The Burden of Friendship?

I am a social person. More often than not, I want to be around friends. I want to go for coffee or lunch or a walk and chat with people. I want to hear about their lives and tell them about mine or just talk about the weather (a favorite topic in Ireland). If I can’t be with people, I like chatting on Facebook or via text message or on the phone.

Some of my closest friends, I contact without a second thought. I know if they can’t chat when they receive the message, they’ll leave it until they have time to respond. I have no doubt that if they don’t have time to get together in the next few weeks, they’ll let me know and not feel pressured to fit me into their busy schedule. I know we’ll hang out when life gets less crazy.  

I have recently begun to realize (with the help of a good friend), though, that with many of my friends, I second guess myself when initiating communication. I assume people are busy and I will be interrupting them if I send a message on Facebook – maybe even more so if I send a text message. I’m afraid if I invite them to coffee or lunch, they’ll feel pressured to squeeze me into an already packed schedule and it will be an imposition for them.

In short, I find it easy to assume that I will be a burden to others simply by initiating a conversation. I am realizing that this is a subtle and effective tool of the Enemy to isolate me and others.

Recently, I timidly mentioned to a friend at church that when her life slows down a bit, we should try to go for ice cream or something. Her response surprised me. She said, “You call or text me. I actually have a lot of time free right now, and just hadn’t called because I thought you were busy.” Each of us was waiting for the other to get in touch because we feared interrupting the busyness of her life.

How many times have I sat at home feeling alone and unloved simply because I was afraid I would be a burden? Why do I assume I am an inconvenience? Why do I believe those lies so easily and so often? Am I the only one who falls for this?

I’m learning to initiate communication and invitations. I’m beginning to trust that if people don’t have time to hang out, they will simply be honest and tell me. I am determined that I will no longer allow myself to stay quiet for fear that I will be a burden. When someone comes to mind, it may be that God knows they need a friend to listen just then. If I stay quiet for fear of burdening someone, I may be keeping both of us from the blessing of friendship in a time when it’s most needed.

No more.

From now on, I want to reach out instead of waiting for others to reach out to me. Completely one-sided relationships are no fun, and they are not healthy. However, sometimes we have to reach out beyond our comfort zone and make the first effort.

Is there anyone you need to contact today?

Celebrate!

They say time flies when you’re having fun, and I must be having a blast! How is it nearly July already?!

I love July. Independence Day is fun with fireworks and BBQs (when you’re in a place that celebrates that particular day), but the main reason I love July is my birthday. I may be turning 36 in a couple of weeks, but I’m still like a kid when it comes to how excited I get about celebrating every year. It’s a little hard not to be with family to celebrate most years, but I’m grateful for the friends God always brings to celebrate with me wherever I am in the world!

I know some people who hate to celebrate or even acknowledge their birthdays. Others just don’t pay much attention. Maybe I’m weird, or perhaps I just like an excuse to splurge a bit and go out with friends, but I like to think that there is more to it than that. No offense to those who ignore or even dislike their special day, but I believe life is something to celebrate. Sure, we don’t have to wait for one specific day each year, but why not take the chance to mark the occasion and thank God for another year of life? It is a chance to reflect on what has happened in the last year (or over the course of your life), to dream with God about what the next year might bring, and to thank Him for the great things that have come so far and for bringing you through the hard times.

Some of the people I know who do acknowledge and even celebrate their birthdays are hesitant to share their age. I’ve never quite understood why that might be. I know that aging may not be the most enjoyable thing there is, but it certainly beats the alternative! While my life looks nothing like what I thought it would by the time I reached the second half of my 30’s, I have lived a pretty incredible life so far, and I believe that the best is yet to come.

I don’t know exactly how I’m going to celebrate my birthday this year. I know it will include friends, food, and fun. I also know that I intend to make the most of it and celebrate another amazing year of life. It has been a hard and confusing year at times, but I wouldn’t trade it in for an easier one because I am grateful for the growth it brought. There have been a lot of tears, laughs, late night talks, prayers, encouragements, disappointments, surprises, and adventures, and I am so thankful to God, my family, and my friends for being with me through all of it!  

