A Note from Mrs. Pilkvist

Apparently writing blog posts is the last thing on a person’s mind during their honeymoon.

Huh. Who would have thought?

For once in my blogging career, I feel like I have a valid excuse as to why I’ve avoided posting for two months. (I guess there’s a first time for everything!) But now it’s already been a month back into “real life,” so it’s time to break the streak of silence.

Well. We got married.

On September 17, 2016 we stood on a mountain and said ‘I do.’ You could call it magical. The rain had been fighting against us all week but it decided to give us the afternoon that Saturday. It was cold and wet, but the clouds had settled amongst the mountain tops in thin grey whips. So I couldn’t even be mad. I might have froze but at least it was beautiful while I did! The whole day was pretty laid back. We weren’t a ton of people, so it made it feel like almost like a Thanksgiving celebration. At least that’s what it reminded me of. It was just a bunch of family and friends gathered together to celebrate and enjoy the day. That was probably my favorite part.

Of course, no wedding is without it’s hiccups so we had to have some as well. Benjamin lost his tie and suspenders (which was actually my fault). It took longer to get my makeup on my face than I had expected. Once we arrived at the ceremony place, we realised that everyone forgot about the speaker, which was still at the base so someone had to run back and grab it. And since it had been raining most of the week, the grass was wet and soggy. And Courtney’s shoes were sufficiently soaked after 2 steps. Oh and don’t forget about attempting to check in at the hotel that night. It was late and the automated kiosk that was supposed to give us our key didn’t work. But I think it’s those little things that make it memorable. I’ll never forget walking up and down the streets of Davos at midnight in my wedding dress!

And, naturally, the proof is in the pictures.

I could probably spend thousands and thousands of words about what the day was like, but I won’t do that to you. I’ll let you see for yourself. It may have been a relaxed event but it’s a memory that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. I’ll never forget when Ben and I took communion together that afternoon – and not just because I bit off more dry bread that I could chew. But because that was the moment when I knew that it was all for real.

I had made my choice. And we made a covenant together and with God.

It almost felt like the beginning of a rollercoaster ride. You know, the big ones that start with a long climb. You’re sitting there, strapped into your seat, just waiting for the drop. It always takes longer than you think it should, but then as soon as you get to the top, your mind starts racing. The car slows down and it starts to teeter over the edge. Your stomach does this little flip-flop thing and thoughts run through your mind at a million miles an hour. The thoughts that wonder what’s going to happen. There’s no way to know what’s coming over the drop.

But you’re so excited because you know it’s going to be so much fun.

That’s how it felt. I know that I have no way of knowing what life is going to bring us in the next years or even the next few weeks. But I’m so excited. And I know it’s going to be fun because I get to go through life with my best friend.

So. Having said all that, enjoy these pictures. 🙂

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When You’re Not Looking… pt. 4

This post is part four of a series. Here’s where you can find posts one, two and three.

 

The day we left for outreach was the day I realized I was falling hard.

We were in the airport – the five of us on our way to Bosnia for the next 14 weeks. I think everyone was a little tired and at least a bit nervous, so conversation was pretty sparse. Someone would make a remark every couple of minutes that would spark a mini conversation that quickly fizzled out into silence. Most of us picked up our phones or iPads and zoned into the world of social media. But these little conversations started to build my hope. I realized that if I said something or chimed in, Ben would look up from his iPad and listen.

Just that little bit of attention gave me hope that lasted for weeks.

And then it happened.

Two weeks into our 14 week outreach, we realized that there was actually something more than friendship on both of our ends. I remember we were sitting on the back porch of the apartment our team lived at in Sarajevo. We had spent the previous two days painting the interior of a house and the whole team was pretty exhausted. The students decided to watch a movie, but I wasn’t really feeling it. So Benjamin and I ended up sitting outside, staring at the five stars visible from our balcony while eating fancy cheese and crackers and listening to indie music. That’s when I decided what I wanted. That was when I made up my mind that we were more than friends.

