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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tanner's Twin

The other day when I walking Tanner through the park that is close to our house, I noticed another dog lying in the grass that looked exactly like Tanner! It was really freaky because he was seriously a mirror image of our pup. I couldn't resist the opportunity to talk with the owners and let the dogs interact a bit so I said in Swedish, "Our dogs look a lot like each other." She answered in English which made it even better! Turns out Danielle is an American woman, from Boston, now living in Stockholm. She moved Kona, her yellow Labrador Tanner look alike, over with her. Kona is a year older than Tanner and Tanner is a bit bigger (Tanner is bigger than everything) but their mannerisms, their facial expressions, their coats, etc. are all identical! Interesting enough, Danielle met Doug with Tanner a couple of years ago and I remember Doug coming home and saying to me, I just met an American woman who just moved here from Boston and she has a dog that looks exactly like Tanner! I had never run into her, but she mentioned that she stays on the look out for Tanner and actually, when she's in that park, she said that she often has people asking her if she's with Tanner! It seems Tanner has either a following or at least a reputation in this particular park! Anyway...it was delightful to meet Danielle and Kona and to marvel at how our dogs really resemble one another. The photo is OK. I took it with my phone, while sausages were cooking close by on an open grill, with dog treats in my hand trying to get the two goofball dogs to sit still long enough so I could snap a photo! Still...I think you can see the resemblance and I hope we'll get another chance to see the boys side by side again soon. Tanner is on the left, Kona on the right.
(Strangely enough, after our encounter in the park, Danielle discovered my blog and actually posted a comment on the 15 years entry! So, Danielle...if you happen to read this entry, I'd love to know how to get in touch with you! The blog comments don't show a return email address. It would be fun to take "the twins" swimming together or at least meet up at Gärdet where we could watch them run and play!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

15 Years

Doug and I got married on May 28, 1994 in the newly built Anderson Chapel on the campus of North Park University. That's 15 years ago today. We were the first couple to be married in the "new" chapel and that seemed ever so fitting since I was chaplain of the University at the time.
The day is a treasured memory. It was a wonderful celebration of a love that we knew would be abiding. We had struggled along the way, suffering numerous break-ups and wondered if we'd ever find our way to the altar. What a thrill to look one another in the eye and say, "I do".
I love Doug. That's pretty obvious. He's my one and only. The absolute true love of my life. He gets me better than any other person on earth and loves me unconditionally. Sometimes I wonder how he does it...
















I guess he's always known that I'm high maintenance and yet somewhere in his psyche he thrives on maintaining me so it all works out in the end.
Our life together has been every bit as good as we had hoped it would be. We've had our ups and downs, worked through conflicts, and struggled to keep finding closeness and newness in the midst of the routine. Making the decision to work together for the past 11 years has been filled with unique challenges and also special joys. We have had to be quite intentional about prioritizing our marital relationship in the midst of being colleagues. In spite of some of the hardship that working so closely brings to our life together, it has also been a major thrill to build up the ministry of Immanuel International side by side, sharing a common vision while celebrating the unique and wonderful gifts we each bring to the ministry.
I remember when we first got married the thought of a life commitment was a bit dubious for me. Now I can honestly say that I'm just not sure a lifetime is long enough with Douglas. When I first met him I wasn't sure if he was the funniest person or the weirdest person I'd ever met. Now I know...he's both! His humor never ceases to amaze me and his creative spirit keeps things interesting. He is truly an entertaining husband!

When we got married 15 years ago we did not know that:
We would spend 11 of our first 15 years of married life living in Sweden.
We would become lovers of yellow Labradors.
We would suffer through the pain of infertility and never become parents.
We would be able to travel the globe and have so many unique and exciting experiences in this world.
But when we got married 15 years ago we did know that:
We loved one another deeply and had suffered through enough difficulty that we'd be able to see even the toughest moments through.
We wanted to be together for a life time, sharing the joy and the sorrow by one another's side.
What I know today is that Douglas Edward Fondell is the absolute love of my life. He is truly my one and only and I am so thankful for the life that we share.
I love you honey. Looking forward to the next 15 with joy and anticipation.
Honey, we've had a good life...
From our honeymoon in Hawaii...

