Anywhere With Jesus

Anywhere With Jesus

Jessie B. Pounds, Helen C. Alexander

Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go,
Anywhere He leads me in this world below;
Anywhere without Him dearest joys would fade;
Anywhere with Jesus I am not afraid.

Refrain

Anywhere, anywhere! Fear I cannot know;
Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go.

Anywhere with Jesus I need fear no ill,
Though temptations gather round my pathway still;
He Himself was tempted that He might help me;
Anywhere with Jesus I may victor be.

Refrain

Anywhere with Jesus I am not alone;
Other friends may fail me, He is still my own;
Though His hand may lead me over drearest ways,
Anywhere with Jesus is a house of praise.

Refrain

Anywhere with Jesus, over land and sea,
Telling souls in darkness of salvation free;
Ready as He summons me to go or stay,
Anywhere with Jesus when He points the way.

Refrain

Anywhere with Jesus I can go to sleep,
When the darkening shadows round about me creep,
Knowing I shall waken nevermore to roam;
Anywhere with Jesus will be home, sweet home.

Refrain

Summation

I promise I’ll quit going on about my trip—tomorrow. But I have one last thing to say about it.

As my incredible journey has now come to a close, I find myself reflecting on the last two weeks. I know other people take international trips all the time and don’t feel the need to describe them in any detail or to rave about everything they see. I once was one of those people. But now, after a nineteen-year travel drought, this trip already gleams like a jewel in my memory.

The Rosetta Stone

Almost the minute I knew my kids were offering me this priceless gift, I decided one thing for sure: I would enjoy and savor every moment of this trip, no matter what happened or what the weather was. I would refuse to be discouraged or irritated by anything. (Actually I have that attitude about every trip but especially for a major trip like this.) On this trip, keeping this promise to myself was easy.

My original intent for this trip was to visit some of my childhood friends, and perhaps use their homes as a base from which I might engage in some inexpensive local exploration. Of all the people I visited, I had not seen any more recently than 2004—and at least one not since I was eleven! What I didn’t foresee at all was that each of them would go to such great lengths to show me the wonders of their locale and to ensure that I was treated to the trip of a lifetime. Before I left Texas, there were only two things I hoped to see—Canterbury Cathedral and the train ride from Fort William to Mallaig. If you’ve been following my adventures you know that thanks to the kindness of my friends, I saw SO. MUCH. MORE.

I feel so unworthy to have witnessed the awe-inspiring wonders I’ve seen in the last two weeks. I don’t deserve it—but oh, do I appreciate it! Yet despite the incredible things I’ve seen and done, what stands out most for me is the kindness, generosity, and thoughtfulness of my friends, which I feel I deserve even less! All the things I saw were amazing and I’m sure I would have enjoyed them under any circumstances, but I’ve found that being with friends more than doubles my enjoyment of any experience, especially if they have chosen the adventure to share with me.

So here are a few lists I’ve made to sum up this trip:

Cathedrals:

Canterbury

Rochester

Carlisle

St. Giles (Edinburgh)

Lichfield

Other churches (an incomplete list as I didn’t write everything down):

St. Conan’s Kirk

Higham

St. Martin’s (Canterbury)

King’s College Chapel (Cambridge)

St. Margaret’s (Edinburgh)

Crichton Memorial (Dumfries)

St. Conan’s Kirk (Loch Awe)

The Parish Church of All Saints (Sandon)

Castles:

Rochester Castle

Rochester

Carlisle

Edinburgh

Stirling

Duntulm

Eilean Donan

Stalker

Bucket List Items Checked Off on this Trip:

On Hadrian’s Wall

Canterbury Cathedral

√ Male voice choir singing Morte Christe

√ Punting on the Cam

√ King’s College Chapel

√ A visit to Carlisle and Greysteads

√ Hadrian’s Wall

√ SCOTLAND

√ Edinburgh Castle

√ Train ride from Fort William to Mallaig

√ Isle of Skye

√ Loch Lomond

√ Sandon Hall

Most of the other things I’ve done on this trip would have been on the list too, if I had known enough to add them! But all of those items were on my list before I left home and had been for many years or even decades.

