Take the Step

Even as I wrote the post last week, clouds were building and getting darker in my own mind and heart. By the end of the night and into the following days, I was wondering if maybe my strength of positivity had abandoned me because I was struggling to believe the sun was still shining behind the clouds.

There wasn’t one thing that brought the storm. A number of factors converged and blocked out my view of the sun for a time. Some of the clouds aren’t worth mentioning, but there were three in particular that hit within hours of each other, and all of them brought doubts about the things God has told me about making this place my home.

I have mentioned before that I felt God was saying it was time to settle here and begin to put down more roots. One of those roots involves getting my Irish driving license, and the first step of that process was scheduled for today. I put off studying for the theory test until the end of last week, because without realizing it, I had begun to think it was futile to work toward getting my license here when I wasn’t sure I’d be here long enough to make it worth the small fortune it will cost.

So, what were the storm clouds? First, I just renewed my visa, and one year from today marks the end of the time I will be allowed to stay in Ireland unless I can convince the justice department that I need to be here longer. I have known for two years that three years was the maximum length I could stay without special permission, but that seemed such a long time away when I first arrived. Being given the information on what documents I will need to provide next year brought it to the forefront of my mind that I could easily be told to leave in a year.

The second of the clouds had to do with finances. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was told there was a remote possibility that a significant amount of my monthly support might be stopped. Recently, money has been tight already because of the visa and insurance renewals, and losing any support (let alone the amount I could lose) would mean I could no longer afford to be here. I don’t anticipate this decrease happening, but on top of the visa concerns (and knowing the costs of getting a license), it was stressful news to hear.

Finally, before I moved to Ireland, I felt like God had said that He had things here He wanted to give me. For a number of months, I have been praying into something I thought He had promised. Around the same time as these other concerns arose, I began to doubt that He had really spoken about this opportunity. It looks doubtful, or at the very least far away.

All of these factors converged, along with some other seemingly insignificant ones, to create a perfect storm of wondering if it is worth putting in the work to put down deep roots. This feels like “home” more than any place I’ve ever been, but is it worth the effort and emotions if I’m going to be uprooted?

Last weekend, I put all these thoughts on “pause.” The driver theory test was scheduled, and I needed to study so I didn’t waste the money I’d already paid when I booked the test. I’m happy to say I passed the test, and I should receive my learner’s permit in the post within a couple of weeks. I’m also happy to say that even though I don’t know the outcome of all of these situations, I have hope again. I know God can give me favor for the visa renewal, and He can provide all I need, and He is faithful to His promises even if they don’t look the way I expect.

Today, I took a step of faith. I don’t know exactly where the road leads, but I know He has asked me to pursue deeper roots here. I don’t know how He’ll provide the money to continue the process or how He’ll work out any other detail, but even without seeing the sun behind the clouds, I could see enough to take one more step forward. I trust it will be worth it.

What step might you need to take today despite the darkness surrounding you?

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

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. 🙂

Understanding Dawns

If you’ve read previous posts, you may have noticed a slight obsession with finding out why God brought me to Ireland. I spent 3/4 of last year asking God that very question, and lamenting the fact that He seemed silent on that particular issue. I LOVE living in Ireland, and wouldn’t choose to be anyplace else, but that question nagged constantly at the back of my mind.

In mid-December I had a good friend visit from England for a few days. We spent hours talking and processing, and God began to stir my heart for a couple of things I’d never really given much thought to before – things like songwriting and recording music. During one conversation in particular, my friend was talking about how much she enjoys visiting new places and seeing what God’s redemptive gift in each land is.

As soon as the words were out of her mouth I had to pick my lower jaw up off the floor. It was as though someone had just flipped on a switch in my brain and I felt I suddenly understood a major reason that I’m here. The phrase “land of saints and scholars” flashed through my mind, and I felt that while I may minister to a lot of people here, God brought me here for what this place has to offer me rather than what I have to offer it. This land has a history of learning and teaching, of arts, of stories and legends, of writing, of community, and of spreading the gospel to the nations beyond its borders. Those are redemptive gifts in this land, and I need those things to fulfill what I believe God has asked me to do.

