30 December 2009

uhhh... okay

So Monday I was walking around picking up job applications from a couple places in Oxford. Yep, it's that time again: job search. I had noticed that one of my favorite cafes in town was hiring, so I was definitely going to pursue that one, but I figured I should look into as many possible opportunities as I could find. As I was walking through the Covered Market, I noticed an accessories shop that had a neon post-it note in the window "Part-time help required. Enquire within."

Okaaaaay, post-it note advertisement is a little odd, but I'll check it out. I went inside and the woman working was quite excited and immediately called the owner to set up a meeting with me the next day. I asked for an application form, but was told they didn't have one, and I should just bring in a CV if I had one. When I came back the next day, the owner gave me a brief run-down of the job, asked if I had any questions, and offered me the job. No application, no resume, no CV, no references, no interview (well, she asked me my name and how old I was, does that count?). She wanted me to start immediately. As in today.

Okay, that's the weirdest, easiest job I've ever gotten in my life. I receive.

With some conditions, that is. The owner promised all of their bookkeeping is in order. And I let her know that I had several other applications out, and that honestly, I wanted to wait and see how those interviews went. She was so eager for someone to start working that she assured me that if I did the job for a week or so and decided it wasn't for me, I could call her and tell her and it would be fine.

So... I'm going to give this ride a chance. Who knows? Stay tuned.

"All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty." Proverbs 14:23

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." Colossians 3:23-24

28 December 2009

this is london

as seen through the lens of my camera.
Thanks to Ben Lee for the sweet music.

video

"Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." Jeremiah 29:7

27 December 2009

yes please!

I have a video of my pictures from London that I've been trying to upload here, but I'm having trouble getting the size down enough that Blogger will accept it.

Until then, if I could live any kind of life, I think this would be the ultimate: click here.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil— this is the gift of God." Ecclesiastes 3:11-14

24 December 2009

steep.

It is advent. YES. That glorious glorious season when we have intentional space to stop and steep in the insaneness of the Incarnation. That is, if we stop.
I love it.

And I love you all. I wish you a beautiful advent.

"I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people." Leviticus 26:11-12

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." Philippians 2:5-7

"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death- that is, the devil- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." Hebrews 2:14-15

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." Revelation 21:3

06 December 2009

whirlwind

Sixteen days of adventure. That's right. I'm leaving tonight.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning: London with my friend Luke and his friend Rebecca.

Wednesday afternoon: fly from London to Brno, Czech Republic with Luke.

Wednesday night, Thursday, Friday: hang out with Luke in Brno, where he's studying this semester at Masaryk University.

Saturday morning: travel to Prague with Luke.

Saturday and Sunday: Prague.

Sunday night: Luke is going back to Brno, I am taking an overnight train to Krakow, Poland, and from Krakow to Oswiecim, Poland.

Monday: Auschwitz concentration camp (outside Oswiecim).

Monday night: night train back to Brno.

Tuesday and Wednesday morning: hang out in Brno with Luke.

Wednesday night: fly from Brno to London, then from London to Dublin to meet my friend Karen and her sister who are traveling around the UK.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday: travel around Ireland and Wales with Karen and her sister.

Sunday night: arrive back at her sister's house in Reading (near Oxford).

Monday and Tuesday: hang out in Reading with them.

Wednesday: bus back to Oxford to crash at my house.

Will I survive? You'll have to wait sixteen days to find out...

Peace.

"O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me." Psalm 139:1-5

05 December 2009

dag

William Wilberforce is one of my greatest role models. Why? He saw injustice that broke the heart of God and it broke his heart too. And then he did something about it. He used the gifts God had given him and the position of government entrusted to him to declare the truth of the gospel, giving his life in a painful, prolonged sacrifice to bring freedom for captives and justice for the oppressed. And he served the Lord faithfully to the end of his life.

This week I discovered another incredible person who I want to emulate: Dag Hammarskjöld. He was the Secretary General of the U.N. from 1953 to 1961, when he was killed in a plane crash while on an emergency mission to try to negotiate a cease-fire in the Congo. He did a lot of crazy incredible things in his life (like winning the Nobel Peace Prize), worked tirelessly for peace and justice, and was greatly respected by his peers. But throughout his life, this diplomat also kept a small journal he called a "book concerning my negotiations with myself- and with God." I read part of that book this week, and in it he never once mentions the famous and powerful people he interacted with daily, or the great successes he had. Instead it reflects an astoundingly quiet, humble, thoughtful, simple, sometimes agonized man who intensely longed to do God's will. It is obvious that his incredible public and political life was shaped by the humility and intensity of his love for God and his love for people. I want to be like that.

This sentence from his heart reflects mine as well: "If only I may grow: firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer."

"Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard." Isaiah 58:5-8

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on my, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor..." Isaiah 61:1-2a

04 December 2009

the british language part two

mates=friends
holiday=vacation
note=bill
diary=planner/schedule
battels=room & board
half two=two thirty (etc.)
pudding=dessert
primary school=elementary school
secondary school=high school
fit=hot
are you all right?=how are you?
cross=angry
creche=nursery
washing up=cleaning up, doing the dishes
spot=bit
fancy=like
sweets=candy
wasp=bee
go off=expire
shattered=exhausted
dodge=sketch
chunder=puke
GP=doctor
ginger=redhead

" Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth." But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The Lord said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel— because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth." Genesis 11:1-9

01 December 2009

top ten of the last two weeks

Life is magic. It's a beautiful, wonderful, marvelous, mysterious thing. It's definitely a rough game, and sometimes it freaks me out that it's real. I mean, it seems like a story that I'm reading from the outside and I pity the characters because there's so much uncertainty and they don't have a clue about the true meaning. But then I realize that I can't withdraw out of this terrifyingly uncertain fictional world because... well... it's not fiction. Because I'm stuck inside the story. I'm as limited as the characters I thought I could pity.

