Why England?

I wrote the following today in response to a question I posed to myself: Why England?

It is beauty. It is history. It has flavour. America… well. To me, America is strip malls, and CVS stores, and WalMart, and Home Depot. All the same. Cookie cutter. And the thing is, the cookies aren’t all that good. Stale, crumbly, not very tasty. England though… aye. Roman walls. Roman baths. Fields where men fought for the Kingdom while Christopher Columbus was still 400+ years in the future.

As a child, my longings were more pedestrian, if they existed at all. Throw strikes. Master the off-hand layup. Not bad per se. But I had no Boxen. No Narnia. No Middle Earth.

Now I do.

to be continued

I’m baaaack. Well, maybe.

Hello again.

As I so preemptively mentioned in this site’s About page, my efforts at blogging over the years generally start well, and then wash back out to sea shortly thereafter. This blog has suffered the same fate. After a series of heart-rending posts, I guess my old blogger self just chucked it all in after my trip in late 2011. *sigh*

Well, I guess rumors of my blogging demise have been greatly exaggerated. Because here I am! I actually just wrote a little poetic piece today about England that will be in the next post. So let this post serve as something heralding that. So there.  😀

It is time

Let’s go.

St. George's Cross

Tea minus 7 days and counting

Hello again –

Today is 12 November 2011.  At a Phoenix-area Starbucks, catching up on various emails, freelance worker tasks, etc.  This time next week, I will be on an airplane that should be nearing arrival at Dulles airport in DC.  Following that, I will be boarding a connecting flight bound for Heathrow in London.

My dear wife unloaded all of the suitcase, backpack, and other travel gear earlier this week, and so today, packing will be on my list of things to do.  Hard to believe that the trip will be here so soon!

I’m looking forward to seeing how the experience of this trip will differ from the one we took in 2009.  That year, we were in the UK in April and May, when the days were getting longer, the grass was green, and the flowers were in bloom.  This time, it will be just the opposite – days getting shorter, and the weather likely being a bit bleaker.  Then again, I’ve lived in the desert all of my life, so foggy, dark, rainy days are gifts to behold for me.

One of my plans is to see Harrod’s department store in London.  I’m really hoping that they’ll have it decked out for Christmas.  I wonder if I’ll feel like Buddy the Elf running around Gimbels.  We shall see.

Death is not an option

Hello friends –

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while. Alas, life, work, work, life, tiredness, sleep, etc. get in the way ofttimes. But, I’ve finally got a few minutes to my own tonight. And having just told of this blog to a friend tonight… well, it’s time for a new daily (ha!) post.

As I march on this journey towards living in England, I’ve become acutely aware of the recurring theme of life in that in order to live, one must die.  One of the Scripture verses I learned many years ago is Philippians 1:21, where St. Paul tells us, “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Now certainly, given Paul’s many days languishing inside a Roman prison, he undoubtedly referred to the more literal death.  But even so, in the course of our journey on this “mortal coil”, we experience many deaths along the way.  And even though the ultimate death leads us to The Ultimate Heavenly glory, those little deaths along the way are the doorways to glories here on earth.  Much like the caterpillar must “die” in order for the beautiful butterfly to soar.  In fact, there can be no other way.

I’ve certainly experienced this as I’ve dreamed of living overseas.  A couple of years ago, shortly after returning from my first (and to this point, only) trip to the UK, I actually explored the possibility of working for my current employer while in England.  I even contemplated creating a new position in the company that would make such a thing possible (at least in my mind).  While creative, the reality was that my organization really didn’t need a programmer based in England.  Not a surprise, that.  And while the door eventually stayed closed, I am so thankful that my boss at the time really helped me in the process.  I had to try.

The fact is, as I live this journey out, I’m discovering that for this dream to come true, many things must die.  I love working for my current employer.  It has literally been a dream come true.  I prayed for so many years that God would allow me to ply my craft for a company whose mission and values matched my own.  And lo and behold, I ended up working for a several-years-running winner of the Best Christian Workplace award!!!  In fact, I would put my company against any organization out there, be they secular or ministerial, in terms of quality, professionalism, and excellence.  In God’s incredible goodness, He not only answered my prayer… He blew me away.

