A Visit to “My Island”

My parents came to see me! After 1 year, 1 month, and 1 week, I was reunited with two of my favorite people on the planet, and I was a little surprised at the realization that accompanied their 2.5 week visit…

Ireland is home.

I know I’ve said that before, but if I had any doubt before the arrival of Mom & Dad, it vanished as I showed them around parts of 18 of the 32 counties on this island. We covered quite a bit of ground, and every mile and every step deepened my feeling of being “home”.

As my dad and I walked along a cliff above the Giant’s Causeway, I told him that if I had any doubts that this island has become my home, they were gone because of this visit. I saw a look of confusion cross his face and realized how that statement could be taken wrong. It could sound a bit like I was saying that having him and Mom visit showed me that being thousands of miles away really was a good thing…. I quickly explained my comment with the true reason for my realization…

I was experiencing an unexpected pride with every new piece of my island that I got to show off. I loved that I could finally show off the beauty of this country to people I love, and that they could see how happy I am here.

As much as I miss people back in the States, I cannot imagine living anywhere else right now.

Here (in no particular order) are some photos of the places and things we got to experience…

The amazing thing to me is that there were customers there!

 

Vanishing Lake

Vanishing Lake

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A full Irish breakfast – YUM!

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Mullaghmore

 

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St. Columba’s Church in Drumcliff

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The Giant’s Causeway

Saul Church outside Downpatrick - Believed to be the site of St. Patrick's first church.

Saul Church outside Downpatrick – Believed to be the site of St. Patrick’s first church.

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Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin

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Sunset over the River Liffey in Dublin

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The Dark Hedge

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Downhill beach and Mussenden Temple

 

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A view from Hazelwood Park

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View from Knocknarea

 

Dun Luce castle - believed to be C.S. Lewis' inspiration for Cair Paravel

Dun Luce castle – believed to be C.S. Lewis’ inspiration for Cair Paravel

 

The "chimney" at the Giant's Causeway

The “chimney” at the Giant’s Causeway

Some of the ruins at Glendalough

Some of the ruins at Glendalough

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The cairn at the top of Knocknarea

 

Enjoying the Northern Irish coastline

Enjoying the Northern Irish coastline

I will never tire of views like this.

I will never tire of views like this.

Tulips! My mom's favorite.

Tulips! My mom’s favorite.

View from the ridge above the Giant's Causeway

View from the ridge above the Giant’s Causeway

Mother daughter selfie at Glencar Waterfall

Mother daughter selfie at Glencar Waterfall

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

Trinity College Library - Dublin

Trinity College Library – Dublin

At the Upper Lake in Glendalough

At the Upper Lake in Glendalough

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A Year at Home

As of yesterday, I have called Sligo, Ireland my home for one year! The time has flown, and I cannot believe this anniversary is here already.

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, this town has truly become my home. Aside from loved ones, I cannot think of a reason I would choose to be anyplace else. So, to mark this past year of getting to know my home, I thought I’d share some of it with you. All of the following photos are from County Sligo in the west of Ireland. So, who’s coming to visit? 😉

I love all the tulips here in the Spring! I can't wait to share them with my Mom in a few weeks!

I love all the tulips here in the Spring! I can’t wait to share them with my Mom in a few weeks!

A very cool tree. :)

The Garavogue River makes it's way through Sligo town.

The Garavogue River makes it’s way through Sligo town.

Sunset behind Knocknarea.

Sunset behind Knocknarea.

Spring time in the park where I walk.

Spring time in the park where I walk.

I love walking the river and having coffee or tea at one of the many shops along the Rockwood Parade.

I love walking along the river and having coffee or tea at one of the shops along the Rockwood Parade.

Sheep

You can’t see them very well, but there are a couple of new lambs with their mother in this one. They are so fun to watch. 🙂

A gorgeous place to watch the sunset

Rosses Point – A gorgeous place to watch the sunset

Picnic anyone? I know a place with a view!

Picnic anyone? I know a place with a view!

I love to walk around this peninsula.

Mullaghmore – I love to walk around this peninsula.

A street in town.

A street in town.

Between the lake, the forest and the bluebells, Hazelwood Park is a great place to walk.

Between the lake, the forest and the bluebells, Hazelwood Park is a great place to walk.

Bluebells

Bluebells – So beautiful!

The Church of Ireland in Sligo

The Church of Ireland in Sligo

One day, I'll climb this. :)

Benbulben – One day, I’ll climb this. 🙂

The Joys(?) of Living in Ireland!

