May
01

Part 4: Home to Home

Hi there!  This is part four of a series of posts.  If you haven’t read the first three, please do that now!  You can find them here:

Part 1: First Furlough

Part 2: Arizona

Part 3: Denver

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Airports are the worst, honestly.  It’s where you say goodbye, where you sob the ugly tears, where you can’t actually be present.  You have to walk forward while looking backwards, all at the same time.  My parents and sister and nephew brought us to the airport.  Ian’s wife, Katie and their two boys came to see us off as well.  I consider Katie one of the most genuine and kind people I know, and I’m so thankful for her friendship.  She grew up moving from one country to another, their family following her dad’s work, and she also served in Thailand for a few years, ministering to trafficked women. 

When they arrived, Katie handed me a box.  Inside was this decoration for the house that I’d seen and really liked.  She bought it for me and had written a note on the inside of the box lid.  I didn’t read it until we were on the plane (which is probably good), but its message was exactly where I was:

“To have a heart always divided between homes, never fully at rest, at peace, contented…this is the gift that comes with being an expat.  This is a gift, because we have been blessed with an understanding of an eternal truth…this world is not our home.  In truth, we are just passing through, we do not one of us truly belong here.

Some of us know this, we understand it intimately, we are daily faced with the truth that we do not belong.

Sometimes we look like we belong…but our hearts feel out of place.  Sometimes it’s our looks that give us away while our hearts beat in tune with those around us.  But always, we live and breathe and walk through this world knowing we do not belong…and yet at the same time belonging wherever we are.”

I have only lived abroad for a year and a half, and all these words are true to me.  I do not have one home now, but two.  Two places on this earth that claim my heart, that have people I love.  And yet, because of this division, I am forced to, am more able to, look ahead, to know that my heart will not truly be settled until it rests in the place where it never has to say goodbye again.  It seems so far off in the distance, and yet the uncertainty of time pushes us forward, compelling us to do all we can, where we are, for the Kingdom, today.

May
01

Part 3: Denver

Hi guys!  This is the third of 5 posts.  If you haven’t read the first two, please do that now!  You can find them here:

Part 1: First Furlough

Part 2: Arizona

……………………..

Two and a half weeks with family, the conference, and a few traveling days in between, by the time we arrived in Denver, we really only had about two and a half weeks left in our trip.  There we so many people we wanted to hang out with, places we wanted to visit, food we wanted to eat!  (Have I mentioned how much we’d missed the food?). Because we didn’t have a ton of time, almost every day was packed full!  We were meeting up with two, three, sometimes four people or families each day.  We also had a few churches we visited, and because we knew there just wasn’t enough time to see everyone we wanted, we planned a couple things that people could come to, just to catch up.

It was strange being back in Denver.  I’d grown up there most of my life, and apart from the five or six years Branden and I lived in Texas right after we got married, our family life was all lived in that area.  During our visit, things seemed familiar and easy, like being in a house where you know where everything is.  You just do what feels normal, and you don’t have to try so hard.  But it didn’t feel like home anymore.  

The boys were constantly pointing at things and saying, “Oh remember that?  Remember when we used to go there?  Or when we did this or that?”  I was constantly trying to gauge how they were doing.  Were they sad?  Or happy?  Or both?  Visiting the States after living on the mission field, even for just over a year, everyone is so happy to see you!  They want to hear how you are, what the Lord is doing where you’re serving, what adventures you’ve been on!  What are your struggles?  What have you learned?  It was honestly a joy to share everything we’ve gotten to be a part of so far in Ireland, that ministry is going well and that the Lord has given us such a great community here in Cork!  I think at some point towards the end of our trip though, Branden and I realized, all the attention had just gotten to be a little too much for the boys.  They just wanted to be with friends that they missed, to run around and play video games and talk about normal things.  

We have some great friends in Denver with two boys of their own – one a little older than Silas and one a little younger than Ethan.  Our boys all love each other, and they took them for a two-night sleepover.  Definitely a highlight of our trip!  They got to do some really fun things and just enjoy each other’s company for a couple of days.  I’m so thankful for friends who love our family well, who get it, and encourage us in real ways!

