Slowly the Afternoon

This week, my sister and I went through the first draft of my book about the trip. As is typical with first drafts, we found numerous glaring errors. Most of them we simply corrected and moved on, but there were a few we couldn't resist playing with. We made note of these and later wrote short stories around them. The typo I received was "slowly the afternoon." I'd left out a very important "that," but on this Advent holiday, the phrase took on its own meaning, to read as follows...

Slowly, the afternoon passed. Two friends met on the road. They saw each other twice a day, once at this hour and once much earlier. As they did, they would wave without stopping. Neither had said a word to the other in an epoch. Oldest of friends, but custom is custom. A schedule must be kept, all the roosters of the world depend on it. Today, though, they slowed to speak. 

"It's been a long time," one said.
"A good long time," said the other. 

Slowly, the afternoon lingered. Two friends shook hands and leaned on hips to enjoy the time. There would never be another dusk like this, so it could afford to stay a while. After tonight, everything would change. Nothing would ever be the same again. The sky blazed a painted fire as they laughed at the joy of what was coming.

"They won't know what hit 'em," one said.
"Not until the end," said the other. 

Slowly, the afternoon darkened into night. Two friends parted ways. The moon took her post, the sun retired till morning. And as stars fell into place, the moon laughed again at the joy of what was coming. A baby cried out from the city of David below and a mother sighed relief. For unto us a child was born, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

Friends, Family, World

The gang and I arrived home a little earlier this week, and we have been enjoying the comfort of our own beds. It has been wonderful to reunite with our families, too, whom we have missed these past few weeks. I, personally, am visiting my sister and parents for a few days at the home where I grew up. Since I moved out, three years ago, they’ve expanded the garden, remodeled the kitchen, added a roof to the deck. Things change, like furniture and curtains, but I can still return here and it’s still home. I’m reminded of the line from an Avett Brothers’ song, “It’s not where I am, it’s who I’m with.” This is something I thought of on the trip, too, in regards to the friends I was with. 

We had some really amazing days, dancing down the streets of Paris, feeding parakeets in Kensington, hiking to the top of old Skellig Michael. But we had some tough days too, like when we missed our train in France, or when almost all of us got sick in England, or when I sprained my foot in Ireland. And there were boring, quiet days when we reluctantly opted for rest instead of adventure. In all of these circumstances, though, I had the guys around me. Luke, Ben, Tom, Philip, Robbie, Jamison. Big or small, happy or hard, every experience I had across the pond was with these brothers by my side, and that made it good, special, priceless.

And we had you all with us. You followed online, sent emails, left comments. Some of you met up with us on purpose while some just happened to run into us. We made new friends, too, and hopefully you’re following along now to stay in touch. Our story is just getting started, and it’s about a lot more than just seven guys on the road.

So, with that, I want to thank you for supporting us, inspiring us, and cheering us on. We couldn't have made this trip without you, and we wouldn’t have wanted to. Keep an eye out for the book and documentary, coming Spring of 2017. And stay tuned, also, for more adventures on the horizon.

To Skellig We Go

It was about 4.5 hours total, but I could write a book about our time with Skellig. And I will, in the coming months, but I'd like to share with you a few thoughts on the experience for now.

Due to complications beyond our control, our team was stripped down from seven to four. The final decision was to have Philip and Tom carry me while Luke filmed. Now, there is a 45 minute boat ride to reach the island and then back, and these proved to be a great times of prayer and reflection for me as we sputtered along through the open blue. Unlike its predecessor, this was a clear day with sunshine and not a breeze in sight. What was funny to me was my reaction as we first passed Lesser Skellig, a smaller island just a stone's through from Skellig Michael. It is a jagged, uninhabitable rock, covered in birds and my response was a breathless "It's huge!" Then I thought of the name and laughed to myself. We ain't seen nothing yet. Just a few minutes later and we reached the ominous feet of Skellig Michael, and our ascent commenced.

Tom started, as he felt most confident in his legs to make the step from boat to shore. This was our primary concern from the get-go, but Tom made short work of it, steadying himself carefully on each sopping step. There is a plateau which levels out a little more than halfway up, called Christ's Saddle, and our plan was to switch carriers there. Before arriving there, though, we scaled several winding steps of thin stone (dry, thankfully), past the Weeping Woman rock, and up one long, vertical staircase. We'd recently invested in a set of trekking poles, which came in very handy on the climb, and Philip stayed close for support.

As planned, we took a much-needed reprieve at Christ's Saddle and then Philip took over. Though Philip's climb may not have been as far, it was fraught with areas of danger. I find myself struggling to glance out over the sheer drop-off just inches from us, but Philip is a sturdy man and carried himself (and myself) well. Overhead was the monastery, and it did my heart good to explore this area with Philip. We studied the huts - some homes, some chapels for gathering - and we had opportunity to talk with a guide about the history of these particular monks. But most of all, we gazed out over the ocean to the mainland. That was why the monks called this home, for the view of their beloved country, the subject of their ever-faithful prayers. It was a profound moment, to pause their at the height of our pilgrimage and take in a view of such historic conviction. It reminded me of the lengths Christ's love will go.

And so we descended, resting again at the Saddle and finally returning to the mainland. The rest of our team awaited us with open arms and a seat at the pub, where we celebrated the day. It was a good day of labor, pain, exhaustion, commitment, revelation, and beauty. 

Skellig Eve

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Tuesday was our big Skellig day. It was supposed to be Monday, but the weather would not permit it. So, instead of climbing the island that day, we went to the cliffs and looked out over the cloudy day to see the island staring back at us. It was a showdown. Skellig Michael knew we were coming, and he warned us from seven miles away that he was a force not to be reckoned with. But as I stood there with my friends, the wind and waves crashing with fury around us, I was reminded of the 29th Psalm - "The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders over many waters." The earth is subject to this God of glory, and he has given us dominion over it. So Skellig stared me down and I stared right back. It settled into all of us that day, just how crazy we were. But at the same time, we knew we were exactly where we needed to be. This would be an adventure for the ages.