During my months of searching for this answer, I’ve lost count of the times when I have uttered the sentence, “I could work on my book anywhere.” Perhaps that is not the case; maybe, just maybe the anointing that God has put on this land will play a part, whether big or small, in the progress of the ministry to which God has called me. As I continue to write, now not only a nonfiction book but perhaps new stories and songs as well, I look forward to being a tiny part of the legacy of the arts in this land that have served to build the Kingdom in the nations for centuries.

I may never have complete understanding of why I’m on earth, let alone in Ireland, but with this piece of the puzzle comes renewed passion to get all I can from my time here, however long that may be, and to give all I have in the process.

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!

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.

Perspective

The weeks of travel have begun, and I must say God is taking my level of anticipation a bit higher each day. He is providing contacts, accommodations, transportation, and opportunities that I had not imagined.

Only a week into this adventure, and already, I cannot choose just one highlight. Each day has held a special moment or event or connection of some sort.

However, there is a moment that stands out in my mind as I think about the last week because it was a tangible fulfillment of God’s promises to me. I found a random photo of a sunset behind a little church to serve as my desktop background on my computer last year as I prepared to come here. It was my reminder that God had promised I would make my home on the Emerald Isle, at least for a time.

On Saturday, I took a bus from Belfast to the town of Downpatrick. A couple of miles outside that town is a beautiful little church, the same little church that has been at home on my computer screen for the last several months. This is my own photo of it.
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I was so excited to see this little building that represented the promises of God to me for a while, but there was something far more interesting that I found when I got there….

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I don’t know how accurate the information on this sign is, as I have a sign from another church that claims it was where St. Patrick established a church. It is accepted that this is a likely spot for the beginnings of his ministry in Ireland, but honestly, who really knows the exact location?

What did strike me about this is that there was a church established in this locale nearly 13.5 centuries before my country was founded. Yes, I realize the land was there, and there were people living there. I’m not here to get into the politics surrounding the beginnings of what is now the United States of America. The reason I bring this up is that it once again gave me the perspective of how small I am in the grand scheme of things.

Somehow seeing buildings that are older than my country has a way of bringing into focus how relatively new the USA is in the annals of history. I know many people (both from the USA and not) who become so ethnocentric, so focused on the history, accomplishments or contributions of their own nation that they forget it is not the center of the globe, let alone the universe… I don’t often find myself thinking that way, but there is something about realizing how “young” the USA is that solidifies that acknowledgement.

In addition to the realization that the USA is young, I have a new appreciation for how big it is. In the past 2.5 weeks, I have been on the  coast at each side of this island – north, south, east and west. In fact, I looked it up, and to drive from the southwest side of the island to the northeast would likely take 7 hours or less. By contrast, driving from Seattle, WA to Miami, FL would take 48 hours or more…

These realizations combined could make one feel very insignificant. I am one person from a massive country that has been in existence a fraction of the time that buildings I’m seeing have been standing. And yet, I am feeling quite the opposite. In the midst of realizing how small I am, I have seen how BIG the story I have been invited into is.

As I travel and meet people and learn more about the men and women from centuries past, I am seeing more and more that they were incredible people. I am also reminded that they were still people. St. Patrick was an incredible fellow, and his story is fascinating – no matter what version of it I happen to read! 🙂 I believe the most significant thing about his story though, is the same thing that makes the heroes of faith from Hebrews 11 and throughout history stand out from the crowd…

He said yes to God.

He answered a call to serve God no matter the circumstances. He was willing when others questioned his sanity. He obeyed the God he knew and loved, and because of his obedience and love for God, the world is a different place today.

