by Becky Karnsund
Like the roots of a weed that silently spread to a once healthy garden, I often allow worry to take hold in my heart.
A few years ago, an atheist friend asked me how I was and my stress showed it’s ugly face as it poured out of my tired heart. At the time, Pontus was being paid only part time, we had been homeless for a few months, we had gone through all our savings, and our family was experiencing debt for the first time ever. My dad had cancer, my son had an ear surgery, I was trying to figure schooling out, the church we were leading was going through turmoil, I was going through culture shock, and the stress was taking such a physical toll on me that I ended up in the ER with chest pains.
When I was finished sharing my woes, I thought I'd get some sympathy. Instead she asked: “Why are you worrying? Isn't your God supposed to take care of you?” I sheepishly agreed. If I truly believed what I had been telling her about my God, wouldn’t I trust him to take care of me?
Today after another year of unknowns and change, I continue to fight moments of worry. Just last week Pontus got hives the doctor could not pin point, similar to what his skin was doing before he came down with meningo-encephalitis. Every night I wondered if I would wake up to him not being able to talk or walk again. Then today we were faced with the news that there is a chance we could lose the once approved loan on a house we are hoping to purchase. That wouldn't be that big of a deal except for the fact that the date is already set to move out of our rental and other people are moving in here. So if that were to happen, in two weeks we will have nowhere to live.
There are always “WHAT IFs” in life, many opportunities to worry, but it enslaves, enchains, debilitates, causes us to not think straight and lose our way. It raises our blood pressure, increases blood clotting, wears on our liver, causes muscle tension, headaches, stomach acid, intestinal issues, and lower our immune system.
That's not the freedom God has planned for us. I believe he has so much more in store for us that we haven't grasped yet, a joy we don't access due to fear.
Faith isn't the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It's simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step." Joni Erickson Tada
1. I want to remember to take control of my thoughts:
My mind can easily take over and run into a dark fantasy land, planning funerals that aren't needed, preparing beds under bridges, mourning imaginary losses, or organizing treatments for a cancer that doesn't exist. The apostle Paul in the Bible reminds me "to be transformed by the renewing of my mind" (Romans 12:2) and take control of my wandering thoughts to stay on “whatever is true, whatever is right, and whatever is pure" (Philippians 4:8). Like a sailboat that goes adrift if I don't steer it. my thoughts can get lost and be destructive if I don't take action and make them constructive.
2. I want to remember that sin takes peace away:
There’s no way around it. When Adam and Eve chose to sin, the peace and joy they had with God was broken. They immediately hid and were scared. My first action should be to remember to search my heart and ask God to bring to light anything that is between us. I believe it's impossible for me to find true peace when there is sin between me and the Prince of Peace.
3. I want to remember that God is with me:
He doesn’t promise a painless life, but he promises to be there with me, providing strength and comfort. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2). The stories are endless of people that have experienced their favorite moments through the worst of times, just because that is when they felt God's presence.
4. I want to remember that God wants the best for me:
When I face scary events I don't understand at the time, what would my worry look like if I truly believed God’s intentions for me are good? What I dedicated the energy of worrying to push through the challenge I face?
5. I want to remember that God = peace:
Just as the fruit of an orange tree is an orange, a fruit of the Holy Spirit is peace (Galatians 5:22). If I am not experiencing peace, I need to ask myself if I’ve drifted away. The source of all peace, promises: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (Jesus in John 14:27). Am I close enough to him to feel that? Jesus also said: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest" (Matthew 11:28).
6. I want to remember to replace worry with thanks:
Habits are hard to cut out of our lives without replacing them with something else. The Bible reminds us to first give the worry to God, and then replace it with thanks: “Do not worry about anything, but in every situation, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Then, the peace of God, which goes beyond all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). The times I've tried to focus on what I have to be thankful for, I forget to worry.
7. I want to remember to take care of my health:
Science has confirmed that sugar can increase stress, lack of potassium can increase blood pressure, dehydration can cause palpitations and lack of sleep increases anxiety disorders. Many physical problems can cause or increase feelings of stress and make the face of worry look much bigger than it is.
