i got the monday confusion blues.

hi y’all. i want to blog. desperately. but, i don’t know what to blog about. yes, my life is all new again living here in asheville. yes, it’s extremely exciting and all that. yes, i am so happy about being here that  i can hardly contain myself, and i am grateful beyond belief, but i’m stuck. or uninspired. and yet, crazily inspired at the same time.

i don’t know. perhaps it’s a little bit of a post didn’t-get-the-job-i-didn’t-want-anyway and don’t-know-what-i’m-gonna-do kinda blues. perhaps it’s the the-move-is-now-over-and real-life-begins-again anxiety. it’s like post-move depression. we worked intensely on preparing to move for the 3 months before we moved, but actually, the process began about a year ago. so, some sort of this-is-now-over-let-down is surely normal. right? oh geez. i’m such an ex-pat trying to readjust.

on top of the adjustment issues, i have this job issue. i have a bunch of ideas. but i need a plan of action. that’s what i’m not so good at. the action part. i’m great with the big picture, the vision, the mission, the theory, the ideas. the feelings, and intuition. i’m crap when it comes to executing all of the ideas, plans, and visions. where do i begin? what to i do first? how do i make things happen?

in the past, things usually just happen or come to me. but, right now, i feel pressure to go out and hunt. or to make things happen, instead of waiting. and that is not my forte. and it looks like i won’t be teaching anytime soon. and i certainly will not be working in a church. so… hmm. i have to get creative. which is fine, since i’ve got ideas out the wazoo. but, i don’t know how to whittle all those amazing ideas down to making things happen.

for example, this book that i want to write. i have not figured out how to just sit down and write. it just comes when it comes. and when it does, it flows and i know that i am experiencing something amazing and everything is just as it should be. problem is, it only comes every now and then. when the stars are aligned or something. and no book, or anything else is gonna get written by waiting for the gods to send me a message.

the thing is, i’ve never actually tried to force myself to sit down and write. every. single. stinking. day. so, who knows? i could do it (?). it could actually work for me… or what if i took this blog and created a book from it? that would be cool. something on my swedish years. but, i don’t know where to begin (not literally, duh. of course i would begin with moving here. but, then there’s a whole background story as to how i wound up in sweden. do i write that? ugh.). i don’t know how to begin. what would my theme be? what would be the purpose of me putting this out? just a daily record? or inspirational thoughts? or a whole freaking memoir. there are so many ways to go. so many freaking options. this, of course, goes for my book idea as well. better yet, is my book idea and this “the sweden years” idea one in the same? or two different writings?

do i begin with my divorce 5 years ago? or earlier? with my relationship with lina? with my move to denmark? sweden? where do i begin? who is my audience? what am i trying to say? i can’t figure it out, people. and all that rolling around in my head right now makes it impossible for me to even blog.

of course the answer is just to begin. somewhere.

but, let’s look at the bright side of things. 

at least now… finally… i know exactly what i want to do, who i want to be, how i want to live: write. photograph. reflect. talk. travel. and write some more. i know what makes my soul sing & dance. i know how my gifts can be used. i just don’t know where to use them or how to get someone else to want them as part of their team. journalism is an idea, perhaps. even though i have no formal training. a PhD, perhaps, is another option. so, my vision is as clear as glass. how to make it happen. not so much.


ok. i have rambled on enough tonight. tomorrow is a new day, a new opportunity. the thing is, i know that this is a huge turning point in my life right now, and a chance to make some big transitions in my professional life. i just wish there was a road map or a guide to help me along the way. i’m overwhelmed by all of the opportunities fighting for my attention. i don’t know which one to choose, and i’m scared i’m just gonna grab onto whatever comes along next, out of desperation to have a job. when, right now, i am certain is the time to make some pretty huge changes. to follow through with my dreams and make them happen. for real.

and then, i’m right back to where i started. sitting here with a pretty amazing vision, yet overwhelmed by how to make it happen.

hmm.. before i moved to denmark (2 years before sweden), i made some pretty crazy decisions, had some pretty out there visions & dreams & ideas, but i made them happen anyway. how did i do it? well, i just did it. literally. resigned from my job. sold my stuff. and did it.

if i did it back then, without all of the life knowledge and experiences that i have under my belt now, then certainly i can do it again. in fact, i just did it again. same story. resigned my job. sold my stuff. and moved to asheville. however, i am not the same person i was the first time i did this back when i moved to denmark. then, i had no idea what i wanted. now i do. i’m so much more sure… of everything. and settled & whole. in my soul. with my love.


