Follow Me to Finland-Part 5

I got the blues, Salo youth conference, and pink fingernails

(To be sung to the tune of “I got the blues”) I got the blues (duh dum duh dum) I got the blues (duh dum duh dum) I got the sitting on the couch feeling sorry for myself cuz I’m still single blu-uuus!!!!

Ok, so snap out of it already!  I had a moment.  Not feeling chosen.  Girls, are we all like this?  And married ladies, do you ever not feel chosen?  Hard to fathom, because in the mindset of the single lady we think “once HE comes and chooses me I will feel chosen every minute of my life.” A friend on facebook just reminded me in her response to my fb blues:

“you were chosen you express the incredible love of our papa to many many people in finland for 6 weeks…thats pretty wonderful favour…YOU were chosen..you are. your heart wanted and invited and accepted and received… CHOSEN  Embrace such liberty…for now it is Father gift to you… he desires to have all of you and consume your heart so it is a well watered garden fragrant with the liz scent he created that you can be his love gift to a chosen one!!!”

How quickly I forget!  Here I am in FINLAND.  Finland?  I was given the gift of a life-time.  Six weeks with my dear friend Maiju.  A free flight.  New friendships made.  Older ones re-kindled.  The gift of facing one of my biggest fears–public speaking and microphones–and actually ENJOYING the experience of sharing my heart and my story.  Entering into something new in my true identity. And having a slight pity party because I’m not chosen.  Silly me.  =)  Father, thank you that you just laugh when I have my little tantrums.

Let’s talk about this past weekend.  The youth conference in Salo, Finland.
Never been on one of these before! =)
Road trip with the girls! (Maiju in shades, Reija-driver)
ABC!  Favorite gas station and food stop in Finland.
Lunch is served!  Legendary Salo sausages.  Modeling, or..windy day?

 

Legendary lunch with friends. Jaakko (speaks 6 languages), Reija, the American, Maiju (my very own Finnish interpreter!), and Pekka

These outside shots taken on day 1–Spoke on identity that night. Day 2

Tiina and Toivo.  Toivo means “hope”.  Tiina reminded me that when I met her a month ago and she told me her son’s name I exclaimed “Hope! One of my favorite words.”  Not only this, is he not the most edible thing you ever laid eyes on????
Tiina’s hands with my hands.  Loving her expertise!  She gave me gorgeous pink fingernails for teaching #2.
Day 2-Hope vs. Expectations (and the Goodness of God).  Lots and lots of stories.
The Liz and her gorgeous and lovely interpreter.  Can you tell we are having fun?????
Hooray for tech support!  Daniel was amazing and so helpful.  It was a cinch to him to take 3 of my video clips (from movies) and add Finnish subtitles.  No technology glitches here!  Thanks so much for your help!

 

Finally! Lunch.  Tiina abducts me and we sneak away for something delicious.
Anna!  (Tiina’s sister).  What a treat to meet this beautiful sister.  She laughed at my stories. I feel funny around her.  We all need to feel funny.  Thanks Anna =)
No need to leave my heart in Finland.  Atleast not this heart with Finnish chocolates.

Salo.  All in all it was an incredible weekend on every level.

Highlights:
1) My Finnish interpreter
2) Free coffee
3) Getting to see the two sisters again.  And Toivo =)
4) An atmosphere where the love of the Father is prevalent.
5) Seeing teens and youth really taking in that they are the apple of their Daddy’s eye.
6) Road trip through Finland’s countryside.
7)After teaching #1 a man comes up to me and since I had mentioned the sauna (jokingly) he tells me there’s a saying in Finland that the women are more beautiful after they go to the sauna.  I just laughed.
8) Pink fingernails.
9) Daniel’s savvy with lights and video.
10) Did I mention free coffee????

Follow Me to Finland-Part 4

Just another day in Helsinki

Two town girls visit the city .   My friend forgot to mention she isn’t a city girl and rarely takes the train.  How was I to know?   I’m sure we stood out. How can a 5’3″ American amongst a people of stature walk next to a dazed Finnish girl (both speaking English) and stand a chance of blending in? When I enter a big city, I tend to slow down.  The world is racing past (literally) and I become Sid the Sloth.  Not on purpose.  It’s just stimulation overload.  Nearly got run over in NYC a few years back.

Monday. Helsinki. Capitol of Finland.  SO much fun.  We took the hour train ride and started with lunch. That’s pretty typical of us.  As long as the day included food and coffee we were set.  Anything more would be a bonus.

