Sunday, November 22, 2009

Deep in thought after a night working at a local homeless organization.

It is so odd how we see the things we want to see.
You can live in Oxford for months before you notice a homeless person.
You can live for years and never do something to change the brokenness around you.

And I say this as an introspective view... it is so easy for me to do nothing.

Why do you think that we hide from what Jesus called us to? When we are called to the least of these, why is it that we forego our cross and tiptoe away? I used to believe it was due to my own laziness. It is simply easier to care about only myself.

Yet, I discovered something else tonight. The starting point is not my own selfishness. Underneath the self-interest, there is a deep fear of loving someone other than myself. To show that I care, to be vulnerable... it opens to the probability of making mistakes. There is something terrifying about talking to older, homeless men for an hour. The question always runs through my mind, "What do you really want?" Each person wants to be recognized as a human being... not some lower class write-off. At the same time, I want to be recognized as a human being also.

And, perhaps that is the irony of loving people. We all just want to be humanized again. And only Jesus' love poured out from people willing to pick up their crosses can do this.

Maybe that is why I find it so easy to disengage from the pain around me.

The path that Jesus walked was hard.
But also beautiful.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I wrote this last week on a scrap of paper at a local cafe...

Right now I am sitting with two lovely friends in Georgina’s coffee shop, a hidden treasure within Oxford’s Covered Market.


There is nothing quite so wonderful as sipping on a creamy cup (frosted in whipped cream) when you are laughing with such enjoyable friends. The Beatles playing in the background. The tap tap of computer keyboards. Bleak House criticisms spread out over the wooden table. Red and nearly obnoxious pink walls. A decoupaged ceiling. I love it here.

Just thought I'd share that with you.

PS - This is my friend Kate, who is fabulous. She has such a wonderful sense of humor and reminds me of Andrei as a childhood friend. Here we are sharing nachos (which, from what I can tell, are a RARE delicacy in England.) These were good. Not Mexican by any means... but good. Also, notice in the picture above that Kate is attempting to steal my drink. Shameless...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Just a quick addition to the last post:
(Also dedicated to Dr. Nystrom)

President Carter, a fellow of Mansfield, visited the college recently, since he believes (like I do) that the library is incomparable in beauty. Here he is in the Senior Common Room, and one can see the bottom of C.H. Dodd's portrait in the photo.

This blog is dedicated to the honorable Doctor Reverend David Nystrom.
As you can see, Dr. Nystrom, I have successfully discovered the infamous portrait of C.H. Dodd in Mansfield College. It looks just like the one you have hanging at home.

It was no simple maneuver to enter within the fortified walls of the College. (Actually, it was much easier than I thought it would be.) Usually, the public and even other students from surrounding Oxford colleges are not allowed in the building, but they made an exception. I believe the exception was granted in part to the ridiculous story I told them. The porter did give me a funny look when I said, "Er... I'm here to find the portrait of C.H. Dodd for the Dean of Theology at my university back home. He wants a photo of it." He picked up "the tele" and rang the librarian, telling her, "I have this young woman from America here who wants to see a portrait..." I love how he needed to include the prepositional clause, "from America."

The librarian, Mrs. Alma, was so endearing and hospitable. She showed me the portrait, the library, and bestowed all manner of souvenirs on me. She only asks in return for the full story of how a duplicate portrait is hanging on Dr. David Nystrom's wall in California. I concur. And the question is, were two portraits painted? Or is one the original, while the other is a reproduction? They look identical to me.

I unfortunately did not bring my camera. It was rather a spontaneous adventure to Mansfield College. Hopefully I will go back soon (I received an invitation back to visit!) and take some photos of the grounds and the library. The library is the most beautiful I have seen.

Hoping that this blog will so please the honorable Doctor Reverend David Nystrom. Also hoping to be able to visit the honorable Doctor Reverend David Nystrom when I am home for a month in December. I miss your classes.

PS - the librarian knew of you. That was exciting!
PPS - Lavender toed socks?

Seize the day,

Friday, October 23, 2009

A list of the random things about this odd city I am privileged enough to live in...

