To this day, on the 15th of every month, I change my contacts. Because on the 15th of September, 2011, I flew across the world and landed in London--and on that day, I began to see my entire life in a new light. And so, still, I mark the 15th of each month with new contacts--new Sight. And I mark the 24th with remembrance and nostalgia.
Three years ago, I sat in a dull library at Baylor and wrote this reflection. At that time, I yet to make a single Baylor-friend. There's a pattern here--it takes me a very. long. time. to make friends in new places.
And now here I am, at nursing school in Houston, and I can add "Baylor friends" to the list of "bible school friends" and "childhood friends" who will grace my wedding. Time is a beautiful thing. Friends are, too.
My grandmother was there; that dear, sweet lady who had trekked through London with me for ten days–never complaining of swollen feet, never skipping a beat. Sure, she needed her nightly glass of wine, but I didn’t mind. We had walked and walked and walked. Seen every sight there was to see. Shopped til’ we dropped. Prettied ourselves up for musicals like Wicked and Mama Mia. Ate expensive granola from our favourite corner store and had too-much-pub-food-to-properly-stomach. We did London proud.
And then there we were. Together, in my castle. In my new home.
My. New. Home.
She and others helped carry my suitcases (yes, there were four) up the grand staircase where the chandellier glowed overhead. I was the first to arrive in my room. Number 12. I’ll never forget it.
Grandma hung my clothes and settled me in. I remember feeling so overwhelmed. Thinking “what have I gotten myself into?” Kind sonnets of “goodbyes” from home rang through my head. Things like:
“You are going to have the time of your life!”
“Be sure to write me!”
“Keep your blog up to date!”
“You’re going to make irreplaceable friends.”
“You have no idea what you’re in for.”
“Oh, the adventures!”
“This will change your life.”
“These friends will be in your wedding.”
“This will be the best six months you’ve ever had.”
“I can’t wait to hear all about it!”
…and then Amy arrived. The first of the roommates.
I think I said a few words to her. Wasn’t really interested in becoming friends. I had better things to do. Remember that “me and God” stuff? Yeah, that.
But my grandma was much kinder. She talked to Amy. (Gram loves to talk) And Amy would tell me later that my grandmother said more to her in those first few minutes than I did in the first few days. Silly me.
The other roommates slowly trickled in. One, then two, then four; until there were seven of us in all. Seven. Seven Strangers who, over the course of 6 months, would become Seven Sisters. Seven Soul Sisters. Yes, I like that.
The first days were like a blur. So many people. And oh, the names! Name after name after name. A new table every meal. New faces everywhere. New food. New, new, new.
Two weeks went by. Then three. And soon, a month. I had made some acquaintances, but found myself quite often in my little corner of the room. Just me and God. Remember that?
And then the story gets interesting…
It seemed as quickly as I blinked, those seven strangers had become my friends. Oh, the joy! The movie nights and late-night talks of politics. The testimony-sharing and cake-in-a-bowl eating and peanut-butter-making. The hair-doing and clothes-wearing and back-rubbing. Seven Soul Sisters. That’s what we were.
Christmas break found us leaving our sweet room 12 and embarking on new journeys. Upon our return, new rooms were assigned, and we didn’t see as much of each other as before. But our time in #12 was special, significant, heart-searing. Soul-worthy.
Other friends came along and dragged me out of my cave. Annie and Jared and Grayson. Justin and Nathan and Eliana. Elyssa and Courtney and Kent.
There were ten.
And then came dancing and movie nights in the freezing ping-pong room and speaker-borrowing and canal-walking and tea-shopping. And movie-making, and adventure-taking, and river-crossing and cab-getting. We had our table…in the back corner. Yes, that table…it was special. Holding hands before each meal as we thanked our Heavenly Father for blessed friendships. Eating fat-making food together and strange desserts with glitter. Chasing sheep and wearing wellies. This was the life!
Spring arrived, and goodbyes happened. They were hard, yes, but our spirits are entwined. The friendships go on…
I travelled another three months and then went home. Well, went to a home; I have two now.
But something had changed within me. All those well-wishers who sent me off with phrases of well-wishing were right. I had made friends. Real, true, Jesus-centred friends. I didn’t have to hole myself up in my cave so I could have six months of “Me-and-God time;” every day I interacted with God on a new and different level….
because those friends showed me more of the character of God than anyone ever had
Maybe this is what Heaven is.
You know, when I left home, people had said, “taking a break between high school and college is a bad idea. Many kids end up never actually going back.”
I had disregarded all the nay-sayers. I thought, “of course I’m going to college. What difference is a short break going to make?”
But I am realizing they were right. After living a real-life fairy-tale for a year, college does not come easily. I feel almost as if that castle was it and now it’s time to be done.
And then again, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I don’t have to be 6,000 miles across the ocean to find out what it means to truly live.
Maybe it wasn’t so much the Jesus around as the Jesus inside.
My growing isn’t done; and I think I thought it was. I thought I figured it all out in the castle; the secret to life and love and joy and peace and fullness.
But the secret wasn’t the place.
The secret was the person.
So today, I am nostalgic. Remembering an adventure that once-was and is no longer. From that, I have left only memories. Precious, timeless memories.
A new adventure awaits. A new adventure has already begun. Yes, it’s a sleep-deprived, library-ridden, textbook-reading, flashcard-making, lecture-listening adventure, but an adventure nonetheless.
When I think about my wedding (which is more often than I should,) I smile because there, my worlds will collide for the first time. The castle-people will be there, and these college-people will be there, and the childhood-people will be there, and everyone in-between will be there.
Well, that’s the dream. And while it might not become a reality at mine, it will become a reality at His.
One day, the Bridegroom and the Bride will walk hand-in-hand.
And we’ll all be there.
In the most beautiful reunion since the dawn of Creation.
I can only imagine.
...and here's a little compilation of our six months of nightly post-dinner dancing in the gym--some of my life's fondest memories. Dancing is one of the "places" I feel most loved. Around a campfire...or on a friend's couch...are others. <3