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Monday, August 31, 2015

A New Start

Yesterday, Sunday, 30 August, Doug and I officially began our ministry as interim ministers of the American International Church in London. It was a great day for us, and we hope the church too, as we stepped into this new and exciting role.
Saturday was a funny day for us as we anticipated our first Sunday. It has been 8 months since we last led a worship service so we were both filled with some nervous excitement that we had not felt in years! It was good to start to feel this rhythm again, of preparing for Sunday and getting ready to enter into worship with a church community that we would now be journeying with over the next several months.
New to us in this setting is commuting to church via public transportation. The bus route was quiet and easy and we arrived with plenty of time to spare. Our associate and a host of volunteers had things well in hand and it was a delight to watch the moving pieces of a church community working together towards readying the church for a morning of worship. 
We were both thankful that we had attended church the previous week and also for the lovely gathering that the council held for us on the previous Thursday. These two events had allowed us to begin to meet people, put names and faces together and give us a sense of belonging early on in the process. 
An added bonus to our first Sunday at AIC was that two families who had worshipped at Immanuel in Stockholm were present with us. One, a couple from Germany, who happened to be in town for business and came a bit early to participate in our first service, and the other a family who had relocated to London about a year and a half ago, who actually live near us in London! What fun to see those familiar faces in the congregation.
It was good to worship together, to hear Doug preach, to lead in prayer, and to be so warmly welcomed. The ministry feels exciting to us and we remain humbled and blessed to be a part of this community for however long this season lasts.
After church, a group ventured over to a local Italian restaurant, and we enjoyed some warm conversation and laughter.
It feels genuinely good to be plugging into a church again. There were some feelings of adjustment as we started anew and yet, there is a deep familiarity with our roles as pastors that feels good to awaken. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

London Life (2)

It's been almost a week since my last post. And a few days since we've seen as much sunshine as in this photo! That's the back of our house from our lovely garden. Tanner definitely loves it.

The posting was delayed in part due to the fact that whilst attempting to improve our internet quality at home, I managed to completely screw up the router so now it doesn't work at all. That means data only through our phones at home and therefore, not much time on the computer! A new router is coming tomorrow with brand new service starting in early September so hopefully our sluggish internet issues will be a thing of the past!

Life continues to move forward.
We have a bank account after 5 trips to the bank! (applause)
We have applied and interviewed for our National Insurance Cards! (applause)
We have successfully navigated the public transportation system in various directions! (applause)
Well, you get the picture. Lots of applause and patting ourselves on the back.

We attended the worship service at the American International church on Sunday and the welcome was warm and embracing. This week Doug will preach and it marks our first official Sunday as pastors of the church. We've been busy with meeting folks, getting our office set up (sharing a room, but not desks!), and gaining familiarity with the staff and environment of the church. Tonight we're having dinner with the chair of the church and the chair of the search committee. Tomorrow night is a dinner at a council member's home for council and their spouses. Looking forward to continuing to put names and faces together and starting this great journey of ministry together.

Tanner continues to adjust well although he is aging a bit. We've been up to The Heath, as Hampstead Heath is affectionately named and are dazzled by the beautiful wide open space so close to our home. The views of the city are also quite spectacular. Tanner loves running wild up there and of course, managed to find a bit of a mud hole last week! He does wear himself out however, not fully understanding when to give it a rest. Once home, he pretty much collapses!

No shows on the schedule this week but we continue to list the entertaining things we are interested in doing. There is no shortage. We ventured through Camden market last Saturday. CRAZY CROWDED. Camden is quite interesting with a sub-culture all of its own. Gigantic signs and sculptures adorn many of the buildings and various and sundry items are for sale. Doug and I thought we might pick up some new clergy attire at this stall. 

The neighborhood pub is quite nice, with a large outdoor seating area. We enjoyed an English cider and a Belgian beer along with chips and malt vinegar one evening. 

We've had loads of sunshine and even some very hot weather along with our fair share of rain. Got caught in the rain again...bought a couple of cheap pocket umbrellas and hopefully one of these days we will learn! I've got good clothing and shoes for the climate, but one must remember to wear them or bring them along in order for them to be any good!

Tanner continues to enjoy riding the bus or the tube with us. He's always happy to join the fun, no matter where we are heading. And he is sleeping just fine in the guest bed, except overnight, when he hogs the king size bed downstairs that he shares (begrudgingly) with us. 

