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Walkin’ in Cambridge

I feel like most of my blogs, journal entries, and phone conversations often begin with the phrase, “It’s been a while.” I am not so great at keeping to structured habits, but I do at least try to fight against the opposing pulls of busy-ness and laziness that often keep me from my goals. It’s certainly a challenge.

One of the things that has been challenging me lately has been a new, regularly-scheduled task that certainly has required my time, attention, and even willingness to be uncomfortable. Since coming to Cambridge, I have been volunteering with a charity organization called Christian Heritage, who operate out of The Round Church. When I began helping out, I simply came a few times a week to the Round Church, which houses a visitor’s center, and volunteered as a “doorkeeper” – taking entrance fees, answering questions, and explaining the purpose of Christian Heritage and the exhibits. I also informed guests about the guided walks of Cambridge offered by several tour guides who volunteered at the Round Church.

Then the fateful day came when I was asked to consider becoming a tour guide myself! I gave my fourth and final walk this week. It’s been a giant step outside of my comfort zone, but great fun as well! The walks tend to take groups around the Round Church, down by the River Cam and into several of the colleges before ending up in the city center. The tours tend to take around two hours, with the main theme being the tracing of Christianity’s influence in Western culture, particularly as it relates to Cambridge through its emphases on education, humanitarian work, scientific discovery, and law and politics. There’s also a lot of talk about the Protestant Reformation, and discussion on the part Cambridge played as the birthplace of the Reformation in England.

Learning the material well enough to give the tour has been a fascinating and enjoyable experience for me, as I hope it was for the individuals who came with me on the tours. There were certainly moments when I felt completely inadequate, particularly when trying to talk about English history as an American. On the first official tour I gave, I met a gentleman and his daughter who were so kind – but the father was the British version of my dad, which meant he knew TONS of information about EVERYTHING I mentioned. I left that first walk feeling fairly defeated after being asked what felt like a million questions to which I couldn’t even begin to find an answer.

However, things have really picked up since then, and now I find great joy in giving the tours, telling people fun facts about the history of Cambridge and England, but even more importantly, pointing out the blessings we enjoy today because of ordinary (and some extraordinary) individuals realizing that their Christian faith could and should affect the world around them in tangible ways. I’ve also been reminded again and again that God uses us in spite of ourselves, and have found such peace in knowing that His strength and Spirit sustain me when I tell others about Him and His people. He has also shown me through these trying experiences that I have an incredible support system in my husband, family, friends, and fellow believers who are constantly there, lifting me up in prayer and willing to give me a pep talk over the phone when needed (I’m looking at you, Mom!).

These beautiful lessons have been reinforced in other areas of my life recently as well, including struggling to finish up schoolwork when the online class meetings, being on Eastern Standard Time, require waking up in the middle of the night. We also have some huge decisions ahead of us about where we’ll be spending the next three years for Zach’s PhD, and we won’t have solid answers on exactly what our options will be until after we’ve returned to the States for the summer. It’s difficult to think that when I come home this summer, it might mean not returning to Cambridge in the Fall. But even in these stressful, uncertain times, God has reminded me of the rest that can be found in Him and the fellowship I can have among His people. The sweet fruits of Christianity that I share with tourists on my guided walk weren’t produced solely in times of antiquity – I’m seeing the abundantly good gifts all around me, even today.

Things My Morning Run Teaches Me About Life (Part Two)

Last week, I told you all about my new running habit, and how something as simple as a morning exercise routine is teaching me important life lessons. If you missed last week’s post, you can view that here. This week, I’ll talk about the last three lessons I’ve been learning as I continue to work at this new practice.

Lesson Four: Looking ahead makes me a better runner.

The route I run keeps me on some pretty uneven pavement, and sometimes it’s hard not to spend the whole run looking at the ground to keep from falling over a loose stone. But I’ve noticed an interesting thing: when I manage to shift my focus to further down the path, I tend to feel more motivation to keep going. I can’t explain how lifting my head and my gaze can have such a psychological effect, but I’ve noticed it again and again.