Being with our sending church was such an encouragement too.  It feels so different from our church here in Cork, and yet both seem like what constitutes a sense of support and home for us, just on opposite sides of the world.  Calvary Aurora is where we grew for so long in faith and faithfulness, serving with pastors that truly loved us, walked alongside us through so much, and sent us out into mission work abroad.  They are family!  

While we were visiting, we got to give an update there.  After sharing a bit about what the Lord is doing here in Cork, the leadership prayed over and laid hands on Branden, officially commissioning and recognizing him as one of their ministers and missionaries.  It was such a great honor!

Another big part of our time in Denver was hanging out with my cousin, Ian, and his family.  Ian and I are less than a year apart, and our families lived together until I was nine.  I love him and his wife and their beautiful, growing family!  A few months before our trip, they brought home a new baby boy via adoption!  Things are still being finalized, but it was a gift to get to be with them and Baby E, to sort of be there for the beginning of his story, to hold him and see my cousin and his wife being parents to a newborn.  They’ve been through a lot lately, even more so than normal, but it’s a blessing to be part of their lives, and I’m really grateful for the time we had with them while we were there. 

Six weeks seems like a long time, but it really isn’t.  In a way, I think we were all ready to head back to Ireland, maybe because we knew going into the trip, we’d only be there for a certain amount of time.  We’d somehow prepared ourselves.  

Packing suitcases, printing boarding passes, eating dinner with your family…somehow it all feels fine and normal…until you are driving to the airport.  Then it’s real.

May
01

Part 2: Arizona

This is the second of 5 posts!  If you haven’t read the first one, please do so first.  You can find it here:

Part 1: First Furlough

…………………….

I remember driving up to the house that night after being in the car for about 15 hours.  My sisters’ families share a house at the moment.  Opening the door, seeing them for the first time in almost a year and half, both moms, each with a one year old on their hip, it was so bittersweet!  I don’t think I realized how much I’d missed them!  I hadn’t been there for their deliveries, for my nephew and niece’s entire first year of life.  It was incredible to meet these two new little people, and at the same time realize I’d missed so much.  But holding and kissing them all, the “look how tall the boys are!” and “Oh my goodness, they’re beautiful!”  I felt it all and landed on gratitude.

The next week and a half seemed both full and a good kind of slow.  We didn’t have much planned ahead of time, and every day seemed to bring it’s own activities.  My sisters showed us some of the things they’d discovered and liked in the Phoenix area, and we spent a lot of time outside in the sunshine.  We’d missed the sun so much living in Cork!  We ate lots of food we’d been missing, played with babies, and just hung out together.  It seemed normal and easy, and yet I knew we were all trying to really be there, to soak each other up while we could.

My sisters had asked Branden if he would do a dedication for the babies – a simple ceremony at the house with food and a few friends.  They’d also asked Branden and I if we’d be god-parents for both my niece and nephew – what an honor!  We had food and beautiful cakes, and Branden read from the Word and spoke about what it meant to raise up a child in the Lord.  I’m thankful for this place we have in their lives, no matter how far we are in distance.

I honestly miss them so much, more I think, than I did before we left for our furlough.  Before I’d seen pictures of their little ones, smiled and talked with them on video chats.  But now I’ve held them, been a part of their day to day routines.  I know their laughs and seen their personalities, the things they’re learning.  While we were with them, both babies took their first steps!  Which I consider just a gift from the Lord to me!  And although I don’t at all feel like we’re supposed to live there, part of my heart is with them, and it does feel torn.  Following the Lord to Ireland, the cost I feel the most is definitely the distance from family.  The Lord knows…

Branden and I also got to attend a pastors and leaders conference before heading back to Denver.  Several pastors and overseers were there from our sending church, Calvary Aurora.  This was the first time we really got a chance to catch up with them since we arrived in the States.  Having a few days, listening to great teaching, spending time with people and each other – it was really refreshing before going to Colorado.

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