Yesterday was, without a doubt, the most encouraging day I have experienced since we’ve been back in the States. The Lord filled it with many good things, and I was amazed at how uplifted my spirit was by the end of the day.
As I lay down to sleep, as usual my thoughts were wandering here and there, and before I knew it I was taking a walk in my mind’s eye.
I loaded the kids up into the buggy, grabbed a few shopping bags, and headed out the door. As I pulled the big, black door closed behind me, I felt the cool wind on my face and wished, once again, that my coat would zip up.
I felt my feet pad down the Lade Braes, around the familiar curves, the weight of my two Scottish-born babies pushing against me. Out through the car park, across the road, and a quick turn to head down South Street.
On my way to the grocery store. I did it almost every day. Sometimes I timed it wrong and all the secondary school kids were out and clogging every sidewalk and aisle. This day all I noticed were the Christmas lights on the trees. I love Christmas lights.
I didn’t give a second thought to the old stone buildings standing shoulder to shoulder along the pavements, the uniqueness of that place. I was just living life, doing what I did all the time. Said a quick hello to the Big Issue lady who always tells me what beautiful babies I have. Up and down the aisles in the grocery store, I knew them by heart.
I could have walked all over that town. I know it like the back of my hand. I have four and a half years’ worth of memories to replay in my mind. But somehow, that little walk to Tesco, one I’ve done a million times, brought me to tears as I tried to fall asleep. I continued remembering, the sounds of a football match in the field on a Sunday afternoon, intentionally walking the long way home so I could feast my eyes on the big Sea. It lead to thoughts of friends who I truly may not see again in this life, whose eyes I may never look into again as we share our hearts with each other. That is the first time I can remember crying about this whole thing. Sure, I cried the night before we left, but that was at 2am and out of utter hopelessness that we would ever be packed and ready to go. This was the first time I opened my heart to the reality that St Andrews is no longer my home.
It seems like it shouldn’t be so easy to leave a place you are so invested in. A place that you have given your heart, a place that has given you your family. How is it possible that all it takes is the closing of a door? A day’s worth of traveling, and suddenly your home is somewhere else? A place where expectations are that you know what you’re doing, that you should slot right back into the space that you left. I guess I’m not the right shape anymore. Sure things are familiar and good, but if home is where the heart is, this isn’t quite home yet.
Part of me wishes that we had spent those years somewhere closer, somewhere that we could feasibly go back and visit when we wanted to. Somewhere that when we left, it didn’t feel so final.
Part of me wishes we had connected less, enjoyed less, been more ready to go.
But that part of me is the coward, the easy way out. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. The good, the hard, the beautiful, the ugly. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I know who I am in St Andrews, with the friends that gave me the confidence to find that person. And it took years to get to that point. Just like it will take time to get there again. To learn a new way of life for our family back on this side of the pond.
Life is not always a means to an end. In the academic world it is easy to think that this time is just the wait for the next exam, graduation, the job. It’s just the in between. But I have realized that if I view each stage as just the wait for the next thing, I’m going to miss all kinds of life in the in between. I’ve realized this before, and it’s a hard thing to allow to mold your perspective. But, there it is.
I’m sure there will be plenty more tears shed. Transition is hard, especially when you’re leaving a place that has meant so much. But, each day is a gift. The Lord is always working and there is always something to be grateful for. This in between? It’s going to be good. I can feel it.