This concept has played out in my spiritual life as well. It reminds me of what the writer of Hebrews said when comparing the Christian life with running a race: “…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…”

When I spend my days looking at all the possible things that might cause me to stumble or focusing on the difficulties and pain of this life, I can easily become overwhelmed with self-pity, worry, and frustration. However, it’s amazing the change that can occur in my heart when I lift my head, fixing my eyes a bit further down the road on Christ and what He has done for me, is doing in me, and will continue to do with me if I keep running.

Lesson Five: Joy and pain can occur at the same time.

I do not like pain. And because of this fact, I don’t really like exercise. I’d much rather have a Netflix marathon than run in one. So why do I keep at it? Because even in the pain, I have found joy. This may seem impossible, but it’s true. When I crest the final hill of my run and it times perfectly with the song I’m listening to (Go the Distance, anyone?), I feel so incredible knowing that I’m accomplishing things I never thought possible. When I feel the soreness in my muscles, I feel a bit of happiness, too, knowing that the pain means I’m getting stronger.

This paradoxical lesson is also true of life. I have experienced the truth of it in the past year, as my family experienced the death of my grandfather. The loss hurt us (and still hurts us) to the core, but we also felt inexplicable joy knowing our Papa was perfect, whole, and healthy in the presence of his Lord and Savior. We sing a song at our church here that says, “There is strength within the sorrow”, and we felt that personally. I’m so grateful to have experienced this paradox, and know that like I spoke of last week, sometimes pain shows us we’re growing, and even when that growth is undetectable to the human eye, there can still be joy in the midst of the process.

Lesson Six: I can’t get better if I don’t get out of bed.

This last lesson is one I have to repeat to myself over and over most mornings. My warm and cozy bed is so much nicer in those moments than the cold outdoors. But last week, I had to take a whole week off from running because of the snow and ice we had here in Cambridge, and let me tell you, my first day back at it was rough. I had done some inside cardio workouts during the week when I couldn’t run, and those had helped me some, but I am more sore this week than I was when I first started!

The truth is, I’d like to think that staying in bed for a day and skipping my workout won’t have an effect on my run the day after – but that’s just not true! My runs this week have been so much slower than they were before my week off, and I’ve had to really war with myself about whether or not it was absolutely required that I run to the landmark I’d set for myself rather than turning around early and trying again the next day.

The difficult truth is, change is hard work. And when we don’t put in the hard work of changing our habits and developing better ones, or put it off until a “more convenient” time, often we go backward rather than remaining at whatever benchmark we’d achieved. But the positive news is, when we get back at it, armed with the knowledge of where we were previously, we might have more motivation to more quickly reach that previous “personal best”, and even push past it. At least I’m seeing that to be true with me.

If you’re considering trying something new, or changing a habit you have, I encourage you to “get out of bed” and get out there. Learn those lessons, friends! And then remind me of all of them tomorrow morning around 7:30 am when I’m grumbling about wanting more sleep and less exercise.

Things My Morning Run Teaches Me About Life (Part One)

There is this incredible picture of me from about the third grade where I am finishing a lap in my school’s Walk/Run for Charity event. My shoulders are hunched in exhaustion, both arms hang limp at my side, and my tongue is literally hanging out of my panting mouth as I pull as much air as possible into my screaming lungs.

This picture was taken around lap 2 or 3.

The photo aptly sums up my general feelings toward all things related to exercise and particularly the beast that is running. At least, until recently. In the past two weeks, I’ve started back at a practice I’ve been (very inconsistently) attempting over the past five years or so. This time however I feel like I have turned a corner in my attitude towards running, and my chilly morning runs have, in turn, begun to teach me lessons dealing with issues beyond personal fitness. Hopefully, even if your attitude towards running is much more like third-grade Emily than my current appreciation for it, the lessons I’m learning will be applicable to you as well.

