Monday, February 2, 2015

Holiday Adventures and the After Christmas Blues

I am not a fan of winter. I don't think I will ever like cold short days and long dark nights. And really, I shouldn't complain because this has been the best winter I have experienced in Denmark. But still, the dark days can add to the feeling of low energy. I miss my sunshine....

December was a busy month. The nice thing about December is that it's the holiday time. So, you do not notice all of the darkness. Everything is "hyggeligt." There are candles and lights everywhere, the holiday smells and sights fill every the entire city. Everyone is in good spirits. Danes know how to do holidays right. Always full of tradition and family and friends.

I had another Danish Christmas this year. It was a nice time with friends and adopted family. I got to experience more traditions- good food, lots of laughs, and some dancing around the Christmas tree. It was a nice second place, when I can not be with my family.

During the Christmas break in the cafe I took a trip to Poland. I visited Poznan. We calculated that it must have been about 4 years since I was last in Poznan. I had not returned there after I moved to Krakow. There was something familiar, yet so foreign to return there. In a lot of ways all the sights and feel of the city was so normal and so easy for me to adapt back too. But, I have lost the little of the language I knew and all of the sounds around me had me feeling out of place. But, the best thing about the visit was that I got to stay with one of my best friends. And it has been years since we have been together! We got to be lazy and rest and enjoy just sharing our lives together again. It was the getaway I needed.

New Years came and went in a blur of laughter, dancing, and friends. We had a very cheesy dinner and then joined a church party with a lot of young people. I got to "jump" into the new year and light some big sparklers! Being a deprived Californian, I did not have much of a chance to set off fireworks. I completely enjoy them every year and this year, in the city, I got to experience the explosions days before and after the new year.

January has brought a month of changes in the cafe. We have readjusted to new workers, new volunteers, and new responsibilities. It has taken time to get into a new flow. But, I think we have finally found a system the regular workers are comfortable with. We have had some awesome events. We had a very yummy Girls Night In last week filled with yummy chocolate fondue, and yes chocolate oreos are awesome dipped in fondue. A couple of weeks ago we had a great game night. It was a lot of fun. We had a wonderful time of competition and teasing. Things are going well and we are keeping really busy. January has been a good month to get us back on the right track. If only it was not so gloomy outside....

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Season of Advent

The days are getting shorter and shorter, while the nights become long. This first part of winter in Denmark is known as the “cozy” time. Homes and cafes are aglow with candles and Christmas lights. Friends and family gather to share some warmth. Our café is no exception. We have decorated and filled the café with Christmas. We are getting ready for the next two weeks that promise to be crazy busy with the final work before we close for Christmas. I am especially excited to a part of all the parties this next week, even if it means working crazy hours.

November brought us a number of good weeks. We have finally hired some extra help. We have a volunteer that we hired to work 20 hours a week, the time our manager is not allowed to work. It has helped relieve stress in the kitchen. We are still getting new volunteers every week. It’s nice to have so many people interested in helping, but it is also hard to train new people almost everyday. It feels like we are always training people and are lacking help from volunteers that are trained. But, each new volunteer is a new connection and a new chance to witness.

We have entered the advent season. A time of waiting, and preparing for the gift that is to come. I think that is where our cafe is at as well. There have been rumors and talks of changes. Different uncertainties talked about between us all. What is the future going to hold? Are we going to make it? There is so little energy left heading into these last few weeks before our Christmas holidays. And then after the holidays, what will happen? A time of waiting, waiting to see where God is going to lead us. Personally, this fall has challenged me to look my call to this cafe right in the face and choose to respond, no matter what dreams, or hopes are taken way, no matter how much physical or emotional pain I face, I will remain faithful to the call. And now in the start of advent when we think about the future promises I am reminded why I have to make those decisions. Because we can not truly receive all of God's promises if we do not empty all of our self out first. I must give-up everything to truly experience all that God has in store for me. And I think that is where God is taking this cafe.  We have been pushed and challenged to look at what we are doing and why. We have been challenged to consider and learn where God is calling each of us. And now we enter a time of waiting. A time where the future is unknown. But, as we continue to remain faithful, God will bring about His future, His plans, and His promises. We just need to continue to prayfully wait in this advent season, for the promise of God. May we all receive the true gift of God's love and God's revival in our hearts and churches, after this time of waiting in the darkness.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Life Keeps Happening

Every time I try to write an update I feel like there is so much to write, yet not enough… It seems there is always something happening in the café. Today I looked at my calendar to try and put the next few weeks into perspective and I thought, wow how I am going to do so much. But, isn't that a great thing? That we have so much life in the café that we are having a hard time keeping up?! Our holiday season is starting and we have events and a concert and parties galore scheduled.  Many opportunities to connect with people and make a difference.

