I always get very sentimental on November 29 of every year.
It’s 11 years ago today that my family and I moved from England to the United States. It only feels like three! If some of you have never heard this story, I would love to tell it…
I was born and raised in England, in the city of Brighton (“Hove, actually” as they say) – where fish and chips and seagulls are in abundance. It’s a beautiful city by the sea, and I’m so grateful my sisters and I grew up there!
I love remembering the simplicity of life back then, and the fact that I had a one-mile walk to school every day. Most things are in walking distance, like the small shops at the top of the road that sell milk and bread (and sweets, of course!). Church was only a two-mile drive, and we lived a five-minute walk from the ocean.
For my first 12 years of life, Dad was the senior pastor of Holland Road Baptist Church – a place so dear to our hearts – so I grew up as a pastor’s kid. Although some unfortunately don’t, my sisters and I have always enjoyed being on mission together as a family. It’s a special thing when your family is rooting for the Gospel.
We were heavily involved in ministry, and growing up in England challenged our faith and made us bold for Christ in a nation that doesn’t know him very well. Church and home were safe havens at the end of a long school day, where it was hard to find Christian friends. But we loved life there and I am so thankful for my childhood.
We never even dreamed or thought that we would uproot to move to America. Yet, 11 years later, we are dual citizens; I live in Birmingham, Alabama; my sisters are thriving; my parents are in their element, and most of us just voted in our first U.S. election. It feels surreal (and sometimes I want to cry because being an adult is really hard), yet we are confident that the Lord always works for His glory and to display His kindness.
America is home after 11 years (one year away from being half my life!), yet I love going back to the familiar once a year, and I love reflecting on November 29.
The Lord definitively called our family over to the States through a series of events and confirmations, and my Dad is the pastor at New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. Fayetteville is home, and God has been so sweet to give us “family” over here.
We moved on November 29, and we all remember pulling away from the house, tears streaming down our faces. We remember sitting on the plane with a range of emotions. And we remember walking up the Atlanta airport’s escalators to a huge crowd of church members welcoming us. We remember the heartache of leaving. But we remember the joy of stepping out in faith. And we remember the joy of the past 11 years.
Spiritual culture is different, and strangely more difficult sometimes. I am still learning Southern phrases every day. I don’t like grits or sweet tea, but I love Chick-Fil-A and living in Birmingham has taught me to appreciate barbecue (working on it). I do miss England often, and there is the odd day here and there where I feel like I belong somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic.
However, this scripture comes so tenderly to mind:
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future'” – Jeremiah 29:11
Wherever you have ended up… if you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be or if you’re not where you thought you would be, when we view things through the lens of God’s kindness, we realize that nothing is ever lost on Him. Nothing ever slips through the cracks. More importantly, YOU don’t slip through the cracks. He gives us light for the next step so that we’ll trust Him. He allows us to go through suffering because He wants to be close to us. He allows rocky situations to teach us that our peace is not circumstantial but is based in His constancy. He gives us joy because He is the ultimate cheerful Giver. He challenges us because He wants us to look more like Him. I’m learning that instead of asking, “Why, Lord?” I should say, “Thank you, Father.”
There were days the first few months after moving where I would cry myself to sleep. I probably cried, “Why, Lord?” many times as I mourned the loss of a country, friends, family and familiarity. But, as I look back, I say “Thank you, Father.” He is good to us, and we are so thankful for 11 years of trusting God in the unfamiliar.
Holland Road Baptist Church, our first church home.
The West Pier that burned down. It’s a historic landmark in Brighton.
My family at the beach this past year.