Wednesday, 30 September 2009

I'm having a low night.

One where for no single reason but for great cuminations of little reasons, having a good old, snotty-nosed, mascara-running cry would feel like the very best course of action.

Sometimes the soul just grows so tired...

But I am encouraged at how I see Him at work. Around me, and within me.

He is so good. He mercy and righteousness and love and faithfulness-- it's grace, all grace, to us who cannot deserve any of it. To me, who doesn't deserve any of it.

And I am thankful.

Sometimes I get swamped by the drudgery of the days-- always so much work to be done. When one project finishes, 1o others are there waiting to be given some attention. Sometimes I forget that running the Secondhand isn't just about running a charity shop to help support "Barn i Nod" (a charity organisation which runs children's homes for orphans across the globe), but first and foremost it's a point of contact for the world so desperately longing after the hope that is Jesus to come to those of us who hold these treasures in jars of clay. I feel like a very cracked jar. But I suppose His living water can gush out all the more freely from the cracks to whoever comes in off these streets of Gothenburg and stands before me in that shop.

Mike talks about how he sees Rescue Mission as a training ground for ministry. I understand that well. But sometimes I get so weary of training and I wonder what this sort of training is for. And I miss the comforts of home and "normal living".

But then I look up. And there He is, gazing at me with that curious look of adoration and pride. You are Mine, He says, as if when He looks at me He sees a prize.

And I realize again that if I am here in this country serving in this place for no other reason than for sheer love of Him, that it's enough. His love has reached into my broken places and redeemed my sick soul. And it continues to heal wounds in me every day. My love for Him is such a meager reflection back of that saving love. My love for Him couldn't endure the cross as His love for me did...

But it can serve. It can greet each new day with a "How can I best serve You today, Abba?" It can smile into the face of the grumpy customers and draw them into conversation-- even if at first it is only "Var du kommer fran?" I believe in building relationships that reflect His love as much as speaking of it literally. It can sort endless bags of secondhand clothes, wash sinkloads of dishes, dust shelf after shelf of wine glasses, and tidy messy counters umpteen times a day, always building relationships to the people sent to us by the social system for a foot back up to society, with the people from Rescue Mission Church who come in to help and work alongside, and the customers who are lonely for a chat. It can "look at them and love them" with the tender love of a compassionate Jesus aching to point the way to The Father. And where I am tired, He is mighty. Where my enthusiasm wans, His passion stays strong. Where I am uncertain, He stands firm. Where I run out of resources, He offers all of His. I am so thankful for His Spirit...

"I'm after Your heart, I'm after Your heart, I'm after You..." -- lyrics from Misty Edwards' 'Favorite One'

I've noticed Wednesdays are a tiring day for me. A long day-- starting at Rescue Mission in the morning and going straight into Bible Study in the evening with no time to myself in between. I find myself fading by the time we sit down for Bible Study, and think it a rather interesting tactic of the enemy. Tonight as I sat there attempting to pull myself together for another 2 hours that I might be there to minister to the people around me and the needs of their spirits and to be attentive to the struggles of their day, I felt Him explaining to me my tired heart in a little picture in my head of a child and a papa walking side by side pulling a wagon. Both held onto the handle but the father's strong arm bore the weight of the load, the child's small hand fitting neatly within his and no real strain on the child's arm. Leah, let Me do the pulling. Just place your hand in mine and walk the path with Me...

His yoke is easy and His burden is light. No matter the circumstances whirling about unspoken. No matter the storms threatening to toss. He is sovereign. He is big enough. He cares more than my little heart could muster. And I'm only asked to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly along with Him, my hand engulfed in His.

As always, it's a journey of learning to trust-- to crawl so deeply into His wrecklessly loving heart that the soundtrack of my life is His strong, passionate, purposeful heartbeat.

How could I live for anything less than His Kingdom? How could I strive for anything other than bringing Him glory?

I find I am lovesick.
And, almost unbelievably, that He is lovesick for me.