I have started having weekly Danish lessons. I have a private teacher that is meeting me once a week in the café. This provides a new challenge for me. But, I am glad that I have a teacher that will work with me one on one and will go at a pace slow enough for me to understand. After all, learning languages is not exactly my gift.

I had an interesting experience with a customer this past week. A woman came in and recognized me and I wasn't sure how I knew her. After a brief conversation we realized she taught for a couple months, the first Danish class I was in. Not sure if she counted it as a failure that I was talking to her in English. But, after a short explanation of where I have been the past 2 years she saw why my energies have been devoted elsewhere. We went on with our day, me taking care of typical café business, her enjoying her time relaxing in the café. When she left she made it a point to say goodbye to me and tell me what she thought about our café. She was very impressed by all we had and all we were doing for the community. She left the café feeling like she had truly found a place to rest and relax and where it ok for her to bring her daughter. She said she couldn't say what exactly what it was, but there was something here that made her feel at peace. And of course my thoughts were- it’s because we have asked God to be here. Another contact made, another life affected when she was just looking for a place to have coffee.

And that’s why we keep doing what we are doing, slowly building relationship after relationship. Just waiting for the moment we can, the reason this place is so great, is because we are here to be a blessing, we are here to show you real love, we are here to help you find real life.

Fall Lessons

Today I ran 4 miles. I have a confession to make. I have been very inconsistent with my running since my last race. I had weeks when I would get back on track and then I would fall off again when life got busy and I was tired in the morning, the cycle has continued for months. But the past couple weeks I have been consistent. I think moving and finally settling into a place where I feel home helps. And so today I made it 4 miles. I have written many sermons and lessons while running. It's when my mind wanders and is free to just flow. I am now living close to a big park that has a number of different trails that cross through the park and eventually end at a small bay. I have been picking random trails and just following them until I end up at the water and then I turn around and head back into the city. It has been a nice pattern. And then today I chose the trail of memories. You know these trails. I had walked this one before, with someone else and I ran passed the spots where special memories took place. But like life those memories that use to bring joy now bring pain. And as I rounded a corner coming out of the trees to the water I was blasted with a cold misty wind that reminded me- winter is soon around the corner. Turning my run into an example of life...

This Fall has been hard. Each week seems to bring moments where just breathing becomes an accomplishment. Personal pain has surged through my life. Busyness of cafe work has built up and created extra stress. And some days it feels like all I can do is just hold on. Just make it through the day accomplishing all of the tasks on the to-do list. But it is in those moments when we learn why we do what we do and where God is. Like my run this morning, I could choose to collapse in pain when I see the hard memories or I can continue down the trail one foot after another. Or when I turn the corner and face a blast of cold air I can let it push me back into hiding or I can continue on- one foot in front of the other. Whenever we are challenged in our life and ministry we have a choice. Do we let it knock us down or do we continue on, one foot in front of the other. Each trusting step guiding us forever forward and closer to the goal. But, we will never be able to continue if we don't know why we are running, why we are doing what we are doing. When life gets busy it becomes so easy to just go through the motions, accomplishing the tasks we have to and remembering to breathe, but we can not let ourselves get caught up in these situations because life is meant to be so much more than just going through the motions, just trying to survive.

Life is meant to be lived and it can only be lived fully if we are completely in the center of God’s will. The only way we can continue forward is when we know for certain what God is asking us to do. There have been a couple moments the past 2 months where I have seriously contemplated my call. Why am I in Denmark, working in a café? Why do I live without the regular safety nets that most people in their 30s have established? And why do I continue to walk this road alone? And as always my answer is, because God said so 3 years ago and He hasn’t changed the call on me yet, so I must continue to be faithful. Sometimes that faithfulness is easier then other times. When life is flowing smoothly, the run is on even ground and the knees don't have pain, its easy to remember to be faithful. But, then there are those moments when you feel forced to choose between something you love and the call God has made so clear to you. The moments where the pain of loss almost makes you consider abandoning your call. And that is when you have to just continue one foot in front of the other fighting the wind and pushing forward. And that is what God has challenged me with the past few months. Did I really mean what I said when I stood on a mountaintop overlooking an African valley or sitting in an office after a Sunday night mission service. Those big moments in my life where I said- ok God, I don't know what is going to happen, I don't know what you are doing, but I will go, one foot in front of the other I will choose You and the call you have placed in my life. And once again this Fall I have been challenged to say, God I don't know what You are doing, and I don't understand, but I will continue to work because that is what you have asked of me.