Some simple observations thus far:
English cheddar cheese is awesome.
Having a good hair day is overrated in a wet climate.
The tube and the busses become saunas on wet, warmish days. The transition from a dry desert climate to a wet, humid, urban island climate means damp is the new normal. Takes some adjusting for sure.
The British really do have a crazy and wonderful sense of humor. And they love their quiz shows! Which is good for us because we like humor and quiz shows!
Doug thinks my attempts at a British accent are horrible and that is why he is the only one who is hearing them thus far.
Obviously, we are loving it!


Thursday, August 20, 2015

London Life

We've been here almost a week and are actually starting to feel at home. The fact that we are somewhat familiar with the neighborhood we are living in and the area where the church is located are big helps. We also know a few folks and everyone we've met is so lovely. Feels so warm and welcoming. Can't wait to truly dig in with the congregation and see how the ministry unfolds.

So what's new? Doug's in heaven with the perfect egg salad sandwich on sale everywhere!

We've taken full advantage of the theater scene this week! We bought same day tickets to War Horse.
War Horse was great being so close.
Sat a few feet from the stage and loved it. The theater is clearly one of my favorite things in the whole world to do so I'm super excited to be in one of the major hubs where it all unfolds! Then, last night, I was invited to join a mom and her two kids to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Royal Theater where Charlie was performed
I was very excited! This family has been awesome to us as we have settled in. We first met when I did the women's conference here in London several years ago and it was just an immediate click. Their boys are adorable and I was happy to have them accompany me to the show!
My handsome dates for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
I was especially proud of myself for navigating the right bus and getting home all by myself last night! Then, in a stroke of unbelievable luck, the church staff was invited to see the dress rehearsal of Kinky Boots tonight! West End Shows use the church facilities for rehearsal space during the week and this time the producer offered us the chance to see the show which opens tomorrow night! So exciting! I've heard so many lovely things about this show and it was at the top of our list. So 3 major west end shows this It's giving me that, "Hey, I live in London" feeling!

Tanner seems well adjusted now, with a bit more spring in his step. We've ventured to both Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill, short walks from our house and gorgeous areas.
Tanner making friends on the tube!
We also took him to work with us the other day so he rode the top deck of the double decker red bus and ventured onto the tube with us.
Mr. Tanner on the bus
People smiled a lot so I think he was well-received.
He likes the rumble of the tube on his belly!

Today has been back to grammar school as I've sought to learn the coins! Learning the money is a big part of starting to feel familiar with being in a foreign land and the coins are very confusing!
Learning the coins...
Someone moving to the US once asked me what a dime was and it revealed how "insider" our money talk can be. For the record, pence is penny, and a pound and a quid are the same thing. Kind of like a dollar and a buck. We're earning pounds so not paying too much attention to the exchange rate, which is good, because London is expensive.

We've got our iPhones working nicely with UK sim cards now. One funny little mistake...I texted Doug: Now you have my number. Love you, Jodi so he could just load my number in. Except I wrote his number down wrong and some dude named Jimmy was getting my messages. Whoops. Nothing like a little cyber stalking our first week here! It's all sorted now although I did get a text from Doug yesterday when I went to the park to meet a friend, "How do I know you are not meeting Jimmy?!" He continues to make me laugh.

In other British way of life things: English muffins are just  called muffins here.
Just muffins, tasty too!
We're 0-2 on getting a bank account opened. You have to have a utility bill or bank statement with name and address on it...we have nothing official with our address on it so we're waiting for a change of address from our Swedish bank. Then the world will be our oyster. Speaking of which, we are using our Oyster cards well and navigating the tube and busses. I prefer busses as you can watch the world go by. The bus stops are slightly closer to our house than tube stops, and the tube is insufferably hot right now. Busses are warm too but I guess I'm like Tanner...I like looking out the window!

I've only almost been run over once and am adjusting to looking for cars in the correct direction. It's great being in a foreign country but one where your language is spoken, at least most of the time. We've been cleaning and sorting in the  house, making it our own and our shipment arrived today so we have more clothing and books and of course, some treats from Bath and Body Works to make it feel like home.

The weather has been quite good thus far. Mild temperatures, a bit of sunshine, of course, some rain but overall not too oppressive. I'm walking a ton more than I was in CA...well over the 10,000 steps on my fitbit and that's mostly from just simply doing life.

We'll attend church this Sunday as "spectators" and begin our public ministry on August 30. We are taking meetings with folks and working at getting set up to function here in the UK.  We feel remarkably at home and are really enjoying taking in the English neighborhoods, watching the BBC and figuring out life.