And so, it's worth it all.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

My Beautiful New God-daughter

Introducing, Miss Lily Joy Smith!
Born September 27th, 5:19pm, at just over 8lbs to my two very lovely, very proud (as they should be!) friends, Lizzie and Neil.

I am returning to England in November for her dedication and my first cuddle, and I can't wait!
What a privilege to be entrusted with praying for and loving this child even before she was born... Thank you, my sweet friends, for letting me share in your joy :)
(And for naming her after her auntie Leah Joy :) Hehe!)

Sunday, 27 September 2009

A Week in The Life

It's been a full week here. It's a rare week that isn't full, I'll admit.

This week I learned that my darling 2 year old niece Emily was being tested for Leukemia-- and it felt like the bottom was falling out of all of life for a minute there. Praise the Lord, the tests were clear!!!!! But it was two long nights of worrying and many many people praying (thank you!!) The doctors have ruled out anything major causing her symptoms so we feel we can relax. I love this child so much more than I can possibly explain and the whole experience has served as a reminder of God's extravagant grace!!!

In other news:
*2 packages of glorious Christian books and classic novels arrived this week from a lovely supporter in Minnesota!! Thank you!! Immense blessings...

*We did some more work and brain-storming on our upcoming Women's Ministry, "In His Light". We're printing and hanging flyers across the city now! October 31st is coming up quickly...

*I've been working on revamping the Sunday School system at our Rescue Mission Church-- laying our curriculum up til January. We hope to mobilize people in our church to take turns in leading the class, knowing that we are ALL called to play a part in ministering in our churches and that kids may be the least intimidating of people to serve. It's a good place to make a start! You might pray that teachers rise up from the congregation and He motivates their hearts with His love.

*I've FINALLY set my trip to England!!!! I have been praying and hoping to return for a visit since this past Spring. RyanAir had an fare sale in the wee hours of Friday night! So, November 10th through the 26th I'm off to reconnect with all my friends (family!) there, travelling across the country to see as many as I possibly can.

*My new baby goddaughter is being born!! She is why I finally get to go back to England in November as we hope to have her dedication service while I'm there. I cannot wait to meet her!!!

*I FINALLY have internet at my flat! So far, it's been a bit tricky and on-again, off-again, but it's better than nothing!

*For those of you praying for Jonas-- he's been transferred to a sort of rehabilitation centre and is supposed to be back in his own flat this coming week! Praise the Lord for skilled doctors and efficient healing!

*For those of you praying for Claus and his wife-- I haven't heard anything new or seen him at Rescue Mission this week. Keep praying!

So, that's a quick update on a few details of life this week.
Hopefully I will find the time to write far more interestingly soon :)

Sunday, 20 September 2009

In His Light

That women's ministry that I've been praying about for months is finally getting its feet off the ground :) Teri-Anne and I have been working on the admin of it all night. Check out:!

I'm very excited about this project because it is a chance to draw women in this secular city together and point them to the Saviour with solid teaching (we're going to be using various resources, from online sermons we can play on Teri-Anne's big screen, to bible study books, to writing our own themed days on certain biblical women's lives and such....), and fellowship. And it confronts the particular loneliness and displaced feelings of internationals living in a foreign land-- which is something Gothenburg has ALOT of-- with Christ's love through both His Word and His people...
I can't wait to see Him work through the relationships built. Please pray for us as we prepare and for each person He means to come! Our launch date is the 31st of October.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Lucky to Believe

This morning working in Rescue Mission Ministries secondhand charity shop, a regular customer who is in his 90's came in not to shop, but to let Mike and Brona know that he'd found out yesterday his 86 year old wife is dying of cancer.

"Do you know, Brona, we've been married 61 years," he said before the tears came, bending his snowy head to meet her gaze from his still impressive height. It was as if to imply, "I don't know who I am without her anymore..."
"Can we pray for her?" Brona asked boldly, knowing from previous discussions that Claus and his wife don't believe in God, which is a rather common state among Swedes, I find.
He said yes and then, overcome, turned around and left the shop with his imbalanced hobble...