 

Lesson One: I can do more than I think I can.

Part of the reason I have hated running for most of my life, even in the times when I’ve tried to do it several times a week, is because I believed I would never be good at it. I have friends who can run a mile in six minutes (cough, cough, Zachary Adam, cough, cough), and other friends who ran competitively in high school. However, I tended to clock out after about 90 seconds of that awkward jog-walking that makes me feel like I must look to the world like an old man with debilitating arthritis. Then, a few weeks ago, something miraculous happened. I pushed through. I discovered that I could in fact keep going beyond that 90 second marker that I had set as a limit for myself, and my legs would not fall off, nor would I die from exertion.

Zach has constantly reminded me during my efforts at getting into shape, “The mind quits before the body.” I think sometimes, the mind quits before the heart, too. We convince ourselves that this task, this career, this goal is too difficult or too lofty, that we’ve maxed out, but there is so much more potential in us waiting on a bit more effort, a bit more perseverance, a bit more will to push through. For the Christian, too, this has another level in that we often limit what God wants to do in and through us because we think we’ve reached the end of our limits for growth, and we forget the extent of the Holy Spirit’s power to both strengthen and redeem.

Lesson Two: Pain can be a sign of growth.

I will not lie to you and tell you that just because I can now jog for 15 or so minutes at a time means my runs have become some sort of careless, pain-free, tiptoe through the tulips experience. False. My legs are normally very angry with me for most of my runs, and my toes do this weird achy thing for the rest of the morning. I will say that I no longer cough uncontrollably for hours after I run like I did when I first started back at running. This shows that sometimes the pain is a sign of better things to come. My lungs and heart are stronger now, better able to deal with longer stretches of exercise, and my legs are strengthening, too.

Sometimes the winnowing periods of life hurt. We experience emotional, spiritual, and psychological growing pains right along with the aching of sore, worked muscles. While sometimes pain is a sign that something is wrong, it can also be a reminder that we are getting better, stronger, and more mature.

Lesson Three: Beauty and positive thinking make difficult things more bearable.

I run a really beautiful route in the mornings that takes me along the River Cam and gives me a lovely view of several of the college backs. There’s this one point in my run where the trees clear and I get this incredible glimpse of King’s College chapel with the sun behind it. It lifts the soul. I also listen to some great music while I run to keep me in good spirits – normally it ends up being some fast-paced showtunes or Disney music, because, really, what else do you people expect of me? But when I listen to the lyrics of The Greatest Showman’s “This Is Me” or Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go” and push myself to believe that I can finish the run I started, when I let myself soak in the beauty that is Cambridge, and when I focus on feelings of gratitude that God has brought me to this place, I find it easier to focus on cresting that next hill rather than on the fatigue in my legs.

I’m going to try not to get too counselor-y here, but gratitude and positive self-talk can have huge effects on our mental health. When I encourage myself to push through the end of my run rather than telling myself to quit because I don’t have it in me, I find myself so much more capable of things I never dreamed possible (like easily running a ten-minute mile last Friday! What??). And then, because I see that I can do more than previously thought, I end up with more self-confidence and am more likely to try other difficult things that will enable me to grow further.

 

This series is not to pressure my readers into starting your mornings with a run like I do, although if you feel empowered to do so and want to talk through the stresses and successes of such a practice with me, that is wonderful! However, I do encourage each of you to find a hard thing to do and set out trying to do it. If a girl who has hated running with a passion since elementary school can take it up and enjoy it, you can tackle a difficult task, too. And who knows? Maybe you’ll learn some lessons of your own.

 

Pancakes and Pictures

For this week’s blog post, I thought I’d give a short explanation of how this week has been, but then allow my readers to see some of the sights of Cambridge. I spent two days this week playing the tourist with my camera, and it was such a nice experience to stop and try to capture the beauty I get to experience here in Cambridge. I will admit that my amateur photography could never hope to do it justice, but it will at least give you all a frame of reference when thinking about what life looks like for Zach and I here.