I can’t believe that I am nearing the 10 month mark of living in Ireland. (Well, minus those 6 weeks I traveled as a homeless wanderer through the UK.) Anyways, it’s been an interesting 10 months, and I thought it was about time I wrote about some of the things that this Florida/Colorado girl finds exciting about life here.

Weather – I’ve lived at least a decade in both Florida and Colorado, and though they are very different, one thing unites them. I heard it said of both of them that if you don’t like the weather, stick around for half an hour and it will likely change. That statement was true of both places too. Weather could be a bit unpredictable.

However, my definition of “unpredictable weather” has changed since arriving in Ireland – much the same as my definition of “mountains’ changed upon moving to Colorado. In the half hour before I began writing this post the scene out my window went from cloudy with a mixture of snow, hail and rain blowing in wind gusts of nearly 50 MPH, to sun with little or no wind, to rain and hail with the sun as a backdrop, and then to cloudy, windy and dry.

My friends, if you don’t like the weather here, too bad. It will change any second, but that change will probably last a minute or ten at best. You might as well just layer up, make sure you’ve got a raincoat, and move along with your plans. It’s not often dry, but it’s usually exciting! 🙂

Taps – When moving to Ireland I expected things to be different in some aspects. I expected to be confused at times, but I had no idea that sinks would be a culprit. In my experience, most sinks have a single tap with two separate pipes delivering water to it. One brings cold water, and if you’re lucky the other brings hot. By using the valves controlling each supply correctly, you can achieve a comfortable temperature at which to wash your hands or complete whatever task has brought you to the sink.

I have found that many sinks here in Ireland missed out on the memo that both hot and cold water could be delivered through the same tap. The result of this is the user being left with a difficult – sometimes painful – choice. When washing my hands in my bathroom, I can choose to cleanse them with water that feels as though it was just delivered by a passing glacier OR I can decide that I’d rather try to get a thorough clean by sterilizing them with water that nearly rolls out of the tap at a boil. Happily, the hot tap does take a bit of time to reach those temperatures, so if it has been long enough between uses and I am quick enough, I can get clean and warm hands without the necessity of burn cream.

Language/phrases – Ah, the English language. Anyone who has traveled even to different areas of the USA (or any other English-speaking country) knows that speaking the same language doesn’t guarantee understanding. I knew many of the words and phrases that I would encounter when coming here. I knew that if I wanted a cookie, I should ask for a biscuit. If I want something similar to what I would normally call a biscuit, I should get a scone. Most things didn’t take me long to switch in my brain.

The first phrase I discovered that was completely new was a way of stating a time. Where I would typically say “six-thirty” if I saw 6:30 on a clock, people here said “half-six”. That makes perfect sense, but it still took some getting used to.

Another phrase I hear a lot from some people is “yer man”. When watching a tennis match with a friend, she kept saying, “yer man’s playing very good” or “oh, yer man slipped”, etc. I didn’t say anything at the time, but I was so confused. The running monologue in my head went something like this: “I don’t have a man. He’s not mine. I’m not even cheering for him. I want the other guy to win.” After subsequent conversations with this friend and others, I have realized that this is a generic phrase to refer to any random guy. Thankfully, I have realized that all of the men my friends mention do not in fact belong to me.

The final word that continues to confuse me is tea. When someone invites me for tea, I still have to figure out whether I should expect a cup of tea or an evening meal. Obviously the time of day is a clue, but if it’s getting near evening hours, I’m lost. I will admit that I have on occasion eaten a small amount of food before visiting my friends because I figured if I am served a meal the small salad I ate at home will not keep me from enjoying a portion of the dinner; however, if I am offered a cup of tea and biscuits, I will not starve or eat an entire plate of “digestives”.

Daylight – Having spent most of my life far closer to the Equator, I’m used to the sun being a bit more present during the day. Of course there were months when it wasn’t bright outside as early or late, but I don’t believe it was ever like this. At the moment, I must admit it is a bit difficult to get moving in the morning because the sun doesn’t show itself until nearly 9:00 am. While the days are beginning to get longer now, and the sun stays out until about 4:30 pm, the evenings still seem long. Just think, though, in a few short months I get to look forward to days that go from about 4:00 am until 11:00 pm again. I know there are many places in the world where this is the case, but it’s new to me, and it has taken some adjustment.

Home – That’s nearly enough for now, but I’ll mention one final thing that caught me off guard in moving to Ireland. I had no idea how quickly this place would become home. I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but I do know that if I leave, a part of me will stay behind. I will always love Ireland with its quirks and even its frustrations. This is my home for as long as God will allow it be!

