Wednesday, 16 November 2005

Beautiful Essex Adventure

Dear All,

My problem is that my weekend was too wonderful. It makes the pressures of school and all that that implies crash down all the harder as the workweek commences.

You see, I stole away on an English adventure with a great guy to befriend and a beautiful sister to visit at the end of the line. Adriaan (Holland) and I walked down to the coach station on Friday afternoon just after the rain poured down in torrents moments before to embark on a journey across the country to visit our friend Sarah who just finished at Redcliffe at the end of last term. We waited for a bus that didn't seem to be coming in a place that we weren't sure it would come to In the end, our bus pulled into London 45 minutes late and we missed our train out of London but it was a beautiful journey in that once we started talking we lost track of the time and just revelled in the adventure of the moment And I learned Dutch-- well, one or two words anyway We tackled the London underground system-- Adriaan having never been in London and I having only been a few times and in no way a seasoned Londoner but it was all part of the grand adventure and we were both too easy-going about whatever happened to care. I even talked him into wandering around the city with me all night if we got stranded because I've always thought it would be a beautiful way to spend a night of my life-- wandering around London : ) We ended up hopping on an entirely different train than our tickets allowed (we had a plan, you see. If the conductor came around to check-- as he usually does-- Adriaan would slip into Dutch and I would just look as foreign as possible and be confused) and arriving in Colchester-- Sarah's city in Essex-- an hour later than planned. Sarah whisked us away to her family's home in the tiny village of Layer-de-la-Haye in the charming Essex countryside and we played games and talked and laughed and had such a cozy time of a first evening. I slept in Sarah's room and it was just like a sleepover only I was reveling in wonderment at the fact that I was having a sleepover with a lovely British lady in England

Saturday was enchanted-- I'm convinced of it. After meandering about the city of Colchester (with poppies in our buttonholes for Rememberance Day weekend to honor the veterans) and snooping about Colchester Castle, we took a bus out into the countryside to a village called Dedham and stepped off into a pastoral scene painted by John Constable in the 18th century... The famous English painter is reknown for using the area in his paintings and frequenting the little village. Dedham was the definition of quiant and English and I was on cloud-nine. We lunched in "The Essex Rose" tea room, sauntered through the age-old village church to watch the afternoon light stream in through the stained-glass windows, described our perfect cottages to one another as we walked past the ones lining each street, frolicked in a bright red British phone box, dragged Adriaan through a decidedly girly artsy shop, climbed the formidable monument at the centre of the village, and (highlight of highlights) gallavanted about the Essex countryside, which entailed a magical visit to a pond of wild trumpeteer swans and a picturesque meander along the River Stour into the county of Suffolk and back again... It was utterly perfect.
That night we cooked together, all three. I had no idea cooking was so much fun. Or that three 'mates', as British Sarah called the three of us (American, Dutch, English, 19, 18, 32) could be so perfectly content just existing together. And the range of conversation! I think it stimulated something in my brain that had been sleeping for the last while... That night Sarah went to bed early so Adriaan and I watched a corny American movie (I'm the first American friend he's had so he had to have that experience of watching an American movie with an American girl ) and then stayed up talking until 2. He's a very tall boy and has a very deep deep voice, but soothing, and I think sometimes I ask him deep questions just to hear his long, involved reply Adriaan says I have "an American face"-- whatever that is. Do I? I always thought I had the Pearson look. Apparently I have the American look as well I think classifying ourselves the way we do is hilariously ridiculous. But it is a fun thing to be told beings that I'm here and I'm American. Hehe
Sunday was precious. Bittersweet because the weekend was suddenly here and then gone again. We went to church with Sarah-- Prettygate Baptist. Prettygate. Mmmm....-- where after the service they come around to the congregation serving tea and biscuits (little cookies) to us right in our seats We hurried home to prepare for a couple of Sarah's friends to join us for lunch. The couple had two little girls, a precocious, ginger-haired 4 year old named Lucy and a 4 month old named Freya. They were an uncharacteristically friendly couple and down-to-earth good fun. After Spaghetti Bolognaise we embarked on a walk (England has public walking trails spilled out all over the country-- through fields and meadows and forests and towns and really anywhere you go, there's a walking path for you), Sarah, Adriaan, Lucy, this couple, the baby in a pram and I. We strolled the English countryside, past stables and through fields, up hills and down. We got that baby pram over stiles and through thickets, I tell you Lucy warmed up to me and took my hand and we raced Adriaan (who's height, we're convinced, intimidated her because he's completely non-threatening in every other way) until she was "out of puff", as she so colloquially phrased it. The afternoon had the same scent of enchantment as the day before had and I found myself very much in love with it all...

Leaving was hard because the whole weekend was such a spontaneous bit of strangeness and delight. It hadn't seemed real, somehow. Like a warm and cozy dream. That's what Essex will be to me now-- a-cuddled-up-with-a-steaming-cup-of-cocoa-before-a-roaring-fire-after-a-long-fresh-walk kind of dreamworld, suspended in time.

The journey back was just as wonderful, lost in hours of stimulating conversation and laughter, and with about an hour's stop to meander about the cold streets of London at night for Adriaan's first time. We arrived in Gloucester after the city had gone to sleep and wandered up the few blocks to college with hearts full after a blissful weekend spent wallowing in the generosity of a precious friend.

So, trading the weight of my backpack for the weight of my schoolwork needing doing is proving to be a trying transition. I'm desperate for discipline but so frustrated when I am working at it. Tonight called for a chilly nighttime chat with my Strong Tower out under Redcliffe tree (where I'm quite certain I laughed and cried in turn and He wiped the tears and clapped my back respectively) and the entire time He delighted my heart with the chrystalline sound of cathedral bells tolling seasonal sounds through the brisk, English night air. When I got back in, after feeling I'd gathered myself around myself enough to really sit down and get some work done without tripping over all the stuff on my heart, Paul knocked on my door (which is rather strange because he's never done that before) to let me know we were getting together in the common room for chocolate and coffee Then Leticia came bounding in, immediately wanted to know what it was that was wrong (is something showing in my face??) and then proceeded to try to melt my worries away with an inpromptu Samba session in her candles-lit, windows-open, Brazillian music-boasting bedroom When I went down to the common room I told myself I would only stay for a few moments and then it was straight up to do some real work for this flagging student. But then Isabela (love this lady) started sharing and God has done some awesome things in her life and I was held transfixed. In the end, out of the twenty-some people who started in that room, Isabela and I were the last ones to leave. So... needless to say, I haven't gotten very far on that work...

But my King is moving, ever-moving, in my heart. And He is beautiful, so beautiful. And so I shall not be overcome by anything but sheer wonder and delight at all that He is to me tonight and all that He's done and all that He has yet to do. Just look at Me, Lovely. Just keep holding My eyes. I know. I know it all. And I'm carrying you...

So I rest...
Leah <><

p.s. Did I mention I adore inpromptu worship sessions with acoustic guitars and guys who can play any song put in front of them?

p.p.s. I should add the disclaimer that if this email is a tad bit too whimsical for your comfort, I've been exhausted for days and this was written way past my 'bed time" : )

**Visit for pictures of my wonderful Essex weekend!!!

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