Goodness! I have so much on my mind, I don’t even know where to begin! Please bear with me, I have a lot of ground to cover. These past 5 days have been some of the best in my life, not only because of the amazing place that we have visited, but because of how much God has taught me. I sit here full of pure joy and happiness, which is quite a blessing. I have been blessed with so much, and this experience has humbled me because I take for granted so much in my life, and even the opportunity that God has given me to take this trip. When I read over my last post, I realize how much has changed since last week. Actually, it’s been less than a week! Well, let’s just start at the beginning.
Goodbyes were hard, as expected, but once I got through security and was waiting for my train I started to get excited. I just had to get past the fear of leaving my family/Gerrit and I finally got the excitement and anticipation that I was expecting. The flight was actually on time (thank you Delta) and we landed in London an hour early at 6:30am London time. Unfortunately, the three of us only got around 2 hours of sleep on the plane and had to get through that whole next day until we could actually sleep again. Trouble started right away, because we got to the place we were going to leave our luggage and they had misinformed us about the prices. So we decided to leave it there anyway and made our way to our hostel in Victoria. This is about an hour journey, using both the tube and having about a 20 minute walk. When we got to the hostel, they informed us that we could leave our luggage in their storage area, so we made the hour journey back to Heathrow, retrieved our luggage and dragged all our bags (about 7 suitcases and 3 backpacks between us) through the tube and back to the hostel! Boy, that was not a good start to our day! After we got it there, we proceeded to the coach station where we hopped on a coach bus for 8 1/2 hours and finally arrived in the capital city of Scotland (Edinburgh) at around 2am.
As you can see, this wasn’t a fantastic start to our trip. We were overtired, stressed out, and frustrated. But God came through for us, and it was so amazing to see how quickly God provided solutions. I did a lot of praying that first day, mostly because I was scared about what was ahead and I knew that I didn’t want to start the trip with a negative attitude. And after that, something changed. I became calm, collected, and patient! Which for me is very abnormal! But this attitude kept up for the rest of this past week, and it has been such a blessing! I am able to be still and listen to what God has been teaching me! No stress, no fear, just an amazing location where I heard God speak to me! Not hear as in I directly heard His voice, but heard as in seeing Him in everything that I did, all that I saw, and everyone I talked to. I have really enjoyed this new attitude and outlook on life, and I’m planning on keeping it. I was listening to Be Still My Soul today, and it just hit me how that’s what I did this week, I allowed my soul to still so that I could focus on my relationship with Jesus,and boy has it done wonders! I will talk later about some of those lessons I’ve learned, but for now, back to what I’ve been up to!
On our first day we just wandered around Edinburgh, taking in all the sights and marveling in the beauty and history of the city. I seriously walked around with my mouth wide open muttering, ‘, I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love with this town and I don’t care who knows it!’. Well, something to that effect. It’s just so mesmerizing! The whole time I walked around I felt like I was walking through a movie, and the only one I could relate it to was the Harry Potter movies. That might be because J.K.Rowling actually got a lot of inspiration for her books from Edinburgh, and wrote the 1st, 2nd, and last book there, but it’s also just because I could actually imagine people with capes walking around the city and fitting in! There’s just something magical about the history and the architecture. We visited the castle (although we didn’t go in), went in some of the shops, visited the Scotland Museum and just took in our surroundings for the rest of the day.
That night we spent some time at the hostel, and we were pleasantly surprised with the caliber of people that we met there. Not only were people friendly and inviting, but they were willing to talk about where they were from and their culture and just about themselves in general. I think my favorite part of this whole trip so far was how much I have learned just from talking to people from around the world. I have met people from Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, Brazil, Spain, France, Germany, and so many more, and to hear about their outlook on life and what they believe in has been so intriguing! I have had the opportunity to share my faith with multiple people, whether through casual talk about the Bible classes I’m going to take at JUC or why I am going to Israel. It has been amazing to have the chance to make connections with people and have them ask questions about my faith and why I believe what I do. Not only has it allowed me to share about Jesus, but it, in a weird way, helped strengthen my own faith. When I was talking about why I believe in Christianity instead of any other world religions, I had kind of an AHA moment. Those don’t happen very often, and when they do, they change my life. And at that moment I realized and thought to myself, ‘You know what? I actually believe what I’m saying!’ And not just because it’s what I’ve been taught my whole life or because it’s what everyone back homes expects me to believe, but I really do believe that Jesus Christ is my Savior! It’s hard to explain what was going on in my head, but for the first time I felt like my faith was finally becoming my own. And ever since then, I’ve had this inner peace about everything, like I have finally surrendered my life fully to God and that He has me completely under his control. I don’t need to worry or fear about the unexpected, because God knows how many hairs are on my head, and he full well knows what I have ahead of me in Jerusalem! I can’t even begin to express the joy I have felt after that time, and I have been praising God for everything ever since!
