May
01

Part 5: Looking Forward

Hi guys!  This is the last in a series of five posts!  If you haven’t read the others yet, please do!  You can find them here:

Part 1: First Furlough

Part 2: Arizona

Part 3: Denver

Part 4: Home to Home

…………………………

Coming back to Ireland felt, in a small way, like arriving for the first time all over again.  My head was full of thoughts of family and dear friends, of everything we’d done together over the last month and a half, of yummy food and warm sunshine.  We landed with lots of suitcases, backpacks, and travel tiredness.  

It was the week leading up to Easter when we returned, which meant getting over jet-lag and diving back into preparing for church (Branden would have it no other way!). It meant too, going back to school, getting back into routine, and getting to catch up with people.

It’s a strange feeling to return home after going somewhere else you consider home, and it honestly took me a couple weeks to get my footing back, to feel the normalcy of life on this side of the world again.  I’m thankful for so much – for people who both give you time to rest and also bring biscuits over so your kids can play together and you can chat over tea.  I’m thankful for a church full of people who missed us (and who we’d truly missed!), people who hoped we had a great trip, but were happy to have us home.  I’m grateful for ministry, and that our trip only affirmed that we should be here, right now, doing this work.  And I’m maybe most thankful for our little crew of four, that we are processing together, that we have each other, and that the Lord is with us.

……….

Going into the new year, Branden and I were praying for vision.  What did the Lord have for us?  What did He have for our church and our community?  What is He calling our family to in 2018?  

Well, apparently number one on the list was moving into a new house!  I mentioned before that at the beginning of December, our landlord stopped by and told us he’d sold the house we were living in.  In a way, this came as a big shock to us, since he’d not said anything before then, but Branden and I had also actually been praying and thinking about possibly moving already.  Not in a real, “let’s look at listings” kind of way.  More like a hypothetical, “if we ever” way.  There were things we felt like the Lord was calling us to, to be closer to the city and the people of our church, to have a place that could be used more for ministry.  They seemed like just ideas, things to pray about, until the day our landlord stopped by.  Then moving wasn’t a novel idea anymore, but a necessity, and an urgent one at that!

Finding a house, especially with the things we were praying for, right after Christmas but with time to unpack before our trip seemed like an impossibility.  The housing market in Cork is ridiculous right now, and our budget and being closer to the city were not a match!  But the Lord completely went before us, provided far beyond what we could imagine, and took care of all the little (and big) logistical things that were needed!  

As Branden and I prayed for the new year, we both got this impression that the Lord was calling us to do more with reaching out to the community.  Irish people are very relationship oriented (which is amazing!).  It’s been really refreshing being here.  There’s a slower pace of life (something we’re still getting used to!)  It doesn’t always seem “efficient” to let conversations linger or to stop for a cup of tea and a chat, but maybe it’s the most efficient for building relationships!

I was encouraged this morning, reading in the book of John.  I’m in chapter 19, where it says that Jesus was crucified between two others, criminals.  It specifically says that his cross was the one between each of theirs.  One commentator talked about how this was the life of Christ – he was born, lived and died among us.  God, holy and righteous, came down.  He set aside protocol and place, and even took on our sin. Association was his way because He knew, the door to our hearts was opened only through proximity.

And this is what He calls us to, following Him in all things.  For us as a family, right now living in a different culture, and for all who would follow Him – to be WITH people.  We are praying about what it means to be intentional in that, with our community, to the kids and families around us.  I believe part of that is to use this house!  We want to open it’s doors, to use its rooms and land for being with people.  We have some things in mind for the summer, when the sun shines more and the days are longer!  Please be praying with us as we seek to obey the Lord and live in intentional proximity.

Speaking of prayer, here are a few other needs we have right now:

  • The boys and I as we finish up the school year (only 5 weeks to go!!)
  • Making this house into a home, welcoming and warm (I’m beginning to put pictures up haha!)
  • Branden and I as we seek the Lord about what outreach looks like this year
  • Summer events & how God wants to use the house
  • A missions team that plans to come in July/August (woot! woot!) 
  • Our church, Calvary Cork, and all that the Lord is calling us to as we shine the light of Christ in our city!

Thank you so much for reading these posts and for praying with us over these needs!  As you pray, if you feel led to support the ministry here financially, please click on the “Support Us” button at the top of this page and follow the links to give online.  You can also give via check made out to “Small World Big God” (the name of our non-profit) and mail to PO Box 305, Deer Trail, CO 80105.  All donations are tax-deductible.

We appreciate you all so much!  It’s incredible knowing that we are not alone – that God is with us, and so are you!  Thank you for being a part of what God is doing here in Ireland.  May you be greatly blessed as you follow Jesus!

Xoxo,

Ernie

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

…………………………

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.

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