We remain utterly blessed, humbled and honored that we've been given this opportunity and greet each new day with eagerness.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

At "Home" in London

It's a good feeling to fully unpack after a long journey. It reminds you that you are not on a trip or a vacation but rather making a move with the intention to stay put for a bit. Having stayed in our residence before with the family who preceded us at the church, I was familiar with the property. Still, walking in, noting that our friends stuff was no longer present to make the house a home, was a strange feeling. It certainly gave us empathy for our colleague in Stockholm who had the same experience. They had stayed with us when the home was ours. When they walked in to begin their interim ministry, it was merely an apartment with some furniture. It was also a bit strange knowing that we had just decorated our home in Palm Springs with all of the things that we love while we hadn't really brought over much to cozy up the home. Even so, as we moved the furniture around, and familiarized ourselves with what was here, unpacked our bags, and introduced Tanner to his very own garden, complete with grass, we could see that soon, it would feel like ours.
This is the first time I have lived in a two story house so going up and the down the stairs is a new experience. Two bedrooms, a room with a shower and sink, another room with a bathtub and toilet and the laundry room are downstairs. Upstairs is the living room, dining room, kitchen and extra bedroom and bathroom. The back kitchen door opens to the garden.
We did take advantage of having a car and dashed to Sainsburys for a substantial grocery shop since in the future this will be done on foot. It was quite fun to wander through this big beautiful store, marveling at all of the different things on offer. We decided that we'd have bangers and mash for dinner so purchased some yummy Cumberland sausages and some "extra tasty" potatoes. Had to laugh a bit at the packaging. Stocking up my kitchen definitely makes me feel at home!
The other things that the first day included were rides on the tube, (the underground), getting our mobile phones hooked up, successfully ordering my first flat white coffee, and watching some hilarious British TV. They poke fun at the news ala Jon Stewart style with great flair and it's a joy to experience this.
What are my first impressions? The weather will take some getting used to. I've already been rained on a couple of times because I can't seem to remember that I'm not in the desert anymore! London is a big, diverse, wonderful city with so much to experience. Tons of good and nutritious options for take away food. And some not so nutritious, but yummy! It's such a thrill to have the chance to live here and soak it in over time instead of cramming loads in over 3 days. I love not being in the car all the time and returning to a lifestyle where walking and taking public transport are the preferred modes of transport. Friday I logged over 12,000 steps and Saturday 14,000 and that was just getting about. My neck is on a constant swivel ensuring that I've looked the right way, twice, in order to cross the street! I love being in a foreign country where English is spoken!
What do I miss? Mainly familiarity and knowing where to go for everything. No Target around the corner! And I have to read products to figure out what they are for! Some of the stuff is similar to what we had in Sweden and of course the labels being written in English helps. I miss the American style appliances: A big and fast washing machine. Big wide refrigerator. Here, everything is smaller but it all works and the smaller fridge in particular just lends itself to shopping differently which I don't really mind when I can walk to a store. I have to sit down and look at the money. The coins are different and some are worth $1.50 and $3.00 so we need to sort that. But I must say, I love being back in Europe and in a new country yet one with which we have great familiarity and of course, one that we do truly adore.
The day broke into beautiful warm sunshine on Saturday so we decided to venture over to Primrose Hill, apparently the highest point in London. It's a gorgeous park with spectacular views of the city, only about 10 minutes from our place. Many folks were out enjoying the weather and we anticipate that we might have a picnic or two there ourselves as time goes on! Tanner, of course, loved rolling in the grass.
All in all, we're feeling quite at home here and look forward to continuing to get to know how to get around. Most of all, we are looking forward to becoming a part of the American Church in London community. We don't start on Sundays until August 30 so today we're off to All Souls Church to see what's happening in John Stott's old community!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Crossing to England

After the de-worming, which was painless and easy...Tanner had to swallow two pills...we were off on another beautiful walk. Tanner found the water once again and was a happy boy! He was a bit tired however and showed no interest in playing stick!

Soon it was time to make our way to the ferry. We got all of the luggage loaded up once again and made our way to the terminal. Tanner was first to be inspected and that's when things changed. The supervisor informed us that 24 hours will not have passed since the de-worming and therefore Tanner cannot board the ferry. WHAT? We missed the window by 3 hours. ugh. So, after the initial stress, acceptance of our situation kicked in and we decided to get a hotel nearby and fortunately were able to re-book our passage for the following afternoon. We were very lucky that our friends had not yet departed so they drove us into the town of Hoek van Holland where we settled into a hotel. Of course, it was the only hotel in town without wifi. Grrr. I found a wifi signal in town and re-booked the rental car and let our friends in England know that our arrival was going to be a bit later than expected. All in all, it was OK. Just a lot of messing around with loads of luggage.