1) The giant hill I live on. It is steeper and longer than my hill at home. It makes me say my prayers as I cycle up it.

2) Wearing a skirt and heels while I cycle up said hill. This qualifies for the "Only in Oxford, you'll see..." list. Only in this strange town would you see so many women riding around in dresses, skirts, heels, etc. on bicycles. Remind me not to join this crazy club of cyclers. It's too cold.

3) Apple trees in strange places. I went running yesterday - ran through busy city, through residential, then ended in a beautiful open field. All in a span of ten minutes time. Then I climbed through a hole in a hedge only to be in an Eden of apple trees. I won't need to buy apples for a long time. At that point, I needed a plastic bag to load up. And, as Murphy's law would have it, that moment was the only one where I could not find a littered bag. Where is litter when you need it?!

PS - I love my tutorials. Expound later.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Such a hilarious, wonderful morning.

So... it is someone's birthday today here at the Vines, and I thought I would whip up a batch of chocolate chippers for him. Not so.

Sometimes I wonder if God just wants to have a quick laugh and sabotages my plans for comic relief. The cookies were a wreck. Not sure what happened... one moment they looked normal, then the next, they melted all over the cookie sheet. Something like pancakes. Lest they burn the oven, I chose to yank them out. But, when you buy a minute and select number of groceries, even melted, pancakey cookies are salvageable. I scooped the dough-like substance back into the bowl, added some ingredients and made a brownie cake. The birthday boy won't even know that his lovely nutella brownie was a complete blunder. Hopefully.

Thought I'd share that with you.

Now, on to those papers. Notice the plural. Shakespeare, ready or not, here I come.

PS- Blogs to be posted: handstands and climbing the walls at the Vines, starring Child! And Mia's visit to C.S. Lewis' home at the Kilns.

Also, I'd love to just write and write about how wonderful Jane Eyre is. Perhaps I will spare you.

Seize the day, my friends!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Needed to make a quick post before this lecture begins.

You might find it interesting that I go to class with Susan Pevinsee from the movie, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Strange... huh?

But, I am in England. It's bound to happen.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Time has not allowed me to simply write for the pure enjoyment of it lately.
However, I'm outmaneuvering this ridiculous excuse by choosing to write.

Life is full and beautiful.
I'm not sure there is another way to express it.
The last Sunday - on my Sabbath - it was drizzling and gray. Horrible English weather that I have (thankfully!) not experienced much. But, I resolved that skin is waterproof (and supposedly my jacket is also) and went on my adventure anyway.

The jacket is not waterproof. At least, it is not after an hour of steady rainfall.

My destination, a good ten miles away, was never reached. I was forced to abandon the flight plan midway for the sake of warm clothes.

On my way back, there was a narrow bend in the road, where I needed to cycle on the sidewalk, since a car was coming up behind me. Instead of gracefully rising over the curb, my tire lost traction, and I fell. (Which, according to my scars on my body, is not an abnormal occurrence for poor Child.) The kind people in the car pulled over to check on me. They could not fit me in their car, but they invited me over to their home to dry off and drink tea. (And thankfully, I was not hurt badly from the fall!)

At their home, I had the most delightful time. Kris and Kim have a wonderful family of three children. They took such good care of me. They gave me dry clothing, fed me, and I got to just bask in their love for one another as a family. I cannot explain what I felt except that it was sheer joy in knowing that my Daddy (God) was looking out for me. I had been so cold (and miserable after falling) that I was beyond thankful to be in a warm home (both metaphorically and literally.) The kids were so much fun to play with. There is something so unique about the way a child perceives the world.

Not only did they give me tea, pizza, and a new shirt to keep, we began conversing about churches. They had just been coming back from church and had strangely taken the wrong turn when they saw me fall. At that time, they had been searching for a place to whip a u-turn. (So my sneaking suspicion is that God pushed me off my bike to allow our meeting!) They pointed me to their church for an evening service. After a couple weeks of going to a church that does not feel at home, the visit to their church was amazing. What do you know... God has a plan.

