"One of the greatest things in human life is the ability to make plans. Even if they never come true - the joy of anticipation is irrevocably yours. That way one can live many more than just one life."

Maria Trapp-The Story of the Trapp Family Singers - Ch. 12 p. 4

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

- St. Augustine


So, any of you who know us are probably asking yourselves about now how is it we came to be taking this dream-vacation to Ireland? I mean we have 5 kids & 3 grandkids and all the associate gifts, groceries and other sundry expenses of such, a mortgage, private school tuition AND we just took a vacation together for our 10th wedding anniversary. In what way do we justify spending thousands of dollars just 18 months later to go away together again?! It took 10 years to go on our first trip just the two of us, how are we going again so soon? Don't we care about our children's futures? Shouldn't we be spending this money on the new grandbaby and Doug's retirement account? Where has Amy's frugality gone?

I'll get back to that.

When I was growing up I had one girlfriend my own age. We were best friends of a sisterly sort. As in we loved each other whole-heartedly, but we didn't always like one another to much. We only became friends because my mom said to me one summer that Miss Devotion & Generosity was going to be coming over everyday all summer while her mom worked and I needed to be nice to her. Well, my version of nice was to sit young Miss Devotion & Generosity down and explain to her how my mom was just helping her mom out and I was just going to go about my normal summer life and she shouldn't think I was going to let her get in the way of that. She was just there; she wasn't my job. Nice, huh? And you all thought I was such a good person.

Of course, God knew better. I may have thought I didn't need anyone to interrupt my summer reading plan, but He knew that people are what makes us who we are. It was time I start being shaped by someone besides L.M. Montgomery and Louisa Alcott. 

Miss Devotion & Generosity and I of course became fast friends, "bosom friends" as Anne Shirley would say. She had a single-mom, a troublesome father and one brother. I had loving parents and siblings galore. She was one of those friends who isn't just a best friend, but part of your family. We did everything together, knew everything about one another and were completely part of one another's lives. Outside of circumstances and Providence there was no reason for us to be friends as we were completely opposite people with completely opposite interests. But being that there was only the two of us girls in our church, we had to be best friends and so we were. God knows just who you need. Miss D&G and I  balanced one another out and formed each other up.

As all young girls are want to do, we spent time coming up with treats for each other, fun outings, surprises and gifts. The reason new husbands are never romantic and thoughtful enough for young women is because the poor clueless chump can never match up to what her best girlfriend has been doing for the past 12 years of her girlhood! Miss D&G threw me a surprise birthday party for the whole church, I whisked her away to Victoria, B.C. for her 18th birthday. She sent me pink tulips every birthday, I made her a candle-light feast. You have to spend your romantic notions somewhere and in absence of boyfriend you use your creative energy on surprises and outings for your friends.

Keep the Victoria, B.C. thing in mind.

Fast forward 8 or 10 years...
along comes the Doug Problem. As in, I was in love with Doug Hayes of all people, my parents didn't know what to do, and I wasn't to talk about it to ANYONE, including Miss D&G. Well, you can't be bosom buddies for that long and not know when your best friend has fallen in love. She was there for me. I remember one night in the midst of Outer Darkness, before I had explicitly told her what was going on when I was despairing and dark. We simply sat together late into the night on her front porch. She didn't make me talk about it, didn't pry for details and explanations, didn't change the subject and try to artificially cheer me up. She just said a few words of encouragement to be faithful and trust God to work it out. She knew me well enough to know I don't talk about what I feel most and to be there in just the way I needed and encourage me to be faithful. Miss D&G always encouraged me to be faithful in every kind of temptation. It's just who she was.

Well, when the tides finally turned it was Miss D&G who dropped everything and came over to my house to celebrate and wheedle my parents into telling Doug that night that they had changed their minds instead of waiting for the weekend. She was there to be our 3rd wheel on dates, to be our advocate with those few remaining friends and extended family members who were weirded out by us, and to simply be one of our biggest fans. She threw my bridal shower. She took me out to get beautiful for for my wedding day. She was my maid-of-honor and my one girl-friend who was no-reservations happy and excited that I was marrying Doug. 

Are you wondering what all of this has to do with our Ireland trip?  We're getting there.

Remember what I said about about me taking Miss D&G to Victoria, B.C. for her 18th? Well, while we were there we stumble upon an Irish linens and lace shop. Loving textiles as I do, I decided to buy her something there for her birthday. Pretty much everything was beyond our pay-grade, but I decided upon an Irish lace wedding handkerchief. I had an heirloom wedding handkerchief that the brides of my family had carried through the generations on their wedding days and I thought it was a lovely tradition. Just the thing to buy my best friend for her 18th birthday. 

When it came to my wedding day, Miss D&G knew about the tidbits of Irish art we had incorporate to our wedding style. Knowing me as she did and being so intimately involved in Doug and my courtship, Miss D&G knew that Celtic music and literature were part of our couple-ness. She knew we had been listening to and loving Celtic music together, reading Celtic historical-fiction together, had bought each other Celtic knot wedding bands and were trying to incorporate some Celtic art into our wedding style.

