My Story

My God is full of wonder, and each day I am learning more about Him
and the amazing plans He has laid out for the adventure that is my life.

This is my story.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Worries vs. Blessings

Life at the moment has been such a roller coaster for me. At moments I am soaring above the clouds, and the very next I find myself plummeting into deep craters that I've crashed into before. I'm mixing metaphors a bit here, sorry.

What I mean to say is that God keeps blessing and I keep forgetting that He's there the very next moment. Let me explain...

A list of my recent blessings:

-Have been getting a fairly decent amount of work as an office temp and have actually been enjoying myself most of the time
-I got a letter from my college loan saying that because I have been so faithful thus far in paying my bills on time, they have reduced my debt to only $1500 more with barely any interest at all!!! This means that I could very well pay off my college loan before I go back to school for my masters!
-My family rocks and I've been loving deepening my friendships with my siblings and parents
-Mom's heart condition seams to be continuing to heal well (if only she would let herself rest more!)
-And I was just offered a job for the spring doing what I love in an absolutely beautiful place - An Outdoor Educator for a Christian camp at Catalina Island!

God is just poring blessings down!

And yet I continue to struggle. Fear and doubt continue to find footholds in the quiet moments of my mind. I worry about my mom working too hard and not giving her heart the rest it needs. I worry about my dad's health and working so hard and pushing himself so much. I worry about my siblings and how they are going to make it in the harsh world and how I can't be their safety net like I wish I could because I can't even take full care of myself at this point. I worry that I won't have what it takes to do what I need to do to eventually support myself again. And I worry that if I do finally find a long-term occupation, I will find myself trapped spending all my life doing something I dislike and being a waste to God and this world.

These are my biggest worries. They are what keep me up at night. And yet, when I look at what God has been blessing me with lately, they seem to directly counter-attack each one of my fears!

And once again I marvel at how intimate the God of the universe can be. So once again, I mentally take each worry and fear and give it over to Him, like He tells us to. I wish there was some way that I could figure out how to never worry and fear about these things again for good, but perhaps this constant mental exercise is part of the whole necessary process. Hopefully some day, I will have done this so often that I won't loose altitude when the fears and worries attack.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


More to come shortly, but I won!!!!!!!!

YES! I completed the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing a new story in novel form with 50,000 words in 30 days! My friend Beth, who challenged me to do it with her also won!

I just wanted to throw this out there just in case anyone was holding their breath. The 50,000 words was just the beginning though. Now I have this story that actually is turning into something I am really interested in and I've heard a rumor that if I finish the book by June 1st, they'll print it in book form for me. I'll have to check into this, but it could just be the start to something!

So here I go again!

Here's the last paragraph in what I have so far, but it's really only the beginning of the adventure into the unknown mysterious North:

It was still pitch black, the darkest time of night. Even their campfire had gone completely out. Whimsy had been facing, not the opening into Pallat, but northwards down the Western Pass. An intense stark white light was shining and moving up the pass towards them and then away. It blinded her eyes with each of its flashes and she looked away, only to see Ishtall and Wren had fallen asleep. Whimsy, full of almost a completely debilitating dread pulled and wrenched herself to her feat to wake the others. But as she did, at the same moment she stood, several others stood up beside her. Tagor and Jason stood to her left. Shen and Kindred stood to her right. And then as if commanded, they looked at each other and began to follow the blinding, twisting, almost dancing light through the Western Pass into the North.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Almost Finished!

I am three days away from my NaNoWriMo deadline of 50,000 words in a novel and am currently at 45,136! Only a little less than 5,000 to go, which I have looked back and seen that I easily accomplished in the first three days. Hopefully the last 5,000 will be as painless as the first 5,000!

It's been quite a crazy month, and still I've managed to continue with this slightly insane and sometimes seemingly meaningless task. My mom had emergency heart surgery (which she is recovering from quite well, and characteristically pushing herself too hard each day to get better and be normal again). I had my twenty-eighth birthday. I judged several weekend speech tournaments in which I thought my hand would literally fall off from writing so many notes. And I started getting temp work calls and getting plunged back into the much dreaded life of office work (I must say that I am incredibly thankful to God for giving me the ability to work and make some money again after being without work for so long, but I can not lie and say that I love my present job. Please pray for me this upcoming Monday and Tuesday, as I have a temp job that is scaring me rather badly after only working there this Wednesday for half a day's training!)

And still I have kept on writing. The story has been horribly boring at times and I got quite horribly behind on my word count during the week that my mom was in the hospital, but I kept going and have finally caught back up. I suppose fire under the seat deadlines really are useful tools for completing tasks. I've always hated them, but now it looks as if I have a good chance of finishing this word count, which will be far more than I can say for any of the other stories I have started just for fun and never seemed to finish.

Granted, I'm fairly sure that even when I reach the 50,000 words, my story will not be completed. I've only just now introduced and brought together four of the six main characters! But, I have never written so long of a story in my life as I have with this one and I really hope that I finish this one. It will need some serious editing, because I definitely have been focusing on being wordy (within reason), but I am still excited with the plot and the characters! So I believe there is hope! Although, I will definitely be taking a well deserved brake after November 30th. I haven't allowed myself to read any fiction while writing this story in case some accidental plagiarism ensued and I am dying for a story that I don't have to think about and can just relax and read (I also got some books for my birthday that keep calling to me from my bookshelf that have been sorely tempting me)!

So here's another excerpt from my almost 50,000 word novel!:

With the flick of his head and a few guttural sounds that Jason understood must be their language, their bonds holding their wrists and necks together were roughly cut, along with several places on his hands, neck, and back. Olleck cried out in pain, and like an angry bear who has had enough, he immediately swung at those behind him, knocking two of the five warriors behind him to the ground. Without a moment’s delay, Jason used the distraction to kick the old man in front of him full in the chest. His frail body went flying into the fire at his back and like the flames had just received a delicious surprise, they flamed up high above their heads. Mass pandemonium ensued. Olleck kept swinging and raging at anyone who got too near him while those who were attempting to take him out kept impeding each other’s attempts in their frantic eagerness. Jason used the distraction he was giving to race to the other side of the towering fire pit to where the girl still hung strapped and bleeding. In a fluid motion he had done so many times before, the knife still concealed in his boot was in his hand and quickly cut through her bonds. She slumped limply into his arms as her lungs attempted to replenish their debilitated resources. And then, quicker than he could react, she jumped from his embrace and spun around.
Grabbing a spear that one warrior was coming strait towards them with, she countered his thrust and used his momentum to send him flying into the roaring flames as well. Her crushed feet and hands kept causing her to stumble and cry out in pain, but every sinew in her body worked with a fluid purpose, which eluded to an endless study and practice of warfare. She spun and flipped this way then that, using the force and momentum of her opponent’s against them. Jason tried to keep up, slashing and punching his way after her and towards Olleck.
He was still swinging his fists and twisting in angry circles at anyone that tried to come near him, but something was not right. He was shaking from more than just rage. Jason could see a deep seeping wound in his side from where a spear must have found its mark during their fight. The girl swept in front of both of them and Jason grabbed Olleck and fled after her. They were soon racing once again through the Great Jungle with utter fear at their heels. The girl guided them through, under roots and over limbs in an ever-winding path that almost made Jason dizzy. He had no idea where they were going, how she was even moving with such injured limbs, or even if she desired them to follow. But he kept a firm hold of Olleck and barreled through as best he could, trying to keep up and following her bluish white gleaming hair.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Crazy Weekend

It's late, so a fuller blog will come soon, I'm sure.

