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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The End of 2014

And I thought 2013 was hard year!
On New Year's Day 2014 I wrote this on my blog: 
What will 2014 bring?  We do not know the answer to that question right now...but I'm confident that joy and sorrow will meet and that love will cover all things. 
Truer words could not have been written as the year now comes to an end. When 2013 ended, I was glad to turn the page on a new year. My mom's death had been so tough and I was looking forward to a new year without the stress of her declining health. Of course, who knew that just 4 months into this year my dad's health would take a fatal turn and we would lose him as well.  Those were difficult days provoking the deepest grief I have ever experienced. And while the searing pain of his passing has subsided, I do miss him every single day and wish he were still among us. But that is not to be and so I continue to find ways to cherish the memories of my very fine parents and savor the good times we did indeed share.
And who knew that 2014 would mark the end of 16.5 years of ministry at Immanuel International? Certainly not us. But now, we've preached our last message, (listen here if interested), cleaned out our offices, and have ended our pastoral responsibilities.
We are soon taking one last bucket list trip to Morocco and then will sort out our apartment in preparation for our flight to Los Angeles on January 29, 2015. We are looking forward to life in the desert and seeing what adventure awaits us!
While change and loss are marks of this year, love and joy have certainly played a huge role as well. I don't look back on 2014 with negative feelings but rather feel a unique depth of meaning in the events that have unfolded. All of the change has been totally unexpected and yet, through it all, we've felt loved, supported, surrounded and peaceful. Of course, not every day has been marked by these emotions...anger, disappointment, frustration and anxiety have played a role as well and yet...we are feeling at peace with the road ahead. Saying good-bye to our church and life here is very painful and filled with the deepest kind of emotion and yet...we anticipate the future with great excitement and wonder as well. 
One of the great joys of these last weeks has been time spent with dear friends who love us! We've been to so many different gatherings with such a broad range of people that we are just savoring these moments. Here's a glimpse of some of the ways we've been enjoying our loved ones here in Stockholm:
The wonderful Filipino community and a few others at Immanuel!
My dear Swiss friend Madeleine...gorgeous afternoon.
These photos are small representations of the depth and breadth of relationship and friendship that has been ours to treasure all of these years. We will miss meeting people from all walks of life and having our lives enriched by these encounters. But these relationships are deeply buried into the tapestry of our lives and will not quickly fade. 
The Downey kids...the wonderful family we have spent Christmas Eve with for several years now.
Lalit and Sujata Kumar...our Indian brother and sister!

The Bhat boys and Ellie! We've known these boys for a long time
and have confirmed them both!
These kids are among the hundreds of kids that we've enjoyed through the years at Immanuel. We spent this day remembering all of the crazy times we've shared, especially during the summer with our Wacky Wednesday programs! What joy to have youth in our lives! We look forward to the ways in which we will get involved in kids lives in the future.
Terri Bhat along with Georgie and Gaby Carlson, who we love like our own!
Fabulous Swedish coffee mug from the Carlson girls.

The richness of being part of a diverse community is a gift that we wish all could experience.
We shared a beautiful afternoon with the Eritrean community from Immanue and walked away with these gorgeous gifts of traditional dress.

To cross lines that are usually seen as barriers and then to see what joy there is in being with those who are different than you is one of the greatest gifts we take from our years here at Immanuel. It's hard to say good-bye but we are also grateful for all the years we were given. Who would've thunk that when we signed that 3 year contract in April of 1998 that it would be the end of 2014 when we finally said good-bye? Certainly not me.
Now we have a new year to look forward that is an absolute mystery to us! I am looking forward to living in California again for the first time since 1989. I'm thrilled that Doug is happy to be a California transplant and while we'll miss the joy and ease of traveling in Europe, we do look forward to tasting our home culture once again and visiting the vast landscape that the USA offers. It will be quite interesting to experience what it's like to return to the USA after all these years of living abroad. I'm confident that there will be moments of relief and joy mixed in with moments of loss and feelings of being completely overwhelmed. I anticipate feeling quite at home in some ways and like a complete stranger in others. I know that our years of living in Sweden have shaped us in ways that we can't yet give expression to and yet...I'm grateful for it all...the hard times, the good times, the times of laughter and the times filled with tears. Isn't that what living life is all about anyway? Opening ourselves up to the full range of emotions and experiences that God intends for us.
So, as we end 2014 and prepare to celebrate our final New Year's in Stockholm...we wish all of our loved ones, both near and afar, a great start to a new year. May your year be filled with love and peace, no matter what may unfold.  2014 has certainly been full of both for us.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