8. I want to remember to get to know God:
I believe that the more we get to know someone trustworthy, the more we will trust them. God tells us to "be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). I love watching my kids sit back in the car and enjoy the view while I drive. They are not worried. They trust me, because they know me. The driver of my life is the God of the universe; holy, good, perfect, all powerful, all knowing, ever present, gentle, slow to anger, patient, loving, and personal. But instead of sitting back and enjoying the ride, I tense up, question him, look at the wheel, and often miss the beauty around me; I miss that relationship God longs to have with me through the storm.
story by Becky Karnsund
title by Pontus Karnsund
There was a rule on board the ship where I met Pontus that we all had to wait one year before being able to get "Social Permission" (term used when a couple was allowed to date). Before my year was up, I had an engagement ring on.
The following is the story of how that happened.
I first met Pontus while translating for him when he preached at a church in Acapulco, Mexico. The very next day, he left for Costa Rica. His job involved preparing the ports ahead, so he didn't live on board with the rest of us. He left an impression on me though. I had never met anyone like him. He was all I had ever imagined I would want in a guy, something I didn't think had existed until then. I assumed I couldn't have him though (he was just out of my league), but from then on I prayed every evening out on the deck that God would give me a guy just like him someday.
A week later I received an email from him. It was a simple note, but the beginning of months of email correspondence. No rules existed for emailing, so I approached the director of our ship to ask him if we could (I had decided I would stop contacting him if the director told me too, praying God to direct). I can't remember our conversation, but he said we could continue communicating.
Not quite a year into my time, I was invited to fly to Belgium to help with two youth events, which included a free week where I could take a train down to see my parents. Pontus, who was by this time living and studying at a theological school in Paris, asked me if he could visit when I went to Spain. Once again, I went to the director to ask. I was given the green light.
Soon there we were, in Spain together. My parents had a guest room in our home, but they had put Pontus up in a hotel across town. Every morning, Pontus would climb the hill up to our house and spend the day with us.
My dad approached me one evening when I was alone. He had seen Pontus put his arm around me while watching a movie and asked what our plans were. I told them there were none. He gently challenged me to commit some day to someone and that this seemed like a good guy to commit to.
I was a bit shocked and shared the conversation with Pontus while out on a walk the next day. Expecting him to laugh about it with me, I went pale when he responded with a smile: "Would that be so bad?" He figured that if we were going to be away from each other for another year and were meant to be, "why not get engaged before".
I wanted to run. I wanted to run far away and never see him again. I was scared. I didn't want to think about it. I barely knew him! Most of our time getting to know each other had just been over email! My dad talking about commitment and now Pontus!? I said no.
After a few hours, I calmed down and asked Pontus: "How do we know what God's will is?" I asked my dad the same question. No one gave me a satisfying answer.
Pontus was everything I had ever wanted in a husband, was going the same way in life that I was going, we were following the same God with the same passion, and a deep love was growing for him. But how to know what God wants? I prayed. I asked. But no answer, no signs in the sky, no dreams, no visions. Silence. I got kinda upset at God. Here I was asking him to guide me in one of my most important decisions, and he goes silent?!
The next few days we talked a lot, prayed for guidance, ... and looked at rings one time "just for fun". Eventually it was time to leave. Pontus decided to join me on the train ride back up to Holland.
The day before leaving he mentioned he wanted to ask my dad for my hand in marriage, "just in case the moment arose sometime in the future". I figured it couldn't hurt, but warned him I wasn't ready to give an answer. Pontus asked my dad while we were at a Chinese restaurant, when my mom and I had gone to wash our hands. My dad gave his blessing.
Soon we were back on the train and on our way to Holland. We would be changing trains in Paris and Belgium before arriving. Pontus kept throwing in that he thought Paris would be a great place to get engaged.
I'm not sure how or why, but I finally told him that "if I found the ring I wanted" (I had a specific one I was looking for and hadn't found it yet) and "if it fit my finger right away" (my fingers were always too fat for rings), that I would take those signs to mean that God was behind this." I wouldn't suggest this method to anyone, but I guess God has mercy and works even through foolishness sometimes.
Pontus got excited and figured: "It's Paris! How hard can it be to find a ring there!" He thought it was a done deal. But soon we arrived to Paris and everything was closed. Turns out that it was a national holiday in France. "Surely something would be open for tourists on the Champs-élysées though," he thought, so we made our way by metro to one of the busiest and most popular streets in the world. Walking towards the Arc of Triumph, we found nothing. Everything was closed! I had never seen it that way.
