top of page
  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

And You Think YOUR Family has Issues?

[A special welcome to those of you joining us here for the first time as a result of our “Called, Beloved, & Kept” weekend retreat at Holmavatn Misjonssenter. Thrilled to have you with us!]

Have you ever looked at other families and thought a bit wistfully how “together” they seem to be?  Happy, smiling, everyone loving one another. No apparent health issues, no old grievances simmering under the surface, no sharp schisms due to differing views on politics or faith or lifestyle.


You’re happy for them – of course you are – but you can’t help but wish the different generations of your family could put differences aside and just get along. If you’re in the second half of life, you’re keenly aware of how quickly the years are passing.


What if that adult child never wants to spend holidays with you again? How will you manage if your siblings refuse to help care for your aging parent? Heaven forbid, what if disagreements over money or the disposition of a will separate a once-close extended family?


It happens.


Curated social media posts to the contrary, there are no truly perfect families. Our first parents may have been born into a sinless world, but it certainly didn’t stay that way for long. And as for their kids? You’ve heard what one brother did to the other. (As the old groaner goes, Cain would have stopped but he wasn’t Abel.)


And yes, God has problems with His kids too.


I can only trace my American family history back a century, but it’s been fascinating to have cousins here in Norway share Wallem family stories that stretch back to the Reformation. It’s a small country, after all, and few Norwegians left until the late 19th and early 20th centuries when economic pressures drove tens of thousands to immigrate to the United States.


When you do a deep dive into your lineage, though, you never know exactly what flotsam and jetsam might float to the surface. Some will be positive, others not so much. My father had a favorite cousin, Trygve, a civil engineer who was ordered to assist the enemy when Norway was forcibly occupied by Germany in 1940.


When Trygve joined the Resistance instead, he was captured and imprisoned in a brutal camp outside Oslo. He was scheduled to be sent to a concentration camp in Germany on three different occasions, but due to his occupation, fluency in German, and God’s grace, the local commandant overrode Trygve’s transfer and granted him unusual freedoms. His daughters told me how their father used his skills to smuggle information out and messages and food in for his fellow captives. We’re proud of his service to Norway.


But Trygve himself told our family about our most famous relatives – two renowned bishops whose bones were interred beneath the Stavanger domkirke (cathedral). As he was quick to point out, we are humbled by that history. In Trygve’s words:

Jørgen Erikson. (Please don't tell me you see a family resemblance.)

“Our forefather Bishop Jørgen Erikson in his zeal wrote in 1584 to the king in Copenhagen [Denmark then ruled Norway], asking him to write a law demanding troll people be burned at the stake, because the…Bible says, ‘Troll women should not be allowed to live!’ The law was passed in 1593. Innocent people were burned to death.”

You might also might have a skeleton or two tucked away in a family closet. We’re not responsible for the sins of our forefathers and mothers, but we can learn from their mistakes. However blemished our lineage might be, we are redeemed by the blood of Christ and can start anew in our generation.

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Rom. 6:4 NIV

But what about the family drama you’re currently dealing with? Do you separate the actors? Ring down the curtain? Exit the theatre altogether?


 In next week’s letter, we’ll talk about navigating some of these difficult dynamics, including discerning when it’s a good time to simply say NO, and when it’s not.


Until then, please take comfort in the fact that no matter what dicey business your relatives have gotten up to, at least they weren’t burning trolls at the stake.


So much love,



“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5
Sometimes family can be the friends you choose

 Maggie Wallem Rowe is a speaker, blogger, dramatist, and writer from North Carolina who is currently doing volunteer ministry in Norway alongside her husband, Mike. The author of This Life We Share and LIfe is Sweet, Y'all, Maggie is proud of her extended Norwegian family (with the exception of the troll-burning bishop.)




bottom of page