Six years ago today I boarded a plane in Atlanta with my big brother. Since we’d booked our tickets separately, we weren’t seated together — he was in the row in front of me in a bulkhead seat. I decided to ask the interesting character of a lady beside me if she would be willing to switch seats with my brother so that we could sit together. With the extra leg room and a little bit more space, it seemed like a no-brainer.

She turned to me, and with such poise and calm I wouldn’t have been more surprised if her teeth had fallen out in my lap, she answered:

“Absolutely not.”

Besides the surprising answer, the manner in which she responded left me so aghast I just quietly turned to stare at the back of the seat in front of me. I sat still and quiet long enough that I think remorse got the better of her, and she eventually turned to me again and said,

“Well you can at least read the paper or something.”

Ten or fifteen extremely uncomfortable minutes later, the guy sitting in front of her (beside my brother) realised his TV was broken and ended up being bumped up to business class. I then had the pleasure of moving up a row, just in time to avoid the interesting lady’s evening routine, which included changing to sleeping attire in the restroom and carefully putting her waist-length hair in a humongous bun directly on top of her head.

That flight was bound for London, and a day later my brother and I were on a train to Edinburgh, where another surprise awaited us. After a warm morning and a good breakfast in London, we moseyed on over to King’s Cross train station, and I was dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and flip-flops.

We arrived in Edinburgh that afternoon, some friends of mine doing us a great favour by bringing the majority of the luggage up with them by car that evening. My landlord, David, a wonderful gent who’d soon become a great friend, met us at the train station.


{A view from the School of Divinity in Edinburgh}

As we waited and looked for David at the train station, I realised all my warm clothes were in those suitcases coming up from London, and though it was the 29th of July, I was convinced that the rain falling outside was freezing and would be turning to snow at any minute.

After settling in to the temporary digs in Gorgie where I’d be staying for my first month in Auld Reekie, we turned up the heating and went out to the pub across the street to enjoy some impressively poor renditions of Oasis’s Wonderwall while waiting for the flat to warm up.

We returned to a freezing cold flat, and figured out that the gas had run out. I knew nothing about topping up the gas. I knew nothing about the five pounds of emergency credit available if I’d pushed the right button. I just knew it was cold, I hadn’t bought bedding yet, and it was going to be a long night.

While I pulled on half the clothes in my suitcase, my friend Julie was sleeping in the other room, and decided to boil the kettle and then cuddle it on the couch to try to keep warm through the evening.

{Warning: Don’t try that at home.}

The next morning was the beginning of life in Edinburgh: trips to the big Tesco for the necessities, getting denied a bank account, getting caught in the rain without an umbrella, getting denied a phone contract, getting caught in the rain without an umbrella again, and catching the bus headed in the wrong direction.

It was also the beginning of discovering what I’ll forever hold in my heart as the most beautiful city in Europe, finding a little shop that served Chocolate Soup, exploring the fantastic finds waiting to be had in charity shops, and studying for a Master’s Degree (and half a PhD) at a university so exquisitely located, I never once left the Divinity School without savouring the incredible view — Edinburgh Castle to my left, Princes Street below, the Firth of Forth, broody in the distance, sun streaming onto the yellow rapeseed meadows of Fife on the other side.

Those days marked the beginnings of these six years of life, thousands of miles away from the place that never stopped feeling like home, though I tried hard to set up shop wherever I was. And though this season has been full of good surprises, and bad ones, it seems I could’ve taken note of what was to come in the foreshadows of those first few days.

Though that simple moment of surprise on the plane made me think the chances of enjoying my brother’s company on the nine-hour flight was no longer a possibility, beside the closed door was an open window, just a little further along. And though the heat-less night in Gorgie was a tough start, the memories my brother and I share from Robertson’s Pub and Julie hugging the kettle make the inconvenience worthwhile.

Indeed these six years have gone rather differently in many ways from how I expected when I boarded that first flight, but I’ve continuously seen glory in the triumphs and the failings, especially in the times where things happened differently from how I hoped or expected.

Among the many lessons tucked into my heart for the journey home, another I’m holding onto is the realization that it’s easy to get discouraged when things aren’t going according to plan, but we can hold onto faith that even disappointments and trials can work out for good, when we love our Creator and are willing to wait on Him.

So hold on to hope, whatever you’re facing today. No matter where you are on the journey of life, tomorrow is pregnant with possibility, and it’s an adventure that’s just beginning.