So anyway, life freaks me out and makes me feel like my brain is going to explode. But there are some really neat parts, too! Here are my top ten favorite things in the last two weeks:

10. Just being with people. Since I only had one essay to research and write this week, instead of the normal two, I was able to spend more time living life with people and just hanging out, which is precious. I had tea and a beautifully real talk with Alison, my small group leader. I hung out in the chapel for an hour after CU meeting and listened to Chris play the piano and Julia sing all these worship songs that I've never heard before because they're just not as common in the States. I sat in the Spencer House kitchen after a Sunday dinner of Thanksgiving leftovers and just enjoyed the warmth and the idle chatting and the comfortable people. I watched a movie with friends in the JCR, holding a book because it makes me feel better to pretend to do homework even when I'm not really. I had tea with Karen. I had tea with Eric. I had tea with my dear Focus girls. (Yes, me likey tea mucho.)

9. My tutor liked my economics paper. For the first time. Too bad it was my last one. Victory in Jesus! :)

8. I bought plane tickets for the Czech Republic! Luke's coming up to Britain tomorrow and then on the 9th, I'm flying back with him to the Czech Republic. I've wanted to go to Prague for so long; I'm really uber-excited. It's gonna be great.

7. Crumpets. They are divine. Similar to an English muffin, but with a slightly pancakier texture. Toasted. Thank you Rosie for changing my life.

6. Cuppers. This is the Oxford drama competition where all of the plays are directed and performed by freshers. Our very own Marchella Ward not only directed one for Regent's, but also WROTE it. And it was GOOD. Clever, swift, funny, and excellently acted. They really surprised me with how fantastic it was. I loved it! And I think half the student and faculty body of Regent's crammed into the tiny Burton Taylor studio (which I seriously think seats MAYBE forty people) to enjoy it. I love the school spirit, and they were well-rewarded for their time.

5. We took communion at chapel this week and it was beautiful. Everyone who was there gathered around the table and passed the bread and wine to one another. We all tore a piece off the same loaf of bread and took a sip from the same glass of wine, giving grace to one another as we ourselves had received it. I had to fight to keep from laughing with sheer delight as I said "the peace of Christ be with you" to someone because it was so glorious.

4. Turned in my last essay this morning at seven am. Bam. Beat that.

3. Lebanese food. I love experiencing pieces of new cultures. Eric and I were going to go to this Indian place for dinner Saturday night, but when we got there, we decided it was a little too posh for us. There was a Lebanese restaurant across the street, and neither of us had ever tried that before, so, hey, why not? It was good food and sweet fun, but the best part was that part of the menu was in Arabic and I knew three or four of the words. YES. I wish Anna could have been there. Or Rima. They would have been so proud.

2. Annie and Melody & I went to the Ashmolean on Saturday afternoon and it was super sweet. Mostly art and artifacts, but it's a world-class museum and they had some incredible stuff. We were only there for a few hours and I need to go back before I can pick some favorite things.

1. THANKSGIVING. Was amazing. So good. All of us American students at Regent's, plus a few extra friends, brought scads of traditional Thanksgiving food up to Spencer House and enjoyed it together. We ate crazy amounts of food, enjoyed being with one another and just talking and hanging out, and watched a movie. Which was perfect, because really, chilling on a couch with a bunch of friends watching a movie is one of the best ways (maybe one of the only ways) to let your body recover from eating enough food for three days.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." 1 Chronicles 16:34

27 November 2009

epic

So Wednesday afternoon I was cycling home. It was four in the afternoon, so it was already dark, of course, and rush hour, which in Oxford, as in most cities, is the exact opposite of its name. Cars were at a dead stop along the main road, waiting, and I was delighting in my freedom as I flew past them in the cycle lane. I had my bike lights on, so I was completely visible and legal, but it was all in vain. Two university-age boys were standing on the sidewalk ahead of me with their own bicycles, obviously waiting to cross the street, and when I was about five meters away from them, the first, without even looking, stepped in slow motion off the sidewalk into the cycle lane. He looked up just as my cycle meshed with his, literally and dramatically sweeping me off my feet.

"Oh my gosh! I am so sorry! That was all my fault! Are you all right? Are you all right?" I couldn't help myself, laying on the pavement I started laughing. "Yeah, I'm fine. Are you okay?" He carefully helped me up, dismissing my question with a quick nod, "Are you really all right? I am so so sorry! That was completely my fault. Are you really okay? I am so sorry!" (All of this in a charming British accent that matched his charming British looks.)

It was at this point that I failed. I should have asked for his number.
Seriously. If he's going to sweep me off my feet, might as well make it worth it!

But instead I replied, still laughing, "Yes. I'm totally fine. Promise. Don't worry about it. Glad that neither of us got hurt." And continued on my way.

Epic fail. Sigh. Next time...

;)

"If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" Ecclesiastes 4:10

26 November 2009

you were all just waiting for it to happen

I have now officially been swept off my feet by a British boy.

Details to come...
(Shameless cliffhanger, I know. Don't you wish you knew the rest of the story...)

"...God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me." Genesis 21:6b

22 November 2009

all the things i am not going to blog about today

Soon I shall tell you about my weekend. Some bizarre experiences, which may or may not end up being too trippy to put in a blog, but overall, solid good times.

I also have lots of thoughts about God.

And I've got some great photos of Mel & Corey & I's little Hanging of the Green video adventure.

For now, though, I seriously need to write a paper. So I just feel the need to share just a tiny smattering of my favorite Christmas-time things that just don't exist here in England.

Have a sweet Sunday.

I miss Summer Staff reunions. (And I miss T&D's house.)

I miss ignoring studying for finals in The Box.

I miss CUA dances.

I miss bonfires at Kelley's mama's house.

I miss Christmas in Ely.

I miss the part in every single home video my grandmother has ever filmed where the camera is sitting on her lap for at least five minutes before you hear her exclaim: "Oh, is this on?!"

I miss road trips.

I miss pajama church at Kelley's when it's just too icy to get off the Hill on a Sunday morning.

I miss Fine Time Family Christmas.

I miss running around on the square like hooligans.

I miss having too many people at our house to fit around the table.

I miss the Decorating of the Tree in Eaton.

I miss the Secretary of State's office.
That is a lie. I do not miss it at all.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven..." Ecclesiastes 3:1

20 November 2009

off balance

I am incompetent at interacting with people today. I don't know when to say something and when to shut up. And when I do talk, or write, or email, I say weird things. And even when I say something true, I can't say it right.
Ulgh. I am a freak.

19 November 2009

cracked in a hundred places

Hey all.
What better way to explain how I feel than to echo the words of my heroine: Anne of Green Gables?

