My family and I were blessed to have spent three years in Norway, from 2009 to 2012, where I served as the Installation Chaplain at the NATO Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger.
Whenever newcomers in Norway arrived, they quickly learned this very annoying, yet absolutely true, saying: “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
You see, the weather in Norway is … challenging, to say the least. Snow, ice, wind, rain, thunderstorms; often on the same day!
In some places, if Norwegians only went outside during good weather, they wouldn’t go outside at all. So Norwegians learn at the earliest age to be prepared for any weather. There’s virtually no weather that keeps them from enjoying the spectacular outdoors. It’s probably one of the reasons they’re consistently rated one of the happiest nations on earth.
If you have the right gear, you can endure anything Mother Nature throws at you. Rain? No problem. A great rain jacket works. Snow and ice on the road or bike path? No problem. Studded tires and slip-on cleats for your shoes. Freezing temperatures? Again, no problem. A good base layer, warm gloves, a hat and a scarf should do.
Here’s my point, and what I firmly believe: life is like the weather.
Life throws all sorts of things at you. There are good days and bad. Ups and downs. Some seasons of our lives feel like warm summer days or cool autumn nights. Other seasons feel like cold, sideways rain or miserable thunderstorms.
So here’s my question for you: Do you have the right gear? Do you have the resources you need to overcome anything life throws at you? I know we all get “schooled” on the Pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness. You may be tired of hearing about them. But if you don’t know this already, you need to listen up … those pillars are the real deal. They are the resources you need in your life.
While all of us are in the same “COVID boat” these days, some of you are facing extraordinary adversity. A relationship that seems at the breaking point. A serious family health situation. A recent loss of a loved one. A professional failure. Addiction, financial strains, legal issues … the list goes on, not to mention the ordinary challenges of marriage, relationships, parenting and military life.
I can tell you for a fact: your chapel team are here for you. In fact, many of us have been where you’re at.
In August of 2011, my wife, Shannon, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Many of you know what it’s like to walk through that door. For us, early detection and early intervention meant that the prognosis was good. But it was a challenging time.
We had to sit down with our two teenagers and share the reality of cancer. Soon after, Shannon had two surgeries. That Christmas week she began six months of chemotherapy, followed by five weeks of targeted radiation. The end of the story is that she is eight years cancer-free and three years off all medication. She even ran the Edinburgh Half Marathon 12 days after her last chemo; but don’t tell her I told you that.
What helped us persevere through all the adversity was mental, social, physical and spiritual fitness. A community of friends at NATO and the kids’ school. A local church family. Running and hiking. These were the resources we needed to survive and thrive in adversity.
The picture you see is of Shannon’s running group, which met every Friday to run 8k. You’ll notice it’s the middle of winter in Norway! You’ll notice, too, that they’ve all got the right gear on. What you can’t tell from the picture is that this is just two days after Shannon’s chemotherapy treatment. Family, friends, faith, fitness – the resources needed in adversity.
Please know that whatever adversity you’re facing in your life, you are not alone. There are so many resources within arm’s reach. Reach out to your unit’s chaplain or Religious Affairs Airmen and let us walk with you.
For more resources, start with www.resilience.af.mil/Chaplain-Corps/.