Sunday, January 13, 2008

Transitions - A Month Later

I must say its quite strange being home. My first week was a flurry of activity. Work was still hectic, Christmas just a week away, and catching up with lots of people. I've never felt more loved as the most constant phrases I heard were "Its so good to see you", "We've really missed you", "We're so glad you're finally home". I didn't really have time to miss London that first week. I mean I suppose I did a bit, but it merely felt like I was on home leave, soon to return.

The second week home was also a delight. I went to CT to visit my family for Christmas and got lots of quality time with my nieces. Later in the week I went to NJ to my aunt's, where I got to see my grandmother and my cousins, who I hadn't seen in about three years. Its interesting with them. I wouldn't consider us close, but when we get together, we just really enjoy each other. I guess that's the cool thing about families. You're always family, no matter how time passes, the distance, that lack of chat. You can always come back because you're permanently tied. Not like friendships, where its far harder and the desire and effort must exist.

Which I guess brings me to week three. By New Years I was really missing London. It was such a strange feeling because I knew VA is where I'm to be, it is home, but I was homesick all the time. I just love London, the feel of it, the culture, my river. I spent a great portion of that week sorting photos and working on my album. I'd smile at the faces of people I'd enjoyed in London... folks I was already losing touch with. And yet at home, my real home in Virginia, my week continued to be blessed with person after person wanting to see me and catch up. Oh, I'm sooo blessed to have the people I do in my life in Virginia. God is so good.

I did make an interesting realization. I believe part of my homesickness is knowing I've no where to run. The novelty of me in Virginia in the last year was as if I was always on vacation. I never had to think about my future, deal with house matters, worry about my problems, settle into singleness, be troubled by traffic and the madness of DC, figure out my job, worry about the quality of my friendships. I'd be gone too quickly. I always had my London to go when I didn't want to think about my real life. My real life sat on a shelf for a year, while I experienced this other wonderful parallel reality. Now, I'm home. There's no where to run. I have to be here and figure it all out. Somehow though, I feel my time in London has better equipped me to figure it all out. This past week has been good, as I began sorting out my life. Maybe it won't be as hard as a I thought. I'm a different person. A stronger person. A more confident and optimistic person. I want to embrace life and live it to its fullest. Maybe that was the whole issue before. I'd grown stale... and now I'm vibrant.

As I settle in though, its still no less disappointing to now watch life in London going on without me. In just a month, its as if I've been forgotten. I did not have the depth of relationships in London, to make them miss me. One friend actually came out and said (paraphrased) that the distance was too much trouble. I should expect little in maintaining our friendship and there was no point in deepening it. Wow. That really sucked. But I suppose I should have expected it. They don't know me like those in VA do. Those in VA missed me b/c I'm a treasure to them. In London, I was not much more than another face they never bothered to invest in deeply. I do believed they enjoyed me, even immensely, while I was there (and I them), but in a world where relationships seem temporal, even disposable, and very much based on convenience, most just don't stick. We all move on, and surely, out of sight is often really out of mind. They only last if we deem them valuable enough to fight for. A year away has surely shown me that I have these type of friendships in VA.

I don't mean to make this all sound so sad, because in truth, God is giving me a peace about it. Maybe that's why I write about it, because we all need to find a way to be peaceful amidst great change. I'm learning to be content in the moment. I am thankful for the past, the season I had in London, and all the people that made it what it was. But it does indeed seem it is time to move on. I know that God has great things in store for me this year, I only need wait and see. And London, oh London, will always have a cherished place in my memory and a piece of my heart.

2008 offers all the hope in the world. Each year is so special, be them ever so different. Lord Jesus, I embrace whatever you have for me this year. I thank you for all the people in my life and I pray you continue to direct me into the lives you'd have for me this year and visa versa. May I be a blessing. May you bring me blessing. AMEN!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas in London: The Grande Finale

My greatest Christmas wish was to have a magnificent and memorable final three weeks in London, week's I'd not soon forgot. I got that in every beautiful way. There was a bit of emotion and drama this week not worth going into (transitions and goodbyes can be complicated), but all and all, I feel so blessed and the good was worth every second of angst. I wouldn't go back and change a thing.