The day went on, crazy busy as Wednesday is our first open day of the week at Rescue Mission Secondhand. One of my favourite regulars stopped by: a harley-driving, debate-loving, friendly, curious, 50-something, Atheist Philosophy professer called Bengt. He asked me if I'd heard much from God lately in his sarcastic way and I assured him I heard from Him every day. "Lucky you," he replied. I think his curiousity, though concealed by cynicism, is hopeful.

Then around lunchtime Mike and Brona were suddenly off on an errand, and when they returned they explained how they'd delivered a hot meal to Claus and his wife. Brona, in the boldness of the Spirit (because her own boldness fails her) asked them if they might pray with them then and to her absolute surprise, they said YES! She held the frail old lady's hand and Mike prayed in Swedish so they'd better understand. Afterward, Claus said, "You're lucky you believe." And God is moving there... Please pray for Claus and his wife to find they choose themselves to be "lucky to believe"!!

Being apart from God would be to me like being without my spouse after 61 years of life together. I so pray they find Him revealing Himself to them with His comfort in their desperate sadness, fright, and grief...

Knowing Him and that my eternity is in heaven with Him and no sorrow or heaviness or catastrophe here on earth can change that, I do feel pretty lucky...
So on Sunday when I lead the service at our church (Oh Lord, protect me from nerves!), I'm going to talk about that unshakable hope we have here on earth as citizens of Heaven. Please will you pray for the hearts in my church to be lifted to desire Him above all else, at the risk of all else? I am so desperate for us to desire Him with a desperation that we are aware nothing else will satisfy.

Come quickly, Lord...

Monday, 14 September 2009

Another Move...

I just registered for my Swedish personal number (like SSN) this morning and moved a dresser full of clothes one drawer at a time up 4 flights of stairs with the help of my new roommate and former landlady :) (My lovely friends Peninah and Teri-Anne). I'm going to be staying with Teri-Anne until Wednesday to help with the kids while Anders is out of the country on business.

And then it's on to a new address, a new roommate (please, God, may we be a blessing to one another!!), a new flat :)

A part of me is very very excited, and a part of me is very very sad to leave this family that I have been renting from the first few months in Sweden. We really have become a family together. T-A is my big sis, Anders my big bro, the kids my niece and nephew. We are so familiar with one another and appreciate one another so much. It's been really beautiful. I feel so at home with them. I'll miss this arrangement. They keep asking why in the world I would go to a one room flat with a roommate when I could be here!! And all I can think is, well, cheaper rent, but also that all-important element of learning to trust God in a new situation. Again. And I really long to have that bit of space that is kind of my own, to put my mark on, to rest in, to be hospitable with... Oh Lord, I can only wait on You and watch what You do with this new step...

Sunday was my first day back in the little church I'm working with and it was so lovely to see everyone and slide right back in to my place, but my heart is a bit of a jumble that God is tenderly untangling. Afterwards, T-A and the kids and I visited our friend Jonas, who I LOVE to lead worship with at church, at the hospital where he's in waiting for a surgery. He has something like MS and fell recently and fractured his knee cap :(

God is graciously reminding me of His beauty here to keep me from missing desperately His beauty about my family and home in America. He's so good like that. Yes, following Him in obedience takes perseverence, but He showers the path with glories and entices us with His love...

These photos were taken on a beautiful nearly 2 hour walk along a river to some waterfalls very near T-A and Anders' house. It's a walk He gave to me earlier in my stay in Sweden when I was seeking Him hard one day about a few specific things and needing Him to come through. His presence is so real to me in His beauty :)

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
-- Philippians 4:6-7

Thursday, 10 September 2009


I'm here safe & sound-- a little bit sad and a little bit happy. I seem to be a constant jumble of little bits...