To the beauty of Turkey...

And all the fun we've had seeing the world together...

We're still smiling after 15 years.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ordination

Mine took place on June 25, 1995 in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was a powerful time of being called into ministry, having my pastoral gifts affirmed by the whole church, and understanding a bit of what I was getting myself into. After answering the questions posed to us by the President of the denomination, we received a Bible that I still use and enjoy to this day. On the inside cover are written these words: "Receive this book; here are the words of eternal life. Take them for your guide and declare them to the whole world. Keep watch over the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit has appointed you shepherd. Encourage the faithful, restore the lost, build up the body of Christ; that when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, you may receive the unfading crown of glory." Powerful words that still stir my heart a bit. At the time of my ordination, I was chaplain at North Park University. I have enjoyed keeping in touch with many of the students who came through the university while I was there. Facebook has reunited me with many who I had lost track of. Many of the students I was close to are involved in ministry either as clergy or active lay people. I am thankful for that. Perhaps I played some small role in encouraging them in their spiritual journey. A clear highlight for me was the privilege that was mine to walk many through the process of becoming husband and wife. What a gift to walk through pre-marital counseling with several young couples and also officiate at many of their weddings. It is thrilling to see how they care for one another, their children and the church today. I feel a sense of gratitude that they allowed me to share in their lives while they were in college and I feel an even more profound sense of gratitude that they continue to be in touch so many years down the road.
Now, I am preaching the word every other week to a flock that genuinely looks like the whole world through our ministry at Immanuel International. This past week-end a series of events unfolded that caused me to feel such a profound sense of gratitude and awe that I've been chosen to serve in pastoral ministry. I do feel that it is such a privilege for Doug and me to serve this church. So many amazing things are unfolding in our midst, and have been unfolding for the past 11 years. It is exciting, challenging, satisfying and overwhelming all at the same time.
So what are these events that have sparked such thoughts in me? The main event of the week-end was the ordination of Sam Nweze. Sam is a Nigerian man who came to Sweden many years ago with his wife, who is half Swedish/half Nigerian. They felt that the future was brighter for them in Sweden than in Nigeria so they uprooted themselves and came to what was a very foreign land. They quickly immersed themselves into the life of Immanuel International Church. Sam was on the board of the church when we were called as pastors. He is one that I remember most clearly. We became fast friends after we arrived and our relationship with Sam continued to grow year after year. It became obvious to us early on that Sam had pastoral gifts and so we nurtured and encouraged him to pursue this calling. This was not easy. Financial burdens, language barriers, and cultural roadblocks stood in the way. Even so, he persevered. Eventually he made the decision to pursue theological education in Chicago at North Park Seminary. We were thrilled with his chance to go and study in a great environment. It was not possible for him to move his wife and three kids and so the separation was tough. Sadly, his marriage fell apart during this time period and yet, Sam still felt that through the grace of God he should continue to pursue his calling as a pastor. He eventually completed his Masters of Divinity and moved back to Sweden. He secured a call as pastor of a new English language International church on the south end of Stockholm. The existing church is a Swedish Mission Covenant church that was experiencing severe decline. The demographic of the area showed a clear shift towards the immigrant community and therefore the church felt that an outreach to English speakers could be the spark that they needed. It has worked well. There is much work to be done but Sam has taken on the mantel of pastor with great courage and strength and the church is growing and learning to thrive.
In addition to the way in which ordination affirms his call, he is also the first African to be ordained in the Swedish Mission Covenant Church. This represents a clear signal that immigration is here to stay in Sweden and it also raises in obvious ways what it means to be "Swedish" and "Covenant". In America we've been dealing with issues related to diversity and heritage for quite some time, but here in Sweden it is still a very new conversation. Sam's ordination as a Swedish Mission Covenant pastor and his leadership of a Swedish Mission Covenant church is such an important step in the Covenant's journey towards becoming a more racially diverse church that understands the importance of reaching out to the immigrant community.
And the immigrant community came out in droves to support Sam. Many members from his new congregration were there to support him. Many members from Immanuel International were on hand to cheer him on and be blessed by this wonderful affirmation of Sam's call. There was a clear sense that Sam had been nurtured and urged on by his local congregation and what a thrill it was to see it all come to fruition. Especially moving for me was when Sam and Doug embraced in a huge bear hug after the service. Sam's heartfelt gratitude to Doug for his mentoring presence in his life was so powerful for me to witness and Doug was clearly moved by seeing Sam accomplish this goal that they had spoken of for years.
On Sunday afternoon more than 350 people showed up to celebrate Sam's ordination! What a clear signal of God's amazing outpouring of blessing in Sam's life and what a thrill to see the body of Christ rejoice over seeing one of their own accept the call to "Keep watch over the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit has appointed you shepherd. Encourage the faithful, restore the lost, build up the body of Christ; that when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, you may receive the unfading crown of glory."
Praise be to God for His unfailing goodness.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Taste of Summer