"Anne," said Marilla abruptly, "Miss Stacy was here this afternoon when you were out with Diana."
Anne came back from her other world with a start and a sigh.
"Was she? Oh, I'm so sorry I wasn't in. Why didn't you call me, Marilla? Diana and I were only over in the Haunted Wood. It's lovely in the woods now. All the little wood things- the ferns and the satin leaves and the crackerberries- have gone to sleep, just as if somebody had tucked them away until spring under a blanket of leaves. I think it was a little gray fairy with a rainbow scarf that came tiptoeing along the last moonlight night and did it. Diana wouldn't say much about that, though. Diana has never forgotten the scolding her mother gave her about imagining ghosts into the Haunted Wood. It had a very bad effect on Diana's imagination. It blighted it. Mrs. Lynde says Myrtle Bell is a blighted being. I asked Ruby Gillis why Myrtle was blighted, and Ruby said she guessed it was because her young man had gone back on her. Ruby Gillis thinks of nothing but young men, and the older she gets the worse she is. Young men are all very well in their place, but it doesn't do to drag them into everything, does it? Diana and I are thinking seriously of promising each other that we will never marry but be nice old maids and live together forever. Diana hasn't quite made up her mind though, because she thinks perhaps it would be nobler to marry some wild, dashing, wicked young man and reform him. Diana and I talk a great deal about serious subjects now, you know. We feel that we are so much older than we used to be that it isn't becoming to talk of childish matters. It's such a solemn thing to be almost fourteen, Marilla. Miss Stacy took all us girls who are in our teens down to the brook last Wednesday, and talked to us about it. She said we couldn't be too careful what habits we formed and what ideals we acquired in our teens, because by the time we were twenty our characters would be developed and the foundation laid for our whole future life. And she said if the foundation was shaky we could never build anything really worth while on it. Diana and I talked the matter over coming home from school. We felt extremely solemn, Marilla. And we decided that we would try to be very careful indeed and form respectable habits and learn all we could and be as sensible as possible, so that by the time we were twenty our characters would be properly developed. It's perfectly appalling to think of being twenty, Marilla. It sounds so fearfully old and grown up."

"To think that this is my twentieth birthday, and that I've left my teens behind me forever," said Anne, who was curled up on the hearth-rug with Rusty in her lap, to Aunt Jamesina who was reading in her pet chair. They were alone in the living room. Stella and Priscilla had gone to a committee meeting and Phil was upstairs adorning herself for a party.
"I suppose you feel kind of sorry" said Aunt Jamesina. "The teens are such a nice part of life. I'm glad I've never gone out of them myself."
Anne laughed. "You never will, Aunty. You'll be eighteen when you should be a hundred. Yes, I'm sorry, and a little dissatisfied as well. Miss Stacy told me long ago that by the time I was twenty my character would be formed, for good or evil. I don't feel that it's what it should be. It's full of flaws."
"So's everybody's," said Aunt Jamesina cheerfully. "Mine's cracked in a hundred places. Your Miss Stacy likely meant that when you are twenty your character would have got its permanent bent in one direction or 'tother, and would go on developing in that line. Don't worry over it, Anne. Do your duty by God and your neighbor and yourself, and have a good time. That's my philosophy and it's always worked pretty well."

Sigh. Yep. It is what it is.
I have to admit, I haven't really been excited about a birthday since I turned fifteen. But it's okay. I am at peace (for the moment). It's time to do some more growing up, some more changing and learning and marveling. I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be in another world.
But by the grace of God, I am not what I was.

"From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God." Psalm 22:10

"Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life." Deuteronomy 30:19-20a

"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it." I Thessalonians 5:23-24

16 November 2009

bow side

I'm hesitating as to whether or not to write this because I'm afraid one of my rowing buddies might see this. Melody probably will. And I can just imagine her reaction: head tilts to side, face gets really rebuking, no smile, she just says "Really, Megan? Really."

But she'll forgive me...

Rowing this morning was incredible. All the way along the 45 minute walk to the river it was pitch black and storming and wet and a cold wind was gusting like crazy. When we finally got to the boathouse at 6:30 am, and as we prepared and got in the boat, it was still pitch black except for an ominous pink/orange tinge in the sky. The wind was furious, throwing slanting sheets of rain against our faces, the current was frighteningly strong, the water dark and choppy. We could barely hear our coach above the wind. And to top it all off, it was our first time out with all novices and a novice cox. We almost didn't go out, but I'm so glad we did. It was crazy adventurous and exciting, like paddling through floodwaters in a typhoon to rescue some stranded villagers. I was soaking wet, freezing my hands off, strands of hair whipping into my face, tense and nervous and ready to respond to any command from our cox that would keep us from capsizing, an absolute hot mess (as Lex would say) and I loved it.

And here was our reward. As we pulled in to the raft, swung the boat up over our heads (yes, that makes me feel really strong!) and carried it indoors, we realized that morning had come. The winds had died down, the sun was prying its way out from behind a cloud, and a rainbow welcomed us back to dry land.


Here's our wet and tired and beautiful team on the path back, laughing with sheer delight to still be alive. :D


I doubt I'm athletic enough to keep rowing after novice season, but I'm not sure how I'm going to give it up. I love this sport.

"That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, 'Let us go over to the other side.' Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, don't you care if we drown?'
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, 'Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?'
They were terrified and asked each other, 'Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!'" Mark 4:35-41

09 November 2009

pretension

I just used the word "multitudinous" in an essay.
Bam.

"Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance..." 1 Samuel 2:3a

08 November 2009

undivided

May your voice be louder,
may your voice be clearer than all the others.
Than all the others.

May your face be dearer,
may your words be sweeter than all the others.
Than all the others in my life.

Please keep my eyes fixed on you;
please root my heart so deep in you.
Keep me abiding.

"My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning." Psalm 130:6

07 November 2009

lucky

I have the stellarest nephews and nieces in the world. It makes my heart sad that I don't get to spend much time with them, as my sisters and I are spread out all over the world at this point. But I am in love with them. They are extravagantly beautiful and funny and precocious and delightful. They are my favorite people in the whole world.