Most emotional moments? There were definitely several. Top of the list would be seeing my friends again after so many decades. The surprise of the male voice choir in Rochester Cathedral. The priceless Treasures of the British Library. Stepping into Greysteads Hotel and finding it was everything I’d hoped it would be. Finally making it to Scotland. The Isle of Skye. Dinner with other Sakeji alumni. Being on the receiving end of so much kindness and generosity. How blessed I am.

And finally:

I leave you with a few seconds of heather blossoms blowing in the wind on Skye.

A Slower Day

Today was much less intense than yesterday, thank goodness. I went to Aldi and did my grocery shopping. I worked on some school stuff. I watched a movie with Jasper as he has to write a critique about it. And I realized I am coming down with a cold. Grrr. I don’t have time to be sick.

Jumping In With Both Feet

This morning, despite my long day and late arrival yesterday, I was up and out the door by 6:30, headed to Walmart where I needed to buy some groceries for today’s geography class. When I returned home, I quickly whipped up some low-carb gluten-free coconut macaroons and pulled them out of the oven right before leaving for my doctor’s appointment.

I waited patiently in line to check in, only to be told that my doctor’s plans had changed and she would not be in the office today. Grrr. I had to reschedule for the middle of October.

Back at home, I worked flat out to prepare for Geography class and also make a Caribbean salad and some coconut rice. We are in the Caribbean this week and next. To be honest, I felt pretty proud of myself to get ready for the class and be up to teaching it the day after returning from overseas, because it did take a tremendous amount of effort. And I am aching all over from yesterday’s exertions!

Class went well. Today’s menu included jerk chicken, johnny cake, coconut rice, Caribbean lime salad, and the macaroons for dessert. By the end of the class everyone wanted to go to the Caribbean!

After class I ran a brief errand and permitted myself a brief rest before getting going on other things. Then I set off for my monthly ladies’ night out gathering. Today it was just me and my friend Robin, but I was delighted to see her and hear what she’s been up to while I’ve been gone.

Poor Walter is quite sick with a cold and went to bed early. Lucy has also been home sick all day, which I didn’t even realize until she emerged this evening. I cannot afford to get sick . . . .

Parting Shot:

My injured toe appears to be spreading some sort of plague to the rest of my foot. (And yes, that is a very clean foot.)

My Diabetes Miracle #24: A Milestone Journey

I decided I had better write this and get it posted right after my previous post, because I know some people who read that post might worry about me, and they shouldn’t.

If you follow this blog at all, you know that I just returned from a fantastic two-week trip to the United Kingdom, a special milestone birthday gift from my kids. I haven’t posted about my health journey for a while, but I thought it would be appropriate to mention it here in conjunction with the actual physical journey I’ve just taken and the milestones it represents.

Milestone #1 was my flight to London. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I didn’t have to ask for a seatbelt extender. I didn’t overflow my seat or ooze into someone else’s personal space. That was amazing. I always felt so humiliated having to ask for a seatbelt extender. It was just as affirming to have this same experience on my flight back.

Milestone #2 was just the sheer amount of walking I did on my trip. Some days I walked several miles, and although my legs did feel a little tired eventually, I was able to keep going. This is new for me—having a body that can actually do what I want it to. What a concept!

Milestone #3 involved stairs. So. Many. Stairs. Three years ago I would have really struggled even to get into some of my friends’ homes. Not now. Sometimes I find myself dreading stairs out of force of habit, and then I realize—oh, right. I can do stairs now.