This weekend I turned twenty-eight, saw the best rendition of Don Qixote I've ever seen performed at CBU, saw J. M. Barrie's "Peter Pan" performed in amazing spectacle by actors I've seen in movies before, and...

watched as my mom almost went into cardiac arrest. She now has a pacemaker in and will have to deal with that for the rest of her life. It's going to have to make some big changes in all our lives. I'm hoping that she get more sleep because of it at least.

Everything seems to be going well and her color looked pinker than I've seen her look in a while.

Thanks to all the prayers, I felt a surprising amount of peace through the entire ordeal. I hope that continues for all of us. My family is broken and fractured in so many places (which I'm sure is normal for everyone) and I just want everything to be healed and happy. Hopefully this sudden weird out-of-the-blue experience will be a blessing in disguise that God will use to "work everything for the good."

Needless to say, my NaNoWriMo quota for this weekend has been shot. Hopefully I can pick back up tomorrow.

Right now, I'm another year older and probably have a few white hairs starting to grow in somewhere. What a weekend!

I have realized that one can never be old enough to not feel completely helpless and freaked out when a parent's health is in crisis.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Temping I Will Go

Today I registered once again with the temp agency I worked through just after college. Not my most excited moment, but my attempts at employment on my own have failed miserably and I decided it was time to finally crawl back.

Well, that's being slightly dramatic. No, I am not excited about temping again! However, I would rather temp than work with food, retail, crying babies, or scary animals. And it is really temporary this time... hopefully.

I am waiting to see if APU has accepted me into their masters program, and if they do then I'll hopefully be hired as a graduate assistant and start work with them in August, 2011. That is the big hope! Then I'll be two years away from having a Masters in Student Affairs and hopefully have a really awesome job that I love that is all about working with college students and helping to make dreams come true and having a lot of fun and fellowship along the way.

I would be happy with that... I think.

There of course are other dreams, but they are still rather dormant still either rotting away in a tomb or planted and waiting for sunshine and water to pop back out of the earth. I'm still not sure which ones are which yet; seed or coffin.

Right now, I just need something to do that will give me money to pay bills. So temping it is... hopefully they'll call me soon.


Otherwise, my NaNoWriMo story is coming along. I just did something rather drastic to get one of my characters to move. You would think that since you are their creator, they would try to please you a little more, but no! They have to be difficult sometimes, so I might have killed her entire family. Yah, I'm really glad I'm not God.

In case you like the excepts, here's another one. And if you don't, STOP READING NOW!

Whimsy took her place in front of her and waited. She began to wonder if perhaps Grande Dame Thelma had forgotten that there was one more to bless, and she wondered if she should alert her to her presence in some way. She awkwardly cleared her throat, and when that seamed to have no effect, she lifted a nervous hand to touch the old lady’s shoulder. But before her fingers had touched even a fiber of her clothing, the Grande Dame’s silvery head shot back up and her eyes once more held the fire she had seen in them before.
None of the other women had noticed the change in the elderly lady’s demeanor yet, as they were still busy congratulating the other girls. Whimsy was entirely shocked and didn’t know how to respond. Grande Dame Thelma grabbed her by the wrist and propelled her forward with more strength than Whimsy could have given her credit for ever possessing. They were both outside the lights of the town square before she even realized that she was moving. When they soon reached the line of willows that surrounded the village at the West Gate, Whimsy abruptly turned to face the elderly lady and was startled at what she saw. No longer did she look like a gentle gray haired grandparent who always had something sweet about her person. Her eyes were not just fired with passion as before, but now they were filled with what Whimsy was certain was actually hate, although she could tell it was not exactly directed at her. She seemed taller too somehow, as if a new important purpose had possessed her body and made it suddenly younger and stronger.
“Whimsy. It stands as I told you earlier. You must decide now. Something has happened to force your decision before it was supposed to. I regret that, and there are so many things that I wish I had time to explain, but you must be ready if it has been allowed to happen now.”
Now Whimsy was really frightened.
“Grande Dame Thelma! What are you talking about? This doesn’t make sense. Look! The sun has set! I’m going to miss the First Dance! Please Grande Dame, let’s go back. You’re tired.”
“Oh child, I am so sorry. But you must run. Now!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

And the Writing Continues

And the thrilling madness of NaNoWriMo continues! So far I am still thoroughly enjoying myself. I have found that the released pressure of feeling like I have to know what to write about has uncorked a valve inside of me that has been blocked for a very long time.

Now I feel as if there is a creative geyser rushing out of me and I can't wait to get the other things I have to do each day out of the way so that I can keep writing. What a relief!

I learned an invaluable amount of crucial knowledge in college while obtaining my degree in English. However, during that process, writing became work to me instead of happy escape like it had always been before. I learned the necessity of structure, and I am so thankful for all my professors and everything they pounded into my at times pulpy brain. It was all needed and helpful.

But it has taken this exercise to finally give back to me the flow and freedom that I used to write with, and hopefully now my writings will go even further now that I have such a solid structural foundation.

I had started to give up on my old dream of actually getting my writings published. Nothing of any worth in my eyes was coming out anymore. I hated writing more than ever. But now a few rays of hope that perhaps the dream isn't quite as dead as I thought it might be are starting to brake through.

Here's another excerpt from what's going on my story so far:

Whimsy sat high up in her favorite tree, waving back and forth with the gently blowing breezes. It was a large sturdy sycamore, rather uncommon and different from most of the usual oaks and pines of Ferngnaw Sul. That’s why she liked it best; it was different, just like her. Sycamore branches, unlike brittle oaks, were just as strong at the very tips as they were at the base, which meant that if you were brave enough, you could climb all the way up to the very top of the center most branch until your head almost broke through the leaves. And there you could perch, swaying in the wind while looking over the entire mountain ranges. This was Whimsy’s favorite place in the entire world. Well, it was one of them at least. She had a myriad collection of favorites and the most favorite was always the one she was in at the time.

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo Begins!

Today is the first day in the race to finish a 50,000 word novel by the end of November! I am participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)! If you're interested, it's no too late. Check them out at, although it seems like everyone and their mother are already participating and are slowing down their website so much I can't even get on.

My friend Beth (Shims) first alerted me to this awesomely "novel" (hehe) idea. At first I thought, "Wow! Sounds neat!" Then after committing, I thought, "Why the heck did I commit to this possible ulcer inducer?!" But today was the first day and my challenge was to knock out my first 1,667 words. I sat down with nothing in my head but an idea for a problem and the desire to write a fantasy tale. I had two reasons for choosing fantasy: the first was that I like fantasy (easy enough) and the second was because I figured that having no rules in creating my own world would be the easiest way to write fast.

I sat at my computer and... had no idea what to write first. So I came to my third decision. I was going to have to come up with a lot of words fast to make the deadline, so my editor in my brain had to be turned off and instead, I decided to make this an exercise in "free-writing" where I would just start writing whatever popped into my head and let it flow into my fingers and see where it led.

Surprisingly, it became almost as fun as reading a new novel myself! I had no idea where I was going, but just kept writing. When I looked down, I was over 2,000 words with a mysterious storming mountain surrounded by farmland, a mystic jungle, jagged woodsy coasts and four different people groups! I'm so excited to see what happens next that I might start writing some more tonight!

Hopefully the excitement will continue as the days go on. But today was a very good day!

Here's a glimpse at the first paragraph:

It was a dark and stormy night. The air was breathless and tight. Nothing made a noise. Nothing dared. There was a tenseness that was felt to be of a greater proportion to the entirety of everything else. It was the feeling of bated breath, the intake of fearful expectation, before something truly dramatic happens.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Barrie's Pan is Coming!

