Family

Why is marriage so important?

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Last week was finals week which means this week is chill-out week for our family… and this post should have been up over a week ago.

Almost two weeks ago it was Conference weekend at our house. That means that my family gets together, eats a lot of unhealthy food and listens to uplifting talks from the president and leaders of our church.

A lot of the messages are usually about how to strengthen your family (especially this year! Or am I just noticing everything because I’m a new mom?), and one of the things that really stuck with me this time was a quote that Elder D. Todd Christofferson shared by  writer and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

“Marriage is more than your love for each other. … In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to his glory, and calls into his kingdom. In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown and not merely the will to rule that makes the king, so it is marriage and not merely your love for each other that joins you together in the sight of God and man. So love comes from you, but marriage from above, from God” 

For a while I’ve been wondering about that. Why is marriage so important? I myself have faith in God and an afterlife and therefore believe that marriage has more eternal consequences. But we don’t all believe in God or belong to a church. So, if we just consider this life, for the average Joe out there, what is so different between being in love and living together, and being tied to each other in matrimony? Is it just a piece of paper?

I think the main reason that this question is even relevant in today’s world is that the way that marriage is perceived has changed.

If we think that marriage is only special because it is pretty, magical and romantic… that it can be undone or abandoned just as easily as breaking up with a girlfriend orboyfriend… then that’s what marriage is. No different than a simple relationship.

To use Bonhoeffer’s metaphor, if the king’s will to rule is only temporary and if he wants the flexibility of taking an out – then maybe the crown isn’t fit for him.

Marriage is only what you make it. If you enter a marriage with the attitude that “we can always get divorced if it gets too hard”, then it is indeed not more than a piece of paper.

But if you however enter a marriage thinking that you’re willing to stand by each other through thick and thin, knowing that your love for each other may suffer along the way – then marriage can be stronger and more beautiful and romantic than you could ever dream. To me, my marriage is so much more than just a romantic relationship. It’s a permanent committed partnership in creating a happy life and overcoming the trials of life.

On second thought, maybe that is really the definition of a true romantic relationship.

I’m grateful to be in a loving marriage, and I’m gonna take it all the way.

I know, I might be preaching to the choir. But I really needed to understand that.

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I didn’t get this happy by being a realist

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Throughout my life I’ve had friends and other people come up to me and tell me how they admired or envied certain aspects of my life, things that might not be as common these days. They would ask me how these were possible and upon hearing my answer they would sigh or laugh and give me an excuse as to why that could never work for them.

“It’s really cool that you have that good of a relationship with your parents even though you’re a teenager. I could never have that – my parents don’t understand me or let me do what I want”

“It’s so great that you don’t drink alcohol. Sometimes I wish that I didn’t. But I could never stop drinking – I would lose all my friends, because I can’t have fun without being drunk.”

“I wish I had faith in God like you do – that must be such a comfort in your life. But I could never be a believer – (that’s just weird).”

“It’s so wonderful that you are married, it’s just like a fairytale! I could never have that though – I don’t think I could ever find someone that I would want to be with my entire life!”

I’m really not trying to boast, I’m simply trying to convey the message that life is only as good as where you set the bar. It makes me sad to see people limiting their happiness because they are so busy being realists and being like everyone else.

A week ago we celebrated our second anniversary. My marriage (and the fruits thereof) are without a doubt my highest accomplishments in life. And if I’d had a PhD in something frighteningly academic or sold a billion dollar business, those would still be my highest accomplishments in life. In my experience, being part of a family is something that can bring you joy that you cannot find anywhere else.

And I’m not saying that you’re a failure if you haven’t found that certain someone yet. Because I know so many wonderful people that are trying their best in their search. Nor are you a failure if you don’t have strong family ties or if you’re unable to have children.