This week was filled with special occasions- Tuesday was Fat/Shrove Tuesday, or as they call it here in England, Pancake Day. Then Wednesday was both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Zach and I did not eat pancakes on pancake day, but I did get to try some last Friday at an International Women’s Group I attend at our church. They are much more like crepes than American pancakes, and you typically eat them with lemon juice and sugar sprinkled on top. These are the traditional Fat Tuesday treat here, but I’ve heard they can be quite difficult to make, and I decided that I would just try making them next year if I were feeling braver.

For Valentine’s Day this year, Zach and I bought each other books, because that is just who we are. He got a lovely boxed set of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, and I got a boxed set of the Harry Potter series. Since these were a bit more expensive than what we usually spend on Valentine’s gifts, and since we both would rather stay in than fight the crowds on nights like February 14, we opted for a night in with homemade pot roast and brownies with ice cream. We even have leftovers! We are obviously not fasting for Lent this year. I have decided to severely limit my time on social media in general and Facebook in particular during this time, and although we’re only two days into the Lenten season, I am realizing just how often I was wasting time on my phone. Hopefully this purposeful “fasting” from social media will help me create more productive habits as it relates to my free time, and will also encourage me to consider in what ways my habits can better reflect eternal, meaningful perspectives.

And now here’s a few photos to document our Cambridge life.

Earning My Keep

“Stop trying to earn your keep.”

Tears flooded my eyes as my brain digested that statement, straight from the lips of my slightly disgruntled, trying-to-comfort-a-crying-wife-but-not-fully-knowing-why-she’s-crying-this-time husband. This. This spoke to every single one of my relationships and the anxiety I was currently feeling about all of them.

I have a confession to make. If I’m not careful, I could spend 95% of my days in a crumpled heap on the floor, letting all the mean thoughts I think about myself fill my head until I can’t remember what’s real and what’s just a big ol’ failure. However, thanks to wonderful, supportive people in my life, better thought systems, some fun things I learned in counseling in undergrad, and then just the grace and mercy of God, I live and function and only crumple into that heap on really bad days, such as the one I was having when this aforementioned conversation took place.

When Zach said this statement, it was one of those proverbial “aha” moments for me. I often feel a need, perhaps not so irrationally, to earn my keep in relationships: in my relationship with my husband, with my parents and family, with my friends, and most often, perhaps even most tragically, with the Lord.

I’m currently reading through the book of Deuteronomy as part of my Bible reading plan. In it, Moses constantly draws the children of Israel’s attention to the fact that they are smaller and weaker than the opponents they will face on the other side of the Jordan, but that this is by design. He goes further in chapter 9, saying, “It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land” and “from the day that you left the land of Egypt until you arrived at this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD.” Not only were the Hebrews to remember that they were smaller in number than their opponents, but to remember that there was nothing about their own righteousness or religious efforts that commended them to this task. Rather, God chose them in spite of these things to accomplish His purposes and to bring Himself glory.

I think too often we believe that we have been chosen by life, God, or others because of some innate goodness within, some sort of characteristic or strength that commends us to the tasks that lay ahead. This sort of thinking led me to feeling the need to earn my keep and to a hyper-defensive posture in my conversations with others, where harmless comments could quickly be turned into direct attacks on my own capabilities.

But it’s not my own righteousness or good qualities that led me to be blessed with as good of a husband as I have in Zachary Adam, to end up in as beautiful a place as Cambridge, to have wonderful friends and family members, or in any way to be called a child of God. Instead of focusing on attempting vainly to earn my keep or trying to impress every single person in my life, I can relish the blessings I have been given and serve each of those relationships with the joy that comes from seeing the grace in them. I can be truthful about areas in which I fail or struggle, but those failures don’t have to lead to some sort of frenzied, let’s-make-up-for-all-my-problems-by-baking-a-cake kind of attempts for perfection or even perceived perfection.

