Ha det bra Amerika, hei Norge!
Friends, today is THE DAY!
Well, it was.
Tuesday, March 8, 2022, is marked in bold red on my calendar. It's not only the intended release date for my second book, but also the date we planned to fly to Norway to begin nearly three months of interim pastoral ministry.
One of these is still happening, but not the other.
Tyndale House Publishers sent the typeset, fully designed files for Life is Sweet, Y'all, to the overseas printer six months ago, normally more than enough time for printing, shipping, and distribution to online vendors and brick and mortar stores.
But these are not normal times.
Just ask the people of Ukraine.
As for serving in Europe, I wrestled for months last year with whether we should accept the invitation. Our youngest granddaughter had been hospitalized in Cardiac ICU for ten weeks, and COVID 19 was raging when we had to make our decision.
What if Jane's family still needed our help in March? What if the borders of Norway were closed to international visitors? What if our printed cards were not sufficient proof of vaccination by European standards?
It's difficult for all of us to plan ahead, isn't it, when those "What if" circumstances can change at any moment.
If there were an app that could forecast the weather of the heart, how would yours read today?
Sunny with no chance of rain.
Overcast with thunderstorm watch.
Barometric pressure falling rapidly.
Tropical depression activity with a potential upgrade to a hurricane.
Shortly after we arrived in Norway for our first extended ministry three years ago, new friends taught us a popular Norsk rhyme: Det finnes ikke dårlig voer, bare darlig klær.
“There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.”
Norwegians bike, walk, and hike whatever the weather. They simply know how to dress for it.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if every day were as predictably sunny as San Diego, or as flower-scented as Honolulu? Rain would fall gently only during nighttime, and squalls would quickly settle. No bad weather ever.
But maybe you’re pulling out your anorak right now, and the moisture sliding down your face isn't raindrops.
How do you navigate the weather of the heart – those emotional conditions more wildly unpredictable than any polar vortex or bomb cyclone?
I’ve been taking a few lessons from experienced weather-wranglers.
First, accept life-conditions as they are, not as we’d like them to be.
Light in Norway is a precious commodity, with as little as 6-7 hours of winter sunlight in the south and none in the north. To accommodate, many Norwegians build their homes with exceptionally large windows to make the most of the limited light.
Acceptance isn’t a popular position in the “live your best life now” era, but the wisdom of the spiritually-weathered knows that peace accompanies acceptance of that which we cannot change. Jesus taught that the rain falls on the just and unjust alike while the sun shines on both the evil and the good. We manage our expectations by working with what is, not what we wish it to be.
Capture that elusive light wherever you can.
Second, anticipate periods of physical or emotional stress and adjust for it.
Late last summer and well into the fall, Mike and I cleared our calendars in order to spend weeks in New England caring for two of our grandchildren while our son and daughter-in-law were at Boston Children's with Jane. The stuff we weren't able to accomplish at home doesn't matter now. It never really did.
Maybe you need to hunker down right now too. Could be you’re in a sandwich season spread thin between the needs of growing children and aging parents, or your own health is fragile.
When you see turbulence approaching in your personal life, please take the advice you’d give to a close friend. Adjust for it. Edit your life and be ruthless with the red pen, excising commitments that can wait for another day or be handled by someone else.
Finally, ask for help.
In our first time of ministry in Norway, I experienced excruciating pain when my back suddenly went out.
We came to Norway to serve, not to be served, but when help was offered we gratefully accepted. Jill loaned me a heating pad, Kristy contacted her chiropractor, and Rebecca brought over her back brace. We had only known these wonderful women a matter of weeks but, when my back went out, they rushed in.
Honestly, most of us would rather help others than need it ourselves. We want to be useful, to feel we have a purpose in taking up space on this planet. But to be fit to give we also need to receive. God is omniscient, people are not. Reach out!
“It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” (Irish proverb)
When it comes to acknowledging that life will be turbulent at times, the operative word is when, not if. We should anticipate it, adjust for it, and humble ourselves to ask for help.
My anticipated book launch today? Postponed. But the Lord knows where those books are, when they will arrive, and when we can get them into the hands of those who need the message. Despite the challenges, life truly IS sweet!
Thanks be to God, baby Jane is thriving, safely home with her parents and siblings. I was with them just last week.
And the restrictions that may have prevented our entering Norway, such as traveling through mainland Europe first to obtain a digital vaccination certificate? Gone, at least at present.
As I hit SEND on this post, we'll be boarding a 787 at O'Hare for our overnight flight to Amsterdam, arriving in Stavanger, Norway early tomorrow afternoon.
Ha det bra, Amerika, hei Norge! (Good bye America, hello Norway!)
If you’re bracing for uncertain weather or are already in a bad patch, please know you are not alone. I would love to know how I can pray for you, even as our hearts are united in concern for the people of Ukraine.
I'll be in touch again next week from the other side of the pond!
(c) Maggie Wallem Rowe, 2022