Weary from the Fight

I’ve just read over my post here and I realize that it is very honest and also very dark. Please know that all is well because I know God is in control. The following is me desperately trying to make sense of all the pain and needing a release. Love to you all, Gabriela

Hello friends! I have shamefully neglected to write a blog post in 5 months. This is horrible. At first I didn’t have the heart to write because December was a very difficult and painful month for me. And then 2017 hit and since then it has been full speed ahead, dealing with one thing after another, and I’ve been too busy to write.

Things are still busy, with an exhausted air of “busyness” that continues to hang over me and seems special to life in the states. Everyone is busy here. When you ask someone how things have been or how they have been, the reply always seems to be “really busy”. I’m guilty of this too and I really hate it.

America has everything unnecessary at its fingertips but when it comes to those necessary intangibles, they are nowhere to be found. In the states, you can get every material item you could want or need delivered straight to your door in under 48 hours. Does this make us happier? No. This makes us literally full of sh*t. Everything material is easily accessed and all the precious things that make a life truly worth living and dynamically beautifully are missing in action.

Very few speak the language.

I have realized lately that amidst all the busyness my heart has gone underground. As a result I’ve mistaken silent grief for “moving on”. Deep seated anger for mere “frustration” and a need to “just try harder”. I have been keeping them inside, afraid of acknowledging them because people do not know how to handle grief and they definitely don’t know how to handle anger and I am no exception. So I unknowingly condemn my very body to sickness as the grief and anger have no choice but to manifest as health issues. I think I have been successful at keeping my anger inside but I do not realize that it seeps out and hurts my husband.

Why have I waited so long to write? Somehow the written word for me carries a cathartic weight that speaking does not. My spoken words seem hallow and pointless in contrast to what I can say on a page. How strange. I must unburden myself through writing because I physically cannot bear up under the pressure of all my impressions, memories, and the subsequent strong emotions that flow with them. They literally wrack my body.

I am scared because Houston is not panning out. In Oslo when things sucked there was always the comforting thought of “well we won’t be here forever”. In Houston there is a dreadful finality for me.

I’m in a season of questioning. Questioning everything I once thought was good and healthy, it now cannot stand up to a closer, more discerning look. I thought the institutions I believed in were noble and now I see how poverty stricken they truly are. Obviously, this intense questioning is painful and scary as I do not yet have a vision for life moving forward but only disillusionment of old things that have been constant.

And I’m angry! I am angry that I cannot make this life work, everything I exhaust myself with proves pointless. It’s a “chasing of the wind.” I surrender my expectations for life in Houston. I admit to myself, finally, how much I hate it here.

I am angry about many things. My body is breaking under the sheer mass.

I am angry I have to move again in June. Moving from our rental home to the house we own.

I’m angry that I am not free to speak my thoughts and I feel the need to censor my words at the cost to my health.

I am angry that I am now more terrified of starting a family than ever.

I’m angry that I cannot travel without fear of illness.

I am angry over every lost opportunity and missed time with friends in Oslo.

I am angry at Austin’s old boss and job in Oslo that poisoned many experiences that should have been beautiful and stole many joyful moments from us.

I am angry that my body is so sensitive to food and thoughts and environment and stress, still for all my fastidious efforts, with one wrong move, I can get sick.

I am angry for all the sweet things about our life in Oslo that I cannot have anymore and so angry for all the rotten times in Oslo that could have been better.

I am angry that Houston is such a dump. It has failed me over and over and over. I’ve tried so many things here to make friends and connections and do things my whole life and now I can genuinely say it’s this place that is a bad place. I have tried and I’m done trying. I’m angry at you Houston. You are a sham of a city and your people are preoccupied with everything that doesn’t matter in life and have no time to care for themselves or each other.

I am so hurt. I feel like a small, wounded animal that needs to hide deep in the forest. To be alone. To stop putting myself out there. To stop forcing myself. To just be left alone in peace. And maybe, in time, I will heal.

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Caught between Nostalgia and Release.

Hey there.

It’s me checking in.

So many wonderful blessings have come about in the 8 weeks since we’ve been back. I am grateful despite being lonely for the old life. I cannot believe it’s been 2 months already.

Even so, my spirit feels heavy this morning.