ok. that’s it. tomorrow i’m making a big, long-ass  list. and then i’m gonna whittle it down to the most important priorities. and then, i’m gonna search for places/people to contact in asheville. i’m hitting the pavement. and, dammit, i’m gonna make my dream a reality. come what may.

because, come what may, i know my soul. and i am certain that all will be well with my soul, as long as i trust. have faith. and stay attached.

thanks for listening. i truly feel better. peace & love.

call me crazy, but i’m risking it.

i just gotta write about today’s word prompt for the photo challenge. today’s word is risk. and i’ve been obsessed with risks all freaking day long. and i’m serious about that. i have not gone more than 3-4 minutes without thinking about risks… what the risks are in life. what risks i’ve taken. what kind of image can i use to symbolize risk. good risks. bad risks. how scary risks are. how exciting they are. i’ve been on pinterest and pinned an overload of risk-y themed pins today. and it doesn’t seem like i’ve gotten anywhere in my thoughts. the word “risk” has just echoed and rolled around in my mind over & over.i don’t know exactly why i’ve been like a girl obsessed with this word today.

i have so many, many thoughts in my head. and i came across quote after amazing quote about risks. i could photo plaster risk posters and images all over this blog post tonight. but, i’m only gonna share 2 with you. both are photos i took. one i took on top of one of my favorite mountains in western north carolina. and the other is from one of my favorite cities in the world. and the both have the same quote on them… one that really spoke to me today.

max patch

about 5 years ago i found a bracelet that spoke to me. i was in the middle of selling/giving away almost everything i owned. i was recently divorced, had turned in my notice to quit my job that i’d had for almost 8 years, just completed my master’s degree, and was planning a move to denmark in the hopes of securing a job after i got there. i had no detailed plans about anything. i just knew that one part of my life was coming to an end and another was about ti begin. it was a huge turning point. monumental, i guess you could say.

anyway, the bracelet. i remember i was shopping with my mom in waynesville, north carolina, and when i saw the simple stretchy black band with the little copper rectangle on it, i was intrigued. i picked it up and read the words engraved on the copper piece:

the biggest risk you can take is to not take one at all.

it was meant to be. the universe was confirming that even though what i was doing and planning was crazy, it was right. the timing was perfect. so, i purchased that little bracelet and wore it like crazy from that day until the day i moved to denmark.

fast forward about 3 years and i had lived in denmark, fallen in love with lina, moved back to the states, married lina, and was working as a teacher in asheville. yes, all of that was a shock to me. none of it planned and none of it imagined. but, i took a risk, and life gave me crazy happiness like i’d never known. i was impatiently waiting for the school year to be over so that my love & i would be reunited. yes, we were separated by the atlantic ocean for the first 6 months of our marriage. lina was coming to asheville to spend the summer with me, and then we would move to sweden together in august.

during this year that i was teaching, i had a student in my class who i adored. ok, i adored many of them. but this young lady was something special. she so wanted to be her own person, but she felt pressure from her culture and her family to live up to everyone else’s expectations. still, she was doing exactly what 15 and 16 year olds should do… questioning, wondering, spreading their wings, dreaming, and beginning to develop their own sense of self. she saw my bracelet one day… i was still wearing it 3 years later and read the inscription. she admitted that she didn’t quite get it… the negative phrasing was difficult for her to understand. so, we talked about it some until she began to get the jist of what it meant.

take risks. if you don’t then you’re risking even more.

she decided that since i was moving to sweden and had lived in denmark, that i must believe what my bracelet said. i told her that, in fact, i did believe those words. all the way down to my soul i believed them. and then she began to dream a little and wonder what kind of risks she could take in her life that would lead her to happiness and peace.

for the rest of the school year, she continued to bring up this whole “risk” thing. and she decided that she wanted to take risks. believing in herself was the risk that she wanted to take. believing that she was more than a pretty face, more than a girl destined to take a crappy job just to get by, believing that she had something to offer the world. for her, dreaming was a risk. but, she did it.

on the last day of school, i brought the bracelet with me. i made sure one more time that she understood its meaning, and i gave it to her.


i have taken a lot of risks. made a lot of decisions, crazy and sane ones, that have gotten me to where i am today. even though it has been scary, uncertain, uncomfortable, and super scary at times, without taking these risks i never would have…

  • met lina.
  • moved to denmark and discovered more about me
  • been a fighter and advocate for marriage equality and other civil/human rights from a first-hand perspective
  • worked as a teacher again… in an amazing high school
  • moved to sweden and learned swedish
  • met many, many, too many to mention amazing people
  • become friends with people all around the world
  • begun blogging
  • traveled to greece, ireland, germany

in other words, this picture above of my love & me in dublin, ireland sipping fresh guinness with our amazing friend would have never happened.