We started at the food mall, choosing a place that served pita type sandwiches.  Except for not knowing how to use my credit card (different kinds of machines in Finland, I promise) and staring at the man who was actually speaking English but with a hard to decipher accent, I did ok. Check one.
A bit of shopping afterwards.  But here’s where the fun starting revving up.  Unsuspecting, we were approaching her. The girl who would add an element of the “random” to my day.
This was my conversation with Maiju before heading out the door in the morning.
“Maiju, I can’t find my fingernail clippers ANYWHERE!  My nails are chipped and need kindness.  I hope no one notices.” (She couldn’t find hers either).
Back to the girl.  She approaches me (on the left) full force and begins her speech.  I realize immediately I’ve been intercepted.  She sniffed out my “foreign-ness” a mile a way.  Within minutes I learned she is an Israeli Jew selling products from the Dead Sea.  I didn’t stand a chance.  What does she do?  She grabs my hand and takes out her fingernail buffer.  This girl is buffing away at one of my raggedy fingernails (which I had silently prayed no one would notice). I’m not exaggerating, she actually went to town.  Explaining about my cuticles and how to take care of my nails (humiliation!) with these

products she wants to sell me.  I’m starting to laugh and cry and she’s enjoying it.  I also learn while she’s carving away that she is half hispanic and half Israeli.  That would explain the completely extroverted warm temperament.

Maiju?  Does she help?  No way!  She reaches into my purse and starts taking pictures.  Long story short.  I bought two of what she was selling for the price of one.  I was sold before I knew what hit me. Then there were hugs, I told her I know my Hebrew name, Elisheva–which I have no clue if that’s how it is spelled.
Needing Coffee

Coffee Shopping.

And….sightseeing

Other highlight of the day.

 

The tram. This is the little train that runs through the city.  Public transportation at its best.  But remember, I move in slow motion when others are in a hurry.  We were to catch the tram.  Suddenly Maiju yells, “That’s our tram” and takes off running.  I’m not prepared to run, but I don’t want to be left behind.  We jump on and then I’m frantically trying to count my Euros which I’m still getting used to.  People are waiting to board behind me and I’m all flustered.  I didn’t have time to “prepare”.  Apparently, the tram driver was really irritated and was being extremely rude.  I’m glad I don’t understand Finnish.  He was not a nice man.

 

Then to top that off, we were to look for the numbers on the buildings.  Maiju told me 57.  Ok, I can do this.  Well, we get dropped off around 62.  Even numbers on our left.  Odds on our right.  Then Maiju says “oh nooooooooo! We should have been looking at the other side of the street.  We are only on 15.”  I know.  It doesn’t make sense.  So, we stood on a teeny patch of sidewalk with cars racing past us on both sides and I looked over at the restaurant near us.  Gringos Locos (Crazy Americans).  No joke.  I thought “hmmm…that’s appropriate.”  I realized it’s more american to want to ask for help so I told Maiju “call Jaakko and tell him that this crazy american wants him to pick us up RIGHT NOW. I don’t care if he’s in a meeting. I’M FREAKING OUT!”  Ha ha.. I was calm within a few minutes.  I just needed to rant.  Well, we made it to our intended destination, enjoyed good company and Indian food with Jaakko and Jeff. Time to leave.

 

Back to the tram.  We saw it go past and she does it again.  Maiju takes off running!  This is getting to be a pattern, I notice, so what can I do but run after her?  And it’s raining.  I was envisioning myself wiping out and getting run over by a tram.  Needless to say, we did leave Helsinki that night and made it back alive.  Good times.

Follow Me to Finland-Part 3

First morning in Finland

I left you at the Chicago airport!  Hope you don’t mind.  It’s just that I’ve been having such a grand time, how do I stop to write about it?  Here are a few highlights for your enjoyment.

Thank God for coffee! Second day in Finland.

 

Typical Easter decor
Easter lunch with Maiju’s parents.  Her dad LOVES videography.  I had a meltdown.  Hilarious!

Easter Eve.  Outdoor Easter pageant where the crowd walked through the city of Lahti “following” the story  of Jesus from Palm Sunday through to the resurrection.  We saw donkeys, Finnish disciples, and curious spectators.  Did you know that Jesus speaks Finnish?  Well, he does.  Oh, and it was excessively cold.  My smile is frozen.                                         

     A walk in the park.  On Easter Sunday. No kidding.
Finnish cuisine.  Some sort of fish, steamed veggies, bread, and some sort of beet. Yum.

Last day of Father-heart “A” school.  Amazing first week in Suomi.
Menske and Arend.  Two amazing new friends from Holland. Arend means “Eagle”.
Pekka (front) and Jeff.  Heading up the schools.  Pekka has an amazing Father’s heart.  We get to communicate through an interpreter, but his heart speaks pretty clearly, so language is less of an issue.  Jeff? One of the funniest guys I have ever met.  Classic English humor.  He feels like an old friend. I laughed more in one week than maybe my entire life combined!  So appreciate these two men.
Loving this.  It’s not what I do. It is who I am! I am defined by who I belong to.
Maiju in desperate need of caffeine.  I had been telling my life story 😉
Next to the frozen harbor.  We won’t shrink back and stay indoors.

