Guest blog from Amanda Mayhue.

Howdy there y’all!

My name is Amanda Mayhue. I am pleased to meet you and honored to have the opportunity to introduce myself to you. If you didn’t realize it from the “howdy” and the “y’all” in my greeting, I am a 32 year old gal from the American South, Northwest Arkansas to be specific. I am momma to Magnus Jack (8) and Atticus David (6). I have been married to my handsome husband Jon for 13 years.

Now, I am going to try to make a very long story short. Jon and I got married when we were just 19 years young. We were high school sweethearts who just could not wait one more minute to get hitched and start a life together. We got engaged the night before I graduated from high school and were married by Spring Break of my first semester at the University of Arkansas. That was back in 2005. As newlyweds, Jon and I lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas for just a short while. We moved to the heart of downtown Chicago, Illinois in 2007 and loved every minute of living in that beautiful, bustling, big city. As much as we loved the glamour of the windy city, we moved back to Arkansas just one year later to finish our degrees at the university.

Upon graduating, we packed up our things again and headed for Tampa, Florida. Magnus Jack arrived in February of 2010 and when he was just one year old, you guessed it, we were packing up and headed back to Springdale, Arkansas. We wanted all the comforts and familiarity of “small town living” to grow our little family. In November 2011, Atticus made us a family of four and we bought our very first home in a picturesque, suburban, American neighborhood.

We had finally done it y’all! After all that moving around, Jon and I had found our place to settle down. We had found the place we would call home and begin to put down some roots. We now had a beautiful home to raise our boys in. Jon was finally a part of a company where he could build a career. We found a church home and a church family who encouraged and challenged us to grow every day in our faith. Can I get an amen? I mean, I often gazed out upon our reality and declared, “it is well with my soul.”

After so many years of wandering from place to place, The Mayhue family was living the American Dream. We had finally entered our Promise Land… or so we thought.

I do not want y’all to miss the we thought at the end of that last sentence. We thought we had reached the pinnacle of what life could offer. We thought that we had the best and were doing our best. We thought that we had it all figured out. BUT the Heavenly Father Who is Creator and Possessor of heaven and earth knows what is the pinnacle of achievement, He knows what is the best for us, He has our path perfectly and wonderfully planned. Jon and I were about to begin to understand this particular truth on a much deeper level.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT

In 2014, our hearts began to stir and that unsettled feeling returned. Jon and I could not figure out how we were not content with this abundantly blessed life we were building and enjoying. And in perfect timing, we began to study Jesus’ Great Commission to his disciples found at the end of the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew 28:18-20 says, “Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the

commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.””

The word go in this scripture hit Jon and I like a ton of bricks and one thing became clear in that divine instant. The Lord was calling us to go. Not just go to another city or another state. Much like when The Lord called Abram out of Ur, He was calling us to leave our home, our family, our church, our familiar places, our comfort zone, our belongings and go to a land that was not our own, to a people who were not our own, to a language that was not our own.

It was all clear and all very scary! How would we even begin such a task?

Well, I am writing about this amazing time in the life of my family from my kitchen table in our beautiful home in Västerås, Sweden, that we have lived in for the last year.

When our hearts began to stir for something more, over 3 years ago, we were just beginning to learn about seeking The Heavenly Father’s Will above our own will. We were just beginning to learn that whatever we think is the best, God has a best we can’t even imagine. So, we began to pray and seek His Will for us, for our family, for our future, for the Kingdom.

I would be lying if I did not tell you that this was a difficult process and that there were so many moments when I wanted to throw in the towel, call the whole thing off, plant my feet and stay right where I was. The moments of confusion and conflict came when we were prayerfully seeking the nation we felt called to go to, when we had to find a specific place within an entire country to land, when we were getting rid of all our earthly belongings and when we were trying to determine what very precious momentos would be saved to remind us of the life we had lived up to this point.