We tried to ignore it as long as we could.

Both of us wanted to just do outreach and then talk about it later. But 12 weeks is a long time to pretend that feelings don’t exist. It’s like have an itchy mosquito bite. The more you think about not itching it, the more it itches.

The more you think about ignoring your heart, the louder it screams.

Halfway through the outreach, we felt like it was time. Ignoring the feelings had made it a bigger distraction than acknowledging them. We decided it was time to actually talk about things beyond the “I like you a lot” conversation that had already happened. It was time to decide if this was for real or not; if we were going to go for it or walk away.

That conversation went something like this:

“So. What are your dreams? Where do you feel like God is leading your life?” (We already knew the answer. We’d talked about it like a million times already. But we shared again anyway.)

“Do our dreams line up?” (You know… I think they do…)

“Do we want to do this? Do we want to… get married?”

Yeah. Yes. Yes we do.

“Let’s get married!”

That was our first date. We were sitting on a rock along the coast of the Adriatic Sea, the sound of the waves crashing in the background and we decided to get married. (Eating cheese and crackers, of course. That somehow became our thing. 🙂 )

Obviously since then, there have been more than a few ups and downs. Making a major life change in less than four months causes a bit of chaos – no matter how you try to avoid it. I hate to admit that I’ve cried more than I would have liked to. I’d be lying if I said I’ve never doubted if this is the right choice. But I keep coming back to what I feel like God has spoken. And I believe He’s told us to go for it. The night after Ben and I had our first little “chat,” I went to bed on an emotional high (maybe a slight understatement). I think I texted my mom for like an hour, letting my inner teenage girl freak out for a bit. And as I laid in bed, I felt like God spoke to my heart.

“Make your choice. Because once this starts, it’s going to go fast.”

It was a bit of reality amongst all of the raging emotions. But I made my choice. I chose Benjamin.

And He was right. It did go fast. Hard as we tried, we couldn’t slow it down. I think when God spoke that, He was trying to prepare me for the journey ahead. He didn’t say it was going to be easy. He asked me to make a choice.

So I did.

And I have to say, I’m happy with my choice.

In five days, I’ll walk down the aisle and say ‘I do’ to one of the biggest blessings that’s ever come into my life.

Yeah.

I’m very happy with my choice.

 

the end & yet, to be continued

 

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When You’re Not Looking… pt. 3

This post is part three of a series. Here’s where you can find parts one and two.

 

It was our last week on base before heading out on outreach. Since Ben and I were leading together, that meant lots of last-minute meetings to tie everything up. And somehow there was a switch in my mind. I can’t pin-point when it happened but I just became super curious. I just really wanted to know if Benjamin liked me. So I just started paying closer attention to how he treated me and how he treated the other girls. I probably went back and forth several times a day. Picture Courtney holding a daisy, pulling out the petals one by one, “He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not.”

That’s how it went. Over and over. Back and forth.

I was so confused.

So I finally decided to pray about it. Sometimes I get scared to ask God these questions. It’s a silly fear and I know that. But it’s not so much that I’m afraid of asking, I’m just afraid of what the answer is. And yet the point came when I decided that hearing the answer would be better then the emotional yo-yo I was subjecting myself to. And as I prayed about it, I started feeling more peace about the friendship I had with Ben. I even felt like God was saying that it was ok for it to keep getting deeper. I didn’t really know what He meant with that, but I figured it would be ok. I mean, if God was giving me the go-ahead, I must be in an ok spot right? And I figured it meant that Benjamin didn’t really like me either. So I just accepted that. We were just friends. Weren’t we?

But then He said something else.