Trevor:


Lillian:


Clara:


Benjamin:


Luke:


Also, speaking of love and beauty and photographs, I had a delightful surprise yesterday. I enjoy following Jeremy & Ashley Parsons' photography blog because they have mad skills and an eye for magical beauty. Yesterday, when I checked in to see if they had any new shoots up, what should come up but Jimmy & Lindsay's engagement photos! They are beautiful, almost as beautiful as Lindsay and Jimmy! Check it out: http://wearethebloggers.com/?p=1078

And two final bits of news:
~Will we ever get another roommate?? No. The girl who was supposed to move in with us "found other accommodations." I take that to mean she didn't want to live with us. I'm not resentful at all...
~Will we ever get internet?? Yes! But not until at least November 17th. Let me tell you, untangling the webs of communication and responsibility at this school has been quite a feat. We have finally found someone competent, however, to handle this issue for us. Wahoo!!!

I'm off to watch the kick-off match of the autumn rugby internationals: England v. Australia! See ya later!

"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." Psalm 126:3

06 November 2009

all this beauty

There's not much news in my life. I've pretty much just been in the library all day every day for the last week. Yep. But here's that exciting place so you can see it!




And here's what the rest of the library looks like:


So exciting, I know. And here's my view out the window:


So that's all the news in my life!
The end.

Just kidding.
Here are some other important places in my life you should see. Those of you who've spent time in Oxford can look and reminisce...

These are the Exam Schools where I have all of my lectures every week:


I actually only have one lecture I have to go to every week, but why limit yourself to one when there's a million crazy interesting subjects that I could be learning from really smart people? Well, I guess maybe if you wanted to avoid the label of "nerd"... But I've been going to some great lecture series that are fulfilling my thus-far thwarted desire to take religion classes at Jewell: The Gospel of John, History of Israel, Doctrine Before Nicea, The Christian Doctrine of Creation, and Liturgy, as well as Comparative Government and Plato's Republic. Oh yeah. So they're pretty much like normal classes in the U.S. except for the fact that they're at Oxford, so of course they're in some crazy cool building like the Exam Schools and of course they're in huge impressive lecture halls:


This is the street I ride my bike down every day to get to the Exam Schools: High Street (affectionately known by locals as "The High"):


Not going to lie, I feel really cool riding my bike around town. I think it helps me blend in. Here are some of the sights to see on the way there. First of all: Blackwell. I have gushed about Blackwell before, so I'll just say that it is to bookstores as the National Cathedral is to churches. I know it doesn't look that impressive on the outside, but on the inside, it goes on FOREVER:


And here's the Rad Cam, the classic icon of Oxford:


It's used to house books for the Bodleian.
Moving a little closer to home, this is the road we live on:




And here's the grocery store we shop at in Summertown. We actually live closer to Summertown on Banbury Road than we do to City Centre. Anna would like this place...


Moving towards Regent's, here's a sweet cemetery I like to hang out at:


And here, just for De, is the Eagle and Child. Yes, Regent's Park College is immediately behind it. Incredible.


De, if you come visit me, I'll take you there... pleeeease??
Regent's Park is a relatively new college. The organization that eventually became RPC was started in 1752, and the college didn't move to this location until the 1920s. But it's still beautiful, albeit in a very different way from the huge impressive colleges. Here's our quad:


Melody took a few pictures when we were down at the river for rowing practice the other morning. Here's the river at 6:45 am:


It's magical. We walk back through Christ Church Meadows along this path. That's Christ Church College at the end, well-beloved by all Harry Potter fans:


And here's Christ Church on the left and a distant Magdalen College tower on the right:


All this beauty... you might have to close your eyes
And slowly open wide.
All this beauty, we traveled all night.
We drank the ocean dry, and watched the sun rise...

"He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men..." Psalm 107:7-8

05 November 2009

not as smart as i thought i was

Today is one of the few times in my life that I've ever felt subpar in intelligence, like I am just too dumb to understand what I'm learning. I'm working on an economics paper exploring why Britain emerged relatively unscathed from the main economic effects of World War I compared to continental Europe, and I am just really struggling to understand some of the concepts. Economics is not my forte. It is SO abstract and jargonistic. It takes me hours to read and understand one chapter, and then I have no idea how the various parts of it fit together.
Blech.
This is me phoning a friend. If anyone has a five page, double-spaced answer to the question, let me know asap.
Maybe I should stick to something closer to my intelligence level. Like politics. Or coloring.

"For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'" 1 Corinthians 1:19

03 November 2009

weakness

This week has been one of the most shattering and the most joyous I've ever experienced. Someone in my life died, and someone was born. And I can't help but think about the two together.

One of my rowing teammates, a freshman girl at Regent's, was found dead in her room this week. They're thinking at this point it was an extremely swift onset of bacterial meningitis. She was absolutely fine that morning, vibrant and sweet and dreaming and planning and living. It's broken the entire college's hearts, including mine.

And yet my joy cannot be greater: I have another new nephew. Luke Alan Seiler was born yesterday and even though I haven't met him yet, and won't get to for another eight months, he has my entire heart. Nieces and nephews are my absolute favorite people in the entire world.

So... yeah. I don't have any answers. I hold my palms up, filled with questions that create more questions. But even though I'm offering them, no one is lifting them out of my outstretched hands. They just sit there, weighty and messy. Friends have reached out to hold my hand, regardless of the dirt, but the bulk of it remains my burden. (I am so very grateful that they love me enough to reach for my hand, and not a Clorox wipe.) Maybe eventually God will plant something in the dirt.
Like a daffodil bulb.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance..." Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

31 October 2009

hell

I'm confused and angry.
Hell is a dumb idea.

If the damnation of souls is the price of free will, can it be that perhaps God places too high a value on freedom?

How can this doctrine reconcile with the God I have met who loves overwhelmingly? If he would redeem me out of the disgusting darkness of my heart, why would he not redeem someone who might be seen as "more" wicked? Is it not his desire that none should perish? Why would he not redeem all of us who in our brokenness break others, who in our death kill others, who in our baseness reject him? Why are some irresistably drawn and redeemed and others not, if it is not a result of some power or goodness or decision of our own?

The bible is really mixed-up about it too. I've been going through the New Testament trying to write down every reference to this subject to try to grasp some cohesive whole, but I've only made it through Matthew and already the confusion is overwhelming. It doesn't make any sense, and there are a lot of things that Jesus apparently said that I don't know that I can accept. They are so harsh, so unlike the mercy and love that has shattered me. They don't make any sense.

