Sojourners to Norway, Part 2

First I must apologize for taking so long to put this post together.  So much as been going on in my mind and life since then, that I found it hard to focus on writing.  I also found it difficult to decide on the subject of this post.  However, sometimes unexpected events in our lives, have an effect on our lives.  Last week was one of those.  My niece’s fiancé was killed in a motorcycle and pickup accident.  When you have someone taken so unexpectedly, the shock of it is hard to deal with.  It also makes you think of how quickly our lives can change…in a split second.  How that day will forever be etched in our minds and hearts.  My niece’s sorrow becomes my sorrow.  We realize how short life can be, and that we are never guaranteed a tomorrow.  Once again, I am reminded of the importance of living in the moment.  It could be my last minutes with someone I love.

God isn’t afraid to take us to school when we need it.  So what are we afraid of when we hear living in the moment?  It almost sounds irresponsible, or flying by the seat of our pants, doesn’t it?  But really, that is not what it means, or at least not what I refer to when I talk about it.  What makes us so afraid of it?  And…why is living in the moment so hard for us?  It could be that if we stopping running, or stop our hurried steps, we might FEEL.  We don’t want to feel.  So we keep so busy with life and responsibilities so that we don’t have to reflect on our true feelings or hurts.  All our “tries” never seem enough.  We may feel that we don’t measure up or we don’t feel worthy enough.  But all this running is keeping us from dealing with the fact that it is a heart issue.  We don’t want to deal with the feelings or the knowledge that comes from understanding that we really do know that we need to change something.  So to keep from doing that, we keep busy, put a smile on our faces, and keep pretending things are ok.  My hubby and I made a “live in the moment” decision for me to make the trip to Norway, and take my son and grandson with me.  I called on ticket prices, asked my son if he would want to go and if my grandson could go, and booked the tickets.  That all happened in one day’s time.  If God gives you an idea, let Him work out the details.  He put this opportunity to go on my hubby’s heart.  God will work it all out when it’s His idea and His will!

However, instead of getting bogged down in the mire, we would instead start noticing what is RIGHT in our lives, we can begin to see the blessings that are before us.  On my trip to Norway, as is always the case when I get alone away from the daily life, next to the water and beauty of nature, I find God settling me down.  He positions me to listen.  When I listen, He will gently remind me of areas I need to change and clean up.  Some are easy to do and others are a struggle; either for me or for me to deal with issues with another person.  He brought to mind some of the old carpenter tools I saw in my Great Grandmother’s house in Norway, and what a carpenter’s tools do in the hands of the carpenter.  The tools of the trade are used to mold and shape wood into a piece useful and purposeful for the house/project they are building; a little like our lives.  Sometimes chipping off those old chips can be painful…you think you have endured enough and there won’t be much left.  But the Carpenter knows what He is going for, and after all, we ARE His masterpiece.  So just like that example, I ask God to reveal what is keeping me from happiness or joy when I have those feelings.  He will then tell me and start the whittling process…chipping away at those things in my life that need to fall off.

Some of the path’s we go on, can be oh so painful…and lonely.  He may separate us from people we love and care about.  Our circle of friends may change because of what is happening in our lives. But the one thing that I took back home with me from my trip to Norway is the connection with family and friends.  How important it is for me, and for those around me to stay connected.  It makes my soul happy and contented, even when life gets hard.  Sharing life together.  We need it.  Dinners together, drives to do something as a family, and even putting down our phones long enough to really listen and share with each other.  Making the effort to drive several hours two times in a week or so to be with your niece to love on her in a most difficult time in her life.  God designed it that way.  When we are running so busy that we don’t have time for stopping to comfort a child who is having a bad morning because we have things to do, or when we listen with our ears only instead of listening with our hearts to someone who is hurting, we are not living in the moment.  We are too busy to even notice when God gives us an opportunity to minister to someone who needs it.  Maybe not even with words, but just a hug or holding a hand.  It can unlock the heart of the one who is needing a listening ear.  That’s what slowing down our lives can look like.  I saw those examples of support and listening when I visited Norway.  They make an effort even when they may live further away from each other to stay connected.  Connection is important to them.  It is to me too.  I take every opportunity to stay in touch with friends and family.  One never knows when your call or text, or not in the mail, will be the one thing that gets them through the day.