You may not have a birthday coming up in the next couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take some time today to thank God for the years you’ve lived so far and dream about the future too!

When “Helping” Doesn’t Help.

I enjoy helping people. I love to listen, share wisdom, and “fix” things for others who are struggling. I am an encourager, and I find satisfaction in bringing life to others with my words and actions.

I am learning, though, that there are times when “helping” doesn’t help. There are times when taking action on behalf of someone else can actually hurt that person, times when they need to be the one to take action. Taking that step for them enables them to remain where they are at instead of growing and walking on their own to the place where God wants to lead them.

We are supposed to love one another, but how often do we take time to realize that doing the loving thing may look different than what we think love is? Sometimes, the loving thing may involve allowing someone to fall without intervening. Perhaps it involves discipline. Maybe it means speaking things that make you uncomfortable. It could mean separating yourself from them for a while. Maybe it simply means being silent for a time.

Sometimes it isn’t easy to love our neighbors – family, friends, significant others – because true love means not “helping” them this time. It goes against my nature to be quiet when I feel someone needs encouragement, but sometimes it isn’t me they need to hear from. If my words keep them from seeking God’s words to them, I’m not doing anyone a favor.

Why is it so hard to stay still or quiet when I think I should be “helping” someone? Unfortunately, I must admit that the answer to that question is often about my own needs. I find my identity in helping others. I know that God has made me to be a conduit of His love to others, and I forget that my worth doesn’t come from how well I carry out that function. I get my eyes firmly fixed on myself and what I can do for others, and I forget to ask God if what I think will help is truly what those people need. Too often, I find my value in being able to “help” someone instead of in being the daughter of the King of Kings.

When my own need to feel valuable drives my “love” and “help” for someone else, I am being the opposite of loving – I am being selfish. The only way to truly love others is to keep our eyes fixed on God and to see ourselves and others through His eyes. He may lead us to encourage others and help them in practical ways, but He may also ask us to pray for them, stay silent, and allow Him to draw them out of their comfort zone.

Is there someone in your life you’ve been “helping”? How can you best love those around you? What might “tough love” look like for those you care about? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

It’s February…

Hello friends. Welcome to February 2016!

I used to really dislike February…. Or at least the first half of it. It seemed a month designed to rub in my face the fact that I was single. All of the ads, displays, flowers, chocolates and other sweets, hearts, and talk of romance coming at me from every side were just reminders that I would get none of those – unless I bought some sweets for myself or my mom gave me some (which often happened).

I know a lot of people still feel that way. They have just survived and recovered from a holiday season filled with parties they had no date for, a million engagement announcements on Facebook, and loads of moments they would love to share with someone special if only there was someone. And then, BAM, Valentine’s Day stuff is everywhere, once again hitting them with the reality that they are alone…

But the fact is, we aren’t alone at all. Romantic love is not the only or even the most important kind of love in life. Jewelers, chocolatiers, and Hallmark may try to make a fortune by selling romance, but what about the friendships we have? All of us have special people in our lives we can celebrate and encourage this month.

Who can you encourage this month? Is there someone who makes your life better? Why not tell them and celebrate your relationship – whatever it is? What about yourself? When was the last time you did something special for you? You’re pretty great, and as nice as it is to have others acknowledge that, sometimes it can mean more just to remind yourself that you are worth being treated to something special.

Yes, I look forward to romance one day. I look forward to the day that someone will choose me, to love me in that way. Until then, though, I want to celebrate the love I already have in my life – the love of family, friends, and most importantly, the One Who is Love itself! I want to love others and remind them that they are special. I want to love myself and recognize that the most important Person in the universe thought I was special enough to give up everything for – and still thinks that.

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating love this month… whatever that looks like in your life today. It’s okay to long for the things we hope are to come, but let’s not miss out on all that we have by lamenting what hasn’t arrived yet!

