Across the pond… and back?

Whenever I go to an airport, there’s an eager sense of anticipation. Although feeling slightly anxious until finally boarded on the aeroplane, I carry with me a sense of excitement at going away. Take off is still my favourite part as the aeroplane (airplane for my American spelling) speeds down the runway and then lifts off into the sky. While growing up, my parents and I did annual trips to see extended family, as my mom was one of five sisters who all chose five different states to live in. We did one classic holiday to Hawaii with my best friend Britt, but the rest of my travels have mainly been about visiting people my family and I care about. As nice as proper beach resort holidays seem, I am glad that it wasn’t the holidays themselves I looked forward to but rather the lovely people I got to visit with. Anna and Luke love aeroplanes! They get so excited just seeing them in the sky from our back garden and pretending that their Annie and Papa are up on the aeroplane and coming to visit them. For being so young, they are little jet setters with dual citizenship and international travel will always be a routine throughout their lives.

For all the excitement of travelling and looking forward to seeing loved ones upon arrival, there also comes a sadness in the return journeys and saying goodbyes. Charlie and I know this gut-wrenching feeling so well, as that’s how our story began and has continued for eight and a half years of marriage (10.5 years of knowing each other). In my single years, I would watch romantic comedies with airport goodbyes and wonder if heartache was truly real. I got to answer my own question when Charlie dropped me back to London Heathrow Terminal 5, after a quick surprise trip out for his birthday. We hugged and kissed, both feeling teary-eyed and for the first time feeling genuine heartache that Charlie’s world was London and mine was San Francisco. All of our dating was through long distance and in the year of dating and engagement, we became extremely familiar with SFO and LHR airports. Perhaps my hardest goodbye was leaving my parents after a lovely California wedding to my English groom and knowing I had a one-way ticket to England. Our wedding had been such a beautiful and wonderful day with family, friends, music, laughter, and a classic, combined speech from our dads but it was also my farewell to life in America and to my world for twenty-five years. For sure I thought my mom, dad, and I would lose it, crying our eyes out at the ticket gate but graciously God’s peace was sealing our hearts and holding us up despite knowing I would indefinitely be moving across the pond. I still can recall dropping my eight suitcases off at Virgin Atlantic baggage drop and then having our last hugs before Charlie and I were separated from my parents to go through airport security. As we finished our hand luggage being scanned and gathering our things for the eleven hour journey, we waved one final time at each other with the security glass separating us. I remember thinking how brave my parents were to let me, their only child, be released into God’s next chapter for my life. And little did I know then, but all of those years of travel journeys to and from Oklahoma, Texas, Illinois, Georgia, and back to California would prepare me for transatlantic life and would parallel the back and forth journeys we make between London and San Francisco.

The continual round trip between England and America has been a part of our family for eight and a half years now and continues with each visit we make. Since getting married, we have made it back nearly every year and each time, Charlie has been the one to question should we perhaps look into moving to California sometime. Surprisingly unenthusiastic at the idea, I would dismiss my imaginative thoughts toward a life in San Francisco, because while on my first trip to London, God had clearly spoken into my heart that England was where Charlie and my marriage story would begin. In my mind, there was no point even letting myself be hopeful toward moving close to my parents again. But something snapped a year ago after our annual summer trip. Charlie and I both felt a sense of our hearts being stirred toward the idea of letting go of our lives in the UK in order to be transplanted to the US. Our hearts have been stirred but how that will translate into God’s kingdom perspective is still to be confirmed. The pro’s and con’s list is nearly equal and it seems like each day, we flip flop with some days feeling like we need to stay in England and other days, America seems like where we are meant to be.

The reason it seems so hard to make a decision is because we genuinely like our English life and the thought of giving up being in close proximity to Charlie’s family, our home (the house that Charlie built, well, extended and completely remodelled), Soul Survivor Church, Holy Trinity CE Primary School, and our Northwood community is heartbreaking. When we are visiting California, it is easy to pick up the rhythm of life there and it seems to fit our family quite well with having my parents readily available for child care, beach, sunshine, space, and let’s not forget yummy Mexican food. As much as California still feels like home, I have changed and grown so much in my time in England. Would I cope going back the other way? And more importantly how would Charlie and the kids do? If only we could have the best of both worlds! Sadly, the transatlantic life means living in the one world and yet longing for the other world that seems like a distant dream, or in my case, forgetting about my previous world in order to assimilate well and fully participate in my current life.