My birthday is almost here, which means that I'm creeping at an alarming rate to the ripe age of 30! Arge! I will be twenty-eight this November 14th. How old this sounds! I don't feel that old at all. In fact, I still feel quite juvenile and innocent of much of life. But then I've always been a late bloomer, so really it should feel like anyone else turning twenty-five at the oldest.

And to celebrate my obvious desire to cling to youth, I will be celebrating my birthday by seeing J. M. Barrie's original "Peter Pan!" No one does this version anymore, which has always baffled me since it is in my opinion the deepest and best. Well, my dreams have come true! Someone in England finally decided that it must be done again and it was such a success in London that they brought it to LA and now I get to see Peter Pan the way J. M. Barrie wrote him and his world for the first time; and on my birthday too!

Excited is too small a term for how I feel.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Let Down by craigslist

Still applying for jobs. Still have not received any calls or emails replying to my requests for employment... except a random one yesterday that I decided to let go.

I got an email saying in slightly misspelled and grammatically incorrect sentences that my application for employment over had been cleared for an "Instant Message" interview! A WHAT?!!! Is this the new way to interview people these days?! I decided that life can't have become that crazy and weird yet, and that a possible scam or joke was in the mix, so I decided to delete the email and continue my search in the hopefully less murky waters of other job sites.

So much for craigslist. Nobody seems to want my shoes that I'm trying to sell on there either. I have been completely let down by you craig.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Waiting With Bated Breath

I have officially applied for the Masters of Science program at Azusa Pacific University in College Counseling and Student Development. Now I am waiting for the references to come in and for the school to decide my fate. I feel confident, but perhaps I shouldn't. There's nothing worse than rising high on expectations only to have them crash and burn. It's the only other thing that Anne and I disagree on. (The other is the fact that she doesn't like November, and I love it.) However, I digress.

Well, I don't know what else to say or what else to update. My life is rather quiet besides that one piece of tension. I wake up every morning, ready myself for the day, and then proceed to apply for jobs online. Not one call back yet. It's been a few weeks of this monotonous routine, and I am trying not to give in to discouragement. But God has been very good. I am not suffering from the horrible anxiety that nearly paralyzed me during most of this past year. I have found hope again, and not because of anything in particular or any great change in my life (for there hasn't been). I think it's because I've finally given up. I have recognized that God is in control of my life and He is in charge of my future. I will do all that I can in front of me, but He is in charge. And because He is so good, I have hope.

I am also yet again greatly enjoying my favorite book of all time (besides the Bible) - Jane Eyre. No other fictitious book gives me such pleasure, hope, and biblical inspiration. Every time I read it I get more from it than the time before. And THAT is the sign of a truly wonderful book! Charlotte Bronte was an amazing writer, and obviously had a wealth of deep spiritual insight that just came through her storytelling naturally because of who she was, and not in annoyingly shallow platitudes or morals. I love this story so much. (And as an aside, I realized that it is a form of the Beauty and the Beast story mixed with Cinderella. No wonder I love it!)

Well, that's all I have for now.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hope & What's Next

Tomorrow is my last full day with my grandparents, and Saturday I fly back to Southern California. It would be a lie if I said I wish I could stay a little longer, but I will be leaving with some life lessons that were completely worth receiving by spending this month with my grandparents.

For one thing, I am learning that no matter how miserable I feel about my circumstances and where I am at a given time in my life, God is always there in the midst of it all and He has special treasures to give if I just ask. I think that's a big part of what Paul discovered when he wrote that he had learned how to be content in whatever situation he was in, whether in lack or abundance, high or low (Philippians 4:12).

I've learned what quiet horrors age, time, and disease can do in this life. But that God gives humor in abundance where there really should only be anger and tears. And I now thank God for the tremendous blessing He gave that when sin was let into paradise, which has now become this world, He didn't allow people to live forever on top of that. It also makes me wonder why we think church and speaking about God should be taken so seriously. I think God's gift of humor is one of the biggest weapons He has given us; humor, joy, and thanksgiving in the face of a bleak, depressed, evil world. Satan must be the most serious, depressing, and frustrated character in the entire universe. If he wasn't so evil, I might even feel a little sorry for him. I mean seriously! He's so bent on destruction - steal, kill, and destroy, all because he didn't get his way and now he wants to ruin it for everybody else. It's like an epic sized tantrum fit. And when I see the devil like that, I'm floored by the the sheer cheekiness and brilliance of God who gave His kids the ability to laugh in his sad face and say, no matter what you throw at me to try to take me out, I'm God's and He is so brilliant and better than you that He's going to take even your pathetic attempts at destroying me and turn those into blessings for my good. :)

And that is why we can always come to Him with thanksgiving on our lips, no matter the circumstances. God is alive. He's intimately aware of the details of my life, and cares about them. He promises the worldly impossible. And He is wholly good. Even in my darkest moments it is hard for me to understand how anyone would choose another religion or to believe in nothing at all instead of accept Jesus Christ. What else gives you any hope? Even if you weren't sure He even existed, wouldn't you want Him to? I heard a Christian and an atheist debating recently, and the Christian said that for someone who had been hungry who found an endless supply of food, that they would want to share this with others they saw starving. And the atheist said, "But that's just it! I'm not hungry!" I find this very hard to conceive. Living in this world without the hope of Jesus Christ would for me be entirely unbearable.

This month I have found hope that God is with me even in my biggest puddles of self pity and despair; and that they never last forever. And they can clear up a lot quicker if I go run to Him in those moments with praise and thanksgiving. That it's like love, you don't always feel like giving it, but when you do, your feelings change accordingly in time and that that's probably one of the biggest reasons He wants us to do it in the first place. It's one of those "for our own good" things.

And I also think that I just might know what to do next now...

I am scheduled to meet with some faculty and staff at Azusa Pacific University this upcoming Monday to discuss applying for their Master of Science in College Counseling and Student Development program!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chacos - A Symbol of My Life

A couple weeks ago while with my Grandparents, my favorite pair of shoes broke. Grandma accidentally stepped on the heal of my foot and one of the back straps on my dearly loved Chacos snapped off! Besides them just being my favorite pair of shoes to walk in ever, their snapping meant so much more to me.

It took all I had within me to keep from crying right there and then. The symbolism was just too much bare. They were my hiking camp shoes. They were one of my last ties to my life when I worked at the camp I loved with all my dearest friends doing what I loved and what I knew I was good at.

It's almost been a year since I was laid off from the camp because of its financial troubles and had to move back home, eight hours away from all my dearest friends, mentors, dance studio, and church. And I am still trying to heal from the pain of that rending.

When my Chaco sandal was ripped and unusable, the symbolism of that rending and ending of one of the happiest times of my life was almost too much to keep inside.

But if that was a symbol, then what happened because of that rending and tearing I hope will become symbolic as well! Because Chacos are guaranteed for life except for normal wear and tear, I mailed my shoes in (which my grandma paid for the shipping) in the hopes that they would fix them. The strap that needed mending would cost $20 the website said, but while that one strap definitely needed it, the other three were starting to fray as well and could really used help too, which could cost up to $80 in all. While I was waiting to hear from them, my mom found out and went to see if she could find a new pair on sale for me at the store. The ones I had wanted in the first place (the complete black with two thin straps instead of one fat one) that hadn't been on sale when I bought my red ones were low and behold on sale! So she bought them for me as a gift and sent them the next day. Soon after I got another package in the mail. They had sent my old shoes back to me with all four back straps completely replaced and new and had charged me nothing! They even paid the return shipping.

So now I have my old sandals back and repaired better than they were and a new pair of the ones I really wanted in the first place and I didn't have to pay a thing! What a blessing!

