The flight tracker said we only had 10 minutes until we landed, but all I could see out the window was gray clouds. I pressed my forehead against the plane window waiting anxiously for my first peek at a dream come true. Then, suddenly, the gray clouds began to fade and there I saw it: green. Green fields divided by old stone walls as far as the eye could see. Ireland. I had finally arrived in the country from which my first name derives. Erin is Gaelic for Ireland. Inside I was squealing from the surreal feeling. I was in Ireland. And while this trip isn’t how I thought it would happen, I was still here none the less.
In the midst of all the craziness of Kris’ illness and treatment and doctor appointments, I was offered an opportunity to travel to Ireland for work. We went back and forth about me going… should we both go? Was it just not the right time? In the end, we decided it was too amazing of an opportunity to pass up. Truthfully, I think God knew all along what a much needed break it would be. And I think He may have even had a role in making everything come together so quickly. Like when I finally said yes then realized my passport had expired just a few months earlier. I quickly pulled everything together and overnighted it to the passport office for expedited renewal, praying I had filled everything out correctly. That was a Friday. On Thursday, just six days later, I opened my mailbox to find a large envelope from the passport office. My heart sank. I must have filled out something wrong. By now, I only had about five weeks until I left. It would be a gamble to resubmit now. When I opened the envelope, there was my shiny new passport. SIX DAYS – door to door. When has that ever happened in the history of passports?! I digress.
As the day approached, I began to have feelings of intense guilt. What kind of wife and mother was I to leave my family in this state for an entire week? I had never left my kids to go out of town for this long, let alone cross an ocean. Fear wanted to grip my heart, but Kris reassured me time and time again that this was good, not only for me, but also for him. My amazing parents offered to take the kids for the entire week. Kris would be able to rest with no distractions. The kids got the grandparent treatment for a week. I got to go to Ireland. It seemed like a win-win-win.
For seven years, I had been writing the story and piecing together gorgeous video clips of this country. Now I was going to finally get to experience it myself. The driver picked us up at the airport, and we immediately set off for the Cliffs of Moher. I couldn’t wait to behold it with my own eyes. As we trudged up the hill with a chilly wind blowing, there they were: The majestic cliffs! We climbed higher and higher to get a better view. Then we came down and climbed to the crest of the first cliff and looked back. It was breathtaking. I snapped photo after photo and pushed my brain to soak it in: the mud beneath my feet, the way the light hit the layers and layers of rock protruding from the almost 700ft high forms, the one tiny piece that seemed the stand alone, the sightseers that, despite multiple warning signs, climbed beyond the safety walls to stand on the edge (I might be a bit of a rule follower), the blue in the waves that crashed on the rocks below, the giant cave that seemed to hold secrets I would never discover, the giant cows in the pasture right on the other side of the path. Truly: there are cows everywhere! I was so struck by the majesty of this place. There’s something about nature that just makes God feel so close. It was as if these cliffs and rocks were crying out for His glory. Millions of people come to these cliffs each year. They’ve been featured in many movies. They are truly stunning, and pictures don’t do them justice. Finally it was time to leave, and I ached to stay. Later as I sat jet-lagged in my hotel room, I swiped through picture after picture. And I felt myself collide with a truth that’s really hard for me to believe somedays: I am more beautiful and precious and treasured to God than those landscapes. The cliffs are stunning, yet I am called His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). The cliffs are breathtaking, yet I am called wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). The cliffs are majestic, yet I am called His heir, a daughter of the king (Galations 4:7). And in case you are wondering, so are you!
In the recesses of my heart, I knew God was reminding me that He cares. One of the struggles for me in this journey is feeling like I am in last place: when the unexpected circumstance hits, my plans are the ones disrupted. I am the one that has to cancel my haircut because a child has (yet another) fever. When Kris has a rough night of sleep and he’s too exhausted the next day, I am the one that has to push through my own exhaustion to keep our family moving. Those thoughts weren’t healthy thoughts, and I’m learning some important lessons about focusing on me during this season:
1. You can’t neglect yourself.
Our counselor said it best: If I continue to push my needs aside, I’m going to stretch and stretch and stretch like a rubber band, and eventually that rubber band is going to snap. And it’s going to hurt. Kris and I have found new ways to make sure I am getting recharged too. Ireland was a huge part of that recharging for me too. While it was a physically exhausting trip (every night in a new hotel and shooting 10 locations in 7 days), it was refreshing for my heart and mind to step away from driving to and from school and laundry and dishes and homework and cooking and doctor appointments. I read 2 1/2 books, ate good food, stayed in the most amazing hotels and experienced some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. Taking time for yourself isn’t selfish; it’s essential.
2. You don’t have to do it all.
I’m not talking about the “saying yes to too many things” doing it all. I’m talking about the “if I don’t do it, no one else will; it’s my responsibility to keep us moving forward” doing it all. I say it to others all the time, but I have hard a time with this one myself: I don’t have to be the hero. I don’t have to be the one to save the day. Others call it being a martyr, but it’s the idea that I purposefully put my needs way down the list then (very loudly) tell everyone how hard it is to be me. I am learning to stop before I go too far down that path, and let Kris know when I need a break. Kris can recognize when I’m heading that way too and will make it possible for me to get the break I need. He’s pretty amazing like that.
3. You don’t have to do it all… alone.
There’s so much more to this that I’ll write in a later post, but I am learning to lean on other people like I never have before. We have had friends ask what they can do to help, and we’ve asked boldly (like pick Kris up at 6:30am on a Saturday and take him to the tire shop boldly). We have amazing community around us. It’s so important. It’s why I encourage newcomers to our church to get involved in Life Groups, so you can do life together – the good stuff in life and the trials of life.
So, yes. In the midst of everything going on, I went to Ireland! Kris spent seven days resting, sleeping, gaming, reading and watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy. My kids had the time of their life with Mumsie and Pops, and we were all better for it.