Smooching Stones and Sucking Wind – 3 of 21 Ireland Posts

I have always heard of the “smooching stone” in Ireland, but I never knew the work that it would take to actually gain the opportunity to kiss it.

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The Blarney Castle has been there for quite some time. In fact, the original castle was built out of wood in the 10th century. It wasn’t until around 1210 that a stone structure was placed on this site and over 500 years before the Irish stumbled on the recipe for Guinness. This was a LONG time ago!

The day that I entered on to the Blarney property was my 40th birthday! I hadn’t planned this encounter to be on my actual birthday, but the fact that it fell on this day made it incredibly special. Ireland had been a trip that I was supposed to go on with my dad, but… sadly… he passed on in a motorcycle accident nearly two years ago. So, I took him there with me in spirit and he has an incredible view today, but he would have LOVED this castle.

It was ancient and you could get up close and touch and climb and explore. There were secret dungeons you could travel through…

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Some were really scary…

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And others provided cover for some pre-Carboniferous limestone kisses…

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But, now it was my turn to ‘pucker up, buttercup’… so we made our way to the castle and looked up. The rock that I needed to kiss was at the top of that wall. Yes, at the top of the wall…

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So, we found the stairs and started climbing…

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…with my glutes burning, we kept climbing and climbing and climbing…

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…and climbing some more. Until finally, we made it to the top of the castle. The view was unbelievable.

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You could see for miles and you could tell why they had picked this spot for a castle. If an army was on it’s way, you could see and be prepared for their arrival. For us, we weren’t there to find an army… we were there to find a rock that was in need of some loving. So, we got in line and waited our turn.

There were signs to read along the way. Did the Blarney  Stone move?

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And the explanation of the difference between ‘blarney’ and ‘baloney’.

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And then… the moment came. It was our turn. I looked to the man about to secure me from falling face first into a grate and the bottle of disinfectant liquid sitting next to him. I felt good… knowing that the stone had been cleansed by chemicals some time in the last 24 hours.

I empty my pockets and prepare to do the yoga move called “upside down leprechaun”. Deep breath.

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Muah!

A lifetime of eloquence awaits.

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Happy Birthday to me!

Will I get a lifetime of eloquence? Probably not… at least not from kissing a stone. But, I will have one incredible story to tell for the rest of my life about how I spent my 40th birthday. That, in itself, is worth the smooch and so much more.

Life is short. It is here today and gone tomorrow and if you don’t step out of your comfort zone to do something crazy every now and then, you may end up looking back with no stories, but a pocketful of regrets. Saying things like, “I wish I would have…” or “If I could go back…” or “If things would have been different…”

You can’t and it isn’t!

You won’t be able to go back in time and things aren’t different. Things are the way that things are and you have one simple choice… work with what you got. Tomorrow isn’t promised. All you have is this moment right now. Start climbing those steps. Start touching those ancient stones. Get those lips ready… cause they are in need of some smooching.

Slainte!

GP

For the first post on Ireland, click here.

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Fear, Friends and French Cuisine – 2 of 21 Ireland Posts

 

Ireland taught me that friends are all around us waiting to be made. We just need to step out to find them.

Before leaving on our trip I reached out to some churches in Dublin, Ireland and let them know that I’d love to serve them for an afternoon while I was in town. I told them that I could teach them a few things about using social media in a church setting.

I received a simple message back from one of the churches.

Hi Greg

Thank you for contacting us regarding your visit to Dublin and your offer of help. One of our Leaders, Joe Kerrigan, would love to meet with you when you are over.

Man! I was as happy as a puppy with two tails. Life was good!

The appointment was set and I was now going to meet with a Christian Leader in Ireland. In fact, this perfect stranger offered to come to our hotel in Dublin and pick us up. So… two days into our vacation my hotel phone rings and my wife and I head down to meet our new friends.

This is the moment when the fear and nerves began to kick in. You see, stepping out of comfort zones is fine with me in the beginning, but then you look and realize that you are actually doing it and you begin to question and sweat and worry and think and come up with excuses of why it wouldn’t work or shouldn’t work or why you should just stay home and do something more productive like plant another field in your Farmville world and…

Deep breath. 

I am slightly nervous and I’m not afraid to admit it. I mean… I am about to hop into a car with people I’ve never met to go to a place I’ve never been before to discuss a topic that I’m not sure will translate well. Oh wait. They speak English. I guess the ‘translate’ thing didn’t apply. However, I was just nervous and it crept into everything I thought about. 

So, we hop into the car and within five minutes I realize what a fool I was to be nervous. These two people, Joe and his wife, were awesome folks with big hearts, lots of passion and filled with stories that made you sit forward in your seat. Before I knew it, we were like long lost friends who found our ways back to one another.