There is a saying we have all probably heard that says to “live your one life well”.  That means that where ever you are, be right there.  I think the Norwegians have things right in that they work hard, and relax, and play hard.  They know that the balance is needed for them to have joy in their lives.  They balance the long, dark winters with being out in the light and sunshine as much as possible when Spring and Summer come.  I saw a man in a large city in Norway sitting on a bench on a busy street with his shirt off just taking in the sunshine while it was there.  Eyes closed, soaking in the sunlight.  He lived in the moment.  They make the coziness of their homes a priority so they DO enjoy the those long nights during winter…warm fires, candle light, and coffee or hot chocolate abounds.  Knitting cozied up by the fire.  They plan and do the things that prepare them for the winter months.  They also look forward to the Holiday of Christmas and all being together.  Balance…the key to joy.

Here is another piece to my trip that surprised me…my photography.  When you are going on this type of trip where you are trying to get in as much as you can while you are there, it can be difficult.  You want to meet by relatives to have connection, and THAT turns out to be priority.  However, it took me some days to get that message.  I was mad at myself for not getting better photos when I took them.  I mean, who doesn’t want to come home with fantastic photos from such a beautiful country????  I missed some, and others were like on tours where you are moving through an area, and spending time setting up a photo isn’t necessarily what you have time for.  I got pretty upset with myself.  As I prayed about it, God showed me that the pictures I was taking were to remember.  I’m not in a contest for the best photo.  The connections are what is important and remembering them.  So even though many of my photos were from a car window, that was ok.  Because I had that memory.  It also transferred to when I am at home.  It isn’t important for me to be some great photographer.  What is important, is that I DO hone my skills, but it is to take better photos in what ever circumstance, not to be in any competition for the best photo of the day or to BE the best.  I love photography and I want to keep enjoying it.  When I start putting undue pressures on myself to do it differently, that is when I realize, that I’m getting off course.  A person could see my whole life through my photos.  That is what I want with my photography.  That others will see how I live and my philosophy and maybe be encouraged to take some of the steps I have taken to have joy in living.

I believe, I’m in another chipping off season in my life, and that is ok.  He gave me a trip to Norway to show me what is important in the way I live MY life.  So I leaned in close in Norway.  I learned about the ways of making coffee can be an art.  Now I know that from coffee shops, but it can be like that at home also.  I don’t like coffee that much, but I learned to like it the way my cousin made it.  So I asked how she did it.  I loved many of the foods I ate, and I asked how to make it.  I wanted to absorb as much of the culture as I could.  Not just BE there, but to live in the moment of every day there.  I learned about the history of the immigrants, like my grandparents on both sides of my family and why they made the decisions that they made to move away from everything they knew to come to the unknown in the U.S.  How those that were here in the U.S. would work so hard so that they could send money home or tickets home for their family to come to the U.S.  I learned how some couldn’t stay in the U.S. because they missed the beauty of Norway and they came back home.  Some were so destitute living here that they took their lives before admitting to family at home of their despair.  We as kids who grew up around our parents talking about the depression, and all the fun many of us made out of them walking to school with holes in their shoes and walking miles to school, isn’t so far of a stretch.  I know it to be true of my father’s parents and even his older siblings.  I have found a new respect for each of them searching for a better life, and their tenacity to keep going.  It’s amazing, actually.  I don’t take that for granted and wished as young child, I would have known more about what they went through.  I think I would have been a much more attentive granddaughter.  But they didn’t talk about it at all.  Neither did my parents.  As children we missed so much.  I don’t want my kids to not know about them.  Thus, I took my two sons and my grandson with me the two times I have gone.  I want all my ancestor’s hard work to make a life for their families, to survive as a story and testament to their courage.  I am here because of the hard work of all who came before me, including my parents.  What work ethics they had!  Families stuck together through thick and thin, and helped each other.  That is legacy.

I hope this last trip is not my last.  I have more to learn…more to experience…more time on the beach in Norway with neighbors and relatives around a bonfire!  More letters to read.  I copied  some of my mother’s letters to relatives in Norway that were written to my cousin.  Sometimes I find out more about my mom through reading them.  I took pictures of old pictures so that I can share them with family, and they will know who they are.  I have decided that writing on as many of the pictures I have, is important, since many of my parents’ pictures did not have names on them.

