Our trip to Uganda took two overnight back to back flights to travel from DC to UG. We left at 8:30pm and arrived in London at 9:00am the next day. We then had a full 12 hour lay over in London and decided to make the most of it by taking the kids to tour this historical city. To save money we decided to use the “tube” for our transit to and from the airport as well as travel throughout the city. A full day pass was quite inexpensive compared the the cool big red buses or a super fast trip on the Heathrow Express. The Tube for those of you who are unfamiliar is quite clean and we felt very safe traveling from the airport to the center of the city. On the way from the airport to the center of the city, our children (quite jet lagged) took a 30 minute nap and it proved to be a wonderful experience.
From the airport terminal the Tube dropped us 1 hour later at Picadilly Circle. Awesome service. We walked to many typical sites seeing Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar square, the Art Gallery, and even traversed through James Park. We then hopped on the Tube and just a few moments later we had lunch in Covent Gardens. With full bellies we rode the Tube again and made it to the London Eye. We commented on how much we LOVED the Tube and what a perfect and cost effective way it was to travel throughout the city.
At the end of our day we wanted to allot several hours to travel back…as well as make sure we were several hours early for our flight. I had assumed that we could hit rush hour if we left too late, so we intentionally got on the tube at 4:30pm. The train ride back would be an hour and because the kids were exhausted we had hoped they would sleep a good portion of the trip! For those of you who have traveled in London on the tube any where around the time of rush hour from the center of the city to the airport you are stifling a smile right now. We actually had to wait for a second train to come because our first train was entirely full. On train #2 we pushed our way through and stood up holding on to the poles shared by several other people at the same time. Chris was holding Joshua as he was exhausted and I was in charge of making sure our other two did not fall down from the sudden starts and stops. I do not know the exact number of stops between the center of London to Heathrow airport but it is an hour long transit. For the first 45 minutes people ONLY got ON the train–no one got off. At 4:30 when we arrived we had standing room only, but moments in to the ride Joshua had fallen asleep in Chris’ arms and was dead weight. Chris balanced holding on to an overhead rail while balancing our 4 year old in his other arm. The kids and I were on the side of a wall, sharing a small 3 foot rail. In pure exhaustion Caleb sat on the floor holding on to the rail with one arm. Several times I felt the weight of his body give and fall asleep and then wake with a start and grab on tighter to the rail. My legs were against his body holding him in position and not allowing him to fully fall onto another passenger. Kylee was closely tucked in next to me on my left side. About this time I began to feel truly suffocated. I could not imagine it physically possible for another human being to fit on the train. Yet one by one more people continued to crowd in to the tiny “tube” and away we went. I kept thinking of my friends who are “safer” moms than me…I wondered would they get off and find another form of transportation as this was not only extremely uncomfortable–it felt somewhat unsafe? The extra money for the Heathrow Express was sounding really good right now! I felt sorry for my children who were completely jet-lagged and had pleasantly trooped all over London but were promised a slow comfortable ride to the airport. This was not how things were supposed to go. I wondered about our personal safety…a pick pocket had a complete buffet in this environment as we were all smashed like sardines, every person was touching another…there was no way to tell if someone had taken something as many people were unintentionally touching you on all sides. The discomfort covered our brains and bodies and I felt so sorry for Chris having to balance this child in his arms while every few moments the door opened and another person pressed in closer and took even more of his personal space. (If this were even possible?)
I remember thinking to myself of the discomfort I was feeling and wondering if this might be a visual picture of discomfort to come on our journey to Africa? I wondered if I was being given an image of the feeling and the desire to hop off the train? To find a safer more comfortable ride? Wondering if we were going to be placing our children in extremely uncomfortable situations…and possibly compromising their safety? I wondered if we might feel suffocated at times and wondering what the right thing would be to do?
Traveling on this journey…not knowing when the ride might officially stop, so far has honestly felt as helpless as the tube ride. In London, we knew that the best way to get from point A to point B was to stay the course. But there were so many unknowns, so many stops, and so much discomfort crushing in around us. I prayed and at 45 minute mark–there was a moment when I just wasn’t sure if I could take another minute and then this happened…
I began to realize that we needed to get off the train and board another to get to our terminal. I motioned in some sort of sign language and somehow Chris understood. Chris 20 minutes earlier had asked a young man who was standing inches away for help and he COMPLETELY IGNORED HIM! But this time, a gentlemen saw me motioning to Chris, had mercy and said that OUR stop was HIS stop and he would be happy to tell us how to transition to the next train and to the final Heathrow terminal 5 stop. So at just the right moment he gave us a wave and we pushed our way through the masses and ended up on a platform breathing the fresh London air. (He even carried Chris’ back pack as Joshua was still asleep…and for those who are concerned with theft–he didn’t run off with it!) He explained that our next train would carry us to our destination. We waited for about 5 minutes and sure enough the train arrived. When it did, we visibly saw open seats and were thrilled to travel the rest of the way seated. We will never take for granted a train ride sitting now that we have experienced our rush hour ride through London.
We are holding on to the same hope for our journey here. We believe that at the moment when we are most uncomfortable and when we believe we might not be able to endure another “stop”…that God will provide just the right messenger or giver of hope that will help us navigate to our final destination.
Today Mercy came in the form of toasted macadamia nuts delivered by the manager of our guest home. The kids had found the nuts outside–he showed them how to peel and crack them (which is QUITE a difficult process–no wonder they are so expensive in the US?!) and then he surprised us with a mid-afternoon treat of roasted macadamia nuts…the best I have ever eaten. We see God’s hand and grace in the small things…providing proof of His goodness and love.
I pray no matter where you are today and no matter what life circumstances you are enduring, I pray that He would open your eyes to His abundant mercy and grace. It comes in the form of a smile, a kind word, a simple gesture, a cup of lemon and honey, and macadamia nuts. Don’t look for the clouds to break and your “answer,” to appear. Look for his mercy in the small and simple…He is pouring showers of grace down on us daily…may they wash over you today.
Today we once again did not hear anything new and tomorrow is another holiday. We are going to do our best to wake up and let the showers of mercy and grace wash over us and not get stuck on the discomfort of the tube ride. The train will stop. We will arrive at our final destination…and we will look back on that ride and laugh…a little uncomfortably.
May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,