How can I entrust people I love to God, believing he loves them even more than I do, when he says things like this?

I hate it.

If you want to explain it to me and tell me why I'm wrong, I don't want to hear it right now. If you want to sit with me in the frustration and sullenness and hurt of not knowing, not understanding, please come sit with me and we'll cry together.

"The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 13:41-42

"He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Matthew 5:45b

"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you... But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." Luke 6:27-28, 35-36

"'He [the master] replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them- bring them here and kill them in front of me.''" Luke 19:26-27

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Luke 19:10

"'As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day." John 12:47-48a

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14

28 October 2009

the two are one

He loves us. Oh, how he loves us.
How he loves us, oh.

Each person that I interact with, he made. And he loves them. Oh, how he loves them. I cling to this truth. It is the only way I can entrust them to him. I fall on my knees, crying out before him on their behalf, and at the end of the tears, I sink into the knowledge that he loves them even more than I do. If I would do anything in my power to heal them, to save them, how much more can I trust him to take care of them?

"One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are strong,
and that you, O Lord, are loving." Psalm 62:11-12a

25 October 2009

i just want to blog, but...

I have to finish an outline in the next hour & a half so I can go to the evening service at St. Aldate's. Silly work, interfering with my Sunday. Blech.
Anyway, I know a few of you will enjoy knowing that I also went to two services at Ebbes this morning. I'm calling it the Tour de Church: Oxford Edition...
See ya'll later.

"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:19-25

22 October 2009

british fashion part one

1. It is okay for women to wear tights without pants, excuse me, trousers. No skirt, no shorts, no dress, no trousers, no long shirt... just tights. Yep.
2. It is stylish for girls to spend more time ratting their hair in the morning than it would take to brush it. I would assume that this was just lazy "how-i-woke-up"ness, if it wasn't for the fact that these girls have impeccable makeup.
3. Male style is at a significantly higher level here. (Well, people in general are much more put-together, but especially men.) Sweaters, cardigans, narrow-legged jeans, scarves, and "satchels" are not only acceptable, but worn with fantastic confidence.
4. Although everyone always looks perfectly put-together at all times of the day, there is still a degree to which anything (besides sloppiness) goes. Especially if it involves multiple seemingly-disparate (though not gaudy) layers. And you can get away with almost anything if you add a scarf.
5. Boots.
6. Floral dresses.

More to come...

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Matthew 6:28-29

20 October 2009

shout-out

Last night I got the best letter in the galaxy from Bug!
It was the most wonderful part of my entire week.
Thanks, one whom I love! You're the best!!

"Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints." Philemon 1:7

19 October 2009

i was not warned

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We share your disappointment and greatly appreciate your understanding.
Sincerely,
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"I will put an end to your noisy songs, and the music of your harps will be heard no more." Ezekiel 26:13

18 October 2009

breaking bread

One cold windy dark night, two young Oxford students walked down an empty street through an unknown area of town. As they neared the desolate corner, a dark figure stepped out of the shadows and approached them. The shady character introduced himself only as "Wulf", and invited them to get in his car and go to his house for dinner. As soon as they got in the car, it pulled out of town and disappeared into the night, never to be seen again...
[insert scary theme music here]
Sounds creepy, huh?
At our international student orientation the other day, Melody and I stopped by a table where an organization was signing students up to have a meal in the home of a family from a local church. We enthusiastically jumped on board, as I'm sure you can imagine.
So last night we were supposed to meet our hosts in front of Harris Manchester College. The gentleman from the organization was there as well, and introduced us to our host, whose name really was Wulf, and his wife Jane. They took us to their house, which was really cool. They live with nine other people in a community house owned by CMS (something Mission Society) in south Oxford. They are part of an experiment of sorts with the organization to see what it looks like to live in that kind of community. We ate dinner with six of them, including Wulf and Jane, and they were all really normal and kind and fun. They all have different areas of cleaning or household responsibility that they take care of, as well as a cooking rotation, a garden, and a couple chickens. It was really neat, especially because I could see myself wanting to live in some sort of intentional community someday. So yeah, it started off a little surreal, but was not nearly as creepy as it could have been. They gave us their contact information and invited us to come back sometime, so it was a good experience and fun to meet new people in Oxford who aren't students!

"They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts..." Acts 2:46b

16 October 2009

don't know what you're missing

Yesterday the girls' novice rowing team was supposed to go out for a workout in the park under the supervision of Jonathan Lafferty. No worries, right? Lottie, our women's captain, told us it was just for fun, to get the team working together out of the water. Most of the girls had tutorials or work to do, so it ended up just being Melody and Adrienne and I who went. We met Lafferty (affectionately known by the entire college as Laff or Laffy) at the Uni Parks and set off for a light jog to our area. That was fine, and the first set of sprints was fine, but by the middle of the workout I thought I was going to die. Okay, dying is very much an exaggeration, but collapse was a serious option. It wasn't that long, fifty minutes, but fifty minutes of just alternating sprints, push-ups, and sit-ups is torture my body hasn't done in two years. It was achingly, agonizingly long. But the best part about exercise is when you're done. For the next hour or two you're on a high, you feel absolutely on top of the world. It's ALMOST worth the work part. But not.

But skimming along the surface of the river as the sun rose this morning was DEFINITELY worth it. There is something about hearing the soft splash of oars sliding in and out of the water before the sun has even woken up, that secret time that ninety-five percent of humanity doesn't know exists, the daily miracle of the resurrection of the world, that is incredible. It's one of my favorite feelings in the world.

"Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:
'Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.
Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?...
Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place,
that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?
The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment...
What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside?
Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?" Job 38: 1-7, 12-14, 19-20

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." Mark 1:35

14 October 2009

first formal hall

Posh frocks for our first formal hall:



"I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." Isaiah 61:10

13 October 2009

rockin' awesome weekend

This weekend was magnificent. Friday evening began with chapel, having a theme this term of "the city," which was a really neat mix of the traditional: lots of older people, piano & acoustic guitar & hand drums, everyone dressed to the nines for formal hall, and the unique: joint poetry readings, space to draw reflections of the city on the back wall, contemporary music. After chapel everyone traipsed downstairs for formal hall.