without following the words on that bracelet from years ago, without leaving my comfort zone, i never would have become an ex-pat, married the love of my life, learned a new language, met nicole & found a true & loyal friend for life, visited dublin (twice!), had the chance to sip beer at the guinness brewery, and captured what was a perfect moment on film. (plus oh so much more).

all this to say… this word, “risk“, has meant the world to me. this word has changed my life.

and now, as my love and i begin to close the chapter of our time in sweden, the word returns as an old friend, tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me that new adventures await me/us. risks are there… scary ones, breathtaking ones, exciting ones challenging ones. yes, it’s time to set sail again. time to poke a little hole in my comfort zone bubble and burst out. time to see the next amazing thing that life has to offer.

i have contemplated a lot these past days about what comes next. and i have no idea. but, i am certain, that unless it scares me a little, challenges me a lot, and forces me out on a limb, then it is not for me. yep. my dreams are big. there will be no settling in, no acceptance of an easy, safe life. i can feel it in my soul. i don’t know what it is yet, but something great waits for me. something that requires me to take another leap of faith… there’s another great risk waiting on the horizon.

the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

~ steven pressfield

is it time for me to work on my PhD? is it time to publish a book? is it time for me to be an lgbt advocate and write full-time? these are the things that frighten me, that seem impossible, and crazy. perhaps, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. however it turns out, i know it will be more amazing than i ever could have imagined.

baby, you were born to fly.

here’s to courage, boldness, and peace.

i had a big ole blast down south.

i know. it’s been a almost a week since i’ve gotten back from my road trip to southern sweden for a big, family weekend, and i haven’t posted any pictures yet. my excuse? i have been sooo busy since getting back from the road trip… pulling an all-nighter to watch the election in the states (i gotta say it one more time: WOO HOO!). working a long 9 hour day the next day. preparing a sermon to preach. and a weekend full of work – i was at the church every night all weekend long. but, i survived & got everything done. whew.

and now it’s monday. and today, my day off, i’ve got a little bit of time to squeeze in a post featuring some road trip pictures. so, you’re in luck today. here come some snapshots from my long weekend about a week ago. i gotta get it done now because my love & i are off to stockholm next weekend, so there’ll be even more photos to share soon. i know. rough life, huh?

november is a super busy month for us!

day one: southward bound.





after a about four-ish hour drive, we finally entered the southern part of sweden, with it’s beautiful fields and trees. of course, the golden november sunshine made it all that more gorgeous. we settled into our hostel, with it’s typical southern sweden house style, and then headed over to lina’s aunt’s home to meet up with the rest of the family. after an evening of catching up, sipping wine, and eating a yummy dinner, it was back to the hostel for a good night’s sleep… or not.

when we went into the building & stuck the key into the lock in our room’s door, it didn’t unlock. nothing happened. the key wouldn’t budge. lina tried & tried. then, lina’s dad tried & tried. then, i tried & tried. then, lina’s uncle tried and tried. nothing happened. at. all. and it was 11 pm. gaaahh. we were all exhausted, and now this. however, we kept our spirits up & joked about it as much as we could. luckily, there was a locksmith who was nice enough to come out late & save us. so, finally at 1:15ish, we had no lock on our door, but we were able to crawl into our bunk beds and catch some zzz’s before the big family dinner the next day.

oh, and the rest of the landscape is this: the sea. amazingly beautiful. and so good for my soul.

day two: the day of tons of family & a big goose (or turkey, in our case) dinner. it was like a little mini-thanksgiving for me!




day 3: the do-nothing day




on our third day, we were recovering from family day before… much like how it feels on the day after thanksgiving in the states (without all of the black friday shopping craziness, of course). it rained off & on, which it had done all weekend so far; but the sun peeked out just enough for us to play some games outside (which the kids all arranged) and take a walk at sunset.

over the weekend swedes celebrated all saint’s day. it is actually a pretty big thing here. family members & friends visit the graves of loved ones and light candles. if you happen to be lucky enough to be in a city where there is a large cemetery, the candles are overwhelming and absolutely beautiful. since we were in the country, there were only a very few candles lit on the graves. still, it was a really good chance to take a cozy walk with my love in the cold, and wander around the church grounds. a beautiful evening.

day 4: first, a little shopping & lunch in a super rainy & cold helsingborg.



and then… DENMARK!






