Things are different.
I know that I like marshmellows in my hot chocolate.
I don’t know if I’m married or not.
Jet lag is weird.
I was standing there at the counter of a wireless internet store with two new friends only a few hours after stepping onto UK soil. Do you want the pay-as-you-go plan? Yes. Do you have a wireless stick already? No. Are you a “Miss” or a “Mrs.”?
Awkward silence. Long. Awkward. To make it better, I looked at one of my friends, and then back at the other one.
The second one laughed. “She’s a ‘Miss.'”
Oh man. Everything here’s topsy turvy. I don’t even know myself apparently, now that I’m British. Or know what’s going on.
The wrong side of the road, the wrong side of the car. That makes my blood pressure go up. Scones and clotted cream ALL DAY, not just breakfast! That makes my heart sing. All-day classes replaced with all-day walking. That is simply glorious.
All things are different.
Even the English.
I have to “top up” my cell phone every month, schedule a “surgery” next week (don’t panic, Mom – it’s not what you think), go with a friend to buy a “cot” (crib) for her baby tomorrow and use “brollies” and “wellies” when it rains.
Which it hasn’t yet. Also glorious.
Because of that, people have been out in droves, playing with their kids (who have adorable accents), throwing balls to well-behaved dogs on well-manicured lawns in well-put-together parks in front of castles.
I love new things and new places as much as the next girl, possibly more. But I knew right away, in the midst of this sensory overload and over-stimulation of my soul, I had to establish some normal.
Then running shoes.
I ran down the street and into the park (with the kids and the dogs and the castles), memorizing them individually as I met them. Intelligent faces with beautiful voices. Soft dirt trails still plush with rain from earlier weeks. Fantastical gnarly trees, the perfect shape and height for climbing. A curve around the pond, with a gull perched on each of the posts in the middle, positioned in a perfectly symmetrical circle. Then through a natural arbor (tree cave, it seemed like) to a footpath, one of many here that cuts through the fields and woods, and there I was running with horses again – ritzy British horses – in beautiful sunshine.
A whole week of sun in the land of fog and mist. It’s like a little smile from Him, sent to me for my first week here.
I’ve been thinking differently about His smiles lately, in these weeks of being overwhelmed.
When I see red birds, I think of my friend Suzanne, who says red birds are how God reassures her of His love when she needs a little extra reminder. Jogging through the fall leaves twirling to the ground, I thought of Kelsey, who sees yellow leaves as God’s smile sent to her.
I’ve thought of God smiling on me, but I’ve never had a specific thing that I saw as God’s smile specifically to me like that. This whole place is honestly like one big smile that He carved out for me, but for some reason still, that day, I was wanting a red bird of my own. Something to reassure me that He had crossed the ocean to the newness with me (though I knew every step of the way He had).
As I turned to head back home, the wind rustling yellow leaves around my feet, I thought about Him, Shane & Shane’s “Vision of You” playing on my iPod.
Come meet us, King Jesus. Oh, winds of change blow through this temple…
Awaken what’s inside of me, tune my heart to all you are in me, even though you’re here, God, come…
As I retraced my steps up around the edge of the castle park where I’d just run, I heard it differently. Even though you’re here, God, come. You’re here. But still. Come use me.
Just as I asked, as I reached the top of the path where I’d started, I turned back and nearly had the breath knocked out of me by the beauty that had been behind me the whole time. I went from a run to a dead stop, then a crouch as I squatted and looked back over the vast expanse of lush green against a backdrop of rolling hills. Moments all the things I’d seen were individual curiosities, but now they were an overwhelmingly beautiful whole.
And it was then I realized it and lifted my palms slightly heavenward.
God’s smile on me is in the look back.
It’s when I run a mile down a road and turn to see a rainbow that’s been there the whole time, and it knocks the breath out of me and makes me sit down in the street just to worship Him for His promise-keeping.
It’s when I look back over the past few months and weeks and year and see perfectly, wonderfully, beautifully orchestrated things that led to this tea-filled, scarf-happy, bike-loving place in such a way that I’m knocked to my knees in gratitude.
And I know He’s here.