Saturday, July 5, 2008

All That You Can't Leave Behind

We've been home nearly a month. We have been busy settling back in, catching up with friends and family and enjoying summer in Grand Rapids. My gardens are blooming, I've made strawberry jam, Coleson graduated from 8th grade, Grayson had a great time on his trip to Montana, Jamie is making progress on his "honey do" list and his book, Maddie turned 12, and Jack has been in video game heaven (when he's not at the pool or playing badminton). In all this craziness, it's been hard to process all that we left behind in England. Or maybe it's been a good way to avoid it.

It's hard to put into words just exactly what our time in England meant to me. It was certainly an exciting trip, a great place to visit. But if it was only that, it would not have been so hard to say goodbye. The friendships we forged made York a home and we were welcomed into a community that showered us with warmth and hospitality. We saw familiar faces on the street, Mrs Chippy nodded to us as regulars when we came in. I watched for birds in the garden and listened for the bells of York Minster. We had tea at 10 and 2. And very regularly, I could count on a text from Faith inviting us to lunch, or tea (which meant dinner) or perhaps a day out with the kids. Maybe even breakfast with pancakes and homemade bread. But probably what I treasure the most is that I'd found a kindred spirit. Faith was always up for anything. She always had a plan or suggestion. It almost always included a picnic or maybe lunch at a historic home. Sometimes only bits and bobs, but it was always fun. We introduced them to Friday night calzones. I'll never forget Ellie saying to me "Deanna, those calzones were really nice". I have since adopted the phrase. Our families just seemed to click. The kids were not all the same age (well, except the Jakemans, but that's only because they are triplets!) but they played so well together and all of the Smiths looked forward to get togethers with the Jakemans. I still have to remind myself that they are not just around the corner.

I miss them. I miss the life we lived there. That's not to say that I don't love my life here in Grand Rapids and the wonderful friends that I have, because I do. York will remain for me a respite. A timeout from the busyness that can consume our lives. Idle hours to wander the city or read a good book. Quiet moments to be still and grieve the losses of the last year. Wonderful adventures with my family that at times nearly filled my heart to bursting with joy. Moments of amazement at places I thought I'd never see. Dreams I'd never thought to dream.

I am so thankful. God prepared a place for us. He nourished us and loved us through the kindness of strangers, who then became cherished friends--and that you can't leave behind.

P.S. We'll keep updating the blog with things we didn't get to share yet.