happy 4th!

it could’ve been a bad day. it could’ve been insanely emotional, filled with tears and sobs, and the longing of being in the states with the rest of my family. it could’ve been a day ruined by homesick feelings, leaving me bed-ridden and under the covers.

but it wasn’t.

it was the complete opposite. of course, i missed (and still do now in the quiet moments of the evening) celebrating the 4th of july today in the states with my family’s traditional bbq and crazy, insane fireworks. it hurts in my soul when i think of it, and i am longing to be there.

still, i am very, very excited by and thankful for this day, which is coming to a close. i went to work, had another amazing time working with my college… geez we work together beautifully. then, i was invited to a fun & yummy lunch with some fabulous ladies. after that, i did some errands (which involved a little shopping. always fun errands), and finally spent some time with my love.

when i met up with her, i was greeted by whitney houston singing “the star spangled banner”, there was a big “happy 4th!” greeting on the wall, and a basket full of american junk food, candy, and soft drinks (stuff i don’t get here!) waiting for me. it was crazy amazing and i could’ t believe that she had co-conspired with her parents and gone to all this trouble just for me… because it is the fourth of july. america’s independence day. i seriously was in shock, going from laughing, to my eyes filing with tears, and then laughing again. needless to say, she surprised me in the most awesome way. ♥

at one point this afternoon/evening, lina and i were sitting outside on a blanket. we were listening to music, laughing, talking. i looked at her, and she looked back. i was mesmerized and captivated by her, sinking deeper & deeper into her blue, doe-shaped eyes. at that moment, i remembered something. no matter where i am, or where we are… no matter what happens. no matter what we face. no matter how homesick, scared, confused, or sad either one of us feels (she’s homesick for the states too), everything will always be fine. i will always be home… because of our love.

ok. here come some pictures of my july 4th celebration:

now, the sun is setting on this 4th of july. it has been quite different than most 4th of july’s i’ve experienced; and yet, it’s been really good. i’m headed to bed now feeling overwhelmed & blessed, like my cup is overflowing.

whether you are an american or not, i hope that you found something to celebrate today. if not, perhaps you’ll find something tomorrow!

red, white, & blue peace. (i just had to).

work weekend.

oh my gosh. what a weekend. it was that obligatory “cram as many christmas-y things into one weekend as you can” weekend. and i am exhausted. i cannot wait until i have a few days off in a row. make that 4 days in a row. only 11 days left until my long 4 day weekend! i’m pumped.

but, before i move on to this new week that has now begun, i wanna share a few things from the hectic, but really successful/wonderful weekend.

i began my weekend a little backwards. lina & i had the day off on friday (she was off this weekend) and we went to the movies for an afternoon matinee. aren’t those the best? oh my gosh how i love to sit in a dark, cozy theater, eat popcorn & candy, and watch something beautiful & inspiring. and friday’s movie experience did not disappoint (see my previous blog post).

 getting candy before the movie! yes. swedes have candy stores that are crazy big. hehe.

after the movie i went to work at the church. youth group meeting time! the last one of the semester…

then, it was up fairly early on saturday morning & off to watch a very swedish christmas tradition… the lucia train. it’s not a real train, but rather, it’s young girls & boys walking in a line, singing christmas songs (traditional swedish ones, of course). the first one in the “train” is always a girl – st. lucia. this year, our niece was st. lucia. it’s a lovely & cozy tradition. actually, tonight we are going with our niece to the city’s big st. lucia concert in the concert hall. always amazing and christmas-y!

 st. lucia train.

after the lucia train, we went to a cafe for fika & some quiet time away from all the hurried, stressed-out people rushing about on a saturday 2 weeks before christmas. an hour or so after a muffin & some coffee, lina & i parted ways. she went to celebrate her grandmother’s 92nd birthday & i went to the church (again) to work…

i was at the church for a total of 10ish hours on saturday. deep breath. it was a looooong day, and i was quite worried about everything, but it turned out to be fantastic! here in sweden, saturday was the big nobel prize dinner & ceremony in stockholm. all of the nobel prize winners for 2011 gathered for a fancy dinner & ball, so what did i do with the youth at church? we had a nobel dinner of our own! something they had done before, but i had no idea what to really expect or plan.  hence, the stress & worry. but, i bought food, cooked & prepared it (with some amazing help from some parents), and figured out how i could link the nobel dinner celebration with a youth group seeking to grow in their faith. it was a really, really good night! my little legs took me home at about 10 pm where i spent a few hours catching up on the day with my love before crashing into my bed. sleepy, but satisfied.

 the youth group at the nobel dinner.

i slept forever on sunday morning, and then finally got up & made french toast for us for brunch. yummy!! we cleaned the apartment, baked gingerbread cookies, and then got ready to head to the church once again.

sunday night we had the english christmas service and guess who was the worship leader?! ME! oh, it had been soooo long since i had the amazing pleasure of welcoming people, inviting them to listen to & sing christmas carols, lead people in prayer, read text, and dismiss everyone with a blessing. it had been so so so long. and i have missed it so much. but, standing in front of a group of people, speaking to them about love & peace & hope… aaahhh. there i feel at home.

you know, there are many rules that exist to keep me from doing precisely what i did last night. the rules try to keep my voice (and many other voices) silent based on the fact that i love a woman, that i am married and committed to a woman. but, who i am married to and who i spend my life with has nothing to do with my ability to speak words of hope & love to all people, anywhere. and this amazing church that i work for recognizes that. there is no rule there saying that i cannot stand in front of others & share a message of peace.

i’m not speaking about my life or my personal beliefs when i stand in front of others. i do not try to convince people to agree with me or try to “turn” anyone into anything they are not. when i stand up in front of people, i look at all of their eyes and accept them as they are… whether i know them or not, whether i like them or not. i stand and look at the faces of others, and i know that it is an amazing honor to be able to be in that place. i stand and speak only because, first i have been called to share love in this way (this is who i am) and second, to share a message of hope, respect, acceptance, & peace in the middle of a painful & dark world. i stand to remind people that hope is alive, that life means something, and to challenge all of us to find our special niche – and then to live life to the absolute fullest, sharing love in every place that we can! i stand to proclaim that it is possible to follow your bliss, and that as we discover the bliss in our lives, we take it with us & spread a little of it wherever we go.

i am so unbelievably humbled, overwhelmed, and thankful that i had an opportunity, after 3 and a half years away, to stand up and lead people in a time of praise, joy, & hope. i am so thankful that, although my denomination (united methodist) has said that i cannot stand and be ordained as a minister in a church, the fellowship of people who have hired me as a youth minister refuses to close the door in my face. instead, they open their doors to all people, from all places. and i am once again amazed by the journey that i have been on; and i can only continue to live life as the carefree, risk-taking, optimistic, dreamer that i am…. i can’t even imagine what lies around the corner in 2012.

last night we lit the 3rd candle on our table at home for the 3rd sunday in advent.

hope you had a good weekend! now, it’s off to begin this new week & all it has to bring. (and soon… soon… there will be a few days off!)