I realize that I am grieving Oslo but I don’t know how to do it well. Perhaps let tears come when they come? What is the line between the nostalgia that takes you back to the past so intensely that it threatens to keep you there, and the remembering and appreciating passed moments for the good things and acknowledging them, accepting what they can give you, and releasing them so they can bless you as you continue to journey on? When nostalgia threatens to overtake me and put dissatisfaction and hopelessness in me it helps to remember God made the decision to bring us back to Houston.

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The bayou and bird sanctuary near our house. I’ve been enjoying the pretty walks! This was taken just last week Oslo friends. Yup we’re still in shorts with green grass down here.

I don’t know how to grieve. The tears that wouldn’t come before we moved are making their way to the surface now. But they come at the most inopportune times – when I’m with people and talking about my experience in Oslo. Why can’t they come when I’m all alone? I know they need to come but I think I’m fighting against it. I don’t want to shut the process of grieving down although, perhaps somewhere deep inside I do. If I fight against it I won’t have to release, to let go. For once I let go, my hands will be empty and what then? That’s the scary part.

I struggle with feeling absolutely exhausted and also restless, filled with nervous energy, like I’m not doing something that I should be doing. What should I be doing?

Switching gears a bit here…

It’s hard not to compare everything to Oslo. Everywhere around me there are stark contrasts. Something that has been striking me as offensive this year in a much deeper way is the extreme materialism in America, especially as we get closer to Christmas. By October 29th Christmas decor was up in all the stores. I went to the grocery store to buy little pumpkins to make pies – this is a solid two weeks before Thanksgiving mind you (the holiday that put pumpkin pies on the map! The holiday where we eat said pumpkin pies!!) – and I couldn’t find a one. The generous selection that was there the day before had been cleared out and in it’s place tacky, crappy inflatable santas – everywhere.

Something in me snapped and I felt genuine anger. You guys know I’m not an angry person but right then I felt like destroying something and shouting! Taking out my keys and stabbing those inflatables. All of a sudden I saw so clearly through the haze. The fog that the machine of this world works to blind us. Programming us, manipulating our flesh for its own gain, destroying everything pure and worthy.

This early decorating for Christmas has nothing to do with making Jesus’ birth known. It has nothing to do with honoring and worshiping the Messiah. It has nothing to do with drawing near to God our Redeemer. It has everything to do with pushing consumers to spend money they don’t have. The point of this is rooted in greed. Both on the corporate and consumer level. We are gluttons of food, of possessions, even of experiences. We are mindless pigs being led around by the snouts by the whim of this world. Regurgitating its rhetoric – its propaganda. Eating whatever is placed before us without discrimination.

I hope I’m making myself clear here, the point is not “who here bought an inflatable santa?!”

It’s, “what is the machine doing to us?”

Or rather, “what are we doing to ourselves?”

And where the heck am I supposed to buy a pumpkin for Thanksgiving? Am I the only one disgusted by this? I don’t want to be a part of this world. But what then? I carry the potential for greed and gluttony to manifest itself – inside me. How I want to cut it out and yet fear to at the same time. I love comfort. I want things to be easy. I don’t want hardship.

The problem is in us. This sin that pollutes the world and plays right into the enemy’s hand I carry inside me. Every day I have hundreds of little choices. To feed my spirit or my flesh. To chose Jesus or chose His enemy. I want to chose Jesus every time but I confess that sometimes I chose the Deceiver. In this I become aware of my own great sin and hypocrisy in my anger at those inflatable santas. How we need you Lord. How I need you. 

And no, I’m not saying that Norway is perfect either.  😉 It is so messed up. But we are all so messed up.

Praise the Lord! He loves us despite our wretchedness. We are clean in His sight and made whole and holy by His sacrifice. And all He desires is our hearts. May we chose Him more and more.

Last weekend Austin and I went away for a long weekend in the Hill Country. It was a lovely and  truly restful retreat. I thank the Lord for the rest He is leading us into and I appreciate everyone’s prayers for that.

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Thanksgiving is next week and we will go to Dallas to see Austin’s extended family. It will be good. And I was able to find pie pumpkins at another store. Victory!

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This was just a sample I’ve had of all the feelings, thoughts, and impressions of the two worlds that I’ve known colliding. It makes sense that I’m feeling some quakes. Maybe I’m right where I’m supposed to be. Doing just what I need to be doing.

Talk again soon friends. In the meantime happy Thanksgiving!

