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.)

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