So yesterday when I originally got told that everyone was in meetings until the afternoon I panicked a bit. But then it hit me – I am here to connect and spend time with people but I’m also an introvert, which means I need to recharge my batteries in a quiet environment and have some time on my own. So I was able to have a quiet morning in my PJs, have breakfast and watch some TV, which was really nice. I then decided as people were busy until mid afternoon to go to the cinema to catch a film (The Americans loved me saying this because it was so ‘English’ the way I said it, and without using the word ‘movie’)
Then came the challenge of getting myself there. In England I would just walk from my house to the train station or catch a bus and go to a local cinema but it’s not as easy here unless you drive. I knew I had to get a cab or an Uber and whilst that may seem simple for some, when you are abroad and being careful on how much you use your phone it’s more challenging. Also, because Uber was something new for me, I didn’t know how to do it. Poor Ali got several stressed calls and then when I finally booked it, was worried about how to tip because I didn’t have any small change, and because I didn’t know was expected. I have never used Uber on my own before and was anxious about getting in the car of a stranger. All this might sound silly, but I find it challenging as I am someone who likes to know what is going on. But just like in every other detail of this trip, God had gone before me, and I had a lovely chatty driver, called Dennis, who put me at my ease, and literally talked at me the entire time, so I was able to just smile and nod and make the odd comment until I got to the cinema!
The cinema prices made my day! Going to the cinema in the evenings or at the weekend in London can be very expensive. So when I got a ticket, and refillable popcorn and drink for just $12 I was amazed! You know that great feeling when you feel you have got a right bargain!
I was slightly taken aback that the popcorn was butter-flavoured. I think the server thought I was crazy – I was looking at the topping with incredulity and he couldn’t believe I didn’t know it was just melted butter! What on earth is it doing on popcorn! Where’s the sweet popcorn? I had to resort to putting my chocolate peanut M and Ms on for my sugar rush.
I saw a film that will probably not be shown at cinemas in England, called ‘I can only imagine’. It’s a Christian song that I love and have sung for years and the film was about the writer of the song and his life. I sobbed a lot of the way through it seeing his relationship with his abusive father, who finally came to know the Lord and the beautiful story of redemption God made in their lives. The song was written after his dad passed away and spoke of imagining the beauty of heaven and meeting the Lord. It was a beautiful movie.
I then had a session of co-songwriting and for those of you who know me you, you know song writing is my language and the thing that truly makes my heart sing. Over the last year, whilst being on Worship School, I have been learning more about the beauty of co-writing – working with people whose strengths complement mine. It’s been great to have another pair of eyes and ears to take a song from mediocrity to really strong and moving. Writing melodies is one of my areas of strength and I love creating these, but sometimes my lyrics are just okay. I have been so blessed to write with people who are gifted at developing lyrics and we have wrestled out the best lines and rhymes together and worked out the best fit for the song. We don’t settle for the obvious, but rather challenge people to think about the words that are being sung or that they are singing. I found this process really helpful with some of the congregational songs I have been trying to write.
It’s taken me a long time to get to this place. For years, my insecurities made this type of cooperation hard, and add to that my difficulties in really connecting with others. As I have been working on these fears I have found the real beauty that comes in a secure identity and in overcoming challenges. For years I opted to work alone to avoid rejection and being misunderstood because it felt much safer, however it robbed me of the beauty of working with others. God is now restoring this to me and I am so grateful at how He can redeem things, and how he is teaching me the beauty and necessity of connecting, and being in relationship.
In the afternoon I was part of what they call ‘family dinner’ where about six families all came together. All the children played together and the adults shared ideas, conversations and jokes. It was really lovely to be a part of it, although it was pretty overwhelming for me suddenly being with so many people, a lot of noise and only a few familiar faces. I felt myself retreat a few times but I am learning it is okay to take a few moments and then go back. I managed to take myself back into the conversations and noise even though most of me was wanting to run and hide somewhere quiet. I knew that I was only there for a few hours and so I really tried hard to be part of it. I was very pleased though when one of my friends asked if I would like to cuddle her baby. He was such a cutie and I am so much more comfortable talking baby speak in that sort of busy environment. We had a great time and I was grateful for a way I could still be engaged but on a level that I was able to connect on at that moment.
I am learning to cover myself with grace – pretty much everything I am doing this week is way out of my comfort zone and the main thing is that I have got to a point that I am willing to tackle the challenges and run away and hide. I am willing and I am training, and through God’s grace I’ll continue to overcome hurdles and receive the richness and beauty in deeper connections.
Much love and blessings from Atlanta,