She came to me about the time of the wedding to say that instead of buying us a wedding gift she was going to start the "Doug and Amy Celtic Vacation Fund" so that we could really see Ireland one day. I thought it was a sweet gesture, just another way she had of showing that she thought we were wonderful and God was wonderful for bringing us together finally. She was a Doug and Amy fan and wanted to celebrate all that was Doug and Amy. I didn't really think much about it after the wedding. It's not the kind of thing you really take seriously. Girls do that kind of thing - make a sweet gesture, come up with a great idea for a friend - but usually that's where it stays, a sweet idea. Very few girlhood promises last through adulthood. How many of your bridesmaids do you still know and interact with regularly?

A few years later..
while Doug and I are busily raising our kids in Oregon, Miss D&G went off to NSA for school. One spring she calls to tell me that she and a friend have the opportunity to jaunt off to Ireland for Spring Break - isn't it exciting?! Do I want her to bring Doug and I anything? I laugh and congratulate her and say have fun and don't worry about us. We'll get there someday and I can't wait to hear all about it. The next time I saw her she presented us with the claddagh door-knocker pictured here: Friendship, Loyalty, Love She told me she had taken the money to buy us this souvenir out of the the "Doug and Amy" account. I had completely forgotten about the account by now and when she reminded me thought privately to myself that this gift probably took the entirety of the account and was the closest we'd ever get to an Irish wedding gift. The lovely souvenir didn't work on our hollow-core front door and so was shelved for future use and I once again completely forgot about her cute little "Celtic Vacation Fund" idea. 

Several years later...
Doug and I celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We go on a cruise. We rejoice that we are living happily ever after and we enjoy our first vacation just the two of us, a honeymoon ten years later. In the spring, I go to Idaho to visit Miss D&G who is a Miss no longer and has just had her 4th baby in 4 years! We have a fun week together, reconnecting, catching up and enjoying her babies together. We are no longer in each other's day-to-day lives, but whenever we are together, we fit. I made her freezer meals and took portraits of her kids. Her little boy charmed me with his smile and I got to know my little namesake, Hannah Amelia, the "Amy" prettied up in true Anne Shirley style. 

As I finally got ready to leave, Miss Devotion & Generosity gathered with her family and gave me a card. It turned out to be a happy anniversary card, just a few months late. And what did it have on the front of it but a wreath of clover and a claddagh. I had REALLY forgotten about her long-ago wedding card by this time, but when I pulled that green and gold card out of it's envelope, little bits of memories started flooding in. An Irish wedding hanky, a claddagh door-knocker. I opened the card and my mind went blank. 
In my hand was a cashier's check for !!!!!!!!!!!!!FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!!!!!!!!

How was this possible?! Did I mention that she and her husband had had four children in four years? How could she possibly be handing me a check for $5,000 and how could I accept it? Really though, how do you not accept money someone has spent 10 years saving for you? I tried to say thank-you, but really I was in too much shock to be coherent. It took the entire 6 hour drive home to come to grips with what had happened in those 6 minutes. I had a friend who loved me enough to be so happy that my love story had really come true that she spent 10 years saving her own hard earned money through college, her own wedding, 4 babies and 2 houses to give me the money to go to Ireland with my husband. 

I gave her Irish linens, she gave me Ireland. 

And so, this May will find Doug and I spending 18 days traveling through the home of the music we fell in love over, seeing the ruins and restorations whose art inspired our wedding day, having that rare opportunity to walk the places we've only ever read about. 

No, we haven't lost our sense of frugality - we will make our $5,000 stretch to cover every bit of Ireland we can manage in those two and half weeks! 

No we aren't spending our children's future - I'm sure Miss D&G could have spent that money 10 times over on her own needs and family; being given such a gift entails appreciating the reason it was given, spending it unreservedly on that thing and enjoying the spending of it most appreciatively!

I have to admit, Miss D&G and I haven't been as connected in the last several years as we could have been. We once again have completely different lives, in completely different places, at completely different stages. And once again God has used that very "differentness" to do good in my life and remind me that He gives His goodness to us everywhere, all the time, when we least expect it. 

Being so separated by years and distance, I never would have guessed that Miss D&G even still held our friendship in such high-esteem as would merit such self-sacrifice. I barely know her husband who had to support her saving money they earned together all these years for a friend he had no relationship to. Such is the mystery of God's love. He doesn't show it to us in the way we would choose or look for. He brings us jaw-dropping expressions of His great, good love through people we'd never think of, in tangible, appreciable forms like $5,000 checks to spend on completely unnecessary blessings like traveling to Ireland. 

So, we will appreciate our trip not only for the excitement of finally setting foot in Europe, of traveling together somewhere we've always talked and read about, of seeing new beauties and meeting new people and tasting new foods. But also because every bit of our Ireland is a expression to us of God's faithfulness - shown in the devotion of a true friend; His generosity - shown in the generosity of one of our biggest cheerleaders who knows how marvelous it is that we get to be married and rejoices as we do; His goodness to us - shown in the grace of a happy marriage celebrated by friends who know us and love us and thank our good God together with us.

Isn't God odd? Isn't it great?!