Cause I’m Gonna Make This Place Your Home (Or a love letter to Stockholm)

for the blog depaysement Daniel Dalton, buzzfeed unsplash.com

Var kommer du ifrån?” She asked. He said *just tell her you’re from Liljeholmen

It’s taken three years. After three years of living in London I already was calling myself a Londoner for two years, but Sweden has been different. Slower. Life in Stockholm is slower than life in London. By miles. It’s smaller, more beautiful, it’s different. I am different because of it (and that’s for another day).

And yet still, to say “I’m from Stockholm” has yet to cross my lips.

I guess the accent will always give it away, Swedish has yet to feel like second nature as French or any other language has so easily come. But it will get there.

Maybe it’s my subconscious fighting against settling in a place I never thought I would end up.

And yet, there’s no place I would rather be. 

This summer, as I looked for a new job, I had the world at my finger tips. My language skills, network and varied citizenships make doors open for me. And yet, a nagging feeling, a lack of peace determined my steps, guided my job hunt journey.

Something kept me from leaving. More than leaving, something ensured I stayed, planted, rooted. Even through the frustrations of rejection and boredom…and some pretty crappy summer weather. Filled with days swimming, cool nights at the outdoor cinema, long walks through the city. Stockholm became home.

And I think I have become more Swedish than I ever realised. 

I leave for Russia tomorrow and I am pretty certain that on Saturday evening, a week from now, when I step off the plane, back here in Sweden I will be so happy.

I will have missed the fresh air that is really like no other place I have lived or been. I will be happy to come back to my (much more) minimalistic flat, that thanks to the help of some has become better and better lately. I will come back to the coffee, the candles, the blatant disregard for social mores of constant communication that both frustrates me and builds trust.

But more, I will have missed the people.

When I first arrived I was addressed with the ubiquitous question “so, how long are you staying?” which soon grew tiresome and although I still get it sometimes I ignore it. For the answer is and always will be, This is my home, length of stay to be determined. This frustrating question came with the Swedish tendency to not take people in right away. Probably stemming from years of staying in the country, friendship groups known from childhood and the centricity of familial relationships. Outsiders are not easily welcomed in.

But please take this not as criticism, for I don’t mean it that way. Instead, it’s a part of Swedish mys, or comfort. It takes time to build real relationships (Friends, dating…), but those friendships, those relationships, once solidified, last forever.

This is likely the reason we don’t have to call or text as much here. Or perhaps why, in secular Swedish society, sambo, or a common-law relationship is common, why dating works very differently here. Once you know you know.

At least these are the observations of one would-be Swede.

And that is what I will be so happy to come home to in one week’s time.

Those relationships I have built over the last three years, some from the beginning, and some from just the last few months. It’s the people who text me at random times, no matter what country I am in. Those who have taken the time to get to know me for me. It’s all those wonderful people who make home home.

For those people I am so thankful.

I am thankful for the fikas, the evenings sipping wine, the nights filled with tears, the lunches, the gym dates, the movies…or just the simple act of cooking together.

Sure I love Sweden. Yes I love all the little aspects of Swedish culture that sets it apart from no where else….but it’s the people.

To those people, who know who they are, whatever the future hold, thank you for making this place home.

A Beautiful Mess (or the post I cried writing)

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I used to write more frequently for a company called So Worth Loving. Because it was a place that perpetuated, believed in, was based on your self worth and loving others, the raw, unabridged words that flowed there were real and I always felt safe writing there. In that space I was supposed to be a mess, I was supposed to be broken, or at least formerly broken, on my way some place better.

I kept this, my own little corner of the internet, though quite raw in moments, more of a place where there was hope and faith. For those who have followed along for years will remember most of 2012 where my heart bled onto the digital paper as I worked to become less broken, more whole.

However, overall I have ensured that for the most part, the rawest, and sometimes most shameful parts of who I am were kept on So Worth Loving or not spoken about at all. When I did open up on Beyond Rubies, yes sometimes people commented and liked, but it was less so and maybe I just wanted validation. Maybe I didn’t want people to see that I struggle. I had gotten over my people-pleasing, affirmation craving ways and wasn’t going back.

Or so I thought.

But something I realised over the last few months ,as I have begrudgingly allowed God to work on my heart, is that a bit of that girl who just wanted to be liked had crept back in and God was doing everything to fight her off.

Recently my friend Melissa said to me “Michelle, reckon you got a bit too much of your identity wrapped up in what you do?”

Oh that stung. Like I actually felt like I had been slapped in the face. Probably because deep down I knew that, after already 4 months of looking for a job I had started feeling less and less like me. Here is where I would normally start to sugar-coat my blog a bit. Brushing past all the pain, need of affirmation and desire to simply be accepted for me would be hidden under a lot of bible verses and challenges to be better.

But as I write this, tears flowing down my face, I have to only be thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who knows that life can’t be spent that way. It’s a paradox actually. I genuinely want to see the pain and tears of the people I love. I want to laugh with them, cry with them, understand their insecurities and pray with them. However to actually allow someone that close scares me.

To admit that I don’t always feel enough is terrifying. I wasn’t who I wanted to be in all areas of my life (see last blog for more about that). I wasn’t a person I thought was enough.

When God wants to teach you a lesson, He really will keep you in a place until you have learned it and while my journey is not over, I definitely learned that I need to learn the lesson and they do say the first thing is to admit you have a problem.

In the last few months God has brought me to a place where I have had to ask for help, I have had to reframe how I introduce myself to people. I have not been in the place where I can show someone how much I care simply by doing or buying them something.

I only have me. And learning to accept the fact that if all there is, is me, and someone doesn’t stay close, imperfections, insecurities and all. Then that’s ok. It only means that those who stay close, who leaned in, who still wanted me, those people are worth gold.

I am planning a little party to celebrate my new job. I wish I could say that it’s going to be a big bash. It’s not, a few people who stood by me over this last season (at least the ones in town…out of towners don’t count). The people who didn’t care if I couldn’t buy something, the people who believed in me even in the moments I didn’t believe in myself. The people who really see me.

Even if me can be a mess.

Learning to keep your eyes focused solely on your creator, to fall in love with His plans and purposes for your life, to be okay with your scars, all of this sucks, I am not going to sugar coat it. The process really sucks, but the end is result is beautiful.

A beautiful mess. A beautiful exchange. Christ could have saved the world any way he chose, but He chose the messiest way to demonstrate his love for us. And I am so thankful that this happened because I really don’t want to see what my life would turn out like if I didn’t have Him.

Maybe someone people will hate this post, maybe it will help one person. I am a mess. You’re a mess. I still get insecure and then go home and go “why didn’t I just…” or “will I ever be able to get over”…

And I will. And so will you.

We are beautiful messes. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Placed here for a time such as this. Loved before we even existed in this form.