This massive experience- larger than life, richer than I could have hoped, deeper than I’ve ever gone, more stretching than I’ve ever imagined– is ending. Just one week left– even less than that were I to be honest with myself!
The ending days have been powerfully wonderful as I’ve been able to adventure with Karen first in Ireland then England. It has been a blessed and good reunion. We’ve laughed deeper and longer than before, had some good, deep, building conversations and have shared our hopes and dreams for the future.
There have been fun meals — even Karen’s first visit to the thunder, lightning, rain and animals of the Rainforest Cafe in London –walks through our past as we visited the places we met and hung-out in, in 1978, incredible theater and concerts.
The stroll down memory lane took us to visit Muswell Hill, the area of north London where we had lived with our home stays as students. We found our original home-stay houses, the churches we each attended, the busses and tubes we rode, the laundromats visited, and places we walked. Most significantly we walked through Alexandra Park where back in 1978 on a midnight walk “my face fell off,” as Karen says, meaning, suddenly she saw the person behind the mask, a ‘cute guy with a crinkly smile,’ she loved.
We also went to Russell Square and walked to the pharmacy school where we had had all our classes. The building had been updated inside and the exterior was covered with scaffolding as renovations continue. New bag checks and student scanners are now installed, and kept is from wandering in.
As we entered and told the guard how we had attended classes there 38 years ago, he told the head cheese who gifted us with two huge pictorial books describing the century old school. He also arranged for us to tour the entire five story building! In that tour we did discover what had become of our classroom, and visited all the floors we never went in 1978…🤔
Our last weekend in London we took in two more plays, worship at St Paul’s, the London Transport Museum and the Tate Gallery.
Beyond that list of places, events and experiences were emotions. Deep joy seems paramount these days. And, running second, alongside the joy, there are tears.
Coming to the ending of this journey has my heart tender. I’m not sad to be to the end, I’m really excited to see what the Lord has planned next as the Camino of life continues, but there’s a definite end approaching. And this tenderness of heart comes with tears.
I’ve seen this at several points and have written of those along the way. Most recently was when we went to see the play “Beautiful” in London.
It was last November when I was in London visiting that I saw the play “Beautiful: the Carole King Musical” up on the Aldwych Theatre marquee, and thought then how much I’d like to see it when Karen and I came this fall.
Carole King’s first album was “Tapestry,” it released in 1971, when I was in seventh grade, during a difficult period of life. Hearing her sing “You’ve Got a Friend” was a message I had needed. I learned to play her music in the next few years, and played and loudly sang her songs in my living room during high school.
In a sense, I grew up on her music.
Karen and I made no advance plans for specific plays. We are well-acquainted with the London West End and how to get last minute, great tickets. Karen was not certain about “Beautiful,” but, over the year, we kept it in mind.
It was one of those “I need to see that play” feelings, for me. And Karen was totally in favor of me going alone, if she decided not to take it in. But as we entered the week she knew she needed to see it with me. She had this correct sense that I would need a witness there for me and perhaps, she might even enjoy it. In the end, we both went and enjoyed it immensely.
The Saturday afternoon matinee was played to a packed house. The story enacted is Carole King’s early life history through her Carnegie Hall performance June 18, 1971.
It’s easily the best and most unique life story musical I’ve ever seen. The quality of the production was stellar; the creative presentation was marvelous as it wove Carole’s life story with her music.
As I was sitting there the tears began. By the end, I was crying and couldn’t stop. Karen was so present with me for this. Even as we left the theatre after the play, my tears continued. I couldn’t quite identify the reason.
As I wrote about the experience, what came to light is how much my heart has been awakened to feel at a new level. The play reminded me of where my broken heart was when I was belting out her songs as a teen. And it reminded me of how much my own heart has been touched since then and again now by this journey.
The heart that flew off to Ireland, August 17th, was different than the one that will fly back to Portland this Friday. God’s changed it, He’s awakened it, He’s done what He promised, replaced the hard parts with tender flesh. The change is real. So the fact that the sabbatical time is ending is good. I need to learn to live from this new place– tears and all. And won’t that be … beautiful!