I know. It’s been a heavy week over here. (You guys, that’s why I told you about the ice cream on Monday. 🙂 I knew we’d all need it.)
Today matters the most to me.
Today, we pray for Scotland.
If you don’t know what is going on, simply put- Scotland is voting today about whether they want to remain a part of the United Kingdom or if they want to become an independent nation.
I can’t explain it better than that, but some other people have. Here are two of the articles I find easiest to understand:
Of course, you can google and find all that you could ever want to read. And by the time you are seeing this in the USA, probably sometime Thursday morning, our friends in Scotland will already be up, with the television turned on, and votes being cast.
What do I think they should do? Doesn’t matter.
Which way do I think is the vote going to go? Doesn’t matter.
What matters is what happens now- for the people and the country.
Here is what I’m praying:
–> For revival in Scotland (here’s a great article about that)
–> For the future of that nation politically.
–> For the rescue and salvation of relationships between Scots on the “yes” and “no” side, no matter the result. I have watched dear friends on both sides of the issue argue on Facebook, and everyone is seriously passionate, and I’m praying that God would give them the ability to reunite despite the harsh words and deep opposing feelings. Praying peace for all the hearts.
–> For God to do what only He can do- use this to draw the Scottish people to Himself.
I sit here, Wednesday night, just typing and crying. I cannot adequately express what that country means to me, what those people mean to me. It’s my home, plain and simple. And to know that Thursday is a massive day in the history of this country, it weighs heavy on all of us who have Scotland in our blood.
When I lived there in 2011, I made a few (low quality) youtube videos for this ol’ blog. You can see the whole list of them here. But I’m going to embed below my favorite- the Fringe Festival of 2011. If you’ve read Let’s All Be Brave, make sure to watch the whole video – as low quality as it is – and remember that I made this before that book was even in my head. Crazy to think about.
In many ways, that’s where my heart still is. In Edinburgh, on that Royal Mile, believing God to move in that land.
Thanks for your prayers today for the people of Scotland.
Today is a landmark day for that country. It’s our honor to stand by the people and lift them up.
. . . . .
So tomorrow morning, two of my best friends from across the pond land here in Nashville.
Yes. For the first time EVER, my Scotland BFFs will be seeing my Nashville life and I am so excited that I CAN BARELY STAND IT, Y’ALL.
But, I’m also mildly panicked. They will only be here 52 hours. FIFTY-TWO HOURS and I bet they are going to want to sleep some of those. Annoying.
I feel like there are so many things for them to see, so many places to eat, so much of this town I want to show them that I just can’t narrow it down. I mean, I know all my favorite spots and yes, we will absolutely be honky-tonkin’ Saturday night if anyone wants to join us. But there are so many places I am dying for them to see and I just don’t know how to pick!
Help me, Nashville residents and tourists!
If you had 52 hours to show Nashville to your friends, where would you go?
What would you eat?
What restaurant meals are must-haves to you?
What MUST my friends see and experience while in Music City?
. . . . .
365 days ago, Georgia beat Georgia Tech and I watched from a hotel room overlooking the stadium in downtown Atlanta. I remember wishing I talk to my best friend in Scotland, Esther.
366 days ago, it was the Friday after Thanksgiving and my internal clock was still completely whackadoodle, from living six hours ahead for the previous six months.
368 days ago, I landed in Atlanta and my first stop was the Waffle House.
370 days ago, I left my home in Edinburgh, Scotland. It will always remain one of the saddest days of my life.
371 days ago, I wept saying goodbye to a houseful of my friends [that feel like family] in North Berwick, a beautiful Scottish beach town, where we had all gathered to celebrate a birthday. It was good for me, to have something else to celebrate, as I was leaving. Goodbye parties give me the heebie-jeebies [when they are for me].
. . . . .
I can’t believe it has been a year. It feel like I lived there last week and it feels like it never happened. Do you know what I mean? I just scrolled through some of my posts from last year and it just catches deep in me and brings tears to the surface again and again.[PS- Do you remember that I got to see ADELE in Edinburgh?!? Or that I got electrocuted? Two of my favorite Scotland stories.]