A Day for Thanks

In two days, millions of people around the globe will celebrate the day known in the USA as Thanksgiving. I’m not in the States for the celebrations, but that isn’t stopping me from making 10 kg of mashed potatoes and some gravy to share with nearly 60 friends… 🙂 (The first on my list of things to be thankful for this year is that the rest of the feast will be provided by other cooks!) 🙂

Instead of actually giving thanks, Thanksgiving is so often just equated with eating way too much, napping, “American” football, and plotting the route to various stores for Black Friday deals. I must admit that I am not sad to be missing out on those things this year… Well, okay, maybe just the nap. I will miss being with my family, but I will be surrounded by friends that have become like family during the year and a half I’ve called Ireland home.

I thought, as Thanksgiving Day is coming so quickly, I would be rather unoriginal this week and make a list of a few of the things I am most thankful for. This will be only a small sample because trying to list all, or even most, of the things  I’m grateful for would take far too much of my time and yours…

  1. My infinitely powerful God who loves me intimately enough to care about the details of my life. He is a God who creates new realities with a few spoken words, and yet He cares enough to speak to me daily. That is something to be truly grateful for!
  2. My family. We are spread across the globe, and I miss them all! I am so grateful for the part they have each played in shaping who I am, and that I can count them as not only family but friends as well!
  3. My friends. I have friends on nearly every continent, and I am thankful for all of them. God has blessed me so much with the people I get to do life with on a daily basis!
  4. My life. It doesn’t look anything like I thought it would by the time I reached this age, but I wouldn’t trade it. The opportunities I’ve been given, places I’ve visited and lived, people I’ve met, and things I’ve learned have brought me to a place in my relationship with God I never dreamed of and given me a story to tell that can change lives.
  5. My hopes and dreams. Perhaps more than ever before, God is pouring hope into me for the days that are still to come. Dreams that have seemed far away for so long suddenly seem closer than ever, and the hope that accompanies the anticipation of fulfillment is something that I cannot put into words, nor can I adequately say thank you to the Author of that hope and the Giver of the dreams.

That is just a fraction of what I am thankful for this year. I don’t believe that once a year is often enough to say “Thank You” to the Giver of all good things, but I’m glad for the reminder to stop and count my blessings. May you have much to thank God for on this Thanksgiving Day (whether it is a holiday in your home country or not), and may we all remember to recognize and be grateful for all the good things in our lives more than just once a year.

Hello, Goodbye

I said goodbye again last week… maybe for the last time in some cases, though I pray that’s not the case. After being back in the States for four weeks, I made the long trip back home to Sligo. I had an amazing time with family and friends, and I was blessed in so many ways by my time there. Then the time came to come home, and as hard as it was to say goodbye to those I love so much, I am glad to be in Ireland again.

My homecoming was filled with many hellos from those I know, but it has also been full of new voices greeting me. The team I work with here welcomed a new staff member and 13 students that I now have the privilege of getting to know. I love the chance to get to know new people. After just a few days with this group, I know there will be some lifelong friendships that come from these next few months I get to spend with them.

I can’t help but think about all the groups before though, and wonder how many hellos and goodbyes my heart and mind can handle. As exciting as it is now to put in the hours of chatting and engaging with people, I know that for each new hello will come, at the very least, a see-you-later if not a goodbye.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it to put in the time, to engage deeply with a new group of people that will inevitably leave or be left in the course of our journeys with Jesus… And then I think of all the past hellos, those friends I have made throughout my life, the ones I never see and rarely hear from, the ones scattered across the globe that I may or may not see again during my time on this planet. Each of those people has impacted my life, and I would not be me without their influence. I like to think I’ve also made a difference in their lives as well.

Goodbyes aren’t fun, but the hellos are always worth it. We weren’t designed to do life alone, and every person we meet has the potential to change our life. Engaging with people, making the effort to really know them is always a good idea.