The oddity is that the whole story can be seen as a superb metaphor. Life is like a rainy day sometimes. You're riding along the wet roads, minding your own business, when a puny curb decides to make your life difficult. Your tire loses traction, and you hit the ground. In shock and the agony of pain, you retreat for cover under a tree nearby, bleeding and alone. Yet, not alone. Suddenly, a person comes to take you into their home, bind your wounds, feed you, and clothe you. Godsend, anyone? What's that verse about feeding the hunger, giving drink, clothing the naked, and doing this to the least of these is actually for Christ? It's an image of God-given unmerited grace to us, then given by us to others. Hopefully, it's contagious.

It also goes to show that God has a plan (echo?)... even for the crap happenings of life.

He is good. Simon (a staff member here) says that statement is the core of faith. I agree.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lake District! (my favorite part of the Oxford experience so far!)

This is the amazing trip of midterm break! Will post more photos soon. (Soon is a completely ambiguous word.)

Here are a hodge-podge of my favorite Lake District photos! See if you can match these captions with some of the photos.
1) Dustin attempts to smooch an ancient polar bear.
2) Genny and I pose for a glamour shot.
3) A triple black and white take on the ancient murder painting of Robert Dudley's wife, dead at the bottom of the stairs. An unfortunate, yet convenient, death. Google it for more info.
4) Kate = missing column.

Another post of my grand adventure last Sunday. Sabbaths are wonderful.

Still trying to come up with a grander adventure for this Sunday.

Went through Portmeadow. It is this lovely walk along the Thames. In the sunshine, it cannot be compared.

Along the way, there was an abbey in ruins... it was beautiful. Up top is a photo through the main window. I've also posted more for your enjoyment below.
This photo of the little lass is my favorite. She is trying to

dandelions... it was darling. Work on those cheek muscles, dear!

Here's a classic photo - climbing the ruins! It's incredible to scramble up something hundreds of years old and not get in trouble.

The final destination of the adventure was a pub by the name of The Trout Inn. It is supposed that Tolkien modeled The Prancing Pony. This is the back porch that has the river running through it. A little bit of Bree.
This has been a bit of the adventure. Hope you have enjoyed the wild ride. Please stay tuned for more!


Okay. Here is the post I have promised.

To catch up.

I have not posted pictures from London, nor Hampton Court, nor Portsmouth.

But to save time, I will post a few representative photos of each trip. More can be found on facebook.

This is the photo for London. Here stand my room mate and I before the Tower Bridge. Classic.
I actually do not care for London at all. Incredible museums (from the limited amount I have seen thus far) but altogether a busy, crazy city. Lots of crowds.

For Hampton Court, (Henry VIII's home) I choose to post a few.
I liked this field trip much more - probably because we were allowed to wear these amazing costume capes. Just kidding. To be honest, the art of this period seems overdone to me. It was a nice trip nonetheless.

The gardens were beautiful. For reference, please see facebook!

The rose garden was my favorite. The picture at the top of this blog shows some of its splendor.

Here is my Portsmouth photo:
There are so many more beautiful (and fun!) photos... but you'll have to check them out on facebook.

So, those are my basic pictures of field trips taken in the last few field trips.

I have not included the trip to the War Museum, which was very heavy in lieu of the focus on the Holocaust. Perhaps these photos are best reserved for in person. There is a great story behind them.

Stay posted for the best photos of all - the Lake District trip! Fabulous hiking! A beautiful four days of escape!

Much love to you all!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Must go to sleep.

Everything in the past few days has been amazing. We had midterm break, and for four days went to the Lake District of England. Hiking, relaxing, cooking, eating, laughing, playing games, the most wonderful people... yes. A little slice of heaven. I will post pictures eventually.

But, now, it is back to the grindstone. Must work harder...

(Dear Lord, help me.)

Write more soon.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sabbath, 20/9/2009 Record

After liturgy at St. Andrews at 8 AM, I embarked on an adventure.
Just my bike and I - off for a Sabbath rest to remember that God created me a human being... not a human doing. And after a busy week of researching about six to eight hours a day, it was immaculate timing.