You know what? I miss it a little every day. At some point of every single day, I think of a friend or a place or a memory and some high pitch string gets plucked in my heart. It will always be my other home.
I absolutely loved my life there. I love my friends- don’t even get me started fine I’ll show you a picture.
I just miss them to bits. And I have for the last 368 days… minus those few in July when I was back visiting. I didn’t miss them then. So… 359 days? 🙂
My life since getting home to Nashville has been insane- a book deal with Zondervan, dating stories that will make you scream with laugher, speaking with Girls of Grace, heartbreaking moments, volunteering with the Cross Point college ministry – some high highs and some low lows. I’m sure you can relate.
I left Edinburgh unsure of my next step professionally, I had no home to live in, and I didn’t know where to plug in ministry wise. God was smiling through all those tearful questioning prayers, I am sure, as He provided in amazing ways that only a living God could do.
And I am having a great time.
I miss Edinburgh.
Nothing is free, is it? Nothing that matters comes without some cost attached, and I think that is good. To live in Edinburgh, it cost me time with people in Nashville. To live in Nashville costs me my life in Edinburgh. Things that cost us must be things that have worth to us- things that matter.
Nashville matters to me. Edinburgh matters to me. My hometown matters to me.
And someday, time and distance won’t keep friends apart.
Until then, the days will pass and I’ll search for cheap-ish flights overseas and skype calls will be challenging to schedule. I’ll embrace what God has set before me- all the pieces that He is weaving together- and I’ll be content, knowing that He knows me and is for me and His plans are greater than mine could ever be.
And that is true every day.
. . . . .
What were you doing 365 days ago?
This is my favorite picture from Scotland last year, which is why I’ve used it twice, because it says exactly how I feel about that place, even though my hair has a major swoop sitch going on.
Here’s another sitch we have before us: My suitcase weighs 62.5 pounds.
And so sometime between now and takeoff, I will have to unload 12.5 pounds of something-or-other and I can promise you that whatever outfit I take out will be the EXACT outfit I wish to wear multiple times in the next two weeks.
Ahhh, tis life.
I am so.so.excited that today is here!
You will just LOVE my travel schedule…. as in, you will laugh at this. So I took the Megabus down to Atlanta from Nashville yesterday, fly today to Glasgow, stay there for a week, head over to Edinburgh for a few days, pop back to Glasgow to fly to Phoenix for my FIRST GIRLS OF GRACE LET’S PANIC ABOUT THAT LATER and then I fly back to Nashville at the end of July.
Simply put, I had to ride the bus to Atlanta because at the end of this, I fly home to Nashville. [This is an important fact in a minute… wait for it.]
I am so happy to hop on a plane today and go home to see my friends and help lead at this summer camp and watch God intercept some lives and fingers crossed, watch Him intercept mine as well.
Thanks to many of you and my friends and family, all the funds necessary for this trip came through and so God totally made a way. I don’t know how to thank y’all enough. But thank you.
Starting tomorrow, I get two weeks in 50 degree weather with 18 hours of daylight… so obviously, bless my heart, I am suffering for the Gospel.
Your prayers for safe travel, lots of rest and little jetlag, great time with friends and God and my journal, and that I will be blessed and be a blessing to those I am around.
And pray for me [not really] as I unload 200 ounces of my life into a box for my mom to ship back to Nashville from Atlanta. [See… hence the need for you to understand my travel. The heavy suitcase is in Atlanta and I must unload stuff here but I’m not coming back here so the USPS will be in charge of getting my 12.5 pounds back to Nashville.]
Hi. I’m Annie. I tend to overexplain.
Your turn – tell me a fiction book I should download on my kindle to read on the plane! Good thing about taking lots of books on the Kindle? Adds no weight to my luggage.
Last week, I was scheduling an interview for when Perfectly Unique comes out in September. I said, “well, I’m going to be out of the country for two weeks in July, so it will have to be after that.”