December 21

This date has always been significant for me because it was my parents anniversary.
My beloved parents alongside of my dear grandparents.
I remember how they would take time during this busy season to celebrate the years with one another. Amazingly, the couple they became very close friends with after they moved to California shared the same date so they made a habit of celebrating together. Today would've been 57 years for mom and dad, but instead it's the first anniversary they will spend together in heaven.
December 21, 1957
I remember last year worrying about my dad, wondering how he was going to handle his first anniversary and Christmas without my mom. One of the things that gives me greater peace about the fact that they are both now gone from this earth is that my dad does not have to struggle to live without his beloved spouse. He was giving living life as a widower a brave shot but he did not enjoy it. So this year as this date rolls around, I feel the joy of a life well-lived and I celebrate the satisfaction of a marriage that was treasured. They were a great couple. Not without their differences nor their disagreements but they truly understood one another and allowed one another to be themselves in spite of what might've bugged them or what they might've wanted to be different. They got behind one another and gave each other their full support. The football guys would all say that Mrs. Moon was an integral part of their formation right alongside of Coach Moon. I feel very grateful that I have such warm memories of their life together.
Could they have been any cooler?
Doug and I watched When Harry Met Sally again last night for the first time in many, many years. It is such a great movie and the humor is not lost on us that I can, at times, be a bit like Sally! While I have loved this film from the first moment I saw it way back in 1989 this time around the little vignettes of the couples that they use to transition between the time frames were especially meaningful to me. I just loved watching these older couples interact with one another and it made me wonder what Doug and I would be like 30 years from now, if we are given that many more years of life. Doug and I had a rather circuitous route to the altar, facing many, many obstacles on the road to saying "I do" so I feel very grateful that 20 years ago we were able to take the plunge.
I wore my mom's wedding dress when we got married.
He is truly the love of my life, my best friend, the one who really gets me and lets me be me. He's often said that I'm a bit high maintenance and I've never denied that. But my most common response is simply that it's a good thing he likes maintaining me since he gets a lot of opportunities to do so.
So here's to long and celebrated love. Mom and Dad...I hope you can enjoy a heavenly toast today. You are in my heart and I'm grateful that you don't have to figure out life without the other anymore.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Some Last Things

With our official last day of work now just 2 weeks away, there are many things that we are doing for the "last time." I have to admit however that rather than being focused on how sad I am that I won't be doing this again, I am truly seeking to simply be in the moment, take everything in and enjoy these activities to the fullest one last time. I am not gone yet and I refuse to live in a place where all I think about is NOT being here instead of focusing on BEING here, which is where I am!
I hosted my final Book Club White Elephant Party last Monday night. It was ever enjoyable with loads of silliness. I scored a super good gift however: A pink pig, which Tanner loves. The robust oink that it makes is a special bonus.
Wednesday during the staff fika time, the personnel of Immanuel took a moment to say farewell to us. As is tradition, someone wrote a song about us and the staff sang it. It was touching and cute. To the tune of Frosty the Snowman it began, "Jodi and Douglas..." I was a bit teary a points. They also gave us some lovely Orrefors crystal candle holders and a couple of coffee mugs to encourage us to continue to light candles and have fika. And in classic Swedish tradition, handed me an enormous bouquet of cut Amaryllis. They are absolutely stunning and I'm so thrilled I can enjoy them throughout this season!
Wednesday night we attended a concert at Immanuel that the Hotel Birger Jarl puts on. It was a cool mix of traditional and funky with loads of instruments that included a harmonica, string quartet, mandolin, and various items for percussion. It was a great time!
Although Lucia is traditionally on December 13, when it falls on a Saturday, companies and schools hold their pageants the day before. Early on Friday I walked over to Immanuel and was greeted by the amazing choir of Adolf Fredrik's music school and the glowing candle light of Lucia. Such beauty. 
Then I zipped out to Ikea for a few items and lo and behold, even Ikea was hosting a Lucia concert for their employees! Fun to get in it on a few songs and another Lucia tåg as it is called. (Tåg is train.)
Finally, last night we hosted our annual youth Christmas party. It was filled with fun and laughter. I made my signature hot apple cider and had brownie sundaes for dessert...two fan favorites with this crowd! I discovered I only have one more brownie mix in my cupboard...good timing. Will be so weird when I can just go to the store and get one no longer needing to stock up on them and haul them across the pond!
The kids in our youth groups through the years have always held a special place in our hearts. We love having them and will miss a house filled with the noise and joy of teenagers.
I went to bed last night savoring the joy of a week filled with things that I have loved but will now no longer participate in in quite the same way. While certain things tug at my heart strings, I am so grateful for all the years we've had that mostly I'm just happy to know that these things will be a part of my life, if only in my heart, forever.