So. It’s March 5th and I am starting to feel desperate for sunshine. I lived for 16 years in Perth, Western Australia, where for the most part of the year you.will.see.the.sun. I have now landed on the opposite end of the spectrum. Though my first full winter in Norway has not been as bad as I expected, I am feeling the difference between sunlight and sunshine. My body is craving s.u.n.s.h.i.n.e. The golden rays actually breaking through the snowy white blanket of low-laying cloud. An exchange of white sky for glorious blue. We have had 17.4 total hours of sunshine in the first two months of this year. 17.4. And out of the 59 days of January and February, 50 of them involved snow or rain or some combination of both. According to the forecast, we may actually see the sun partly on Saturday.
As I wait with bated breath for that day, I took the time today to write out seventeen things I’m grateful for in the midst of the never-ending grey days. In no particular order:
- I have finally finished a TV series that Dave and I started watching on DVD when I was pregnant with Elijah, 6 ½ years ago. The West Wing. I know, I’m a nerd, but I loved it all. I’m sure my dad would be proud.
- I have figured out that the phrase “stick it where the sun don’t shine” is not actually rude at all. There are real places that exist.
- Sitting and watching the glow of the fire in the fireplace for an hour in the morning satiates the pyromaniac in me like never before…and reminds me what it feels like to have warmth on the face.
- Those little pieces of Lego that use to be a curse when found in every corner of the house, have now become an immense source of gratitude due to the hours they have engaged my boys’ attention. They have also taken pride of place on the fireplace mantel…and I’ve so far been able to gladly resist the urge to dethrone them because of the pleasure they bring on inside days (which have been countless).
- I have become more ok with child-boredom…feeling less and less the need to be the one to solve it.
- I can almost sing all of Brannmann Sam (Fireman Sam) in Norwegian…a truly valued skill I’m sure.
- “Doing the dishes” has become one of Benji’s favourite activities.
- I actually joined in on the family outing to the local swimming pool, despite the rule of showering naked with all of my fellow female townsfolk.
- Shoveling has not been too bothersome as of late…the rain and fluctuating temperatures have taken care of most of the snow that falls.
- Who knew that it was possible to play in snow AND rain puddles at.the.same.time. Oh what toddler joy!
- After 16 years of living where I spent most of my time hiding from the sun, I have become one of ‘those’ people that commands all to head outdoors when there is even a hint of the sun’s rays poking through the clouds
- I have learned that our house can comfortably cater for 15 children and 10 adults at a child’s birthday party.
- I am grateful that my children play outside when at school and kindergarten because I have little heart to send them out when the weather is gloomy and wet.
- It has taken an increased amount of indoor time to slowly begin to relax some of the many ‘rules’ that have proven themselves to be ridiculous in a house full of boys. I think the ‘don’t run in the house’ rule was made up by someone who existed in fair weather with girls…or who at least didn’t prize their sanity.
- The fact that we have not yet replaced our broken bed frame and are still sleeping on a mattress on the floor has proven to be a great source of indoor trampoline fun.
- Who knew that I, Patricia Lindberg, would ever be grateful for green carpet? After vowing to never live in a house with carpet again and nearly falling apart when I realized we would have GREEN carpet in our house, my feet have been incredibly grateful throughout the winter for the warmth it has brought.
- The occurrence of pajama days has increased…and that’s always a good thing, right?
I couldn’t let this day pass without sitting down, reflecting and writing words. It has been a year since our big move and we have survived. We knew that the first year was going to be about survival, transition, adjustment, hanging on. And we did. Standing on this side of the year that has been, I’m full of peace, gratitude and joy.
One year on and the pulse of our family is beating strong. My seven-year-old speaks and reads in two languages, has made some great friends and is learning to love the Lord and make good choices in challenging situations. My two-days-away-from-being-a-six-year-old has learned the language remarkably well for being in kindergarten only three days a week. He has also decided he wants to be a scientist and daily earns the ‘world’s best big brother’ award. And our sweet, spunky two-year old has learned to distinguish between Norwegian and English, says ‘yes’ or ‘ok’ to absolutely everything and thinks that life is best lived in cuddles.
As for the adults in this family, we are pleasantly surprised with how we’ve landed at the end of this past year. There have definitely been hiccups and growing pains and situations that we’ve never had to face before, but through it all, the Lord has been faithful and His strength unwavering. Without a doubt I can say I’m grateful that we took what felt like a giant leap. And I’m beginning to feel ready to peer ahead into what the future holds. I’m still very much in foreigner status, understanding a great deal of the language but struggling to formulate my thoughts into words. I get irrationally frustrated at bureaucracy and beat my head up against certain ways of thinking and things I cannot change. But all in all, I know this is where the Lord has us and I am grateful and I’m growing.