The truth is, I could never earn my keep. But thanks be to God, His mercy says I don’t have to.

New Year, Same Me

During the month of January, the general public seems to become better people (or at least individuals who think they’re better people). Many people make resolutions. Some prefer to use the word “goals”. Others choose a word or attribute to make their own and on which to reflect in the following year. Gym memberships sky rocket. Social media has picture after picture of individuals in their workout gear with the caption, “New year, new me”.

But what if that’s a lie?

To figure out if I am a different person this year, I have to examine the person I was last year. 2017 was characterized by change. Zach finished one Master’s degree, started another. We moved out of our first home and into a flat on another continent. I learned how to meal plan, and then how to do it with a tiny kitchen (for more on that adventure, see What Not Having a Stove Taught Me About Myself). In April, I said goodbye to the first of my grandparents to pass away. In November, I came home again. In December, Zach followed. We both continued schoolwork. We cried, and laughed, and walked A LOT. We said goodbye to one church family and were welcomed into another. And through it all we grew as a couple and as individuals.

But does that mean I’m a completely different person in 2018 than 2017?

If my struggles with consistently working out this January are any indicator, the answer is no.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have goals for myself for this new year. I want to blog more often. I want to drink more water, exercise regularly, and be a more organized individual (I’m looking at you, bullet journal). I want to be serious and devoted in my daily Bible reading in a way that I lacked in 2017. I want to be a better listener, both to others and to the Lord. I want to spend my time wisely and productively.

In all these goals, however, I have to continually remind myself that change doesn’t occur overnight, not even on New Year’s Eve. I will not wake up one day and stop loving chocolate chip cookies or Dr. Pepper. Habits and personality traits take time to form and exhibit consistently. So maybe I am the same person as I was in 2017. But I’m also constantly becoming someone better.

Fig Trees and Texts from Home

This past Saturday, I received a text message from my mother:

“Have daddy in ER- they are transferring him to Greenville- think he is having heart attack…”

Zach and I had gone to London for the day, and I had just paid my 50p to use the public toilet (yes, they make you pay for that here, and no, they don’t use the word restroom). And now I’m sitting in the stall, slightly hyperventilating, trying to figure out how in the world Zach can convince the worker outside that he needs to enter the women’s toilet to carry me out of there since my body seems to have stopped functioning. Somehow, I managed to pull myself together and get back to where Zach was waiting to fill him in on what was going on. He held me while I cried from the realization that England was actually quite a long way from where I wanted to be in that moment.

To quickly summarize the next few days, after several tests it was discovered that my dad did not have a heart attack, but did have two partial blockages in the artery often referred to as “The Widow Maker”. Scary stuff, but something that would not require surgery, just medication and healthy lifestyle changes. The Lord seems to have orchestrated these events to let us know there was an issue in time to fix it, and we were so grateful for His sovereignty and grace in this situation.

It’s ironic that I was visiting London on the day this all occurred, a place that was my go-to answer for years if I was asked, “If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?” Upon receiving that text, London wasn’t quite the answer I would have given if asked that question again. But we pushed through and were met with good news after our waiting.

The Sunday night after our London trip, we went to the church we’ve settled into here in Cambridge, Eden Baptist. Matt, the assistant pastor, was finishing up a sermon series on Habakkuk. It was such a timely message, and as He often does, God used His people and, even more importantly, His Word to speak to my heart in loving and convicting ways. The following verses especially resonated with me:

Though the fig tree should not blossom

And there be no fruit on the vines,

Though the yield of the olive should fail

And the fields produce no food,

Though the flock should be cut off from the fold

And there be no cattle in the stalls,

Yet I will exult in the LORD,

I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

Habakkuk 3:17-18, emphasis added

Sometimes, even in your favorite place on earth, it’s hard to see the fig tree’s blossom. Sometimes it’s just not there. There have been times in this journey that I find myself feeling guilty over my “sad days” because, after all, Emily, this is what you wanted. This is your favorite place in the whole wide world. But sometimes, it just doesn’t feel like it. And other days (perhaps even most days), I can see the fig tree’s buds and the vine’s fruit and I am just so happy to live in this place. But whatever the morning brings to my eyes, I can still say with Habakkuk, “Yet I will exult in the LORD”, because He deserves our rejoicing, no matter where – or how – we are.