Milestone #4 is about photos. If I had taken this trip three years ago, there would be lots of photos of the places I saw, but no photographic evidence that I had been there. I was so ashamed of my looks that I never, ever wanted to be in a photograph. (And people rarely asked me to!) As I begin going through the thousands of photos I took on this trip (yes, thousands!) I am struck by how many photos there are of me. Me in front of cathedrals and doorways and scenic beauty. Me with my wonderful friends. I can say, “Look, that’s me in the library of Sandon Hall,” and prove I was there. This is a huge, huge milestone for me. I don’t fear the camera nearly as much as I used to.

Milestone #5 is about perseverance, about effort, about fighting to achieve a goal. My adventures in getting my big heavy suitcase to Heathrow yesterday were painful and discouraging and exhausting. Yet just as with my health journey, I knew that once I committed to the task, there was no going back, no giving up, no feeling sorry for myself. I had a job to do and I would somehow find a way to do it. And I did find a way, and that is the biggest achievement of all—because three years ago, no matter how determined I was, it simply would not have been possible. I would most likely have had to get a taxi all the way to Heathrow from Euston station, and even then I’m not at all sure I could have succeeded in getting the case from the entrance to the electronic luggage check-in place. So although my body is not capable of doing what it could thirty or forty years ago, it is much more capable of performing various tasks than it was ten or twenty years ago—and that tastes like victory. Bruised toes and bruised hands and aching shoulders seem a small price to pay for that much success—and all those things will heal. The triumph will remain.

Oh, and by the way—I returned home eight pounds lighter than I left!

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow Or Possibly Actual Agony

So, as I already knew it would be, yesterday was long. I woke up an hour earlier than necessary and eventually got up and showered and finished packing.

About the packing. Before even getting to Janis and Peter’s place, I knew I’d need to come up with a new luggage plan, because the gifts and souvenirs I’d bought, though small, did take up actual space and I had no more of it to spare in my carryon and backpack. Then when I arrived at Janis’s cozy flat, she had a little tower of gifts waiting for me—things that had belonged to her late mother, whom I knew and loved as Aunt Jen. And Janis had a solution to my packing dilemma also—she and Peter were willing to part with a large suitcase into which I could pack my carryon and the other things. All the other things. Then I could check that large case and have my backpack as my carryon.

So far so good. Everything easily fit into the massive green suitcase. But guess what? I couldn’t actually lift it. Since my surgery I’ve been on a lifting restriction so I am even more of a weakling than I would normally be. Janis had a hanging scale and according to that my suitcase weighed a little over fifty pounds. To me it felt like a hundred! But it did have two wheels and a pull handle, and I thought that all I’d have to do was lug it from one platform to another at Euston Station in London, and then to the luggage check-in at Heathrow.

Oh, if only that had been true! And remember, I have an injured toe that is quite painful inside a shoe of any kind, so walking long distances was something I hoped to avoid. Janis helped me get the suitcase onto the train and the trip to London was without incident. Unless you call this amusing announcement an incident:

“Seats are for bums. Please don’t put your feet on them.”

The scope of my challenges didn’t begin to sink in until I arrived in London and struggled to get my massive burden off the train platform and headed toward the Underground. There were stairs. And then instead of leading to another part of the same station (which is being remodeled), the signs pointing to the Underground led outside, down the sidewalk, and across a couple of roads.

Pulling that suitcase down the bumpy street was the most physically challenging thing I’ve done since giving birth. Puffing and sweating, I’d drag it for a few yards, then stop to catch my breath before switching hands and starting up again. I saw my generous time margin beginning to dwindle.

I reached the Underground station and had to get the case down a long flight of stairs. Each “bang” as it went down a stair felt like a hammer blow on my hand. But I had to keep going. I couldn’t just not go home! Halfway down those stairs, a kind young African man showed up to help me. He easily lifted the case and carried it down to the bottom for me. I was so grateful—but I still had a long, long way to go. And when I had a look at the diagrams on the walls, my heart sank, because this station was not on the line I needed to be on. I didn’t know what to do. I was already exhausted. I also needed desperately to use the “facilities” but there was zero chance I’d have the strength to haul the big case into and out of a railway station bathroom!