Follow Me to Finland-Part 2

 Frantic Departures

I’m at Chicago airport trying out different seats at my gate.  K12.  Hoping to pick up an internet connection so I can wow you guys with my technological savvy.  Oh well.  You will probably read this long after I land in London or possibly even when I get to Helsinki, Finland.  Heck, you may get this at the end of my 6 weeks there 😉
Just so you know, I left Knoxville today (April 3) at 12:30.  And unless the tornados in Dallas affect my flight out of Chicago, I will arrive in Helsinki 4:50 pm on April 4.
First leg of Trip-TYS (Knoxville to Chicago)

Today was hilarious.  I don’t hide the fact that I’m strongly introverted. I love people, I love my friends.  But don’t stick me in noisy places for long periods of time or remove my privacy for great periods or I change. I get frustrated. Antsy.  An angry edge to my tone.  It’s like my insides scream “I NEED CLASSICAL MUSIC AND A  VIEW OF A ROLLING HILL (preferably in Ireland) TO CALM MY INNER COMPASS.”

Well, I wasn’t acting like the introvert this morning.  After my morning walk to release any extra adrenaline before travel, I was racing through the house barking orders.  Clomp clomp clomp.  BAM! (Doors slamming).  Sweating profusely.  Freaking out about leaving a few minutes after my desired departure time.  My parents were so chilled out which made me want to act even more crazed.  Up and down the steps.  Hair expanding in the humidity.  A slight meltdown.  Mom reminded me to stay under the covering of Father’s wings (basically, calm down!).  Dad was trying to crack jokes.  I didn’t smile.  I told them that though they do frantic trips out the door when they travel, I like to show up at my gate unhurried and happy.  Then I nearly start crying while telling Dad that I have to travel alone and there isn’t any man in my life to help me out of a fix if I show up late at the airport.  He gently reminds me that I don’t travel alone but Father is with me.  My response: “Will He carry my suitcases for me???”  Ha ha.. wow, I was a mess.  I think it was my Zyrtec allergy medicine.  Just think what I would have been like WITHOUT my morning walk!

 

Stay tuned for more.  When I can think straight and jet lag is gone, I will start telling you about Finland.
Until then…
(Written a day ago! I’m now on Finnish soil!)

Follow Me to Finland-Part 1

I’m going to Finland. A month from today.

Why Finland?

Psalm 71:16
I will go in the strength of the Lord God. I will proclaim your goodness, yours alone.

THIS IS MORE THAN EXOTIC GETAWAY

It’s about the goodness of God. Huh? Would you do me the honor of a little trip into my heart over the past year? I think it will become clear to you as you allow me to open my experience to you.

2011- What a year! I lived in three different homes, experienced tons of transition, and went to a level of disappointment and hopelessness I intend not to repeat if I have the option. I experienced the roller-coaster of having lots of need and little faith as to how God would come through. I had the joy of watching others be an expression of God’s faithfulness to me, but I admit that the journey was often without a thankful heart and with stress weighing on my emotions and affecting me physically. To try to capture last year in a short space is a challenge but I only want to go there for a brief time with you because this is merely a snapshot to capture where I was and show you how faithful God has been to me.

I brought in the new year (2012) with some close friends in North Carolina. We thought it would be fun to list all the disappointments, setbacks, heartaches, unmet expectations of 2011 (or at least those we could recall) and then burn them as a symbol of forgetting them and leaving them in the past. Then we wrote everything that we loved, appreciated, were thankful for in the year. (So as to not forget that it wasn’t all bad, but there were many blessing to be aware of as well.)

The third list that we worked on the following night was a bit tougher for me. I could easily recall the good and the rough from 2011, but this list was going to challenge me.

The dream list. What I am asking for and desiring for this year. 2012. Phew. After reading about 2011, you can imagine how I sat and stared at my blank page. “God, I want to believe, but every time I attempt to write what I desire, thoughts of hopelessness–it’s never gonna happen–why should I believe– taunt me.” Even thoughts of how ludicrous this is and how it’s not going to change anything. Me, a pen, and paper. How can that possibly affect my year? Hmmm..

Ok, so I interrupted my flow of negative thinking and confessed this to my friends. I told my friends the truth. Roots of cynicism, unbelief, doubt and fear were entangled with my desire to see new things in my life. We prayed. We took time to bring these things before our Father. To confess them. To ask Him to open us up once again to His goodness. Open our hearts, Father. Don’t let negativity steal from us, keeping us from telling you what the dreams are in our hearts. It was good. It was freeing to finally realize that the past year really had affected me. I guess in all the changes and disappointments of the year, I hadn’t really given much time to “take my pulse”. This attempt at a dream list really showed me where I had been dwelling internally.