The other day we were invited to some friends house and I decided to make one of favorite summer desserts: Pavlova. It is a delicious meringue covered in fresh whipped cream and summer fruits. In this case, I used strawberries, raspberries and kiwi fruit. When it turns out, it is divine. Overall, I think it was a success, given that it was the first one of the season.Another sign of summer is the long, light evenings we are now enjoying. I have really come to savor the long day. I suppose that comes from enduring the remarkably short days of winter. There is nothing quite like the way the high evening sun dances off the landscape here. It is stunning to be out well into the evening and simply have the day light stand still. When it is warm, it is positively paradise.
Tanner agrees. He loves to to be out and about with us and his absolute favorite activity is swimming. As soon as he sees water, he's in it. Today was one of those rare early spring days when we got lots of great sunshine combined with genuine warmth! When my busy day of obligations finally ended at about 6.00 p.m. I decided to take Tanner to his favorite swimming hole. It's about a two mile walk from our house and for a portion of the walk Tanner can be off leash, running through the woods, exploring every nook and cranny in search for...who knows what! He just loves to run around. In order to get to his little swimming area, we have to walk up and over a little hill. You can't see the water until you reach the top of the hill. But as soon as Tanner gets to the top and spots the water, he's gone. He dashes down the hill and runs right into the water! There are fewer things in life that Tanner loves more than swimming after a stick that's been thrown into the water. He will chase that thing down as if his life depended upon his bringing it in. The bigger the stick, the better. So today I had my first chance to watch him revel in the joy of being a real water loving retriever. In and out he went going after the small sticks, then discovering the big boy.
As for me, it was fun to get a little bit wet, have sand in my shoes, and be surrounded by the gorgeous color of the blooming lilac as well as enveloped by the delicious aroma they emit. I was wearing shorts and t-shirt with no jacket. The promise of long, lazy, lovely summer evenings brought comfort and joy to my spirit. Watching my dog love the water made me anxious to take my first plunge. Getting the water warm enough for humans to enjoy taking a dip is an entirely different matter. But for now, I am enjoying the lingering taste of summer I experienced today.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Sweet Boys

Doug and dog. My best friends. Great companions. Bringers of joy. Both funny in their own inimitable way. I love them and am very thankful for their abiding presence in my life.

Handsome boys

Doug giving Tanner some good advice (or perhaps vice versa)

Hanging by the water

Watching the world go by

Skipper and First Mate

Ready for take off

Stockholm Harbor Masters

Stockholm in Spring





























Evidences of spring are abounding throughout Stockholm. The weather needs therapy as it's clearly schizophrenic, sunny one minute, cloudy the next. Moments later it will be a dry and warm day that holds the promise of a lovely afternoon and evening enjoying the beauty of our wonderful city.




















But then seconds later it'll break your heart with heavy cloud cover and plunging temperatures. Weather is a constant topic here. We live in fear that the normal warmth that is associated with the spring and summer seasons will by pass us. It is actually a bit stressful. When you live in a country where light and warmth are missing elements of your life for months at a time, you come to dearly treasure the long, light, easy, breezy days of spring and summer. But regardless of how much warmth and light we're graced with, one thing remains secure. The Stockholm spring bloom is spectacular. I love walking around the city these days. The tulips are standing a meter tall. The air is filled with the fragrance of lilac and chestnut blossoms. Flowers grace every green space and the beauty of new life bursts forth all around you. It is fantastic. Tanner loves the newly filled in grass and enjoys rolling over on his back and reveling in the fresh growth. The cherry blossoms are long gone, but it's great to enjoy them in all their blooming splendor through the wonder of photography!
So take a walk with me through our beautiful blooming city and enjoy the wonder of God's amazing creative spirit.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

