July 2017 marks the 5 year anniversary of our move to Dublin. Over the next few months I’m writing a few posts to share about that journey. You can keep up with all posts in this series here.
When we first talked about Ireland, the purpose was so that Liz could go over with her dad and her family. About 6 months before the trip, we decided that this would also serve as a sabbatical for me. As I prayed about the focus (sabbatical wise) of our 6 weeks in Ireland, it came down to one simple question:
What am I supposed to do with the next 20 years of my life?
I didn’t imagine that it would take all that long to figure out. I thought I already knew the answer. As I’d mentioned, over the past year, for the first time since I’d gone into full-time ministry, I was seriously considering quitting. But between the Pastor’s Sabbath Retreat (which we wrote about here) and some changes we were already working on at the church, I felt things were getting better. And I imagined that the answer to the question would be “stay in Ithaca.”
While I was hoping for a clear vision of what we were supposed to do during our trip, it was Liz’s dad’s vision that dictated our first two weeks in Ireland. Long story short…He had an auto-immune reaction to a shot he had received shortly before flying to Ireland, and so we spent much of the first week of our trip taking him to doctors and pharmacies, and finally to the Mater Hospital in Dublin.
At the Mater they diagnosed the issue and prescribed medication for his eyes. Great, problem over. Well, except for the fact that he needed someone to put the medicine in his eyes several times each day….every day. And 6 days each week, that was Liz. On Sunday’s she was able to get one of the neighbors to give him the medicine. That way, we’d visit a church and usually do some type of sightseeing.
But the other six days…we sat at the farm.
The closest internet was 25 minutes away.
There was no cable tv. (The girls did watch a lot of static-y episodes of Friends.)
So, I did a lot of jogging…and walking…and asking that question…over and over. “God what do you want us to do with the next 20 years of our lives?”
And sensing nothing.
After about a week of sitting on the farm, I was going stir crazy so I decided to go…somewhere. I figured everyone would want to go with me. But no. Liz had to stay with her dad…the girls wanted to stay and watch some more Friends. So I just started driving, and eventually ended up in Derry. I had a good day. Did some sightseeing. Spent some time on the internet. Walked around a mall. Ate some good food and had my first real cup of coffee since I’d gotten to Ireland.
The following week, things had begun to get better with Liz’s dad. And we were able to begin doing a bit of sight-seeing. Since I’d had such a great time in Derry the previous week, I took them all there with me the first Friday in August. We walked around the walled section of the city, found a friendly dog and got stuck in a rain storm.
This Is Where Things Take a Turn
During that walk around Derry, Liz was chatting with the girls and said that while she enjoyed being able to visit Ireland, she didn’t have any desire to be here long-term. She was happy with life in Ithaca and ready to go back.
The following day we went back up to the North with another family and spent the day sight-seeing. We visited the Irish American Folk Park and stopped by the town of Omagh to visit the Memorial Garden.
On Sunday we were heading to Belfast. We had to get up early to get there in time for the church service.
After days of sitting on the farm, we were on day three of constant travel. And, day three of being in the North.
Everyone was sleeping (except me of course). I was driving and still asking the question. And for the first time, I felt like I had a clear answer…and not one I was expecting. “Move to Ireland and help plant churches.”
This felt really clear. And everyone was sound asleep, so I had another hour to wrestle with it. As soon as we got to the church in Belfast, we found a place to sit and immediately I asked Liz to come into a side room so we could talk.
Me: Remember that question about what we are supposed to do with the next 20 years of our lives?
Liz: (A very cautious) Yeah.
Me: I think we are supposed to move to Ireland and help plant churches.
That was not the response I was expecting.
After the church service, we were going to do some sightseeing around Belfast. We obviously had no intention of talking about this with the kids, but they are pretty intuitive and smart and knew something was up. So we told them.
Our trip to Belfast ended early that day. We were all tired. My wife was sad. My daughters were angry, and two of them are not speaking to me.
So, that went well.
In looking back, I think part of the reason each of us responded as strongly as we did is that we all knew that it wasn’t just a crazy out of left field idea. There was something that rang true…and it meant life was about to get turned upside down.
coming up next…digging out of the hole I found myself in.
Also published on Medium.