The next day we cruised right onto the ship and got Tanner settled into the kennel. At least it was a bigger kennel than his travel crate but he was not happy. Barking, crying, and banging on the door! Not fun. We slipped out and went up to our cabin where we could watch him on closed circuit TV! He took forever to settle down and we could see him sitting up, barking, and just generally being a nuisance! There were several dogs on board and I'm sure they talked to one another plenty! The crossing was uneventful. We mostly slept as we too were still plenty tired from all of the doings. It was good. We had a very nice dinner on board and then it was time to get off.

We literally sailed through customs and they did not even look at Tanner's paperwork. Oh well, I guess they counted on the Netherlands ensuring that all was in order, which they did!

The next big step was picking up the rental car (smooth), getting our stuff loaded in, (barely fit) and Doug figuring out how to drive on the left whilst it was raining and getting dark. Thankfully we semi-figured out the GPS. We only took one wrong turn and ran into traffic at 11.00 pm. I told Doug that it was just like being in LA! He did great...such a good driver and handles the newness very well. We were all glad to pull into our home and have a lovely couple from church waiting for us. It was midnight by the time we rolled in so it was very generous of them to wait up for us.

Our colleague from the church had made our bed and left some groceries. The couple who waited for us left Tanner a can of gourmet dog food! We unpacked a bit but mostly just all fell into bed. It was such a relief and joy to have arrived in our new home.
(thank you Hanneke for some of these photos!)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

And We're Back on European Soil

The trip was reasonably smooth once we got checked in and on our way. Upon arrival at the airport, we were told that Tanner's crate was not correct and that he would not be allowed to fly in it. WHAT?! I was freaking out. Doug told me to calm down and we finally got it worked out. We kept saying that he traveled on KLM in January with this crate! It was not a good moment. Finally, we got the OK and then the next battle was getting Tanner inside of it! He revolted but ultimately yielded to the reality. It was not fun to hear him crying as they wheeled him away.
We were quite anxious to find him once we landed in Amsterdam. It was easy as could be to go pick him up at the odd-sized baggage belt! Once cleared, we opened the gate and out he ran! So good to see him. He drank his body weight in water and did his business and we were on our way. Always so good to be with him after being separated. We both said that we wish we could go see him during the flight. We may have to try to rig a camera sometime!

It was a joy to see our dear friends upon our arrival. Herman and Hanneke and their children were an integral part of our ministry in Stockholm when we first started. Great church leaders and wonderful friends, their hospitality was unbeatable then and now! It was so wonderful to be met by them at the airport and welcomed to their lovely home in Alphen aan den Rijn. After showers to clean up and a little snack to get our blood pumping again, we took a long and lovely walk beside a lake. It is so refreshing to be in a cooler climate! Tanner was happy to be out with us and at one point was able to jump into the lake. First time in swimming for him in many, many months so he was one happy (and tired) dog. We returned home to a beautiful dinner on the deck where we savored delicious food and wine and great conversation. We have this rare ability to talk about anything and everything, and while it has been 17 years since we first met and 3 years since we last saw one another, it felt as though no time at all had passed between visits. This is the mark of true friendship.
The evening temperature continued to cool and at one point we even had to put on a sweater and wrap Tanner up in a little blanket!  Our little burrito was oh so content. We had forgotten that it stays light well into the evening here so that combined with the nine hour time difference caused us to lose track of time! It was still light when we finally, at 9.30, had to yield to our sleepiness. We slept great. It was so nice to just have a leisurely morning, with delicious strong coffee and gouda cheese!
Tanner had to visit the vet to be de-wormed before we entered England so we took a 10 minute walk to the village vet and got it all done. The
vet was very nice. Tanner weighed in at 42 kilos, a strapping 92 pounds! The vet gave him his pills and we were on our way.
Today we will enjoy some time with friends and then board a ferry in Hook of Holland. We will sleep on the ferry and arrive in Harwich, England early tomorrow morning. We'll pick up a car and drive to our new home. We are very much looking forward to starting our new life in England.
Many thanks to those of you who prayed for us and Tanner on the crossing! There are so many of our friends from Sweden in particular who have sent words of welcome and expressed joy at our being back on this side of the pond! We are happy too and look forward to enjoying all that this adventure has in store for us.