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

 

 

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Fall Is Here…Are You Ready?

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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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