I am so grateful for every person I have had the opportunity to know and influence and learn from over the years, every student I’ve taken on an outreach or had as a one-on-one. I am excited to see what God does in this new group, and I am honored that I have the opportunity to be a part of their lives for this season. So, HELLO Sligo 2015 trainees, and welcome…Let’s do this!

Is God Enough?

I have been struggling with this question for the past couple of weeks. As a single woman in my mid-30s, I have been told numerous times that God is all I need.

Is He though?

I have spent years going through seasons where I am content, happy even, with my current station in life, knowing that “God is enough”. During the seasons where that does not seem like the case, though, I spend anywhere from hours to weeks or even months feeling like I must not be spiritual enough or close enough to God because of the ache of loneliness that threatens to smother me.

As I hit one of those more difficult seasons recently, I began to really think about this “truth” that I am so often told, and I am now convinced that it’s a bunch of hooey (for lack of a better term). One day I was suddenly smacked in the face with the words of Genesis 2:18 “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone…'”

Um… The man wasn’t alone. He had God to walk in the garden with everyday. Why, if God is supposed to be enough for me, wasn’t He enough for Adam?

Do I think that this means God intends for us all to be married immediately when we feel alone? Well, no. If I thought that, I’d believe something was seriously wrong with me since I’ve wanted for be married for more than a decade and a half… I do think though that there are some valuable lessons here – both for those who hear that phrase and those who say it.

Let’s start with those of us that hear this “encouragement” so often. Is God, on His own, enough to satisfy every deep desire of our hearts? I don’t think so. He made us in His image as relational beings and we need other people. To feel lonely doesn’t make us less spiritual than anyone else. We should not allow ourselves to feel guilty for experiencing the need for companionship.

However, we should also recognize that a romantic relationship isn’t going to fill that need either. I will be the first to admit that sometimes it is difficult to reach out to others when I’m in this place for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it hurts to hang out with people who have everything we think we want, especially if it seems like all they do is complain about those things. Sometimes it seems like people are so busy with their own lives, we don’t want to interrupt or can’t imagine that they would have time to hang out with us. Perhaps we’re enjoying a pity party, and inviting others in might ruin it – especially if they try to encourage us with heartfelt sentiments that “God is enough”, or the ever popular “it will happen when you stop looking”, or “marriage doesn’t fix your problems because of xyz…”

Despite all of the excuses I can tell myself to justify isolating myself, I am learning that isolation only makes it worse. Imagine that… Isolation makes loneliness worse! DUH!

It’s true. We need other people, but that doesn’t have to be a spouse or even a significant other. So, let’s put ourselves out there and reach out to people instead of wallowing in our own misery. It really isn’t good for us to be alone, but God has put us in a world with millions of others who can help us through the rough times whether we are in a romantic relationship or not.

We are also in a world with millions of people we can love and serve. Let’s stop feeling sorry for ourselves, and live our lives fully, no matter what our relational status.

Now, for those who may say this, (whether married or dating or whatever), I’m guessing you have days where you feel lonely, where it feels like no matter how close you draw to God, it’s not filling every need in your heart. Maybe there are days when you look to your husband or wife to fill the longings, and they let you down. I understand that marriage isn’t the fix-it that many singles seem to think it is.

If you have days like that, try to imagine how a single person might feel. Yes, we probably complain more than we should about our longing to be loved by another person. After all, we still have the freedom to go and do what we want when we want much of the time. Our life probably looks like a dream to many of you, but your life looks like a dream to us sometimes too.

The truth is that there are blessings in every season of life, and too often we don’t enjoy them as much as we should because we are too busy being jealous of what someone else has.

Sorry, that was a slight detour. The truth is, most of the time, when we are complaining about being single, we don’t need to be asked if we’ve tried online dating sites. We don’t need to be told that when we stop looking it will miraculously happen. We don’t need to be told how good we have it. We certainly don’t need to be told that God is all we need.

In all reality, we might just need a hug. We might need to be told that we’re great, and that you appreciate our friendship. We may need to be included in a family dinner or contacted even when you don’t need a babysitter, simply to say hello. We might need to be asked out for coffee. We might need to know there is someone we can call when we get a flat tire. We may need some to just listen. In short, we need a friend. We need to know that we are not alone, that we are loved, that someone cares.

