2009 has been a fruitful year, rich in impressions and experience, a year of transition, of fight, the first year lived in full communion with the Church. Living the life of the Church has kept me wondering - where have I been before? Why haven't I done this earlier? Why have I been neglecting my happiness, my calling, the fullness of my Lord?..
It has also been a year when I travelled more than I could afford - and perhaps more than I will be able to afford in the nearest future. 'The year of travel' has been a celebration of finishing my studies - and for that I cannot thank enough. Whereas in 2008 I had to work full-time, write my Master's thesis full-time and take part in Catholic RCIA along with a prayer group full-time, the year 2009 was supposed to be the time to get away from it all and enjoy my newly found free time. Or rather, the time I could spend on things I didn't have to do.
In January, I have officially graduated with an MA in Philosophy from the University of Oslo.
In March, we went on a cruise in the Mediterranean with MSC Fantasia, a rather overfilled but luxurious ship that took us through four countries and seven cities in the much welcome spring sun.
In April, we went to Malta for the Passion week and Easter, a trip planned nearly a year in advance. Having been completely fascinated by this country on my first visit there in 2007, I wanted to experience it more closely, not in some boring hotels with bland furniture, but during a Christian festival, somewhere authentic, in a place that would reveal the soul of the island, its rich history and culture, that would help understand its peoples better. I found it after much searching. We rented one of the newly restored apartments in Valletta, from Valletta Suites (http://www.vallettasuites.com/). We lived in an eclectic place, with antique furniture and British china. We saw Good Friday processions, exhibits and church decorations that seemingly took us several hundred years back. And we absolutely loved it!
May and June have been difficult. Sooner or later, after the honeymoon of conversion, such a time would have come, and I thought I was prepared - but I wasn't. The nature of the challenges is irrelevant here, but they did seem like enormous mountains towering above me, covering the sun... My immediate impression was that of Israelites who turned around and saw the Pharaoh following them, unwilling to let them go. I felt the fury of the ancient enemy who was furious and wouldn't let me go. And, lost and weak, I was carried by the Church. I haven't experienced anything like this before. Sacraments - confession, the Eucharist - gave me the strength to fight hour by hour. I remember talking to a preast who last year administered to me 5 sacraments in 48 hours. He read a Mass for my intentions. And the victory was on our side - even if for a while.
July was the time of trial again. I knew I had to confront and win over what I was only avoiding before. The image of Pharaoh chasing after his slaves was as vivid as ever. At first, I failed rather miserably, trusting in my own strength and terrified at the lack of it. Again, details are irrelevant, but as I was reading the lives and sayings of Desert Fathers and Mothers, I realised we now share the same experience - what they called 'fighting with the demons'. I read that one desert hermit, after a whole night's fight, cried out to God: "Lord, I have never done anything good in my life, but I beg you, let me do it today!" I surrended, cried out to God and remembered that dying to myself means relying on God. The victory was mine. Its fruit was beautiful.
In August, I was in Ukraine for a brief 4 days.
In September, I went to Gozo (the smaller of the Maltese islands), this time on my own, for six days in a beautiful rustic house a stone's throw from the citadel (www.gozofarmhouserentals.com). On the way there, I managed to utilize four hours between my flights in Pisa and see the famous tower. On Gozo, I swam, went to churches, and blissfully did nothing before visiting my dear Holy Cross Abbey in the UK. They graciously organised their support group to meet around the dates of my coming, and I was blessed to meet the like-minded souls, beautiful people whose love and openness continue to be an encouragement for me.
In November, I was blessed to be chosen to represent Norway at the European meeting of the Catholic Charismatic renewal. Fully aware that throughout my life I was drawn to the contemplative rather than the charismatic dimension, I went anyway. I am eternally thankful for the people I met at the meeting, the precious time that we shared together, and the joy in the Lord that we have experienced. It has not become easier for me to identify myself with the Charismatic movement - frankly, I don't believe I have ever been called to that either - but it now has names and faces for me, and I love them dearly.
In December, my employer has graciously given me a pay raise and opportunity for career growth - besides allowing the three month unpaid leave, to be in Jerusalem in 2010. So, from tomorrow on, I will start packing. On January 4th, I am leaving for Israel. I will be living in a convent on Via Dolorosa for three months, before going back to Oslo on Easter Monday. Praise the Lord for making it possible!
My plans for 2010? I pray for a fruitful time in Jerusalem, and I hope to be able to finally come to the US - to visit my dear cousin in Nashville, and to attend CHNI conference in Columbus, OH.