Acts of Love

Note: This was originally posted on an old blog of mine over 2 years ago. Today I rediscovered it and felt like reposting it to my current blog. I hope you enjoy. (I took the liberty of doing some editing, mostly for grammatical reasons.)

Love is a choice. I have stated this in a previous blog post, and I still believe it to be true. We decide whether or not we are going to share our love with the people we are surrounded by. Whether that be our friends, co-workers, family, boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse. We can choose to be selfish or we can choose to die to ourselves in order to serve the people we love. That is our choice.

I have been reading a wonderful book called, ‘the Meaning of Marriage’ by Timothy Keller (it is also written by his wife, Kathy, in part) In this book he talks about acts of love, how we can love our partner, even when we don’t feel the love. Then by acting love towards them, our feelings are fueled, and we are somehow able to ‘feel’ the love again. When the feelings are lacking, we rely on our willful choice to still love the other person.

This also translates to our lives with God. We won’t always ‘feel’ God. We won’t always ‘feel’ like reading the Bible, but we do it as an act of love.

Because we love God, not so that he will love us, but because he already has loved us. Even before we loved him.

So we choose, consciously, willfully and with determination to show Him love, even when we don’t feel it. We do this by praying, not because we have to but because we want to talk to our Creator and show him our love. We do it by spending time in the word, not because we have to, but because we want to get to know Him more. We choose to seek him, not just when we feel like it, but even more so when we don’t feel like it, we decide to act out the love that we have for him.

And then in time, the Acts of Love will (most likely) bring back those warm feelings of nearness, love, and acceptance. All the things we ‘feel’ in his presence. Feelings are a fleeting thing, we can’t trust them. They will ebb and flow, just like feelings do. But we commit to walking hand in hand with God. Good and bad. And that it is where the most satisfying interactions are born. In relationship with God, and in relationship with each other.

The ultimate human example is most wondrously displayed in marriage. We let one other person into the inner courts and let them see all the dirty stuff. We decide to love them when we feel the warm and fuzzy stuff, when they do something sweet and we can see only how good they are.

But more importantly we decide to love them when they aren’t perfect. When they fail and need to have forgiveness extended to them. This is where the closest human thing to magic happens. Two people entering a covenant, not because they expect it to me easy all the time, but because they have decided that even when it’s not easy, they are still going to stick around and fight it out. A covenant relationship. Bound to succeed. An impossibility. Yet the truest reality.

Advertisements

Day 22: Saturdays

20140125-163813.jpg

Saturday is our family day, we try not to make too many plans and just take the day to enjoy each other’s company. This morning Michael made a pancake breakfast and afterwards he took me on a date to Starbucks, while my Mom took care of Magnolia. He brought Mr. Michael’s Magic Backpack of Surprises and I was excited to find out what that meant.

20140125-163721.jpg

Before we left Michael and Magnolia cleaned up after breakfast. Once we had gotten Magnolia to sleep and dropped her off at my parents’ house,  we were in the car on our way and Michael revealed the first surprise: the camera, so we could take pictures all day. We like to do that.

20140125-163820.jpg

At Starbucks Michael got a Venti Winter Blend brewed coffee and I had a Grande Skinny White Chocolate Mocha – mine was delicious, Michaels was a little too bitter, at least for me. We sat down and talked like grown-ups without trying to figure out naps or meals. And talked about the future and what we hope for and dream about, in the years to come.

20140125-163839.jpg

And we laughed at my silly milkstach.

20140125-163800.jpg

We were still at Starbucks when Michael pulled out surprise #2 from Mr. Michaels Magic Backpack of Surprises: two books. The one I am currently reading and one of the many that Michael is currently reading. He set a timer for 30 mins and we just sat and read, uninterrupted by anything but our own desire to share quotes from what we were reading. Pure bliss!

20140125-163828.jpg

After that it was time for surprise #3: A Letter. I have at least a dozen handwritten letters from Michael that he has written over the years, and then there are all the blogs and emails. Words are important, and words from the one you love has a special weight to them. Always full of love, dreams and hope for what will one day be.

20140125-163752.jpg

We went to our favorite baby clothing store ‘Next’ and spent a gift card Magnolia got at her Baby Dedication last week, and took a selfie.

20140125-163712.jpg

After picking Magnolia back up we went through my parents’ backyard to cross over the cemetery and head home. Somehow this apple survived the fall and early winter, only to be eaten off the branch by birds.

