Saturday, 20 June 2009

Swedish Midsummer!

This weekend was Midsummer-- a big national holiday here in Sweden, and the first time I've been in the country for it!

I went along with my friends Teri-Anne (Singaporean) and Anders (Swedish) to a get-together they attend every Midsummer's Eve at Anders' friends' home in a nearby city-- which means I spent it with ACTUAL SWEDES! Working with an international ministry in a very international city means most of the people I know well in Sweden are not Swedish at all. Not to mention the fact that Swedes are quite hard to get to know in all their reserved, isolated ways. Hence, it was a real treat to spend the day with about 20 of them doing everything they would typically do on this holiday-- though I steered clear of the drinking. Swedes love their occasions to drink and Midsummer's Eve is one of their big ones! They started up at lunch time and didn't finish all the rest of the day. But it was okay because the more they had to sip on, the friendlier and more open they became, so the more I was made to feel welcome and at home :)

Along with the drinking of vast amounts of alcohol, Maypole dancing is the main Midsummer tradition here in Sweden. So we went to a community Maypole dance where there were traditional dancers in traditional dress so I could take in the experience.

Originally, Midsummer began as a pagan fertility ritual at the beginning of the crop season. The maypole was therefore a phallic symbol and the practices on Midsummer's Eve were decidedly less family-oriented than they are today! When Christianity came to Sweden, the customs were adapted so that even the traditional Maypole now incorporates the shape of a cross!

Back at Anders' friends' house, we built our own little Maypole-- the prettiest one in Sweden this year, if I do say so myself :) I was very happy to even be a part of its construction on this, my day of being educated in Swedish Midsummer culture :) I made the second hanging ring myself!

When it was finished, we made rings of flowers for our heads and then played traditional Midsummer songs and danced around. It was HILARIOUS to play along as all these usually highly-reserved Swedes held hands and danced around a Maypole to songs about frogs and cows and all manner of other things :) I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I only wish we could wear flowers in our hair every day :)

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Thank You for the Birthday Wishes!

Thank you to everyone who remembered me on my birthday!
A few friends and I took a roadtrip to Norway for the day, and made merry in Oslo :)

(Sorinella is Romanian, Anthea is South African, Peninah is from Uganda, and Teri-Anne, who is taking the photo, is Singaporean! And they are all church friends...)

Monday, 8 June 2009

Praise the Lord!

After 6 months of processing (which was supposed to take 6 weeks!) and various unforeseen hoops that needed jumping through, I was contacted today to let me know that my visa application has been APPROVED!!!!!!

Starting in September, I have a year-long residency permit for Sweden!


I can't fight the feeling that this only went through because of His hand of favour on the forms. The system had nowhere to put me, and Mike and I could only HALF fill out the forms since they wouldn't really fit what I was attempting to come here for... I just prayed and prayed for His favour and for my caseworkers to have sympathetic hearts :)

Also, by a sheer move of God, I have a flat for September! I think I'll be rooming with a lovely Ugandan student from my church, Peninah. Flats are NOT easy to get here. My friend Sorinella has been on a list to be interviews for one for YEARS and only JUST got invited to interview this April... after she'd lost her job and so wouldn't be an attractive applicant anyway. Yet somehow, they passed her through and out of 40 people applying for this flat, she got it!!! Then, God gave her a new job in Ireland! So, she was given this flat she didn't know how she'd pay for and then leaving the country! But it just so happens, Penny needs a place starting in July, and I need a place starting in Sept... So, we'll see how this works. But it looks like a move of God to me!

Peninah (future roommate?) and me and Teri-Anne (current landlady :))

Now, we only must pray that when I get back to the states on July 21st for the weddings, my passport gets to the Swedish consulate and back again smoothly, with the visa stamped in, so I can be back to Rescue Mission Ministries and all that He's doing here by September 1st! And, of course, that He continues to provide the finance for all this...

Thank you, Jesus!!



So, as it turns out, God has other plans for my living arrangements.
Plans with Peninah fell through so they had to sublet the flat to someone else for the year starting in July...
I can rent a room here where I have been for as long as I need, and I will plan to come back here, then, in September, but for ministry reasons, I would so so love to have my own flat (with a roommate for financial reasons). Who knows what He has in store, but do pray with me for leading to all the right roads to just the kind of place He would see fit!

Friday, 5 June 2009

A Bit of Down-Time...

Hey guys,

I write to you from my bed as I've stayed home sick today. "Summer flu", my South African friend calls it. Blah...

I feel bad that I haven't been a very good blogger :(

So, I thought I might write a bit about my weekend away with my beloved little church this past weekend. Twice a year our Rescue Mission church goes away with another small international church to the seaside at Uddavalla, Sweden. We stay at a church camp and spend time relaxing and praising and praying and seeking God together, outside of our normal environment.

I was really praying for a movement of God in my church this weekend...

Two nights we met for worship and it was beautiful how the Spirit of God drew us to minister to one another in prayer. And the worship... aww... something in me is most at home and alive when I'm lost in worshipping the King.

On the last day we had a Baptismal in the sea (can you imagine?!) and it was lovely, as was the whole weekend.

Looking back at our camp from further up the beach

My Romanian sister Sorinella and I at the sea

Introducing my little Liam to the greatness of our God in the sea

But I went away from it carrying a bit of guilt. I'm still bringing it before the Lord now. You see, during one of the nights we were worshiping and praying over one another, I felt I should go and pray for two people in my church but I... hesitated. I hesitated for one because I just had NO IDEA what I would pray over him. Too much chaos in my mind surrounding the whole situation. I know that God doesn't ask us to logically understand what He asks of us, just to obey, but I get so hung up on rationally working things out... that I inhibit Him. I'm sorry, Lord... And I hesitated over the other one because what I felt prompted to pray about wasn't nice. It wasn't easy and lovely. It was hard stuff. And I hated the thought of being the one to deliver the hard stuff, you know? And immediately my mind is going, "but Leah, it might not be the Spirit of God at all, but just you, and then what would you have done? And what right have you to say anything in this situation!?" and I just completely talk myself into being paralyzed and doing nothing.

But the conviction hasn't gone away.

So... I'm praying about the right opportunity to take these individuals aside, humbly explain, and lay before them what God laid on my heart that night. They can take it or leave ir or do with it what they will. My place is only obedience....

It's true in all of life. My place is only obedience...
And trust. Trust that He can and will catch me no matter the heights obedience asks me to fall from.

How beautiful is this grace that takes us from wherever it is that we're starting from!

I think I will always always always be learning the shape of His heart. No matter how many years, I know Him; study Him; live for Him. I always feel like a small child taking in a new experience with wide eyes. He is endless, so endless. And in Him we have our beginning and our end...
Thank you, Lord.
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