Please God let this be symbolic of my near future! And thank you so much for your wonderful providence!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Nature Nooks

I went on a walk at sunset tonight through my grandparent's neighborhood. I walked until the houses stopped and I came upon a beautiful site. Gigantic pearlesant gold clouds, birdsong, chirping crickets, a forest of pine and green leafy trees, and a grassy trail through the middle alongside a tranquil flow of bayou water.

Wherever I go God seems to share with me His secret special nature nooks He knows I love so much. :)

I followed the trail, which led right up to the sunset until I was surrounded by glowing beauty. I was listening to a praise CD (Glory Revealed II) on my iPod while I walked and a song of the 23 Psalm came on. There I was standing on an expanse of plush green grass surrounded by the lazy bayou facing a golden sunset and I heard these words:

The Lord is my Shepherd.
I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.

Thank You so much God for these promises from You. <3

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Praise God!

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
He makes my feet like the deer’s;
He makes me tread on my high places.
Habakkuk 3:17-19

This is what I cling to and what I stand upon. That no matter how insane and scary it gets outside of myself or inside my own head, I have chosen to rejoice in the LORD in the midst of it. I'm tired of acting out of fear and letting fear control me. My only other option is to put my trust in how God taught us how to fight back from His Words and stories in the Bible.

There is something spectacularly ridiculous feeling about "rejoicing in the Lord," praising God, when what you feel like doing is hiding in a corner hoping for death to end your misery and fear. But in a crazy wonderful way it makes sense. When Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20) prayed to God to come through for him when three armies were marching toward his kingdom, God told him He would fight his battles for him, so Jehoshaphat created the first marching band and went to watch the game unfold. He came at his fear with praise to God and God fought his battle for him. Then there's Paul and Silas whipped, arrested, and chained in prison, and they decide to start singing praise songs to God! And again, God came through miraculously and completely changed the circumstances!

I've been reading these stories along with all the verses in the New Testament calling God's people to praise God, especially when you don't feel like it or when you don't think you have any reason to. And that is when God seems to really move in big ways.

And I think it's because, first: that's what we were created to do. God created us for His glory. And the more I learn about worshiping and praising God, more I am realizing how powerful it is. It is a weapon that God created for us to use! And secondly: praising God when it's the last thing you feel like doing keeps you from falling out of alignment. It keeps your focus on God and you out of the way so that God can come through for you, instead of you focusing on your problems and trying to fix them by yourself.

When I accepted Christ as my Savior, I also accepted Him as Lord. And a lord is responsible for his subjects. So I am determined to lift my eyes to Him, to run to Him every time I feel the deceiver trying to get at me. And I am learning that when I run to Him with thanksgiving and praise, power is released! To me, this is what submitting to God and resisting the Devil is all about.

I want to experience life like Paul and Jehoshaphat did. I want to see God move like that for me and my family.

But even if I don't feel or see any change, and things just continue to go from bad to worse; I have made my decision. I am just going to praise God more, like Habakkuk. Because I know two things very well: the alternative is to despair and there is nothing for me in that, and when I look back at my life so far all I see are Ebenezer moments of how God has already come through for me beyond my expectations.

So Praise GOD for He is GOOD!

Friday, September 17, 2010

My Grandpa

My grandpa has been calling me nothing but Big Butt and sometimes B.B. for short this past week. I know he doesn't mean to be so insulting and I try to fling it right back in a cheeky kind of way because I know he likes people to kid around with him, but it's getting harder. I remember what he was like with me before and it's really difficult to see him act so completely different now. Even the way he looks has change almost beyond comprehension. Where once his eyes were sharp and focused, they are now cloudy and undilated. His cheeks sag and his body is so week and frail he can barely get around.

Yet it took both my grandma and myself to herd him back into the house today when he decided to check out his boat in the backyard. He almost fell down the steps. That's almost all he talks about: how he's going to get a new boat for his birthday. He can't afford it and couldn't ride around in it even if he had it, but his mind is stuck on it.

When I told him last night that he couldn't go outside and I watched him just stand there looking out the window I could hardly bare it. Who am I to tell my own grandpa what he could or couldn't do. He looked like he was about to cry. It made me feel so mean and uncaring. He just isn't the person that he was anymore and we're forced to treat him like a child because he can't make rational decisions for himself anymore.

And yet, sometimes when I'm in conversation with him, it's like there's nothing wrong with him and I wonder if the doctor's are just making it all up and he's just physically feeble. And then the cycle starts up again.

I wonder if this is how it's always like for those who live this long? It seems so cruel to have such an ending.

But I know that our God is the Redeemer. So how does He redeem situations like this?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Getting Old Must Get Old

It's been a week and a half here at my grandparent's house in Louisiana so far and I haven't written at all because I didn't want to completely unload to the world and sound like a horribly depressed Eeyore (this is the correct spelling. I had to look it up!). Then during a talk with my mom on the phone about everything, she said what great material this would be for writing, and suddenly it all seemed so funny! She's right! I really must share.

Well, I have definitely decided to go skydiving when I get old. I have always said that I would, because then if the parachute didn't open, it wouldn't be a massive loss. But now I am determined to do it and if I live through that, I will do every adventurous activity I can think of until something finally works. This isn't to say that I will try to kill myself once I reach the age of 80. I just do not see the silly point in being careful with my aging body at that point in my life in order to draw out my life to it's smallest dregs. I definitely do not want to end up like my poor grandpa who basically just sits in front of a tv watching scary movies and boring shows all day, or like my poor grandma who goes through an endless cycle of clean up grandpa, cook for grandpa, give pills to grandpa, put grandpa to bed, and then watch TLC for an hour and then go to bed to do it all again the next day.

When my mind starts fading, someone tell me quick. I'll put "do not recessitate" on my documents, get my affairs in order, get anyone I'm responsible for taken care of, and then have a reckless and fun (hopefully short) time. I just see no need in being so careful to prolong the inevitable in my own life so that I live for another twenty or so years in a miserably boring almost vegetative state with no hope for improvement.

However, I say that about me, but it's quite a different story when it's your grandparents (and I don't want to even imagine my own parents or someone else I care about). They've been in your life your whole life and you are terrified of the hole they will leave when they're gone.

But it is also very strange to find that the two grandparents you knew your whole life are very different from the two people you find yourself staying with for a whole month... by yourself! The grandmother I remember who was such a good cook, went after hoodlums with bed posts, and made coming to "Grandma's House" such a warm cozy exciting experience; and the grandpa I remember who could do anything with his hands, computer whiz, fisherman, champion bowler, who once argued logically with me that grass was purple and won just to prove that he could are not the two people that I am living with now. I know they used to be, but something has drastically altered.

My grandpa has Alzheimers and it wouldn't surprise me if my grandma was heading in the same direction as well. It has been very much like living with two two year olds who you can not only not put in time out for misbehavior, but who are actually in charge. This has been the cause for quite a few interesting stories, and I hope that one day they will all be funny. Perhaps writing about them will help.

Next time I'll write about what my grandpa's nickname for me is and how Grandma handles my cooking techniques among other things.

...has it really just been a week and a half?!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Missing NorCal

It's been a long time since I've posted. Sorry! I've been busy spending some glorious moments with some of my bestest friends in all the world. I wish that could have gone on forever.

But now I'm back in Southern California looking to what's next. Not a whole lot of firm ideas or plans yet. I'm going to spend all of September at my Grandparents house in Louisiana to help with my grandpa and to listen to more stories about their life. I've been writing a story inspired by their love story and was just praying about how it would be great if I could get more stories from them to finish the story I've been working on and then my mom mentioned that I should go. So I'm going!