I "forgot" my camera, which was rather therapeutic. Thus I could just wander, soak in the delights, and never worry that I was missing the documentation of such experiences.

C.S. Lewis writes in Surprised by Joy that joy itself has one characteristic that he can fathom. The one who experiences joy will desire it again. Joy is never in our power to remain. It is like trying to hold water with a sieve. Impossible. It flows in and out when and how it pleases. But joy is not pleasure, for Lewis writes, "Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is."


If it was possible - I'd ask you to now shut your eyes fast and imagine with me the setting I shall depict. In this instance, I do not defer to the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words. Had I had a camera, no amount of photos would have sufficed. A word, I believe, is worth a thousand pictures.

Sunshine - deliciously touching glistening grass... flooding autumn breeze with warmth - life

Rustling of emerald leaves on trees resurrected from Middle Earth - dusted with gold

Hidden gates, forgotten paths, dilapidated docks

A grand palace - marvel of human hands

The smell of earth, the crunching of soft, dry grass under bare feet

Solitude vast and unmeasured
Amidst the backdrop of a painted sky, of dollops of cloud and puppet birds

A girl - ragged jeans and weathered cap - dreaming, wishing, hoping

Time could stand still.

So that sums up my day in the best way possible. I sabbathed at Blenheim Palace. Rode my bike there, had a meat pie for lunch, and washed it down after with a hot chocolate. Went tromping through the back gates that peasants used hundreds of years ago into the palace gardens. The Rose Garden was amazing. Have you ever realized that each rose smells distinct. I wonder if that is what God means by a fragrant sacrifice, in a way. Perhaps each human gives off a special, unique scent in sacrifice.
Well, must be off. Cheers!

PS - all these photos are off google.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I hope this blog is found intelligent and entertaining at the same moment to my faithful readers. There is nothing quite so distasteful as a boring journal where one blabs about nothing for a great while. That is the antithesis of my goal.

There is so much to write about. (My mind is overflowing with goodness!) Yet, again, time escapes me. Thus, this shall be abbreviated.

I do have many more photos to post. Since I last wrote, we have traveled to London and to Hampton Court (where Henry VIII vacationed.) Both were interesting, but not my favorite trips.
At this time, I have my first case study due on Monday. It is an eight page paper on the character of Robin Hood. Very interesting findings. Fill you in on it later. I am almost finished and ready to step into editing mode.

Today has been marvelous. I went to a local farmers market on my bike (what could be more glorious?) There was freshly baked bread, eggs, home made cheese, Middle Eastern food, vegetables and fruit for the harvest season, and silk scarves. I got milk in a glass bottle, and every week I am supposed to bring it back for a refill. The cows live on a farm, free range, right down from where I live. Got some falafel (much to Lindsay's chagrin,) and a loaf of grain bread. Plus I got turnip and parsnip and runnabeans (how do you spell that?) and carrots... etc., etc. I am thriving here. (We will see if I still say that after I turn in my paper...)

When I was little and I dreamed of who I'd be and where I'd go, I'd always hoped to study in Oxford. England, I imagined, was the land of my favorite tales - where I could smell the veggible foremole baking nicely in the oven (for all those Redwall fans out there,) see an old library encrusted with dusty books (like the Duke Humphrey's library in the Bodleian,) sit around a pub table with friends like the Inklings, debating philosophy, anthropology, and whatever else I so desired. And I envisioned the woods to be the greenest of green - a place where Peter Pan might fly past you at any moment and Robin Hood dart out of the glade. And it's all true. I am thrilled. Can you see the picture I am painting before you?

Or perhaps I should point to the ten hours of sleep I reaped last night. Perhaps that's why the world is so lovely!

Well, I am going to go write. Obviously, I have a need to spurt words and phrases at this moment... I feel I could write a book at the moment.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

There is just so much to write about. If only time coincided on those grounds. But, alas! I have hardly any time to bide. I must write... and write furiously.

Right now, I am in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. It is beautiful. Rows and rows of books. I feel like Belle in Beauty and the Beast. This is a piece of paradise for me.