The man said, “Oh really? Where are you going?”
Without thinking first, I responded, “I’m going on a mission trip to Scotland. I want to go home for a little bit before the book comes out.”
And then I stopped in my tracks.
Scotland is that. It is my home. Not more than Nashville, but my home nonetheless.
It feels funny to go on a mission trip to your home. But I am. And oh, my heart is already there. I’m fairly certain it never returned back to the States with me, so it’ll be good to be reunited for a time.
The mission trip is to help lead a Christian summer camp for high school students in Scotland. [I’ve been a few times… including last year. You remember Lois, right?] It is a beautiful week of fun and crazy games, topical Biblical teaching, worship, and lots of delicious British food.
And I’ll see my family. [Fine, Scotland has my heart, is my home, and people who feel like my family live there.]
I get to teach a class each morning of camp on what faith really looks like in the real world. I am seeking and praying and asking God how to properly teach that well to students in a different culture. Also, I’m considering using the Real World script. [This is the true story… of seven strangers… picked to live in a house…work together and have their lives taped… to find out what happens… when people stop being polite… and start getting real…The Real World.] [It is NOT weird to know that by heart.]
I cannot wait for camp. I really can’t.
Then when the mission trip ends, I head to Edinburgh for a few days to see my friends [and can I say “family” again here? Because I’d like to. thanks].[And for anybody keeping score, I’m sitting in a coffee house crying like a baby. Really. Dripping tears. Apparently I think I can emote wherever I go. Scotland, you always do this to me.]
My trip already feels too short. I can feel the panic in my bones that I won’t get enough times or talks or hugs or moments. But I’m choosing to be still and know God knows and enjoy every waking moment with my people. [I’m not planning on sleeping- what a waste of time with friends.]
. . . . .
The mission trip cost is approximately $1500- that includes my flight, food, and lodging for the week of camp. Would you be willing to partner with me, even just $10?
If 150 people gave $10, doneski.
I love asking you to support my mission trips and here is why: God gives us each different opportunities at different times. Some day, you’ll be the one going and I’ll be the one with the opportunity to support. This time, I am going on a mission trip and it is your chance, if you wanna, to help make a way for me to minister to these students in a country that is forever sewn into the fabric of me.
Pray about it. And if you feel like God gives you the go-ahead to contribute, HERE’S THE LINK TO GIVE. Then you’ll login, follow directions, and go to “SCOTLAND-PINTO” and put “ANNIE DOWNS” in the memo box that pops up.
If you have any questions, just email me, yo. [annieblogs (at) gmail (dot) com]
AGAIN, this $1500 only pays for travel to Scotland and camp. My time in Edinburgh will not be funded by this.
Please pray with me that the funds to cover the trip expenses will be provided. Pray that I will minister effectively to the teens there. Pray that God would make permanent and beautiful marks on the hearts of each person at camp.
And pray that I get back on the plane to come America. Because if I want to do that, it will be a miracle.
I’m going home, y’all.
. . . . .
Fancy important stuff: Gifts to the church, with an expression of preference for the portion of the ministry expenses that I am trying to raise for the church, are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
So after Richard is convinced that my flatmate’s phone number is a fake, he asks for another number. I give him the pastor’s phone number. At this point, it’s been about 25 minutes and Richard had fully interrogated me about everything under the Scottish sun.
My spirit inside me is praying like crazy. To be blunt, this didn’t feel like a natural thing… it felt supernatural. It felt spiritual. The Bible says that our battle is not against flesh and blood [and grumpy Richard]… so I began to pray that God would win this battle and allow me into the country.
As Richard left to go call the pastor, I sat down in a chair. And I had a Blazing Furnace conversation with God.
“Hey God, just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I know what You are able to do. I know You can rescue me from this situation. I know You are able to save me from deportation. I don’t think I’m done here in Edinburgh. BUT EVEN IF YOU DON’T, even if I get sent home today, I’m not mad. I will still praise You. I have still loved my time here and I am still grateful.”
