Sunday, July 20, 2014

Year One...Check!

Newcastle Quayside looking beautiful!
It’s crazy to think that is has been a year since I left everything in the States and headed out to live in England. And not London (what we Americans are sometimes guilty of summating the whole of the country to), but to a city in the North I had never heard of; to take on a position, which I wasn’t even sure of the job description; to live in a community where I knew no one; and to live there for a year without returning! Before my last year at Gonzaga University, I wasn’t sure I would ever even get the opportunity to visit Europe, let alone live in Britain for two years! And now here I am, on the plane ride home for a visit before I go back to Newcastle for round 2.

Flashback! UK YAGM Abby and I on our
way to England last August.
As cliché as it is, it seems I was just at home and at the same time, life in Newcastle has a comfort as though it has been my reality for years. Honestly, I’m a bit nervous to see just how much “counter-culture” shock I subconsciously pass over this month back in the states. I’m anticipating the first time I make someone blush by asking if I can use their “toilet” rather than their “restroom,” just as it used to make me cringe when I first arrived in the UK. But apart from the English language variations, I have about a hundred things running through my mind as I make my way home (could be out of boredom from the 9 hour flight, but oh well!)

It’s tough to contain 11 months in a quick reflection, but this last week has been the perfect snap shot of what my year was like. Starting with a visit from Abby (another YAGM in England) and an attempt to get out for the night while saving some pennies with wowcha (like groupon)—we ended up in a new and fascinating corner of the city center that took us by surprise, reminding me of all my adventures with the UK YAGMs this year and how we experienced so many new things together.

American style BBQ with JMC folk
earlier this summer.
Next was, of course, the Sunday service at JMC. I played my guitar again, highlighting just how far I have come from barely knowing three chords when I arrived, and the family feel was practically tangible. To say that the service was an “all hands on deck,” effort would be most accurate! This week’s local preacher noted (speaking to the congregation), “you may just be in the minority if, by the end of the service, you haven’t been up front to speak at some point.” It was a service that captured the sincerity and closeness of this community that I have fallen in love with this year.

I had a couple leaving dos throughout the week with various people, reminding me of all the wonderful connections I’ve made and relationships I have been blessed with this year. Not only that, but Wednesday night was a nice, clear night so we went to the Quayside, and it was impossible for any of us to deny what a beautiful city Newcastle is—we are so lucky! It was also a plus that each occasion was filled with reminiscing over the year, lots of laughter, and confirmation that this is where God wants me to be.

So next to my excitement to be less than three hours from Colorado, and my extreme thankfulness for all this year has been, I have many people on heart…

I pray for the JMC family: for all the support and love they have shown me in so many ways, and for so warmly welcoming me into their community. I pray for Brother Ian: for always bringing such joy wherever he went (as well as all others in hospital right now and their loved ones). I pray for my flatmates: for being such fun to live with, weather we be dancing around a “Mexican” hat for a last minute Cinco de Mayo recognition, or getting overly (but perfectly acceptably) excited when the take away arrives. And finally I pray for the other UK YAGMs: for fun memories and the wonderful friendships I have found in each of them!

Candles representing all the YAGMs throughout the world
this Year, lit in Chicago last August at our orientation.
Please keep all of these in your prayers as well, especially as the YAGMs (UK and across the globe) say their goodbyes and make their way back home.Thank you again for the love and support this year, and I’ll be back in September!

Cheers for now!

(Below is a collage I made of my year with an application a fellow YAGM shared, which is appropriately titled "If I stay." I used some photos of the most memorable events, places, and people that made up my first year in Newcastle.)