And yet… this too must die.

Having a life that provides more mobility – the type of mobility that I need in order to pursue this dream – requires that the “security” of a regular, full-time, 40 hours a week job must be put to rest.  Hence, my upcoming foray into the world of freelance work, along with the pursuing of other business ideas.  Ever since my first job as a bagger at Smitty’s back in 1987, I’ve always worked for another.  Beginning in January 2012, I will begin a new chapter – working for myself.  Excited?  Yes.  Endless possibilities?  Yes.  Scared?  Yes.  But ya know… it has to be this way.

I thought of the title of this blog post (“Death is not an option”) a few weeks ago actually.  At that time, one of our cats was a bit sick, and we were very close to taking her to the vet to put her down.  We have one dog and five cats, and of the things that potentially keep us a bit bound up, the pets is one such thing.  During those deliberations when we seriously pondered putting the cat to sleep, despite the sadness, I had a sense then also that this was part of the process.  Things must die in order for new life to begin.  Well, as it turned out, we decided not to go through with that, and with a bit more deliberate TLC on our part, the cat is doing a bit better.  BUT, ironically enough, another one of our cats has now gone missing.  It’s been over two weeks since we last saw her, and there’s no telling where she is.  Reports of owls and country animal trucks in the neighborhood lead one to think the worst.  Then again, the cat has gone missing for days at a time in the past, so maybe she’s just one block over.  Who knows?  Cats are mercurial creatures after all.  But either way, I can’t help but wonder if some of this “animal drama” is a way that God is using me to detach from the life I’ve known, and preparing me for the next step of this incredible journey.

Occupy England

Hello again dear readers –

It’s been a few days since I posted here, and so as to not get too far away from my regular schedule, it’s time to share my thoughts with the world.

The trip to England is still on, and as I type this (at a Dunkin Donuts near my home on Saturday 22 October), my departure is a mere 28 days away. My Oxford friend has secured lodging for £10/day (!), and it looks like I’ll be staying once again at the St. Paul’s youth hostel for £16/night. This should be fun, especially as the “Occupy London” folks have set up shop outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral, resulting in its closure for the first time since WWII. I just hope they don’t storm the hostel.

I’ve taken to watching a few more cricket videos online lately. No, not the insects… but that baseball-esque game played with wickets, overs, bowlers, bails, and wickets. I’d love to try it someday. As it turns out, my lodging place in Oxford is just north of The Oxford University Cricket Club. So who knows? Maybe I’ll get a chance to take up a bat and knock a few balls over the line for some sixes. And I do wonder if this is the location where an Inspector Morse episode was filmed – that of the cricket tournament where one of the players met with an untimely death. (I know, I know – someone dies in a British murder mystery program – crazy!)

Until next time… steady on.

England, here I come!!

Forget this 2012 stuff – I’m going to England THIS NOVEMBER!!!

Here’s how it went down. Last Friday, October 14, I got an email from Christian Concern telling of an upcoming conference in London.  I offhandedly forwarded the email to my wife, saying “gosh, I’d love to go to this”.  And at that point, I proceeded to completely forget the email.

Well, a couple of hours later, she calls me and says, essentially, “honey, I REALLY think you should go to this.  It’s right up your alley, and who knows what possibilities might present themselves.”  Now honestly, dear reader, with my dear darling wife supporting me like that, how could I refuse?  Answer: I couldn’t.  So after telling everyone within earshot / emailshot / Facebookshot that I was heading back to England, I got approval for the time off of work (okay okay, maybe I should’ve checked that first…), my wife started looking at flights and lodging, and all the various other wheels and gears have started turning.  My trusty Rick Steves map of England is back out, along with my Underground map, and other such navigational souvenirs from the 2009 trip.  I LOVE IT!

