From Belfast with Love: Part Three Glendalough

8:11 PM

                                                          First Day in Glendalough 

"I might have to check for rib damage after this!" Nathan laughed as I finally let him go. 
At last I dared to look up at his face. He had clear, penetrating blue eyes, wavy, brown hair, a strong jaw, and the cheekiest grin you ever saw.

Grabbing my hand and my luggage, he directed me to his car while I attempted to control the maniacal, hyena-like laughter that invariably overtook me in nervous situations. 

On the journey across the pond, I had prayed for some very specific signs from the Lord as to whether I was doing the right thing. I had absolutely no interest in a relationship that wasn't in God's plan, those always ended in heartache. Some of my "signs" were hilariously sentimental in retrospect.

"God, I pray he gives me a single red rose. Not a bouquet or any other type of flower, just one red rose."

Other requests carried far greater significance. "Lord, I pray for your peace and certainty in what I feel for Nathan. I pray I'll know exactly who he's meant to be in my life."


As we sat in the car, attempting to find directions, we both fumbled over the map in a fruitless attempt to see anything but each other. It was so.....unreal being here, with him. 

After eventually managing to leave the parking lot, we drove to a shopping mall to get lunch. As we walked through, Nathan popped into a shop on impulse. Coming out of the store he carried in his hand a single long stemmed red rose he'd bought me....My jaw nearly hit the floor. 

After a quick lunch, we made our way to Glendalough, a lovely holiday spot by two lakes in Wicklow Mountains National Park. After checking in and taking our bags to our rooms, (Yes, plural! No shady business here, folks! ;-) ) we went back outside to survey the extraordinary landscape. As we walked around the extensive grounds, we passed through an ancient cemetery with a Rapunzel-like tower standing in the middle. It was the site of a 6th C. Monastery. 

"Do you take all your girlfriends on romantic walks through graveyards?" I laughed. 

"Only those who enjoy it," he grinned.

At last the misty  weather got to me and I found myself shivering from head to toe. Nathan pulled off his jacket, giving me three layers of clothing while he walked around in a t-shirt A-ok. My eyes traced the wooden footbridge before us, winding and curving in such a way, you never could tell where it was headed. 

"How very much like life at this moment," I thought to myself.

 Tucking my arm in his, we walked and talked a long while. The talking seemed quite natural, it was the walking that proved a bit tricky! As a wise friend recently told us, "It's not the depth that you have problems with in a long distance relationship, it's the simple things, like going to the grocery store or just hanging out." It was true, we'd overcome our awkwardness in talking long before, but standing next to him, surrounded by all that beauty, I felt as gawky as a 14-year old on a date. 

After freshening up, we had a four-course dinner at the hotel in a restaurant that curled over a rushing river beneath. More awkwardness ensued as I surveyed the cutlery before me.....Was that a dinglehopper (ala Little Mermaid) I saw before me? 

After an exotic meal which I could barely pronounce, let alone order, I collapsed into bed, exhausted by the jet-lag. The next morning I awoke to the not so distant sounds of an Irish bagpipe. "What the what?" I mumbled to myself. So, it hadn't been a dream. 

The images of the last day flitted through my mind. Throwing myself out of bed with the all the aches and pains of someone half a century older, (anyone who's traveled long haul economy class will understand this) I hurriedly dressed. Today was significant. Today, I got to be with Nathan!

Over breakfast, we saw the bagpiper in all her glory being slowly encompassed by a herd of gawking, adoring  Americans.

"It's like the pied piper!" Nathan laughed in delight. "Here, let's go join them!" 

"No. Please. Just. No." I begged. 

That day we settled into each other's company and I was surprised how natural it all felt. He was still my best friend, the guy who made me laugh, who stopped my crying even over the phone, the one whose smile I coveted and charm had me by the hooks. As the sunlight mixed with the shadows on our path, I considered for the very first time, what it would be like to lose him. Instinctively I pulled his arm a little closer. 

After leaving Glendalough it was time to drive to Northern Ireland and back to Nathan's home. Back in April, I had almost broken it all off. This thing we had just wouldn't work out. It was too far. I didn't have a heart for the place anymore. I didn't quite know where I was called, but I was fairly certain it wasn't there. Why should we keep dating if we were headed different directions? 

"I just feel called to keep speaking to you, Rachel. Is that alright?"

And just like that, he'd calmed all my fears. Nathan had an uncanny way of doing that. As we drove along the bumpy, winding roads of the Republic, he sang at the top of his rich,baritone voice. I smiled. The Nirishman seemed very happy indeed. 

As we drew closer to the border of Northern Ireland, I found myself sitting up in the car, wide awake. 

"Are we there yet, Nathan?" I asked again and again like a little kid. 

"No, not quite there," he smiled at me thoughtfully. 

Finally we passed the border. Neat little hedgerows and tidy, well-clipped yards showed the beginnings of County Armagh. At this point, I could hardly contain my excitement. It was bubbling up inside of me. I hadn't felt this way since I'd first seen Germany. That thought echoed in my mind. "God, are you actually calling me back?" 

As I had prayed over the trip, I felt the Lord gave me a clear word about seeing Belfast again. "Don't look at it like you did before. Don't expect the old. This is an entirely new season."

As we finally made our way into the outskirts of Belfast, it felt as if my entire being woke up. It had been 13 years since I'd first laid eyes on that city and it had intertwined itself into nearly every era of my life. Now, at 29, I was back again...

Finally we arrived at Nathan's parent's house. It was the moment of truth. Like any good Facebook stalker, I'd researched his family as much as was humanly possible before my trip; what I found terrified me. 

"Nathan, you're in the pretty family!!!" I moaned to him one day. 

If it wasn't bad enough to have the term, "AMERICAN" emblazoned on your  personal resume, it was now time to meet all these beautiful individuals en-masse. I caked myself with layers of makeup in the car. Nathan made a move to grab my lipstick. 

"Here. What if I just rub some of this on my neck and collar. What will my mum think?" He yelled as I lurched to the other side of the car in an attempt to grab it away from him.

"Yew are crazy, woman! Ye're going to cause me to get in a wreck there!" He hollered. 

"Serves you right!" I yelled back. "Wonder what my mum would think.." I mumbled grumpily as he chuckled away. 

Standing outside the door of the lovely yellow house in the country, I inhaled deeply, praying I'd make a decent first impression and not break any of the fine china or trip over the cat or something... Nathan made his way in first. I hesitated. This trip felt like one, unending audition. He looked back at me with a smile to calm me down. "Well," I thought. "Here comes the moment of truth!"

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