The calendar says 13. It’s thirteen days past the new year. The fresh start, clean slate, new year new you. I don’t know if it’s age, time or experience, but I no longer set myself up with big goals, big dreams and big ambitions linked to a calendar date. Partly because I am not a big picture kinda person, partly because I know the feeling of setting myself up for failure but mostly it’s because I need a fresh start, clean slate daily. There’s this little gem of a Scripture that says:
His mercies/compassions are new every morning…..
I struggle with follow-through generally and then fall into a pit of self-condemnation when I don’t measure up to my own ideals. I need the daily reminder that I’m not a failure; that my goals, achieved or not, don’t define me. He defines me, His mercy greets me. It doesn’t mean I don’t set goals, I just need them broken down into smaller, bite-sized, mamma-with-three-young-boys-sized pieces.
I still take the time as the new year breaks to sit with Jesus and ask for something I can hang on to throughout the year. He often puts a word or a phrase into my heart that I think on as the year goes by. This year the word is ‘believe’.believe bɪˈliːv/ verb 1. accept that (something) is true, especially without proof synonyms: be convinced by, trust, have confidence in, consider honest, consider truthful accept the statement of (someone) as true. 2. hold (something) as an opinion; think.
I feel like its time for me to really own what I believe. It’s one thing to rely on someone’s else’s opinions, ideas and truths. It’s quite another thing for me to own them for myself deep down in my heart. It’s easy for me to have knowledge of certain things in my head, but it’s another thing to believe in my heart what I confess with my mouth. Most of the time I don’t know the difference until I’m tested or tried in a certain area. 2013 brought about many opportunities that highlighted where there is disconnect with what I ‘know’ and what I ‘believe’.
I’ve already been confronted. 13 days in and the question keeps coming….”but what do you BELIEVE?”.
I look forward to unfolding truth this year. To walking that very fine line of grasping tenaciously to what I am convinced of and yet knowing that time, experience and wisdom will continue to shape and rework my convictions throughout the days of my life.
And you? What are you hopeful for in this new year?
On the journey of giving thanks for all things…
for although I bump heads with this guy constantly, he is a true treasure to my heart…
the sunsets behind our house that continue to captivate me…
the generous gift of a warm jacket that will see me through the minuses…
this guy who loves life and is a big brother extraordinaire…
becoming reacquainted with my slow cooker after many months apart…
the little one who prizes mandarins as if they were gold and has shown much excitement over snow…
and finally, the beauty of a winterwonderland…
For all these things, I give You thanks.
Here I am at 8:40am with already three hours of wakefulness under my belt, two of those spent with the kids. The fire is roaring in the fireplace, there’s a blanket of snow on the ground, Brannmann Sam (Fireman Sam) is playing in the background, and the coffee in my cup is just about ready for a refill. I’ve stolen away for a few brief moments to capture some of the stirrings of my heart.
Truth be told I am really enjoying the season we’ve entered in to. As most of you know, the flip of the calendar into the month of December means a lot to many throughout the world. I’m talking about more than decorations, gifts, parties, and great food…though all those things are fun. I’m talking about the intentional ‘waiting’ for His ‘coming’. Advent.
According to Wikipedia, advent is derived from the Latin word adventus which is a translation of the Greek word parousia, commonly used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ. For me the significance of this time is recognizing Jesus’ first coming as we wait for and long for His return.
This year I feel at an interesting crossroad. I have spent a number of years looking into the rich history surrounding the first coming of Christ…the timing of his birth, the Jewish traditions, feasts and laws that He celebrated and fulfilled in His birth, death and resurrection. I have found myself awed and amazed at the accuracy of the Word of God and His commitment to fulfill all His promises. On the flip side I grew numb to the traditions of man that arrived apart from the Word of God…the seeming commercialization of all that man sets out to touch. Also, having lived in the Southern Hemisphere away from family and traditions that are rich in the Northern Hemisphere, and facing scorching temperatures in the months that I remembered as cold from childhood, I morphed and adapted to new customs, traditions and non-traditions.
And now I’m back in the Northern Hemisphere…and much further North than I’ve ever lived before. And suddenly things that I had deemed less important now seem different from this perspective. There is something special about setting aside the darkest month of the year to shine the most Light into our hearts. Personally I don’t believe that this is the month that Jesus was born. But I also don’t believe that there is anything wrong in letting the customs and traditions of this month propel my heart into lovesick longing and waiting for His return.