I cannot even dream of where to begin on relating what I love about being here.
Assuredly, I should begin with the people I am privileged to live with. Such a fantastic group of brilliant individuals. My favorite moments of time are the durations spent after dinner with a group of philosophizing intellectuals, discussing God and who He is. I love that these aren't the classic, quote the Bible verse speech that we hear in church. These are hard questions... questions that arouse debate... questions that spark other ideas. We were discussing the idea of perfection last night. Heaven is never said to be perfect... and that leads to what do we know of afterlife anyway? Then one might ask if perfection is a stagnant word. What if perfection was a continuing process? Would that then be tied to time and space? Somehow that led to what infallibility means and language and then God's presence (or absence.) As you can see, it can be hard to tear oneself away from these deep conversations. I thrive off these hours.

I have a friend here - perhaps I will get a picture to post someday - who challenges my thought pattern in every way. Christo, strangely enough, dreams of building a school in an impoverished country. Not necessarily living there, but building it nonetheless. Ironic. My greatest dream also, except that I wish to live there among the people. But, Christo keeps challenging my world view, which I find refreshing.

On to another subject. Food groups!
We have established a new system for eating hot meals four nights a week. (Excellent!) We have named our group of thirteen members the "Hungry, Hungry Hippos," which sounds most becoming, does it not? You can reference my picture with Grant and Bryce previous for my team. They want our mini-team to be named "Mia's Minions." I refuse that name. I believe that "Kamikazees" suits us better. We made (successfully) homeade pizza for all thirteen hippos last night. It was delicious. (And not too hard!)

Saw my first hedgehog ever two nights ago, when I purchased my bicycle. Thought it was a strange sort of weed initially, but then it moved! Gracie would be thrilled.

Went to the farmer's market and covered market today. Next week I will buy duck eggs; they are cheaper than chicken eggs. Got port cheese for 2 pounds.

So, I must away to my "Robin Hood" case study paper. Did you know that Robin, in reality, was most likely a terrible rogue that pillaged and plundered for his own betterment? Sadly so. But I am arguing that the fact does not overshadow the truth. The legend of Robin will live on beautifully!

Got to seize the day!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Quick update.

So, went to London on Saturday as an optional field trip. If I didn't realize in San Francisco how much I dislike the booming city, I needed to experience London. Crowds... everywhere. But, it was so worth it to dash through a smidgeon of The National Gallery. There is nothing quite like standing before Michelangelo's work in awe of its resplendency. Can words truly express the unreality of that moment?

Cannot wait to go back to the British Museum and the Gallery. My friend, Christo, says that he and I will go catch a Shakespearean play, hostel it, and go touring the Museum and Gallery. I am beyond thrilled.

Sunday: went to church at St. Andrews. Two Asian families then thwarted my plans to escape without notice. They asked me my nationality and promptly invited me to dinner within their homes later. Amazing what diversity within a human can do.

Then I backpacked like forty pounds of groceries around Oxford. Good practice for our trip, Mark.


Friday, September 11, 2009

On a roll here.

The pictures are uploading at a rate I can hardly believe (and I can hardly believe this rate will last!) Right now, I would very much like to be sleeping with my new and improved pillow that I discovered naught but last night, but I choose to write.

There is so much to ramble about. I am learning at a magnitude that is nearly overwhelming, yet having a ball with many new friends. Let me introduce you to these people. I wish you could meet them all in the flesh and blood, but this will do for now.

This is Simon Lancaster. As our Australian-born professor/teacher/history expert/caretaker/comedian, he is a man of many hats (and talents!) I so enjoy Simon. He showed us around Old Sarum, which was my favorite place on our field trip. What a set of fabulous ruins! Here he is pointing out where a doorpost would have been hundreds of years ago.

This is Genevieve. She is amazing. Also my nifty running partner. I love her wit. This is taken today at Stonehenge.

This picture has three girls: Genevieve, my roomie, Heather, and Laura. Splendid people!