of course, on this day, the day of our little road-trip-within-a-road-trip adventure, it rain like crazy. and was cooooold. but, being the hearty swedes that we are (ok. i’m not so hearty & strong. i’m a cold weather wuss), we didn’t let the weather stop us. nope. we took the 30 minute drive from the country hostel/lina’s aunt’s house to helsingborg, sweden. there we wandered the wet streets, did a little shopping, and at lunch at a thai restaurant. and then came the highlight of the day… a ferry ride to denmark!

yep. you can pay about $10 and hop on a ferry to head across the water to denmark. it’s only a 20 minute ride and the boat leaves every 15 minutes or so. now, if you have read my blog for any length of time, or if you know me, (and my love), then you know that part of our heart lives in denmark. we love it there. denmark has been special to me for a very long time. and having a chance to pop over there, even for a few hours one afternoon to a tiny harbor town, is the perfect little denmark fix. ok. yes i would give anything to have a weekend in copenhagen and a weekend in odense (where i used to live – another story for another day), but still, the little town of helsingør, denmark was just perfect that day.

we wandered the tiny streets, warmed ourselves in a funky cafe – with hot cocoa and colorful marshmallows! – and i soaked in the danish accents everywhere i went. it filled my soul. then, it was back on the ferry & back over to sweden by nightfall. loved it.

day 5: headed home


after four nights in the hostel and four days with family, it was time to head back north again. of course, on this, our last morning, the sun was shining brightly. go figure. but, it was time to say goodbye to our cozy little swedish hostel home. time to say goodbye to the peaceful  sea. and time to say goodbye to the southern swedish countryside. it had been a great, cozy weekend and a fabulous chance to get away from our routine.

yes, this road trip has come to an end, but another one waits in the wings… and, as i said before, in 3 days we’re headed to stockholm!

hope you get your road-trippin’ groove on soon. peace & love.

gratitude 30: week 1

as i wrote last week, i decided to begin a new photo challenge this month. a thankfulness/gratitude challenge. there is still a prompt, but the focus is on being thankful for whatever that prompt inspires. it pushes me to be a little more creative & reminds me to slow down & be grateful for ordinary, regular things in life. it’s a chance to focus on what i have, instead of what i don’t have. and gratitude is a beautiful thing. it inspires a change in perspective and a rememberance of the beauty & simplicity of everyday life.

with that said, here come the first seven pictures of my gratitude photo challenge. hope you enjoy! and, if you want, take a pic of something you are grateful for & post it somewhere (facebook, instagram, your blog, twitter, or email it to someone.).

day 1: words

i’m thankful for those who inspire through their words.

day 2: technology

nothing like having technology to keep you entertained on a road trip. so thankful.

day 3: nature

i give thanks every day that i have a chance to be close to nature, especially the sea or the woods.

day 4: clothes

i love days where i can wear cozy clothes, sit around, laugh, eat, and spend time just hanging out with family & friends.

day 5: knowledge

enough said. i’m indescribably grateful for every chance to travel.

day 6: memories

oh the joys & fun of making crazy memories on a road trip!

day 7: innovation

so thankful today for new ways of thinking, innovation, & a new american which is beginning; one that voted to embrace diversity & forward thinking. pic from here.

this photo challenge is exactly the change that i needed. it’s renewed my sense of excitement in finding a photo for the day. there is truly so much for which to be thankful in life. of course, there is much that is painful & dark as well. there is so much suffering and negativity. but, there is one thing i have learned in life… all of that negative crap is there. it’s not going away. i don’t need to surround myself with more negativity. no. i seek out people who lift me up, who life up others, and who seek to build bridges & hope, instead of tear down & separate. and i don’t need to be the bearer of more negativity in the world either. so, perhaps my little corner of the world can be a place of rest, of calm, of peace, of positive energy. perhaps that is one of the missions that i have in life…

now, being positive, seeking to give off light & life instead of darkness & gloominess, does not mean being unrealistic or ignoring the suffering that is there. at least it doesn’t mean that for me. it means discussing and acknowledging that darkness & pain that exists, talking about it, confronting it, and then, moving forward. taking a step out of the darkness, or looking to find the sliver of light that exists in the midst of the darkness. believing that there are things such as blessings that are in disguise; that when bad things happen, they can be transformed. ultimately, it is believing that hope is stronger than fear. that light & love conquer darkness. that life is a journey that is worth experiencing. and that along the way, there is so  very much to be grateful for.

i am so thankful for all you who stop by here at one time or another. the encouragement, support, and inspiration you give to me is more than you could ever know.

blessing of thankfulness & peace to each of you.

get out of the boat.