Home, Sweet Home!

I could make excuses for taking so long to write again, but they would be fairly lame and ultimately still just excuses.

If I was going to make one though, it would be this: I’ve been busy the last couple of weeks getting ready to move, and then getting settled in my new place! Yes, God has come through once again, and I am now living in my very own space – complete with my own kitchen and bathroom – for less money per week than some of the rooms I looked at in a shared house.

I will try not to be super wordy about this because I want to share other stuff, but I feel the need to brag on God a bit and tell the story of how I came to call this home.

This is my little haven... I love it!

This is home!

Back in April, I felt like God told me one of my new friends would be key in helping me to find a place to live here in Sligo. So, when she mentioned a place she used to live that might be open, I thought it must be the place. One quick phone call dashed those hopes, because the place had recently been taken.

Soon after that disappointment, I gave up on the search and decided to go on my adventures around the British Isles before I thought about housing options anymore. Upon arriving back in Sligo, I started looking for (and stressing about) housing options again almost immediately.

I scheduled appointments to see two places, and neither worked out. One was rented before I even got to the chance to see it thanks to being rescheduled multiple times. The other was even more frustrating because I walked more than an hour and a half in the rain only to find out the landlord didn’t have keys and we could only peer in the back windows at the kitchen I would share with 4-5 others.

On the way home from that fiasco, I gave up again. I told God I was done trying to find a place, and He was just going to have to drop something in my lap. I could almost hear Him cheering and saying, “Finally!” 🙂

The next day, I felt like I should call my friend and ask her to call her former landlady just to see if, by some miracle, the place was coming available soon. It was nearly a week before I heard back from her, but it was worth the wait! She said that I was hearing from God, and she couldn’t believe it, but the place would be available in a couple of weeks – about ten days before I would need a place to move into! More than three months after I first felt that she would be a part of the process and even that this place was for me, it finally happened – despite the fact that I had long given those words up as “bad pizza”.

I am in a great neighborhood, close to town, with room to have guests over and everything I need. I could not ask for a more perfect set up. Included in the furnishings is a TV with the necessary channel to keep up with “Doctor Who” when it comes back on in a couple of weeks. That may not seem like a big deal to you, but it is a gift from Jesus to me!

So, in light of the gift of this house, it’s time to move on to the other things I want to share. This is the harder bit because it requires vulnerability and courage that I don’t want to have right now. It puts into words for a broad audience things that could make me look terribly foolish.

Oh well, if people discover the truth that I am a flawed person, capable of being foolish, so be it.

I’ve mentioned before that God has been challenging me to trust Him for some big things, and I’ve made no secret of my desire for one of those things to be a man with whom I can share my life and build a family. That’s not really a scary thing to share because it’s a common desire for women my age. I want to have kids, and the clock is beginning to tick louder than it was before.

The reason this is scary to write, is that I believe God has been speaking to me about His intention to fulfill that desire within a short amount of time. I like it better when He tells me it will happen “one day”, or even “soon”  – though I wrote before of my dislike for that word. Why do I suddenly like those vague timeframes in regards to God’s promises? Because it is easy to believe for “one day”.

When God begins to speak a specific timeline, I get nervous. Once that time has come and gone, if things have not fulfilled my expectations (based on His words, of course), where does that leave me? Sitting on a mountain of doubt, thinking that I can’t hear God correctly, or worse that maybe He lied!

The other danger in believing for a certain timeframe is that as it draws nearer, I begin trying my own methods of “helping” God keep His words. In this particular instance, I catch myself wondering if I will miss out if I go to the wrong coffee shop, or whatever other place I think it’s likely I’ll meet some nice man. I could easily start obsessing over how to ensure that I don’t miss any tiny piece of guidance that will put me in the right place at the right time to meet this guy.

According to my experience and the thoughts of the locals I’ve talked to, it isn’t really “likely” that I’ll meet a nice, eligible, Christian man anywhere around here. So I begin to wonder about online dating, but that doesn’t feel right either. How will I know the right website? Even if I knew a good one, I can’t spend money on that when I now have a rent payment to make. Besides, people don’t support me so I can send their donations to a dating website…

There they are – the paragraphs that make me feel foolish. I start freaking out about how to help God with His job.

Yes, I’ll feel disappointed and perhaps confused if the allotted time passes and nothing has happened. I’ve been there before. I get upset, question, cry a bit, and move on. The world has not ended during that progression yet, and I typically come through the process trusting Him more deeply than before.

The foolishness comes in when I attempt to “help”.

