I met the engaging and encouraging Bev Murrill when I was a commissioning editor for Authentic Media. Although I didn’t end up getting to work with her on publishing her next book, I’m delighted that a friendship was born. She’s speaks life and love whether online or in person. I remember our first lunch, how she got me to stop questioning her in my usual habit of not only getting to know others but deflecting the attention off of me, when she exclaimed, “You must be an introvert!” I hadn’t before connected my personality preference to this practice. I love her blog on home, and especially how her obedience to God shines through.
Until I turned 44, I spent my entire life in Australia. I never went to another country, so I had no need of a passport. I was happy that way. I never wanted to travel. I loved Australia and being an Aussie, and the idea of living anywhere else appalled me. This was even truer when I thought of England, the place where my husband was born and grew through a childhood of desperate poverty among an abusive and dysfunctional family. I thought of England with horror. It seemed tiny, cramped and filled with people who used humour to ridicule each other. I didn’t want to live in Coronation Street.
So much for the plans we have for our lives.
Whatever your plan, God always has a better one and your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to embrace His plans with all your heart. If you do, I promise you, you will never be sorry.
So, one day in 1996, we packed our bags and headed halfway around the world, obeying the call of God to England. We went to pastor a church in Essex, and thus began some of the most beautiful and challenging years of my life.
My relationship with God means that I know I will fare far better if I give myself to His plans rather than try to hide from them. It’s a mindset shift, but once you make it, it transforms your capacity to love what you have, rather than pine for what is no longer yours.
What do I love about Britain? Have you got a month for me to tell you about the people, the places, the history and heritage, the idiosyncrasies, the beauty, and the banal? About the two beautiful English girls my youngest sons married, and my ten grandchildren who were born there, as my two other children and their spouses came to join us there.
I will tell you that I have truly never seen such green greens in my life. England’s ‘green and pleasant land’ is an understatement. In spring and summer, the greens are sensually intoxicating. Sometimes I would just sit and stare around me, marvelling at how varied and vivid green could be. There is really, really nothing like the beauty of Britain in summer. I love the fact that you can sit and drink coffee in a place that was open for business 10 or 15 centuries ago. I love the clear cold, and being rugged up against the harshness, and the fact that the homes are centrally heated and getting up on a winter’s morning is just as warm as if it was summer. I love that you can visit the rest of the beautiful British Isles and most of Europe and still have a large part of the day left to spend sightseeing.
Most of all though, I love the people: Funny, quirky, kind, sometimes prim, and polite to a fault. I chuckle at the righteous indignation of a British person you got off on the wrong foot with. It is not so of all Britain’s residents, but the place I called home was peopled with those who would turn linguistical somersaults in a bid to refuse a request without having to actually use the word NO. They had no intention of doing what you were asking but it appears there is something intrinsically vulgar about actually saying NO. For the life of me, I’ve never been able to work that one out but I did learn to work around it.
I deeply value the friends I made during my time in UK. They are full of grace and humour and love and compassion. Prayerful people, their caring hearts have shown me such love and they will never shirk from fighting for what is right regardless of how unpleasant that may be. They’ve been loyal to this uncultured Aussie, giving me a place in their hearts that is beyond my ability to comprehend. I love and appreciate them dearly and miss them greatly. The British have changed me forever. My thinking has stretched and developed and will never now return to its original shape, for which I am heartily grateful.
But I love Australia too. I love the browns of the land in summer. I love the barren, harsh beauty of ragged hills. I love the magnificent blue of the mountains and the glorious smell of the bush. I love the turquoise and azure blue waters that throw themselves wilfully onto the fine, cream sands. I love the 360º stretch of the blue, cloudless sky above me and I love the cities with their soaring skyscrapers and manically busy coffee shops. And I love the wild and reckless thunderstorms that stir your heart and make you want to rush outside and dance.
But most of all, I love the people. I love the way Aussies say it as it is. They, too, are caring, but see no point in prevaricating, believing that breakthrough comes with understanding, rather than large hints and beating around the bush. I love that their dress is casual and their laughter is loud, and that they aren’t worried about what other people think of them. I love their can-do attitude; if something needs doing, they don’t spend months planning in committees, they just get in and start, and work it out as they go along.
My Aussie friends are awesome. I’m blessed by their strengths and their determination to make a stand for what they believe in. I love that they care passionately about issues that should matter to all of us. I love their truthfulness spoken in love to me, their passionate capacity to inspire others to make a difference. I love that they don’t care where you come from or how much money you have or what university you went to. The old friends and the new ones are a gift to me, in that they accept me for who I am.
The poet Dorothea MacKellar so beautifully describes the differences in the two nations I love. She calls Australia an ‘opal-hearted country’ and those words make my heart sing. I’d love to reproduce it here, but for copyright purposes I’ll point you to her official website.
Her poem makes a choice between the two nations and that is something I cannot do. Honestly, I have come to love Britain passionately for all the reasons I’ve described and a myriad more. If the Lord had not called us back to Australia two years ago, I would have happily lived there for the rest of my days.
But I love Australia too. I’m glad I’m here. I revel in being able to go swimming in the ocean baths in the early morning before the day begins. I love that I can drive around so many corners and be greeted with lakes and oceans and mountains right there in front of me.
I have two homes and they are 12,000 miles from each other. I wish it were not so but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I thank God He took me there. I could never have known how amazing the Brits are, had I not had the opportunity to see them up close and personal. But I could never have known how much more was in me than I knew, had I not had to take courage and expand my heart to grapple with greater issues than I ever would have had I stayed put.
I thank God that His plan for my life has had so much more capacity for joy, fulfilment, grace, challenge, love, beauty, freedom, empowerment, and change, than my plan ever did. What a little life I would have lived had I never got that passport.
Never say no to God. He’s got so many great surprises up His sleeve.
Bev has been in senior ministry in Australia and UK for over 30 years. No longer leading Christian Growth International, the network of churches she and Rick planted in the UK, Bev continues to speak internationally, especially to leaders, churches and at women’s events. A mentor to many other leaders, Bev writes a regular blog at www.bevmurrill.com. She is the author of Speak Life and Shut the Hell Up, and Catalysts: You Can Be God’s Agent For Change. A pioneer and innovator, she has founded several organisations including Cherish Uganda, a village for HIV+ children, Liberti magazine – a contemporary Christian women’s magazine, and Kyria Network which supports, mentors and equips UK Christian women leaders. She has a masters degree in Global Leadership and is passionate about the issues women in the world currently face. Married to Rick for 45 years in September, she has 4 married children and 10 fantastic grandchildren.