Saturday, December 30, 2006

Final parting shots...

Some pictures of friends and family as we said goodbye last week. If I can figure out the caption tool, you'll be able to see who they are.

(Coming soon!)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas and more goodbyes

We had an amazing, too fast, sort-of-sad Christmas season this year. Amazing because the time with family and friends seemed so much sweeter with the move looming. It seemed to blow by because our eyes were on the flight and final preparations for living in London. And of course, it was sad because we really have loved being so close to our families, all in the same area for this many years.

Ian and I got our final haircuts as Julie closed her business as a hairdresser. That was another step toward making this final...and real. Ian will be starting a new school soon, and looks so grown up with shorter hair.

So much of Christmas is spent talking about the coming of Jesus--it's all about the arrival of someone. This year it has all been about our leaving, about departing our home for a new way of living the life God has called us to. I'm enjoying the clash of those two things--knowing that Jesus came, that he was really here for a while, somehow makes all of this survivable. We never really leave our Christian community, we just join that family in another place.

We're waiting for the flight as I write this. Next stop, London.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Leaving our house...

We woke up on Sunday for the last time in our house. It was sort of sad and sort of strange. We were exhausted from several high-intensity days of working on the house (more on that below), but the three of us snuggled on an air mattress for a while and watched some squirrels play in the front tree. It was one of a handful of milestones leading up to our move to London, and as much as I wanted to get things moving that day, I’ll always remember those few moments we spent huddled together looking out the window. Making a new home always means leaving another, and that’s exactly what we did. But not before 5 days of pressure-filled work to get the house ready for the renter.

Last week we realized that we had a ton of work to do—and things to move—before the house would be ready for a tenant. Julie bought all the paint (she has a better eye than I do), and I got all my painting tools and dropcloths ready for the task. I spent Thursday patching holes and priming places where our walls had been repaired, and that evening prepared to paint the living room. The guy I used to paint for when I was in college, Dave Chambers, came over and started to roll the walls out. Right from the start we knew something was wrong—the paint was so yellow, and it didn’t match the original shade. The paint store had mixed the wrong color, and it was too late to reutrn it. Dave, who is truly an artisan when it comes to painting, came over the next day and spent 2 hours with his tints and our paint, and left us with more than a gallon that matched our walls perfectly. I ended up painting 3 bedrooms, a hallway, the dining and living rooms, and a handful of windows and doorjambs.

It was an extremely hard couple of days.

The house needed some serious cleaning. Julie moved from room to room vacuuming, wiping, and packing. When the carpet shampooer went on the fritz, she was on her hands and knees scrubbing it clean. Ericka organized the job, and Neil, Dan and my Mom came over to help, but Julie took the brunt of this one, and I’m glad it’s done.

In the midst of that my brother-in-law Bill helped me all day Saturday as we moved our remaining furniture to various homes for storage. What you don’t know is that Bill has a very painful arthritis condition that causes him almost constant discomfort, and that he never mentioned it once as we made 5 separate deliveries of items all over the area. There are men and there are men, Bill is the real deal—strong, loyal and generous to a fault. I learned on Saturday that Bill still has a lot to teach me.

We’re at my Mom’s house now, and starting to let up for the first time in a while. Mom put a lot of time into getting her house ready for our invasion—comfy beds, lots of food and wine, and a fire in the fireplace. Ian, who had been showing the stress of the process, seemed happy and relaxed. Thanks, Mom.

Transitions remind us of just how meaningful our relationships are. Friends, family members, even neighbors, we got encouragement and help from so many people. The lady next door left a big hunk of fudge on the seat of the moving van—that was sweet in so many ways. I’ve also been hearing from folks at the church in London, about how they’re preparing for our arrival by cleaning the manse, stocking it with food, helping us get our cell phones and assigning someone to show us our new neighborhood (Belsize Park). In the Bible it says that God puts the lonely in families, and as we leave one close-knit group of friends and relatives, God is preparing us to be cared for in another. We’re getting more ready all the time.

Just 9 days before we leave.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A going away party for the ages...

We were blessed with the gift of a going away party hosted by some friends at church. The party had an English theme (appropriately enough), and so there were a handful of James Bonds, some Bond Girls who were a handful, and one glorious Rumpole of the Bailey (the pastor of our church). We ate shepherd's pie, bangers and beans and sticky toffee pudding made by my mother-in-law.

But the best part was mingling and talking about our move with these friends we'd worshipped with and served with for the last 10 years. Church has a lot of functions, but one of the most important is the role it plays in helping people identify their gifts, providing the chances to test them out, and helping disciples find their places in ministry. Glendale Presbyterian Church has done that for Julie and for me. After a long hiatus, it was a pastor at GPC that cajoled me into preaching again. That was about 15 preaching dates ago--I rediscovered that gift and calling in the context of life at this church, and for that I will always be grateful. Julie has been involved in children's ministry here for the last few years, and has taken on new challenges in that role, things she wouldn't have tried without the support of this church. Put another way, we simply would not be in a position to make the move to serving the American Church in London without the encouragement and nudging of Glendale Presbyterian Church.

At the party my brother-in-law and close friend made a teary speech (it's bringing tears to my eyes just remembering it). He went through the various points in time in our relationship, how I pursued a friendship with him, and wept as he told me he loved me. I got to say back to him, and I'll say it here as well, that I sought him out because he's an amazing man, and that I'm a better man for having known him. Billy, I love you too. (That's the two of us above at Thanksgiving this year.)

Goodbyes are hard, but some are better than others. The Artimes and other hosts really outdid themselves in giving us a chance to say 'thank you' and farewell.

Just 3 weeks now.