This is the second year in a row that our family has told the story of Jesus’ first coming with Ann Voskamp. And I love it! We start at the beginning…the ‘in the beginning’ beginning and weave our way through the story and His family tree. I feel my heart beats stronger with incredible gratitude for what Jesus has done and an intense aching for what He is yet to do. And as darkness creeps in all around, we as a family set our hearts before His living flame of love and seek to re-orientate our minds and hearts to His mind and His heart. We want to truly enjoy the winter and Christmas traditions in the country that is now our home, but we also don’t want to lose our hearts in the midst the frenzy and activity of this month.
We want to be near HIM. We want to slow down and remember. We want to slow down and desire His appearing. Without Him there is no life, no peace, no joy, no HOPE.
Our family’s prayer every night this week beginning on the first Sunday of Advent has been:
God of justice and peace, from the heavens you rain down mercy and kindness, that all on earth may stand in awe and wonder before your marvelous deeds. Raise our heads in expectation, that we may yearn for the coming day of the Lord and stand without blame before your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen. We seek the mighty God in the most unlikely places as a child in a stable, and in an empty tomb. May God hear these prayers, which come from the unlikely corners of our lives. Give us ears to hear, O God, and eyes to watch, that we may know your presence in our midst during this holy season of joy as we anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ. Amen. Unexpected God, your advent alarms us. Wake us from drowsy worship, from the sleep that neglects love, and the sedative of misdirected frenzy. Awaken us now to your coming, and bend our angers into your peace. Amen.
(prayer excerpt taken from here)
I pray that for you and your family “the God of hope would fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”. (Rom. 15:13)
Being laid up for a few days trying to recover from a sinus infection and the after effects of antibiotics gives you time to think…and think. So rather than spending my first almost well morning tackling the disaster that has overtaken my house, I’m here, dusting off the keys with my fingertips.
I’ve been thinking again about change. It’s been a topic that has been forefront in my mind for the better part of a year now; two moves in the space of seven months will do that to you. But I’ve been pondering the feelings and attitudes that are usually associated with change.
It’s funny how difficult it is to take the same old you, uproot, transplant, plop down into a new situation, new circumstances, new environment and still expect yourself to be the same old you. I’m beginning to see more and more how shaped we are by our circumstances and surroundings; how much of who we are is because of what is around us.
I keep expecting in many ways for things to continue on the same just in a new location, a new reality. The thing is, there is nothing that is the same; what has been normal in Australia is not what is normal in Norway. Our financial reality is different, the way we discipline our kids is different, the way we do shopping is different, the wardrobe is different, the language we speak is different, the way we go to church is different. Even loving Jesus takes on a new flavor when you hear it done in a language that is foreign to your own. Everything is different. And I find myself expecting that what worked there should work here. I feel somewhat stuck in a bit of a box, in a rigid framework; that my life here must conform to that life there. The reality is my life here is different. And either I can change and adapt and grow and be shaped or things can be hard, confusing, painful. And I’m in that tension.
Having since moved into our own home, I think the permanence of our situation has struck me. It’s no longer a temporary situation, living in a borrowed home. We are in our home, making our life, in our way. And the struggle is on. Will l adapt? Will I take on new structures, new frameworks, new routines, new ways of dealing with life and family and finance and discipline, and all the things I was so comfortable and familiar with? What does that look like at the age of thirty-four with three little ones in tow?
Can this woman change? Can this woman take the core principles and build a new framework, a new structure in which to contain our family’s happy hearts and values and home centered on Christ? What would the new structure look like? The question is will I let fear hold me back or will I embrace the newness of what is to come…
I’m here. I’m at a fork in the road. All my yesterdays and all my tomorrows meeting in one place. It almost feels like the decisions I make now will set the course for me for the next 5, 10, 15 years. Not the big decisions, but the little internal responses, how I deal with the fear, uncertainty. Who will I become now in this moment? How will I respond to my todays?
I currently have a list of 10 ‘waiting to be written’ blog posts. And now, after two incredible, full, tumultuous, stressful, filled-to-the-brim months, I sit down to write. And. Nothing. Happens. It’s the middle of the morning, the house is empty, I’m playing my music, drinking still-reasonably-warm coffee, staring out at the view from my(/our) amazing office space….and. still. nothing. happens. Everything in me wants to create, to pour forth words after what has been a dam of activity, moving, adjusting, endless small-time crisis’, and yet the dam refuses to break open. This area has been neglected and now I feel the repercussions.
So rather than bursting forth with words, I will try to bring some expression with still images capturing what my eyes have enjoyed seeing these last months. A collage of beauty, experiences, still objects, and gratitude of what has been given.
And hopefully, as my world begins to have some measure of normalcy, I will pick up where I long ago left off…