I found an Underground employee and asked for advice. He suggested I go to the Baker Street station, switch to another line, and make for Paddington, where I could get on an express train to Heathrow. My plan had been to avoid taking the express train because it is quite expensive, but my options were dwindling and so was the time.

I honestly don’t know how I got the thing to the platform, onto the train, then off the train, then to another platform and another train. Stairs were involved also. I had to remove my cardigan because I was perspiring from the sheer effort I put forth. My arms and legs were trembling. Finally I made it to Paddington and inquired about the express trains after struggling to reach someone who looked official. There was one going in two minutes on a nearby platform. I looked over there and knew there was no possible way I could get there in two minutes.

The guy I’d asked for advice took pity on me and suggested I get into the train at the closest platform, which wouldn’t be leaving for twelve minutes. I made it! By then several people had stopped me and asked me if I was all right. I told them I was, even though it wasn’t true. I was very close to something like despair, because this whole process seemed to be just beyond my physical capabilities. Yet I had to make my flight somehow!

Arriving at Heathrow was not the blessed relief I had expected it to be. There were long, long distances to walk while pulling my wheeled millstone. I had to stop and rest often because I was so, so weary. At last I got to the automated luggage check-in. It took many tries before I hefted that case up onto the conveyor belt—and then the thing stopped working. Once again, I had to seek help. The case’s weight was the issue, but I didn’t get charged excess baggage. The lady just put a tag on it that said “heavy,” which I knew only too well!

I thought I was home free then. I only had my heavy backpack and shoulder bag to carry, and I just had to find my gate. Which was a long, long way away and involved another train ride and more stairs. With the big case no longer distracting me, I realized how much my feet hurt, and especially my injured toe. But I kept going.

I had hoped to grab a quick bite to eat before my flight, because I knew they’d have nothing I could eat on the plane, but there just wasn’t time. I finally made it to my gate about half an hour before my plane started boarding. The whole process had taken about six hours! I felt so victorious. That was by far the most physically demanding goal I’ve achieved in many, many years.

You can imagine how delighted I was to sink into my seat on the plane. During the long ten-hour flight, I was able to take several naps. My shoes came off the instant I sat down and after that my toe felt much better. The plane left late and landed late, but at the end of it all, I had a cart to put that suitcase onto, and a husband waiting to help me get it in the car!

We drove into our own driveway at about 11:30 last night, and my poor husband still had to go do his cleaning job before he could go to bed. And he is also sick with a cold. I am sorry to say I did not wait up for him. Midnight our time is 6:00 in the morning in England! But I am so glad to be home and to have the things I went to so much effort to bring with me! Everything arrived intact.

Parting Shot:

One of the lovely windows in Lichfield Cathedral

A Long-Awaited Treat

Tuesday’s post, which I was unable to post due to lack of internet.

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow I’ll be back in Texas! This trip has been so wonderful in every way, yet I’ve missed staying in touch with my family because my phone has not worked as promised by Verizon. I haven’t been able to use it at all unless I am on someone’s wifi, and that has been quite frustrating—which I wouldn’t even mention except to say that I will be glad to see my family again and find out what they have been doing in my absence!

Today started off with another lovely cup of tea, and then after Janis left for work I had time to do some packing and writing and staring off into space. When Janis returned, the three of us got in the car and went to pick up Janis’s sister Allison before continuing on to the Dog & Doublet in the pouring rain. We ran into the pub for a quick cup of tea and while we were there, Janis handed me a locally printed booklet on the history of Sandon (the village and the estate). I hadn’t read much before I knew I had to have a copy of that leaflet because it is inspiration gold for a writer. Hundreds of years of entertaining history. My favorite bit (that I had time to read while drinking tea) involved an aristocrat in the 1400s who tried to kill his enemy and left him for dead with his toes cut off and sticking out of his mouth. I didn’t have time to read further before leaving to keep our appointment at Sandon Hall.