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with a man who once considered himself a Christian. During the hours after I met him, he explained to me why he no longer believes in the things he was taught as a child. As the conversation progressed he asked me why I believe we are here. I answered something along the lines of God wanting others with whom to share relationship.

While this man believes in an almighty being and creator, when I asked him the same question, his answer was something along the line of “to play our part”. I don’t have time to fully explain the conversation, and honestly, I’m not sure I would be able to if I did have time. Suffice it to say that in his mind, we are “cells” in the organism of earth, and we are here simply to do our part to keep the whole being healthy. (If I understood correctly in my sleep deprived state, the earth is also a part meant to work toward the health of the next level out which is the solar system, I think…)

Maybe I’m being picky, but that doesn’t seem to answer my question. If a creator was involved in the beginning of these systems within systems, what is the purpose of any of it. If each is only there to sustain the life of the greater system, why make the first system to begin with? What is the overall purpose? If I am meant only to be a cog in a wheel, I’d like to know what the purpose of the wheel is.

That story may seem out-of-place in a post about St. Patrick and old buildings, but in my mind they are connected. As I thought about what I might have said differently yesterday (had I had the chance to really say anything), I realized that all of this really is about perspective. The lens through which we see reality, God and ourselves makes a huge difference in how we live.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a cog in a wheel. My existence is not just a means of making some grand cosmic system function, and neither is yours! No matter how old or young, big or small your place of origin is, no matter what good or bad things have happened in your past, no matter how small you feel in the scheme of things, you have an important part to play in history.

God is the Almighty Creator, and He has a very good reason for knitting you together in the way He did. As you are in relationship with God, responding to Him, and willing to say yes, you, like St. Patrick, can be part of shaping history for centuries to come!

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…

A Confession

I’m here today to admit that I am a bit freaked out. When I got on an airplane 12 days ago, I was headed to spend two weeks relaxing with family and friends in Florida. I’ve done that about once a year for the last few years, so no big deal! So what if I was lugging around nearly 100 lbs of stuff? (I NEVER travel with so much if I can help it.)

Now that my two weeks in Florida are nearly over, reality is beginning to hit… hard! In less than three days, I’ll be on a plane, not back home to my family and friends and comfort zone, but to a country I’ve never visited. I have visited plenty of new places over the years, some of them by myself, but I have not ventured to a new place on my own without a return ticket before. This is not a visit; it is a move!

In the six months that I have been anticipating this week’s journey, I have convinced myself that excitement is the only emotion allowed. After all, I love all I know of the region of the world I’m moving to, God is promising wonderful things, and He is carrying me into this new place.

Over the weekend, however, I began to let the reality sink in, that in order to enter the new book I wrote about before, I must close the one I’ve been living. I spent a short time with my grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s, and there was the realization that I may not see her again. That is one example of several moments during this time where I have become aware that my life is changing in big ways this week… even some ways that I don’t anticipate, I’m sure.

As I sat in a restaurant the day after I arrived in Florida, the waitress asked if I was nervous about my impending move. My response was a shrug of the shoulders and the words: “What’s to be nervous about? I’m just moving to a country I’ve never been, where I don’t really know anyone.” It was a joke, but at the same time it wasn’t. I didn’t really feel nervous…. yet.

As reality sank in this weekend that my time in Florida has, in some ways, been a farewell tour, and I said goodbye to life as I’ve known it, reality also hit that this move is in fact a big deal. In addition to the excitement, I’ve finally given myself permission to feel the anxiety that hits occasionally. I realized that admitting occasional moments of “What the h@!! am I doing?” does not mean I don’t have faith, it simply means I’m human and this is actually kind of a big deal.

As I have begun to allow those moments, I’ve also been able to process the feelings and allow God to speak to me about them. He has told me during the last six months that He would not only open the door to Ireland, but carry me across the threshold too. I have done my best to trust Him for that, and He has shown Himself faithful over and over. Every detail has fallen into place, and I’m sure future details will continue to be taken care of.

