Lost in London
When I was a junior in college, I had the opportunity to study abroad in the UK. We were a literature class, visiting sites, mostly in London, of significance to letters. It should have been a delightful experience.
Looking back on it now, I think about the beauty and the magic. I remember the reverence and awe with which I approached Jane Austen's home in Chawton, the energetic conversation I had with those working there, the moment I took, by myself in her morning room to commune with her.
Now, I think about the precious days spent in Oxford, going to a C.S. Lewis society meeting and getting to chat with people who love him as much as I do, frequenting his pub: the Eagle and Child, just being in his home, kneeling at his grave to say thank you.
Before I knew Harry, I was eating lunch at The Elephant House, where the first book was purportedly written, with a view of Edinburgh Castle at the sunny part of the day.
Now, when I think of that trip, I think about the light. At the time, things were very different.
I was far from home. My first boyfriend and I had just started planning our wedding-which-never-was. I was homesick, and out of my element, traveling with a professor who didn't like to have a schedule in advance. I just wanted to know when I could take a nap.
My group was loud, and as often as possible, I distanced myself from them, preferring to exchange meaningful glances with the British people around me. I could speak quietly, and never have anyone ask me to speak up.
One night, we all parted ways and I wanted to go back to the hotel, but I was the only one. I took the Tube, getting off at the correct station, and went the wrong way.
The night was dark, and I was getting further and further from my destination. I was frightened and cold and imagining all sorts of things in shadows. Somehow, by the grace of God, I found my way back to my hotel. A structure had never looked so lovely before.
In the days ahead, I struggled against fear, hopelessness and doubt. There were times, confused by the oncoming traffic coming from a direction I wasn't expecting, that I just wanted to walk out into the middle of the street, to surrender.
We had the opportunity to visit the American Embassy and I accepted. I could have cried when I heard the accents, and recognized the pictures on the walls. I almost did cry when they said: "Welcome to American soil!"
I think, sometimes, about the bread and soup that I purchased everywhere (because it was the least expensive meal on offer). It would always warm the very corners of me, making me realize that God was good, that life was worth living.
By the time we got to Scotland, to spend the weekend, I was better. In Scotland, I could breathe. It felt like home. I hope to return someday, to Scotland, to Britain, to Ireland, to make new memories, to bring healing to painful places.
When I returned to the United States, my world changed completely. My roommate situation deteriorated rapidly and I moved to another room, with a new roommate. My boyfriend ended the relationship, bringing an agony of loss I'd never experienced before. My health plummeted, making it difficult, for a while, to get out of bed. The groundwork that the Lord had laid in London grew into a house of worship. In great pain, God taught me to trust Him in London, I needed those lessons to cling to, upon my return.
He still reminds me, when I flurry and shake, that all is not lost, and neither am I. He knows exactly where I am.