summer 2007


the plane touched down. five excited, never-been-to-europe-before university students, a fellow minister, and i found our way through customs, got our passports stamped, saw a smiling & familiar (to me) face holding a “scandinavian caravan” sign at the arrival gate , and were whisked out of the airport and onto a train headed for odense, denmark.

just like that. we were there. after an overnight flight, all of us, with butterflies in our stomachs, sleepy eyes, & silly grins, found ourselves in a foreign country. i found my way back to a place that felt like home. on that amazing danish soil again. i felt my soul glowing inside me. i felt breath filling my lungs as the train zipped by fields of green, crossed Storebælt (the Great Belt Bridge), and passed colorful, old, european buildings. i was really there. i had returned.

of course, i was not just there to be on vacation. i had responsibilities. the youth that were with me were my main priority. this was their trip. their chance to experience what i had, yet in their own special ways, twelve years earlier. i had my heart & mind in the right place. priority one was their spiritual journey. at the same time, i was completely ready for anything to happen. i was totally aware that the experience would affect me & my life too.

the train rolled to a stop in odense. i had never been to this city before, but i was curious & excited. we grabbed our bags, found our way off the train by following the crowd, and saw two, smiling people waiting at the top of the stairs to drive us to our first stop. the methodist church in odense.

the youth were freaking out hearing danish spoken all around us, and not understanding a single word. to me, it sounded like heaven. not because it was danish, but because it was a foreign language… and that sounded like music to my ears. it meant that i was far, far away from the expectations and rules, and embracing my soul.

we arrived at the church and dragged our bags up a little staircase to a room that overlooked the modern blue/green sanctuary. we were greeted by one person after another, always with hugs, smiles, and warmth… immediately feeling like part of the family, part of the church, and completely taken care of. this pattern was to be repeated in each and every city & country we visited.

now. here comes the twist to our odense, denmark visit: ian lived here. yep. after 12 years, there was the possibility of seeing and/or talking with ian once again. to be honest, i couldn’t comprehend this. or even begin to imagine it. i’ll put your curiosity at ease…

the next morning, the youth were invited to be part of the sunday church service. it was their first chance to tell their stories and be a part of a church service in another country. we also heard one of the church’s amazing choirs sing and were extremely inspired by them. and then, it happened. through the crowd of people drinking coffee and chatting with each other, i saw him.

ian was there. we hugged. we chatted. we were nervous. and it was awkward. but, it felt really familiar at the same time. i think we had about 5 minutes to update each other on our lives. married. minister. north carolina. divorced. daughter. odense. and then, it was over. we were headed back to the train station and off to our next city in denmark.

while in the next city, ian called the person’s home where i was staying. he wanted to come & see me. so, during one free afternoon, i met him at the train station in vejle and we walked around for some hours, getting reacquainted. old feelings came flooding back, and confusion set it. i was uncomfortable and energized all at the same time. it was definitely not the same as it had been 12 years earlier, but it was something. but, you know what it really was? it was me, remembering my soul. it was me, hearing someone talk to me again about not being afraid to be me. the afternoon i spent with ian was a push for me, a reassurance that i was exactly where i was supposed to be. that it was time to take back my life. i was certain that i had made the right decision to follow my gut feelings to accept this trip and to even perhaps accept that my marriage was over.

in fact, i had a conversation with the woman i was staying with, anna, about my marriage. we stayed up late every night i was with her, and one night she just came right out and said it: “liz, what if a divorce is what is right for you now?”. her words were a gift from God, a sign and an assurance that my marriage was actually over, and that it was time for me to move on in life. to what, i had no idea. i didn’t even care. i just needed to move on.

so, after 4 days in denmark, my little american group moved on to…


we took a train (by the way i love traveling by train) and then a ferry to make the afternoon journey from denmark to gothenburg, sweden. on the trip, i talked with the youth. it was time to process a little of what was happening with them, check on how they felt, what they thought, if they needed anything, if they had learned anything or felt anything. it was a powerful few hours on that ferry… ending up in a conversation about a story found in the bible.

a story about some people (disciples of jesus) who were in a boat. one of them, peter, saw jesus out on the water, standing. he desperately wanted to join jesus out there, so jesus called to him and told him to come. peter looked back at his friends, who thought he was out of his mind crazy, and looked back at jesus, beckoning him to trust and take a leap of faith. standing with one foot in the boat and one foot on the sea, peter decided to risk it all… he got out of the boat.

these amazing youth & i sat on this boat in the north sea, reading this story about a man finding the courage to get out of his boat, and we began to wonder together… what were our “boats”? where were we standing with one foot in the boat of old habits & lives, and one foot on the sea of uncertainty & fear? did we have the courage to risk it all? to get out of the boat?

