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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tanner and Us

5 years ago on July 31, 2005 we brought Tanner home. We'd been without a dog exactly 4 months as Lucy had died on March 31, 2005. Tanner was an adorable puppy. His limbs and paws were loaded with the growth that would ensue at a lightening quick rate and he had so much energy I wondered if I my life would ever be the same! Tanner was the first thing that Doug and I named together as Lucy had already been named when we got her at 9 months. And since we never had children...this was our first shot at picking a name for a living being! Finally after considering a mile long list of possibilities that included both Swedish and English names, we landed on Tanner because of his rich golden color and our love for tanning and being in the sunshine! Many Swedes have subsequently asked us if we named him after the American professional tennis player Roscoe Tanner but before those questions began, I had never heard of him! We subsequently learned that a friend of ours has a daughter named Lucy, our first dog, and a son named Tanner! The name suits him well and nicknames have of course followed: Mr. Tan Man and Tanner bananer (bananer means bananas in Swedish and he acts so nuts at times, it's fitting!) are the two most common.
I had not had an 8 week puppy in my life for a very long time. He was cute and cuddly, but also possessed razor sharp teeth and as a retriever had his mouth on everything. I ended up with lots of cuts from his teeth and I was utterly exhausted. I wanted to cash in on my parental leave since we'd never had children but the Swedish insurance system didn't buy it! We did crate train him which was the smartest thing we've ever done. Doug's patience and assurance that never in his entire life had he had a puppy who didn't learn to pee outside finally gave me enough peace of mind that acquiring another dog had not been a mistake! When he was awake, it was full speed ahead. And then he'd just collapse in a heap and recharge his batteries! Truth be told, we'd collapse too and do all that we could to extend his nap times!The first day that he was home with us, he discovered our living room table, which had all these nooks in it. At one point he decided that it would be fun to slither through one of the openings! It still amazes me to this day that he could actually fit through those tiny openings! Now he stands taller than the table and at times, I wonder if he looks at the table and remembers when could fit through those little openings!Of course, the love affair that has ensued is obvious if you follow this blog or look on Facebook! Tanner is a fabulous companion and has helped us see the city in all kinds of weather. He loves to sleep in, swimming is his favorite activity, boating comes naturally to him, and he is a warm, cuddling presence when you are a bit down.I never thought I'd love another dog quite like I loved Lucy...and yet, here we are, 5 years later, so overjoyed with this crazy, gigantic (42 kilos at last weigh-in, that's 92.5 pounds), lovable, reasonably well behaved with some occasional deviations from such good behavior, joy-filled, beautiful presence in our lives.I know not everyone is a dog lover and I respect that, but for those of us who love is a special kind of bond. I love my Swedish dog...this crazy mix of Labrador/flat coat retriever that isn't too common in the US. I hope I'm still going on and on about him when we celebrate bringing him home 10 years ago.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Today Marks Twelve

It's been so long since I've posted a blog even I've begun to wonder if I'd ever write again! July has been this crazy, busy, exhausting fun month, all of which I intend to write about when I find some energy! But today is our 12th anniversary of moving to Sweden so it seemed a fitting moment to try and jump start the blog once again.
Most of you who read this know that when Doug and I made the decision to come to Sweden and be pastors of Immanuel International, we signed a three year contract. We thought that it would be great fun to live in Europe for 3 years, experience church in a totally different manner, do some traveling and then come back to the US and settle back into "real life"! As the years churned by we finally had to own that our "real life" was our life in Sweden!
The reality of being here 4 times longer than ever anticipated or planned has made me think a lot about a concept I call limited revelation. If God had revealed to me the entire plan that He had for us back when we first accepted the call to come to Sweden, I'm quite sure that I would never had said yes. Three years I could handle. It wasn't that disruptive, it was adventurous, and sounded like a great thing for us to do early in our marriage. If God had revealed to us that His real plan for us was to have us stay on for a decade and now even more, I would have scoffed and said, "No way, no thanks." It was too much information and I would've been paralyzed by it. It's a good principle to understand when feeling impatient about not knowing where the road of life is headed. God knows and we must trust that He will reveal to us what we need to know, when we need to know it!
The reality is that I have no regrets about being here for this long. I really cannot believe that it's been this long, that 3/4ths of our married life has been lived here, that now moving back to the US feels like a strange and outrageous task! God has done amazing things in our lives while we've been here. Our church has grown both numerically and spiritually. We have tasted the joy of being part of a multi-ethnic community that celebrates diversity and enjoys one another's differences rather than allow them to tear us apart. We've watched kids grow up and families grow and mature. We've strengthened our staff and built relationships that in any other context we would not have had the opportunity to enjoy. God has revealed so many things to us over the years but things that have taken 12 years not 3 for us to understand and I am so thankful for His love, for His guidance, for His goodness, for His faithfulness and His graciousness that has sustained us over these 12 years.
Sure, I long to be closer to family and I miss certain things about America that are not present here. But I love that I speak Swedish pretty well now, I love that we've visited some 30 countries while we've lived here, I love that we own a little boat and have a Swedish dog and belong to a church of which I am certain there is no parallel!
It's certainly been a buzzin' dozen. Can't imagine what lies ahead, but my good and gracious God certainly does and when the time is right, His full revelation will come into my view.

