christmas-time. i absolutely ♥ this day.

it finally arrived. my first of 5 days off in a row. weeeee! and, oh what a day it has been! full of christmas-y things to get me into the spirit. i carried my phone with me throughout the day (as usual), and ended up clicking pictures everywhere i went. so, here’s a little peek into some christmas-time magic from norrköping, sweden. enjoy!

 the christmas tree peeking out from behind the bedroom door this morning.

 hello from me on this day before the day before christmas eve!

i took a walk to the main post office to pick up a package from the states!!! it was very, very lightly snowy and beautiful with the sunshine glowing through the clouds.

this year’s winter in norrkoping. just a little bit of snow. hope it lasts until christmas…
 christmas gifts & fun stuff from the states. thanks, mom & dad!!

the christmas spirit all around downtown.

 see the tall smokestacks in the distance? they are lit up all december for the 4 sundays in advent. like giant advent candles. i love them!

 a closer look of the “candles” from the cozy, old-fashioned knappingsborg section of downtown. there are great stores, cafes, & restaurants here. but, it’s kind of expensive.

 christmas trees for sale in knappingsborg. it’s sooo cozy here.

 santa’s clothes hanging in knappingsborg?!

 i really, really love this tree by the river!

 and these trees too! they line the way from our favorite pub (which we visited tonight to begin our holiday weekend celebration!) to our apartment.

so, there ya go. in between the errands, picture-taking, & pub visit, i did a little more christmas shopping, present wrapping, & christmas movie watching. now, i’m just hanging out with my love – who by the way made the most beautiful toast to us, to this weekend, & to some very much needed quality time together over the next few days – oh, how i looooove her! anyway, we’re watching a movie & relaxing before we jump back into the holiday spirit in the morning. have a fabulous friday!

peace out.

a kiss is just a kiss.

in the united states navy, whenever a ship comes back into its home port, there is always a lottery on board among the sailors & their loved ones back home. what are they betting on? the first kiss, of course! the winner of the lottery, one lucky sailor, gets to disembark from the ship first, walk on the dock, & greet his or her loved one with a kiss… the official first kiss, which is always a public event.

when the uss oak hill (that’s the ship’s name) docked, petty officer marissa gaeta, dressed in her navy uniform & the winner of the ship’s lottery, walked off of the ship, down the dock and over to her partner, citlalic snell (weird name, i know), and they shared the coveted first kiss. but this kiss was a first of another kind too. it was the first same-sex kiss after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” which basically states  that all military personnel are allowed to be who they are. in other words,  now there is no more discrimination in the military based on sexual orientation = who you love. all are now considered equal, with the same rights to live & love whomever they choose to live with and love. yay for repealing the old, stupid, unjust “don’t ask, don’t tell” law in 2011! so, just as any couple would do after being separated for 8 months, marissa & citlalic greeted each other with a hug & and kiss. a big yay for equal rights and for moving forward in the states!

what’s next?! same-sex marriage?! a girl can hope.

so, here it is. the first same-sex kiss from two military women!

peace & the right to kiss! yeah.

surrounded by darkness.

it’s here. the longest night of the year. today is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere of the world. the shortest day of the year, which means that there is more darkness today than any other. feels like the darkness is trying to take over and that the light is being suffocated like a candle being snuffed out. up here in sweden, the light did not begin to creep into the day until 9 in the morning. and then it’ll be on it’s way out again by 2 in the afternoon. all of the other times of the day are surrounded and covered in darkness. black. cold. mysterious. dangerous. depressing. darkness.

it’s the hardest time of year for many people. the darkness outside only heightens the darkness, sadness, grief, anger, anxiety, & pain that people feel on the inside. i spoke with someone yesterday who was very upset at something that i thought was not that big of a deal. but, she was feeling sick, and you know that when you are sick your tolerance level is less than normal. i tried to calm her, put things in perspective, and offer some tips on how to deal with feeling irritated, but i don’t think it helped. later on in the day, i kept thinking of the little conversation we had, and her reaction. and then i thought about her life, and christmas. i am pretty sure that she feels alone. and in many ways she is.

this conversation reminded me of all of the people that i know that are struggling right now. some have lost someone close to them this past year & will be celebrating christmas with an empty chair at the table. some people are putting on a good show for everyone else, while their marriages or their lives are falling apart. some feel enormous amounts of stress. some have old ghosts that haunt them, reminding them of difficult times in years past. some can’t enjoy the moments because they are crippled by the fear of the unknown in the next year. some just feel exhausted. some are uninspired & barely going through the motions. some are afraid to be honest with themselves. some literally have no place to live. some fight for their lives & their safety on a daily basis. some have no job, feel lost, & worthless. some feel that they have no voice…

i dare say that each one of us feels something dark inside of us. why don’t we just admit it? and today, of all days, why don’t we just claim that dark part and acknowledge it. i don’t mean that we go out and treat people like crap just because we feel like crap, but that we open our eyes & listen to the groans from within us… those noises that come from deep within. the crying. the sobs. the pain. the hurt. it’s not fun, but what would happen if we listened to it?

they say (yes. i said “they”) that one must hit bottom in order to move back up. instead of hitting bottom, why don’t we just look, for today, at the dark places inside of us. why don’t we intervene a little, wherever we feel that we are on the way down in our lives? it’s scary, i know… admitting the pain, the dysfunction, the disappointments, the failures, the fear, the reality.

however, when we admit & claim & acknowledge the reality, then we begin to take control back. when we stare into the eyes of the darkness, we become stronger. in a sense, we being to fight the darkness & begin to see that there is a light that flickers in the distance. it may be oh so small, but it is there. and only one little flicker is needed to penetrate the darkness.

can you see it? it’s there. see the darkness with your imagination. feel the pain & disappointment. everything is black. and then, see there? in the upper right hand corner, far off, there is a tiny, faint flicker. as we admit that the darkness is all around us, as we reach out and talk with someone, as we meditate, pray, or seek things that feed our soul, then that flicker grows into a flame, and the flame lights up the room. and soon the darkness has vanished.

at least for a while.

the darkness may creep back in, it may seem to suffocate us again. but ultimately, it never overtakes. it never wins. light always pierces through the darkness.

yes, today is the longest night of the year, with the most darkness all around us. today, if we dare, we take the time to reflect & acknowledge the darkness that seems to be suffocating us in our own lives. but, hear this: tomorrow the light begins to return! tomorrow the days begin to get longer! tomorrow there is hope! you see, everything in this world, in our lives, reflects the truth that light is greater than darkness. the natural world, the seasons, even reflect this year after year. out of death comes life. out of darkness rises light. in the bleak mid-winter, there is a spring that waits. after today, we begin our journey towards the light again.

hold my hand, and walk with me.

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

~ Natalie A. Sleeth

light, hope, & peace.