the image of the boat, of taking a risk to leave the boat, stayed with us all throughout the entire 5 weeks we traveled together. and each of us had something that we could relate it to in our lives. for me, i silently sat and pondered all that was happening in my personal life. it was pretty obvious to me that i had a foot in the boat of the past, and a foot on the unknown future out on the sea. this trip was my present moment. it was my choice. i was in the exact same position peter was in. do i stay, or do i chance it and go?

the answer was easy. i take my other foot out of the boat and walk on water. i risk everything… safety, knowledge, understanding; for the possibility that i just might experience something more amazing than i’d every imagined.

so, on that ferry between denmark and sweden, i stepped out of the boat.

and then, i met my wife.

a weekend on the road.

pic from here.

time for a road trip this weekend! yep. i’m headed to the southern part of sweden for a big weekend with my love’s biiiiigggg family. gonna be so. much. fun. we’re riding down in the car with lina’s parents, and it’ll take about 4-5 hours. you know, ya gotta stop whenever the mood strikes you. hehe. we’ll be staying till tuesday, so it’s almost a mini-vacation. yay. and while i’ve been to this southern part of sweden before, there is plenty more to see & do, so we’ll be bust the whole time… celebrating a traditional goose dinner (don’t ask. i’ll perhaps explain later. hehe), doing some shopping, visiting denmark for a day, walking along the seashore, laughing, drinking wine, and soaking up the beauty of the area. can’t wait!

keep up with all of my adventures on instagram (@lizslens), if you want. otherwise, you know i’ll pictures & stories when i get back. hehe.

for now, i’m off to satisfy my wanderlust cravings. and, of course, i’m ready & prepared with a travel playlist. here’s what’ll be playing in my ears as i roll on down the road…

[spotify id=”spotify:user:elre74:playlist:0cWbyU9liD3NH5ECidDUtu” width=”300″ height=”380″ /]

here’s to wishing you an amazing, wonderful weekend! peace out!

njut av november.

this month is looking good!

  • CD release party. woo hoo.

  • road trip to skåne (southern sweden) for a traditional family goose dinner. my love & i loooove skåne!

  • a pop over to denmark on the ferry. be still my heart.

  • an open mic night/music cafe at the church where i work & my love’s gonna sing. yippee!

  • gonna preach again. oh yeah.

  • weekend in stockholm: a major deal for my love, a concert in the old town, and a chance to hang out with amazing people. perrrrfect.

  • a night at the theater. a little culture’s always right.

  • thanksgiving dinner at our home. 3rd annual swedish-american t.giving.

  • more candles, even darker & shorter days, and perhaps (?!) some snow.

  • and then, all the amazing-ness in between that’ll surprise us.

peace & turkey love. gobble gobble.

* “njut av november” = swedish for “enjoy november”!

scandinavia is for lovers.

before i can tell you of how i fell in love with my wife, how i came to be in love with a woman, and how i ended up in inger’s home in denmark in 2008, i must first tell you about another person i loved.

and it is not my ex-husband, jake.

i loved jake, and we were married for 9 years before we separated. but, i had a love before him.

i met ian when i was only 20 years old. it was the summer of 1995 and i was on my first trip to europe. i flew across the atlantic ocean with five other college students, and together we traveled through the scandinavian countries and estonia for five weeks, visiting methodist churches and congregations. it was a mission trip, but it was not about building houses or serving the poor, rather it was a cultural exchange where we were hosted by fellow methodists. we traveled through five countries, stayed in homes & camps, played games, led worship services, sang, toured, and simply got to know our brothers and sisters in scandinavia. it was all about sharing stories & time with each other.

in case you are wondering, or something about this sounds familiar, this trip in 1995 is the same program that i led in the summer of 2007. in 1995, i was the college student exploring and expanding my horizons. in 2007, as my marriage with jake was ending, i led  a group of college students. after 12 years everything came full circle.

but, more about ian right now.

the first stop in the summer of 1995 was denmark, where we were hosted by fellow college-age young adults. the danish guys & girls showed us the highlights of copenhagen over four days. but, the highlight of the four days was simply meeting them, talking with them, comparing lives, chatting about their experiences when they had been to north carolina the summer before. the first night there, exhausted from my first airplane flight and the culture shock of being surrounded by a language i could not understand, i sat on the floor and chatted with a handsome, intriguing young man. (yes. they all spoke english, so there was no communication problem).

ian began our conversation by asking me what i thought was the most important part of this experience i was about to have, what i expected. immediately i knew he was not like anyone else. we continued our conversation during dinner, and a few more times during the week i was in copenhagen. we spent one night surrounded by a crowd of people, but completely absorbed with each other. there was something between us. not necessarily love. (or was it?) but a deep connection. somehow our souls met. and we both felt it. something i had never felt before.