I finally looked at Pontus and said that maybe God didn't want us to get engaged. Maybe this was his way of telling us it not meant to be, at least not yet. We decided to return to the train station, but stopped to pray one last time. Holding hands right there in the middle of champs-élysées and surrounded by busy tourists walking by, we prayed. We gave our lives into God's hands and asked him to guide us. We prayed that, if it was his will that we get engaged, we would find a jewelry shop.
We were making our way back down champs-élysées, when suddenly Pontus noticed what seemed to be an open store at the end of a small ally on our right. He went down and came back excited. It was a small jewelry shop. Open! I held his hand as we made our way down. It was true. What?! Was this real? I looked at the display from outside and saw the ring I had been looking for. It was all so surreal. I hesitantly walked inside and I asked to try it on. It fit perfectly. I politely said a numb thank you and walked out. Pontus followed me, confused. Nervous and trembling I said: "What if this is all a mistake! What if this is all coincidence!" This was the biggest decision of my life!
Pontus calmly just smiled at me, like he does so many times when I freak out and he knows all is going to be OK. I sat down on the a ledge of the dirty street to calm my heart. In the depths of my soul I felt this was meant to be, but I was scared. I gave my fears to God and asked him to guide me. I looked up, smiled at Pontus and squeaked out an excited yes.
Pontus went back into the shop, bought a ring for me and one for himself (he wanted people to know that he was engaged too while we were apart). I was waiting nervously outside when he returned holding up two red paper bags. "So who wants to visit the Eiffel Tower?!" he yelled out.
As if in a dream, we held hands and made our way to the tower. We paid for our tickets and got into the glass elevator full of people and started the ascent up what equals 108 floors (900 ft). Being scared of heights, Pontus stayed glued to the center pole, while I leaned up against the glass and watched the world melt away.
We reached the top and were pushed out of the elevator to a crowd of people, old cigarette buds on the ground, and urine smells. None of which bothered me. Everything except Pontus was a blur. We found a corner where we could talk and I looked into his blue dancing eyes. Pontus took out a little black box from one of the paper bags and held it in his hand. He told me how much I meant to him, how much he loved me and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I actually don't remember the details of what he said, but I do remember that he never actually asked me to marry him. He asked if I would wear the ring and stopped talking. I took the ring and asked: "I will wear the ring, but did you want me to marry you?" "Yes!!" He yelled out in shock. "That's what I meant! Do you want to marry me!!!??"
I said yes and he kissed me.
Suddenly a bunch of Asians around us started clapping away and asking us if we wanted them to take a picture. We said no, but I wish now that I would have accepted. Soon we were on our way back down in the elevator. I was in a daze. I was engaged! Walking across the lawn towards the metro, I looked over at what was now my fiancee and down at our locked fingers. I was engaged to this guy I barely knew. This young man was going to be the father of my children. I was in love, but I was nervous. Above all, though, I felt God had brought us together and I could trust him. By the time we were back at the train station I was telling complete strangers I was engaged. I was so excited!
Newly engaged, we got on the first train out of Paris, but due to all this taking more time than we realized, we missed a connecting train in Belgium and were told there were no connecting trains till the next day! We made ourselves comfortable on two of the station benches, but police men came by and kicked us out of the building. Turns out you can't spend the night in train station in Belgium. So there we were, standing in the rain, in the dark and in the cold, with nowhere to go. We could see a hotel across the street, but we knew we didn't want that. As tempting as a warm dry bed was right then, we both wanted to wait for our wedding to spend the night together. That would have not been a wise choice. Looking around, we saw a closed furniture store nearby that had a small awning that would protect us from the rain. So there we went. We sat down on a ledge just inches from the ground and I leaned my head on his shoulder to slept off and on till morning (with occasional drunk people stumbling by and yelling at us).
We finally arrived to the conference, run by the organization that our ship was part of. Leaders from all over the world were gathering there. As we entered, it suddenly dawned on us what we had done: we didn't have SP (that social permission to be together) and we were engaged! It hadn't even crossed our minds this whole time. I had been under my parents' authority, we had received my dad's blessing, I was off the ship and under God's rules in my mind, not theirs. We just hadn't thought about it! But what would we do now? We had to face the music. First thing we did was find a tollbooth and Pontus called the director of the ship in South America to explain what had happened. Then we met with personnel leaders at the conference. Wow were we in trouble. They were very upset. I told them I could take the ring off, but we didn't feel we could retract getting engaged.