Monday started as a rough day (long story), but ended in the most wonderful and fun three hour phone conversation with one of my new UK friends. I've truly enjoyed getting to know folks this month, even if I can only keep them in my life for a short season.

Tuesday was Christmas at my flat. I'd brought a tree over all the way from the States and bought all sorts of twinkle lights to decorate all around. I cooked up a feast, in my silly little kitchen. Huge challenge, but I pulled it off! The night was a delight, with 13 of us just eating, drinking and enjoying one another's company. I'd be told later in the week that my party was far better than our company party, so that made me happy. I love to entertain. I love people having fun in my home.

Wednesday I met up with a friend for what we hoped would be a night at this fun Belgian restaurant, but I guess we're 0:2. This is the same friend from the failed jazz event, ha, ha. Instead, we wondered about. I was hankering Mexican, and then out of no where, there it was! We had a great night, with decent food, amazing drinks (best coffee of my life!), and of course really good company/conversation. I finished the evening with my final stroll down The Thames. Its one of my favorites of London.

I was happy on Thursday that work was quite busy, because it kept me from realizing that it was my last day in London. I continued to be torn between excitement to be home with family and friends and a desperate sadness over leaving London and my new friends. It was good to have no time to think too hard about it. Its never good to think too much on such struggles.

Thursday night, I truly ended my stay with a bang. It was the BearingPoint Christmas Party. We all dressed to the 9's. The guys wore tuxes and all looked so handsome! The party itself was only ok (they'd canceled the dancing!), but we found a way to still have a good laugh (though it did involved a small fire, ha, ha). When it ended at midnight, we decided we sure weren't done and HAD to get our dance on. 10 of us went to Tiger Tiger, a club in Leicester Square. Almost 30 more BE people would meet up with us later for a crazy night until 3AM. Drinks, laughs, and lots of dance. It was a wonderful way to close out with my friends (and I made a few more!).

Got home at almost four and it was time to pack. I can't believe I got my whole flat packed in three hours! Then home...

Its now Saturday. I've been home a day. Its good to be home. I miss London, and especially a few key friends, but I'm where I'm meant to be and eager to see all my friends here tonight. I think it will be shock to my system in a few weeks when I don't go back, but I have so many memories to treasure, that though I can't be there, each thought of London and my time there will always make me smile.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Christmas in London, Week Two: Starting to Say Goodbye

Hmmm... you can tell from the title, that this week, especially weekend, has been full of conflicting emotions. Work was a bear, but outside work, I had a truly delightful week. This weekend I've spent a lot of time reflecting, which has been a bit difficult, as it requires a letting go of London that I'm not sure I'm ready to.

Well... in the spirit of fun, each night after work was full of delightful events. My British coworkers are fully a delight and I so wish I'd had the opportunity to get to know them better before now. I don't look back with regrets, b/c as I look back, I know things in the UK played out as they should. I wasn't meant to build deep relationships here in the UK, b/c it would make it harder to say goodbye and this move was never meant to be permanent. In spite of all the uncertainty and anxiousness, Virginia is my home, where I'm supposed to be, even when I don't want to be.


Monday night I relaxed but Tuesday night was the BT Christmas Party (my client). I didn't know many folks, but it was still nice and fun enough. The good fun though was really to be had on Wednesday. There are about 9 of us that will be gone from BearingPoint UK by the 17th... we we had a great big leaving party. It was a blast. We laughed, played, met some new people... it was A+.

Thursday was the lighting of the Trafalgar Christmas Tree. It was raining and the event was fairly anti-climatic, but I'm still glad I went. From there, I met up with a male friend to go to one of London's most famous jazz clubs. Unfortunately, we couldn't get a booking and then struggled to find somewhere else to go on late notice. But in the end, the evening turned out an absolute delight. We had wonderful conversation (we've know each other for months, but never had really gotten to really chat much before) and an amazing meal. After that, we went for a walk through central London and then down by the river. London is truly gorgeous at night and the weather was actually fairly warm. We both had our cameras b/c of the tree lighting and got some nice evening shots.

