One of the coolest parts, I think, about walking with the Lord, is being able to tell His stories! And I do mean “His stories,” because there’s just no way I could make this stuff up! I’ve said it before, and I mean it in the most respectful way – Jesus is crazy! Walk with Him long enough, and you’ll see – He’ll do what we cannot, in ways that only He can take credit. And all the things that make a good story – an impossible situation, a desperate need, our great inability to fix a problem, a heroic rescue! It’s all there. To Him be the glory! Psalm 9:1 says:
“I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all your marvelous works.”
It is my great privilege to tell His stories.
We’ve been home for a little over two weeks now, and I still can’t believe how it happened…
Some of you know that Branden and I were facing some challenges with securing our visas for our third year here in Ireland. A couple of months ago, we went to renew them and, after standing in line for almost four hours, were told that the laws regarding our visas have recently changed. We are now only guaranteed two years on our particular visa, and we’ve already used them. If we want to stay any longer, we need to send documents in to Ireland’s immigration department and ask for an extension. Once we have permission in writing, we can go back, stand in the crazy line again, and then apply.
That news came as a bit of a shock honestly. We walked away from the Garda station a little off balance, dazed, anxious. We had no plans of leaving Ireland or stopping the work we’d been doing with Calvary Cork. We had no plans of doing anything else at all. Now everything was up in the air, and it seemed we had very little control over our family’s future. And not even control, we had no idea what would even happen.
“The Lord has a good plan,” Branden reassured me.
Yes, but what was it?
All these thoughts came then. We were walking in the city, sending messages to our pastor and some of the leaders in our church, letting them know the situation. The boys were talking, I remember too loud. Branden was holding my hand and speaking quietly, to himself, to me. I knew he was worried too. My heart felt physically heavy in my chest and I knew if I let myself, I could just start crying, lose it right there on Oliver Plunkett Street.
Among all the things this could mean, there was this trip we had planned. The boys and I were supposed to meet my parents and sisters and their families in the Philippines at the end of October to celebrate my mom’s 60th birthday. The last (and only other) time I’d ever been there was twenty years ago, and this would be the first time for the boys!
When my mom first told me about wanting to go (over a year ago now), I told her there was no way we could join them. She was planning two and a half weeks of sight-seeing, eating amazing food, enjoying beaches, and more. Maybe most special of all, we’d spend the entire time with her only sister, my Aunt and Uncle who are missionaries in the Philippines. I remember when we first moved to Ireland, having a conversation with my Aunt, knowing that this life the Lord had called us both to meant that we may never be in the same country at the same time again. I love her, and this thought was a bit heart wrenching, but we’d both accepted it. Now there was this trip, but there was just no way.
I’d explained to my mom that we just didn’t have the money. She reassured me that they would help cover the expenses while we were there – food, transportation, activities. But even then, just airline tickets would be far more than we could cover.
For a while, anytime we’d chat, she’d talk about the plans for “when we go to the Philippines.” Different activities, places she was arranging for us to see. I knew she was excited and speaking with the hope that somehow we’d all be able to be there together. In the spring, I finally asked her to stop. It was too hard listening to all the things we’d be missing out on. And I knew the longer she thought about the trip with us there, the harder it would be when reality hit. She didn’t like that conversation. Neither did I. But we both understood.
Fast forward to June. I was having a conversation with a friend, and we were talking about living away from family. She’d spent some time abroad as well and knew the challenges, to herself, to her kids. I was telling her about this trip, how living away had its challenges for us, but also for our families. This is the reality and maybe for us, the hardest part of following the Lord to far away places.
“You have to go!” she said.
“To the Philippines! This would be a once in a lifetime trip!”
” I know, but there’s no way.” I was a bit confused actually. I’d already explained that.
“I’m going to pay for the tickets.”
“What?” More confusion.
“I’ve been looking them up while we’ve been talking. It’s totally doable. You should definitely go!”
The rest of the conversation was sort of a blur. I think I told her there was no way she could do that, that maybe she should talk with her husband first! She said they’d actually already talked, not about the trip, but that they felt like the Lord wanted them to send us a certain amount of money for support, the same amount of money that it seemed we needed to go to the Philippines!
I was still in shock. Was there really a way we could go? I told her I’d talk to Branden and call her later.
“You should absolutely go!” Branden said, looking at the calendar app on his phone. “The conference in the UK is right in the middle of the trip, so I probably can’t join you, but you and the boys should be there.”
I’d forgotten about a children’s ministry conference Branden and I had agreed to teach at. They’d asked Branden initially in the spring. He’d mentioned that I was available to teach too, if they needed more instructors, and that was the plan. Now Branden was typing an email to the director, letting him know that he would be there and pick up the slack for anything I was supposed to do, but that I would be otherwise engaged.
I called my friend. A few days later, the tickets were booked. We were going to the Philippines!
I called my mom, who was both laughing and crying out of happiness! All of her children and grandchildren would be in the Philippines, celebrating together!
I didn’t tell the boys. I actually never tell them anything until we’re on the way to do it. It means lots of surprises for them, and no incessant “How much longer?” and “When is it going to happen?!” questions for me. This would be a BIG surprise! It’s interesting, moving away from the only home your kids have known, what kinds of things they say they miss. Some are the same as you, some are surprisingly different. We all agree; time with family is precious.
Okay, back to a couple months ago with the visa, or lack of visa really. With all the crazy, unsettled thoughts swirling in my head, I pictured my mom. Would we be able to go on this trip with our visas up in the air? What would she say? How would she take it?