20140125-163731.jpg

I also had to get a shot of ‘the little house’, because I think in spite of what it is it has a lot of charm. And it blends so well with the other colors.

20140125-163744.jpg

It really is.

Day 16: Celebration

20140119-231054.jpg

Today was the day of Magnolia’s baby dedication. We had the privilege of committing to loving her, sacrificing for her and teaching her about Jesus. It was a great service where Kevin Morgan preached a beautiful sermon on Jesus as the way, the truth and the life, and what that means.

20140119-224854.jpg

Bodil and Kevin asked us a series of questions in both English and Danish to reflect our bilingual family and community culture.

20140119-225106.jpg

We as parents were excited to commit in front of friends and family to raising our daughter in the way of the gospel, treasuring God’s word above all else and keeping Jesus at the centre.

20140119-225354.jpg

This is our friend Sara and her sweet daughter Johanne.

20140119-230141.jpg

Sara is married to Jesper which is why he is also holding Johanne.

20140119-230254.jpg

Gustav, their 4 year old son, asked me to read a book to him, although he already knew the story and told it way ahead of me. I am a godparent to both Gustav and Johanne.

20140119-230458.jpg

On the left is my sister Sille and her son Theodor (believe it or not I am actually his godmother too). On the right is my good friend Anni and her son Kasper. So glad to have them all there today. Although we missed their husbands Martin and John.

20140119-230804.jpg

My cousin Sune also made it out with his parents, my Dad’s sister Marianne and her husband Søren (not pictured). He loves his little second cousins and always asks to hold them and play with them.

20140119-234321.jpg

My sister Ida, her boyfriend Bo and my cousin Kit were there to celebrate with us. Ida actually prepared a large amount of the food for the day and we are so thankful for her.

20140119-234458.jpg

My cousin Kit also brought her fiancée Michael. A fun fact about my family is that on my mother’s side I only have girl cousins and it so happens that we are 5 girls who ended up with the following men; Michael, Michael, Martin, Martin and Bo. I’ll let you decide who is the odd one out.

20140119-234754.jpg

We are so grateful for all the presents Magnolia got. For instance this beautiful (and fun) drawing made by one of my favorite people, Julie.

20140119-235113.jpg

I think Magnolia enjoyed the wrapping more than the presents themselves. But I am sure she will enjoy the pajamas she got when they keep her warm on a cold night. Or the warm clothes on a chilled-to-the-bone kind of winters day.

20140119-235136.jpg

She also quite obviously enjoyed getting some quality time with Anni.

20140119-235409.jpg

And last but not least, she enjoyed every second she got to spend on Mormor’s shoulders pulling her hair. My Mom really gets to take credit for making everything work out today with food and such, she is a powerful planner, an excellent executer and delightful delegator.

Day 15: Songs of Love

IMG_1469

When Michael and I first started dating, he sang me to sleep over Skype every night (If you look closely at the top of the picture you can see it says 2011-11-17, which was 10 days after we started dating). I would literally fall asleep while he was playing his guitar and singing all our favorite songs from Brooke Fraser and Tina Dico or even something he made up on the spot. Sometimes the songs made up on the spot were very touching, other times though they were very silly, like the following line “She works at the craft store, with all the stupid costumers asking for more of her than she gets paid to do”.

Since becoming parents to our beautiful little girl and being in the thick of it, there hasn’t been as much music in our house. Neither the kind that you just listen to or the kind that you make yourself. But last night Michael wrote a new song for me. I was in the kitchen making some hot chocolate for us, and Magnolia was asleep in her room, so Michael seized the moment, grabbed his guitar and started writing.

By the time I came back in the living room, Michael just looked at me and said “I wrote you a song”. He prefaced it by saying how it was all birthed out of  the realization that he doesn’t deserve me. Every day together is a gift and every breath grace. It is all grace. When we wake up together, when we go to sleep together, when we laugh together. Grace. He played the song for me, and it was beautiful.

One of the lines in the chorus of the song goes like this “How can I ever give you more than you’ve given me? How can I love you in the way I have been loved, so strong so unconditionally?”. After he played the song for me, I looked at him with tears in my eyes, and told him that he had it all wrong. He was clearly confused, so I had to clarify: “It’s the other way around, you have given me so much and I could never give you back what I have been given.”

We always said that we wanted a loud house in a quiet place. Whether that be loud with music or with laughter, we want a house that is full of love. Bursting at the seams, and hardly able to contain the joy, love and laughter. Songs bring me joy. Especially when they come from the bottom of the heart of my beloved.