I know that sounds sugar sweet and whatever, but it wasn’t. I said it through gritted teeth and with a begging heart. It was a painful tearful moment alone in an airport. I didn’t want to leave Edinburgh. But what else could I do?
I can barely hear Richard on the phone, but his voice is angry. And now I’m SURE I’m going home. [Here’s where Richard earned the name on his nametag…. he said untrue things to the pastor to try to trick him – he made the pastor believe I had said things that I hadn’t said. Pastor told the truth. I told the truth. But Richard tried to trap us.]
I get it. I’m not mad. His JOB is to protect his country from dangerous people. And truthfully, it’s sweet innocent women like me that can be the really nasty ones. 🙂 So Richard, bless him, was just doing his job.
When he came back from the phone call, probably 15 minutes later, his demeanor totally changed. [Insert miracle here.] He spoke kindly to me, he slowly explained why I should be deported and every reason that the right thing to do was to deport me, and then he said, “but I’m going to let you stay.”
And I almost fell on the floor with relief.
The Lord had done it. The warring angels, I believe, defeated that which tried to keep me out of the country. I don’t know if you’ve been in a situation like that, but I’m telling y’all, the atmosphere changed. No joke. I knew that the battle had been fought and I knew it had been won.[Also, at the point, pastor and his wife and others they told were praying like CRAZYTOWN, so it certainly wasn’t just me.]
Richard did, however, put a massive stamp in my passport that makes it illegal for me to go back to the UK until mid-2012. So he didn’t let me leave without a little hand slap.
Touche, Richard. Touche.
Morals of the story:
1. ALWAYS get a stamp in your passport, even if you are coming home.
2. Flying between European countries is VERY VERY DIFFERENT than traveling between US states.
3. Proverbs 19:21 — “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
4. That verse would still be 100% true if I got deported.
I’ve been strategically waiting until there was no way I would go to jail or be banned from the UK to tell you this story.
I’m thinking that since I’ve been home for one month + one week, now is an okay time.
Thesis statement: In October, Scotland tried to deport me.
If you’ll recall, during the latter half of October, I spent a weekend in Prague with some of my dearest college friends who live there now. These people.
[I didn’t do a great job blogging about Prague because it was right smack in the middle of 31 Days of Courage. Forgive me. But I did make a facebook album of pictures. Hopefully that will suffice.]
A simple mistake I made is I thought, “Oh, I’m just hopping to another EU country… no biggie.” So I didn’t bring my folder of paperwork [bank statements, printed flight info, etc.] with me to Prague. It was just a weekend visit between two friendly European countries.
Well, I had a lovely time in Prague and landed back in Edinburgh on Monday night around 9:30pm. There are two lines at customs- EU residents and other. In our entire flight of people, there were only two ‘other’ – me and a blonde gal. The blonde gal went through the line and then it was my turn.
I stepped up to the gentleman at customs. We’re gonna call him Richard. I’m not going to actually call him by the name on his nametag because a) you wouldn’t believe me and b) it is a cuss word and you’ll think he totally earned the nickname. Anyways, Richard.
Richard looks through my stuff and says, “How long have you been in the UK?”
I say, “Since July.” Which is a totally true and perfectly legal answer.
See, there is a rule that you can be a tourist for up to 6 months out of a 12 month period without having a visa. Since I was only going to be in Scotland 5 months and 28 days, I did not have a visa.
He shows me on my passport that back in February, when I returned from my month in the UK, I did not get a stamp on my passport saying I landed in Atlanta.
So pretty much, it looks like I’ve been living in Scotland without a visa since January [because I have an entrance to the UK stamp in January and an entrance stamp in July, but no exit stamp.]
Not good, my people. Not good.
Richard says, “I’m sorry. But I’m going to have to send you back.”