This is my newly created food group. I have dubbed us the kamikazes. These guys, Grant and Bryce (the egg destroyer) are my new pupils. God save me! (Actually... we are going to have so much fun, and God knows I love to teach!)
So, this room is in Christ Church, which we visited today. It is also the room most associated with Harry Potter films. The sets were created to double this room. In this room rest world famous oil paintings of famous people whom attended Christ College. King Henry VIII's portrait heads the room, which, as far as I am concerned does not impress... in a good way, at least.

Here I stand with my most beloved poet.
Pseudonym Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) is also one of my favorite authors. Did you know that Alice was a real child, who was daughter of the dean of Christ Church?

Here is the door to their abode. The Queen of Hearts was modeled after Henry VIII (always beheading people for sport, just like the Queen of Hearts!) The White Rabbit was intended to resemble Alice's father, always busy with a task at hand. What important facts to learn!

Here are some pictures from yesterday. It was such a grand field trip to see Salisbury Cathedral, Old Sarum, and Stonehenge. So much to tell. But I suppose you will have to take tea with me to find out the details.

This would be a live representation of Stonehenge. (Not drawn to scale.) And unfortunately, I was the only crooked stone. The
"weakest link..."
And a quick Salisbury Cathedral photo...

Today my dreams came true... I had Bailey's Irish [ice] cream with my roomie, Heather! Amazing, homeade creaminess. (Although, not as good as Superiors!)

So that is my update for the time being. London calls tomorrow like the siren called to Odysseus. Hopefully it will be less treacherous.

Cheers, my friends! God keep you!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I am trying to go to bed in the next couple minutes.

-I scored a bike of craigslist. Call me shopper of the Oxfordian year. Bicycles are tough to get for a decent price. I got mine for about 60 pounds (that depends if I can haggle it down.) It's not my beauty at home, but it will get me around. Just pray that
I can hold my left-side of the road Brit mentality. No longer "left, right, left." I need to look "right, left, right."
-That adventure to get the bike was definitely interesting. Writing it in my real journal later.
-Tomorrow is Stonehenge. And Old Sarum and Salisbury.
-I found one other morning person. He gets up at 6 AM too!
-Had a great conversation with a Muslim today. Supposedly, he is going to take me to mosque sometime with some of my friends. Then to a Pakistani eatery for discussion. So interesting.
-Tried again to volunteer in the community garden near my house. Unsuccessful attempt numero dos. I recall the wise words... "try, try again!"
-Oh, and my 6 AM friend, named Bryce, tried to make scrambled eggs
tonight. The guys here (actually, most people) just are confused about cooking. He must have had about an egg wi
th a
half cup of milk. It looked like cottage cheese. I took a picture while making fun of him. He took it all so well.

Good night!

I hear I have blog followers. So to prevent riots from my lack of blog initiative, I shall write. Not much... just enough to satisfy. Perhaps.

Here is a picture of the tea from Sunday.

Lovely to have tea every few hours of the day. There are three types of teas. The kind with only tea, the kind with a cookie or scone, or the kind with a massive del
icious assortment of goodies. (The last is the noteworthy tea in my own mind.) Notice my lovely roommate and friend, Laura.

Started my British Landscape class this Monday. It is fabulous. Here's another random shot from one of our excursions after class.

Wycliffe Hall, where I am studying, was founded in 1877, which is recent for most halls. I am a member of four institutions through this program. First, my home, William Jessup University. Second - the SCIO program, which is the study abroad program I come through. Then I am a member of the Wycliffe Hall, since individual colleges make up Oxford. Lastly, I am a student of the vast Oxford University. I'll have to take a photo of my card! It will be my greatest keepsake from this trip.

And a funny commentary. My first introduction to British pillows.
They are flatter than tortillas. What happened to supporting one's neck while sleeping? Here, Heather demonstrates the ironic powers of a pathetic pillow.
PS - this is my new favorite food that I devour in our hall as if I am preparing for the hibernation months of winter. (I must say that
hibernation is very similar to the period of time that elapses between lunch to my next breakfast. Dinners are miniscule here for me!) A grand introduction to yoghurt and passion fruit preserves. Delicious!!!