For about a year, I’d worn a ring on my wedding finger. I had switched it from the other hand before leaving for DTS as a promise to God. When I put it on that finger, I decided that it was a commitment to remain faithful to God and to do my best to trust that He’d tell me when to swap that ring out with an engagement one. So I’d always joke about it and say that I was married to Jesus. Because in my heart, I was. I loved the ring too. I’d had it since I was thirteen and even if you could tell by the style of it, I still loved it. There was a little heart around an opal at the center. I wore it every day, all the time. And then I woke up one morning and the opal was gone. Naturally, I freaked out. But I promised God in that moment that even if the stone was gone, I wasn’t going to take it off until He brought some guy along to replace it.

So I wore it proudly. A gaping hole in the middle of a delicate heart. But I wore it anyway because I’d made God a promise and I didn’t want to break it.

But then that last week in Switzerland before outreach, God told me to take it off.

I think in that moment I knew what that meant. I just didn’t want to admit it. I took it of pretty reluctantly. I had no idea if I was ready for this. Somewhere in my heart, I knew that taking off that ring meant that my heart was available. And I had no idea if I was ready for that.

“Do you trust me?”

It was time to put those words into practice. Saying I trusted God was one thing. But would I actually act on what He was asking me to do? That’s what trust really looks like. And if I wasn’t willing to do that, had I really come as far as I thought I had? I reminded myself of all of the times God had been faithful in the past and reminded myself that He would be faithful again. If He was asking me to take my ring off, if He was telling me that it was ok for my heart to be “on the market,” would I trust that?

So I did it.

I took off the ring and gave my heart to God.

And that’s when I realized that Ben had already found a special spot in my heart.

 

…to be continued…

 

When You’re Not Looking… pt. 2

This post is part two of a series. If you missed part one, you can read it here.

 

From that moment in front of God and my classmates, I started to let God take my ideals and replace them with more trust for Him. Whenever I would start to feel sorry for myself (as lots of girls do… 🙂 ) because I felt hopelessly single, I would ask God to replace that with more trust for Him: trust that He would bring a man along in His own time and on His terms. I began to focus less on how single I was and more on who I was and who God had created me to be.

During this time, Benjamin and I actually started to become pretty good friends. He was a volunteer at our base and just always seemed to be around and ready to hang out. When I first met him, I thought we wouldn’t get a long at all. To me, he seemed way “out of my league” – even on a friendship level. I just thought we wouldn’t really have anything in common. But all of the sudden (I still don’t really know how it happened exactly) we were friends. He was the one skiing with me last year when I had my accident that put me out for the season. He came to the hospital with me and was a great support throughout that whole day and even through the rest of DTS.

And before I knew it, we were just good friends.

(In my mind, at least.)

There may have been a few times when I wondered if we were really just friends, Benjamin and I. I even remember my roommate Aleah telling me once that Ben “really adored” me. At that time, I was still trying to just focus on God and figuring out who He said I was. I didn’t have time for boys. And if I just told myself over and over that Ben didn’t actually like me, I believed it and it wasn’t something I had to try to figure it out. So basically, I ignored it – pretended it didn’t actually exist – and moved on with my life.

Fast forward to October of this year. I arrived back in Switzerland to staff the 2016 DTS and was so excited to see what God had in store for the upcoming season. I was back in one of my favorite places with some of my most favorite people and I couldn’t wait for the adventures ahead. I also felt like I was in a good spot. I could honestly say that I trusted God completely with my future – including marriage. I truly trusted that He had a good plan for me and I knew that no matter what happened, I would be ok with it – no matter what the outcome.

And wouldn’t you know it, Benjamin was back to staff, too. As our staff training went on, there would be these moments. I don’t really know how to explain them. We would be hanging out as a staff group and these random thoughts would pop into my head. They would skitter across my mind and they startled me every time. It would be a thought like, “Oh, did you see that? Did you see what Ben just did? That’s something you’ve said you wanted in a husband.” I never knew what to do with these thoughts or even where they came from. This was after I’d told God multiple times that I was not on the market when it came to boys. I was here in Davos to disciple the students that came through and to grow in my relationship with Him – not to chase after boys.

So these thoughts couldn’t be God, could they?