I don’t know what is going to happen with the things I feel God is speaking. I don’t know if I’ll meet this guy soon, marry, have kids or anything else. I don’t have a clue where this elusive creature who could fill that role might be hidden, if there is such a man in this place.

There are some things I do know though…

I know that God spoke, and the universe was formed out of nothing. I know that incredible things happen when God opens His mouth. I know that His perspective and mine are vastly different, and His is always more reliable. I know that sometimes we just have to “give up” on our own efforts to see His promises fulfilled, and let Him do it without our interference. Finally, I know that no matter what happens or when, He is trustworthy.

So, I will continue to trust. I will enjoy my time in this home, and let it remind me of His faithfulness to His words. I will follow His lead and continue to pursue the ministry opportunities He is providing. I will live a fulfilled life in the community where He has planted me. And I will look forward to the fulfillment of all of His promises in His way and His time.

 

A Place For Me

A few years ago, in a prayer meeting, a couple was praying for me and felt that God spoke a passage from Psalm 18 in the Message. The passage was several verses, but I don’t remember what they were. I have it written down somewhere in a journal that has long since been filled and put on the shelf.

What I do know is that the passage included verse 19, “He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!” In another translation it reads, “He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.” (NASB)

The reason I remember that verse is that God has been speaking it again lately. He has pointed me there repeatedly over the past few weeks, and I think, I hope, I know the reason why.

I’m sure there was something going on in my life at the time that the verse applied to. I’m pretty sure that the couple praying for me even highlighted that verse at the time. I’m equally sure though, that now is the time for the fullness of that promise to come about in my life.

I think I mentioned previously that the past few years have been tough. I’ve done some cool things, and I’m pretty sure God has used me in some great ways too. I hope so, anyway! However, even with those seasons of feeling somewhat fruitful, I’ve felt more often than not that I was floundering, not sure I was really doing all I was meant to.

As I prepared for this move to Ireland, God began speaking Psalm 18:19 again. I mentioned in the last post that He told me that HE would not only open the door, but carry me across the threshold into this new place He had for me. I wrote of the sermon regarding Jesus preparing a place for us, and the hope it gave me for this earthly place as well. That hope has only gotten stronger during this first week in Ireland. (Yes, I arrived safe and sound! Stay tuned for photos…)

I’m currently looking for a place to call “home”. The people I’m working with here have been so welcoming, and I’m so grateful for all of their help in getting set up to do life and ministry here. However, I’m still a guess in their home. I know it isn’t my residence here in Ireland yet, and so I still feel unsettled. I haven’t unpacked because I have no idea when I will find a place and need to move again.

There are websites to look for rooms that are available, and I’m sure there are other avenues available to search too. But I don’t feel the need to run after every lead that comes my way. My host and I had even set up a time to look at a place, and just as I was asking God to make it very clear whether that was the house for me, she received a text that the woman wanted to wait and find someone who would go home at the weekends. (There are a lot of students here, so it’s very likely she’ll find someone.) I was almost relieved not because it fell through, but because God made it clear even before I saw the place. I know that God has a place for me here, and I’m confident that He will set me down right where I need to be.

Several weeks ago, I wrote these words, which I believe God spoke, in my journal: “I am carving out a place that will fit like a glove, but also allow room for growth. As I said yesterday, I will set you in a broad place – not so broad that you feel lost or alone, but enough that you can stretch, grow, and expand the place of your tent, [see Isaiah 54:2], broad enough to dream new (or old), big dreams and not have them squashed. It will be a place of freedom, joy, adventure and light!”

Obviously, this is about more than a roof over my head. I believe that is part of it, because He has promised to take care of every detail of this journey, but it’s so much bigger than that. It’s ministry, community, purpose, relationships and more!

I don’t know what all God has for me in Ireland. I have dreams and hopes. I have ideas and goals. I also have an understanding that He has all of those things too, and His are WAY bigger than mine. And so, for now, I’ll rest in His arms, expectant, knowing that He will set me exactly where I need to be in order to receive all that He has in store.

Me at the beach

Enjoying my first visit to the beach.

I’ll also spend this time exploring this new land I am in and enjoying the beauty that surrounds me. Here are a couple of photos so you can enjoy it with me…

A visit to the coast the day after I arrived in Ireland. Gorgeous!

A visit to the coast the day after I arrived in Ireland. Gorgeous!

Park at Belcoo, Northern Ireland

A park in Belcoo, Northern Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day

River path

A path along the river in the town where I now live. So pretty! I’m sure there will be many walks along this path in my future…