Friday night I stayed in to relax but then woke up at dawn on Saturday to do some early morning photo touring. Got some nice Christmas shots around town and then had a lovely brunch at this little restaurant we stumbled on. Another A+ time.

The rest of my day I shopped and then went to the carol service at my church. It was really nice and helped me to process some of all I'm feeling about leaving.

Today (Sunday), I went to Hillsong Church in the AM and then did some more shopping (including these awesome leather boots!). I'm normally not a shopper, but its fun in a city like London and makes me feel so trendy, ha, ha. Tonight... I'll got take some more pictures before Internet Church.

It seems that RockYou has changed some of their uploading policies, so I'm moving my Europe photos to Flikr. You may have noticed that some of my prior postings I said I was posting pictures and they're not there. They'll be on Flikr soon.

So... one week left. Hmmmmm.....

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Christmas in London, Week One

This may be the first of my last three weeks in London. I'm not certain how I feel about that. When I was home last week I was thrilled to be there. And then as I packed and head to the airport, a wave of anxiety washed over me. I didn't want to return to London. And yet, within a few days of my return, I remembered all over again why I've fallen in love with this city and a big part of me isn't ready to go. As the choice is not entirely my own, I've reconciled to mere take in every moment I can, savor each day here, knowing it may be my last. And knowing that whatever is next, in London or in the US, is completely God's plan and will be good.

And its Christmas! The second I landed, I put up my 4 foot Christmas tree that traveled with me to London all the way from Reston Target.

We had a new person join our project Monday... Heather. Heather's been here all along, another American, but on another project. She's looking to transfer here permanently, so she like no other understands my love for this town. I arrived on Tuesday and thoroughly enjoyed working with her. We walked back to the flat and had a delightful chat. The walk itself was just wonderful... as though it got colder here faster, it seems to have stopped in the 40's. Its just cool enough to wear cozy coats, beautiful scarves, and fun hats... but still warm enough for pleasant walks along the river at night.

Wednesday night I went for drinks with two of my friends, Andy and Mark. We chatted literally for hours and hours. It was a really neat evening for me, as these are truly two of the men in London who I consider truly friends and who have been a huge blessing to me. I'm still getting to know them both, but I just really enjoy both of them so much. I think one of the best things about them, is that though we have a lot of fun, conversation is always quite real. We're never lost in the shallow but talking deep about life, its good parts, its challenges, our points of view. Good stuff. We grabbed some dinner and then finished the night with another walk along the river.

Thursday was another delightful dinner... good food and fantastic company. Who can ask for more? Its nights like this, that make me never want to leave this fantastic place. Its been so hard to meet people and I feel I've spent so much time alone (and hating that). I've only now have two weeks left, but am finding some of those friendships and that companionship I've longer for. If only this had been offered a few months ago... but again, God knows best and all is as it should be, even if it feels strange and out of synch. But oh how I am sure know I'll love these last weeks.

Friday was a busy work day and then I just stayed in in the evening... Relax...

Today, Saturday, I spent the early part of the day at home, but then decided to shop a bit and see some of the Christmas decorations around time. I love how big cities decorate for the holidays. I love that London doesn't hold back and isn't shy about using the word "Christmas". Its is indeed Christmas here and though the religious tones are minimal, the joy and festiveness of it all is every where. I met up with Heather and another coworker for a delightful Thai dinner in Covent Garden and then Heather and I took a strong to view more lights. Everything is lit up! We went by one square with a great big tree and ice rink and just watched a bit.

Its all a winter wonderland here. I wish I could stop time and make these last three weeks last forever. I've many more fun evenings planned... and I can't stop smiling.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Home! - Weekend of Nov 2nd

I've began short trips to the UK to try to start acclimating to home. This weekend was the first weekend I was truly home for a while, so I did a lot of catching up with friends. I mean, early August I went to CT instead of home. Later in August, Portugal instead of home. Early September I went to the OBX. Later in September, Spain. Early October, Connecticut. Mid-October, Kate and family visited. I missed Halloween at home which was a big disappointment (I love the kiddies), but I went to a very fun party in London. We had a lot of fun dressing up.