Since I didn’t know what to do with them, I just ignored them. Shoved them off to the side and decided I was crazy. My mind was just being a stereotypical girl’s brain and I could get over that. All I had to do was ignore them and just keep focusing on God. But these thoughts got my wheels turning. I started to think about what I actually looked for in a spouse and what God thought about my “list.” As the year went on, I began to realize what my heart really wanted. I wanted someone to dream with. Someone to grow with and to follow God alongside. My daily prayer became, “Lord, I want someone to dream with. Can I have someone to dream with? But give me patience. Help me to focus on what You’re doing in this season.”

Then one Sunday afternoon in March, it all began to click.

It was the week before we left on outreach and all of the sudden I realized what was going on.

 

 

…to be continued…

Cultures

One of my favorite parts of my job is being able to experience different cultures. First of all, I’m from the smallest of small towns in the most northern part of Minnesota. So just coming to Switzerland is a cultural difference. Even though our center is located on the edge of a smaller city, there are still many differences in culture. (As well as typography…)

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Minnesota, USA

 

I always say that there’s a lot of similarities between Swiss culture and American culture, but that mainly comes from the fact that we’re both Western cultures. There are still quite a few differences, despite a small overlap. And that’s what makes life exciting most days. A bit confusing and frustrating at times, but for the most part it’s good. Experiencing different cultures broadens our perspective of life and it helps me to realize that there isn’t just one “right” way of doing life.

So United States to Switzerland, cultural difference number one.

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Davos, Switzerland

 

But beyond experiencing Swiss culture, we also get the opportunity to experience other cultures when we go out on outreach. The past two years, I’ve had the chance to travel to Bosnia and Croatia. Both times I’ve been there have been amazing experiences getting to know people and learn more about their culture.

This last year, we spent lots of time with the people we met at each location. So we got a pretty good taste of how people do life in different countries. It’s an amazing experience! But my favorite part of outreach is getting a taste of how people from other cultures encounter God. I loved being able to attend church services – even if they can be long and in a language I can’t understand – just to be able to worship together. Just to be able to experience God together. In those moments, you don’t need words. Your hearts are simply joined together in a moment as you realize that you’re all worshiping the same God. That’s a feeling that has never left me. I love it. And I think it’s something that sticks with a person throughout their life.

So the other night when I was in the kitchen preparing dinner, all of the sudden the words from a Croatian worship song popped into my head. I know it’s a song that’s been translated into Croatian from English, but I don’t know the English words. So as the words came back to me, I just stood in the kitchen, chopping onions and singing out the lyrics on my heart.

Isuse, budi centar
Moja nada, moja pjesma,

Isuse, Isuse 

I don’t understand Croatian. I have a bit of an idea of what the words mean, but when it comes right down to it, I have no idea what I’m singing. But God does! And that’s what blows me away by how great He is. He fits into every culture. He created every language. And He knows every single person on this planet and loves us all the same. And He loves it when we come together just to worship Him. When we put aside all of our differences and simply enjoy Him; He loves that.

I believe in those moments, even if the worship is in Croatian, my heart is still full because I believe that in those moments we can feel the joy God feels. We can feel His delight in our praise.

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Worship in on Outreach

 

Sarajevo Round 2

Sarajevo, Bosnia.

It’s a beautiful city.

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In my opinion, at least. If you look close enough, you can see all the bumpy scars left from multiple wars – both in the physical and in the emotional. There’s so much hurt left over from a country that was torn apart. To outsiders, it looks like no one wants to move on. It looks like people in Sarajevo are hopeless. But if you look close enough, you’ll notice that there’s still hope. There’s always hope. As long as God loves people, there will always be hope. But sometimes our circumstances change how we view things. In the midst of pain, it’s hard to look for the hope. It’s hard to look past the wounds and see a life that’s beyond what we can see at the moment.

That’s how it felt with outreach sometimes. It felt like there was so much hurt in the city, how could we ever make a difference?