unfortunately, the next day i left copenhagen. with tears streaming down my face, not knowing if i would ever see ian again, i hugged him, boarded the train (my first train ride!), and sunk down in my seat, already emotionally overwhelmed at all that had happened after only the first four days of this five week adventure. the hardest thing about this trip was (and it is true for every person i have talked to who has been on this trip in years past) leaving people behind… especially because you have no idea if you’ll ever see any of these people again – why would you? leaving ian behind, even if i’d only known him four days, torn my heart in two. but, four more weeks of adventure awaited. i had to get my mind off of copenhagen & move on.

however, that was not the end of my story with ian. like some kind of crazy fairy tale, we kept in touch. it was before the internet, before chatting & skype, so what did we do? we wrote letters. long letters, declaring our love for each other. we wrote each other multiple times a week and talked on the phone whenever he had saved up enough coins, walked down to the harbor in copenhagen, and called me from a pay phone. an international pay phone call. a love that crossed the ocean. it was crazy.

one day, just before i headed back to school for my senior year of college (about 4 weeks after i had arrived home from scandinavia), ian called and asked me what i was doing on september 3rd. i responded that i had no idea, except that it was a thursday, so i’d most likely be in some classes. and then, he asked me if i could drive to charlotte, nc, because he would need a ride up to greensboro. when he said those words, i understood & completely didn’t understand all at the same time. he was coming to visit!

like something from a movie, this danish guy i was crazy about, who was also crazy about me, flew over to see me. we spent three weeks together in north carolina…  falling in love, and making plans for life after i graduated. during thanksgiving, i dropped the bomb to my parents that i’d be going to denmark the day after christmas to spend 2 weeks of my holiday with ian. and i did.

though that trip to visit him during christmas didn’t go as well as his trip to the states earlier in the fall. while his visit to me was an amazing three week love story, the trip i made to denmark during christmas was tough and confusing. things weren’t the same. we didn’t get along, it just didn’t work, and yet we still felt so connected to one another. while it wasn’t working between us in one way, in another way, it was wonderful. ian got me. he challenged me. somehow he knew me and begged me to simply listen to my soul. to be me. he accepted me and stretched me in ways i’d never imagined. he was dreamy, intriguing, & mysterious. it was as if he was put in my life to show me who i was. but something just wasn’t right. while he was so encouraging & supportive of me, he had no confidence in himself. he loved deeply, but had no idea how to receive love. and i was not ready to absorb all of the freedom & independence he was offering me.

so, one night, as ian was in the shower, i called from the hall phone to my parents in the states and asked them to help me change my ticket so i could come home early. i told ian i was leaving, and he said nothing. neither one of us wanted this, but we didn’t know what else to do. everything felt weird & wrong, and yet somehow, right.

so, we took a cab in the early, snowy, january morning to the airport, hugged each other goodbye, and sobbed as we held onto each other. i let go, knowing i might possibly never see ian again, and i took the escalator up towards my gate. i looked back at ian, waved goodbye, and then boarded my plane, crying the whole way home.

that was the last i heard from ian.

until 12 years later during the summer of 2007. the summer i returned to denmark as a leader for the group of college-age kids embarking on the same life-changing experience i had years earlier.

during the 12 years between my visits to denmark & scandinavia, i worked as a teacher, fell in love again – with jake, who was the complete opposite of ian, worked as a minister in a church, experienced betrayal, went to graduate school to study theology, and fought for my marriage to survive.

by the time i was headed to scandinavia in the summer of 2007, i was in a weird place in my life, in my self. i was tired of hoping & nothing ever changing in my marriage. i was alone, even though i was married. i was fighting to discover who i truly was & who i was called to be. i was exhausted from living up to everyone’s expectations, or what i assumed was everyone’s expectations of me. i lived for my work in in the church. i was happy & sad all at the same time. i felt so alive & like i had found my true self while i was studying theology. i was searching for my niche, my path. and i constantly battled with myself as i tried to balance my life. it was not a horrible time, but it was not a peaceful time either. but, everything was confusing.

so, a trip to scandinavia, the place where i first truly felt my soul & heard my inner voice, was exactly what i needed. when the committee asked me to be the leader for the group, i knew i had to say yes. i knew that going back to scandinavia would change my life.

but i had no idea that this second tour in scandinavia would bring me an old love, a new woman, and a complete sense of knowing exactly what i needed to do. i had no idea how much scandinavia would teach me about love – for God, for others, & for myself.