Then I'll be looking into taking the GRE (which means I need to start hitting the books to relearn all the algebra and geometry I've forgotten over the past nine years since I've taken a math class) and then looking into masters programs. I'm seriously considering a degree in Student Affairs in order to do positions such as Resident Director and hopefully running my own outdoor adventure/performing arts camp. I just really love youth and college age people and find adults rather boring.

I miss my friends. I miss my mountains and forests. Living in SoCal now after living in the wonderfulness of NorCal is quite the let down, I must say. I don't care what people say about NorCal, they're probably just SoCal people who either are ignorant about how wonderful NorCal is or they're just trying to make themselves feel better by living in a delusion because they can't live in NorCal. I've lived in both and I would take NorCal hands down every time! Please don't forget me!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spring & Summer '10

I have begged for God to take me,
Yet have also felt the ecstasy of His Aslan breath.

Despair has strangled my every thought,
Yet I have never felt such heights of Spiritual inspiration.

I have finally released my entire grasp to
My life, my future, my present,
And have never experienced such fear.

And yet I know stronger than ever
That through my blinded soul and open palms
My God has me in His hands.
He will not let me fall.

I want my life to count for more than just my own.
To waste what God has entrusted to me is my greatest fear.

And then a certain verse is whispered in my heart:
"And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6
He began the work (not me) and He is faithful to finish it!

He gives me beauty for ashes.
I'll be His Cinderella.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

So Tired

I can't sleep. I think I'm at that stage of exhaustion where you're so beyond tired that you can't even feel that anymore. And yet I don't feel that I have done enough or all that I should have at the end of each day. How can I be only twenty-seven and so tired of everything already? I think the world as we know it today is far too stressful and I'll be surprised if the extended length of life these days doesn't start to drop again just because of all the stress that keeps building around everyone.

Last night a poet talked about how he just wanted to bend light around him and disappear. I know how he feels. I'm exhausted just trying to not stress out about everything. I'm tired of having to be so responsible. I only have so many hours in the day to get the mountain and the mammoth that looms up new every day out of my way and I don't feel like I have time to just relax and be myself anymore.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I Have Said NO

I have turned down the offer to take over the innkeeper position here at Moore Cottage. The more I learned about all it involved and the more I thought and prayed about it, the more I realized that it was absolutely wrong for me and I was only going along with it because I don't see any other options at this time, i.e. Fear. However, when I finally decided to say no, instead of feeling crazy, I felt total relief and almost entire peace about God guiding my future, which is still unknown to me, but truly in His hands. At least I know one path that isn't right. We're narrowing it down at any rate!

So I'm staying in SoCal for a little while longer and starting the job search all over again. Not too excited about that, but fear of the unknown has got to be conquered at some point and it might as well be now! If I really trust God and believe in His crazy go against common sense sometimes, more wonderful than I ever imagine, heart fulfilling promises, then I have to choose to obey Him. So, with praise and thanksgiving (even when my feelings don't agree, thank you Catherine Marshall [and Christine!]) I make my requests known to Him.

Praise God He is good! This is the hope I cling to. No matter how depressing life seems, through it all and at the center of everything, the One who holds it all together is GOOD! Depression can not last against this. Darkness can not hide from it. The fact is, my God holds the stars to their course and He promises to hold me to mine. I just have to lift my feet.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

My Next Move

Well, I'm back in Southern California for a week waking up at 4:30am and wondering what my body's going to do next when I take it to Massachusetts next week for a month!

I'll be heading out there to run programming for the C. S. Lewis Foundation's Vacation With A Purpose volunteer weeks throughout the month of July to get the new site for the C. S. Lewis Great Books College campus all spic and span. I visited the campus right before I flew out to England to be the Warden at The Kilns. That was in February and it was absolutely beautiful. I've never spent much time on the East coast, but I'm already a little bit in love with the nature and flavor there. :)

The college was established on the birthplace and burial site of Dwight L. Moody. What a great place to start out with Lewis, eh?! It's absolutely gorgeous. The countryside is full of rolling hills and multicolored trees and encompasses the campus, making it seem like it's a million miles from any city or busy hubbub, although there's the cutest little town just down the road and it's only about two hours away from New York City!

There are side walks that wind between the buildings and are lined with Narnia lanterns and glow in the early morning mist. There's mountains for hiking, rivers for kayaking, and forests for exploring all within a few minutes drive or even walk. And the buildings themselves are beautiful old ones that practically come alive with characters all their own. The chapel even looks like something strait out of Oxford.

I'm starting to really look forward to my next upcoming visit. I never get tired of God's amazing spectacular beauty and the wonderful things He has in store for those who look to Him.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Stepping Stones of Faith Fulfilled

My time here at The Kilns is quickly coming to an end and I am attempting to leave with no regrets or things left undone, yet also knowing there is only so much I can possible experience while here in this realm of infinite possibility.

I have entertained and cooked for world renown authors and sat in discussion with them in C. S. Lewis' old common room. I have walked the enchanted paths that inspired Narnia and Middle Earth and have found my own inspirations for possible worlds of my own future publications. I have walked the halls and streets of the ancient Oxford college buildings, libraries, and chapels where I have heard the voices of little boy angels singing praises to God reverberating off vaulted ceilings. I have made dear friends that I will keep close to my heart for a lifetime and have been challenged and encouraged by them to know God more in ways that I have never experienced before. And I have discovered and read wonderful books while sitting at a sunny window overlooking trees and listening to the beautiful voices of English birdsong.

So instead of looking back and thinking of all the things I could have done or all the time I might have put to better use while staying here at The Kilns, I will think upon these memories. And through them I will always find myself raising tearful eyes to my wonderful loving Father God who sent me here when I needed it most.

My future is still very much unknown. And this still very much troubles my nature for desiring always a clearly scheduled plan. However, through my experiences here and even through my very struggles with my scary unknown future I am learning that I really can trust God that He really is in control and can handle my problems. I now have quite a few stepping stones of faith moments fulfilled to stand upon as I wait to see what God will do next!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

My Mom Came to Visit!

The reason it has been so long since my last blog is because my mom was able to come out and visit me for about two weeks! And I planned every nook and cranny of her visit with as much of England for her and I to see as possible! I barely left time for us to pee!

We spent three days in London, where we saw and experienced almost every big tourist site to see:

-Saw the Marble Arch
-Walked through Kensington Gardens and saw Kensington Palace (which was a depressingly ugly brick building that looked more like a condemned warehouse than a palace)
-Saw the statue of Peter Pan (FINALLY!) and took about a million pictures
-Saw the Wellington Arm and went up inside it, then saw knights in shining armor ride through on their way to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guard
-Saw the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and were right at the gates
-Ate at the world famous Chor Bazaar Indian restaurant
-Saw Trafalgar Square
-Saw Piccadilly Circus
-Went through the British Museum and saw the Rosetta Stone, artifacts from the Parthenon, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, and Nineveh, and saw mummies
-Saw Big Ben and the House of Parliament
-Went to Westminster Abbey for Evensong and heard their angelic boy's choir
-Found our favorite sandwich shop in the whole world - Pret*A*Manger (pronounced with a French accent)
-Walked through some amazing bookshops
-Went to the longest running show of all time - The Mouse Trap in the West End
-and then went back to Big Ben to see it all lit up for the night

-Took a train to Hampton Court Palace where King Henry VIII lived with all his unfortunate wives, and walked through the beautiful gardens, saw the longest and biggest grape vine in the entire world (which is in the Guinness Book of World Records), and went through a yew tree maze that was a little lack luster to be honest
-Had Cornish cream ice cream that looked and tasted like cold sugary butter and probably put me back a month of working out
-Walked over London Bridge
-Walked through the magnificent St. Paul's Cathedral and climbed over two hundred steps to the dome
-Saw the London Tower and the Tower Bridge
-Went to the Royal Opera House to see three new ballets from the Royal Ballet Company
-Went to see Harrods all lit up at night

The following Sunday
-Went through the Tower of London and saw the Crown Jewels, including the largest cut diamond in the entire world, which is in the Queen's scepter.
-Walked on the Tower Bridge
-Walked around the Globe Theatre (it was closed due to a show, so we couldn't go in)
-Shopped at the famous Foyles Bookstore
-Went all over Harrods
-And then went back and walked through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens watching all the Londoners celebrate the unusually hot weather in the Serpentine Lake and Diana's Fountains, and then sat by Peter Pan's statue watched the cutest little children play with their fathers and climb all over Peter.