On returning home, I began to feel a change inside. An openness. The possibilities seemed possible. The desire to see God move in my life in a way that I can clearly say “THIS WAS GOD” began to grow. It seems as if God was looking for ways to encourage me. I began to receive words of encouragement from friends, teachings about the goodness of God began to be sent my way, and testimonies of God’s open doors in my friends’ lives began to grow my own faith.

Something began to wake up inside of me. The lights were turned on. I realized it’s not that God is limited in what He can do. It was more that I put limitations on Him and asked for things way below His ability to pour out his abundance in my life. I was asking too small. All He needed from me is a YES! Yes, Father I’m open to anything you want to do. Yes, Father I surrender to your dreams over my life. The yes in my heart and a heart that refused to close down again and surrender to negativity and hopelessness–this was the open door. I never knew it was so simple. You mean, I really can do nothing in my own power? It’s simply having a heart that is wide open to receive and a Father who is waiting to reveal himself in my life and circumstances?

By the way, here are two things that I wrote (verbatim) on that dream list:
1. Finland
2. Face time with Maiju (I was speaking of wanting to see her in person. Read on to find out who Maiju is and how she is connected with Finland.)

NOW READ HOW JUST A WEEK OR SO AFTER I MADE THE LIST, THE AMAZING OPPORTUNITY THAT CAME MY WAY.

THE STORY BEHIND FINLAND
To be honest, I never gave much thought to Finland one way or the other. Not until I met (now) one of my dearest friends from Finland. Maiju (pronounced: my-you). We met at the first 3 month Fatherheart school (in NZ) I attended in 2008. After having a bit of a geography lesson, I can proudly find it on the map situated snuggly between Sweden and Russia. So the expression “so-and-so put a certain place on the map” is quite accurate in this situation.

Maiju and Me in New Zealand

A friendship was forged. Then in 2009, we both found ourselves returning to NZ to be involved in the second Fatherheart school. After 3 months of school, we were travel buddies, enjoying the land and leisurely seeing some of the sights. We are kindred spirits.

Since meeting, we’ve been scheming. These schemes go something like this; “How can we find a way to live near each other? Or at the least, see each other frequently?” Last year we began brainstorming the possibilities of my spending a year there. We have been dreaming and putting it before our Father (who happens to be really really GOOD). We know He takes our desires to heart. In early January, we were expressing that desire again when Maiju had this fabulous idea. Long story VERY short, I am now going to spend 6 weeks in Finland (a country I couldn’t even locate a few years ago). Apr.3-May 16. I’m still in slight shock how fast this has come together. Without going into lengthy detail, Maiju works closely with friends who have a heart to see others know the Father’s love. They hold yearly (plus) meetings/conferences as an on-ramp for this. Well, Maiju’s inquiries led to an open door for me to speak at a couple of youth conferences. Though it would be a gross understatement to say speaking in a foreign land (translator and all) will be stretching to my personality, something draws me out of my comfort zone. It’s the desire to let people know the kind of Dad that I have—to share the goodness of God in MY life and to tell others what He is like. Not just in my own life, but who we wants to be for them. Six weeks in Finland with my dear friend and getting to watch what the Father does. He has so effortlessly pulled all these pieces together. I feel such grace and the Father’s pleasure over this trip.

Ephesians 1:18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

I’ve spent over a month wondering how to share this story with you. This is more than a trip to Finland. Yes, it’s super exciting, highly random, and just plain fun. But the deepest desire is that you…YOU would know this God who is good to all. I wanted to let you into my heart so you wouldn’t just read about a trip to Finland, but something in your own heart would dare to begin to open up to a Father who really does the impossible. YOU! It’s not really about anything I did to make things happen. God is good. He’s just good!!! And He is good to all regardless of their setbacks or the condition of their heart. It’s only our limiting Him that keeps us from receiving all He is ready to pour out onto us.

He will not stop being good to us. I wonder at all the surprises in store. And I’m confident that He will never change in His nature. He won’t wake tomorrow and be evil God. Moody and unpredictable. LIfe is rarely predictable, but GOD is never changing in His nature.

James 1:17
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

FOLLOW ME TO FINLAND
This is the first of several blogs to come where I will unfold my journey to Finland. This blog entry is a teaser; the introduction to why I’m going and God’s activity in setting the entire trip in motion. It will be fun to let you in on the journey while I’m actually on Finnish soil, so be sure to watch my blog for updates. I can imagine that there will be many funny scenarios and cross-cultural entertainment that you won’t want to miss!