Always a mixed bag for me. Of course, I am so thankful for my mom. If you read this blog with any regularity, it should be pretty obvious by now that I care deeply for her, appreciate her immensely and am so thankful that she is still here on this earth where we can continue to enjoy one another for a bit longer. I am also very blessed with a wonderful mother-in-law who I love and feel deeply loved by as well. Eileen has been a very supportive presence in my life since the day that Doug and I hooked up and it has been a blessing for both me and Doug to have such warm, loving, supportive relationships with one another's parents. So my feelings about Mother's Day have nothing to do with how much I truly treasure and appreciate the mothers in my life. It has to do with the fact that I am not a mother. This has not been by choice. Doug and I tried and tried to have kids. The medical possibilities did not yield children for us. And we opened ourselves up to adoption and for one reason or another, the doors all kept closing rather than opening. So finally, as we were aging and growing emotionally exhausted by the whole process, we closed the door on parenthood and accepted that we would never have children. The season of trying to have children was one of the most difficult and painful seasons of our marriage. But now I tell people that while we experienced a sad thing, we do not have a sad life. And I genuinely believe this. I believe with all my heart that doors have opened to us that we've been able to walk through because of not being parents. Our life here in Sweden would've been much more complicated if children had entered the picture. Our future is pretty simple and we do not have the concerns of providing for our next generation. But still...there are moments when not having kids still leaves me feeling weird...outside...left out.
For women, so much of life revolves around motherhood and the joys and trials therein. And I love children and overall, I'm pretty good with kids. But it's hard to jump into the conversation when you have no first hand experience. I can empathize with how people feel when their kids are hurt or left out or struggling, but I don't really know what it feels like to watch your very own children go through life. And in some cases, being a mom is elevated to such a high place in society that I can feel so second rate at times. And because I've pursued my professional calling with vigor, I've even heard the whispers of people who say, "Well, if she hadn't have been so focused on work, she might've had been able to have children." I actually had someone walk up to me at church once and ask with all the crassness you can imagine, "Don't want them or can't have them?". After I picked my jaw up off the ground, I said, "I beg your pardon?"
And because not having kids is so obviously weird, you feel like you have to explain yourself to perfect strangers because when we meet people, what do we ask? Hi, what do you do, do you have kids? When I answer, no we don't have kids, a weird anxiety enters the airspace and I quickly feel the need to help the person asking calm down because they are writhing in such obvious discomfort that it makes me uncomfortable! And then you just wonder if you need to give this complete stranger a huge chunk of your medical history just to help them accept that you do not have children and you are also not evil or selfish. At this point I usually just add, "Oh, we have a dog. He's great." And these kinds of encounters just kind of leave me feeling a little bit outside.
It's weird to be so open about this because it sounds like sour grapes. But today is a hard day. I want to celebrate my mom and my mother-in-law with great joy and thanksgiving. But I feel the ache of being outside of that. No flowers, no hugs, no burned breakfast in bed for me. And overall, that's fine. I often say to my friends...well, you have kids, but I take great vacations! And it's true. Once we knew that we weren't going to have kids, we felt freedom to spend the college fund that we had begun when we got married!
It's all rather complicated because I don't hate moms or children. I love them. And here in Sweden, Mother's Day, which isn't until the end of May, isn't nearly the HUGE commercial endeavor that it is in the US so it's much easier to simply let the day slide by. But still...there are times when I feel bad that we don't have kids. Mother's day is one of those times.
I put on my Facebook status this comment: "Jodi wishes all moms a great day and also asks that all be tender towards those who aren't. Today is not such an easy day for those of us without kids." It's interesting how much commentary it generated. Many people have appreciated it and others also commented that I've made a deep impact on so many kid's lives that I should feel good about that. And I do. And I love that I have energy for other people's kids sometimes! And I love my life with Doug and I am not sad and bitter all the time about not having kids. But sometimes I am sad and it's hard to share that emotion with people because it often just makes them too uncomfortable.
So Mother's Day is complicated for me because I love the moms in my life but feel sad that I don't share that aspect of womanhood with them. My sister-in-law Jan also put a beautiful comment on her Facebook: "Mother's day- more complicated than it seems. We are so lucky to be mothers and have mothers. We grieve for loved ones who yearned for motherhood but did not have the opportunity, we grieve for those who have lost mothers and for mothers who have lost their children. Happy Mother's Day to all wherever Mother's day finds you."
Perhaps you might consider sending a card, or baking a cake, or just saying hi to a woman in your life who is not a mother. It's way too cynical to think about having a Happy NON-Mother's Day, but perhaps a gesture that lets them know that they are valuable women in spite of the fact that they don't have kids would be greatly appreciated by all who live through Mother's Day without knowing the joy of motherhood.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