Well, that was quite a tangent. I guess I should explain what else we did, huh? That night we went on a pub crawl, which is basically where an employee of the hostel takes us to pubs around the area and we get to meet other travelers and enjoy discounted drinks. I thoroughly enjoyed that night because I got to have so many meaningful conversations with many different people from different backgrounds. It was so interesting to learn about the different customs and politics of different countries! That night I made connections with multiple travelers, but significant ones with Tim (from the Netherlands) and Lindsay (from Canada).The next day Stephen didn’t feel good, so I ended up walking around the town with Lindsay. She had been to Edinburgh before, so she was able to show me around and bring me to pubs around the area. I got to do some shopping for my family and see some of the parts of Edinburgh that I hadn’t seen in my wanderings the day before. It was cool just to experience the city as a normal day, and spend it with someone new. By the next day Stephen was feeling better, so we went on a walking tour for 3 1/2 hours (in the freezing rain, no less!) which was very informative. We got to learn a lot about the Scottish history and some interesting facts we wouldn’t have known just by visiting the tourist attractions. That night the three of us climbed Arthur’s Seat, which sits on the outskirts of the town. It was quite dangerous, and I was a bit perturbed at Stephen for making us go up the dangerous way, but it turned out to be quite an adrenaline rush. It was an amazing view of the city, and well worth the exhausting 800 ft climb up! That night we finished up with eating at The Sheep’s Heid Inn, which was been serving food for 700 years!
This morning we went to church at St. Giles Cathedral, which is a gorgeous cathedral that has been around since the 1600’s. It was a very interesting service, complete with a traditional communion (served with real wine from a goblet that is passed along in a circle) and a choir. It was cool to be in such an old church and to experience the traditions that are still being used today. Finally, we walked around a bit to take more pictures and then took the train through the Scottish countryside (we even got to see the ocean) back to London, and that is where I am now, sitting in the pub beneath our hostel taking full advantage of the free wifi and reflecting on my experiences the past few days.
A Few Last Notes:
– I love the calm, slow culture of the Scots! They take in things as they come every day and I have such a great desire to try to mimic that in my own life!
– I am so thankful for my travel mates! The three of us have been able to navigate in unknown places and find solutions for problems between ideas between us, and I am so happy that I am traveling with the two of them! We are getting along…at least for now! 🙂 Nah, it’s been good, and our friendships are growing much deeper as a result of our travels.
– We have been so pleasantly surprised with the hostels! I would recommend them to anyone who wants to meet people from around the world and have opportunities to get to know them. Many people told me I was crazy for staying in hostels, but staying in them has been one of the best decisions we made because they have been clean, safe, and I have felt at home, unlike a hotel.
– I am going to start saying cheers because I think it is such a cool way to say goodbye!
– I have really been coming into my own, because besides Stephen and Natalie, I’m pretty much on my own with money and traveling and getting places. It’s awesome to see that I can actually stand up on my own two feet and finally feel like an adult. People are pretty surprised that I’m traveling abroad at only 18, but I am finding that it is maturing me in my faith and my responsibility, and those are priceless lessons that I would never want to pass up!
I’m going to leave you all with a verse that I have been meditating on today. It comes out of Colossians 1: 28-29,
‘ He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.’ I came across this verse today and it really struck me when I was thinking about my conversations I had had with people about Christ. It is something that I need to do with great energy, and it’s possible because Christ works in me!