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We drove to Joe’s house after a quick tour of the city and settled down into an afternoon tea. (Just between you and me, this tea thing is really starting to grow on me. I am traditionally a latte guy, but busting out a tea bag, milk and sugar is super quick, mighty tasty and makes me feel pretty classy. But, tally ho… I digress.)

In addition to Joe’s work in ministry, he is also a French trained chef… and an incredible one at that. Before I knew it I was tasting yummy delicacies as the room began to fill with the church leadership team. The room filled up and so did I.

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We all gathered around a big table and I began to talk about the journey of THE PLACE Church and how we have grown with the help of social media and before I knew it there was an incredible discussion taking place. There were questions and answers and laughter and dreaming.  And I looked around the table, in awe of what God had done.

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Sitting around that table were all sorts of people… there was a person who worked at Google and others who had run international ministries and others who had poured their lives into caring for the underprivileged in their community. And… here I was sitting with them because I sent out an email with a simple message:

I am here to serve.

After a couple hours the crowd thinned and the pastor asked if we wanted to grab a bite. We said “Sure” and were off. We drove the scenic route and saw sheep and castles and roundabouts and more sheep. (There are a lot of sheep in Ireland.) We pulled into a small seaside town and started walking down the lane next to shops and boat docks.

As we walked we talked. We chatted up church and God and our testimonies and music and history and our family tree and… (it was a long walk). And then we came to the steps.

The steps were about three feet tall each and there were probably five or six. They created a wall that you couldn’t see over, but you could climb up. Joe told me that he used to fish off these steps, but he wasn’t big enough to throw the line in. I imagined the vastness of this moment for a small child, because I felt the vastness of this moment for me… right then.

I climbed the first step. Eager. I climbed the second step. The top of my head could feel the cold wind. I climbed the third and fourth and reached the top of the stairs and my breath was literally stolen from my lungs. Not from the briskness of the air, but from the beauty of the moment. I knew that I had to share this moment with you, so I snapped a quick photo.

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This was my life in that moment. This was my reality.

However, I thought back to how it came to be. It was birthed in stepping out of my comfort zone. It was birthed in a willingness not to take… but to give. It was birthed in my willingness to let a stranger in close enough to know me… and in that moment, I was able to know him back.

I wonder how many of us miss out on the sunsets because we don’t have the courage to send the email. I wonder how many of us let that fear or anxiety stop us from following through on opportunities that sit all around us. I wonder how much more you could experience, if you would just be willing to get uncomfortable.

Start today. In this moment, make a commitment to get uncomfortable… to say “yes” when you’re scared… to reach out when you want to run away… to turn a stranger into a new friend.

And hurry up! Your sunsets are waiting.

Slainte!

GP

(To start with the first Ireland post “She Said Yes – Again”, click here. To read about my Irish memorial for my dad who passed away, click here.)

She Said Yes! Again – 1 of 21 Ireland Posts

So, I never really did it right the first time.

I know what you’re thinking… GP? The hopeless romantic? The guy who just oozes public displays of affection and memorizes poetry by Yeats? That guy never got down on one knee to propose to his wife!?!?! 

Well… I didn’t. And, I stink at PDA and wouldn’t know Yeats from Jagger… but there is always hope.

So, I came up with a plan. 

Step One: Tell wife she is cut off from all of my online banking and shopping activity.

Step Two: Find the perfect ring. Emerald… cause we will be in the Emerald Isle. (Well, I guess I am “kinda” romantic.) 

Step Three: Wait for the perfect moment and take a knee. 

Well, steps one and two were cake. The third, however, not so easy. 

I knew the Cliffs of Moher would be the best place because they are so stinking breathtaking! I mean… you walk up to this:

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It doesn’t get better than that! But, then there was the walking. You see, you have to walk up steps and ramps to get on top of these beasts. We came to a dead end. We have to choose right or left. Both sides are cliffs. We toss the imaginary coin.

We went right.

“Right” led us to a beautiful watchtower and a TON of people.

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They were everywhere. If people were bad mullets, this would have been a Whitesnake concert. It was infested. People were taking photos and walking with food and kids and coffees and no idea where they were going except up and out along the cliff’s edge and edging out my hopes of ever unloading this ring which was getting heavy in my backpack.

I shuffled around waiting. More people came. I spoke… “Uh, let’s go that way.”

It was the exact opposite direction that we had already gone. But, it was beautiful…. so it was fairly easy to talk her into it.

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We begin down the trail which it nice and paved and doesn’t draw the same kind of attention as the watchtower did. But, the nice paved trail leads to a dirt one as we pass by a sign that looks like this:

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Uh… yeah. Let me zoom on that if you didn’t catch it.

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This might as well be a skull and cross bones saying, “Cross this sign and YOU MAY DIE.” But, it doesn’t seem to stop the slow trickle people headed that way… so like a sheep led to the shearers, I keep calm and carry on. (Witty British connection there if you didn’t catch it.) 