But if you look past the pain…. If you can shift your focus so you’re looking for hope instead of pain, you’ll find it.

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The outside of the Rafael Center – where Robert and Sandrina hold their fellowship and also where the children’s center is.
Robert and Sandrina have been living in Sarajevo for a while. They run fellowship and were in the beginning stages of starting a daycare/children’s center. The hope they have for their city is contagious. Even as we were doing labor work, I could feel my attitude begin to change. As I saw Robert’s hope, I began to catch the vision he had as well.

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The beginning of the Jungle Theater… where we would spend many hours painting art work and constructing a tree from styrofoam.
The beginning of starting a ministry is hard no matter where you are. It takes lots of work and lots of perseverance. When things don’t turn out how you had planned, it takes patience to push through and find another way of doing things.

As the weeks went on, sometimes it felt like we weren’t getting any where. It felt like no matter what amount of work we put in, there was always more that would need to be done. But holding on to the hope kept us going.

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The inside of the Jungle Theater.

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Watching “Bambi” in the Jungle Theater!
In the moment, it’s hard to see the impact we have sometimes. But looking back, we can see what our work accomplished. For one thing, we were able to build some good relationships with the people we worked with. And for another, we got to see the children’s center up and running when we left.

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The first kids camp to run at the new children’s center!
When we arrived, that building was empty. And when we left, it was full of colorful things for children’s to play in. We even got to play with kids for a few days!

For me, the growth I saw in my students made the whole trip worth it. When we left for outreach, we were all pretty comfortable with each other. But as time goes on, you see every side of a person when you live close with them. And there are moments when you are absolutely convinced that you can’t stand the other person. Every outreach team goes through that. But it makes it so much more amazing when you come to the end of outreach and you realize that you love each person on your team so much. Not because they are perfect, but because of who they are and who God is in them.

For me, that’s what makes outreach worth it. At the end of the day, Sarajevo still needs lots of love. But if I look at what God has done in the students and in me, it makes the whole trip worth it.

If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself.   – 2 Timothy 2:13

That’s what I learned. For me, that verse talks about trusting that God is moving, even if it doesn’t look like we expected it too, He is.

Because He is still faithful.

Always faithful.

It’s…. It’s been a while…

Sorry guys… It’s been too long. I’d say it’s been busy here (which isn’t a lie) but that’s not an excuse. So here’s my written apology and my commitment to you: I’m sorry for not communicating well and I am going to strive to do better. My goal for this upcoming season is to post at least twice a month, just so you can stay as updated and as informed as possible! Please have grace with me, because life here at the base gets crazy quickly, but know that I am going to do my best to uphold that commitment on my end.

There. Now on to what’s been going on the past month.

Has anyone else realized that Christmas is in 8 days? I just realized that at the beginning of the week. Que the last minute shopping and holiday craziness before flying back to Minnesota to visit my family in a few short days! I’m beyond thankful for the chance to go home to visit my family for the holidays. It’ll be 9 days full of family, friends, late nights, too much food, and copious amounts of coffee. And I refuse to feel guilty about indulging in any of the above. 🙂

Besides the realization that Christmas is actually right around the corner, the past month has been full of so many things – some good, some hard, but all of them at the exact time God intended them for. I’ve been realizing that the past couple of days. God’s timing is perfect. And it’s a beautiful thing when we let Him take control of what happens when. Also, how much freedom is there in not having to control things? Much. Much freedom. For which I am grateful.

This week we’ve been focusing a lot on freedom and breaking fear of man. We’ve had some wonderful, intense worship and prayer times as a group, just spending time in the Presence of God and enjoying Him together. This morning we spent some time praying for the Snowboarders and Freeskiers DTS starting in just a few short weeks. We declared things and claimed things; things for the base, for the students, for us as leaders, and for the city of Davos. We prayed against the fear of man and declared that there is no shame in looking like a fool for Jesus. That’s the line that keeps ringing in my head today: No Shame. If you haven’t heard United Pursuit’s song, Head to the Heart, you need to. Go look it up. It’s just good.

