I’ve heard Bristol described as a “sticky city.” It’s a place that grabs you and makes it hard to leave. I would agree with that description. Somehow, even though 18 months of the two years I spent in Bristol were in a pandemic and 9 months were in actual lockdown, I still came to love it dearly, and it was very, very hard to leave. There’s something special about that little city, whether it be the collision of English charm and determined individualism displayed in the muraled and graffitied Victorian buildings or the deep sense of community evidenced by a coffee tab 20 cups long at a local bakery, bought by kind-hearted strangers and available to the local homeless. It gets under your skin. As a Christian, it certainly has something to do with the deep love and respect the whole of the Christian community there has for each other. I’ve never before walked into a church service and had a different church recommended to me. I’ve never known a network of local pastors who are all good friends and uphold each other in continual prayer. I’ve never been part of a Christian community that included multiple homes, multiple churches, multiple perspectives, and a couple of local businesses to boot. They’ve struck gold over there, I’m telling you! It was beautiful to watch it play out; to get to be part of it playing out.
On a personal note, the stickiness came from the many, many people who loved me so well. The housemates who welcomed me to Bristol on my arrival like a sister and took care to include me and recommend people, places, and activities. The other housemates who stuck out lockdown with me; who prayed and worshipped and cooked lots of good food together. The other, other housemates who made me feel immediately at home, who were as easy as breathing to live with. 111, how am I supposed to live without coming home to the delicious smells and unexpected music of someone preparing dinner for me every night? Without dancing around while we wash up together, then sitting and chatting over a cup of tea (or Barley Cup) until way too late? You’ve spoiled me. And those are only people I’ve lived with. What about the classmates who forged deep bonds over programming in C, then the horror of Java during lockdown? Or the coworkers who became friends over drinks in the park and hours in the climbing gym? Or the two churches that put up with me going to two churches? Cornerstone and their practical care and good friendship. What am I supposed to do without Tuesday small group – our deep conversations and delicious baked goods? Crossnet and their amazing discipleship and prayer. I’ve made so many truly great friends over the past two years and I cannot thank you enough. You’ve had a profound impact on me. My time in Bristol certainly was not what I was hoping for when I moved to England, and these past years could have been terrible. But they weren’t, and that’s thanks to you all. You will always, always be in my heart and prayers, and you are always welcome wherever I am. Please think of my home as yours.
I have grieved over this move; it hasn’t been easy to un-stick myself. But it’s time to focus forward now. It’s funny how we always feel like we owe it to something or someone we love to be miserable over them when they’re gone. To hold the grief close so we don’t forget. To honor them by building an emotional shrine of sorrow that we must visit daily. It’s so tempting. But it’s a lie. To spend my days crying over what I can’t have would be doing a disservice to everything Bristol taught me and everyone who loved me so well there. I’m going to step into this next phase with my eyes focused forward, not back. I’m going to live well and give it everything I have. To say with my life and my success, “Bristol, you have changed me for the better; you have prepared me well for this next step.” I’ll be back to get refilled from time to time, I expect, and I hope all my friends come visit me in Seattle. So I won’t say goodbye, just “Until we meet again.” All my love xx