79


Happy Birthday Mom! We are so pleased that we are celebrating my mom's life today. She has been an amazing fighter through the last two years and today we can simply smile and be grateful. Last summer we were told that her cancer was beyond healing. The Dr. promised to help her have a quality of life that was decent but we certainly weren't planning for any big birthday celebrations down the road. At the end of February we were surprised with the amazing news that she was in fact in remission..."a medical impossibility." But that's what's so great about my mom. She didn't care what was medically impossible. She knew that her God could do anything. She trusted in the words of Luke 1:37: "For nothing shall be impossible with God." And so today we truly celebrate her life. We know now that life is fragile and uncertain. She has her next check up in 3 weeks and of course the stomach nerves rumble now and again, but for today...we are happy. Happy that she has been given another year. Happy that she feels like herself. Happy that she is well, happy! For more details about who my mom is, see the blog from a year ago, http://jodimullenfondell.blogspot.com/2008/05/happy-birthday-mom.html
She's still got that same fighting spirit. She's still cheering for the Lakers and the Angels and yelling at the television when either team lets her down. She's still active and involved in the life of their church, caring for hurting people, giving generously of her time and compassion. All this in spite of being deathly ill for nearly two years. I do thank God for her life today. And I feel more profoundly grateful with each passing day. We do not know what the future holds, but we do know that we've shared a great relationship with one another and are now treasuring the moments we can spend together even though we find ourselves on different ends of the earth. I am mostly happy that my parents are able to enjoy a season of life with some reprieve from the hurts and burdens of the past years. And my prayer for my mom today is that the fullness of her life will be obvious to her and that the blessing that she has been to so many through the years, and that continues to this day, will be known to her in rich and powerful ways.
I love you mom! Happy 79th Birthday!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Closing Banquet

We had a great day. We started with worship at the Union Church of Istanbul, an English language ministry in the heart of the city. They worship in the Dutch chapel which is on the grounds of the Dutch consulate. We received a book written by the pastor's wife about this history. I am anxious to read it. The church is vibrant and diverse and it was a real pleasure to experience what's happening in the lives of Christians living in Istanbul. To the left is Pastor Ben with his wife Elaine.
Then we had the famous Turkish bath as outlined in a previous blog. We ended our day with a dinner cruise along the Bosphorus. It was an absolutely beautiful evening and for the first hour and an a half we enjoyed beverages and snacks on the upper deck. The folks we've been with this week are dear friends and we are so thankful for our association with them through the years. Several of our close friends are moving on this year to other things and it is likely that they won't be at future gatherings. We grieve this loss. But the good news is that several new folks were in our midst this time around and we greatly enjoyed the new contacts we received. We look forward to building fruitful relationships with them as the years unfold. We are hosting this gathering next year in Stockholm and feel so excited to welcome them to our home town.
Istanbul is just an amazing city. It sprawls and sprawls as far as the eyes can see. The Bosphorus cuts Asia and Europe in half and the sights along the way are stunning, as everything on this trip has been. The lilac is newly in bloom, the Bosphorus bridge spreads out high above the strait, the homes of the rich and famous line the shores of the water, and all in all, it's just one great thing after another to take in. I have so many thoughts and impressions about this trip. It will linger with me for a long time to come. I am so grateful to our good friends, Benjamin and Elaine who hosted us. Their ministry here is invaluable and their hearts are
truly made of gold.