reading was my last area as a missionary, and it so became home for me. it was interesting and almost eerie that i felt the same brand of emotion going back there as i do when i go back to my hometown. there are memories everywhere! and places and faces that make my heart just glow.
when i walked into relief society in the reading ward, there was a nearly unison, english accented, delighted “oh helllllllooooo!” i felt such a beautiful feeling of belonging, and like no time had passed. we had a proper sunday roast at the beislys (who took such good care of me all week long, and beyond) and took a stroll in sulham woods (pictured above). it really was coming home.
the next day i went to my old stomping grounds – up the oxford road. it was such a strange sensation walking down that road and not feeling any urge, desire or obligation to stop random strangers and tell them that god loves them, or that there is a prophet on the earth today, or that they can be with their families forever. i just let people pass right by me! weird. but kind of liberating! i wandered around, remembering and grinning ear to ear.
on the left is where i lived! – in a little flat above the sign shop.
on the right is one of the double-decker buses i rode every single day.
i spent so many hours on the reading high street – and had beautiful experiences there.
it was funny walking through town as a non-missionary, seeing the city in a way i had never before. reading is actually quite neat, i think! i was in such a missionary bubble that i hadn’t really noticed!
i could write volumes about the good and hard times that i had on these streets, and the miracles that i saw. i giggled to myself passing certain spots, and clutched my heart at others. reading is, for all these memories and miracles, one of my favourite places on earth.
i made some visits to see my wonderful friends of reading – people who i love so dearly and whose influences and friendships have become a part of my fabric:
sister higbee and i met richard on the oxford road one day, and as we taught him, we saw light flood into his life and faith into his heart. he was such a humble learner, and found answers and made sacrifices (like alcohol for the incredibly amazing drinks he’s sure we’ll have in the celestial kingdom!). i remember so many lessons feeling truth and peace in richard’s house, and kneeling with him to pray at the end of our visits. this summer we sat in his sunny back garden and talked and it was so great.
andrew and elaine ruffels have a miracle story of meeting us sisters and finding truth in the restored gospel. i shouldn’t begin to write about their incredible journey and incredible faith – my blog would be completely overtaken with my gushing. i can say with pretty solid certainty that the happiest moment of my mission and probably my life was watching andrew baptize his son, jordache, who was at efy the week i was around reading this summer. the ruffels are a big part of my heart, and it was great to be with them again; to visit in their home and not have to worry about getting to our next appointment! while i was at their house, the elders called and asked andew to go teach a lesson with them, and i asked if i could tag along, which was so, so fun.
i got to spent one night and some other time with the ambrose family, members who blessed my time in reading so much. kari ambrose and i are kindred spirits – i feel like the universe conspired to allow us to be true friends amidst different life circumstances. as a missionary and again visiting this summer, i laughed my face off with kari and also she listened so intently to my worries and filled me up with positivity and encouragement and such genuine care. also she made me homemade bread and my absolute favourite dessert. oh yeah! her husband and kids are also pretty neat. one of the best parts of being at the ambroses’ is laughing so hard with kari and then laughing harder because her proper and very english husband and step-children don’t really get our loud american humor. it cracks me up. i love them all so so so!
there are so many other people in reading that i was able to spend a little (not enough!) time with and who i just hold so very, very dear. these people took care of me as a missionary; they taught me about being christlike; they influenced me more than they could know. such good, good, good to the core people. graham and lorraine beisly (first picture) really enveloped me in care and let me stay with them on and off all week, and they are so close to my heart. i was able to see some other people that i taught, and pray for others that i didn’t or couldn’t see, and just relish in remembering the divine human connections that were born in this town that has become almost sacred for me. these places and faces belong to such a tender, grateful part of who i am.