Anyway, it was still a short trip home, but got brunch with Mary and Martine Friday and went to me monthly Prayer Breakfast Saturday. Saturday afternoon I spent with my friend Anne and our friend LaRae who I hadn't seen in many years. It was sensational to get some time with her. Saturday night was Mike Lee's leaving do, so that was a huge bummer, but we had a super farewell of sushi. Then Sunday more time with LaRae.

That night, I "worked" the Internet Campus, now that I'm an official ministry volunteer for that ministry. It was awesome. Sensational representation from all over the world!

Then it was some quick errands and more visits Monday and Tuesday, before heading back to London Wednesday. Quick turnarounds! Ah... this is my life.

Sabbath in London - Oct 28

Sunday was a good but odd day. I wasn't sure how to spend it. I felt God trying to get my attention, so I chose to spend the day with him, to read and write, processing so many of the emotions, about so many things, running through my head. Though the loneliness has been hard, the alone time, has been significant, as I've been able to really step back and think, reflect, with out the distraction of all the responsibilities, activities, and relationships in DC.

I started the morning just reading and journaling in bed. It was refreshing and significant... as I stumbled into all sorts of revelations. I decided to go for a walk and just spend some time in prayer. I felt called to pray for London, the place, the people, the government. There are good people here. Wonderful people here, but even more so than many places in the US, they don't really have a keen sense of God as having much of a role in their lives. Its not that they don't believe, but that he just doesn't seem to have much relevance and there seem to be too many gray areas... too many bits of "religion" that seem to conflict with modern culture and belief. It makes me sad, as, as bright as I am, as much as I love to think and use my mind, I've met a Savior that touches my heart and soul so deeply, that its changed me. I wish all I love would I find, what I have... this relationship with God. Its never been more real than this year, as I've had to rely on him more than ever. He's been my God in the big and the small, and his love is exceedingly profound.

As I arrived home, I began to pray for opportunities to serve. God has done so much in my life this year, yet I feel I've done little in his name. Yes, of course I've lived my faith outloud and had many a great conversation, but wish I could do something more tangible.

Well... be careful when you pray those prayers, b/c they are often answered quickly!

After I returned from my regular church in London, I grabbed some food and logged on to Frontline's new Internet Campus. You see, my church, McLean Bible Church, just launched a live feed for all its services, including Frontline, the service for young adults. Originally, I thought the concept of Internet church was silly and would be impersonal, but it was the opposite! It was wonderful! I was so blessed to connect on line with home and speak in that chat rooms to friends around the world. The service was amazing and was just what I needed.

At the end, they asked for volunteers to help in future services. I was ecstatic! For months I thought it would be neat to minister to others abroad, possibly struggling as I've been. Or for some tool, some opportunity, to share God and church with those not in the DC Area. And then I prayed for a ministry, and found it. I now write blogs for the church website and moderate in the chat rooms during services. I talk to participants all over the world. I've told all sorts of people in London about this online church and some might actually check it out.

Wow.. what a day it ended up being. I guess I'll just end with this... Ever interested in checking out church online? Ever curious about this church I talk so much about? Now you can join us. Check it out any Sunday at 5:30PM ET.

Windsor Castle - Oct 27

Well, the tide has really changed here. I'm the only American left right now and its kind of odd. Between late work hours, too many weekends of travel, and a general properness of the British (and possibly, in fairness, my own shyness, yes people, I'm quite shy around stranger), its just been extremely hard to make English friends. I've made a few work acquiantances and have gone out with coworkers a few times, but general its fairly shallow... and frankly, those who chat with me in the pubs, virtually ignore me the next day in the office. I don't get it. All this to say... that it was a fairly lonely weekend... but I made the most of it by journeying out to Windsor Castle.

Windsor is quite different than Buckingham Palace because its a real castle and looks like one. The whole area is beautiful and the leaves are turning.

I spent quite a time in the chapel and journeyed all around the castle. I think I'm a bit spoiled from having seen so much around the world, but it was worth seeing. I think I was most astounded however, by Queen Mary's Doll House. I actually went back to see it a second time! Its HUGE and yet small in detail at the same time. Lots of detail. It was incredible!

Finished at the castle and wondered around town a bit before heading home.