God never intended, even from the beginning of creation, to be enough for us. He is certainly the One who will meet every need we have, but He often wants to meet those needs in community. No one relationship can ever be enough for us. We need each other, and most importantly we need God.

Counting the Cost

Since I’m working to rip the veil completely, it’s time to share the things that have made the past 2 months so difficult. I know I will still have days where I still struggle with one or more of these thoughts, but I’m so grateful to be aware of them and know how to combat the rough days.

As the days crawled by, and I struggled to figure out the source of my inner turmoil, I realized that a large part of the weight I was carrying was guilt. As I watched from afar as my friends struggled with life’s twists and turns, I felt like I had abandoned them during their time of need. While the fact that some of their difficulties started at the same time as my departure, I am aware that there is not a cause and effect relationship, yet I was still feeling guilty as though I had somehow brought about their circumstances.

In addition to feeling I had caused hardships for others at worst, or not been present for them at best, I have also been aware that I have missed big moments in the lives of friends and family. A good friend got married in August, and I wasn’t there. Friends and family have moved, gotten engaged, and had any number of other life events that I have shared with them only through Facebook, and that is just in the 7 months I’ve been gone. As I think about the indefinite months ahead, what else might I miss?

Another thing I missed was being there for my dad and his side of the family when his mother died in May. My grandma had been sick for a very long time, and she no longer knew any of us. I saw her in February and said goodbye, knowing it was likely the last time I would see her on this side of heaven. If I’m completely honest, I haven’t consciously grieved her death, because I feel like she is probably so much happier now. I will miss getting to see her when I visit Florida, but I wouldn’t wish her back here.

I know that her loss feels much heavier for those who saw her often though, and once again I wasn’t there for those I love. Last weekend as I spoke with my mom’s parents, I caught myself wondering how much longer we will have them. I pray they both have years left ahead of them, but there is no guarantee for them or any of us. I realized that while I got to say goodbye to Grandma D, I have no promise that I will hug any of the rest of my family again.

I’m sorry if this post has gotten a bit morbid, but this thought progression brought me to an important realization… I never counted the cost for moving to Ireland. I was so excited about the move, and so full of hope for what was waiting for me on this side of the ocean, that I never really allowed myself to think fully about what it would cost.

I knew I would miss people – that’s a given with any long distance move, whether across a state, country, or ocean. I even knew that life would continue on both side of the ocean, and that the lives in the States would move forward without me. What I didn’t count on was how difficult it would be to celebrate or share sorrows with people via Facebook, and what celebrating or grieving from the outside looking in would cost.

This is where knowing the real reason God brought me here would be helpful. In looking at things I feel I’m missing out on, or feeling like I have abandoned friends, it would be encouraging to have a reason. Something deep in me wants to justify my continuing time here.

I’m cooking for people, and that’s great, but could be done by many people. I’m trying to work on a book, but that could be done somewhere cheaper. As someone who lives on the generosity of others who believe in my ministry, I feel like I should be able to point to a specific ministry I’m doing here that justifies the increased costs of living in Ireland.

All of these things together have brought me to a place of near desperation to understand what it is that God called me here for. If I could just point to something concrete, have an item for show-and-tell, so to speak, would that make it easier to count the cost?

So, for the past few days, I have been asking God what it looks like to count the cost. Today, I feel like I received an answer, but I think it is one that will take some time to unpack and fully accept and walk out.

For one thing, the verse that talks about counting the cost falls within a context that is pretty tough to swallow. Luke 14:26-30 says:
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying ‘This man began to build and was able to finish.’”

It seems rather counter to the character of the God I know to insist on hatred, but even if I understand that to mean being far more committed to following God than loving my family and friends, that’s a tall order. Can I count that cost and be willing to miss out on all the life that is happening without me?