Transition.

It’s been 4 weeks since we touched down in Houston. It has been too long since I last wrote and I’m itching to sit down and share with you all. I’ve found it helps so much with the processing.

On Go-Day, as the airplane took off and I caught my last few glimpses of Norway, the word “complete” shone brilliantly in my mind. I caught onto it and grasped it tightly knowing “complete” was the perfect way to express all we’ve been through. Somehow that is a much better word than “awesome, growing, challenging, hard, painful, amazing” because it was all of that and yet so much more than that.

It was painful, scary, dramatic, stretching, cruel at times, even abusive.

It was beautiful, miraculous, deepening, satisfying, joyous, liberating, powerful. I’ve expanded in and out of myself.

It was all of those things and even more. It was complete.

Flying out of Oslo my mind realized what my heart already knew.

That I was leaving a big chunk of myself there.

Houston isn’t home anymore. We carved out a life for ourselves “back home, in Oslo”. What an astonishing thought!

After we got married we never really found our place in Houston. We couldn’t find a good fit with a church and we didn’t make any new community as a couple. At the time it was distressing, because we were certainly trying.  But nothing seemed to click.

It was a blessing that made sense as we learned we were to move to Oslo just 6 months after our wedding. In that distant, cold place we established what we wanted out of life, the both of us. There we, for the first time, actually built a life for us. It wasn’t Gabriela’s friends or Austin’s friends, it was our friends. We had a place to give and minister at our church and were able to work out our calling as a couple. I think the calling for our marriage is still being revealed but we got our first satisfying glimpses and fought hard for a foundation that we will build on for the rest of time.

People have been asking us, “how is it being back?”

Overwhelming.

My body is in Houston. That’s about it! 😉

My brain is so overstimulated. It has been scrambling to catch up to my body. I’ve been doing really dumb things like forgetting plans and meeting places and burning food and losing stuff. I feel like I’m operating on 30% of my mental capacity.

My heart?

It feels like I’m going through a break up. I have flashbacks of Oslo. Images, sounds, even smells come over me and I lose myself for a moment. When I am thinking of some item I need to get at the store my first thought is “where would I go in Oslo to buy it”?

I feel completely discombobulated and out of my element. I would say that just in the past couple days have I started to feel a bit more united in my being but my heart is still hovering between here and there, not sure what to hold onto, let go of, and what to embrace. Afraid to embrace too much of “here” because to lose anything I gained “over there” would be unbearable.

I am a new person and I am struggling to situate myself in a place that knew me as my old person.

But there has been much grace despite my feeling of floundering. God is so lavish even as I feel like the weakest person in the world.

I asked you to pray for us in specific ways in my last post. Thank you so much!  We have had many answers to prayer and have felt up held during this time of immense change.

We slept well most every night leading up to our move. That’s a big praise as we both can lose much sleep to our anxious thoughts.

We found a house within 2 days of touching down in Houston and were able to move in that following Saturday! It is the cutest house with a fireplace and a wonderful kitchen! I immediately fell in love with it as soon as I stepped into the door! Huge praise that we could find housing working in our unusual situation where we needed a 9 month lease.

There have been sweet times already. We’ve been down to the beach twice and drove to a dairy farm out in the country (grass-fed, raw milk and cheese!!), and had special times with friends and family.

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Petting a calf at the dairy farm. So cute!!

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Austin in “Bear Heaven” at Costco.

Beach time!

Beach time!

Our big sand castle on the left. We lingered till after dark.

Our big sand castle on the left. We lingered till after dark.

Beautiful.

Beautiful.

Sunset. Texas' sunsets are shorter but more brilliant in their intensity. Norwegian sunsets last hours and are more subtle.

Sunset. Texas’ sunsets are shorter but more brilliant in their intensity. Norwegian sunsets last hours and are more subtle.

Despite feeling like the rug has been yanked out from under us (again!), we both feel a deep peace about being back. We will always yearn for the wonderful times we had in Oslo (we are doing our best to work through the painful and confusing) but in a way we will always be able to dwell on our favorite times and those special experiences we had. They are a part of us now and make us even more us.

We don’t feel like we are losing our dear Oslo friends because we moved back to Houston. We know we will see them again. Those connections run deep and meaningful and won’t be marred by time or space.

Our God is a big God. It is well with my soul.