Monday, July 5, 2010

4th of July Stockholm Style

We got lucky with a gorgeous day on the 4th of July. 4 of us American women from my book club decided that it would be a good idea to gather our various spouses and dogs and boats and head out to the archipelago for a bbq picnic. Our friend Olle found this little gem of a spot south of Stockholm. Olle and Judy's boat proudly displays the American Flag in honor of our 4th of July celebration!
On our way out the water was extremely rough and I've never seen so many boats in the water. The summer vacation season has begun!
We were happy to arrive after the taxing ride out and once we got ourselves settled, realized what a great little perch our spot was turning out to be! It was hot and sunny and delightful. Our friends Mare and Kjell had their doggy, Cappy, with them. He is the absolute antithesis to Tanner! Calm and mild mannered, he found this little hole and just rested there for a better part of the evening! Tanner on the other hand, was dying to be in the middle of everything! Finally after swimming quite a bit, he settled down as well. 3 of us human types ventured into the beautifully clear but startling freezing waters of the Baltic. I was genuinely hot and wanted to cool off and I'd been in the water near town a couple of times so when I took my first plunge I wasn't quite prepared for how chilly it would be! At 15 degrees C, about 60F, let's just say exhilarating was one adjective that came to mind! Actually, it didn't take long for it to feel genuinely refreshing and the tingle began to restore my hot and tired self.Happy couple after a dip in the Baltic Sea.
Soon it was time to get the bbq prepared and I gotta tell you, this group knows how to put together a feast! Thanks to Doug and Kjell for grilling all the meat on the small one time grills as we forgot our little Smokey Joe grill! We had the charcoal, the "Girl Scout water" (lighter fluid), matches, food...but alas, no grill. Thankfully the brilliant Swedish invention of one time disposable grills came to the rescue once again!All of the food was just perfect and we ate as much as could have possibly have wanted to and then some. I had talked my friend Judy into making the delicious raspberry tarts she had made for book club a few months ago and even though she made me wait until we had eaten dinner to try one, they did not disappoint. What could more perfect than a cup of coffee and one of Selma's tarts on a rock in the middle of the archipelago?Much laughter ensued and pretty soon it was after 9.00 p.m. and we realized we had about a 1.5 hour journey back to the city so we began the process of getting packed up and going home. We engaged in one last photo shoot before departing! Don't you love the faux American flag backdrop?! Too funny. (The gal group photos are taken by Robert Cokery, Sandra's charming Australian husband who is a great photographer.)
The laughter and joy on our faces shows what a wonderful afternoon and evening we had all enjoyed.
We didn't blow off any fireworks, but the sun provided a beautiful display of natural beauty. Watching the day come to a close, around 10.30 p.m. is one of my greatest summer pleasures.The pup was worn out and sleepy from his island adventure.We finally landed at our Marina around 11.00 p.m. The bluish hue that the eastern sky takes on still thrills me. I marvel at the light late sky in Stockholm during this time of year. Likewise, I marvel for totally different reasons how dark it is so early in the day during the winter! We got the boat put to bed, drove home and put ourselves to bed, feeling very satisfied by food and friendship.The folks we spent the 4th with are dear friends. As we drove home through the gorgeous array of islands with the sky dancing and changing colors before our very eyes, I was reminded of how special my life in Sweden really is. I had a hard week last week. I was discontent about many things and felt some frustration with living in Sweden. Those feelings have not vanished with one beautiful night in the archipelago but I was reminded of what a gift friendship is and how beautiful and wonderful our life here can be when we choose to invest in the relationships that we've been given and to be thankful for the many ways that joy comes to us.
And so it is that another good day came to an end. Special thanks to my darling husband Douglas who works hard at the boating so I can enjoy it so much. And here's our little Finnmaster that makes all this summer fun possible. I am blessed in so many ways. I need to remember that when grumpiness and a lack of contentment lurks.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Dinner and A Swim

Some people like to enjoy dinner out followed by a movie. Thanks to a string of warm weather days and our little Finnmaster motor boat, we are blessed to be able to enjoy dinner followed by an evening swim in the Baltic. The weather has been exceptional lately and the fact that it is not dusk until well after 10.30 p.m. allows for great evenings on the water. Yesterday we headed out at about 5.00 p.m. with Tanner and our friends Hannah and Sven in tow. I had packed a perfect picnic supper and we were looking for our own little piece of paradise among the rocks and islands strewn throughout the Stockholm waterways. We found this great little perch where all but Hannah enjoyed a relatively warm swim before we indulged in the delicious dinner.This spot was a perfect swimming hole. Remarkably, we are very close to the city center here.
I never tire of the Swedish summer landscape. I always spot at least one waterside home where I feel I could spend a few days or weeks or months. And I really am captivated by the colors of the sky, the foliage and the water.
Tanner is always such a happy canine when he gets to ride along. He was very happy that we were swimming too.There is truly something amazing about being near the water when the high sun begins to change the color of the sky. This was about 9.30 p.m. as make our way back to the marina.
Your entire insides unwind and the mental refreshment that the lapping water and warm breeze allow for is unbeatable. The sky just kept getting prettier and prettier and the magic light that the high summer sun casts across the landscape made for a dazzling ride home.

Perhaps it is tiresome to continue to hear about these wonderful Swedish summer days and yet this is small pay back for the dark, frozen winter we live through. Hot, clear sunny days are not common here in Sweden and so when they come our way, there is a sense that you must drink in every moment of warmth, every second of light because one day, in the not so distance future, you will find yourself struggling the difficulty of the climate here. I know that rain will fall and clouds will come and so for now, during these days where the high pressure works to our advantage, I will continue to rave about my surroundings and take every chance to drink it in from the vantage point of being out on the water.