Yes.  When we open our minds to what we can learn by not just talking about doing something, but actually doing it, we will find our lives changed forever.  Mine sure has….to the point of teaching myself Norwegian.  Not easy, but exciting to see when I actually understood a few words or recognized at least the subject of the discussion when I was there.

So I ask you, do you want to have more time with your family?  Make a trip somewhere?  A drive down the coast?  A get-away with family?  Family gathering or reunion?  Don’t put it off.  Plan it.  Do it.  Change what needs to change to make it happen.  But above all?  Let it change you in the process.  God can do amazing things with an open and willing heart.  Open the door to His leading…it just might be to your homeland.

Until next time…

~JoAnn

 

 

Fall Is Here…Are You Ready?

nostalgic-walk-3

The other day was the first day of Fall.  Everyone put out their greetings for Happy First Day of Fall!  I, for one, am very glad of the changing season and all for it.  I much prefer the cooler weather, as I have mentioned before.  But the colors are beginning to be amazing, and pictures show the beauty of changing leaves and colors all around us.

What about our own personal seasonal changes?  Do we have seasonal changes?  Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter?  I think we do.  We have times in our lives where the change might be in hiding like the winter and then as we grow in the season of our life, we see changes springing up like Spring and new life begins to show up.  We blossom.  Although Fall comes where we see the changes more evident, I think it’s easy to see how we can mirror the seasons in our seasons of life.  What about that summer season?  Well, I know that I have had times in my life where I was put on the hot seat and it got pretty warm!  Fortunately, we can go the Water source for our supply to cool us down.  But can you begin to see how these seasons can remind us of our personal seasons in life?
Are you in a season of change in your life right now?  Do feel the cool of winter coming on and you feel likeIMG_2913 your branches have been pruned back so far your are they losing your grip on your life right now?  Maybe the fog has rolled in and you can see clearly what’s ahead.

I know for me, this last year has been a season of change in my life.  However, I have come to realize that I can sometimes feel change coming on and I know I’m in for an adventure!  I don’t know what is going to happen, but I know something is in the works.  How do I know that?  Because I have a relationship with Jesus.  I know Him well enough through my relationship with Him, that I can trust Him with the change He is bringing into my life. I know it is going to enhance my life, as well as, draw me closer to Him.  He has “new things” to show me.  His mercies are new every morning.  That means each day I am given the grace to face what my life brings, if I choose to accept it.  If I sit around and feel sorry for myself because all my leaves are falling off, and I’m open and bare to those around me, or even just within ME, then I lose all the work He is quietly doing through my winter struggles.  I won’t see the growth and benefit of Spring growth!  Just as I like the Fall and winter and spring seasons because they are cooler, I also enjoy those personal seasons also.  I have come to understand that each one has meaning for me and builds on the next; from glory to glory, as God tells us.

IMG_2857As I navigate through the “falling off” in my move further from my kids, grandson, and family and church family, He is drawing me closer to Him.  He has given me NEW things.  He has given me a new environment.  He has also set me apart, to have fewer distractions.  He will do that sometimes to finally get our attention.  However, I believe that He has new endeavors for me to involve myself.  He may be leading me to the point where He wants to do NEW things through me. Now THAT isn’t a new thing…He always wants to do new things through me.  I know He works through those who are willing to be used.  Now that is exciting!  It’s scary at times.  It’s lonely at times.  But He is never separated from me, unless I separate myself from Him.  He speaks through His Word, through people around me, and He may speak to another person’s heart to invite me to be involved in a “new thing”.  I just need to be willing to be obedient when He gives me something to do.

So…I am looking forward to falling leaves and changing colors.  Even the winter season where I can settle in on a cool evening and read or do what will grow my life through the leafless, bare branch times, and help me come out in the Spring with new thinking, new ideas, all new creative ways to live my life for Jesus, and even people to do that life with!

