On the eve of my twenty-fourth birthday


My window is open in my flat in London, England. Dinner is on the stove: rice and a Thai coconut soup. The rice I made, the soup I didn't. I just heard a woman walk past and say, "This time of night is my favourite. Right after the sun has set, but before it's gotten too dark. The golden hour."

I'm sitting on my small cot in my small room, the bedspread red and white gingham. I have a wardrobe, a desk, a bed, a mini-fridge, a small stove, and a sink. It's all I need, and I'm finding it quite homey now that I've been here two weeks.

I have my routine. In the morning, I wake up and make tea and toast a bagel, then walk to my tube station. I take my tube ride —just four stops to Oxford Circus — before I hop off and walk to work. My hours at work vary. There's been a lot of news in London the past two weeks, and yesterday I worked until 11 p.m. because of the World Cup. (Poor England.) 

After work, I'll either walk to the art gallery or Hyde Park or another place I haven't been before. Or if I'm tired I'll start my commute home, perhaps picking up a few groceries at the local shop and walking with my hands full on the way back. 

I know my route now. I have come to mimic the brisk pace of the Londoners. I am starting to understand which way to look before crossing the street. There's a place I've found to get cheap coffee, and I'm slowly learning how to cook. 

Tomorrow I'll turn 24. 

I can hear the church bells ring out down the street from me at St. Matthews; ten rings to signify how it's 10 p.m. here now. I constantly find myself meandering into churches. It's not that I need a church to be with God, but those spaces always feel sacred to me. Especially here. The churches are stunning.

I keep finding myself asking God why he brought me here. I expected a revelation. God made it clear to me that he wanted me in London this summer, despite having to miss my Nana's funeral this past Tuesday. 

I thought I'd step off the plane and it'd click in as if, "Oh — yes, this is why God brought me to London." 

This week I got to wondering if God brought me all the way to London, England so he could get me by myself. In Canada, I'm too busy. In England — aside from work, of which I do a lot of — I have nothing to do. Of course, there are a million things to do here, but even while doing them, when you're alone you still have to think. It's just been me and my thoughts and God, mostly. 

I've thought about things a lot. I've listened to podcasts on identity and hearing God's voice. I've read a book on spiritual formation. 

I stood in a church on Sunday and tried to figure out why God was so adamant I come to London. It's a gorgeous city — vibrant and alive, modern yet rich with history — but it seemed, to me, that I was here for more than that. 

Maybe it's my Enneagram Four sneaking in... having to find a deeper meaning in absolutely everything. But I truly felt I wasn't only here simply to complete an incredible internship. 

I stood in the church, sweat dripping down my back because of this London heat wave, and asked God why I was here. I listened carefully, paying close attention to my heart.

God told me he brought me to England just to tell me he loved me. 

I laughed — out loud, in the middle of church. I mean, in all honesty, it's a bit of a dramatic move on God's part, don't you think? To fly me seven hours away for six weeks just to say I love you?

But of course, God knows I have a flair for the dramatic. For him to bring me all the way to England to affirm me of his love... well, I can't argue with that. 

I wanted revelation; instead, I received affirmation. 

I wanted something big and full of fireworks, a message in the sky, with the words, "Aliza, these are my plans for you..." 

Instead, I received a quiet companion. 

I wanted to go to my Nana's funeral on Tuesday. 

Instead, I received comfort. I walked home from work that day with the deep awareness that I had never walked home alone. 

There have been moments here where I have felt lonely. Although I'd consider myself an ambivert, I still prefer being with people than being by myself. I like short spurts of time on my own, not weeks on end. But being alone allows me to look forward to meeting up with people here — for dinner or coffee or a day in the city. I've met new people and been reacquainted with people from back home. Traveling on your own makes dinner with people a serious treat. 

I wanted to write you a post about what God has taught me, but I think that'll have to come later. For now, on the eve of my 24th birthday, I am instead sitting with the reason why he brought me all the way to England. 

Simply to tell me he loves me. I'm not sure what other God would do that.