Tuesday, September 30, 2008

another beginning

We're landing: the Great London Adventure is about to begin in earnest. Probably beginning with wrestling all 120 lbs of my luggage into my friend's car. Hopefully he'll still be my friend after that.

How different it is setting out on this journey than on the Africa one last year. For one, I'm a more seasoned traveller after a year plus of training, so the travel part of this trek feels easy and straightforward now (though there's something about going through immigration anywhere that's slightly nerve-wracking, even when everything's on the up and up).

Also, as I think I mentioned somewhere before on this blog, it's been quite different to prepare for living in a place instead of travelling through it. I think part of the reason it's all felt so surreal during the days of packing and preparation is that on one level life's not changing much. After a couple days off-line for travel and settling in, I'll be jumping back into much of the same work I've been doing. I'll just be living in a different setting.

Another difference is in me. God has grown and changed and unveiled me over this past year of travel. There's more me that shines through now, though it's challenging to articulate what exactly is different. Perhaps it's in those invisible internal places. The couple years leading into this year and a half of traveling held some of the most painful episodes of my life, but those episodes have launched me into this incredible season of healing and of shedding both physical belongings and internal baggage. And into a season of growing in confidence and freedom and deepening sense of calling.

I've also been surprised to discover the way travel--and perhaps the related growth in me--has actually facilitated deep growth in so many friendships, new ones and old ones. What a gift this has been! Though I've been away from Nashville approximately seven of the past 14 months, I actually feel more deeply rooted there than ever. In fact, I was planning to move away from Nashville in more permanent fashion because of the lack of rootedness I felt there, but rootedness has grown so much in these past few months that, for the forseeable future, I'm keeping Nashville as my home base, a base that is essential for staying healthy in this life of nomadacy I've adopted.

This sense of rootedness and deep friendship was on full display two nights ago (counting the night that just passed on the plane and that barely rates as a night) at the early birthday/bon voyage shin-dig I organized mostly as an excuse to see as many friends as possible one more time before heading off. And as I hugged people good-bye, it was so good to feel the sadness of knowing we won't get to hang out for three-plus months. And I'm awed by the amount of support and connectedness they offer me, which again is essential for healthiness in this crazy life I've got going these days.

I felt similar feelings this weekend when my mom and I visited my siblings and their families (my dad couldn't get away from work). Though we don't always see eye to eye and my life looks pretty different from theirs, I feel like we've also all grown closer over the past couple years. I'm more comfortable not giving into pressure to look like them, and I think they "get" my life just a little bit better. And that's drawn us closer and our times together are even happier.

[By the way, we've now landed. We had to do a go-around. Someone else didn't move off the runway fast enough. We were ahead of schedule anyway, because of a tailwind across the Atlantic or something.]

Another gift in this season of constant change has been a growing ability to be very present wherever I am. I've felt that when I'm in Nashville I'm really there, with an eye to the rest of the world, sure, but not trying to live there. And I expect to live that same way in London. To be fully present there. My work requires connections all over the place, so that doesn't mean I'm not connected to the world outside where I'm living for the moment. But there's this sense of really living life planted where I am for whatever period of time I'm there. And that's been a gift to me that also makes this lifestyle possible in a healthy way. I aim to contribute to community wherever I am and to be with the people who are in front of me right now, while of course maintaining relationships with those who aren't.

So we'll see how it all goes in this new place. After we see if I pass through immigration with flying colors (or perhaps I should start spelling it "colours"?). And perhaps we'll also see if I acquire a taste for Marmite. (To confess, I really don't expect to become that present in this new place.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

on the road again

I'm typing this from probably the worst posture position ever, sitting on the floor leaning (as much as you can) back against an inflated air mattress, reaching forward to reach the laptop on my legs. This is what you get when you are once again having to pack up a room and store belongings all around town while also preparing to head out of the country for a lengthy stay.

This whole nomad thing is officially very hard. Two years in a row now I've had to pack up all my belongings while simultaneously packing for a short-term stay in another country or countries. I'm not sure how many more times my mom will help me do this. While we have our run-ins during packing day(s), I still couldn't do this without her help, and I'm immensely grateful for it. But it's stressful for her too.

This year is better than last year, and I had way less to deposit in storage this year but still there's so much. And I'm taking lots of stuff to England with me. It's so challenging. Take books for example: I'm working on so many different projects at once that the stack of helpful books is very large. And then there are the things I want to learn and the books related to that. Then take clothes: I really have no idea yet what my life in London will look like, what clothes that life will require, or even what the temp will really be like while I'm there. So, as with the books, I probably am packing more than I need, but that's largely because of the not knowing. I expect to have a pretty diverse London life, so that calls for a pretty diverse wardrobe.

I suppose that's all for now. I need to go to sleep for about three hours, then get up and trek forward on some things that need to be done, then jump into the day of moving more stuff to a friend's house, then driving with Mom to visit all the siblings in eastern Tennessee. Then back to Nashville on Sunday night for a little early b'day/bon voyage shin-dig. Then more last minute errands on Monday and then it's time to head to England. Craziness.

Anyway, I just needed to acknowledge that this is a hard way to go. Really hard, inspite of all its world traveler glamour. And I couldn't do it without a massive team of generous people backing me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

what not to say about your mission trip and other tales

My essay "What Not to Say About Your Mission Trip" is available at Neue's website. It contains some (just a few! there are many more! :-) ) of my post-Africa reflections about how the church engages people who live in cultures other than ours.

I'm gearing up for my next travels. In less than two weeks--on Sept. 29--I head off to London where I'll live until two days before Christmas. I'm very excited over the opportunity really to live in another culture for a slightly extended bit of time. Though I was in Africa longer, I was traveling the whole time I was there, moving from place to place and staying with generous hosts. In London I'll really be living there, paying rent, preparing my own meals, creating my own life (instead of just going where I'm told to go when I'm told to go there).

Some good pieces are in place for the London excursion. I've found a good place to live. I have a church to plug into. It looks like I may be able to do some sort of volunteering with an organization I crossed paths with in Uganda). They're working in west London among some of the immigrants from places like Pakistan and India. I've found a French girl to trade language lessons with: she'll help me with French and I'll help her with English. And I've got a fairly long list of friends of friends who I'm looking forward to connecting with once I get there.

Finances continue to be dicey, but God is generously providing on so many other fronts: my mom is coming to help me pack up; generous friends have offered their basement for storing my belongings; another generous friend is storing some bits of furniture and has already offered me a place to stay when I return to Nashville in January; other friends are letting me borrow their truck for moving things; I have a ride from the airport in London; and others are praying, praying, praying with me.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

deluge in haiti

Hi, folks--
I still have more to report from my month in Haiti, but I've been so, so busy since returning that more than a month has passed, and I've not gotten back here. I haven't given up hope of adding some more photos and reports eventually, though.

For now, please pray for all the Haitians who are suffering from the severe flooding the country has experienced at the hands of the three hurricanes that have dumped rain on them. While I was in Haiti, farmers were suffering because they'd had so little rain. Now they have way too much. Please pray that God will spare them from being hit by the new storms forming in the Atlantic, and that God will help all those working in relief efforts to know where and how and who to help first.