Back in 1977, you see (and for many years thereafter), Janis’s dad worked for the Earl of Sandon as his clerk of works, and the family lived in a house on the estate. So when my family visited them that summer, that’s where we stayed. Janis and I roamed all over the large estate and I remember wishing I could see the inside of the stately mansion. In fact it has been on my bucket list ever since.

So you can imagine my delight when we drove up to Sandon Hall and were treated to a very entertaining tour guided by a man who has worked there for thirty-eight years and remembers Janis’s father well. The earl no longer lives on the estate and the house is mostly used as a wedding venue now, but it was wonderful to finally see the inside and hear some of the stories. I especially was interested in seeing and hearing about the famous war horse, Christ Church. His head and tail are mounted on the wall!

From there we progressed to the church, which dates to the 1200s and which Janis and I had enjoyed visiting back in 1977. Unfortunately it wasn’t open, but we could go all around the outside and through the graveyard. By then the rain had mostly stopped.

We dropped Allison back at her house and continued back to have more tea at Janis and Peter’s flat. I spent some time looking at some videos Janis had recorded that covered some of the history of Sandon Hall, and enjoyed my final supper with my thoughtful hosts. Janis and I finished the evening by watching the Great British Bake Off and going over my travel plans for tomorrow, which is going to be a long, long day.

The Cathedral Tour of Britain

Yesterdays’s entry:

Is there a better way to start the day than having a friend bring you a lovely cup of tea while you are still in bed trying to motivate yourself to get up? I don’t think so. One of the great things about this trip is the consistently good tea I’ve been offered everywhere I go!

Even with the encouragement of tea, I got off to a very slow start this morning, taking a shower and gathering up all my laundry. This is the first time I’ve been somewhere long enough to be able to wash things and wait for them to dry.

I had a nice visit with Janis over more tea until she had to leave for work. I followed her downstairs so that her husband Peter could show me around the flat he is renovating for future sale. This old Georgian house is large and has been split up into five different flats. Since it is a “listed” building there are quite strict requirements regarding what they can or can’t do to it. And the layout is very quirky! But I know it will be charming when it’s done.

I spent the rest of the morning hanging out my wash and catching up on a few things online. And realizing I was going to have to take some ibuprofen. Last night I misjudged where the corner of the bed was and stubbed my toe quite badly—badly enough that the pain woke me up several times in the night. My sandals press on just the wrong spot. So I knew before I left for the day’s adventures I’d need to take something.

At midday Peter and I drove to pick up Janis and then drive to the nearby town of Lichfield, where we had lunch in a restaurant whose building dates back to 1510! And to my delight the room we ate in was decorated with musical instruments—including an autoharp!

Janis and I limped up and down the streets in hopes of finding some things on my list, and mostly succeeded. She has to wear a “boot” on her foot after twisting it badly a few weeks ago. I was limping due to my toe injury.

We met back up with Peter at the Samuel Johnson museum. The great dictionary author was from the town of Lichfield and the museum is in his family’s home. From there we walked through the rain to a little café by the cathedral where we could get a cup of tea. Lichfield is my fifth cathedral on this trip. All of them have been stunning. So much beauty in stone! And one of the stone effigies had a dragon curled around his feet . . .

Back in Janis and Peter’s apartment, we had more tea and prepared for guests. Janis had invited her youngest sister Allison over and a couple of others whom we went to school with in Zambia. Pellë had been in my grade and his wife Ruth in one of the younger grades. So it was a very convivial group sharing reminiscences over the course of the evening. This trip has basically been a traveling school reunion!

Tomorrow, on my last day in the UK, I will be checking one final thing off my bucket list . . .

On the Move Again

Okay I have corrected the typo in yesterday’s entry. My smart aleck little brother pointed it out on Facebook after I had packed my computer so there was nothing I could do! I also corrected the punctuation error.

