Term finished for the boys at the end of June. Wasting no time, we switched on the ‘out of office’ emails, packed our bags into the car*, and boarded the overnight ferry from the port of Belfast.
We awoke as the ship sailed up the River Mersey to dock. Oh, and these are pretty much the only clouds we saw – the weather was beautiful throughout!
Our two week road trip saw us visiting friends, family and a variety of brown sign sites across Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Bristol, North Somerset, Devon, Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire before returning to Merseyside!
We had lots of fun (pics below to prove it). It was fantastic to see so many people we’ve sorely missed since we moved – although we’re a bit sad that we couldn’t see absolutely everyone we wanted to on this visit. So we’ll be back..!!
The thing about this trip was the importance of spending time with people. Picking up where we left off, encouraging and being encouraged, hearing what’s been happening in the lives of those we love since we saw them last, seeing how tall their kids have become!
Video calls, messages and emails are all wonderful, but there’s little substitute for a chat over a cuppa/barbecue/picnic/glass of wine (better still, all four). I have come home refreshed and feeling buoyed by time well spent, hospitality received and conversations shared. Even the brief, unexpected encounters we both had with colleagues of old in Oxford brought joy!
We were amazed at how easily the boys handled it too. Delighted to be back with cousins, God-families, friends and neighbours, they found themselves welcomed with open arms/gardens/playrooms. Everyone quickly fell in to the familiar dynamics and friendships again.
It has to be said, of course, that I’m a relationships person so my ideal holiday is wall-to-wall talking (and some listening!). However, there had to be some balance to the socialising because we all have different temperatures**! The times we spent, just the four of us, sightseeing and exploring together were an important part of our rest and relaxation as a family.
We arrived back in the early hours of Sunday morning with that warm fuzzy feeling (the sunshine and new fluffy toys helped!) that we’re privileged to love and be loved.
I’m very conscious in reading this back, that it’s a self-indulgent blog post…wittering about our holidays etc, etc. Was there even a point to it!? Yes. Relationships matter.
We returned home to a challenging sermon from our curate, Danielle, on Sunday morning. She spoke on the parable of the Good Samaritan. You can read the parable here. Her message was this: who, in our lives, do we need to show love to even if it isn’t the ‘done thing’? Is there a tricky relationship we need to deal with? A person who has caused us hurt we need to forgive?
Investing in the relationships we value so much over the last fortnight serves only to highlight the impact broken and difficult relationships can have in life. We have a fixed time in the communities we’re in, full of opportunities to show love to others. It’s wonderful to be party to straightforward, warm friendships – but that’s not enough. We need to extend the kindness, hospitality, and servant heart beyond those easy relationships.
So your summer challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to go out of your way to show love to those around you. Bring in your neighbour’s bins. Contact someone who has been on your mind. Send an unexpected gift. Strike up a conversation with someone you often see, but usually pass by. Take a meal to new parents or an exhausted carer. Buy a coffee for the person behind you in the queue. Maybe you’ll take steps to mend a relationship or forgive a wrong.
You might never see the person again. You might make a new friend, or regain an old one. One thing’s for sure, you will have an impact on someone else. Do it!
*I like this to be done in a very particular way…!
**This is a Joel-ism from when he was little. It means we don’t all like things exactly the same as other people do!