As a team, we’ve also gone through some hard days and have really realized the value of unity and what it means to actually be unified. For myself, I’ve been reading a book by John C. Maxwell called “Developing the Leader Within You” and and while it didn’t really address unity directly, it talked about what it means to be a leader and how to lead effectively. First of all, the definition given in the book of a leader is someone who has followers, but also someone who influences people. And in my opinion, the whole book just continues to talk about how influence has to start with yourself. That’s what I’ve realized. If I want people to trust me, I have to be a trustworthy person and trust others as well. If I want our team to be unified, I need to work on cultivating a spirit of unity in myself and create an atmosphere that fosters unity. Now, it’s not all on my shoulders, but it starts with my attitude. And I realized at the beginning of this week that I haven’t been a very trustworthy person the over the past few weeks. That’s on me. The only person that can change that is me. So instead of blaming other people for the lack of trust or lack of unity or lack of whatever, I realized that I need to start taking ownership and responsibility of my own actions and improve the parts that need improvement. That takes humility. It takes being willing to apologize to people and ask for forgiveness. Then it takes the wisdom to ask God to help me fix the places in my own life that are out of whack.

This week has been awesome. God’s blown me away so many times and I love it. I’m thankful for Grace. I’m thankful for Love. I’m thankful that I get to be a part of the YWAM Davos team. I know that the Lord has brought us all here for a reason and I can’t wait to learn more from each one of these wonderful people. They’ve become family and this house has become my home. And for that, I am thankful.

In closing:
I’m flying home to visit my family in just 5 short days!! I would love if you guys could pray for safe travels.

Also, continual prayer for unity – that it would grow stronger and deeper.

And prayer for the students coming soon! Pray that all of their finances would come in and that they would be surrounded by support from family and friends. We’re so excited to welcome them all here in a few short weeks!

Photo!

Mr&Mrs Pilkvist – 17.09.2016

 

SFDTS 2016!

Staff Training

 

Amsterdam Trip!

Back to Davos

Greetings Friends!!

We’re back! Back in the land of chocolate and cheese – otherwise known as Switzerland!

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swiss alps and lake

Thank you to everyone who was praying for travels this earlier this week! It was probably the easiest travel day that I’ve ever had. Besides a slight hiccup with my booking (something got switched somewhere and it wasn’t caught, so I was put on a flight that arrived in Toronto after my connecting flight had already left. No bueno.) which was sorted out pretty easily in Winnipeg, everything went perfectly. Checking in, connection times, and getting through security quickly and easily. So thank you all very much for your prayers!

And in case you were wondering, I think jet lag is a little easier to handle the second time around… or maybe I just knew what to expect this time. 🙂 It helped that I had an overnight flight on my way here (I left Toronto at 11 pm and landed in Europe the next day at 10 am) and thankfully got to sleep for most of it. That made transitioning to the time difference here a lot easier, which was nice.

It’s been so good to be back here at the base! Back in the places where I’ve felt God stirring and moving in my heart so much and back with some of the people who have shared in the journey of DTS with me. I’ve gotten so stoked to see what He has in store for the rest of our time here! This year is going to be awesome. I can’t wait. Because if there’s one thing that I know, it’s that God is super rad and His plans are the best. We’re all pretty excited over here.

We haven’t done a ton of stuff yet, since most of us just arrived on Thursday. We’ve just been hanging out, getting caught up with returning friends and getting to know new ones. My prayer for this time that we have the base all to ourselves is that we would grow together and really become family. I know that God has drawn each of us here for a reason and we’re going to learn so much from each other. And it’s going to be good! So if you all would join me in praying for that – growth and unity as a staff – and that God would draw in the students He has planned for this school. It’s going to be a crazy year, and I’m glad that you’re joining the adventure with me in prayer!

Thank you all for your prayers and support.

God is so good!