words to properly share with you all that my recent trip to England meant to me. But there's no language up to the task so instead I'll just tell you a bit about what I did for those 2 weeks-ish from the 10th to the 26th :)

First Stop: London! And an afternoon out and about with a dear
friend I graduated with and grew with and laughed with and cried with (this is a theme running through most all of the friendships I speak of from college! Basically, they are deep and true, and I love that...). We caught up after a year and half and alot of water under bridges. We had Starbucks (!!) which has always been my favourite treat, but even more so now when I live in a country which doesn't have them!!! And then we ventured into Chinatown for a meal, and then down to Trafalgar Square, my favourite London tourist site, and the National Gallery. We wandered down for me to say hello to Big Ben-- it's been awhile-- and spent all the hours in conversation. Dave is headed out to Asia for long-term ministry as soon as April. Time does march on...

Next Stop: Salisbury! To spend a few days with my lovely friends Abbie and Paul. Abbie was one of my prayer triplet girls in my third year and ours is a friendship that blossomed out of praying one another through the deepest things, and the practical things, and everything in between. And Paul is just one of the greatest human beings I have ever known :) A mish-kid from the Reunion Islands and my favourite singer in the world. My first few days in England were spent simply being with them-- taking walks through the stunning English countryside, talking, singing along to the guitar, sitting by the fire, talking, going out for coffee, talking, laughing, sharing our hearts, and just enjoying one another. God really gave my heart rest there-- Abbie and Paul are two quiet, gentle, FUN spirits who give the soul room to breathe. It was lovely. I miss you, Abbie and Paul!!!

Then on to Gloucester, my hometown :) I stayed with my English pastor's family, The Austin-Sparks, the family I lived with for the first few months after graduating from college. Stepping back into their home it was like I'd never left :) Lovely and familiar and homey. We had fantastic conversations and lots of hugs and laughter. I got to see so many old college friends in Gloucester, and I even returned to college for a lecture, being greeted by staff with hugs and happily surprised hellos. It was lovely. College feels SO very different, 2 years of incoming students gone by. I got to spend an afternoon with my dear friend Ali and meet her fiance for the first time, had a visit from Claire who is working in England with a similiar church project to mine here in Sweden, only further on in the vision so there is much to talk about and learn from her. I spent an afternoon with Rita, who is my Lithuanian sister (she has adopted me and my family-- whenever they've been to see me in England, she's had them over for meals :)). I spent a hilarious evening with Tim and James (who have a house together now!) and the lovely Adelina, who understand my heart without even trying. And, the reason I finally got back to England, I met my beautiful god-daughter Lily Joy and spent as many hours as I could with her mummy and daddy! Lily is utter perfection. I was captured from the first moment she fell asleep in my arms :)

After Gloucester it was on to London again where I spent a day with a friend wandering around for miles and seeing bits of the city I've never been before! He's a native Londoner so I was in good hands. We visited the ministry he works with there, down near the world famous All Souls Church, had more Starbucks (hurray!), visited Soho, walked through ecclectic markets and wandered along the River Thames, and ended up at a London pub with his friends. I hope I always remain in awe about how God's brought my life to a reality beyond my wildest dreams as a child-- so that I will always be mystified by a day spent wandering around London, for example, or taking a train through the English countryside, or finding my way to work in my Swedish city. Rose-coloured glasses do help take the edge off all of the hard things about living in a foreign country far from family! And they keep my heart in a constant state of worship at His grace and attentive love!!

From there it was on to Sheppey to spend a few days with Amanda! Sheppey is a little island off Kent, known affectionately as the armpit of England!! But Amanda took me home with her a few times throughout college so I feel rather fond of the place :) She has a big heart for the underprivileged island and the needs, spiritually and otherwise, of the people who inhabit it. For years she's talked about wanting to take me to the City of Rochester where she went to school, knowing that I would love it. And she was right. This pretty little city has a castle and a cathedral just up from the high street. Oh, England, how I love thee!! It is also the home of Europe's largest secondhand bookstore, called Baggin's Books, which is an ancient old high street shop which just goes on and on and on as you wind your way through the thousands of books tucked in every nook and cranny, up staircases and down staircases and around corners and on and on :) We also spent a day visiting Canterbury, another cathedral city I've never been! Amanda is one of those rare people He sometimes places in our lives who you can just be totally and entirely at ease with and our few days together-- the first time in a year-- were just covered in His fingerprints, gifts from His generous heart who knows precisely what we need and gives it to us with relish and delights in our joy over it.

I headed back to London from there, stayed with a lovely, generous friend whom I haven't seen for about 2 years, met up with a few more friends about London for lovely walks and talks and meals, and then headed out to the airport on Thanksgiving Day, feeling sad at having to leave, but feeling such a restoration in what has been my very weary and beaten down soul. There have been circumstances in the ministry which the enemy has used to just beat my heart up. Unbelievable things. And I truly feel like God gave me this trip to England (through selling a piece of writing which just about covered the airfare, and then using a stash of GBP I've had since I moved to live on!) at just such a time as this, knowing my limits, to take me away so He could just cradle me for awhile; to comfort and renew me. To restore me. He used His people-- my beautiful friends-- to be His tangible arms to hug me and tangible eyes to look at me with concern and empathy as I poured out story after story and struggle after struggle, to be His tangible faces lit up with laughter as we enjoyed one another and delighted in one anothers' presence. It is so healing to love and be loved. It's so His heart.

