“Travel And Home” | Blog #11

“Travel And Home” | Blog #11

Picture gallery at the bottom of the blog!

Saturday was a very (very) long travel day. We awoke around 7:00am and finished packing. Amy went out to buy last minute gifts and to see if she could score a garnet from a jewelry store that had been recommended. Garnet is her birth stone, and it is one of the things Prague is known for. Her outing, for many frustrating reasons, was unsuccessful in the jewel department, but she did manage to unload most of the Czech koruna we had left. Fully packed we checked out of the room and met our Viking liaison who had a ride to the airport arranged. We were met at the airport by another Viking employee – a high school senior – who walked us through check in (or should that be Czech-in?!) all the way to security. The care was seamless and impressive. Amy and I reflected that it was helpful, but at mid-day we likely didn’t need the handholding. Yet for the majority of those who were with us on the “Prague Extension,” who left the hotel for the airport at 3:30am, would have been very grateful to have had any assistance at that time of the morning. We were the last to leave and flew first to Zurich and had to hustle to catch our plane to Newark. Once on it was an easy flight, but since it was during the day, we couldn’t sleep. Newark was a bit of a fiasco. Clearing Customs was simple with Global Entry. Collecting our checked luggage and re-checking for the last leg was easy-peasy. But going through security again was a nightmare! We walked down this very long TSA pre-check line only to be funneled into regular security check – there was not TSA pre-check at 9:30 on Saturday night. Great. Everything out: laptop, C-pap, toiletries.  Everything off: watch, belt, shoes. Into a logjam of bins. Amy put her shoes into one of my bins and when it finally got to the other side one of her shoes was missing. I was already put back together with everything on and repacked before she could get her shoe retrieved. I supposed it is helpful, on occasion, to remember what most endure to fly, but it left us wondering what we spent the money for TSA for. Well, once through we boarded for the last leg and touched down at BNA nearly midnight Tennessee time, which was close to 7:00am Prague time; in other words, we’d been up for nearly a full 24 hours. So being greeted by a cheerful Leah, welcomed home by the pets, and sleeping one’s own bed was a welcome ending to a long day.

Sleep came easily and soundly. Another Sunday and not being in church made me feel somewhat out of rhythm, but we eagerly logged in and watched 6 of our wonderful Westminster seniors give the sermons in the two Senior Sunday services. I’ve known most of these young people for nearly all their lives and nothing does a pastor’s heart good than watching young people come into their faith and be able to articulate it, bear witness to God’s grace in their lives, give thanks for the gift of koinonia/community, and speak words of blessing to the church family that has formed them. I wish I had been there in person to celebrate with them and their parents but being on sabbatical means staying away.  We also were fortunate to be able to hear Amy’s nephew, Tom Hankins, deliver his first sermon since he has been newly ordained in the Methodist Church in Texas. It was a full morning of wonderful worship from home.

But the day was far from being done. One of the reasons we chose to fly home on 4/30 was the Nashville Soccer Club, our MLS franchise, was holding their home opener at the new soccer-only park on May 1st. I’m a founding season ticketholder before NSC was MSL, so there was no way I was going to miss out on the opening day at the new pitch dubbed “The Castle.” All week long I’ve been seeing reports and reading articles about the challenges of opening the new stadium. Tucked into the old fairgrounds, there are not great road access options. Leah wanted to go to the Flea Market there several months back and it was crazy trying to get in and parked. So, I was concerned how it would go. Donovan and I have season tickets together and split the cost of a parking pass. We ended up getting one of the limited parking passes, but it was in a lot we had not asked for. All week long there were appeals to choose ride-share, bike in, or take shuttles for the 30,000 + estimated to be in attendance. I went to Donovan’s house and after he got home from church, he, his daughter, McKenzie, and I drove to the game. Donovan had scoped out some potential short cuts that had us zigging and zagging through neighborhoods. There were a lot of people walking from a long way away, which had us nervous. But we finally got to the parking lot and getting in was easy. To our surprise and delight the parking spot wasn’t too far from the pitch. On top of that, while we were pulling in, we ran into Westminster members Howard and Elizabeth Lamar. Seeing the thousands of fans dressed in the team colors on such a spectacularly beautiful day made my heart soar. This is what it has meant to build an MLS franchise out of nothing. And the stadium was simply electric!! It has delivered on its promise: it is one of the finest football-only (read soccer) pitches I’ve ever been in. The match was competitive and entertaining. We had good chances and were unlucky not to have scored more, but we came out with a 1-1 tie. All-in-all it couldn’t have been better. To top it off, our seats are very near the exit, so we were able to leave just as the game ended, walk to the car, and get out of the lot onto Nolensville Road and then on to 440 in no time. We were shocked at how easy it all was. Such a great way to get home to Nashville. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world and am grateful I remembered to pack sunscreen!

The first day home was topped off with Leah making a Japanese dinner for us. It’s good to be home, to have had the chance to see the NSC home-opener and open the next chapter of the sabbatical journey.