Monday, September 28, 2009

Adios to The Big Smoke

Tomorrow I board a plane - another trip through time zones begins. I am in disbelief that my time in London has already come to a close...just about the time I begin to feel comfortable finding my way around! I've seen so much here - the kindness of friends and strangers (who have quickly become friends), a city full (and I mean FULL) of a diverse people, a sense of history that the US has yet to achieve. It has certainly been a time of gaining perspective. Seeing a world outside my world. Understanding that God loves those I see and know in Charlotte is quite different than trying to understanding God's love for e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. He cries out to know each and every person I pass on the street. Thousands a day, in a city that truly never sleeps. That's perspective.

The past few days have been lovely. I traveled to Nottingham to hang with Robin Hood and his merry men - in my case this was Warren and his friends, Katie, Jen, Matt, Keith, and Mark. It was nice to get out of the busyness of London for a couple days. I got to see the University of Nottingham campus, the Nottingham castle and art gallery, and go in the oldest inn in England - Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem (since 1189 AD). It's a quaint three story pub. Quite a bit of history in that place. I also had some delicious
fish and chips (my first since arriving in England), and enjoyed shooting the breeze with Warren and his chums. His request was to make him into a villain in the blog, and I realize I've just compared him to Robin Hood. He was a villain of sorts, right? That'll have to do!

Upon my return to London, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to people-watch in the park. It was a glorious day and the park was teeming with people of all walks of life. After getting my fill of people, I made my way out to my friend Drew's to fill my belly. He and his roommate and friends prepared a mouthwatering meal of steak and chicken on the barbie. With veggies, bread, some sort of amazing grilled cheese, a bit of wine, and two desserts, not a one of us left hungry. It was delightful to fellowship with such fun guys.

Yesterday I attended church in a theatre house in central London. (The famous) Hillsong Church takes place there. I cannot express how great it was to worship with such a diverse people that are so on fire for the Lord. Then last night at Ben and Hanelle's church - St. Mary's - I heard an incredible speaker. Both were an inspiration, and I'm grateful for the experience as I head out to the Philippines...tomorrow! I'm off to finish packing and enjoy one last night with Ben, Hanelle, and Drew!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Weeping Willows

They are all over the parks in London! I absolutely love them. Besides the fact that they ooze nostalgia for me, they also have an intrinsic peacefulness about them. They take me back to a time when I hadn't a care in the world and climbing trees was an everyday sport. London is generally not a clean city (you should see what comes out of my nose every night...gross, I know...I had to share), but the parks provide a bit of reprieve from the hustle and bustle and the grime. I try not to be the typical tourist (you know the type, fanny pack and camera around the neck), but when I get to a park I can't help myself. The beauty begs to be captured on film. I'm making it a priority to hit up Regent's Park again before I leave. One more stroll through the rose gardens...

In addition to meandering through parks, I've also found great joy in wandering through
museums. I spent hours in the Victoria and Albert museum the other day. Listening to my ipod and taking my time on the different floors was almost like therapy. The fashion exhibit and paintings and jewelry and sculptures went on and on! A feast for the eyes.

Speaking of feasting the eyes. That's about all my eyes have done since arriving. Just today I walked across the London Bridge (don't worry - it wasn't falling down), saw the Tower of London and the famous Globe Theatre, walked across the Millennium Bridge, toured Westminster Abby (Tay! I saw Mike - he even let me in FREE!), and last but certainly not least, I feasted on The Lion King. What a show! It was superbly entertaining. I laughed, cried, and was utterly amazed at the creativity and talent involved in such an extravaganza. I was also baffled at how I've previously failed to see the spiritual implications in the storyline. Maybe it's because I had just come from an evensong service at the Westminster and spirituality was on my brain, but it was obvious to me tonight. It's left me with some ideas to ponder and a mind filled with brilliant colors, dancing, and singing.

As I walked the streets today, I had a longing for community. I miss the community I left behind - people that know me, and know me well. But then I was reminded of the leg cramps I used to get as a little kid, growing pains striking in the middle of the night. I think we experience this as adults, although the form is quite different now - internal as opposed to external - but still growing pains. I decided change doesn't come without some discomfort. My thoughts were even echoed tonight in Rafiki's words of wisdom to Simba as he learned to deal with change.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One Word

Grateful. As I walked around London on this blustery beautiful day, I found myself absolutely grateful to be where I am. Saying goodbye to friends back in the States and meeting travelers early on in my trip revealed that several people had a desire to do a similar journey, or a regret that they hadn't ever taken the opportunity. So as I sat in a park, had lunch with some friends, and lollygagged around I felt overwhelmed with gratitude. I'm not sure yet really why or how this trip is happening, but I couldn't help but smile to myself several times today.

