Friday, September 24, 2010

Out of Sight, In Plain View

Friends . . I have been absent and off the radar.

This has been a VERY difficult, exciting, hopeful, hazy, stretching, questioning and frustrating period in our lives.

As some of you may already know, after 11 years in the UK & Ireland my family and I (all five of us!) left our friends, home, full-time permanent job and the beautiful island we called home to relocate to the Nashville, Tennessee area in pursuit of a vision God laid before us.

On June 30th it all went down. We moved - leaving a home unsold in County Tipperary with renters agreeing to live in it for the next year. When we arrived in America with very mixed feelings and still very cloudy on all that lie ahead, the first thing we did was attend the funeral of a woman who is VERY dear to me. My Grandmother, Grace L. McMurray had passed a few days before we fly our of Ireland. She was more than a grandmother to me, she was a friend. My mother and I lived with her a while when I was very young and I had a lot of time with 'Mac' as we called her. She became a hero and legend to me. I used to brag about her muscles to friends and teachers when I was a kid. She had been a widow since 1961, had raised four young girls, managed a farm of five acres and worked - hard - to support her children, and grandchildren at times. We were in touch regularly and I always visited her when we returned to the States for vacation over the past decade.

Mac was very influential in Christy and I giving eleven years of our lives in Northern and Southern Ireland. She had created a sort of family lore about being Irish in America in our family. She often recounted stories about our relatives who had moved from counties Tyrone and Antrim in the mid-nineteenth century to Ohio in search of their own adventures. When I had a chance to visit N. Ireland on a short term missions trip in 1996 - she paid for it. It was on that trip I knew I'd be back. Three months later in May I returned with Christy and her university and it was then I proposed to her. When we left I knew we'd be back. Three years later in 1999 we moved to N. Ireland with only the clothes in our suitcases. We remained, eventually moving South - investing in young lives across the whole island for over a decade. Our three children were born there and will forever know their heritage and origin. We were changed by sharing our lives and by the 'Irish' (Northern Irish for some of you!) sharing their lives so deeply with us.

When we returned to the US and attended Mac's funeral with many family members we hadn't seen for years, we were to find out Grandma Mac had been thinking of us in her fleeting moments of clarity in the weeks preceding her death. She had been saving up her income and left us a gift to help our family resettle in America. We have been floored by her generosity, intentionality and tangible love for us - even as she dwindled away in the twilight of her life. We are forever indebted to her and will seek to live for others as she so clearly did in her time on this earth. I love you Grandma - and I always will.

A few days following her funeral, I began a month's odyssey of traveling to the area we were soon to call home every Sunday afternoon through Friday night the whole month of July. I did this to attempt to search for and secure a full-time job before moving the family down. I invested a lot of hours of networking, searching, interviewing and praying - trying to discern God's leading for our family. By the time the end of July came I had a strong interest from one employer for part-time work but no commitment to hire and we had no home to move to. Issues were further complicated because we had no idea where our eldest daughter Neve would go to school without a job to dictate an area to move to and a home to live in. In the first week of August we decided to jump from the protective covering of Christy's parent's home and move to Tennessee anyway. We packed our small UHAUL and jumped into the unknown - again. Many of our family no doubt felt this was an unwise decision but sent us off anyway.

When we arrived in Franklin, TN (just 20 miles south of Nashville) we set up our temporary home in an extended stay hotel where we lived for six days as I continued to interview and apply for jobs and we looked for a home to live in. We frantically narrowed down a the available options to a home in Spring Hill, TN as the first day of school approached. Neve would have not been allowed to begin school until we had a permanent address in a school district. Finally, the day before school began, we agreed to rent a home for one year (without any promise of income to cover the bills) and I took a part-time job with The Battle of Franklin Trust for pennies of what we truly need to survive as a family of five here. So, the past six weeks have been an intense period of settling in securing insurances of various kinds, new driver's licenses, locating doctor's and trying to get plugged in with people in the area.

We are very, very happy with the church we've landed in only the second Sunday after our arrival. It's a new churhc plant in a local high school called Conduit. More info here: Basically, what we really value about this small gathering of 'followers of the Way' is that they are new to it all - like us to the area and the US, they travel lightly by not incurring a lot of overhead costs in order to give more away to those in need locally and internationally (which they're doing to GREAT effect) and they (like us) don't really know what God is up to or where this is all going. Yeah, we're there too. It's truly a God-thing we've landed in with Conduit Church! Here we are . . I'm working part-time Tuesday through Thursday and seeking full-time salaried work every chance I get. Neve (who's seven) is enjoying the second grade at our local elementary. Aidan (five) is at home most days enjoying LEGO and super heroes and meeting kids his age at church, in the neighborhood and gatherings. Keely (one) is growing quickly, talking a lot, making ridiculously funny faces and Christy is patiently waiting. She's waiting to see where God appears in this chaos and haze of major life transition and upheaval. She's waiting to see how our family will be provided for, how our children will settle in a foreign environment, for friends she can share life with and for someway to invest herself outside of our family environment - a vision. In fact, we're all waiting . . waiting on Him . . waiting for Him.

One of the main reasons we moved to this part of the world and US was to follow a vision God placed before us to pastor Creatives (anyone invested in the arts or entertainment) as Soul Friends. A Soul Friend vocation is similar to the traditional role of a spiritual director or life coach. 'Soul Friend' is a translation of the Irish phrase Anam Cara. The Irish have a long history of Soul Friends. A Soul Friend is someone who intentionally walks beside another as they journey together - both into unknown territory. As they journey through life, a Soul Friend helps another to become more aware of where God is showing up - speaking in fact - all the time encouraging them to recklessly abandon themselves into God's good, capable, care-full hands. This is the process of transformation . . of becoming that person God created us to be and has dreamt we could become from moment He conceived us in love.

We came because we are following although we don't know the way. We came to know Jesus Christ more fully. We came to obey. We came to see this adventure unfold. Will you consider joining us?

All our love to all of you friends. Please share your lives with us even as we have opened our to you and we'll journey onward - together.

"There's no dream that mustn't be dared."
- George Mallory, Everest Climber, 1924