We walk. I start thinking of things to say. My palms sweat. I don’t know if it is my nerves about the ring or the 750 ft. death plummet to my immediate right. I walk. 

“So… uh. We sure do some pretty crazy things don’t we?”

I see the PERFECT spot coming up. I am going to time this moment perfectly. There is no turning back.

She replies, “Yes”. She grabs my hand a little tighter. This is going to be great! and then I hear…

“BLOODY HELL!” A British teen jumps off a rock about 25 meters ahead of us. (Did you pick up on my use of meters? Yes, it had been a week and I had abandoned use of trivial things like inches or miles.) “You’re gonna push me out there.” The teen yells to an equally loud and annoying friend while motioning to the edge and the final plunge towards eternity.

I think how quiet it could become it they get a little closer to the edge. I shake out of it. I smile and offer my patented “courtesy laugh”. They continue to be loud and obnoxious, but they are headed towards us so I know it’s only a matter of time before they pass. I speak.

“Let’s stop and enjoy the view.” 

I look out over the water choke back vomit which enters my throat as a putrid smell fills my nostrils and envelopes me. I look behind me. It’s a field covered in a liquid brown fluid. I remember the words of the bus driver from yesterday, “Eh. This is the season where we fertilize the fields for planting.” 

Of course it is. Fertilizer. That season.

My wife tries to smile through a wrinkled nose. I know it’s only a matter of time before she retreats. I look at her kindly, pointing up ahead and say, “Let’s see the view from up there.” She obliges and we walk.

We reach a part where there is more land to grip my body on one knee. So, I speak… “Let’s get a picture.” I look left. I look right. The trail is clear.

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My wife is turned away looking back down the trail towards the poop stench probably thinking, “How can we get back to the car without traveling by that field again.” I pop open the box, drop my backpack, turn towards her as I lower myself to one knee. I speak, choking back tears… “I don’t have many regrets, but always regretted not doing this the right way. Would you marry me… again?”

And then I heard the words that I had longed to hear…

“BLOODY HELL!” as a British teen jumped off a rock above my head.

No, I’m just kidding. I heard the words… “Yes. Of course I would”. I stand and we do what any good American couple would do at a time like this. We kiss and then take a “selfie” of course.

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So, there you have it. There is a lot to learn for me from this day. 

Every day is a gift and sometimes things aren’t going to go the way you want. We make our plans and things don’t always work out that way. But, don’t let those moments stop you from pressing forward. Whether it’s a crowd of mullets or the stench of manure getting stuck in your nose hairs… don’t stop. Keep going. Because… the journey is the destination. So many, stop too soon.

Embrace the people in your life who mean the most. Don’t live in regrets from what you ‘wish you would have done’. Go out and do it today. Create TODAY the kind of TOMORROW that you want to live in.

I leave you with this simple Irish blessing.

“May you both live as long as you want and never want as long as you live”. 

Slainte!

My Dad’s Final View – Cliffs in Ireland

So, I went to Ireland the other day.

Yes, it was amazing. Yes, it was a dream come true. But… it was something else.

It was a trip that I was supposed to do with my dad. Well, at least until he passed away in a motorcycle accident a year and a half ago.

The trip was amazing though and my dad would have thoroughly enjoyed every single last bit of it… except the driving part. He would have definitely hated that. But… other than that it would have been a perfect trip for him. 

My wife and I decided to do something a little different. We took him with us on the trip.

Not in his angelic form… because he looks ridiculous in a diaper and he doesn’t know how to play the harp.

Not in the ashes form… because he is laying down next to my mom in a grave in Ohio right now.

No… we took his picture. A subtle reminder of the trip we weren’t able to do the way that we had planned. But… one that he was with us anyways.

The final day we went to the Cliffs of Moher. I believe that it would have been the highlight for my dad. Six straight days from Dublin to County Clare went by like a flash, but the Cliffs get stuck in your brain. They are spectacular… and I know that my dad would have loved them.

So, we dropped him off. 

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You know… losing your dad is never easy. I have lost both my mom and dad now and sometimes feel like an orphan. However, I know that I am not alone and my parents did the best job they could with me. I am who I am because of what they did in my life. 

So, my dad deserved someplace special. Yes… it was sad… and has been sad the last year and a half… 

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But, we smile. Sometimes we hide tears behind glasses and sadness behind smiles. But, we move on. We continue the journey of life and take what has been given and do the best that we can with it.

For my dad, he left me looking at a beautiful life that I can only have because he never stopped loving me and believing in me. I have been unlovable many times, but he never gave up and I won’t ever stop striving to live the best life I can to bring glory to God and the memory of my parents. 

Today, my dad is smiling upon one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

Want to see what he’s looking at? Enjoy a little bit of his view…

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Slainte Dad… I will always love you!

GP