I began the day with a stroll through Regent's Park - reading a bit only to be interrupted by an eager spaniel named Jim with a slobbery yellow ball. Taking Jim up on his offer to play fetch, I was introduced to his owner who engaged me in conversation for a bit. I then met a few friends
for a late lunch at Bonnington Cafe - which came about by homeless "squatters" occupying the abandoned space long enough to lawfully call
it their own; it now serves eclectic home-cooked meals by a group of member cooks. Had quite a delicious fudgy chocolate cake with cream cheese whipped cream. To walk off the meal, I strolled down the Southbank, viewing Parliament, Big Ben,
and random street shows, then rested a bit inside the National Theater where a free concert was being played - European gipsy music. The 3-man band ended with "If I Were A
Rich Man" - loved every minute! Then before the LONG walk
back to the flat, I became the ultimate tourist and photographed practically the entire riverfront that was lit up in the night sky.

But as I walked (and boy did I WALK...why take the Tube when the crisp breeze felt so good?!), I also found myself pondering what defines me. It is easy to be defined
by your social circle, your job, your past, your neighborhood, your priorities. I think being too defined by these factors can be claustrophobic. I discovered today that London is a city full of people each with their own agendas, fashion styles, and busy lives. No one pays much mind to anyone else. The people here are hard to define. It makes me wonder, will I be redefined as the trip progresses or will I discover myself becoming more undefined?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Not even a glitch!

Aaah, sitting in McDonald's just after noon in London! (ONLY reason I'm at a McDonald's is because it has free wifi...) London is currently chilly with a lovely drizzle to cool your cheeks. After lugging 2 suitcases and my backpack from the airport into LDN via the Tube, I welcome some cool mist!

I'm happy to report that all travel thus far has been safe and uneventful - save the few tears and jitters at the start of the trip. Had two lovely flights here - sat next to great people each time. First flight I ended up next to a guy from my church in Charlotte - the odds! Second flight also gave me a divine appointment...the opportunity to watch The Proposal which helped calm any lingering nerves. Sleep was not something present on the plane for me though. I have learned my lesson and will get over my aversion to medication for the next flight. It'll be twice as long! No worries - a little caffeine and the day will be mine!

I'm off to explore....

Monday, September 14, 2009


1 around the world plane ticket. 18 hours 'til departure. 2 suitcases. 1,000 hugs from family and friends...

And 25 years of experience living life. But am I experienced enough for this? I sit here tonight on the verge of the biggest adventure I've been on so far in my life. I find myself wondering when did I grow up? When did that moment take place where I crossed the threshold from childhood to adulthood? Whether I can pinpoint an answer or not, I think it happened somewhere along the way. At some point I stopped asking permission to go to the movies. I eventually got to drive a car without a passenger above the age of 18. Then came a new level of decision-making, paying bills, buying my own clothes and groceries. Yes, adulthood has ushered itself in. Welcome or not.

Now this so-called adulthood is toying with me. Telling me this would be easier with someone else. Maybe even someone more adult than me. I, however, have chosen to go this alone, in the worldly sense. I travel with the greatest companion one could have, my Heavenly Father. So I stand and embrace the journey with eagerness. I will stumble along the way. Probably a lot. As flights are delayed, cities become overwhelming, luggage is lost, people aren't as helpful as I think they should be....but I will grow too, and He will teach me to regain my footing quicker and surer than before.

And I will return, still at the age of 25. Probably still questioning whether or not I'm an adult, even after hiking the Southern Alps and diving out of a plane with a parachute strapped to my back. Which then leads me to conclude, in the last hours before departure, that adulthood is less of a feeling and more of a reality. I will hold to that reality as I step onto the plane. I will slip in my earbuds, take a deep breath, and soak in the reality that my journey has officially begun. I cannot wait!

I am grateful beyond words for the prayers, support, and love of family and friends. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your encouragement as I say goodbye to the life I know here in the States and begin to take in (as Aladdin once put it...) a whole new world!