Little did I know what was ahead of me that night before my wedding. The dress and veil I had made on a ship, starred at me from a hook on the wall as I snuggled down for the last time into my single bed. Soon I'd wake up to a world of unknowns.
God held the rain back for most of our wedding the next day. Friends and family from around the world filed into their seats in that large white tent surrounded by towering beautiful Spanish mountains. I sat alone in a nearby building until my dad walked in to get me. He shot me a smile that melted my heart and I proudly took his arm. We were soon walking down the isle.
There he was up front. My husband-to-be stood peacefully smiling and waiting for me. This was it. I was leaving all that I knew and committing to a life with someone I hadn't known for long. I was in God's hands though. I didn't know the future, but God did. I could make this huge decision, not because I was "in love", but because I trusted the God we both followed. My peace lied far above that guy at the altar or anything that was happening that day.
With rice still in my dress and flowers on our windshield, we drove away in pouring rain. I must have been quite the sight when we stopped for gas on the way to the hotel. Holding up my muddy dress tail, I ran into the store to get a bottle of water. Standing at the cash register looking like a runaway bride, I happily told everyone in the store l that I had just gotten married. Soon we arrived to the hotel and to a couple of days filled with memories as I showed my new husband my old stomping grounds. We walked the streets, I told him stories, and we had "café con leches" at local bars. It was amazing.
Three days later, we embarked on the first big chapter of our life together as we nestled into a Swedish second story apartment. I began decorating as best I could on a few things I could find for free or at the local second hand store. Our coffee table was a box with a piece of wood on top of it (we could only set things on it in the middle so it didn't tip). A cute little old napkin held a used candle at the center of it. Under it all was a blanket turned into a rug, bringing it all together into what seemed to be the most perfect little living room in the whole world to me. I didn't care that pillows were all we had for a sofa. It was home. Our home. It was perfect.
It was perfect until one morning at 2 am, when suddenly we were awakened by blood curdling screams from the apartment below. The police told us it was a special needs lady. Sweden wanted special needs people to be able to live among society and experience life as normal as possible. The screaming went off and on for hours, days, and weeks. Life was not normal for us. Every night we knew the screaming could start. The town finally decided to put a sound barrier between her apartment and ours to muffle the sound, but by then we had decided to move when I became pregnant.
Yes, it sure was in a different country. Even local food stores were a challenge to me. I hadn't expected the hardships of not knowing what food was or not being able to understand the recipes on the back of the boxes. I was lost. Then the cold of winter arrived, and with it a complete and sudden change of culture around me. In all my travels, I've never experienced something like it. I guess the gripping, stinging, breath-taking, life-stopping cold, just changes how people interact on the street. They need to save their breath maybe. When once the Swedes would smile and say hello, now they looked away and walked on by.
A baby added a new mix to my experience! She was born a couple of weeks before our first anniversary. One doesn't think about the cultural differences of raising children. Not only was I surrounded by a different mindset, I also had a whole set of in laws and new family from a different culture that had their ideas on how to raise a child. For example, I learned that I was to bundle my one month old baby up in sheep skin, put her in the stroller, and leave her outside on our street access front porch in -25 degree weather. "The fresh air was good for her" they said. I would keep a baby monitor near her so I could hear if she cried (or if anyone stole her) and occasionally go out to feel her neck to confirm she was warm (and alive).
Having babies in 3 different cultures has given me the rich opportunity to learn so much from each, building a treasure chest of knowledge I've been privileged to carry with me.
Intense studies had started the day after we landed in Sweden. One morning our first week of being married, I heard strange noises coming from the bathroom. Cautiously, I approached the door and knocked. Turns out, he was in the bathtub, flipping his Greek and Hebrew cards and practicing for a test he had the next day. My husband loved digging through the Bible, but we learned something important that year. There was one thing we did not want to do. We did not want to just believe whatever we were told, but rather always go back to the Bible together and figure out what it said. Pontus would come back from seminary with questions and we'd study hard together. Sometimes we felt alone in our stand, but we held the Bible as the authority in our lives, not just from what we heard from professors. The Bible as our authority is something we've held strong no matter what we've done in life.
Seminary wasn't enough for Pontus though. He wanted to do more than just study. He wanted to apply what he was learning. He got involved with different project and also started a couple, one of which was an English speaking Bible study for students from a large local university.
One day we put up a notice on the university board one day that read: "Coffee & Bible in English". Two students came the first week, one from Canada and from from Finland. Soon we had 30 students coming every week. Pontus would give a Bible study and then we'd all break up into groups to discuss it. As usual, we'd always finish with Swedish coffee and deserts. Swedes started wanting to attend as well, but we didn't have room, so we asked it to remain international. We regret that now, wishing we would have allowed it to grow more. We never stopped meeting though, not even the week Keila was born. Just a couple of days old and our house was full again. Everyone took turns holding our new little precious blue eyed bundle of joy.
One of the things Pontus and I learned while reaching out to this group was to pray as a couple. A lot! We always prayed together for direction, for help, and for all kinds of things, but this group added a new dimension. Every time we would hold Bible studies in our home, something strange would happen that day. All darkness would reign down on us whole day until after the meeting. Things would go wrong, we'd get into fights, and we'd want to give up. When the meeting was done, all darkness would be gone until the next week. We've experienced this ever since. Any time we have anything to do with sharing about God with people, things happen that are explainable and we've learned that prayer is a powerful weapon. As a family, and our kids know this well, we pray... a lot.
I wish I had time to share all the stories of God was using to teach us to trust in Him that first year, but here's one: We were offered a free car one day. Trying to do seminary with no loans made money scarce, we were scared to take it, but we prayed together and decided God wanted us to have it. With that car, Pontus could accept to help a local church who had reached out to him. They had no pastor and needed help.
We trusted God and accepted the car. Soon after though, our brakes gave out and we couldn't afford to buy used ones at the dump. We prayed about it again and felt God wanted us to get the brakes anyway, so using the little food money we had left, we went anyway to the dump and got some brakes. They cost us 500 crowns ($50). When we got back home, there was something in our mailbox. It was an envelope with no name on it. We opened it. It had a bill of 500 crowns in it. No one had known about our dilemma. No one except God.
The things we learned that first year of marriage have been the pillars to the way Pontus and I do life together: seeking God together, praying together, reading the Bible together, and doing what God wants even when it doesn't make sense at the time.
Born and raised in Spain to American parents, Becky left home when she was fourteen to attend a Canadian boarding school in Germany. Since then, she has traveled over thirty countries and lived in four of them. Becky met her Swedish husband while working on a ship in Mexico, got engaged at the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, married in Spain, moved to Sweden, and now lives in North Carolina with her husband and their four children. She invites you to travel with her through the journeys life has taken her.
We caught our 2 year old singing away and being thankful!
The First Christmas
A video I made once, performed and narrated by the kids from a church we were part of in Arizona.