This is not the first time I’ve spent an extended time away from the States, and I think one of my worst fears is leaving here like I left Central Asia. I knew God had called me to go back to the States, but after nearly 2 years I came home with zero concrete evidence that a single life had changed because of my presence there. In a church culture where ministry is so often defined by measurable results, it is easy to feel like the past thirteen years of my life have been wasted.

God tells me that is far from the truth, but will I trust His word? As I listened to God’s answer to what “counting the cost” looks like in my life, I realized that like so many of the questions I ask Him, the answer looks like trust.

“It looks like surrender. It looks like leaving your family, your friends, the “big moments”, your future, your reputation, your finances and everything else in my hands. For your family and friends it means continuing to trust me no matter when or if you see them again before heaven, no matter what big moments you miss out on. And it looks like entrusting me with all of that whether you ever see the whys or the results here. If in another year or more I ask you to move elsewhere, and as with Central Asia you have no concrete anything for show and tell to justify your time in Ireland, will you still trust me? If in 50 years I take you to heaven with no visible legacy to show for the time you spend on earth, having missed weddings and funerals, births and deaths along the way, will you still trust me when I say ‘well done, good and faithful servant’? Is my word enough for you to trust no matter what you see in your life? The honest ‘yes’ answer to those questions is what it looks like to count the cost and follow me.”

As I wrote those words in my journal it hit me that the same loving God Who will one day greet me with those words of approval is already speaking his love, approval and appreciation over me. If I look forward to hearing that sentence and know that I will have no doubt about their veracity once I am in His presence, why do I doubt when I hear His voice speaking a similar message today?

In my frantic search for something solid to justify my presence in Ireland, I have missed out on the only truly important thing. God brought me here, and He is proud of me. I don’t understand it, but thankfully, I don’t have to. I simply have to continue being obedient to the things I know, live up to the title of “good and faithful servant” while I’m here, and let Him worry about the reasons and results.

Yikes!

How I'm feeling right now.

I’m sure there is probably a better title for this post, but at the moment that word sums up my thoughts.

You see, I have just realized that three weeks from today, I’ll be moving out of my house. Ten days after that I’ll be flying to visit friends and family in Florida, and another two weeks after that I’ll be leaving the country indefinitely!

I know that if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’re aware of the impending move. (I’m sorry if this is boring.) I have obviously been aware of this coming change for months, and yet as it draws closer – and things such as selling furniture and packing away memories happen – I’m reaching new levels of realization.

The realization that I am leaving behind everything and everyone I know for a time is a little frightening and sad. I am sad to leave my family, friends and roommates – yes, they get a category all their own. I am a bit sad that I will leave so soon after my youngest niece’s 1st birthday, and miss out on so much of the fun as she grows and begins talking. I missed a lot of that with her brother and sister too, and it’s no fun. 😦

There is also a likelihood that a good friend will get married during the time that I’m gone, and I’ll not be able to come back for her wedding. And with the knowledge that I’ll be gone at least a year, it’s possible that won’t be the only major life event I miss.

So, with all of the things I’ll miss, why am I leaving for a place I’ve never been?

Because God asked me to.

It’s as simple as that. I am doing my best to follow His lead, and this is where He’s leading. I don’t know what will happen when I arrive, where I will live, how I will raise the rest of the money I need for travel and monthly expenses, who I will meet, or anything else. The thing I do know, though, is that the One I’m following will take care of me.

I also know that He is worth anything I miss during this time away. It is scary to step out in faith into the unknown. Some people thrive on that, but I am not typically one of those people. Unfortunately, my tendency is often to fill the void of all that I don’t know with the worst case scenarios. Then, when I look back at what I’m leaving behind, those things seem so desirable compared to this picture I have created of the possible future I am moving into.

This time, however, I have chosen to fill the unknown space with exciting God moments, divine appointments, new friends, fun experiences, tasty food, and great music – it is Ireland after all. I am also choosing to let the space stay largely unimagined. As uncomfortable as the unknown makes me, I’m choosing to let it be just that. (Obviously, even when I paint what might be, it is still unknown, but it doesn’t look so daunting.)