Day 4: My Dad

20140107-213459.jpg

Let me tell you about a guy I know. My first true love.

Growing up, I knew I could always count on him. If I needed a ride, he would give me a ride. If I needed a spider killed, he would kill it. If something was broken, he would fix it. He took me to my gymnastics class, swimming lessons and girl scout meetings (for 8 years!). He even learned how to make fancy pig tales for picture day at school.  I was convinced that there was nothing he could not or would not do for me.

Some people might call it spoiled, I will call it well cared for.

I remember countless hours spent in the car with him, talking about life, sharing my heart, or listening to country music while driving the 70 kilometers (43ish miles) either to drop me off or pick me up from boarding school. I didn’t even have to ask, he just offered, it was his favorite time; 49 uninterrupted minutes with his daughter (he had done the same with my older sister the year before and did the same for my younger sister a few years later).

Another thing about my Dad you should know is, I have always been completely convinced of his unending love for my Mom. It was always evident to me, from his emptying and refilling the dishwasher or running and folding a billion loads of laundry or vacuuming the whole house (all 3,230 sq ft of it) to seeing them embrace, kiss softly or exchanging tender words and looks.

He gave me hope that men like that exist. Someone who is willing to empty themselves for their family. Work hard, play hard and love hard. My Dad set an example; something to look for in a potential husband. I pray that my girl(s) grow up and see that same something in their Dad, the way I did in mine and the way I do in theirs.

Yes, my Dad spoiled me. He really spoiled me for good one time when we were watching the movie “the Wedding Singer”. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading and go watch the movie (it’s probably on netflix). I must have seen it a hundred times, but this time was different because my Dad watched it with the rest of the family; my mom, my sisters and me.

He had passed through the living room at some point in the movie, headed for his office, and he had stopped for a couple of minutes because he had heard something that sparked his interest (back then, this is mostly how my Dad watched TV; standing up in the middle of the living room). After having stood there for probably a good 15 minutes, my Mom told him to just have a seat, so he did, and he stayed till the end of the movie.

Again if you’ve never seen the movie stop reading, I am about to spoil the ending.

Robbie is in love with Julia. Julia is about to marry Glenn. Glenn is in love with himself. Julia is in love with Robbie but she doesn’t quite realize it yet. Julia and Glenn are on a plane to Las Vegas. So is Robbie. He surprises Julia with a song. This is the song:

And that’s when it happened, my Dad looked at us girls and said “Never settle for less than that”. I was ruined forever. He told me never to settle. Never settle in love. Don’t excuse bad behavior, don’t excuse lack of interest, don’t excuse lack of commitment. And never, never settle for someone who doesn’t love you the way you ought to be loved. With reckless abandon. With their whole heart. With no regrets.

I think I speak on behalf of my Dad, when I say that I have indeed found that. That someone that I’m not settling by being with. Whom I can and must trust with my whole heart. Every day for the rest of my life.

Happy birthday, Dad!

Day 2: These Two

20140105-202925.jpg

They just make my heart rejoice.

On the right you have my daughter Magnolia Rose, and on the left is Nova Lydia, some of our best friends’ daughter. These two were born 4.5 months apart and it is only in the last few weeks that they have started really being able to play together.

Bodil and Kevin Morgan are dear, dear friends of ours. Somehow all four of us got to know the other three independent of one another a few years ago, and “somehow” we all ended up living in Denmark. Before Denmark though we all four lived together in an apartment in Sweden while simultaneously going through pregnancies, Danish immigration processes, and the isolation of living in a country that is not quite home.

Now Kevin and Michael are planting a church together (with us wives along for the ride of course). We are still celebrating the victories and praying through the struggles, just like we did in our apartment on Lilla Kvarngatan over a year ago.

They are our comrades in arms.

Even before the girls were born, we were dreaming about them growing up as best friends. I mean, how often do you have the privilege of being the pastor’s kids without being siblings? Doesn’t that make for best friend material? I think so. And it has been so much fun to see little glimpses of that in the past few weeks. Nova’s face lighting up when she sees Magnolia, trying to hug her or taste her forehead. Magnolia pulling Nova’s hair, or yanking on her clothes trying to stand up or crawling after Nova as she “runs” off with the best toy.

They are destined for great adventures together. I can’t wait.

And they have only just begun.

365 Days of Joy

IMG_1237

It’s a new year and with that comes new beginnings, resolutions and habits. I have dedicated the year of 2014  to action-taking, more doing and less talking about doing. I want to make more, produce more and love more. In order to do this, I have had to give myself a rather large figurative kick in the behind.