Oh, I love that heart!!
And so I'm back to the battlefield-- I mean, missionfield :)-- and standing in Him in new ways. Thank You so much, Gracious God of mine!!!
"My chains fell off, my heart was free. I'm alive to live for You. I'm alive to live for You.
Amazing love, how can it be? You gave everything for me, you gave everything for me!
Free to live, free to give, free to be, I'm free to love You, Lord."
-- Tim Hughes, 'Holding Nothing Back'

November's In His Light meeting

Read all about November's In His Light women's ministry here:

It was such a great [challenging but encouraging] day!
Thank You, Lord...

Monday, 9 November 2009

This is the adorably kissable face of my precious god-daughter whom I FINALLY get to cuddle for the first time very soon :) Miss Lily Joy! I just had to share this photo because she's so heart-warming and I'm so excited!
O England, I miss you. And I'm coming home soon!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

God's Good Gifts

God's giving me a trip to England :) A little break from the craziness here, a little retreat to the friends who are like family back in the UK.

I get teary just thinking about it. It has been nearly a year. And my heart is going home for 2 weeks...
Don't get me wrong-- I love Gothenburg. I love the beauty of Sweden. But it is exhausting to be a foreigner. It is exhausting and frustrating to be constantly trying to translate everything so that I can understand what's going on-- both the language and the cultural expectations. Yesterday I figured out how to do my laundry in my building's "tvattstuga" (washroom) and it felt like the biggest victory. I've been lugging my laundry to friends' places to avoid having to figure out the strange electronic system of booking the room here-- all in Swedish, of course. Going out for groceries is exhausting as I try to decipher the labels and get through the checkout with my Swedish proficiency of about a 2-year-old. Most days it's terribly interesting and I can generally hold my rose-coloured-glasses up to my face and greet the day with a smile. But sometimes the smile wavers a bit. Things have been very stressful with the ministry I'm working with, and that pours out into every experience of living here.

(some random shots of my beautiful city of Gothenburg, Sweden)
I cannot wait to fly into my green green haven that is England (even if I do have to go through the dreaded Stansted airport where something ALWAYS seems to go wrong regardless of how perfectly I've packed or carefully prepared). I cannot wait to melt into the presence of my lovely friends I so miss, pouring out our hearts to one another, laughing like there are no cares in the world, and just soaking in one another's presence... I cannot wait to sit and worship with someone on the guitar like we used to. I cannot wait to take long walks through the green green green hills, to read all the signs in English :), and to bask in the English accents. I cannot wait to see how God will tenderly restore the bits of my heart that have been so bruised these weeks dealing with such unimaginable circumstances in this ministry. His TLC is wonderful and always perfectly timed.

So, hej da Sweden! And hello, England from the 10th to the 26th :)
And thank You, Father...
I'm lost without You.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

In His Light Women's Minstry Event #1

So, FINALLY, details of the first In His Light women's ministry event last Saturday :)

We had 7 women, plus Teri-Anne and I. I was excited when people just kept showing up! This was the very first time. I thought that we could end up with, like, 4 of us :) Brona (Ireland) came, Alissa and Rema (Singapore), Anthea (South Africa), Linda (Sweden), Magdalene (Romania), and Peninah (Uganda). All believers, all at different places in the journey.

We started with a brunch-- and everyone brought something to share. We ended up with a lovely spread and we lingered over it with our coffees and tea and just chit-chatting. Then we moved into the living room and spent some time in worship....
- Mighty To Save--
- At The Cross--
- Potter’s Hand--
- This Is My Desire (I Give You My Heart)--

Then we headed into the Bible study/discussion on the message of "Captivating". We basically walked them through the message from start to end, in kind of a conversational and discussional style. It went really well. We prepared so long and so hard for this part of the meeting and it was really encouraging to see the women sharing and interacting with the subject matter and being vulnerable with one another. Then we prayed for one another. It was really lovely. Just what we'd been praying for...

Then it was time for the Spa! We did manicures and pedicures and had foot baths with mint and lime and sea salt. A few of us gave one another foot massages. There were facials and candles and food and music playing in the background of conversation. There were about 3 of us around my age, and then the oldest woman was about 60, with every age in between.

Teri-Anne and I were both very encouraged in doing it and all the work and stress over it was worth it in the end :) I did all the writing and then Teri-Anne did most of the speaking :) So, we both felt really ALIVE in doing it because we were both using our gifts...

Very encouraging! We're now planning next month. It will be only, like, 2 or 3 days after I arrive back from England so we have to get it sorted now.... We're not sure yet of our Bible Study theme, but we've planned the social side of the day already-- to go together to one of Sweden's famous Christmas markets (Jul Marknad)! There will be some lovely photos :)

Such a big thank you to everyone who has been interested in this new undertaking and for praying for us! God really did just draw some ladies together and open up a space between us to spend adoring Him and seeking His face, as well as just building relationship amongst one another. And it's an encouraging thing for me to be involved in right now...
He is good :) May the world know it and be changed from the inside out!!!
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