I am saying that the failure lies in deciding that that sort of happiness is out of your reach. Because it’s too hard, too different or even too good for you. How silly of a thought is that? That something is too good for you. The only person who decides how high you set the bar for your happiness and accomplishments is you. Life is too short to not live it to the fullest. Heck, stop living life like it’s too short! Expect it to go on and on and that you have the power to be happy for every little second of it.

Dream a little!

I’m lying here in bed between my sleeping husband and baby and my heart is singing of gratitude that I didn’t decide to only harvest my happiness from things that I could control or predict or that were socially acceptable. Because I know that I definitely would not have been where I am today.

Those were my early Monday morning thoughts.

Returned missionary

Yesterday was one of those days when you wake up and it is as if time stands still. Because the day you have been counting down to for months has finally come.

After 18 months of full-time service as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints my sister finally came home! Talk about a long day of work!

It was so great to see her and to feel that nothing had changed. It was so fun to have her meet Baby for the first time. Baby wasn’t quite as excited to see her though – she’ll grow wiser with time.

It’s ironic how the whole process of saying goodbye and being without a family member for a while really brings you closer together when you’re reunited. It was really an experience for me to watch as she threw her arms around my brothers and sister and seeing the tears in their eyes. That alone made me remember how much I love all of them. I love my family. I wish I was better at seeing reminders like that without having to send one of them away for a few years.

And like it is with days like those, I feel surprised that life keeps going on. Now all there’s left to do is have a lot of fun!

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Baby girl is 5 months!

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5 months. Is that all? and already?

She’s lying on her belly here on the couch next to me, staring me down. I guess she’s waiting for me to turn around and make a funny sound or something. At least right now she is. In a minuteshe’ll have rolled back on her back. Then she’ll get sad that her toys are so far away and she’ll crunch up and try to roll back to her tummy. And eventually she will and she’ll get that surprised look on her face, like she still can’t believe she can do that.

We just gave her an evening bath before bed time. She still really doesn’t like the water, but we’re trying our best to go slow and take our time to play with her and splash around. We’re also still working on car rides. Really hope she gets over that one soon.

Those are however just about the only things besides being hungry that she cries about. She’s the happiest little baby most of the time and has learned that it doesn’t take more than a few calls to get her parents’ attention if she needs something. Which is niiice! On the other hand, now she’ll call us for just about anything. I can’t reach my toy! I want more milk! Keep talking to me!

She’s becoming her own little person more than ever. She loves talking and being social. She doesn’t really seem to mind being with people she doesn’t know either. She has started giving us “kisses” (snarling and attacking our faces if we get too close). She has begun to laugh a little too. Sometimes if she’s in the right mood and we’re being REALLY funny she’ll scrunch up her face as if she’s about to burst with happiness, only she doesn’t quite know how to express it. Eventually a tiny squeak or even a giggle will escape. She wants to touch everything, especially faces. Whenever we carry her around now she’ll keep one hand on our faces or grab my hair as if to make sure we’re still there.

I like to think she’s learning to bond in other ways than through nursing now. I love watching her touch and examine Marcus’ face. I’m glad that he gets to feel a lot closer to her now that she’s responding more to him. As social as she can be in crowds, we can tell a huge difference when we come home and it’s just the three of us again. She clearly shows how comfortable she is by either going straight to sleep or lighting up and starting the party. It’s the best thing ever to feel that we are truly a little family and that she loves being with us as much as we love being with her.

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We moved again

For our little family it became that time of year once again. That time of year when we pack up our lives and move to a new home. This is only the fifth move since we got married. There should be some sort of record book for this. The longest we’ve stayed in one place was 6 months. The shortest 3,5. 5 apartments. 4 cities. 3 countries. 1 little tiny student family.

You’d think it’d be over soon. But it’s not! We’re only staying in this apartment for 4 months. Another big move coming up this summer! You might also think that we’re getting pretty tired of it. Well, we’re definitely getting there, but it’s still a bit exciting! I like that I don’t know where my life will take me and that I don’t live the same place I’ll be in 40 years. I guess I hope my life will never stop being exciting that way – that we’ll always be working toward the next chapter in our lives. On the other hand, I am beginning to daydream about shopping for plates and curtains and decorating our own home. To have a home that’s ours.

