Monday, January 14, 2013

A new year. What better way to start a new year than with a wedding, and in of all places, Scotland. I had never been, and what a good excuse to see Jonny Henderson and Amy Ross married.

I felt like I was on top of the world, and to use a word I usually detest, literally. The light was ethereal, the sun struggled to get much above the horizon, perhaps for only 6 hours a day, and that was up from the 5 and1/2 that it was at the shortest day of the year. As a result, the day felt like a continual golden hour, and I kicked myself for not taking Andrew's camera.

I had to travel over 30 hours to get there, three planes, two trains, a shuttle bus, and an hour ride home from Edinburgh to the beautiful small town of St. Andrew's. The first two nights I bunked with Andrea and Amy as we crashed on makeshift mattresses in Jonny's apartment. I went for a brief run in their village and marveled at wet, green rolling hills with small houses and flats looking like they'd grown into the countryside. It was cool not cold, and it was so good to be there.

We rushed around the week from Wednesday to Thursday and it felt like the two days became one between shopping and hen do and circus and food and a drink at the pub. Then Friday came.

Before coming to Scotland, I had spent two glorious, wonderful weeks in the Chicago area visiting my family and lots of friends. As I traveled my 30 hour journey, not even jetlag (again) could dampen my spirits. I felt happy and beyond blessed to have spent Christmas with my amazing family, who gave us so many presents I can hardly believe it. My parents put us up at a nice hotel, so we had a place to call our own. We shopped till we dropped, laughed until our sides hurt, and met with all sorts of friends.

As we left, I realized the friends we had managed to see were a sort of "last man standing". Those, who have been separated from the boys, and are men. Just a few choice friends, all over the world, in completely different situations from each other, some in full time work in ministry, others working in normal everyday jobs, and others, like us, doing a bit of both.

And yet, there was this common thread of kinship, of mutual encouragement, that kept repeating itself over and over. After a wonderful evening downtown, a friend stood on the snowy streets of Chicago and prayed for us, and it was one of those moments you thought you heard heaven say Amen.

In JFK, one of my least favorite airports, I stood in line at the Panda Express to buy rice and orange chicken. It was the 31st, and I was a little bummed my New Years Eve was going to be spent crammed into a plane.

Suddenly, an African man appeared as I stood in line and said "Happy New Year".  I returned the greeting and he made small talk with me as I paid. I caught the teller giving me too little and changed and he turned and said, "You must be smart. Phd?" catching me completely off guard. I agreed, and he affirmed my intelligence. Perhaps it was a small interaction, and maybe just a kind man, but it made my New Years feel different, maybe even blessed.

And back to Scotland, the Friday before the wedding, I went with other friends to walk around town, eat lunch, shop and then find the beach facing the North Sea. It was a rare day in Scotland, let alone in January, with 10 degrees centigrade (50F) and sun. A day from God. We went to find the beach and as I saw it, I thought, This looks like the beach from Chariots of Fire. Melissa promptly then found a plaque telling us so. I was on top of the world.

You see, one of the movies lines has to do with Eric Liddel as he prepares to run in the 1924 Olympics. His sister, angry that he has yet to go to China and be a missionary, confronts him and asks him why he is doing this. He turns to her and after a brief exchange he ends with, "When I run, I feel God's pleasure."

I wish I felt that way when I ran ,usually I just feel pissed off at the world for why on earth does this fat Swimmer think she can run to compete in tris. Sigh. But, when I cross that finish line, either in a tri, a big project, or the end of the year or even just succeeding to love my husband and my family and friends, I feel God's pleasure.

And, that is amazing.

Later that weekend, we cried as Amy and Jonny said their vows and sang together,

When we've been here ten thousand years...
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise...
then when we've first begun.

That evening, we ate, drank, and danced our hearts out in typical Ceilah dancing, which I'd never experienced before. I honestly have never kicked, spun, danced or trotted up and down so much at a single wedding or event before! As we stepped outside to the night sky with stars so close we could touch them to say goodbye to the bride and groom, I honestly felt that for a few brief moments, we had experienced a taste of heaven, a taste of those ten thousand years we will have with no sin, no pain, no sorrow and together with loved ones, both ones we know, and Others Yet to Be Known.

My heart is full, I saw an angel, says James' Blunt bittersweet song about love lost. We all know those moments, but in this case, I experienced love in a way I haven't in a long time, and in the words of Genesis, "It was good.".