People coming from around the world had already heard about us by the next day.. .the couple that got engaged before getting "SP". To make matters worse, it turns out that while we were gone all the existing couples on board the ship had had to sign a contract stating that they would not get engaged while on board (something we obviously didn't know about)!
Pontus returned to Bible school in Paris and I returned to the ship. Some adults came to me and told me my dad was foolish for blessing us, others disagreed and some friends distanced themselves. The director of the ship, who had sadly gotten the hit for us, was full grace, mercy and understanding though. The captain and his wife also took us gracefully under their wings. I was very grateful. The months ahead I stayed busy with my responsibilities on board, but also bought cheap local Caribbean material to start making a wedding dress on the ship's small sewing machine.
A year later I flew to Spain to marry the guy God had brought into my life in such a miraculous way. You can read about the wedding here.
Sometimes it's hard to know which step to take when we seek God's will in our lives, but I've learned that if I follow my shepherd commands (found in the Bible) and if I trust his guidance (believing he will guide and trusting he has good plans/intentions for me), I can use the logic he gave me, the wisdom in people he sends my way, and trust him to guide.
I love watching how my children lean back in their car seats, look out the window as I drive, and trust me to take them where they need to go. They don't worry. They trust I'm driving them to a place of safety. There are rules I have set in place that they need to follow to be safe. And the more they know me, the more they trust me to do what is best for them. I want to do that too: follow, obey, and trust my heavenly Father through this windy crazy stormy journey that is called life.
It was the night before my wedding. The dress and veil I had made while living on the ship, starred at me from up on a hook on the wall. I snuggled down for the last time into my single bed, my last night alone. Soon I would wake up to a world of unknowns.
God held the rain back for most of our wedding the next day. Under a large white tent 200 of us gathered, surrounded by towering beautiful Spanish mountains. Friends and family from around the world filed into their seats, while I sat alone in a nearby building. My dad walked in to get me. I will never forget his huge smile. There were few things in life that lifted my heart like that smile.
I proudly took his arm and we were soon walking down the isle. There was Pontus. Up at the front. Smiling and waiting for me.
The music started from a small CD player held up by a friend of ours. Our musicians and sound equipment had never arrived, but thanks to my college roommate Laura, we opened one of our wedding gifts early... a CD player! He was thankful he didn't have to sing the tune.
I passed many a friend, but couldn't take my eyes off the one I was walking towards. This was it. I was leaving all that I knew and committing to a life with someone I had known for only a couple of years. I was in God's hands. I didn't know the future, but God did. I could make this huge decision, not because I was "in love", but because I trusted the God we both followed.
My peace lied far above Pontus or anything that was happening that day.
With rice still in my dress and flowers on our windshield, we drove away in pouring rain. It was a two hour drive to a hotel just minutes from the beach in the city I grew up in, San Sebastian. Unlike what I had seen at American weddings, I didn't have another dress to change into, so I must have been quite the sight when we stopped for gas on the way. With drenched hair and holding up my long muddy dress tail, I ran into the gas station store to get a bottle of water. Standing at the cash register like a runaway bride, I happily told the whole store I had just gotten married. As if they couldn't guess.
Soon we arrived to the hotel, where we got more stares. The next morning at breakfast, the waiters winked at us and said: "Ah! you both are the ones that arrived last night in wet wedding clothes!"
For two days I was able to show my new husband where I grew up. We walked the streets, I told him stories, and we had a "cafe con leche" at the local bar. Barefoot, we walked the beach in the evening, the same beach where I would walk my dog with my parents when I was young. Those same stars were still there. The same moon that had followed me around the world was there too.
The third day of our honeymoon, my parents took us to the airport and we embarked on the first big chapter of our life together: Sweden. Another step I could take in peace, only when reminded of who's hands I was in. God's.
Lighting jolted our plane as we flew through crackling thunder. With arms raised, I welcomed the storm like a drunken sailor. The lights flickered as we dropped through another cloud. My “yee-haa” didn’t seem to be appreciated by the young honeymoon couple in front of me. The protective husband finally turned around to let me know his bride was having a panic attack and asked me if I could please stop.
A group of us were traveling from Belgium to Mexico to embark on what would be one of the most amazing and terrifying adventure of our lives. We were joining Logos II, a ship that traveled around the world telling people about Jesus. Little did I know how this adventure would affect my life.