The good thing about not owning much is that it makes it really easy to move quickly. Last week it just took a few car rides back and forth to move our entire lives from one address to another. Moving frequently has really taught me to enjoy having a simple life. I don’t think I’ll ever be a collector. Up until now, the principle has been that if it didn’t fit into three suitcases it didn’t go.

There’s also something wonderful about starting over again once in a while. It’s like New Years Resolutions three times a year. Some of my “resolutions” for this apartment involve getting up earlier and cleaning up before I go to bed. It’s kind of fun fitting into a new life: getting a new local grocery store, new neighbors, new places to go for walks etc…

You also learn a thing or two about what it means to create a home. Especially when the furniture is not your own. I guess for me it doesn’t feel like home till there’s a picture of a temple (preferably the one in Stockholm where we were married) and a picture of Jesus Christ. – I know you might be thinking I’m a little cheesy for saying that… but I’m not. I’m just honest. Well, I guess it’s up to you what you think.

This apartment is like our sixth chance at being the best we can be!

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And that was 2014…

Another year has already gone. Marcus and I were just talking the other day about how crazy it is that we’ve already been together for 2,5 years! On the other hand I can’t believe my own family has only been in existence for that little time.

Goodness, this year has been eventful! Only 6 days into it I decided to confront my late period by taking a pregnancy test. Shortly after taking the first one I took another. After staring at the mirror for a few minutes and taking a few deep breaths I went to our bedroom and told Marcus that he was going to be a father. Within the week the two toughest months of the year began. During that period I can count on two hands the amount of times that I left out little apartment in Hawaii.

Soon after Marcus was offered a summer internship with Goldman Sachs in Salt Lake City and we were forced to decide to leave Hawaii to go to Utah and then to spend five weeks apart in order for me to return to Denmark before I got too pregnant. It was sad to leave beautiful Hawaii and our new friends there, but that was not nearly as hard as saying goodbye to Marcus one morning in June and making the journey home without him.

I had a fun summer at home with my family. It was fantastic to have a few calm yet lonely weeks to prepare our new home in Denmark and for our little baby to come into the world. Finally it was time to go up to Stockholm to meet Marcus and have a couple of weeks with our Swedish family. Picking up Marcus at the airport felt like getting married all over again – if the pink’ness seems to be fading just try spending five weeks in different continents – … – actually, don’t.

We returned to Denmark, moved into our apartment, and just a few weeks later I woke up one very early morning knowing that that was the day I would find out what labor felt like. It didn’t feel that nice. But all the pain was worth how great it felt once it was over. Honestly, I was way too shaken to understand what a miracle we had witnessed. That came gradually over the next few weeks. Her first smiles in her sleep, the first time we all were able to sleep at the same time, the first time she really looked at us, the first time it didn’t hurt to feed her, the first time she talked to us, the first time she slept all night…

And that is the high that we are ending this year on. That we can lean back after a year of hard work and enjoy the miracle of our happy family. Hope next year will end the same way.

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Couldn’t believe it so I had to take another.

 

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One of my very first meals out of the house after two months of morning sickness

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Loved the few weeks I could “randomly” run into my little sister in Salt Lake City. Can’t believe she’s coming home so soon!

 

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Back together after five long weeks apart – as pinkly in love as ever.

 

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The most intense day of my life, and I got to bring home this beauty.

 

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A Swedish Christmas Eve

Twas a Swedish Christmas this year. It was a bit exciting for the entire family. Marcus hadn’t celebrated Christmas in Sweden for 3 years, I had never celebrated Christmas in Sweden and Baby hadn’t celebrated Christmas before all together.

