This England Stint - The Highlights
This time of packing and goodbyes has naturally become one to reflect on my time at home. All in all, I’ve had eight months that I genuinely feel grateful for. In terms of catching up with people, I'm craving to be around longer, but it's important to say that in terms of recuperating before I leave again, I feel I've had just about enough time. Soon, on August 24th, I'll head to Vancouver, Canada to begin a two year commitment with Youth With A Mission, specifically joining their team running annual Bible study schools. But enough about that, let me now talk about my months back home: this England stint.
I arrived home with enough money saved to have three months 'off', not worrying about needing to find work, or even looking to hit the ground running; just planning to rest. Whilst I felt rested purely because I wasn't travelling anymore (sleeping in the same bed, not living out of a suitcase, eating well, having a routine - this was all fuel to me), I had the scary realisation that rest was really the tip of what I needed. I had an underlying bitterness/sadness/weariness from my travels (have a read here if you want to know more) that threatened what I cared about. It dawned on me that unless I paid attention to the questions and hurts I'd been left with, either my relationship with God would whimper and wane, or I wouldn't be able to work in the justice/missions realm in the future. If you know me a little, you'll know that both those things are hugely important to me. So I elongated this bracket of time 'off' (namely by not working) to buy myself time to process and heal, and it's now been about eight months of me doing that. It's been a miracle that the money I saved to last until April has lasted until August, and for the most part I haven't felt the need to skimp. I'm in awe of God because of that, and also feel reminded that our busy world/lives/Churches often neglect how much God champions rest.
And so, whilst recovering from the last few years has at times felt painful and discouraging, it's also been life-giving and fun to be back home again. Here are some of the highlights of this particular England stint...
- Both my brother and sister had baby boys, seven days apart to be precise. It was fun to see my sister and sister-in-law pregnant, and infinitely special to be around when the boys were born. My claim to fame is that for both nephews I was the first aunty on the scene, and I held them in their first hours of life.
- Both my brother and sister (with their spouses) moved house and I was around to clean, build flat-pack furniture and baby-watch. I'm grateful that I can picture them in their new homes before I leave again.
- I've spent more time one-on-one with my granddad that I think I ever have and he's told stories from his childhood that I'd never heard before.
- I've lived with my mum and dad (genuinely one of my biggest highlights) and have felt closer to them, and more familiar with the work that they do (of which I'm a big fan).
- I've read a lot, sixteen books to be precise.
- I made this blog, bought a new camera and got given a new (or rather old) film camera.
- I've had some opportunities to teach and speak. I preached for the first time at my Church, I taught a youth group in Nottingham about refugees and the need for hospitality, and this last week I did a one-session timeline of the Old Testament with a small group.
- I've seen my goddaughter Eilidh twice, spending invaluable time with her parents (my former youth leaders) and meeting her baby sister.
- I've been back to Holland after a three-year gap, seeing family and rekindling my love for that country.
- I've felt connected to my Church again and have enjoyed getting to know people better.
- I was around for my family's annual holiday as we (me, my parents, my siblings and their spouses, two newborns and a two year old) braved a holiday house together and spent the week in Anglesey. We loved it.
- I've seen Coldplay in concert with my dad, crossing that off my bucket list.
- I've gotten to know my oldest nephew Micah better and he's got more familiar with me. I love him with my whole heart.
- Thanks to some airmiles I turned 25 in Estonia and managed to see Denmark and Finland's capitals too.
- I've stayed in touch with Cat and Idun, my friends and teammates from my last travels.
- I've seen my friend Jenna roughly every week, often over bad coffee and occasionally in nature somewhere, and I've enjoyed getting to see Natalie too when she visits home.
- I've grown passionate about sustainable living and our consciousness about how daily decisions in the Western world (including my own, and your's) influence the world's poorest and most desperate places.
- I've remembered how beautiful I find England and laughed at noticing British cultural quirks that are too embedded in me.
And so, England, goodbye for now. I'll miss you, but not as much as I'll miss the specific people you host.
Head here if you'd like to see photos of my highlights of being home.