Formal hall = wicked awesome.

Formal hall is so cool at Regent's Park, I can't even imagine what it's like at somewhere really majestic like Christ Church. Every Friday evening we have an incredibly fancy dinner in the candlelit great hall, everyone wearing their academic gowns (not as cool as Hogwarts gowns, they're more like frilly black vests, but still...) and wearing posh clothes underneath. I couldn't bring myself to take photos of it, because that would have just been uncouth, but here's a surreptitious picture Melody took to demonstrate the elaborateness of the situation:


Yep, that's the butter.

So then after formal hall the JCR always has an event, and this week it was a bop, which is just a cheesy but delightful school dance that brought back nostalgia of Jewell dances. The theme was "When I grow up..." and here's Joe and Annie (who came and crashed our bop) and I as a professor, a secret agent, and a rock star:


Saturday I spent three hours exploring the University Parks again, and I didn't even make it all the way to the end of ONE of the bazillion gorgeous trails there. I meandered along...





...found a great tree to climb...


... and then had to track my way back.

Saturday afternoon Eric and I hung out at The Nosebag. I know it's referring to the sack that horses eat out of, but it's still kind of a gross name for a restaurant, don't you think? Melody and I make fun of it every time we walk by, but it's really precious on the inside, and a great place for a mug of coffee and a good talk and some British people-watching.

All of the new and visiting students are supposed to have a "college parent." Kind of like a mentor back at Jewell, just an upperclassman to take care of you and answer your questions. It actually reminds me (with only the slightest bit of revulsion... sorry my sorority friends!) even more of a sorority mom-dot relationship, the way they talk about "your dad" and "your grandmum" and "your aunt." Anyway, everyone was supposed to have dinner with their college parents on Saturday night, but we began to realize as it got near the end of the week that none of the American students had been contacted by their parents. In other words, our parents apparently didn't want us. We were as abandoned orphans, lonely waifs in the world.

Sounds like an excuse for a partay!!!

Melody and I had a grand Orphan Night pizza party at our house and ten of us probably demolished four large pizzas in under ten minutes. It was fantastic. And the best part is that we had 50% off coupons from the Fresher's Fair, so we only had to chip in three quid each. How much better does it get?


I visited Wesley Memorial Methodist for the 10:30 service on Sunday, which was fine, but not exactly inspiring, then went back to Ebbes for the 11:45 service and student lunch, which was PACKED (as in every single seat in the church was taken for the service, standing room only if you were late) and wonderful. I like that church a lot, and even though I'd like to visit a few other places, I'll probably start going there regularly.

Yesterday I worked on finishing my first paper that was due at 8 am this morning, but I also had my first comparative government lecture, my first rowing practice, and my first choir rehearsal (scads of fun). After dinner, I think the entire college crowded into the JCR to watch our very own Regent's Park team compete against Emmanuel College from Cambridge on University Challenge, a tv quizzing show. Seriously, even though Regent's Park has less than 200 students, I think they got more people to come watch a quiz competition than Jewell can get at a football game! There was some intense school spirit in the room, with cheers for our team and boos for Emmanuel and lots of laughter. Our team won, of course ;)

Well, I'm off to my first tutorial in five minutes, so wish me luck!

Oxford Love,
Megan xxx

"I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil- this is the gift of God." Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

12 October 2009

sighting

Anna Popplewell sat RIGHT in front of Melody today in her lecture. As in Susan from The Chronicles of Narnia. For real. She goes to Magdalen College here.
I am DEFINITELY going to the lecture with her next week.

09 October 2009

shattered

The brokenness and homelessness in this city is tearing me to pieces.
I went to bible study at St. Ebbe's last night, which was stellar, and met a lot of lovely people. One girl in particular, Lucy, who is one of the small group leaders, is just a dear, and took me into her friendship and sat with me for the evening. And afterward, I think I met a prophetess. Her name is Sharon, and she's apparently kind of the director of the women's side of college/young adult ministries. She sat down next to me and is one of the incredibly rare people who are able to skip the small talk of school and studies and hometown and age and all that and dive straight into exactly where my heart was at: the vulnerability of change, the grace of leaving your community behind and being alone with God, when the reality of a new place begins to stab through the vision. She looked at me like she was peering straight into my heart, but through a sheen of a love and mercy from Christ so that she could only see the tiny beautiful parts of it. What a crazy gift. I think that counts as a variety of prophecy: a supernatural insight.
Anyway, on my way to the bible study, I stopped to talk to a couple of the people out on the streets. There are so many people in the city centre area playing instruments, juggling, selling magazines, just sitting and asking for money. I was walking straight past the juggler and he said softly as I was almost past, "Might you spare a penny, miss?" And once again, my heart fell out of my body right onto the sidewalk. I stopped to talk to him while I fished all of my change out of my wallet. He told me about how he used to just beg, but picked up juggling a couple years ago from someone else and can do both the normal pins and balls. He can also juggle with fire, but he says the stuff you use to light them is too expensive. He thanked me and I moved on, a little more slowly, my eyes no longer fixed straight ahead.
I passed a few more homeless men and women, but the next one to stop me was "Big Issue? Please? It's my last one." He appeared to be in his twenties, tired and desperate, with matted red hair. I think it's a neat program, so I stopped to buy one, but all I had was a ten pound note, so I asked him for change. He went to get change from his girl, who was sitting drawing on the sidewalk with a big shoebox of chalk bits. "How much change you want? Fiver alright?" and I nodded. She fished a crumpled bill out of her pocket and handed it to me. I thanked her and stretched out my hand to take the magazine, but he stepped back, clutching it tightly. "Do ya mind if I keep it?" "Well, I'd like to read it," I responded, baffled. "But it's my last one," he whined, "and I'm trying to get enough money for my girl and I to stay somewhere warm tonight." He told me about how they'd been beaten up and robbed earlier in the week and so his girlfriend was now limping. About how he wanted to get off the streets, but right now all he could think about was tonight. About how long he'd been out there. I listened, because that's all I knew how to do for him.
On the way back from Ebbes two and a half hours later I ran into him again, in the middle of Cornmarket. "Big Issue? It's my last one." I half-smiled, "I've already bought one from you tonight." "Not possible, I'd have remembered you for sure. Please, Big Issue?" "No, I really did," I reminded him. He gave in, "Well, can you spare some change then?" I lied and told him I didn't have any more money, the fiver smouldering in my wallet. I began asking him questions, quietly, humbly, nonconfrontationally, trying to engage him like a real person. He told me some about his life, about his struggles, about trying to provide for his girl. And then we parted ways again. I was on Banbury Road when I started crying. How dare I judge his brokenness? How dare I judge him for having a girlfriend when he can't even take care of himself? How dare I judge his tangled hair, shifty eyes? How dare I lie to him? How dare I not give to him everything I have? How dare I assume that the crumpled note she handed me was probably a one, not the fiver I'd asked for? How dare I not use my social resources for him, take them back to St. Ebbes and get them some of the leftover food, ask around if anyone knew of anywhere they could stay? Why hadn't I thought of it? How dare I think that I was loving him well by conversing with him, when I had failed to do more that I could have done?
I stopped in front of my house and pulled out my wallet to examine the note in the moonlight. A fiver nestled in my hand.
I loved better today than yesterday.
I must love better tomorrow.

"Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:30-38

08 October 2009

the british language part one

lorry = truck
chemist = pharmacist
post = mail
scone = biscuit
biscuit = cookie
cookie = subtype of "biscuit"
table football = foosball
football = soccer
crisps = chips
chips = fries
jacket potato = baked potato
cardi/cardigan = sweater
quid = pound (monetary)
brilliant = great
hole-in-the-wall = atm
doing = studying/majoring in
at = in
toilet = restroom
queries/enquiries = questions
mobile = cell
trousers = pants
posh = fancy/high-falutin'
corridor = hallway
leaflets = pamphlets
surgery = clinic
study bedroom = dorm room
fresher = freshman
cheers = this one is complicated. There is no American equivalent. I finally asked some of the girls about it last night because I didn't know when the heck it was appropriate to say and when not. They said that it's kind of an informal thank you, and can also serve as a joint thank-you and goodbye. Appropriate situations: when someone holds the door for you, when you are the man at the ice cream counter handing someone their ice cream. Inappropriate situations: when a waiter brings you food, when speaking to the Chancellor of the University. Are we all quite clear?

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." Daniel 7:13-14

07 October 2009

francis of assisi

This man's life was characterized by "merry abandonment and instant obedience to any word he believed to be the command of Jesus Christ."
May I be the same.

"He replied, 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.'" Luke 11:28

06 October 2009

adventures in a new land

Adventures abound here. First of all, Oxford is absurdly beautiful, and I can't even go for a walk without stopping to gawk at the wondrous things around me. Second, the people are thoroughly entertaining. That's the only way I know to describe that without just telling you stories.

First, the best adventures concerning geographic location:

1. The University parks- gorgeous vast expanses of park/gardens/sporting fields/paths/river close to our house. Yesterday I thought they might also become the mysterious ghost haunts of the daring explorer Megan Kennedy who disappeared into them one bright October day and was never seen again.


I had to go to the Social Science Library in search of the books on the pre-reading list sent to me by my Comparative Governments tutor. Unfortunately, all I knew about the Social Science Library is that 1. it is somewhere in Oxford, and 2. on the map it looked like it was roughly near the southeast corner of the University parks. So I set off on an adventure. I left Regent's Park, and upon reaching the southwest corner of the parks, I began just walking along the edge of them, figuring I would eventually end up passing the Social Science Library. Forty minutes, three streets of science buildings, a narrow bike alley, a small iron gate, and some large hedges later, I found myself here,


standing on a bridge deep in the middle of nowhere scanning my options. The path I was currently on that I thought was still going in the right direction led into a large pasture backed by trees with absolutely no sign of buildings as far as I could see. There were a few ducks, but they were disinclined to provide any advice and ignored my attempts at communication. I was "litrelly" (the Brits say this all the time) out in the countryside, with no sign of civilization beyond my narrow path. The other option was what looked like a deer trail meandering along the stream. Retracing my steps was a declaration of failure, as by the time I reemerged in Oxford it would be time to head back to the college to meet Melody. So I did what all true adventurers do: I took the road less travelled by. And by "road", I mean a deer trail. I followed the trail until it faded into oblivion, then tramped though a large pasture toward the only building I could see, hoping only at this point to find a fellow human being, perhaps a friendly farmer who would let me borrow a horse to ride back. Or something.
Anyway, I trudged across this pasture and through a tall fence and found myself, of all places, in a back alley behind the dorms of St. Catherine's College! I had no idea where St. Cat's was or how on earth to get back to Regent's, but at least I would not wander for four months in the forests until I either lost my mind and tried to join the community of ducks or keeled over from eating poisonous berries!
So I made my way through the maze of dorms, intently ignoring the fact that I was walking past large window walls looking right into lots of people's rooms and even hearing some of their conversations. I victoriously made it to the entrance to the college and then slumped when I remembered that I had still failed the initial aim of my adventure and would have to go back without accomplishing anything or obtaining my books. But as I trudged down the street, still lugging my backpack, laptop, and all of my junk, in who knows what part of town, I glanced up to the right looking for a street sign and saw a large building labeled SOCIAL SCIENCE LIBRARY. Miracle!! Impossible!! God loves me immensely!!
I marched in in disbelief, registered my card, checked out my books, found out that since it's still technically vacation I get to keep them for a week instead of the normal two days, and found my way back to Regent's. I still don't know where the Social Science Library is, as I just wandered around afterwards through neighborhoods and alleys and colleges until I found myself in an alley next the the Lamb & Flag, across the street from Regent's, but I'm okay with that. Minor detail.

2. The Summertown public library branch- don't worry, this isn't as long of a story. The basic details are that it's delightful. I meandered up there on Saturday. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, cool and crisp and a little cloudy, with fall leaves everywhere, and Summertown had a really pleasant small town feel, like most of the people in the library actually lived there and weren't just students or visitors, which is more the vibe of the rest of Oxford. The British librarian lady was very nice and got me a library card and I just perused their small assortment of books and used the computer and got familiar with the place. So cute.