Here is a photography thought photo for you:

XT1In photography editing, you can have something called a filter or preset that is used to enhance your photo.  One click or maybe two, and supposedly, your picture is better.  Click and done.  Boom!   But God isn’t a one-click-and-done kind of God.  He wants to keep molding us until we go home to heaven.  He adds light where it may be dark.  He will give contrast in order to enhance what we see.  He will give clarity so we can see clearly what He desires us to see.  He can blur some of the hurtful things so they aren’t so much a part of our picture.  However, I would like to suggest that you don’t set your life and thinking on a preset.  You would be limiting what God wants to do in you by a click-and-done fix.  Give Him full access.  Let Him give you the settings.  The view through His viewfinder is SO much better.  He has a mega zoom lens and can see the end from the beginning.  He wants a life for you better that anything you can imagine.

I would encourage you not to look at this season of Fall in the same way again after reading this post.  Let the leaves fall.  It’s a good thing.  Remember something is falling off, so that, new growth will come.  Look at this time as a time of change.  Let winter come, because Spring and new growth are on the way!

Walking the journey with you…

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What A Ride!

IMG_1247Decisions.  There are so many ramifications from the decisions we make.  The decision may be a great change and exciting, the ramifications following that decision…not so much.  Until…we get through it.  God talks about through a lot in the Bible.   So I am trusting in the “through”.  It’s how I can make sense of all the stuff that happens in between the decision and the through.

As you may remember, we put our home on the market just two weeks ago.  From the time it hit the MLS, we had nine showings within two and a half days!  We would have had more, but as soon as realtors realized there was an offer on the table, they backed out of showing the house, even though we were willing to entertain further offers.  So interesting how people do business.  I learn more every time we do something like this. We had an offer within about five days and we accepted.  Decisions…

As we walk our each day, and sometimes drag is more accurate, I have found that I have to keep talking to myself and turning my thinking around.  People asking me where we are going to live.  I don’t know.  I am trusting God to bring us the right place to be.  We have looked at several.  We have made an offer on one and had some kind of unpleasant experience with that which led to our offer not being considered.  Ready to make an offer on another one, one hour before see it we get a phone call that they removed the listing and had changed their minds.  We get a text a couple of days later and the listing is back on the market again.  We go out to see it and what looks quite big, is quite small.  What looks like a spacious lot is actually not so large.  Yes, a wide-angle lens was used.  Up, and down.  Up, and then down.  It can wear you out!  Yes, I know that it may not have been the “one”.  Yes I know that I need to trust God.  But as you may have also found out, with any decision, it is HARD.

Life can be like that.  We have all had expectations of how we think our life was going to be.  Yah…that didn’t happen.  We even look toward changing it to be more of what we want it to be.  Change isIMG_0321 great.  We should be always willing to change and evolve.  I believe God wants that for us.  So, as we go through each day with high stress levels and disappointments, I am asking God often to encourage me.  Remind me Lord that you are my Source.  Show me.  Show me your ways.  Send Your Holy Spirit.  Encourage me through family, friends and my surroundings.  Remind me once again, that we won’t be living in a motor home somewhere out there because we don’t have a home to go to.  🙂  You may recall my word for this year… Remember… Hahaha!!!  Doesn’t God have a sense of humor or what?!?  In this case,  I remember His daily faithfulness with me in the past, so that, I can trust Him more with my future.

What can I share with you that I have learned through this experience? Here are a couple:

  • We have gotten more projects completed on the house since its been on the market, than has gotten done in the three years we have lived here.  Why IS that?  Why do we wait to have our homes like we want?  I realize that sometimes its a money issue on bigger items, but on the small things?  No.  I recommend getting them completed.  I am determined that our next home is complete as quickly as we can.  I don’t have to live in a “half-completed state of projects”.  I want to rest in the preparedness of completion.  That doesn’t mean I won’t change out or update some things here and there, but the main list is going to get checked off this time.  NOTE:  If this resonates with you, I would encourage you to rethink your list.  Enjoy your home as you really thought it could be when you got it.  Get that work list done so you are ALL enjoying every aspect of your home!  It will save you a big headache or constant distraction in your every day!  It will also give stability to you and your family.  Our family deserves to have that stability in the home.  I remember reading about a woman that didn’t put her decorations all up in her home because she THOUGHT se might move.  One day God spoke to her heart about giving her family the security and comfort that they deserved in her home.  So she began to decorate it and her family noticed and commented how cozy it felt.  I know it has felt great for me to see them done, even though someone else will enjoy the benefits.  I feel good leaving the home to the next owners with those complete.
  • One other thing is, thin out!  Don’t keep those things you think you might use.  Ask your children IF they would want the item, and if they don’t, ask extended family members.  Lighten the load on your mind.  Share it with someone who might need it or just may want it.  I have had a lot of fun doing that!  It may also be that those items are taking up precious space you can better use for something else.  It’s hard.  I know that.  But it feels great to do it!  If it was totally up to me, we would have a very light move.  Alas, it isn’t just up to me.  Another area I must turn over to God.