inger & her apples.

every fall i think of her. inger. and her apples. and the mornings i shared with her in the fall of 2008.

every morning lina & i woke up when the alarm rang at 6:30. the song we woke to was “only hope” from the movie, “a walk to remember”. we stirred, rubbed our eyes, and eventually lina got up. i stayed under the covers as she moved about the room, getting ready. and then, a few minutes before 8, we said our goodbyes. lina closed the bedroom door, walked down the creaky stairs, and out the side door. i climbed out of bed and opened the skylight/roof window, shoved my hand out, and waved as my love took off her borrowed bike to begin her day at her internship.

alone now, i washed my face, grabbed a sweater, and headed downstairs to make my morning cup of coffee. this is how i began my day. most mornings as i slipped into the tiny kitchen, i was greeted by inger. she would always be standing over a giant bowl of apples on the counter, peeling away, while another pot of already peeled apples simmered and sputtered on the little stove to her right. we greeted each other in danish. god morgen. and then, we tried to communicate further, but mostly with hand gestures or really slow english. the eighty-something year old danish lady pulled out a danish-english dictionary, which lay on a bookshelf in the tiny kitchen beside her cookbooks, whenever we got really stuck. and then, finally, we’d both understand and burst into laughter, always amused at our morning conversations.

inger kept peeling away at buckets & buckets of apples. i pulled out the cutting board from under the counter, you know, one of those little wooden ones built-in/under the stainless steel counter. there was a stool just beside the kitchen door, which inger invited me to sit on as i prepared my breakfast of yogurt, cereal, bread, and cheese. of course, i had some coffee, which was already prepared & waiting in a thermos.

from september to november, the whole time we lived with inger, the house smelled like apples. though she was in her eighties, this amazing woman went outside to gather apples day after day – in the rain, in the cold. before i came downstairs to take part in my morning ritual, inger had already picked apples, cleaned & peeled some, and begun baking & canning. it was unbelievable. and i was inspired by her dedication, her discipline, her energy, and her positive attitude. every day i pinched myself, wondering how could i be so blessed to meet such a fabulous lady in my life. and to get to live in her home. in denmark. for three months. for free.

after spending about 30 minutes with her in the tiny, apple-filled kitchen, i moved into the living room to watch an episode of some american sitcom and read the news. inger went back outside to pick apples or do some other chore, while i sat on the sofa, pulled out my pen & my journal, and began writing & reflecting. i would stay there for about 3 hours.

but, how did i end up in denmark, living with lina in inger’s home in the fall of 2008?

well, to tell that story, i need to go back one year. to the day in 2007 that i told jake that our marriage was over…

where i stood.

day 1: where i stood

today was my day off. (liz does a happy dance). and guess what i did today? i stood in the kitchen various times throughout the day, in my pj’s (yes all day) and slippers, and made multiple cups of coffee. that’s right. why so much coffee, you ask? well, mostly because it’s cozy & i like the taste of it. but, also because it sat beside my computer on my desk as i typed & planned away practically all day. yes, i was lazy, yet productive, at the same time…

i worked on lots of little writing projects i am beginning now. and it was so much fun. i have most definitely decided that i’m gonna use my mondays for my writing and photography. i like to think of it as my inspiration/creative day. so, it’s all set. i have set a goal, disciplined myself, and now it’s all about the follow through. so far, so good.

the theme for the photo challenge today was “where i stood”. i’ve been thinking about that all day, and realizing all of the places i have stood. i have met so many people. had so many experiences. stood in so many places that lead me to where i am today. i feel crazy blessed to have walked in so many different places…

as a minister in a church in canton, north carolina.

with my dad on the top of a mountain.

in a park in the middle of brooklyn, new york (where i was working with teenagers).

i walked, stood, & sat in the middle of ancient corinth, greece. overwhelming.

in the florida keys for my brother’s wedding.

in the atlantic ocean.

12 days later… at the pacific ocean.

in a gospel choir in denmark.

at the grand canyon with my love

 you know, you don’t have to travel all over the world in order to experience holy, sacred, amazing ground. no. i believe that all ground is sacred. all places have something to offer us. i suppose it’s up to us to slow down a little and soak it all in. the bus stop, the grocery store, the gas station, the hospital, our homes & schools. wherever we stand, is one more experience, one more opportunity, one more place of beauty in our lives. and wherever we stand right now, is the place preparing us for the journey & the steps that lie ahead.

so, where are the places that you have stood in your life? where have you been? what have you seen? what have you experienced? where are you standing now in your life? and where are you going?

well, wherever you are right now, i wish you peace.