And so through the stress, busyness, and pain of life I have been reminded that it’s not about what is easiest or feels good, it is about continuing to remain faithful even when I don't see how God is working. And even though I don't know when the trail ends or even when it will become easier, I must continue on one foot in front of the other and build my strength in Christ, one mile after another.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fall Blessings of Growth

It is Fall here in Copenhagen and this week is the Fall Break in all the schools. The breeze has been crisp and leaves are slowly changing. Pumpkins are showing up and new recipes are being thought about.
Nyhavn Harbor Copenhagen

Things in the cafe are going full swing. Our business has picked up dramatically and our weeknight are becoming busier and busier. The team has also added some new activities to help with this. One couple has added a children's song time to their evening shift. And another has added a Disney movie night to theirs. Both have shown great response from the families in the area. This past Friday we had a whole room of tables reserved for the movie night.

Our other ministries have been flowing as well. A few weeks ago at Girls Night In we had a record number of woman who came to learn how to decorate mini-tower cakes. It was a great night. We even had some girls who came because I handed them a flier in the shop. The men have also started a 5 week study group where they are going through material on how to be a better husband/man. It is a mixed group of Christian and non-Christian, some are married, dating, and single. They claim everything shared there is too secret, but all express it has been a great time of learning and fellowship.
Girls Night In 
Girls Night In

Last night we had a volunteer hang-out night. It was a great time of fellowship and getting to know each other. Our group is so diverse. We had at least 6 different nationalities represented there. As well as volunteers from the church and volunteers that have joined us from our website add. We enjoyed cakes from different places, and food from our international roots. It was a great time of fellowship and sharing with each other.
Taking Espresso Shots as a Team

God is working in Sweet Surrender Copenhagen and it has been inspiring to share with so many different people and to be able to make a difference in this city, in our neighbors, and in our volunteers through one cup of coffee at a time.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back in Rhythm and Facing Unknowns

We are back and running like normal again. All of a sudden everything has changed. People are back from holiday, kids are back in school and we are up and running again. It has been nice to be busy again. I have missed the action in the cafe. We have also been gaining more and more new volunteers. Most of them are non-Christians that have responded to our ad online. It is great getting to know each story and working with each of them. We often get to have conversations about why we started the cafe and our faith. It is also nice to have the extra hands when the workload increases.

September is bringing the start of everything again. Our cafe calendar is becoming full with all kinds of plans.  We are starting Girls Night In and will even be adding a Men's Night. We recently had a concert. A small choir from the Methodist church came and sang some songs. It was a nice evening and a great way to connect with new people. I am excited to once again be busy with monthly ministries again.

I am still almost homeless. We have some leads on an apartment this winter. But things are still up on the air until then. I am daily writing many people about places to live. I am not sure what will happen at this point. I don't like this feeling of not knowing where I will live and being without a place for me to unpack.

So, as the cafe is going back to normal, I am living in uncertainty in my own life. But, I continue on in this rhythm of work and see where I will land.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Summertime, Livin' Easy.....

I am back...
I have been back in Copenhagen for almost a month now. It has been a great joy to be back in the cafe again. As much as I enjoy visiting family and friends, I love my work.

July is vacation month in Denmark. I think most of the city's inhabitants clear out and the city becomes full of tourist. The sun is actually out and we have warm temps. As much as I love the warmth and the month of sunshine, this travel month is not so great for the cafe. We have had a lot of slow, hot days. I would take the crazy days of the fall over this anytime. But, soon we will be back to regular and things will explode in the cafe again. I did get to sport a little bit of U. S. pride on the 4th of July. We were able to wear our stars & stripes and have a little "American" style dinner. But, like every other year- I really miss the fireworks!

We have been contacted by a number of new volunteers lately. We have posted our need for help on a community website. This has resulted in many new volunteers. Each week we are meeting new people and scheduling them for their first shifts. This has been a great experience because most of them are not Christians, but neighbors from the community. Now our ministry filled has really grown in the area of the volunteers we are working next to. It seems each time we have a new volunteer we get an opportunity to share Christ with them, when we explain why we do what we do. I am excited to see how this opportunity develops into more and ministries.

Things are going great and I am excited to be back in Copenhagen and Cafe Sweet Surrender!