Something felt amiss when I woke up this morning.
The bed was crackling too much, for one thing. It took me a minute to realize that’s because the dark orange sheets I’ve been sleeping on for two years were hanging from the bannisters instead of being where they should be. My face was pressed against the mattress cover, but it might as well have been pressed against the floor. I could hear the sing-song voice of my downstairs neighbor as clearly as if she was in the room with me.
I’m going to miss that, I thought.
I lay there for a long time in the familiar single bed near the radiator. This is normal.
This is home.
But it doesn’t feel quite right today. I got up and walked around the tangle of stairs to the lounge. Other than Sarah’s voice occasionally, the flat is dead silent. I’ve come to love that silence in the past two years, the moments I get to be alone with a cup of tea and stare out at the Mary Poppins-esque chimney tops across the street.
But today, it’s just weird.
It’s extra empty to the point it even echoes a little bit.
I remember once as a kid we added on a big den to the back of our house, and it was empty and echoed like that before all the carpet and furniture went in. I saw massive potential here. I asked Mom and Dad if we could keep it that way and use it as a rollerskating rink instead.
They said no.
For about five minutes, I was devastated.
But of course, the carpet went in, along with the big couches, a fireplace, a Christmas tree and many, many Christmas trees to follow. Lots of family. Lots of memories. Lots of studying with friends while watching CMT.
Eventually it was obvious that their purpose for the room was probably a lot better than what I had in mind.
Over the past few days, good friends have asked me occasionally how I’m doing, how I feel about leaving England. And I’m not even sure what to say. I don’t really know how I feel. I’m sitting here on the couch with a cup of tea trying to absorb the empty feeling for what it is, but mostly I just feel like the 6 year old who doesn’t want to take her skates off.
Because I love this place … I can’t even express how much. I love my friends. I love the land, the language, the people, the food, the idiosyncrasies. Because, though I’ll never sound like one, in my heart I’ll always be a bit of a Briton.
Because I’ll miss the way that every other stamp in a full passport has meant getting to walk for a moment in the lives of those who are hungry and persecuted, people who are hurting but have known the faithfulness of a God who sees them and loves them.
Because God has shown Himself to me here in a way that I’ll never forget or get over. Even as I type that sentence, tears are spilling out of my eyes.
And because in my heart … I came for good.
“My bags are packed and I just sold everything I own, got a one-way ticket, hope it takes me where I need to go …”
That’s maybe a not-so-obvious reason that England will be tucked in my heart forever. After a lifetime of trying to walk with Jesus casually, a few years ago, when I finally told Him that He could have all of me for His purpose, England was the first place I followed Him to.
“Thank you, but no … I’m not buying what this world is selling. It might look pretty but it ain’t my home. I’ve been washed in the water, and He has made me a light …”
I put on my skates, and I’ve been skating with abandon. I’ve experienced deeper joy, deeper hurt, deeper rest than I ever have, and I’ve been more spent than I ever have before.
I’m so incredibly grateful. It’s been awesome. I just kind of assumed I’d get to skate forever.
But right about the time I got pictures on the walls, I learned I wouldn’t get to stay. And darn it all, there was no way to fix that. It’s almost as if He’d planned for the skating phase to end and the den to get finished out from the beginning.
I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what happened.
I was devastated.
But one of my very closest friends here asked me again last night how I was feeling. I told her I didn’t really know how to express it … it’s deep sadness, to be sure. But the one thing I was positive of is that I’ve had more peace than I’ve ever had in my life, even more than when I came here in the first place.
It’s Him. It’s the fact that when He leads, it isn’t to a place … it’s to Himself. It’s to follow Him, and when I followed Him to England, I found … Him.
Jesus, who bids us carry His cross to death … but to carry His yoke and have rest.
He’s amazing. He’s surprising. He’s Jesus who loves us infinitely, enough to bleed for us. Jesus, who went to church and got so angry at the hypocrites that He threw furniture down the steps. Jesus, who didn’t look “religious” enough to be religious at all, but who loved everyone and even got down in the middle of their mess to love them.
He got down in the middle of my mess and waited until I finally let Him have it all. How can I not trust Him when He makes it clear His purpose is something new? How can I not follow Him more?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve thought a lot about what I was feeling when I packed my bags in the first place to come over here. A lot of the emotions are similar … indescribable peace, being stripped of excess, astounding grace, the heart-wrenching pain of saying goodbye.
And the same thought that resounded over the pain last time shouts even more loudly this time.
He is everything, and He is worth it.
“Go tell the friends, and go tell the folks my heart is torn but it’s time I go because these feet of mine were made for foreign shores. I’m glad they understand … God don’t just love Birmingham; He’s got a big ol’ heart for the whole wide world … ” Mandi Mapes | “Let It Shine”
This is so sweet and precious to read because it is exactly how I felt when the Lord moved me away from my “home” in Vienna, Austria and brought me back to the states. The pain was incredible, but the peace was also completely overwhelming. I remember in the days and weeks leading up to my departure, thinking I just could not go. My heart literally ached when I thought about driving to the airport and boarding that plane, knowing that I did not have a return ticket. The sorrow completely overwhelmed me, but on that day, though there were tears (many tears) there was also peace. And I could sense the Lord’s presence. You are right too when you say we are called to Him not to any particular place. Wherever He leads is home. But how I long for the day when we will never again be parted from those we love! Praise God for the promise of eternity and no more goodbyes! Even so: come, Lord Jesus!