The moments of fear and doubt came when we were selling our first home that we loved very much, when we were saying goodbye to our beloved family and friends, when we were trying to find a place to live in a new country, and when we were trying to help our boys feel comfortable in a new place surrounded by a new culture, new people and a new language. Moments of sadness, loneliness and longing came when we had to celebrate holidays far from family and when we were not able to attend three different weddings celebrating three couples we absolutely adore. Moments of frustration came when normal activities like grocery shopping, ordering food in a restaurant and driving around town seemed arduous and unfamiliar. Moments of intense grief flooded our hearts when our best friend’s baby girl died after her short but lifelong battle with cancer and the moments of grief almost overtook us when Jon’s mom, my beautiful and vibrant mother-in-law, was tragically killed in a car accident while she was driving home from the little cabin in the woods that our family made so many cherished memories at together.

I would be lying if I told you that seeking God’s Will, seeking His best for you, for your family is always easy.

If you can believe it, I would not change one thing. I would not want to change one minute, one moment of the journey that has led me here to this moment, at my kitchen table, in my beautiful home, painted all in red and white, here in Västerås, Sweden.

On March 15, 2017, after saying our final goodbye to the USA, after a very long flight across the ocean with 8 suitcases, two tired boys, a dog and a cat, and after a seemingly endless hour drive from Arlanda to Västerås, we arrived at our new home and who was the first person through our front door? Pastor PJ Stenstrand, that’s who! And he came with coffee and pizza and toilet paper. He made sure the radiators were on and that we knew where the few lights in the house were. Y’all! I am smiling from ear to ear remembering these first few moments. It seems like yesterday and an eternity ago all at the same time. The next visitors through our

front door were the sweetest new friends who brought fika. These friends and all their kiddos then built our IKEA table and chairs so that we would have something to have fika on. Those are some fabulous friends if I have ever known them!

The joyful moments don’t stop there. I have visited London in the name of Jesus and Sisterhood. I even got a glimpse and a wave from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as an extra special treat! Our family has danced like frogs during Mid-Summer, eaten a mountain of crawfish with friends in our backyard, opened a can of Surströmming, survived the smell and ate some of it too. We have picked raspberries in the forest, eaten bowls of fresh strawberries and cream, visited beautiful castles, taken our boys to LEGOLAND, and given cross country skiing our best shot. Magnus and Atticus started school in August and after only three months Magnus’ teacher no longer had to speak English to him. This momma’s heart was blessed beyond measure by that! We have been able to share our amazing life here in Sweden with family and a few friends that have crossed the ocean to visit us.

I could go on and on telling you about the adventures we have been on since we crossed the ocean one year ago and I could tell you about each one of the extraordinary people we have had the privilege to get to know, but I know that all the love we have for Sweden is rooted in the amazing church we call home, the leadership of our pastors and our Lifecenter Church family who have welcomed us, helped us feel comfortable, encouraged us, loved us through some very tough moments and call us their own.

Seeking God’s Will, seeking His best for me, for Jon, for Magnus and Atticus is about growing in strength and in wisdom when He has carried me through the fear and doubt, the confusion and the conflict, the sadness, loneliness and longing, the frustration, the grief. It is about cultivating a heart that is thankful, a heart that is present and prayerful, a heart that recognizes and relishes in joy and laughter every day.

If you’ll allow me, I would like to share one more bit of truth that helps and encourages me daily. It is ok to be a little afraid, a bit nervous when God’s Will calls us out of what is familiar, out of our comfort zone and into new surroundings, new relationships, new challenges, new adventures. I’ll say it again, it is ok to be scared because the victory begins, the testimony begins, when you take steps forward in faith, in His Might, in His Strength. I promise you that every step forward will quickly vanquish that fear with confidence, joy, strength, peace and victory. And when a moment creeps in to try and slow my steps or stop them completely, I pray the same words over myself that God spoke over Joshua as he was called to finally lead the people into The Promise Land.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified or dismayed (intimidated), for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.””

Be strong and courageous! The best is ahead! Amanda

Ulrica Stenstrand