What Not Having a Stove Taught Me About Myself

Autumn is upon us here in Cambridge. There’s a noticeable chill in the air, the trees are turning the most gorgeous colors, and – my personal favorite part – there’s a satisfying crunch that accompanies each step on the leaf-covered pavement. Being welcomed into our Cambridge life by cooler temperatures and the lovely hues of my favorite season has been such a blessing to me. And I’m enough of a lover of metaphor to appreciate how this change in seasons compares to the changes Zach and I are facing.

About a week and a half ago we were finally allowed to move into our new flat at Magdalene College. This was equal parts exciting and anxiety-inducing, because while we were ready to have a space to call our own, we had no idea what the space would look like! The college had no pictures of the interior of the flat, so we were walking through the door completely blind. And, it’s not awful. It’s very small by American standards, but we were prepared for that. I’m fairly positive our curtains were made from the same fabric as one of my Mom’s go-to 90s dresses, but those can be replaced. What hurt so personally for me was the state of the kitchen. Zach could reach out and touch both sides of the room, there was no oven, and only electric eyes (or what they call induction hobs) by way of a stove.

And I panicked. I am no Pioneer Woman or Paula Dean. My poor husband had to talk me down from a few pseudo-panic attacks the first few weeks of marriage because I was so terrified I would burn the house down or poison him with my lack of culinary abilities. And I had only just begun to really feel confident in the recipes I consistently cooked, even feeling less nervous when it came time to branch out and try new ideas. But I had a stove then!

This new change was not welcome in my mind and heart. But it has revealed to me quite a bit about myself in recent days. I seem to have been equating my culinary skills with my status as a “good wife”. If I ruined a meal, that reflected poorly on my ability to be a proper spouse to my husband. And this is just. not. true. Because I have ruined meals. And forgotten to make the bed, or pick up the dry cleaning. Even today, as I did our weekly grocery trip, I forgot the very first item on our list – bread. But this does not mean I am a bad wife. It means I am an imperfect one. It means I’m human. And that is 100% okay. Because my husband is human, too.

Standards are good. Personal growth is always needed. But when we equate our self-worth with some skill or unattainable, self-imposed standard, we will always feel unworthy. But the beautiful thing about Christian marriage is that, as it reflects Christ’s relationship with us, it is full of grace and truth. The truth that neither I nor my husband am perfect, and the grace to love one another through those imperfections, spurring each other on in good works.

The second thing not having a proper stove revealed to me was that I am a selfish, near-sighted individual. As we prayed over the first home-cooked meal I prepared via induction hob, Zach asked God to give us grateful hearts for even this place and this situation, and to help us be mindful of so many others who were not so fortunate. This prayer shook me. I have friends on my newsfeed and news stories constantly in front of me that should remind me how insignificant my adjusting issues are in the grand scheme of things. But to me, on that night, they had seemed to be the biggest problem in the world.

I was graciously reminded by my husband that this change would not be the end of the world for us, nor should it grant me license to wallow in self-pity. For I have much to be thankful for. We all do. And may we all seek grateful hearts and opened eyes to the blessings we have received from God. May we allow His goodness and grace to move us to help others whose current situations involve a lot more difficulty than the lack of a conventional stove.

Just Keep Pedaling

Zach and I have been in England for over a week now. Long enough to get over jet lag. Long enough to explore the area, get lost a few times, learn our way home, make friends, try fish and chips, go to church. And long enough to buy bicycles.

