Since arriving in England, not a day has passed that I haven’t examined my surroundings and asked: “Is this really my life?” The days here feel rich in a way I’ve never before experienced. It’s almost as if this place is saturated with the essence of what brings life meaning.
Living in a cross-cultural community certainly has its challenges. We don’t always understand each other–language doesn’t always translate. Personalities and lifestyle quirks sometimes come into conflict. Each day, I interact with people from all over the globe: Holland, Australia, Hungary, Brazil, South Africa, Belarus, the list goes on. Each night, though, I can’t help but give thanks for this colorful collection of people. Despite all our differences, we share one beautiful thing in common: we are all human.
Daily life here is beautiful. The majority of our hours are spent in one of two ways: work or study.
With work, there are all kinds of tasks. Some days, I chop vegetables in the kitchen to help with dinner. Others, I scrub toilets, pull weeds, or fold towels. The best days are when I’m assigned to the library–hours are filled entering books into a digital catalog. Most of the time, work doesn’t seem like work. The tasks may be menial at times, but they are never difficult. Plus, the company is always good.
During study time, we gather in the Bake House, curling up by the fire with our books. I just finished studying direction and calling and am turning my attention to gender studies and women in church. Mixed in is a healthy dose of Ann Lamott, Dorothy Sayers, Charlotte Bronte, and Shakespeare. Some days, I sit at one of the desks by the windows. I listen to recorded lectures, paint, and watch birds playing in the garden.
Life here is slow. We keep ourselves busy, but also stop and rest. During lunch, we ask questions and partake in intentional, meaningful conversation. On our free nights, we enjoy pint (or two) at the local pub. In the evenings, we often play games. Once a week, we watch a film and discuss its relevance. On Mondays, we meditate and pray during a silent lunch featuring beautiful classical music. Sunday nights are my favorites: we have High Tea, which involves a casual meal followed by reading a novel or play together.
Each day holds at least one precious moment. Most days have multiple: laughing as you make peanut butter balls in the kitchen, singing hymns together around a piano, soaking in the rare sunlight in the trees as you explore the countryside on one of the local footpaths , holding hands with one of the little girls who live here as you walk home from church.
When you slow down and allow yourself to actually process the beauty of daily life, the riches you discover are breathtaking. Being away from technology has its downs–I would love to better stay in touch with family and friends back home–but I also love it. In a way, life here feels like it’s straight out of a Jane Austen novel (which is helped by the fact that I currently live ten minutes from where she wrote and published most of her works). We delight in the beauty of everyday: going for walks, playing music, making art, reading books that make us think. Interactions are intentional and meaningful–estranged from technology and the fast-paced normal life, our conversations have more depth.
I wish life here could go on forever. I’m thankful that, in many ways, my stay is still just beginning: I’m here until the end of March. But there will come a time when I will have to return to normalcy. I will have to move away from home and actually get a job. My time here, though, is in many ways preparing me for then. Life at L’Abri is in no ways perfect, but it’s a wonderful place to learn how to live.