A couple of months after joining, on October 7, 1999, we encountered Hurricane Pauline, one of the deadliest in history. Wrecking havoc up the west coast of Mexico, it stormed towards our immobile ship. One of our engines was broken, so we couldn’t do what a ship should do in a storm, go out and face the waves head-on. Staying at port was the most dangerous thing we could have done, but we had no choice. It was predicted to hit us during the night. When the captain is nervous, you know something is very wrong.
With a pounding heart, I went to bed that night. I had no idea when or what I would wake up to. I read my bible again, and came across verses that encouraged me. I wrote one on a note and taped it to the wall next to my bed: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…., for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6. I felt like we were in his care, no matter what would happen. I prayed, put my life in his hands, and, amazingly, fell right to sleep.
Then I woke up. I checked my watch and it was morning. I quickly dressed and joined the rest of the curious ship’s company in the dining room, all of us awaiting to hear what had happened. The captain appeared. Visibly tired, but with his usual calm assurance, he began to speak. He had watched God control the storm while we slept. As he watched his monitors, he saw hurricane Pauline make her way devastatingly up north towards us. Suddenly though, just before she hit us, the hurricane went slightly out to sea. Then she turned north again, passed us, and then went back towards the coast again. For reasons unknown, God had allowed the hurricane to slam the coast of Mexico, and for reasons unknown, he had also allowed us to be spared. Our captain had witnessed a miracle.
The hardest hit area was just south of us in Acapulco. Our engine was able to be fixed the next day, so we were the first ship to arrive to the devastated area with water and help.
The silence in the air was heavy as we eerily sailed into the Acapulco bay. Looking over the railing, I shuddered as a baby shoe floated by. Up ahead lay the skyline of what people usually encounter as a vacation paradise. We were, instead, entering a death yard. Still far from shore, we passed tops of cars, kitchen pots, clothes, chairs. We later learned that a whole Catholic church had been swept out to sea.
The devastation we found when we docked was even more crippling. We were quickly organized into teams to start digging mud out of homes to look for bodies. Other teams searched through cars crumpled up under bridges. Animals were decomposing on the streets, so we were asked to wear masks. I joined a team that traveled up to the outskirts to hand out water. It was sunny and birds were chirping when we arrived. “Where is the town?” I asked, as we got out of the van. We all froze. We were walking on top of the town.
As a couple of guys started passing water out to the survivors, I walked over to a young girl I noticed sitting on a rock nearby. I sat down next to her. She told me numbly that we were sitting on top of her home, where her husband and 5 children were buried just hours before. I teared up as I hugged her. There were no words. Just confusion, sorrow, anger, and heartbreak. She shared how she had gotten up in the middle of the night to run to her mom’s house for some milk for her baby. While she was gone, the avalanche hit.
I noticed the water was running out when I returned to the growing crowd. I started fervently praying that God would produce more, but nothing happened. What was happening, though, was much more strange. Instead of asking for more water, people were asking for Bibles and wanting to know about God. At a time like this, when they needed water and food the most, why were they asking for that? We started telling them about Jesus, about the message he brought his hurting world. Instead of being angry at God for what had happened, they were reaching out to him for comfort.
I returned to the ship a different person that day and have never been the same. On one side I felt guilty to have all I had. I wanted to invite everyone to come live on board with me, but I couldn’t. On the other hand, I had seen something very unusual that day… people in the midst of suffering and anguish reaching out for God more than water.
It’s different to see these tragedies on TV. One doesn’t smell the rotting animals or feel the heaviness of death in the air. One doesn’t see the longing in the mother’s eyes for answers. One doesn’t see the lives changed.
The next miracle happened that same week. I met Pontus. I had seen him around, but we hadn’t really talked. We were assigned to the same church team, where he was the one to preach and I was going to give my testimony and sing a solo. We arrived to an overflowing small church on the hillside of Acapulco. Children, adults, grandmas and grandpas filled the place. Barefoot people were hanging into the windows, standing on the streets, and walking on the roof. Later we learned that all of them had lost loved ones that week in the storm.
Pontus’ message that day was on “Love”. I translated as he spoke. People cried and laughed, and told us later it was exactly what they needed to hear. I also gave a testimony and sang a song I had written: “Solo Tu” (only you), a song I had written in the midst of suffering about how only Jesus can comfort and carry us through, and take us to a place of joy that is beyond this world’s understanding.