Two months ago, I started this blog with an ambition to start writing again. In the past two months since the initial post I have written exactly zero posts for the blog, which is quite sad. 2013 has been a year of giving up too easily and not giving grace; to myself, to my husband or to my daughter, and it has made me frustrated and bitter. I have had to learn the hard way that being a Mom doesn’t mean you can’t do what you used to do before having a baby, it just means it takes longer.

Take this as an example: I’m not sure why, but in our house somehow everything ends up in stacks and piles and then other things get stacked on top of it. Before you know it you have a stack that contains anything from bills, sermon notes, and first-aid-class-certificates to baby socks, DVDs, and picture frames all sitting on top of the basket of yarn and whatever-else-fit-in-the-basket over in the corner (hypothetically speaking of course). And the more time that goes by, the less I see it, and the easier it is to ignore. Especially because I know that if I start sorting, chances are that when I am about halfway through the sorting and the mess is at it’s peak, my daughter is going to wake up from her nap and need my attention. So I don’t even start.

The other day I pulled out one of these stacks and started sorting. Sure I was mildly interrupted by some food making and baby cheek kissing, but if I add up the time I actually spent sorting, I don’t think it took more than 15-20 mins. That’s it. I even got all of our binders of important papers sorted too. And it felt so good!

There is a strange satisfaction in setting goals and reaching them, that I think is healthy for the heart and the soul, because we are reflecting our Creator when we create. We are glorifying Him when we enjoy the life we have been given by Him. I want to be more thankful because thankful hearts are lighter hearts, lighter hearts are happier hearts and happy hearts enjoy life more.

And now we are finally getting to what made me write this blog post in the first place.

I recently came across a project that Hailey Bartholomew  did back in 2008 called 365grateful. She had been struggling with depression and as an effort to fight it, she took a photo of something she was grateful for every single day. Day by day she noticed all these beautiful things that otherwise would have just gone unnoticed.

“The discipline of having to look for the good things that happened every day changed her life in so many ways. Hailey found not only her marriage, spiritual life and health improved, but this project accidentally, wondrously spread and affected the lives of many others.”

If you follow either link above, you will find a short video where Hailey shares more about how the project affected her, and I would encourage you to watch it. It is quite inspiring. To sum up, it made her see her husband in a new light, she noticed things she hadn’t before, and she all in all became a happier person.

So I have decided to do something similar, except I am calling it something different (as the headline indicates) and I am not staying within the borders of photography. Some days I will be sharing stories, others a picture, or even a prayer. And hopefully my little project 365 Days of Joy will have a similar effect on my life as it did on Hailey’s. I am hoping to bring back the fairytale to my marriage, reclaim the butterflies, store memories so they won’t be forgotten, and document every step of my journey to becoming a happier, more whole person.

If you feel inspired, join me. If you just want to follow my journey, follow me.

365 Days of Joy begins today.

I used to write.

I used to write. I used to blog. And I used to enjoy it quite a bit. There is something profound about writing, letting your fingers do the talking rather than your tongue. I guess that it is the ‘more-well-paced-than-talking’, and that it requires a measure of self-control that I like to think I still possess, that is so compelling to me. I used to write and I want to write again.

This time I want it to be much more serious. I think. Back when Michael and I had just started dating, I had a blog that I would occasionally post on, and I once told him that I just ‘blurt out words’, I did very little if any editing and most of what ended up in a post was just flow of heart and letting my fingers do the work.

This time around, I still want to share my heart, but I want more purpose, more direction and less fluff. I want my posts to mean something, rather than just be a few paragraphs of random thoughts thrown out into the nothingness of the internet, with the faint hope that someone would read it (as it turns out, Michael always did) and that it somehow would mean something.

I want to share what I am learning about life, about God, about my walk with Jesus. I want to document my life, and our life as a family in word and in photograph. I want to recount the story of how Michael and I came to be, and every beautiful step of the journey since. I want to tell stories about and share pictures of my beautiful daughter Magnolia Rose, who is jut 5 months old. I want to be able to look back on the late nights, the frustrations and how, by God’s grace, I overcame them and were better for it. And I want to do it because I can, and because I want to, not because I think it makes me cool.

This will be my space. To share, encourage, maybe challenge and dream big. To display photos of all things lovely and beautiful; sunsets, leaves, coffee and smiles. To store memories as I am making them with Michael and Magnolia.

I used to write and now I am writing again.