And I’m like, “BACK!!?? I WASN’T EVEN HOME! I WAS JUST IN PRAGUE FOR THE WEEKEND! I HAVEN’T BEEN IN AMERICA SINCE JULY! BUT I WAS IN AMERICA IN JULY! I HAVE A FLAT FULL OF STUFF AND I DON’T KNOW HOW MY FLATMATES WILL PACK IT ALL AND I AM ALLOWED TO BE HERE AND PLEASE DON’T SEND ME TO AMERICA TONIGHT!”
Then he asked to see my paperwork [yep, the paperwork I mentioned above that I didn’t have].
Then he asked for details of what I would be doing every.single.day. for the last four weeks of my time there. I answered with a shaky voice.
Then he asked for my flatmate’s phone number.
He tried to call her and for some unknown reason, it wouldn’t go through.
So he comes back to me and says, “Ms. Downs, that is a fake number and both you and I know it. Please give me a real number of someone I can reach.”[PS- he copied my flatmate’s number OUT OF MY PHONE so obviously, it is the same one I used every day. Crazy stuff.]
At this point, I am sweating like I’ve run a half-marathon, I can’t exactly breathe, and I’m shaking like a polaroid picture because I am working through in my mind what happens to a person when they get deported.
Because Richard is about to deport me. For realz.
TOP 5 FRIDAY is when we each list five of our favorite things, depending on the topic. Feel free to join in via the comments or by posting on your own blog and linking back here. Play along. It’s Friday.
. . . . .
One question I kept getting from friends in America before I got home is, “do you sound Scottish?” and the answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT. I can’t do a Scottish accent for the life of me.
But the funny thing is, and I think I’ve told you this before, even though I can’t do a Scottish accent with my mouth, the girl in my brain who tells me everything to write? She has a Scottish accent. [I know. I’m a freak. But I tell myself every story and I just write what I hear. That girl in my head… well, she’s a Scot.]
There are a few terms that I brought back with me- not to be cool and international or anything, but mainly because I like the British/Scottish saying so much.
. . . . .
So here they are…. my TOP 5 ADOPTED SCOTTISH SAYINGS!
1. “I’m pure gutted.”
There really isn’t anything in the American language that expresses the emotion of “gutted.” It’s when things go bad, or not the way you wanted, but you’re not absolutely devastated. It’s when you lose, say, a chili cookoff, after working long and hard on a delicious homemade chili.
And, just for your kicks and giggles Americans, the way it is said is “gah-tted.”
Sure. I could just say “hi,” but “Hi-ya!” is much friendlier, if you ask me. And it’s not like a karate chop – HI-YAAA! It’s more like a nice little greeting – Hi-yuh. My Nash-friends may hate this one, I’ll let you know how it goes.
3. “He is a proper musician, not just the kind that knows the basics of playing an instrument.”
This may be my favorite. I love inserting “proper.” Even calling something a “proper good time” feels like a better explanation of the experience. Just writing about this one is making me smile. [I am such a freak.] [Seriously.]
4. “That soup was absolutely lovely.”
My friend Leigh Ann [American living in Scotland] says that she describes food as “lovely” even when she lives in the USA. I’m not sure. One of the weirdest things about living in another English speaking country is that sometimes you forget which words belong in which country. So pardon me if you are American and “lovely” as a way to describe the look or taste of food is part of your vernacular. But it wasn’t for me [that I can remember, anyways].
5. “I’m knackered.”
There are a few different meanings for this word, and the slimiest characters would use it inappropriately. But all my friends, and most normal Brits, would just use “knackered” to refer to being ridiculously tired. Totally spent. Like, worn out. But something about being “knackered” makes me feel like my body is super exhausted but not my mind. You know what I mean? Of all the terms I’m keeping, this will be the hardest to really adopt. But I’m going for it.
. . . .
This blog post is QUOTATION MARK heavy and I cannot promise you or your grammar teacher that I used them all correctly. Forgive me when necessary.
I miss Scotland.
. . . . .
Do you have a favorite [favourite] British term or two? Or do you have a saying from another country that you’ve adopted into your own?
I’m thankful to be home. Thankful for my family and friends. Thankful for Chick-fil-A and bizarrely warm weather in Georgia.