On Sunday, the pastor was referencing Revelation 21 and talking about the hope we have for the future beyond our life on earth. He spoke of the place Jesus told His disciples He was going to prepare for them. With each point of the sermon, I felt God’s assurance that He has prepared a place for me in Ireland too. Don’t get me wrong, I know Ireland won’t be heaven. But at the same time, God used the ideas presented in the sermon to reassure me that even though I haven’t seen where I will stay yet or what the ministry I do will look like,  He has prepared a place for me, and He is taking me there.

I don’t know how long Ireland will be home, but I know that whether I live there or in the States or somewhere else entirely, my life will never be the same as it has been so far. I’m sure there will be days in the weeks to come, when I’d love to go back – just like the Israelites who preferred the slavery of Egypt to the unknowns of the desert, when I’ll mourn some aspect of this chapter. I’m just as sure though, that God has incredible things ahead for me. After all, He is the God “who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think”! (Ephesians 3:20 NASB)

A Change in the Wind, Says I…

Yesterday at church my pastor was sharing about the “Wind of God”, and how it often brings change, movement, and discomfort… Lately, He has been visiting my house with nearly hurricane force winds. I have 2 roommates, who also rank high on the list of my best friends, and these winds of change are blowing through all of our lives and taking us in very different directions. There is a lot of transition, and it is definitely uncomfortable!

As I began to clear out some of my belongings to make it easier to pack up my life and move in the next several months, reality began to hit hard. At times I get so excited about moving forward that I can hardly breath for the anticipation that swells in my chest. However, this past weekend I became aware that for every ounce of excitement and anticipation I feel about this move, I possess an equal amount of fear.

Fear is a strong word, but I have yet to think of better one. Oh, I’m not afraid of traveling by myself, flying, or even having some unexpected adventures along the way. (I’ve been to at least 28 countries, lived in Afghanistan, and have some fun stories I could tell.) And yet, I am afraid. It has taken me a while to figure out why, but I think I have finally found my answer… In my previous travels, I have almost always had a support system wherever I was going, certainly on the extended trips/moves. When I moved to Afghanistan, my brother’s family was there too.

This time is different because I am moving alone. But I’m friendly and outgoing, and I’ll meet people there, so it should be no big deal… Right? And now to my great fear: what if they don’t like me? What if I am not accepted in this place that I am called to? For an extrovert/verbal processor like myself, the options are to either find friends or go insane. Suddenly packing up my life and moving across the pond seems a bit more intimidating, even than moving to Afghanistan once did.

When I moved to Central Asia, I expected the culture shock that comes with learning a foreign language and way of life. The first time someone asked me if I was from the United States, I wondered if it was safe to admit that the answer was yes. (This was about 2 years after 9/11/2001.) And yet, I was welcomed with open arms by everyone I talked to. I was there to help, and they were grateful.

Now, as I look forward to my move to the Republic of Ireland and travels around the UK, I wonder about my response to my new surroundings. I’m going to another western nation, so I expect fewer cultural differences. However, sometimes those places are more difficult because there are the differences you never expect to encounter. I also wonder about the response I will get as I meet people. My roommates and I thoroughly enjoy BBC television and movies, and while I realize that the television/movies of that region probably represent the average residents about as well as Hollywood represents me (read “not at all”), a common portrayal of Americans in their entertainment is the loud, obnoxious, crude, and/or uncultured buffoon. Is that truly the perception I face as I travel there? I hope not.

Whatever the case, I know that God has opened this door for me to go to this part of the world that I love (though I’ve only ever visited the region once before). I also know that when He opens a door, He will take care of the details. It’s true that I don’t have family or friends in Ireland yet, but I trust that they are there and it will be fun to meet them when the time comes. 🙂

Thanks for reading about my (most likely irrational) fear. Sharing it with you has lessened the weight of it, and I am now feeling a rise in excitement again for the things that God has in store for me during the months to come!