So it was with great anticipation that we rolled out of bed at 8am on the 24th. Marcus and I showered and Baby got a diaper change. Once we were all dressed we went downstairs to have breakfast with the family at 9am. On the table was rice pudding (I guess that’s the best translation) with toppings: sugar, cinnamon, milk or berry juice (saft soppa?), as well as bread and sliced Christmas ham for sandwiches with toppings: mustard and beet salad. To drink was milk and of course julmust (a Swedish soft drink served for Christmas and Easter).

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After breakfast we all went to the basement, settled in the couches – Baby curling up in my lap – and we took turns reading aloud from the scriptures about the birth of Christ.  I really liked this tradition, as it really helped set the mood for the day and reminded us what we were celebrating – and why.

Then we had some fun family time. We got out the Wii, the candy, the cookies, the blankets, and spent the next few hours enjoying one another’s company. During this Marcus, Baby and I went back upstairs to change into our nicer clothes. Baby especially looked pretty in her new red dress, white stockings and tiny black shoes. Hello Shirley Temple!

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Nice watch, Santa!

At 3 o’clock sharp – and I mean sharp! – it was time to gather around the TV for From All of Us to All of You – or in Sweden better known as “Kalle Anka” (Donald Duck) (wonder which character the Swedes like the best…). This show was so important that Marcus messaged me on Facebook to stop whatever I was doing – I was nursing Baby – and come down immediately.

When Kalle Anka was over it was time for Christmas dinner! I was especially excited for this part. We entered the kitchen and was the dinner table completely covered in dishes with potatoes, meat balls, salmon, brussels sprouts, potato gratin, a dish called “Janssons Frestelse” (potato gratin with fish), herring, sausages, gravy… think I remembered everything. I know I’m gonna get this question a lot when I get back to Denmark, so I’ll just answer it right away: Swedish Christmas dinner was a lot better than I thought it was gonna be. I really liked the different meats and the potato gratin. I still prefer Danish Christmas dinner, but I’m definitely not gonna be sad to have Swedish Christmas dinner every other year.

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Once we had finished eating it was time for presents! We all gathered around the tree and enjoyed an hour of the joy of giving and receiving. It was really a great experience for me, being still the newest member of the family. Since money is a little tight at the moment we hadn’t provided very many of the gifts under the tree. But to me it was a true bonding moment sitting there watching presents being passed around and feeling the love in the room. These people are truly family to me.

Dessert was then served, delicious gingerbread cheesecake, and at last we all watched Svensson Svensson, which I am told is also a Swedish Christmas tradition.

I am surprised how little I missed Danish Christmas. It just testifies that Christmas is more about the people you spend it with than the food eaten or traditions kept.

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Getting the most out of the season of Christmas

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Since we celebrated Christmas last year in Hawaii – meaning no snow, no cold, no gloves, no scarves, no coats, no boots, no toasty thick socks, no snuggling up with a blanket on the couch .. you get the picture – I have been looking very VERY much forward to Christmas back here at home in Scandinavia. I’ve basically been talking about it for about a year… so now that 1 December finally came we planned a family night with hot chocolate, Christmas decorations, blankets and plenty of snuggles! Baby fell asleep pretty fast though, so Marcus and I ended up chatting for most of the time.

First, let me just say that I love Christmas – I know that’s very unique right? But every year when its over I feel like I could have done more to enjoy it and I promise myself that next Christmas I will make more of an effort. So I’ve been giving that some thought for a few weeks now, and so that is what we came to talk about tonight sipping our hot chocolate. How to get the most out of Christmas this year.

And it guess it really comes down to why you celebrate Christmas. There could be many reasons for that – gifts, family, FOOD! – but for me, as for many of you I’m sure, Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ. Or rather, it is about celebrating Christ and the spirit that He brings.

And it made me think of the things that I think make Christmas special. For one, I can’t help but notice how people become a little happier during Christmas time. You’ll get more smiles back on the street, you’ll be more likely to see gestures of kindness, and more than anything you see many more examples of service.