This morning when I woke up in Dumfries, it was raining. How could I complain? I’ve had the best weather in the world ever since I arrived on this side of the ocean. So I worked (rather slowly) on organizing and packing my stuff. I had to add a new bag.

Meanwhile, poor Maggie apparently had come down with a stomach bug, so while I was sleeping peacefully in her guest room, she was having quite a different kind of night. So neither of us went to church. She wasn’t well and I needed time to pack.

We were on our way to the station when I remembered my cheese. I don’t think I’ve mentioned the fact that the cheese here is so much better than any cheese I’ve bought in the USA. So much. Better. I had bought a little chunk of cheese on Skye and Maggie and I had eaten some of it on our last night there. I had thought I’d slice up the rest of it and take it to eat on the train in case I got peckish. Because my remaining time to eat British cheese is very short.

Well, here we were on the way to the station and I had no cheese. There really wasn’t time to go back for it. But Maggie knew a place to shop where she could dash in and dash out with cheese! So I had cheese to take on the train after all.

Today’s train journey was more stressful than previous trips because I had to change trains twice and because I had an extra bag. Both times I felt very rushed hauling my heavy luggage through the station from one platform to another. But both times I succeeded in getting onto the correct train. And at the end of my southward journey, my friend Janis was waiting for me! I haven’t seen Janis in nineteen years.

She and her husband Peter brought me to their lovely flat on the top floor of a house that is more than 200 years old. We had a delicious dinner and then Janis and I visited in the living room and started getting caught up on the last couple of decades. There are plans for tomorrow and I am looking forward to them!

Castles, Lochs, and Socializing

Please forgive the tardiness of this post—I was just too tired to stay up any later last night! Yesterday morning we woke up much earlier in our lovely little pod as we were on the east side of the island and hoped to see the sunrise. At the beginning I could just lie in my comfy bed and watch the sky begin to color through the glass door, but eventually I pulled on a cardigan and joined Maggie on the deck to take some photos.

After the drama of the sunrise was over, I went to work making our breakfast from the leftover food we had. The bacon kept setting off the fire alarm so I cooked while Maggie fanned the steam away from the smoke detector!

We ate our delicious breakfast on the deck overlooking the sea, listening to cocks crowing and cows mooing. We watched the cute little goats emerge from their shed and start loudly begging for their breakfast. Then it was time to pack up and get back on the road, because we had an appointment to keep.

We weren’t so hurried, however, that we couldn’t make a quick stop at Eilean Donan Castle after we crossed the bridge back to the mainland.

Breathtaking!

Eventually we made it to a little marina on a loch, where Maggie’s dad was patiently waiting for us. He had gone to a lot of trouble to see us as he was on a cruise, and he had to arrange to be dropped off at this marina while the boat took the other passengers out kayaking.

So anyway, we picked him up and took him to a little restaurant overlooking Stalker Castle for lunch. I was very anxious to meet him by then because Maggie’s told me so much about him over the last few days and I am in awe of all his accomplishments. Oh, and did I mention that he’s 90? He was very disgruntled over the fact that his legs seem to be giving out on him after only walking one or two miles!

We had a lovely visit over lunch and then sat outdoors for a while on a bench overlooking the loch and the castle.

Then we had to drop him off at the marina again to await pickup while we raced on to our next appointment—a brief visit with two elderly ladies who also once lived and worked in Zambia. We were entertained with tea and goodies and a very enthusiastic Cairn terrier.

Finally, we headed back toward Dumfries, but we stopped to tour the stunning St. Conan’s Kirk and despite Maggie’s skilled driving, we didn’t make it to the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond until after sunset. So I saw Loch Lomond in the gloaming.

We were hungry by the time we reached Glasgow, but had a hard time finding a restaurant with any open tables. We ended up eating at a very large and crowded Indian place, but the food was fabulous. Thanks to that little detour, it was 11:30 before we reached Maggie’s lovely home in Dumfries. And I still needed to take a bath!