I’ll discover what this year holds as it comes, and trust God with all of the unknowns. After all, He works all things for my “good”, right? (See previous post for more info on that.) 🙂

Have you had an experience where you were completely outside of everything you’d ever known? Do you enjoy the feeling of taking a leap of faith or try to eliminate unknowns before jumping? I’d love to hear your stories! Please tell them in the comments below.

2014: A year of…

First, let me just say Happy New Year! I hope that whether 2013 was a great year or a difficult year (or both) that 2014 will be better! May God bless you and me in ways we’ve not yet dared to dream as we travel this path with Him!

Last night, a devotional arrived in my inbox just moments before the birth of 2014. It was all about choosing one word to focus on for the year. As I read the devotional, I felt God was saying that He has a word for me for this year. So, today as I chatted with Him about the year ahead, I asked what it is. The answer is… (drum roll, please) RELATIONSHIP!

I don’t know exactly what that means, but there are several ideas in my head (not to mention hopes in my heart). Firstly, it means relationship with God. We are pretty close, but I have a feeling that bond will deepen even more in the months to come.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I am moving to Ireland, and I now have my airline ticket to start that journey 8 weeks from today! (The first step is 2 weeks to visit family and friends in Florida before going on to my new home.) I think this transition period is going to deepen my relationship with God as I will have no one else to lean on in the beginning. I have acquaintances there, but no one I know well.

Another layer in this one word is the relationships I will make in Ireland. I am a friendly person, and tend to make friends pretty quickly. However, this will be a new context to practice that in. I’ve lived overseas before (I spent nearly 2 years in Afghanistan with a development organization), but it was in a place that was totally foreign. Everything about the culture and language was different and I expected the culture shock. I knew the barriers that would have to be overcome in order to meet people and make friends.

This time, many if not most of the words will be the same (though they sound different [and often much cooler] when folks from there say them). The culture is western, and as far as I know, I can wear clothes like I wear here. I don’t have to cover my head to leave my house. It seems there are few barriers to worry about in my effort to make friends in this new place. And yet… I can’t help but wonder how many people I will offend because I am unaware of differences that do exist.

And so, this year will be one of striving for new relationships in new places. It will also be a year of working to keep relationships close with those left here. I have got to do better about keeping communication lines open with those who pray for and support me here in the States. I don’t know what the situation will be over there for communication, but I must work to make sure it’s happening.

Finally, I think this might be a year where I am challenged to be vulnerable on a larger scale than I feel ready for. This blog is a part of that. I have also joined and been participating in a new group on Facebook to encourage one another to reach the goals we’ve set for the next 30 days and beyond. And then, there is my book. It is written, and I am waiting on feedback from acquaintances in the publishing world to see how much will need to be “fixed” before it can be published. This book is me, my life and my heart, laid out for the world to see, and that is a terrifying thought. I don’t know how much of a “relationship” can develop through a book, but if and when it’s out there, I hope to hear the stories of others in return.

Ah, and now for the hope… All of these are hopes, but they seem like reasonable possibilities as well; they seem like things that can happen this year (though I struggle to believe that completely about getting my book published). The dream is that this year will mark the beginning of a different kind of relationship, that this will be the year when a Godly man shows up and decides that I am worth pursuing. And now, for that vulnerability I mentioned… This feels like a dream rather than a possibility because it has not happened before, and at 33 it is difficult to believe that a guy will suddenly appear and have both the desire and the guts to show interest in me as anything more than a friend. And yet, this is a year for new things, new beginnings, new places, and a year for hope!

Whatever kind of relationships God brings my way and gives me the opportunity to work on, I have hope that this year will be one for the history books… because I intend to make it so! By walking in relationship with God, family, and friends (both those I’ve met and those I haven’t yet), I believe that my world will be different by the time 2014 has reached its end.

Thanks for taking this journey with me. It’s going to be a wild ride, and those are always more fun with friends. 🙂