In Cambridge, cycling is one of the most common modes of transportation. Bikes are a very important purchase, because in a large part of the city centre, roads are restricted to cycles, taxis, and buses. We’re also temporarily staying with some new friends who live about three miles from the city centre. So cycling is a necessity. Thankfully, the cycling path is so picturesque, with most of the journey taking you by the River Cam and through some lovely fields. Although yesterday Zach had to cycle off the path to avoid being plowed over by a cow, so the scenery is not without its dangers.

All this to say, I have probably cycled more in the past week than I have in my entire life. The first day of cycling into town, I thought I would just keel over and die, right there on the bike path. When I got off my bike after FINALLY reaching the city centre, my legs almost gave out from under me. I told Zach a few days ago that muscles in my waist were sore. Who knew you even had muscles in your waist?! Well, now I do. Because mine are all angry at me.

Then, Sunday afternoon on our way home from church, I was trying to catch up with Zach and Mark, our host for these in-between weeks before we can move into our apartment. We were over half-way home, and I was completely done. But then we hit a part of the path that had a slight downward slope, and I thought, “Here’s my chance! Now I can catch up!” So I pedaled with everything I had. I was doing okay until it was time to make a hard right turn at the bottom of the hill.

With some sort of odd screeching sound – that couldn’t have possibly been me? – I toppled over onto the pavement, scraping up my arms and dirtying my dress. This kind older gentleman walking behind me ran over to help me up, but I really just wanted to keep lying face first on the pavement where I’d come to a stop. Zach and Mark were there, too, grabbing my (now slightly scuffed up) purse and righting my bike so I could get back on. But now my elbow hurt as well as my thighs, and I was very concerned that I’d ripped a hole in my brand-new leggings (good news! They’re fine!).

So I took a breath, thanked random-stranger-man and assured him I did, in fact, know these people who were holding my purse, and got back on my bike to finish the trip home. I was convinced my elbow was broken – I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic – but just kept repeating to myself what had become over the weekend my cycling mantra, “Just keep pedaling, Emily. If you stop, you won’t be able to start again. Just keep pedaling.”

Thankfully, I did not break my elbow. And, after many more miles on the cycling path, my legs don’t start screaming at me now until at least mile 2.75 of 3. I’m even beginning to pedal faster. But when I do get a bit behind Zach, or when every part of my body aches from cycling all over creation, I just remind myself, “Just keep pedaling, Em. Just keep pedaling.”

This transition will not always be easy for us. I am sure there will be moments where everything within us screams for us to just stop, turn around, and go home. Try again some other time. Or never. But then we will remember that this journey is all part of the Lord’s purposes for us. And we know that through His strength, we can find it within ourselves to just keep pedaling.

A Face to Call Home

A few weeks ago, Zach and I attended a John Mayer concert. Since Zach has been a John Mayer fan a lot longer than I have, he made a playlist of all of John Mayer’s albums and put it on Spotify, since I am the type of person who feels the need to “study up” on an artist and their work before attending his or her concert.

During my attempt to learn all the lyrics to all the songs, I stumbled upon one that had me in tears on the ride home. The song shares its name with this blog post. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I’ve grown used to understanding home as a group of people rather than a location. During this transition to England, I have had to once again rethink my concept of “home” as something set apart from a specific location.

As I type this, I’m sitting in an airport, preparing to board a flight that will send my husband and me across the world. We’ve packed up some of our belongings, but sold and stored a lot more. We’ve said goodbye to the first house we shared as a married couple, spent time with family in three different states, weighed our suitcases more times than is probably normal, and said our “see you laters” to family and friends. But although we are going to a place where we know no one but each other, and even though our lives have more questions than answers as the moment, we’ll still be home.

Because for me, Zachary Adam is my face to call home. He keeps me sane in the craziness of this transition, he ensures that we have as many answers as we can, and he even carries my (too heavy) carry-ons all over the airport. I know I am sheltered and loved here, both because of the man he is and the One he reflects to me.

So, welcome home to me.