After the service, the leaders of the church took us to one of their homes for lunch and gave us gifts. To watch their love, to see their faith in Jesus, to feel their peace amidst trial. I was reminded of the verse from Isaiah 61:3: “To all who mourn, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.” These people were great oaks to me. The floor of their house was dirt. Their windows had no glass. Some of their loved ones had just died. Yet here they were, praising God and loving on us with lavish gifts.
They sat me next to Pontus. I watched him play with the little kids, talk to the men about God, and make the grandma laugh. Occasionally he’d look at me and smile with a spark in his eye. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of him. The next day, Pontus left the ship to fly to the next port. He was on the line-up team, the team that prepared ports, but didn’t work on the ship. From then on, every evening, I would stand out on deck and pray to God: “please give me a man like that.” Soon I got an email from him, and that began a friendship that ended up changing my life. But that’s another story that you can read here.
Many miracles happened that year. Like when the town dam broke while we were at a restaurant and we had to make our way back to the ship in a waist high dangerous, growing, and raging flood, trying not to get hit by the cars and trees floating by. Or the time I was shaking people’s hands as they left our conference and one person put a wad of bills in my hand. I said thank you and handed it to the next family that came to greet me. In tears they later came back and told me that was the exact amount they need to pay their bill that month and asked me how I knew. But to tell you those and more amazing stories would take a whole book.
One thing I learnt out at sea is that God is God and will do what he will do. In our eyes, we don’t understand. Sometimes good happens. Sometimes bad stuff happens. Horrible stuff. I had a lot of questions that year, but like many times in my life before and since then, I learned that God’s ways are not our ways. And the biggest miracle of all: he brings beautiful things out of ashes.
by Becky Karnsund
One night Pontus woke me up at 2 am unable to walk or talk. Too shaky to make the call myself, I ran to our neighbors for help. They called 911, the ambulance came, and took Pontus away. I couldn't leave our four children alone, so a neighbor went with him. Torn between wanting to be with him and staying with the kids, I watched from our Spanish 3rd floor balcony as the ambulance drove away.
After an hour, I called the hospital. I had them hand the phone to Pontus, who started talking to me in Spanish (the little he knew). No matter what I said, he wouldn't speak English or Swedish (his native tongue). Instead, he would laugh and say, in Spanish, that he was speaking English.
The next morning I was finally able to see him. As I walked into his room, I stepped over a trail of dried blood. It led from the bathroom to his bed, where I saw more red stains all over his sheets. I still don't understand why that was not cleaned up right away, but was later told he had pulled all his cords out during the night, wandered around the halls looking for help, and then threw up in the bathroom.
I hadn't been there for him.
I sat by his hospital bed and tried to feed him. His eyes were closed and he could barely take the teaspoon. He was not communicating at all. They came in and wheeled his limp body away, wired his head up with sensors and put him through all kinds of tests. The doctors found some disturbance in the brain activity but couldn't figure out the root problem.
I don’t remember how many days went by. It’s all a bit of a blur. At one point they isolated him when they suspected Tuberculosis. Nurses would come in wearing astronaut suits and I had to wear a mask to see him. He was famous for breaking every single thermometer they brought in. I can't remember why, but he kept dropping them and mercury would bubble up all over the floor.
Our four kids were not allowed to visit their daddy. I had nowhere to leave them, so most of the time, I would park where I could see the car from Pontus' 4th floor hospital room, buckle them up tight with shaky hands, pray for them and wander numbly into the hospital alone.
Finally a neurologist visited Pontus. I caught him in the hallway and explained about the language issue and he immediately started putting him through a different set of tests. The next day, he called me in, where he let me know that Pontus had both encephalitis and meningitis (inflammation of brain AND the lining of the brain - usually people get only one). He coldly and bluntly added that there was 50% chance that Pontus would pass away and that if he survived, he would most likely be handicapped.
My knees gave out under me, my body went cold as ice, and I could feel the taste of blood in my throat. I don’t remember much else of that day except that I took the kids home, gathered them on my lap around YouTube, and we sang together a kids song titled "Forever Faithful" . God was faithful, God was strong, God was with us, no matter what the outcome. We truly felt that God would take care of us, even if he took daddy. And so we praised him for that. We truly experienced a peace that passed our understanding.
The teacher asked to speak to me one day and shared a conversation she had had with our Nicole (who was 6 at the time): "How's your dad?" she had asked Nicole. "He's in the hospital." she answered. "He might die, but if he does it's ok, 'cause he will go be with Jesus and we will see him again." The school must have thought our kids were a little morbid.