I’m thankful for Edinburgh. I’m thankful for lifelong friends on the other side of the Atlantic. I’m thankful for Crossroads Church and the people there.
I’m thankful that God is near, that His ways always win, and that He dreams bigger than I can.
All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go. I’m standing here, outside your door.
No, no I’m not. Unless you live on my street in Edinburgh.
The suitcases are ready, the carry-on is ready, my hair is clean and I’m headed to the airport in just a bit. [Your prayers for a safe flight, easy connection, luggage arrival, and a calm spirit are all appreciated.]
But I have to tell you. I’m leaving some items here in Scotland. I’m going to plant them all together and see if an Annie tree grows.[That sentence has made me laugh from the moment it started forming in my mind until now, when the humor should have passed.]
Seriously, though. I’m leaving some things behind. So as an homage to my possessions, I am going to show you these things now.
. . . . .
Item #1 : Target shirt with holes in it.
Truth of the matter is I should NOT be wearing clothes with holes. For Pete’s sake, I’m 31 years old, not a ten year old child who gets her clothes torn on tree limbs while climbing. So I am leaving this shirt here, Scotland, because I need to grow up. [Confession: this is the SECOND shirt with holes that I am throwing away. Embarrassing.]
To keep all of our dignities in tact, I’m going to tell this story as plain and simple as possible. I love these black jeggings [also from Target]. They are my favorite trousers. Edinburgh, the beautiful pedestrian city that is it, requires me to walk a lot. Like, A LOT. And sometimes, when you wear jeggings and walk a lot, there are consequences of the ripping kind. Ladies, are ya with me? So. The jeggings can no longer be worn, thus their abandonment. Au revoir, lovely jeggings. Thanks for the memories.
Item #3 : Two pair of Old Navy Jeans
It’s been a good season for me, y’all. Eating at home. Walking a lot. Being intentional to be as healthy as possible. So happy happy joy joy I get to leave these jeans here. I mean, they still fit sorta in that baggy-wanna-be-a-rapper kind of way. But I quit going for that look in about 1998. [Also, hopefully by leaving them here, I will refrain from “maturing” into that size again.]
Item #4 : Discover card
I am super-dee-duper close to getting out of debt. So, to ensure I don’t roll back into that slop, I’ve cut this puppy up and spread the pieces throughout trash cans in my flat. I’m not one to say that YOU can’t have a credit card – I’m not the boss of you – I’ve just “discovered” that I don’t need easy access to money I don’t have. I want to live a debt-free lifestyle and it starts with chopped plastic. [And don’t you judge me for my American flag design. I’m patriotic.]
Item #5 : Dumb Green Umbrella
It hasn’t always been a dumb umbrella. It’s just an old soul and has broken wings a-plenty. I used it for the entire five months I’ve lived here because I believe in pinching pence and there was no reason to buy a new one when this one works decently. But, within the last week, the wings have refused to cooperate, so this umbrella goes to Scottish Umbrella Heaven today… also known as the dumpster on my street.
Item #6: Beautiful Sequined Shoes
This is a real tear-jerker. I remember the day I bought these shoes and wore them to watch my friend’s husband coach middle school football. They’ve also seen glitz and glamour as my shoe of choice for the 2010 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. But they have run their course. The sequins have fallen off in many places and the multiple wears on rainy days has caused them to draw, ahem, a little attention to themselves [in the scent department]. It is with the heaviest of hearts that I leave these beauts behind. I love you, shoes. And I always will.
Dishonorable mention goes to my H&M purse. The strap broke when I was here in February so I got it fixed in Nashville in the spring. The strap broke again in October and I binned that sucker faster than you can say CHEAP PLEATHER.
. . . . .
Somehow, by Mary-Poppins-like magic, all my other pieces of personal property have made it into a suitcase, with a few additions [thanks to the loss of weight from these items as well as the toiletries I brought in July and used up].
And the next time you hear from me, I’ll be on American soil!
Goodbye, Edinburgh. I love you like whoa.