And that's just what we did in London! We also experienced:

-Blenheim Palace (the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill
-Stratford-Upon-Avon (Shakespeare's birthplace, burial site, and cottage where he courted his future wife)
-The Cotswolds
-All over Oxford, including an extended tour of the Bodlian Library where they keep at least one of every book published in England and thousands of books from all over the world!
-Shotover Forest
-and probably more that I can't remember, due to the fact that I'm still trying to catch my breath!

It was sooooooo wonderful having my mom come and visit me. I loved every minute of my time with her, even when I was grumpy. Hopefully she'll recover soon as well!

And now I must call this summary to an end as I have just given five tours of The Kilns today and am exhausted all over again!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dinner with Walter Hooper

Well, I am still waiting for that annoying alarm clock tone to wake me up from this fantastic dream I've been living in for the past few months. Never would I have guessed that I would be here, living in C. S. Lewis' house, walking through his Narnian forest of Shotover,reading first editions of his books, and meeting some of his scholars and even those who actually knew him and called him friend!

Even if it wasn't too great a task already, it has become a simply hopeless one to pay God back for all the blessings He keeps heaping upon me. I find myself usually speechless, overwhelmed, and at a complete loss for how to respond adequately on days such as these.

I've started an attempt at jogging through Shotover in the mornings to counter my intake of all these wonderful English creams, cheeses, and pies. This morning I woke up early, groggily put on my running shoes, half-heatedly attempted to touch my toes, and then stepped outside The Kiln's Tradesman entrance to a glorious sunshiny day full of birdsong. As I made my way up the path through the C. S. Lewis Nature Reserve, I noted how different the forest looks each time I go through it, even at the same times of the day. There really is something magical about these woods. The sunlight filters differently through the leaves each day just like snowflakes are never quite the same as any other snowflake. There are two tall trees that stand guard on either side of the path just before you come to the top of the reserve and the kissing gate. I call them the Gatekeepers. Every time I walk between them, I feel a little thrill of excitement inside and wonder what treasures await me today.

This morning I found a tree-swing in a little alcove of the forest. I realize that I am nearly thirty and probably too old for things such as swings to give me such excitement, but I have never grown out of the exhilaration of flight that swinging gives. Dog walkers and fellow joggers were all out of sight for the moment, so I briskly hopped on and flew away. God did not give us wings to fly, but He did give us imaginations and the grand idea of swings.

I haven't simply just jogged through the forest yet, and don't intend to.

The ending of my day was just as pleasurable. Walter Hooper quoted C. S. Lewis, who was quoting Cervantes when he said that "comparisons are odious;" so please don't think that I am attempting to compare my morning with my evening. It has just been one of those happy days that started well and ended in the same vein.

I was invited as the acting warden at The Kilns to join a few of the C. S. Lewis Society's members for a dinner with Walter Hooper before his talk that night at the Society's meeting at St. Pucy's House. And the cherry on top of the already marvelous cake was that it was at a French restaurant. I've never tasted French cuisine and have always desired the chance to try this elevated genre of flavor. I was not disappointed on any count. The food was a delight and the conversation better (so much for odious comparisons!).

It has been my pleasure to have met and listened to Walter Hooper on two other occasions, and each time I have been enraptured by his stories and the charming way he puts you at your ease. There were six of us at the table; a middle aged English priest and scholar, three young American Oxford University Fellows, a warden (me), and Walter Hooper. Our ages and places in society covered quite a broad spectrum, and yet there were no barriers to our conversation. It was lively and flowed in a myriad of directions. And the beauty of it all is that we have all been brought together because of the writings of C. S. Lewis. Walter Hooper said "Jack" didn't think anyone would read his books after he was gone. Wouldn't he be surprised! For me, his writings stir something deep within me. They call to a longing. And he told such great stories.

I am so thankful for Walter Hooper and the colossal work he has done on keeping his legacy and the dear intimate stories of him as a person alive for us.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day in Oxford

Waking up at 4am - agonizing. Standing in the rain at 5am with hundreds of drunk people - smelly. Watching streakers jump off a high bridge into two feet of water - eye cringing. Seeing a drunk old man dance with scarves wearing laderhosen and a cheese head - words fail utterly. Experiencing May Day in Oxford - PRICELESS!

May 1st at dawn starts a very big festival here in England and especially in Oxford. I got up at 4:30am with my residents, took a taxi to Magdalene Tower and Bridge to wait for the choir to stand on top of the Tower and sing in the first sunrise of May and Spring! It was such a fun experience!

Cole, Janice, Cliff, and Me waiting for the sun to rise and the singing from Madgalene Tower... at 4:30am!

First sun rays!

You can't see them, but the Magdalene Boy's Choir are standing at the top of this tower and singing a Latin Hymn and the Sumer Is A Cumen In!

Nothing like bagpipes in the morning!

We went to breakfast at St. Mary's Church Vault Cafe for a traditional English Breakfast of eggs, bangers (their word for sausage), bacon (which is what they call fried ham slices; I refused to eat them anyway), mushrooms, tomatoes, asparagus, salad with avocado, toast, a chocolate chip croissant, and a latte!

Moorish Dancers. They beat these sticks really hard and fast against each other's and I can just imagine how many bruised and bloody fingers they must have during practice!

A very drunk Moorish Dancer who must have once been to Wisconsin! You'll notice all these men dancing with scarves. I don't think you could ever get this many grown men doing a scarf dance in America! :D

Me with the May Day Green Man! There's a man inside there! It's actually a pretty ancient pagan tradition. But it looks like a walking Christmas tree and is therefore well worth the effort of chasing him down for a photo. :)

I had such a great time today! It was so worth waking up at such an unsightly hour to experience it; something I will probably never see again. But after doing all of that and then giving two tours, I am worn out and going to bed!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Small Pleasures/Happy Heart

Remember when you were a child and you would occasionally have dreams of walking into a room of yours and instead of finding a closet or a bedroom, it would instead be utterly filled with whatever your heart desired? I used to dream I had secret rooms like those that would change with my whims and desires. Sometimes the rooms would be filled with magical woods, fantastic adventures, true lifelong friends, books like the library in "Beauty and the Beast," dazzling things to eat, or rows upon rows of the prettiest clothes. These were just little passing fancies that would waft through my imagination sometimes.

Well, I seem to be living in the realistic version of one of those fancies. I am living for a short time in a place where there are rooms full of wonderful books for me to read whenever I want! It is almost overwhelming because I know that no matter how hard I will try, I won't be able to read them all before my time is up. This makes choosing which books to read incredibly hard; the Sofie's Choice of Book World!

