Sometimes I think that I will wake up in my bed, the one located in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and turn to my husband and say, “I just had the craziest dream . . . we were living in England – it felt so real! Isn’t that funny?”
What happened during the past two years is that we were living our life as church planters in the land where I grew up and were so crazy into it that we had never imagined that we would leave it. So fiercely did we love that church that it would be as absurd to leave it as it would be to leave behind one of our children. And then we did. . .
My husband and I both started to feel unsettled about where we were in life. The question of staying long term where we were, surprisingly turned into a real question. It started to become fuzzy about whether or not we could see ourselves there 5 years from now. And then God presented the opportunity of moving to England to join a work there. I called my parents and left them a message “to call me back”. I needed to be connected with someone that they knew to pursue a visa. My mom heard the message and even though my words were mundane and few, she told my dad, “Amy has something big to tell us. . .maybe she is having another baby. . .” No, not another baby. . . I thought that this would be “the time we talked about moving to England” until we held those visas in our hands and got on a plane with one-way tickets, 4 kids, and 16 pieces of luggage.
And here we are. We have lived in a foreign country for a year. We have climbed, not in triumphant way, but in an ugly, earth-eating kind of way through this year. I haven’t just woken up from a dream – we really live in England. As hard as this year was and for all the “no-one could’ve-prepared-us-for-this” moments, we were equipped for this big move as we had already survived a lot of hard in ministry life. No need to go into details at this moment, but we had already learned that God is enough. And honestly, we really like England and we adore the church family that He has given to us here. We are good.
A few weeks ago, we were able to visit Pennsylvania on vacation. It felt like sinking tired into your bed, putting on a favorite pair of jeans or pulling into the driveway of your grandparent’s house. It just felt so comfortable to be there. One surprising thing that felt the nicest, was to go into a store, speak, and not have anyone ask you where you were from and how long you were visiting. I really enjoyed the feeling of belonging offered by strangers and their lack of questions.
It was soothing to linger over coffee and a slice of shoo-fly pie every morning at a lake that I have visited every summer of my life. It did me good to be in my parents’ lake house where there was nothing unfamiliar, no surprises, nothing unexpected – just sunshine, lapping waters and a tree line that I knew by heart surrounding that lake.
My parents and brother’s family joined us and the laughter of cousins did not skip a beat since last summer. Those kids remembered all that they meant to each other and I breathed a happy sigh. . .my brother is the same kind of funny that he has always been. . .you just never know what it will feel like to come back.
I am not going to lie. My husband and I both felt a measured amount of anxiety surrounding this trip. Would it feel weird to be with people who we hadn’t been with in a year? We visited at Christmas, but Christmas is nuts and we didn’t feel like we actually spent quality time with anyone during that trip – it was just a whirlwind.
This time, we were going to be with people who we cared about for hours. Would the people who we had loved so much when we lived and pastored there know that we hadn’t stopped loving them? We know that a “like” on Facebook doesn’t count for keeping in touch, but that is all we had in us. There is not an acheivable way to keep up with people as we would have wanted to because life is too much on its own when you move country with four kids. And we were busy loving on people, because that is what we moved to England to do . . .
The question of whether or not we were going to go to our old church when we were in PA hung in the air until the Saturday before. Our kids were demanding it. We wanted too, but we felt vulnerable. What if people weren’t happy to see us? What if it felt attention seeking to hope that people would be happy to see us? What if we were too much in our head about all of this?!?!
We were, for sure, too much in our heads. I couldn’t stop smiling while we were there (except of course for when they called us up front to tell about what we were up to and I cried.) When we left that Sunday service, I turned to my husband and said, let’s not ever believe the lie that we are not loved at that place, because we are. And that is amazing. It feels incredible to be loved inside the confines of a life that you left.
Coffee with friends at Panera Bread. An afternoon with my grandmother with my aunt and cousins stopping by. Our kids’ old classmates were kindly brought by their parents to see our kids. Breakfast with some more aunts and my cousin. Jet lag returning to the UK was the most miserable I have ever experienced, most likely because we were hanging at friends’ houses until past midnight for our last two nights in the States. These people are all still there and are willing to make a bit of space for us when we swoop back into town for a few days. Sure, we have missed out on the day-to-day of each other’s lives, but social media is good in terms of that. I am just an ordinary person, nothing special, so I want to bear witness to the fact that the people who are really wonderful in your life will be that no matter what changes for you. If you take bungie jump into a HUGE change, like leaving your life, the people who are really your people will stay your people no matter what. The commitments, obligations and purposes will not. That will go with or fall away from you and change and be super scary. God has instituted both family and the church and they have seen us through; He is such a good provider indeed. Our family and church gave us love when we were close and now that we are on the other side of the ocean, they have kept on loving us and it is a heart swell to get to live through that.