Our international move was nothing short of a move of God. There have been a lot of people who have commented to me that they didn’t think they could ever do it; that it would be overwhelming, or way too difficult. I agree. If you were to try to do it on your own, it would be a ton of work, stress, and you would probably encounter a lot of problems along the way. But when God sends you, he equips you. He began preparing me for this move about a year ahead of time.
It started with questions to the American missionaries we met in Northern Ireland. I picked up on some tips that helped us tremendously. We decided to pack in storage bins rather than suitcases (suitcases are really expensive and don't hold much). I started buying a few at a time for $8-$10 a piece every time I went to Costco. They were also great for putting things in storage, so I didn’t worry about having too many. I checked how many pieces of luggage each person was allowed on the plane- 3. I then made a list of what each bin would hold. It was going to be a stretch, so when John and Jo traveled to Northern Ireland in April, I sent a few bins with them containing things we would want but didn’t need in the interim. It ended up being Christmas stuff, some art supplies, winter clothes, and two of John’s guitars. But even deciding on that was a family project.
Moving with kids made this move different from the time that I moved to Ireland in 2006. As an adult I could decide what I could and couldn’t do without. But this was a big deal for our kids and involving them in the decision-making was critical for them feeling like they were participants in the call, not bystanders. We decided that Christmas decorations were a big priority since we love to decorate for Christmas and our ornaments all have stories and memories of home attached to them. Also, my kids really enjoy art so packing up our art supplies (even though we can buy them here) demonstrated to my kids that their interests were important. After these things it was deciding mostly with John what needed to go for us to be able to do the ministry that God has called us to. For John, that is worship and videography. So, we designated bins for his camera gear (some came early as well) and his musical instruments. For me, it was the amazing books and training resources that I have gathered from SOZO trainings, as well as the school of ministry. Books are heavy though, so I focused on buying as many as I could on Kindle so I could have them but not take up any more space. We also homeschool so it was a challenge to buy curriculum but not so much as to exceed the weight limits for the plane! After that it was mainly clothes and personal items. I am certain that the kids packed more than they will ever actually use, but they pared their stuff down a lot over the year. Christmas and birthday presents were bought with the move in mind. Nothing too big or breakable.
Once we had pretty well settled on what would go, we began deciding what to do with everything else. There were two categories: Keep and store or sell. We sold or gave away probably 80% of what we owned. The rest was stored or taken with us. We built a 10x12 foot storage shed on my mom’s property to be able to store our stuff without paying a huge monthly bill. This was a huge help! The shed was built in December, and slowly over the next several months we began to sort the stuff that was left over from the first move, and began to move things around; sorting, purging, and tossing stuff. Every item we owned had to be touched and decided upon. Once Summer hit, this process really amped up. The kids went through their clothes and personal items, seeing what would fit, what would be sold, and what would be stored. I was really proud of the kids for being willing to go through this process, it wasn’t always easy!
Over the summer I worked on going through every cupboard, drawer, and closet to purge and organize. It was a lot of work, but never overwhelming. This is where the leading of the Holy Spirit was so real and helpful. I would get an idea of something that needed to be done, and I would go do it. When all was said and done, I was so grateful that I had listened to those promptings because it allowed us to get out on time. As renters, we had to be ready for the move out cleaning, so over the last several weeks in the house I worked on those deep cleaning tasks.
We also had the added task of preparing and bringing the dog with us. Valentine is our eight-year-old golden retriever whom the kids would not let us leave behind. This wasn’t too bad though. We found an excellent veterinarian who did all of the research to find out the requirements for flying a dog into the country. We planned months ahead, made sure she had all of her required shots and treatments. There were a few things that had to be done within days of our departure, but they were fantastic at fitting us in. We had to make sure we had the proper size crate and booked the dog her ticket. On the day we departed, she was dropped off with the shipping company that worked with the airlines.
We sold our cars within the last few days before leaving. We were generously given the use of our friend’s beach house to stay in as a transition from our rental before flying out. This was another inspired idea from the Holy Spirit. We were able to complete our move out and cleaning, and still have a few days to say good-bye to friends and family in peace.
Preparation wasn’t just physical though. It was emotional and spiritual as John and I learned how to navigate our own feelings, as well as walk the kids through the process of saying good-bye and being ready to welcome new friends into our hearts. With a move like this, “good-bye” isn’t the only hard part. Keeping our hearts open to new people and relationships is critical for us to have an effective ministry, as well as staying emotionally healthy. We don’t know where God will lead us in three years. Will it be another good-bye? Will we stay? The tendency when thinking that something is temporary is to pull back just a little to keep yourself from getting “attached.” But love requires a full commitment, regardless of the outcome. Jesus knew his time with the disciples was limited, and instead of only giving a portion of himself, he loved so fully that he even gave John the honor of becoming a son to his own mother. That is family.