Thank goodness that a new friend literally pulled a book out for me from them all and thrust it into my hands saying that I absolutely must read this one: "Beyond Ourselves: a woman's pilgrimage in faith" by Catherine Marshal. I am only a third of the way in so far, but already I know it is a jewel that I will treasure forever. I am now adding Catherine Marshal to my list of ladies I want to invite over for a tea party in Heaven (the others listed previously in my dreams are: Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Maude Montgomery, and Beatrix Potter). What a wonderful time we shall have! I have always loved Marshall's book "Christy," but I had never read anything else by her. I really wasn't aware that she had written anything else besides her book "A Man Called Peter," which I new was about her beloved husband who died when they were both still young. I hate starting a book when I know the ending is tragic. It's bad enough when a tragic ending surprises me, but start one willingly is usually too much for me to bare. However, knowing what I know now about her and her life, I think I just might make an exception and go back and read that book too.

If there is any girl (boy too for that matter) who wants to know God more and to walk deeper with Him, you should really find this book and read it. Not too often does one find a Christian Living book that is written without confusing scholar talk, pretenses, or shallow self-help advice but is written by a person who has gone through the fires of testing and who shares from her heart from experience.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dragonheart Fruit!

OK, I went shopping at the cute little grocery store they have here and found this treasure!!! It's a dragonheart fruit! That's literally what they call it!

And then it got even better as I cut it open :D

Unfortunately, the taste didn't really live up to its awesome name and look. :( It kind of tasted like a tasteless kiwi. But so worth the adventure of eating a dragonheart!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I saw Riverdance today! They were beautiful, enchanting, and sometimes jaw-dropping. I really want to know how they can do that cool ankle flip flop move without twisting their ankles! Their storyline is loosely Irish beginnings, then immigration to America where they have dancing duels with jazz tappers, then go back to Irish country dance roots, and then for some unknown reason a flamenco dancer and Russians jump in for a number here and there. There's also moments where the fiddler, flutist, drummer, bagpipe player, and Celtic singers get center stage by themselves. At the end it's just full on Irish Dancing awesomeness with incredibly fast footwork and tapping so loud you think your eardrums might burst.

I enjoyed almost everything. However, I didn't understand the Spanish flamenco dancer connection to Ireland. They didn't even try to make one. She just came out on her own every once in a while and twisted her wrists in odd ways and stomped around. Then suddenly we were in Russia! I thought they were some of the best dancers and I thoroughly loved watching their extreme athletic stunts, but I just wanted to know what we were doing in Russia! But it was a real treat to watch so many different styles of dance. I don't think I've ever seen a dance style that I couldn't find something I liked about it. Dance is just such a beautiful multi-faceted language from the soul.

Well, I would post some pictures of Riverdance, but they said we couldn't and I'm trying to be good, so no pictures.

Oooh! I found more forest trails in Shotover! It goes on forever I think! It's like Narnia and Middle Earth all rolled into one and me right in the middle giggling to myself as I walk along and wonder if I'm really here or if this is just a really real dream.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Shotover Forest is Truly a Magical Place

Apparently there was a volcanic eruption in Iceland today and ash covered the entire English countryside, closing down all the planes for the foreseeable future. I didn't see the ash; too high up apparently. But the sunset tonight was quite beautiful. My pictures couldn't do it justice, so I won't even post one.

But here are a few pictures from my lovely excursion through the truly magical Shotover Forest!

This is one of the trees that meets you as you just begin to enter on the right past the lake.

This is the path leading up to the High Forest.

This is a new friend of mine on the left. My first tree to make friends with me here in England. No matter where I go, I know I can always make friends with the trees. They have always been my friends and I am happy to be one of the few that they decide to befriend. It really is a great honor to be befriended by trees and for them to reveal their names to you, you know. This one is quite happy to let his name be shared. He is Elfriend and happy to be friends with anyone who desires to be friendly and has eyes to see trees for what they really are. If you don't know; I'm sorry. Even if I did explain, you wouldn't understand.

This is what's called a "Kissing Gate." Only one person can pass through at a time, and as you pass, you're supposed to kiss the one waiting behind you. I have been by myself so far when passing through such gates, so I blew a kiss to Elfriend. Just a friendly one though. I have introduced him to a friend of mine back at camp - Lady Fair, and I can already guess at what is to come of this! Her brother, The Sentinel, I'm sure will love Elfriend as a brother as soon as they meet, so I am not worried. He will be only too happy that someone besides The Rogue has taken an interest in his little sister!

The tree just behind the one at the fork in the road was where I had my lunch that day. From the wonderful perch I sat upon I could look back down the hill I had come from and into the entire western valley of Oxford. An apple and cheese and ham sandwich never tasted so good! This is also where my camera decided to die. Oh well, there will definitely be more to come.

Oxford, England is truly a magical old place, full of story. I hope I don't waste any of my time here.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Christian Girl & A Muslim Man Have a Talk

After many cold gray days, today the sun decided to shine! And not just the clever English sun that can shine without actually giving any tangible warmth, but full on spring-is-here-to-stay, shed-that-sweater-you’ve-been-living-in, warm sunshine! I had some errands to run in town and decided to walk instead of take the bus. Bird song traveled with me the entire way and smiles kept creeping into the corners of my mouth. It isn’t a general custom here to acknowledge others on your path, but today I took a foreigner’s license and greeted them all. Some acknowledged my presence and others just looked awkward, but today was a day for smiles and helloes.

After my chores were through and I was headed to the bus stop to go home, I decided to stop in at a little café for a cup of coffee and a lamb somosa, which almost all cafes here sell for cheap (I love being so close to India!). The only bill I had was a miserable looking £5 note that had been torn strait down the middle and then taped back together and had a myriad design of other rips and tattered edges. I had received it days before as cash from the grocery store, but didn’t notice its miserable condition until I got home. I was worried that it might not be acceptable as payment anymore, so before I ordered what I wanted at the café, I showed him my £5 note and asked him if he could accept it.

He was visibly astonished. He laughed and said of course he could accept it and only marveled at my “honesty” and “morality.” When he found out I was from California, he was even more impressed. While he heated up my somosa and poured my cup of coffee, we fell into a discussion about morals, how people treat each other, and what that communicates about them and society as a whole.

As our discussion lengthened and started widening, he told me he was a Muslim and what his faith said about issues such as these. I told him I was very interested to know how he felt about Christians, as I was a Christian and haven’t had the chance to talk to very many Muslims. This furthered our conversation even more and it was really neat.

I felt the Holy Spirit with me, guiding my questions and answers, and giving me Scripture to give and not in a “let me just shove the Bible down your throat every chance I get” kind of way, but just naturally coming out as we compared what he knew of the Koran and what I knew of the Bible and what that meant to us and how that influenced the way we lived our lives.

At the end of our conversation, I shook his hand; a Christian girl from California and a Muslim man from Morocco. My prayer last night was that I could love Jesus and love others more. This was a wonderful gift moment from God for me to love another human being, even though his religion and the implications of his religion scare me speechless. But today I wasn’t speechless. Today Islam was a person that I could show love. And perhaps there will be more times in the future to stop in for a coffee and a talk.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

He's Not a Tame Lion. But He's Good!

I think if you went to Oxford randomly this spring, you would find me at Holy Trinity Church (C. S. Lewis' church where he went and is buried; and I can walk to!). It's just a small poor country parish full of all ages of the nicest, most inviting, hungry for Jesus, full of wisdom, joyful people I've met! Thank You Jesus, I found a place to talk about You and praise You! So the Anglican tradition is very different from what I have known church to be my whole life, but if you know me at all, you know that I love trying and experiencing new things. I think that might be one of my most favorite things about myself, because it pays off way more than backfires. :)

Yesterday night I went to their Easter Vigil service and I was struck then by how much these people really love Jesus here and are actively being Jesus to each other in the way they're all in each others lives and helping each other through their rough times, as well as reaching out to people who aren't even apart of their church, but need help (like this guy I met today after church in the "Coach Room" for coffee and biscuits who had been into drugs and alcohol, but they helped him through his struggle to quit and now he works for a drug rehab center to help others and is so excited about being sober and sharing his testimony).