I read your post today, read your heart processing this move home and felt a kindred spirit in you. I’m cleaning up Christmas decorations amidst boxes that I’m sorting to sell/giveaway/pitch as I shut down my life here in Eastern Europe and prepare to move back to the NW. As much as I feel my heart being ripped out right now as I say goodbyes I have the peace of God that says this is right, this is time.
Will continue to read your stories as your’ve gone a few months ahead of me in this process of restarting life. Merry Christmas!
I don’t know you but I love you my sister :-) Keep on walking in His footsteps! Will keep you in my prayers and I also want to thank you for your post on singleness…it was such a blessing and much needed encouragement! Happy thanksgiving <3 <3 oh welcome to the states! :-)
First off I would like to say that you have an incredible anointing on you…
I am 17 years old and am interested in the international mission field. I have felt God’s hand guiding me in that direction for quite some time. How did you get into it?
Thank you for sharing!
Love this: “He got down in the middle of my mess and waited until I finally let Him have it all.” So beautifully describes my ongoing experience with God. He just keeps getting down in the middle of different messes.
I really enjoy your blog posts – and I really want to go to England!
This was beautiful, thank you.
I simply just love you. That is all.
I can’t imagine having to say goodbye to England. I have never lived there, only visited a few times, but each time I visit I want to STAY. Love that place.
It’s so nice to know, though, that we can trust God to lead us to exactly where He wants us to be. It’s always an adventure, and He’s always there. =)
*quiet whisper*…Thank you so much for sharing…so encouraging to see His heart in a fellow sister…
I appreciate you putting your heart into words and sharing the many lessons God has been teaching you! You’re encouraging and with this post reminded me of the heart I had when moving to Boston with passion to share Him with this community… Thanks… Even strangers are blessed unintentionally through your ministry. I’ll be praying for you!
Lovely. Thank you for sharing your heart. May God bless you as you richly as you continue to journey on with Christ.
Great post He is always gracious and generous – overflowing with joy and love! I write about similar things – http://attitudeforgratitude.wordpress.com/
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what I want to do about following Jesus, like so many that I have come to know is going on mission trips where they share the gospel, and because of being obedient to his word they receive gifts like spouses, children (during their time on missions) and well it’s odd to try and think of how God wants to use me in my life. I know many would say that I just need to pray on it, not to compare to others, and keep an open mind, but it’s really hard, especially hearing such great rewarding stories like yours.
For one it inspires me to want to do something that radical for Jesus, but in another, what? Thanks for your post. God bless
This was lovely. So often God leads us down a road to get our hearts and minds ready for something beautifully different. Sometimes painfully different. Our family thought we were adopting one baby. We ended up with three older children, maybe this year four. I feel the ache of old dreams and new visions. But it’s a good ache. Hope this encourages you:
Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.
For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21 And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,”
Your post was very encouraging, sister. Today, I was reminded of the desire I have for the world. I forget about this desire a lot when I get so busy in life. I get in a routine, go to church, go to school, go to work, go home, go to bed, repeat, repeat, repeat… It is a busy life here in America. As I know it is a busy life elsewhere in the world. The enemy likes to steal those things that are most precious and all we really have to offer others. Anyways, I was thinking again about my desire to see the world won with the gospel, not only my hometown. I was singing Mandi’s song today in my head, trying to remember how it goes. These feet of mine were made for foreign shorts??? Something like that, then I saw it on here today. Very timely. I don’t know if I was made for foreign shorts. I don’t know if I should ever be sure about anything, for I am not sure that I have tomorrow to live. I was encouraged when you wrote “We don’t follow Jesus to a place, but we follow him for himself.” I have been encouraged by Christ knowing that the work he has cut out for me is advancing the kingdom while finding my fullness of joy in Him, period, wherever he happens to place me. I just seek him where I am and follow where he leads. Thank you again, dear sister.
Isaiah 26:3 “You keep his mind in perfect peace whose eyes are stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (ESV)
He’s so good. Thank you for pointing to Him in such a beautiful, poignant way.
Myself, China, 2011 – same feelings, same leadings as you’re describing (albeit much more eloquently), Grace. Same God who directs all of us, and who even when we wonder “why” always sees the grander plan – for the room, for the moves, for our good and His glory. Praise Him that you’ve found that peace of following Him; it led you to greener pastures in England, and He will continue to provide that perfect peace, even in heartache, wherever He leads from here.
Love this! “. . . when He leads, it isn’t to a place … it’s to Himself. . . . He got down in the middle of my mess and waited until I finally let Him have it all. How can I not trust Him when He makes it clear His purpose is something new? How can I not follow Him more?” Thanks for this post which so perfectly describes my experience with Jesus too. May you experience even more of the truth that, despite the goodbyes and losses and other bumps along the way, He can be trusted. “Those who hope in Me will not be disappointed.” (Is 49:23)
Thanks for another valuable peek inside with the bonus of the earlier post. I’m decades older than you are, but the thread is the same. I’m choking on the tears of joy that God granted you the sharp grass and the joy it brings at such a tender age. May you continue to revel in that divine combo wherever you lay your head.
I don’t know you, and I don’t even remember how I originally found your blog. However, I felt like I needed to say how inspiring the little bit of your story I have read has been. I’m currently abroad in the first steps of doing what I prayed and begged God to let me do–as a kid, this is one of the first things I wanted for my adult self. Your blog has been an excellent reminder that God actually does know what he is doing, despite how it may feel at times.