We are still praying for a healthy church home and trust God will provide community for us. There seems like so much more to share but for now I will wait. There will be more reflections and updates. Blogging has been such a wonderful outlet for me I have no intention of giving it up now!

Much love to you all.

Going Home

Dear friends, we have a move date of September 22nd. We are going home. With three and a half weeks left in our Oslo life, I feel relieved, numb, overwhelmed.

I don’t know what to say but somehow I know I need to write.

I feel somehow oddly unable to weep. I feel tears silently falling in my heart but I don’t know why they cannot come out. I wish they would. I feel like I’m carrying around a water balloon that is growing bigger and bigger.

So much to say. Nothing to say. It’s like emotion has strangled my words and even my tears. Nothing comes. I am so glad we came here. What a hard time it’s been! I was talking to my sister the other day and she mentioned how on the blog it doesn’t look like we’ve had much “hard stuff” over here. It’s always the bright side. And if I have hard things to say I turn them into funny things. I think that’s the way I can deal with the pain. Turn it into humor. But perhaps that approach has painted a false idea of our life over here.

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It just doesn’t help me to focus too much on the bad things. They threaten to drown me. Besides that not what is really true here. The truth is that God is working, deep, deep, deeper than any of us think.

For us, Norway has been a place of encountering great darkness. But even so the light we have been warmed by has been all the more pure and bright. Looking back on our time here, we agree that this is our Norway verse:

I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches from secret places, so that you may know that I, Yahweh, the God of Israel call you by your name.  Isaiah 45:3

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I now have treasure, plunder from this terrible journey. Riches I never knew existed much less thought could be mine. I cannot speak for Austin but I will attempt here, to convey the many crowns, gems and precious pieces I have now in my possession because of this chapter of my life…

Having lost myself and then found a new self, I have become even more me.

I have been loosened from the mindset of only seeing one perspective of the world.

God is so not interested in my performance. He is jealous for every part of me to know him and understand who he really is. He loves proving himself to me. I have nothing to prove to him.

He can do and will do far, far, far higher things in my life than I ever can hope for.

He loves me too much to let me go my own way so he will burn out and cut off and break away everything that hinders life in me. Although lately I’ve been screaming, “nuff!”

I have a greater understanding of my purpose in life. I have received confirmation in my giftings and gotten clear direction in how to walk in them.

I have been deepened to want more out of life and not settle for the old things. I’ve seen greater, better things and the old life will not satisfy this new realization of how things can be.

I have learned through very immediate and painful consequences how I am not to stress out and worry. I have never experienced until now (at least in a way that I could perceive) the vast damage worry does to my being, especially my physical body. I am learning how to manage stress and stay at peace amidst much turmoil.

I have a vision of how to be healthier in all aspects of my life and to cultivate greater healthiness in my relationships.

A new experience of freedom in the Lord. Understanding that he couldn’t care less about all my “good deeds”. What he is after is my heart and he will do whatever necessary to get through to me.

I am stronger than I think.

God is bigger than I think.

I’m sure as time flows I will only add to this list of treasure. I am so humbled to have experienced this time. I also feel tapped out and empty. I do hope there will be a season of restoration and healing waiting for us at home. I feel like I need counseling and understanding and healing. I also feel like I could kick some a** after what I’ve done here. I will celebrate!!!

Here’s to hard fought battles and affliction turned to joy!

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Please pray for us…

~ Experience peace and good sleep as we prepare to move back home.

~ Provision for our emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental needs during this time of saying goodbye and for our reintegration.

~ We feel apprehensive of how we will fit back into things at home now that we feel so different and changed. Please pray for a gentle, gracious transition.

~ A season of restoration and rest where we may get strong again, process this time, and drink deeply from Jesus.

~ We are unsure of the work situation that Austin will experience once in Houston. Pease pray for God to make a way.

Thank you thank you.

With love,

Gabriela

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Anniversary Photos on the Bygdøy Strand

Our friend Ina is a talented photographer and she took our anniversary pictures. We had so much fun doing this photoshoot!

We went to Bygdøy, which has become our favorite place and took photos on the beach and in the park. Afterwards we got ice-cream treats to eat on the bus ride home. 🙂 FUN.

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A huge thank you to Ina Bækkedal! Tusen takk! You’re the best!

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Two years of marriage. Hasn’t it flown by my love?