Oh my goodness! That’s what it comes down to! Christmas Spirit is really one happy circle of being excited and happy, leading to feeling thankful, leading to feeling humble, leading to serving others, leading back to feeling even more happy!

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(Get a load of those cheeks!!)

So to me it was quite simple. The way that we could get the most out of this month of Christmas is by enhancing and feeding that process. So for one thing we need to get happy and excited about Christmas – I’m putting up the last decorations while listening to Michael Bublé’s Christmas album tonight! We need to feel thankful and humble – it’s hard not to with that extremely cute baby lying asleep on the couch right there! And we need to try to serve others…

Now, great ways of doing that is finding a soup kitchen somewhere or making a Christmas donation… but since we’re poor young students and .. well I’m sure the soup kitchen thing would work for 45 minutes before the baby needed feeding again… I just really felt like we could be of service in smaller ways that might even make more of a difference – to others but maybe even more to ourselves. I mean the small unexpected ways that are just enough to light up someone’s day, like leaving a happy sticky note on someone’s wind shield, or smiling at everyone you pass on the street, or simply just making an effort to be happy and friendly when you’re around other people.

That way we would also reach our goal of getting the most out of our Christmas – because this would teach us to constantly be on the look-out for things we could do to serve. It would teach us to see other people through less judging and skeptical eyes. It would teach us to think happier thoughts and to stop wasting energy on gossiping and thinking angry thoughts. We would learn to just expect all people to have good intentions. Basically, it would teach us to be friendlier and happier people.

If I may be so selfish, I believe then we would be giving ourselves a better gift than any we would be giving away.

To get us in the right spirit we watched this short Youtube video.

Please, feel free to hit ‘play’ for instant Christmas spirit!

Baby, what are you looking at?

Baby and I had a few hours to ourselves tonight. Since she was happy I thought why not put on Pride and Prejudice and have our first mother-daughter movie night. It was glorious for the first half hour but then she fell asleep and so I’m seizing this rare opportunity of being alone on a quiet evening to write a blog post.

It’s incredible how enchanting the feeling is to sit here calmly, the only sounds being the ticking of the clock on the wall and my baby’s soft snores in my lap. That’s where she fell asleep during her third dinner with drop of milk stopped in its tracks on her bulging cheek. She has grown about 10cm in the last two months since she was born. I can’t believe how much she’s changed already.

Sometimes I find it hard to believe that she is just a newborn child with only two months of experience. I’ve never had an actual conversation with her and still I feel like I know her personality and to some extent even her thoughts. But when she gazes up at me with those big eyes I can’t help but sense that there’s some deeper wisdom in them, a depth that extends far beyond the time that she has been part of my life. Sometimes I even feel a little intimidated, like she is the one teaching me and overseeing my every move and not the other way around. As if she is here to teach me of things that are yet unknown to me.

I remember when she was only a few days old and we were so desperately excited that we would try for several minutes at a time to even catch her eye. But she never seemed to find us interesting enough. As if there was something else in the room that was far more worth her attention. And it made me wonder. Cause I found it hard to imagine that she could be focusing so intently on something meaningless when I, her mother, was so near. What thoughts could be passing through that inexperienced mind?

Even now when she is lying deep asleep in my lap I watch her little face closely. I see different moods flash across her face. Furrowed eyebrows with pursed lips, to the biggest most beautiful smile, to a heartbreaking trembling lower lip. What pictures is she dreaming? What memories are inspiring her subconsciousness? Is she thinking about the last time her dad pulled a funny expression or do they belong to a time previous even to the first time she first saw his face?

I have learned so much since she joined our family. Not because I’m acquiring skills relating to changing diapers and breastfeeding, but I feel that I somehow am filled with a deeper knowledge of life. Almost as if I understand myself better and even the meaning of my existence – maybe because I better understand my own priorities and goals in life. To have a happy family. There is really nothing I want more. And she teaches me that that is possible.

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