Today is the last day--in more ways than one. It is my last full day in Istanbul: tomorrow, I fly to Frankfurt for a few days with a dear friend in Germany before heading home to my beloved dog and husband. What that also means, however, is that this is the last day of my sabbatical travels [NOT of the sabbatical itself, thank goodness--I still have much writing to do, along with other things!]. I can hardly believe all the places I have been and all the things I have seen in such a short time, really--five months for four trips, each of which alone would qualify for a trip of a lifetime; and together, well, I can still hardly believe that I have had this opportunity. I am grateful for every single day--even the hard ones--and I feel the weight of my responsibility to make the most of these experiences, and share them as widely as possible.
With that firmly in mind, then, I am now more than ready to settle in back at home [or, more precisely, get our home in Columbia packed up so that we can settle in at home together in Gettysburg!], and begin to process all this information: the memories, the pictures, the artifacts, the new knowledge. I want to take some time to think about what it will all mean going forward, and how it will transform my teaching and writing. It's both a daunting and an exciting prospect.
I'm going to keep up the blog--I have enjoyed the discipline of regular theological reflection on the world--so I hope some of you will keep reading. Again, I want to say how deeply I have appreciated those of you who have read it regularly. In the course of my travels, there have been times when I have been very lonely, and it has made all the difference knowing that I wasn't really alone, because I had this virtual community traveling with me. [Although I would be lying if I didn't admit that there were times that I would have traded you all in a heartbeat, in exchange for one day with John and little Henry curled up next to me in the flesh!]
But, even at the same time I was missing my "old" community, I was reminded that the beautiful thing about travel is how your "community" expands along with your world: as evidence of that, I am posting two pictures of two very sweet young women who work at this hotel. We have been getting to know each other bit by bit, sharing snippets of conversation every morning when I go up to the restaurant for breakfast. Finally today they invited me out for coffee when their shift was over. We had a wonderful time, and I was happy to get a slice of Istanbul through their eyes.
Overall, then, I am left with a profound sense of gratitude, wonder, and joy at the many and various ways God is at work in the world, and in my life. I hope I can continue to nurture those feelings, that they might root, grow, and bear good fruit for years to come: to me, it feels like a spiritual discipline--cultivating the grace I have been so generously and abundantly given.