Reflections At One Year Post-Ireland

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I actually don’t even know where to start this one. Every time I try to write this post I get overly emotional and I can’t get the words out. You’d think that after a year things would get easier, but they don’t. The truth is, I loved Ireland and most everyone and everything in it, and I miss it deeply. Tomorrow marks one year since we left Ireland for our next adventure in California–and what an adventure it has been! Since moving to California we’ve experienced the highest of highs…and the lowest of lows. And the manic-depressive nature of this year has me missing Ireland even more.

On the “high” side, we’ve relished in the daily sunshine–we spend time outside every day, and for the first time in my life I didn’t experience a single day of SAD (if you don’t know what SAD is, then you obviously don’t live in a rain cloud like we used to, so don’t worry about it). We’ve been blessed to reconnect with old friends (you know, the dear friends who you visit wearing sweatpants and messy hair so you can laugh and cry together). We’ve met incredible new friends and neighbors who already feel like family. Jon’s job gives him joy and fulfillment like he’s never had in his career before. We’ve spent countless days exploring the beauty and excitement that surrounds us in the Bay Area. Our children have flourished in their new environment and are truly happy. Life is good.

And, yet. The lows. The lows this year have challenged me to my core. In many ways, this has been one of the most demanding years of my life. We’ve had to make difficult decisions: parenting decisions and financial decisions and housing decisions and school decisions. Seemingly endless decisions. Decisions with long-term repercussions that took some serious thinking and planning and praying. We had a miscarriage which, alone, was the most difficult season I’ve ever walked through. Add onto that the fact that I still feel a bit like a foreigner in this big, new place, and it’s a lot to take in.

This year has made me yearn for a simpler time, like our year in Ireland. I know that I look back at Ireland with rose-colored glasses because, as difficult as this year has been, Ireland had even more challenges. And, yet.

In Ireland we were connected with people so kind and so welcoming, who poured their love into our lives from the first day we met, that a lot of the challenges just seemed to melt away. I’m still searching for “my people” here–the community who you live life with every day, both the highs and the lows, for better or worse.

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In Ireland things were, quite simply, more simple. Stores didn’t open until lunchtime, and they closed before dinner (ok, it wasn’t quite that bad, but it wasn’t the everything-you-want-when-you-want-it mentality that we Americans are so accustomed to). It took an hour to drive to a town 10 miles away, because the only way to get there was to drive through your man’s field and about a dozen sheep paddocks. You ordered goods off a CATALOG…using your TELEPHONE. You spent cold rainy nights (which is near enough every night in Ireland) cozied up in a pub with your family, a pint, and some good craic. You paused every day to drink tea. You didn’t hustle and bustle because there was no reason and no place to hustle and bustle to. Ireland was a lot of slowing down and being still. It was good for my soul, and it is the polar opposite of living in the high-paced conundrum that is Silicon Valley. After a year, I find myself yearning again for the simple.

And, yet. Life goes on, and life IS good. Our year in Ireland impacted me profoundly, but so has this first year in California.

In this year I have learned to follow God more closely. There has been little time for complacency, and endless opportunities for seeking His will. All of the decisions and difficult times have drawn me closer to Him than ever before, and I could not have gotten there without facing the challenges that I did this year.

This year has taught me to cherish the relationships I have, and to hold my loved ones both in my hands and in my heart.

I have learned this year to be bold in who I am, even if that is different from the status quo. This has meant learning to block out the other voices so that I can trust my gut and my instincts. I have seen that sometimes the right thing to do is to quit, and it’s usually good to try again. I have learned to be confident in my faith and my foundation, and that is priceless.

IMG_4256This year has taught me to appreciate the special, ordinary moments. Finding my kids snuggled up together in the same bed, sleeping in each others’ arms. Accomplishing a goal–running a race, finishing a long-anticipated project, learning something new, potty training a toddler. Making a favorite recipe from scratch. Calling an old friend at just the right time. Enjoying a cold treat on a hot day. My boys playing happily in the sandbox for over an hour so I can write a blog post in peace 🙂

One year is plenty of time to learn and to yearn–and I’ve done plenty of both this year. Ireland will always keep a piece of my heart but, if this year has taught me anything, it’s that my heart has an endless capacity for growth to make room for the new loves and experiences that come my way.

An Irish Blessing
May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!

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Change and “The 3-Month Rule”

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“Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.” – Hugh Prather

I’ve had more than my share of “life changes” over the last few years. In less than a decade I have: graduated from college, gotten married, bought a house, raised a puppy (which is a lot more work than I ever gave it credit for!), started a career, ended a career, supported my husband through graduate school, birthed two babies, and moved six times to three unique corners of the globe. With so many changes, it seems at times that the only constant in my life is change itself.  Moving to Ireland has no doubt been one of the biggest adjustments I’ve ever had to make. Living in a place that I’d never been to before, with people I’d never met, in a culture that is wonderful but different in so many ways has taken some getting used to. It’s taken some time.

And that’s where the 3-month rule comes in. In my varied experience playing the “change game”, I have discovered that it takes exactly 3 months for the pieces to come together after Big Change. The first week is always chaos, the first month is exciting yet draining, the second month is a mix of “what did I get myself into?” and discovery, and by the third month you start to figure things out. At the three month mark you finally feel comfortable in the new scenario, like you can actually handle this New Thing. And that’s where I find myself now.

Today marks 3 months since we arrived in Ireland. I finally feel at home, like I fit in here. I know how to drive places without GPS (and I don’t even have to think twice about which side of the road to drive on any more!). Our house feels like the place where our family lives. I remember to turn on the hot water boiler exactly 42 minutes before my kids need to take a bath. My son goes to school. I know where to find everything at the grocery store and I know my favorite vendors by name at our farmer’s market. I have a favorite park. I am serving at our church. I know our neighbors. I have friends. I am at peace with my Big Change.

But that still doesn’t mean that it’s always easy. There are times where I miss my friends and my family and I just want to talk to them and I go to call them and then realize that it’s 3 AM in Seattle so I hang up the phone. Or when I crave something from home that I just can’t have (where are the pumpkins, Ireland?!). Or when I start a conversation and realize that nothing I’ve said actually makes sense to the person I’m talking to. So, yes, there will still be adjustments and some things that I just have to get over. But that’s all part of the beauty of living through a Big Change: it changes you.

And that really is the best part of this whole experience: I know that I will walk away from this a different person, a better person. My life is being enriched by the people I am meeting, the places I am seeing, the new ways I am learning to think and to live. I am learning to trust God in new ways and to call on Him (no crazy time zones to worry about there!). Nobody ever said that change was easy, but I think that it is necessary. And now, after 3 months, I can honestly say that I appreciate this change.

Here’s to 3 months down, and many more to come. The learning curve is over–let the fun begin!