John and I also experienced a lot of healing and renewing of the mind as we wrestled with what to keep, bring, store, or sell. It challenged our faith and understanding of God’s provision and goodness. God told me when I was struggling through a few things, “If I provided it once, I will provide it again.” After that I didn’t have any more concerns about whether or not I would have everything I needed. I packed what I had peace to pack. I am grateful that we got to learn this as a family; it will serve us well in the years to come!
The day of our departure was busy, but not stressful. We took care of a few last-minute errands and tasks so as to not leave them for others to take care of. We also stopped for a few more good-bye hugs before leaving town. One thing that I have learned over the past few years is that when you are about to embark on a mission for God (big or small, short or long) there WILL be things that come up. I was wisely told the day before we left that not every “bad” thing is from the enemy. So when we got the notice that our flight was delayed, I was totally at peace. That peace was challenged a little when we were told that the dog still had to arrive at the original check-in time, which meant she was in her crate for two more hours and we had to leave earlier than needed for our new departure time. But when I remembered those words, I regained my peace and realized God was just giving US more time to check in with our 18 pieces of checked luggage! Because of this delay there was no rushing. Our airline was at the end of the terminal on a quiet day. We actually parked our cars at the drop off curb, unloaded all the luggage, organized, and moved it inside, and we were never rushed or told to move. We got to say goodbye to my mom and stepdad without the rush of being pushed out. It took some muscle on John’s part, but even moving the bins around wasn’t stressful. There was room exactly where we needed room. There was even a really kind Irish farmer who helped us move them to the checkout counter. I’m pretty sure we made history for the attendant checking us in. She wasn’t thrilled with the amount and weight of our bins, but when I showed her that everything was purchased online ahead of time, and with the proper weights, she didn’t argue. She didn’t even charge us for extra weight on the oversized bag! Ironically, the largest piece was the cheapest one. It took a good hour or more for us to get all checked in, but it was hassle-free and simple. We moved through the airport quickly and easily. The kids were blessed by a few donors who gave them money for the airport, so they all shopped for over-priced gum and candy; something we have never had the opportunity to let them do before! We played chase with Eowyn, but otherwise everyone was laid-back and had no complaints.
Our flight was not full, we found our seats with ease and had no challenge finding room for all our carry-ons. John did a great job entertaining Eowyn and getting her to sleep on the plane. Everyone else was content with snacks, movies, and naps. It was a 9-hour flight, but it passed quickly and peacefully.
Once on the ground and through immigration (no issues) we faced the challenge of having to collect all of our bins and carry them out without assistance from anyone else. There were small push carts, but it would take more than we were able to push by ourselves. But what did God provide? A huge, flat-bed cart just sitting off to the side! We loaded that up (again with the assistance of this freakishly strong Irish farmer), two small carts, and with Eowyn in a baby carrier on my back we were off to customs. This was a joke. There were three pillars with descriptions of what each line was for…and yet they all led to the same unmanned door. We literally just walked right on out! No declarations, searches, or questions. Yay, Dublin! Once out the door, we found Aaron and Neil waiting for us. We made our way to the vans where God supernaturally fit every piece of luggage with room to spare for the dog. We collected the dog after a little wait and were finally on our way home.
There’s nothing quite like the warm hospitality of the Irish. The house was warm, food was cooked, and the kitchen was stocked with food. We ate a delicious meal of chicken curry and rice, KFC chicken, and garlic bread. And it felt like home.
God was in every detail from the planning to the execution. There was a moment at the SeaTac airport where I sat at the terminal and realized that for the first time in about 18 months, there was nothing left to prepare. Every bag was packed, every need was met, every paper and document were in hand. And while there were a few delays, challenges, and changes, it was all done to perfection. Only a move of God can move a family across continents not only without striving, but WITH joy. Looking back at it, I realized how simple and easy God had made it. This is the inheritance of the sons of God. Nothing He calls you to requires you to strive. Just follow. He will inspire, educate, strengthen, and prepare you in every way.
If you want God to move you, begin to prepare--clean out your cupboards and pantries. If he is moving you, let him lead. I can confidently say that when it is your turn to participate in a move of God, you too will see the miracles abound and every need met.