Meanwhile that week, my dad had also taken turn for the worse. He had been battling sarcoma cancer and had started radiation treatments. He was very sick and weak, and couldn't talk on the phone. I tried telling him what was going on and he'd whisper back a word or two. My mom wished she could be with me, and I was wishing I could be with her.
Pontus continued in the hospital a few more days. The doctors found the cause was viral, not bacterial, but it was a virus they had never seen before. Specialists in Spain started researching the places we had been that year (England, Sweden...). One man got excited and said he wanted to call it the "Pontus Virus".
Being a virus, there was nothing they could do, but wait for the body to fight it on it's own, so they sent Pontus back home. Still sick and with warnings from the doctor that he could have a relapse, any interaction with people or with the kids made him have all kinds of symptoms. He would see millions of flies coming at him, get headaches, couldn't handle light, and he felt extremely tired and sometimes sick. It was all just too much on his brain.
I couldn't have him home in our small 900 sq ft apartment with four little ones. I didn't know what to do. Suddenly, we got an amazing gift from some friends in Wilmington. It was a week stay at a hotel. He had a quiet and dark place to be, but I was still scared to leave him alone. Doctors warned me I needed to keep an eye on him. Trying to manage my time between him and the kids felt like a big mountain to climb. Another gift, was a friend from Madrid came and stayed for a week with me to help me.
I mostly wanted to be alone though. The phone would ring off the hook all day long, emails swarmed my inbox, and neighbors would check in. But it was all too much. I used the little energy I had to be a mommy and be a wife. I had nothing else left to give.
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. We had scheduled a summer travel around the States to raise support, but I contacted everyone and cancelled everything. One thing we didn't cancel, though, was a house swap we had planned with a family in Arizona. They were going to stay at our place, and we would stay at theirs. But we had to make it across the ocean first. I asked the doctors and they weren't sure if we should go. Pontus, kinda oblivious at his own situation, said he felt great and it would be no problem. We decided to go for it. Against his wishes, I at least scheduled a wheel chair to meet us at the JFK airport. I knew the connection would take a lot of walking and I had to be in charge of four little ones. I'm glad I did. He was not doing well by the time we landed. I was so thankful to have help to wheel Pontus to the next terminal while continuing to be in charge of four young children by myself after a 7 hour transatlantic flight
One of our partnering churches in Arizona took good care of us. They brought us meals, took our kids out, and loved on us. Pontus stayed in his room most of the time and the rest of the world just continued to pray. I felt like a single mom of five.
One Sunday we met a teenage boy had been through meningitis. He was crippled, couldn't walk, and couldn't talk. That day Pontus came home and cried. Why had God protected him from that, but not have healed the boy.
Suddenly one day, Pontus woke up and he was different. For the first time in 8 months, he was himself. He was alert. He had energy. Our flight back to Spain was much different this time. I had help with the little ones again.
A few weeks after arriving back to Spain we went back to our doctors. Once again they wheeled Pontus off, wired his head up, and put him through all the tests. They returned baffled again, but this time because they couldn’t find anything. Nothing. Not even scaring on his brain a nothing had happened at all.
There are moments in life when you wonder why sometimes God chooses to heal, and other times not. With mixed feelings of thankfulness, guilt, wonder, and awe, we returned home knowing there had been a miracle.
Little did we know what an effect that year had on us. From then on we viewed life differently. Our priorities changed, our souls were strengthened, our passions deepened, our marriage improved, our relationship with our kids grew, our goals clarified, and our purpose for life crystallized. "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps." NIV Proverbs 16:9
I caught Joel singing this song in the car one day during this time. A reminder to be thankful in all circumstances:
Pontus and Becky Karnsund have four children ages 11-16. Pontus was born and raised in Sweden and Becky was born and raised in Spain (American parents). They met in Mexico, got engaged at the top of the Eiffel Tower, married in Spain, and moved to Sweden where Pontus completed his Masters degree in theology. After Sweden, they lived in Spain for 6 years, then transferred over to Arizona for 7 years, where Pontus was involved in pastoring, church plant training, and church consulting. In 2016 they moved to Holly Springs, North Carolina, to start a new church.
Pontus & Becky Karnsund
PO Box 756
Holly Springs, NC 27540
We write not because we think we are good writers, but because we want to share with you a journey God has us on. We write not to point to us, but to the amazing, merciful, good, and gracious Father we all have access to through Jesus.