By Amanda Cleary Eastep
This is a dream come true moment.
I remember crawling up there and asking my traveling companion to capture my “I’ll never forget this place, this lake, this rock” moment.
Well, I’ve forgotten.
I mean, I know I was in Scotland, but exactly where, I don’t recall now.
But that’s OK, I love that eighteen year old’s smile. I will never forget that she was realizing a lifelong dream to travel.
The desire to travel to the U.K. first struck me at the age of 7. Why, I don’t know. Maybe too many ancient re-runs of Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes.
Or maybe it was my fascination with the Scotch bottle my parents kept under the sink. A small dome of glass protruded up into the bottle at the bottom with a music box key beneath it. When you wound the key, a tiny figure wearing a kilt would spin around inside the dome to the tinny tune of “The Bonnie, Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond.”
Whatever the reason, I saved my birthday money in a jewelry box and finally had the opportunity to spend three glorious weeks in England and Scotland when I was a college sophomore.
In the decades since I knelt in that spot beside what actually may be Loch Lomond, my desire to return to the country of my grandfather’s forebears has never waned. Maybe threads of where we come from become knit like purls into our DNA strands.
This summer, I’m finally going back.
My husband, my youngest daughter, and I will be traveling together for about a week before we part ways and she begins a summer semester abroad.
Personally, this trip will also feed another passion–my writing. Besides the inspiration that comes from venturing far from your favorite end of the couch, there will be the opportunity to do research for the young adult fantasy series I’ve been writing for the past year+. (Currently, this “research” primarily involves a visit to the British Museum and a fish and chips joint.)
Looking at that old photo of myself makes me a wee bit sad too. I know how some of that young woman’s biggest dreams never came true.Or maybe those dreams–like seeing more of the world and publishing books–simply have been deferred.
In her book Embracing Your Second Calling: Finding Passion and Purpose for the Rest of Your Life, Dale Hanson Bourke tells the story of an interview she did years ago with author and speaker Jill Briscoe. Hanson says she was surprised to find the usually upbeat Briscoe “reflective” and “a bit down.”
Turns out Briscoe had been unexpectedly shaken by turning 50 years old. (I feel your pain, Jill.) She shared this with Bourke:
“I guess it was the sudden realization that I was in the last third of my life. I had never really faced that before. Then on the heels of that comes the reality that I will never do this or that.”
One of her “thats” included being a full-time missionary. An early dream of mine too.
But then Bourke, nearing her own 50th birthday, caught up with Briscoe 14 years later. In that time, the 60+ year old had “started a magazine, written a few more books, and traveled hundreds of thousands of miles” alongside her pastor husband.
Briscoe realized her 50th birthday hadn’t marked the end of what God had for her to do.
This morning I watched Briscoe’s fascinating testimony and address from a women’s conference in 2017. Now in her 80s, Briscoe is still sharing the gospel, even in the darkest and most dangerous places.
Speaking of dangerous places…
…Scotland isn’t one of them.
Unless things get dicey in the local pub. (Luckily, I once learned how to say “Who was that sheep I saw you with last night?” in case I ever need a snarky comeback.)
For me this trip does blend passion and purpose.
Aside from the book I have felt compelled to write since I first had the idea several years ago, my early–and mostly unmet–desire to travel the world has helped me to understand my daughter’s lifelong call to overseas ministry. Accompanying her on another leg of her journey will be a gift.
(Plus, my husband and I never had a honeymoon.)
On a more serious note (cue haunting bagpipe music), in her address, Briscoe admits to possessing a fearful heart and receiving courage only after she first steps out.
She urges followers of Christ to say Yes to God every. single. time.
I am experiencing smaller opportunities to say yes more and more the older I get. And I’m feeling a willingness to obey more and more each time I do.
Embracing change is counterintuitive to our midlife “prepare for retirement” mindset.
Last summer, I mostly gave up the marketing writing business I had been building for five years to accept a job in publishing I hadn’t even been seeking. Believing it was the direction God wanted me to take, I said yes.
I said yes to writing a book series that currently feels like climbing Mt. Everest barefoot.
And, sure, who wouldn’t say yes to a trip to the English countryside? Not that God is asking.
God will probably never ask me, either, as he has Briscoe, to train persecuted leaders in a country where freedom of religion is only a dream and the reality is imprisonment or worse.
Briscoe says that each person’s mission field is often the ground right between their feet.
My mission field has more often been the keyboard beneath my fingers . . . whether I was writing for children or encouraging mid-lifers; telling people’s stories for nonprofits and businesses; or helping shape author’s books.
Of course, with God, you never know what the next 14 years may hold.
Whatever it is and wherever it is, I pray I step out, trembling, and say yes.