So the plan is this.  Arrive in London on Sunday 20 November, and hustle over to Oxford.  Spend four days there.  YESSS!!!  Eagle and Child, White Horse, Bodleian Library, Sheldonian, Blackwell’s bookshop, Cornmarket Street, Blenheim Palace, Inspector Morse.  Oh yes.  Then on Thursday 24 November, it’s trekking back to London, with a stop near Watford / Northwood to visit our dear friends.  Lodging in London will be at the St. Paul’s Cathedral youth hostel.  Friday and Saturday will be the aforementioned conference.  (Prayer request: according the conference website, visitors from continental Europe may be able to get a tour of Parliament.  Pray that I can convince them somehow that North America is a part of the continent.  Maybe I’ll tell them that, hey, it’s only one hemisphere off, and isn’t that close enough?)  Sunday is flight home… and likely planning on getting back for Trip Number III in 2012.


London… Oxford… Hastings… Scottsdale?!

Hello chaps and chapettes –

I suppose there’s no faking authentic British-ness, no matter how hard one tries.  Tonight, having to take a slight detour on the way home, I had supper at The British Open Pub in Scottsdale.  Now, it wasn’t terrible, per se.  The Guinness was delicious, and the fish and chips were, well, serviceable, I suppose.  Having AMERICAN baseball on the telly diminished the British feel.  And when I asked my waiter if the pad was owned by real live Brits, he said NO!  For shame!  Turns out, the current owners bought it from the previous owners (likely the founders), who were indeed British.  Sigh…  I guess my next stop for such a meal will have to be The George & Dragon in downtown Phoenix.

Our journey to Mother England continues, although we’re very much in “lay the foundations” mode.  Working on getting my resume up to snuff, in preparation for blanketing my potential clients with letters and emails soliciting their business.  One of my target audiences will be British organizations, be they Christian non-profits or otherwise.  Oh, and I found out a few days ago that a friend of mine has a sister-in-law who was raised in Phoenix, and now lives in Scotland.  Very cool!  I have lots of questions for this new acquaintance.

As I type this, my wife is watching Edward & Mrs. Simpson, a British miniseries of the lives and love of King Edward VIII, and Wallace Simpson.  It is comforting to see my wife relaxing enjoying the teledrama, and hearing the lovely English accents from the actors.  Ah, bliss.

Well, signing off.  Cheerio.

Where we stand… but not standing still

Hello again –

This blogging every day routine isn’t so hard… as long as you’re okay skipping a day or two here and there.

Up to this point, I’ve covered what’s gone before.  The murder mystery programs, the period pieces on BBC, and the 2009 rendezvous in Mother England.  We fell in love with her, and she was a wonderful host to us.

That was Phase One.  Prior to that first visit, we planned** to make this adventure a three phase process.  Phase One was the trip that we’ve spoken of.  Phase Two would be a three month extended trip; a month in Location A, a month in Location B, and a month in Location C.  After picking one of those locations, Phase Three would then be the pick-up-the-stakes-and-move migration.

We are on the threshold of Phase Two.  Initially slated for sometime in 2013, we are now aiming to make this voyage in 2012, thanks to some amazing examples of God moving heaven and earth to nudge us along.  Being two months away from debt freedom (thank you Dave Ramsey) sure helps.  Are all the lights green, the stars perfectly aligned?  Of course not.  In fact, it’s akin to driving on a foggy road (in London?), where visibility is about 100 feet.  But, there are plenty of signposts along the road pointing due north, with text reading “Aye, yer journey be this way lad”.  So on we go.  Each day, taking a few steps towards this goal.  Some days we take but one step.  Some days, we take hundreds.  But steps are being taken, and from what Dan Miller, Seth Godin, and other similar writers say, this is the important part.


** Of course, we are mindful of the old saw, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”  Then again, Joseph was commended for planning for seven years of drought during the seven years of abundance.   And in Luke 14, Jesus relates the importance of counting the costs before building a tower.  So there.

Around the island in 80 words

I won’t bore you, dear reader, with a laborious tale of every day/hour/minute of our holiday.  The purpose of this blog, after all, is to outline our plans to go in the future, not what we did in the past.  For the sake of completion, though, here’s a quick rundown of the places we visited:

  • London (a few nights at St. Pauls)
  • Oxford
  • Dymchurch (small town on the English Channel)
  • Hastings
  • Dymchurch again
  • Farnborough (home of the tomb of Napoleon III, and the Catholic National Library)
  • London

So there you have it.  I’m sure that future posts will make references to the various parts of this trip – and may even have pictures!  But for now, thar ya go.