My husband and I have been staying in northern Sweden with his sister and brother-in-law at their home near Frösön. Frösön is the largest island in the lake Storsjön, located just west of the city Östersund in Jämtland. Storsjön’s water seemed to move with a thickness as if it was cold like the air. My brother-in-law, who works on the water, explained that before lake water freezes, its consistency becomes syrupy. Several people were ice skating on huge expanses of newly frozen Åresjön, a lake closer to the mountains, with some areas still unfrozen or merely a few inches thick.

Our family graciously introduced us to Swedish culture and showed us places of history and beauty, such as Frösön’s runestone, which tells about Östman who Christianized Jämtland. 

We attended worship today (the first Sunday of Advent) in Åre gamla kyrka, a medieval stone church built in the late 1100s by farmers in Åre parish. The small choir in the balcony was passionately boisterous in their singing of traditional hymns of communion and Advent. As I attempted to sing along in Swedish, I thought of our own congregation possibly singing these same hymns seven hours later on this very day.

According to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, “Östersund is widely appreciated for its gastronomic culture, based on local sustainable food inspired from longstanding culinary traditions.” One of my favorite experiences while staying with family this past week was mixing, rolling and fire-baking Tunnbröd (thin bread) in their century-old outdoor brick oven. Tunnbröd is full of wonderfully fragrant ingredients such as anise and fennel, and this version contains multiple grains including graham, oat and rye. They taught me how to use special rolling pins with grooves, and another one for pricking the thin dough disc until it was gently but quickly tossed from the long wooden paddle onto the extremely hot brick oven floor. In seconds the dough began to turn black. When we removed it, the Tunnbröd was beautifully tinged with burnt edges. We enjoyed it, hot and freshly blackened, with butter.

While the fire was hot, we made pizza (because we could)…so yummy.

I am bursting with cherished memories; with more yet to come. Thanks be to God for life in all fullness!

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