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 1: First Furlough

It feels crazy that it’s May already!  Our last update was at the end of December.  Since then we moved into a new house and went on our first furlough back to the United States!  Moving was sort of a whirlwind.  I think it always is, but we needed to pack, paint at the new house, move, unpack everything, pack all our suitcases again, and leave for an international trip – all in the span of about a month!  I’m so thankful for the community the Lord has given us here in Cork – people who help you fill boxes, paint, load and unload your stuff, clean your house, and even feed you!  There’s no way we could have moved like we did without them!

And a month later we were on a plane.  Our first time off the island since we arrived in October of 2016.  Our first time going home.  I don’t think any of us really knew what to expect…how we would feel, if it would be hard to come back.  We were looking forward to being with family, catching up with friends, hanging out with people we love, and eating all the food we missed!  But I was honestly worried, especially for the boys.  What if the novelty of moving to Ireland, being on this great adventure had worn off for them?  After all, now we had a routine, school and chores and normal things.  What if they didn’t want to come back?

The day before we left, a friend came over to say goodbye before our trip.  She brought the boys a few little things to occupy them on the long plane ride, and she handed me a card she’d made.   On the front, she’d written Deuteronomy 31:8:

“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you…do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

And on the back, Isaiah 40:11:

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

A great comfort – Jesus sees us, knows us, and goes with us.  It sounds so basic, and not very glamorous, but knowing that we are not alone, that God Himself loves us and cares for the things we care about, that He is with us – sometimes it feels like all the assurance we have.  But it is enough!

………………..

We landed in Denver, spent a day and a half there, and drove up to see Branden’s family in Wyoming.  While we were there, they got a three day blizzard!  Leaving Ireland in February, it was cold and wet, but this was a different kind of cold!  A big blizzard meant lots of sledding for the boys, driving a snow mobile, and even ice fishing!

Branden and his dad took the boys out on the ice for about three hours.  They hand drilled holes, dropped lines, and even caught a few fish!  By the end of it, Ethan was frozen!  When I asked him how it went, he said, “Yeah, I would go ice fishing again, as long as it wasn’t cold!”  Just fishing then :)

After about a week, we drove back down to Denver, hopped in a rental car with my parents, and drove to Phoenix.  Two of my sisters moved there last year.  They were each pregnant with their first babies when we left for Ireland.  Their babies were born five weeks apart and both celebrated their first birthdays right before we arrived back in the States.  I couldn’t wait to meet them!

Dec
29

Update Part 1: Happy Tuesday!

November 28th; it was a Tuesday.  I’m really thankful for that actually, because it meant Branden was home.  Tuesdays are his day to teach and my day to work.  I could hear him with the boys downstairs, working through a history lesson while I got my makeup on.

Door bell rings.  We weren’t expecting anyone.  I hear Branden open the door.

“How are we doing sir?” he says in his normal cheerfulness.  “We haven’t seen you in a while.”  I’m trying to listen a little bit.  A few back and forths.  It’s Martin, our landlord.  I can’t hear exactly what’s being said, then I hear the door close.  They’ve stepped outside.

Our landlord hasn’t been great, mostly hands off and non responsive to our calls and texts.  He’d left some landlord-y things undone; nothing major, but enough to be annoying.  Branden was right when he said we hadn’t seen him in a while.  I’ve actually only ever met him once in the year we’ve lived in the house.

A few minutes later I hear Branden walk back in.  He tells the boys he’ll be right back, and I can hear his footsteps coming up the stairs.  Our bedroom door opens.

“Did you hear Martin?”

“I heard he was here.  What did he need?” I admit, I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I got.

“Well,” Branden was almost smiling, which made me both interested and a little nervous.  “He’s sold our house.”

What followed was a series of… words… at an increased volume.  Mostly short phrases or disbelief and bafflement.  It did seem almost comical, if it wasn’t true!

“He said we didn’t need to worry about being out before Christmas,” Branden said calmly.  He has a calmness about him when I’m…reactive.

“Well that’s good!  Since the tree’s already up!”

“But, January.”

Wow.  A few more exclamations from my end.  No cursing, I promise :)

“Okay.”

There wasn’t really anything else to say.  I was more surprised than worried.  God has shone over and over that He knows our needs and always takes care of them.  And sometimes it seems that He actually enjoys doing things in a way that completely throws me, where things are out of my control and only He can take the credit.  Anybody with me there?

To be honest, maybe I felt okay because Branden and I had already been talking about moving closer to the city.  We are living in Cobh, a little port town, famous for being the last place the Titanic saw before sinking.  It’s actually on a separate island, and not on the way to anywhere.  This had proved a little challenging during our first year in Ireland.  Many Irish people have grown up in smaller towns or stayed in the same area all of their life.  Also, the cost of owning and operating a car is relatively high here, with a gallon of gas averaging between $6 – $7.  Commuting is seen as a big inconvenience, and a 20 minute drive can mean the difference between really spending time with people and almost never seeing them.

Our lease had officially ended a few weeks before, and our landlord situation had led to some discussion and prayer about what it would look like if we hypothetically did move…someday…in the imaginary future.  Not right now, right before Christmas, and literally the week our church was also moving from our current building into a school.  Yeah, lots of transition.

Branden prayed with me then.  A very honest – we don’t know how this is going to turn out but we trust You – prayer.  Then he was back to the history lesson and I proceeded to spend the next hour praying…and looking at rental listings online.

………………………….

That afternoon we talked to the boys.  They took it really hard.  Ethan was sad, Silas angry on the outside, but really sad on the inside.  We all really like the house we live in now, and remember how amazingly God provided for us through it when we moved to Ireland without knowing where we’d be living.  It was His gift to us, not just a house, but physical evidence that God cared about our hearts, generously giving us a place to call “home” as we followed Him across the world.

Also, the last year has been a collection of losses and victories with the neighborhood kids.  Our boys look different, talk different, don’t go to regular school, and talk about Jesus A LOT!  Not something I want them to stop, and I’m super proud of them for, but it has gotten them into some difficult situations in this very religious, not open to discussion, Catholic versus Protestant environment.  The few friendships they have actually settled into have been hard fought and, after leaving many friends behind in the States, an issue that sits close to their hearts.

Later, sobbing through tears and talking about both the church move and leaving Cobh, Ethan said, “Everything we know is changing again.”

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