IMG_4102Let me leave you with this.  Staying in gratitude is important when you go through a big change; any change.  Stay in the game.  Ask God to be a part and to show you from His perspective.  I know that as I am out there looking for our next home that we can BOTH agree on, I will be seeking God’s perspective, not my own.  He knows.  He has decided where.  He just hasn’t told me yet.

Walking the journey with you…

Chains That Bind Us

P1010742Have you ever found yourself under attack in the same area over and over again?  Have you ever wondered WHY that seems to be an area of vulnerability for you?   You know it… that one thing that can bring immediate doubts to mind.  That place where you say, “Oh great!  Here we go again!”  Or maybe was, “Victory!!!  It’s done!  I did it!  It’s paid for!”  And then…life happens.  Your victory dance slows, and a stomp ensues.  Shoot!  What IS the issue?!?  You are more likely to be saying things that are not edifying to anyone at this point!  Negative statements or thoughts of defeat.  Have you EVER said, “I will NEVER get this taken care of!  It seems to happen again and again!”  No!  You have NEVER said anything like THAT have you????  Yah…me either…as my nose grew a bit longer…

I lived through many of my parents struggles in this very area for me; the area of finances.  I watched them work hard to provide for us, give us a good life, and one of enjoyment.  But somewhere in the back of my mind I have always wanted my life to be more stable in that area.  Ever thought that way?  Now, I have lived differently in that area of my life than they did, not that the way they did it was particularly bad.  But, I feel sometimes when life hits, that I am no differently positioned than they were.  Oh how thecanstockphoto0019485 devil likes to play in our mind’s sand box!  However, God provided for my parents and me, as well as my siblings.  I was not without.  I loved my childhood.  When I was quite young, I began working.  I had to work hard, but I had what I needed and contributed in ways that I could to help my parents with the burden.  Even through hard times as a parent myself, my kids didn’t have a lot, but we had what we needed.  It wasn’t without hard times, but it taught them to be hard workers, as well as being resourceful.  They saw God’s provision in our lives over and over again on a daily basis.  I know there were times when they didn’t have things they wanted, but they tried their best to understand.  What we had plenty of was a love for each other, and that was our mainstay.

So what is it about those vulnerabilities in our life’s journey, that trip us up?  I have become more and more aware that my thinking has SO much to do with my action.  What do I do when those times hit?  Do I succumb to the negative thoughts that things won’t ever change, or do I put God’s Word into action in my life and change what I say?  I’m choosing the latter for my life any more.  I am replacing those things with statements that are scriptural to me.  What lifts me up.  What brings back my joy.  Replace my thinking and changing the channel.  When I think I can’t go on, I push a little bit harder.  I pray more often.  I inch my way through and push back against those things that try to run me over.  If I’m going to stomp my feet, then let it be against the devil.  Let the dance be in praise!

We took action in the area of vulnerability for us.  We have found God to be very faithful as we trusted Him and put Him first.  Maybe your button isn’t finances, but something else.  It works the same way.  God cares about all things, and that means ALL.  So, if you find yourself dealing with the same issue again and again, begin to be aware of how you are thinking about that area of your life.  Do you want to continue the way you are?  Or, do you want change and have victory over that particular area?  Are you willing to make the changes necessary to gain victory in that area of your life?  We can’t keep hoping for the change without taking action toward the change.  So many times, we keep doing the same thing again and again, hoping something different will happen.  It doesn’t work.  A feeling of defeat is the result.

img_2298-e1407215390181What if you HAVE made changes and you still don’t see it yet?  Are you in prayer about it?  Are you asking God what you need to do?  Are you being obedient to what He tells you?  We can be stubborn sometimes.  I mean, I know a few people who took a lot of years to take an 11 day trip!!!  Now, if you change, don’t think that you won’t have to tests to go through to make sure how committed you are to it.  Oh yes, that’s a given!  But don’t give up because He cares about you AND your situation.