3. Church- went to St. Ebbe's Sunday morning, which is an old (they're all old here) evangelical Anglican church (didn't even know there was such a thing until I went). I wouldn't have known it was Anglican if someone didn't mention it afterwards, and if it wasn't for the building, which is gorgeous ancient high-traditional style. It was stellar. I loved it. I went to the 9:45 service, which apparently is the more family-attended, intergenerational service, whereas the 11:45 is mostly college students. I am so glad I did, as I feel like I've only spent time with college students for the last week and I'm tired of them. :) Age-divided services are not my thing anyway; I feel like they miss out on so much richness. This week was a children's service, so all the kids were up in the front rows sitting on the floor listening and playing their little musical instruments during worship. One of the children's workers gave the sermon on the parable of the rich fool (the one who stores up his wealth on earth and then God demands his life from him) and it was a stellar mix of really engaging the kids in the story with a puppet and a balloon man and age-appropriate illustrations, and still really bringing the message effectively to the grown-ups as well. It was surprising to me because I never expected such an old, traditional church to love Jesus so much and to be so joyfully focused on the gospel and the cross and the bible. Oxford feels like a very secular town (I'm coming from the Bible Belt, so I'm sure my perspective of the common place of religion in culture and daily life is a little skewed), with religion being so much more diversified and so much more optional than in the Midwest. I actually kind of crave talking about God, so much so that I feel like I'm on constant lookout for people to relate to spiritually. I stayed late at lunch today chatting with a ministerial student because he was telling me about his experiences as a missionary in Tunisia and it was refreshing as all get-out.

4. Blackwells- the most amazing array of books imaginable with the possible exception of the library the Beast gives Belle. Five floors of bookstore and the underground level goes on forever, with over three miles of shelves! It might just be what heaven looks like. :)

5. The JCR- where everything happens related to student life. It's great. I'm thinking of starting a campaign to get rid of the Cage at Jewell and replace it with a JCR. Seriously. Though that might be a bit of a problem on a dry campus...


6. And finally and obviously, Oxford- it is quite simply the most beautiful and awe-inspiring town I've ever been in, with just scads of history and extravagantly beautiful architecture. The oldest tower, right in the middle of the shopping area, dates to the 11th century. As in the 1000s. My mind just can't grasp that.

And now for adventures with people...

1. The Oxford nightlife is worth it just for the people-watching. Disclaimer: I promise (Mom, Dad, Grandma, all of you who look after me in some capacity) that there are many normal sane sober people, police, and street lights around in the wee hours of the morning. Many. Oxford seems to be an impressively safe town, with no bad areas as far as we've explored, and we live in a very nice area of town. All that to say that these crazy people we run across are the exception, not the rule, and should be seen as entertainment, not danger.
So anyway, Saturday night as we were walking home from hanging out and bumming internet at Joe/Maura's house in the frigid early early early morning, we first passed a girl in a sleeveless dress with no shoes or coat running down the street pulling a young man behind her by the hand who is appropriately dressed and they are both exclaiming over and over again, ignoring the pleas of the other:
Girl: "Please come to my bed! Please come to my bed!"
Boy: "You shouldn't be talking to me like that! You shouldn't be talking to me like that!"
We then passed a man huddled in a doorway who very politely but a little pathetically inquired "Might you be interested in The Big Issue?" (a magazine designed to give homeless individuals the opportunity to earn money honestly by buying copies of the magazine and reselling them at a profit on the street). When I apologetically declined, he kindly replied "That's alright love. Thank you anyway and have a good night." Everyone who asks for money here is just so polite and kind about it; it makes your heart fall out all over the sidewalk to tell them no.
Next came two men standing on a corner who boldly (and with excellent diction) called out "Hello ladies! Could you help us with our English? We're from Spain." Astonished, we set before them the fact that it was the middle of the night, but they were shocked that this could make any difference in our sympathy toward the seriousness of their plight, and so we hurriedly continued on down the street, Melody calling over her shoulder "Lo siento!"
Next, as we passed the Eagle and Child, was a group of middle-aged to older men, waltzing jollily (is that a word? it's what they were) down the sidewalk belting out a good old-fashioned drinking song. I could easily imagine them all very staidly and seriously engaged in the business world at three o'clock on a Wednesday, but late on a Saturday night, they had thrown inhibition to the winds. The loudest one reeled to the side, swinging his arm as he passed Melody, and for a moment we thought his fist was going to connect with her face, but he steadied himself and continued along with the next verse.
Finally came a very nice looking, but disheveled and confused, 30 or 40-year-old man stumbling back and forth between the street and the sidewalk with a distressed look on his face. "Excuse me, I need help." We stopped, alarmed. "I need to find the train station. Do you happen to know where the train station is?" he slurred desperately in a British accent. "We're so sorry, we just moved here, we really honestly don't know how to get to the train station. We're so so sorry." He looked at us confusedly and slumped despondently when it finally registered in his mind that we truly couldn't help him. "That's alright." he replied sadly and began to stagger off. We turned to watch him leave, heartbroken that we couldn't help him, worried about his safety. He was nicely dressed, very polite, wearing a wedding band, and we could only imagine what could bring him to this stage of intoxication in this nice area of town in the early hours of the morning. Where was his wife and what was she thinking? Where did he need to go on the train? Melody called out after him, "Hey buddy, be careful! Stay on the sidewalk, okay? I don't want you to get hit by a car." He kind of nodded and continued weaving down the street. We probably should have helped him find a cab, but we didn't think of it in time. We can only pray that he made it safely to his destination and that his life was better in the morning.

2. Crunchy Blonde- that's all I have to say about that. Apparently Melody really attracts the quality British men. :) Check out her blog for the details of the hilarious episode with this creeper.

3. Our neighbor Hannah- she's swell. The end.
No, I'll give you a bit more about her. :) She's just adorable, twenty-something, very very sweet and kind, kindergarten teacher, married to ministerial student Andy, lives in the flat above us, expecting their first child in March, invited Melody and I over the first evening we were here for tea and we just sat and thoroughly enjoyed talking to her for at least an hour and a half. Just met her husband Andy the other night, as he was gone on a trip last week. He knocked and introduced himself and explained the trash and recycling collection to us. Seemed like a really nice, fun guy, younger than I was expecting.

I love people. Even crazy people. Especially crazy people.
And I love all of you people back home who are reading this. Cheers!

"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8