So for now, we are in the waiting game. It’s sort of like being at an airport somewhere between London Heathrow and San Francisco International, waiting for the flight status on a delayed flight. We’re pretty ready for the trip on some levels but wondering if we will ever actually make it. Or perhaps the flight will be cancelled and we’ll have to see if travel arrangements can be rescheduled or if they will be genuinely cancelled and that’s that.

Over the summer, I sought the Lord during our two trips. While in California with the kids, I was questioning if I could live in the San Francisco area again and I felt peace in my heart was confirmed. But with that, God reminded me that home is wherever He is, and He is everywhere. My definition of home is not so much a geographical place nowadays but rather wherever God has me in this moment and the community He has put me in. As our aeroplane back to England left from San Francisco, I looked out of the window enjoying the lovely views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the piers and familiar city buildings and my favourite rolling hills of Marin with a white blanket of fog rolling in off the sea. For the first time since moving to London, I felt God’s complete peace about leaving San Francisco and instead of saying goodbye with a heavy heart of sadness, it was more like, “Farewell for now… I’ll be seeing you.”

While in Cornwall, Charlie and I took a sunset walk up the coastal trail to the cliffs above Portreath. It was absolutely stunning to see the sun setting amongst the golden waves (see top photo) with great views of the local beach, seeing the wild ponies and admiring the intricate rock formations. God’s peace was also there in those moments and I felt like God whispered, “It’s okay, I’ve got this under control and whatever happens, you will be content because I go with you wherever you go. But…. don’t think you can guess what will happen, just keep faithfully living day by day and remember to seek Me first.” In an “I want it now” generation with constant distractions, waiting is practically unheard of, but it really is the only way to growing in relationship with God.

An image God brought to me at church a few weeks ago was of a beautiful flower growing in the unlikely place of broken pavement. Easily overlooked and nothing that special compared to the grandeur of somewhere like Kew Gardens, God reminded me that there is beauty in the brokenness and in our waiting on Him. And there is life to be lived even when our family feels like we are in between things and waiting on our next directions. A move to California may never materialise for us but I have laid the idea before the Lord and I am okay with that. He has had good things for me to do here like establishing community, raising a family, and embracing friendship with women from many different nationalities and cultures who similarly have found themselves in London, specifically the Harrow/ Northwood/ Pinner/Watford area. I came to London to be with my English husband, leaving my previous community and all things familiar, yet God chose to establish a vast new community that I never would have known about if I hadn’t been obedient to God directing me here.

So in my mind, it’s like we are sitting at the airport, waiting on God. We don’t know when our next flight will be or if there will be one at all, but that’s okay. There is excitement and anticipation for what God is doing through this challenging season. Throughout the waiting, we are meeting many others who are waiting too on God’s directions for their lives. We are loving, supporting, and doing this journey together, though our paths will all look uniquely different. Jesus is right there with us, reminding that seasons of wait are good because things are happening behind the scenes. We can trust Him to be faithful and prepare good work for us to do by sharing the love He has for all people.

2 thoughts on “Across the pond… and back?

  1. Joy,
    That is such a beautiful story and point of view. Since we were part of those first 25 years of your life, and the wedding festivities, it was even more meaningful. We are so glad you are happy in England ( we love it too, having been there about 7 times). And I know your parents are only happy knowing you are following God’s plan for your life, no matter where you live!
    Love you,
    Aunt Cindy & Uncle Sonny

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Aunt Cindy! I’m so grateful for the wonderful extended family I have been blessed with, including you and Uncle Sonny, and I’m so glad for all of the special times we have shared throughout the years. I’m looking forward to seeing Annette and family over Thanksgiving! Lots of love, Joy


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