Arriving in Sweden I was struck by how fresh the air was to breathe in :) And it felt like a bit of well-needed reassurance from our God-- I find it so emotionally difficult to leave home each time. Then I was met at the airport by lovely friends, and the two little children whose house I lived in previously ran to jump into my arms :-) This is good, as after leaving my darling baby nieces at the airport, they were feeling very conspicuously empty.

On the flight over from Chicago to Copenhagen I was sat next to a lovely middle-aged Norwegian lady and had some very pleasant chats, which broke up a bit of the loneliness of travel. We even got on the subject of Jesus as she is a Humanist who doesn't do church but a Social Worker so we found we had much in common, but I was able to share with her that I do the "social work" that I do because of the love of Christ. I think God set her beside me just to be a loving, friendly presence as I felt so very sad and lonely after all my goodbyes, and once again facing an uncertain future alone. ("Ha! That's what you think, Leah!" He says :))

Now my eyelids are so heavy I can barely hold them open to see the screen. I will be doing alot to get settled in the next few days-- moving into my flat with my roommate & registering for my Swedish SSN are on the agenda for tomorrow.

But before I can sleep I just have to give a major shout-out to my sister and brother-in-law. They are such a blessing to me. Every time I'm home they take me into their home as often as I can visit, lend me their cars, feed me many a meal. They are often the ones driving to the airport to pick me up or drop me off, even though it throws their girls into distress for ages after I leave. You guys are so special to me and I am so thankful for your willingness in my life. Thank you for seeing me off at the airport yesterday. Unwrapping those little niecey arms from around my neck is always the hardest... I miss you all. Love you!! And praying for you... ("He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed" -- Proverbs 11:25)

Resting in Him,

Monday, 7 September 2009

The Dreadful Goodbyes

“Begin at once; before you venture away from this quiet moment, ask your King to take you wholly into His service, and place all the hours of this day quite simply at His disposal, and ask Him to make and keep you ready to do just exactly what He appoints. Never mind about tomorrow; one day at a time is enough. Try it today, and see if it is not a day of strange, almost curious peace, so sweet that you will be only too thankful when tomorrow comes to ask Him to take it also.”

– Frances Ridley Havergal

I hate goodbyes.

The quote above has really spoken to me today as I put the finishing touches on my packing and perpare my heart for all the goodbyes. I'm praying now for that "strange, almost curious peace" and know that He will pour it out on my heart by the bucketload, because I have seen Him do it before. His faithfulness astounds me. I can't say that I have this all figured-- know exactly why I'm living life in Europe so far from the family I so love who are growing up without me, working with this ministry which has been so stressful and difficult and often discouraging, living so radically-- but what I do know is He has asked us to trust and obey. To trust that He is Who He says He is. And if that is so, then how could I not sell everything to take up the Pearl of Great Price that is His kingdom. How swiftly this temporal place is passing away. And how hugely unknown are the depths of His love...
If I put it in perspective, it aches a bit less to leave my loved ones and strike off on my own again.

But only a little at this point...

Auntie's precious treasures: Emily (2), Tucker (4 months), & Abby(4)

I'm headed down to the Cities today-- seeing some family and going to a dr's appt-- then flying out from MSP on Wednesday evening. I have a few stopovers this time, unfortunately. One in Chicago and one in Copenhagen, and then will arrive in Gothenburg again about 8am Thursday morning MN time/ 3pm Swedish time.

I am so thankful that I got to come home for these weddings just before moving to work with Rescue Mission for the next year. It was such a beautiful time of catching up with people --and I'm thankful for each of you that I've been able to see! And sad for each one I wasn't able to meet up with this time :( I'm especially so thankful for everyone on my support team that I was able to meet up with. You have no idea how He uses you to encourage me on this journey. No idea!! I COULD NOT follow Him in this if not for you.

So, I will be in touch again from Sweden as soon as I can! Know that I am holding you in my thoughts and talking to the Father about you :)

Much Love,


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