I have a dear friend who at this writing is going into surgery Wednesday for another bout with cancer.  She is 90 years young.  She has had 48 procedures in her life.  When I expressed my concerns over yet another test in life, she told me, “JoAnn, after 90 years of living, one thing I have learned.  We NEVER outgrow the tests in life.  I can tell you from experience that they keep coming.”  I told her what a great attitude that she has.  Her comment back?  “What else can you do?”  I don’t think it’s that simple because we CAN do a lot of different things.  What is different for her?  She trusts God to get her through, and she has lived it well.  She has struggled, wiggled out from underneath the burdens, pushed back, fought the evil one, but in all of that, she hasn’t given up.  She has faith.   She trusts Him.  Period.

So, where am I at with this?  I will choose to praise Him in the hard times.  I may “feel” the worry come, but I quickly take it to God and thank Him for what is good, and what He IS doing in my life.  I then thank Him for His answers, even the ones I don’t see yet!  However, answer He will!  He always answers, but not always how we think it should go, or in our timing.  Don’t live in defeat!  Live in victory instead!

But, in my case, I don’t give up and I don’t give in.  I’m doing a lot more dancing these days than stomping!  We are all on a journey of progress and learning.  Just stay in school!

Walking the journey with you…

~JoAnn

 

 

What If?

Guardian Angel from Childhood
Guardian Angel from Childhood

Talk about another wake up call!  As I listen to the news regarding the mudslide that has taken place about an hour and a half southeast of where I live, I am again reminded of how our lives can change in seconds!  One minute you may be doing your normal daily regime, and the next minute, disaster hits.

This last Sunday, our pastor asked us two questions:

  1. What would you do if you were to receive one billion dollars next week?
  2. What would you do if you lost everything you own next week?
  • 3.  Based on the above, how would your life change?

It really made me think.

So, let’s talk about the first question.  What would you do if you were to receive one billion dollars next week?    If we came into money, we could think of all kinds of things to do with it.  We would have all kinds of plans that would come to mind, and most of it may be for ourselves or immediate wants.  But, with that kind of windfall, we may, and I hope that is true, decide to be gracious and help with the needs around us.  But for the most part, we would probably be making all these plans with our comforts foremost in our minds.  How would your life change?

Second question.  What if we lost everything we own next week?  How would we react to that?  I think of all those in the Oso, Washington area that have lost everything!  There have many lost lives and many with questions about loved ones who haven’t been found.  Their homes… and everything in them…gone.  Then, there are those who have survived that are thankful to be alive.  Some “just happened” to be away from the house with other activities.  In seconds, their lives are changed forever!  Lost…everything you own.  How would your life change?

So how then, shall we live?  That question seems very key for us today.  How will I live out my life?  Am I ready for a storm of whatever comes my way?  Am I ready to meet the Lord if I am over taken by that storm?  Am I living in such a way daily, that I have happiness, joy and peace in my life?  Do I share my love freely with my family so they know how important they are to me?  Yes…  It makes me think.  I hope it makes you think also.  It is true that we can’t predict these kinds of disasters. They happen.  Scripture tells us that we will have troubles.  But, we can live each day as if it is our last; never closing our eyes without giving thanks, without saying I love you to those who need to hear it, without feeling gratitude for what God has given us, and without forgiveness; either asking, given, and asked for from God.  It would change our lives if we lived like that, wouldn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not trying to make any of you anxious about the future.  “The mind that is anxious about the future is miserable.” (Pastor Herb Geeslin)  If we always worry about what might happen, it would make us miserable and it also means that we aren’t trusting the Lord.  However, we have hope because we have a Savior that never leaves us.  EVER.  I think it should cause us want to have abundant joy and zest for life.

What drives your happiness now?  Don’t let it be things and possessions that are your main focus.  They can be taken from you in seconds as we have seen in Oso.  I would encourage you to talk it over with God and see what your score is.

Let’s keep the families of Oso, Washington in our prayers as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives.  It could be yours, or mine.

A changed life relishes the future of today. (From the same sermon mentioned above).  If you need to, make some changes in how you think about your life.  Let’s live our lives with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Walking the journey with you…

 

~JoAnn