After a charming and heartfelt Easter service, I was invited to have Easter dinner at a retired clergy member and his wife, a retired clergy member friend, and a mother and her adult daughter (all just friends from the parish and the mom and daughter biked to their house!). And I had such a wonderful time with them! I felt like I had known them forever and they were family. They were so inviting. And David, the retired vicar, sat with me while his wife was finishing up making the meal and we were awaiting the arrival of the other guests and we talked about literature, what makes our heart's sing, and about what has inspired us to go deeper in our relationship with Jesus. It was so refreshing! He was talking about what he loved about theology and how excited he was to see the new clergy members that he mentors really finding a personal relationship with God and not just head knowledge. And when he found out how much I liked dancing in worship, he started trying to figure out how that could be added into the services at Holy Trinity (however, dancing on solid stone floors with precarious relics to be potentially kicked and knocked over would be rather rough!).

And my favorite part of the service today was: After it ended, it is their tradition to all squeeze into the choir section in the front part of the church and sing the Hallelujah Chorus at the top of their lungs. And I ran up too, squeezed in, and sang at the top of my lungs with them until my throat got all choked up with tears and emotion. I've never loved Easter so much. What an experience! And when I looked around after our last triumphant "Hallelujah," I saw that I wasn't the only one with tears of joy streaming down my face.

Jesus Christ is Risen, and He is so GOOD! (He's not a tame lion. But He's good.)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Vigil

Tonight I kept Easter Vigil at Holy Trinity Church. I’ve made friends with a retired doctor and his wife who live just on the other side of the fence and up the hill a ways and they help me through the services and keep me from feeling completely awkward (awkward is such an awkward word). And what a wonderful time I had!

I am such a hopeless romantic and I love old traditions and this service was frankly one giant tradition the whole way through, but done by elderly and young every day folks and led by a vicar with a ponytail and large reading glasses who likes to smile. High Church was never so welcoming and dear.

There was a thick sense of anticipation and excitement building in all the members as they spilled out of the church into the rain to start their Easter bonfire. One of the parish girls had an umbrella that lit up in little specks of light that changed colors every few seconds. It was hard to hear what the clergy were saying through the cacophony of rain hitting all the umbrellas, but a saw them swing a gold gilded case of incense and then spend quite a bit of time attempting to get the wet papers in the bin to light amidst all the rain. However, light eventually did triumph over darkness, the bonfire was roused, and a large white candle with a red cross in the middle was lit from the flame. This candle was carried back into the church with us all crowding in behind carrying unlit little candles with paper rings around them to catch the drippings. The one candle flame in the hands of the vicar was the only light in the church. Slowly we made our way down the middle isle repeating a chant about Jesus being the Light in the darkness. When he reached the front, he turned and the cleric behind him lit his little candle from the bright flame and so the flame passed on, not diminishing, but growing until everyone’s candles were lit and the church was no longer in darkness. What a beautiful image this was.

As we held our little flames, we sat and stood for readings from the Old Testament and sang hymns and chants about God’s righteousness and our need for Him. The excitement built. Something was about to happen. The vicar’s large and bushy eyebrows that can be seen from the very last pew were rising higher and higher in anticipation. And then we arrived in the New Testament readings where the stone has been rolled away, the tomb was empty, and Mary met Jesus alive. He is Risen! Suddenly everyone started shouting and laughing and shaking noisemakers that they had all brought for this moment. I took the keys out of my pocket and shook them until my knuckles turned red. Everyone was so full of joy, but none more than the vicar and his new cleric who has a pierced ear and I’m betting a theatre background. They were truly beaming and even knocking on their podium. All the lights were turned on and the bells pealed.

There were more hymns, prayers, and beautiful songs sung by the choir after this. Then communion was taken and I have decided that either I am just a bad pick and a cheapskate when buying wine or the churches here just have really good wine, because I’ve never had such good wine than the sip during Holy Eucharist. After this, we all followed the vicar to the back of the church chanting “Jesus is my Light; my Light and my Salvation” and stood around their fount full of water. After prayer and our recitation of the Apostle’s Creed, the vicar took a cup of the water and some green shrub of some kind and began flinging the water over all our heads. He started with his cleric and gave him a firm thwack, which made the cleric wince and laugh. The vicar laughed too. It wasn’t done lightly or in clownish mimicry of something that is to be “sacred,” but it was just a simple honest response of good humor and an obviously true outpouring of joy and lighthearted excitement.

I have never felt such an excited holiday spirit for the true meaning of Easter than I did tonight. It had nothing to do with eggs or bunnies or chocolate. It had nothing to do with big glitzy productions. It was just a small country parish full of down to earth families that were excited to sing, read, listen, and shout Scripture and rejoice that Jesus is risen and therefore there is hope in the world yet.

I think I could love these people very much. And for that, I wish the world were smaller. I have always wanted to travel and experience new things and meet new people. However, the more places I go, the more experiences I have, and the more people I meet and learn to love has meant that my heart just finds more ways to break when I have to leave. If the world were smaller, perhaps I could be everywhere at once and wouldn’t feel so ripped apart all the time. This is my unforeseen dilemma. But it also gives me one more reason to anticipate Heaven, because that is how I imagine it will be; a huge world of people and yet all continually connected without anymore separation for ever and ever… “World without end, amen.” (This is what many of the songs and chants end with and I think they are simply beautiful words.) I am still too young to personally know too many people that are already there, although I do know more than I would wish to, but the heartache of just being separated by the distance of this vast earth is enough to break my heart sometimes. And this is just a sweet added bonus to the fact that Heaven will finally be the place where all our tears will be wiped away by the hands of Jesus as we finally get to see Him face to face.

This Easter has made me happy and homesick all at once.

Jesus, come soon!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Henry V & Goat Yogurt

I'm not sure what to write about tonight. However, I feel like writing and so I shall ramble. I just watched the BBC version of Henry V with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson. I wish they were still together. They are such wonderful people and I hate seeing such love go to waist. Well, what a movie that was. I liked it. Branagh never fails to bring clarity and confident understanding to Shakespeare's lines. He's brilliant at exposition and digging up all the clever wonderful nuggets of nuance. It’s also nice to see a play about a Henry end somewhat peacefully and happily. Henry’s tend to be ill-fated stars. I can’t remember my history well enough to remember what happened to this one. But with that time period I have to sadly agree with the pessimistic saying that goes: all happy endings are just stories that haven’t ended yet. I don’t always like living in this time, but at least I did not live in his. I enjoy reading about it, watching movies about it, and soaking myself in the myths and fantasies of those times, but the realities of them always come back into my mind and make me happy to be so far removed and at a safe distance with my rosy glasses firmly in place.
England is such a wet country. Having lived in California for so long, I forget that I can’t always just go outside whenever I want to. I forget too that I can’t always count on the sun to shine when it is day. I do like the romance of the rain and the fog, but I am still getting used to my own realities that this means I must also like walking the streets in a thunderstorm in order to bring some groceries home and that I can’t just wait for tomorrow because it will probably be raining then too. This makes it rather less romantic; especially when the wind is cold, and the man at the check out is cranky.
Talking about cranky clerks. I went into a McDonalds on Sunday, as I told myself I would never do here, because I desperately needed a cheap cup of plain coffee to wake myself up. The place was packed! Apparently McDonalds is still a novelty over here and not a word that makes any grown up grown. When I finally got up to the register the male clerk could not have been more rude. He made it abundantly clear with his incessant eye rolling, hurry it up hand gestures, and barking commands that my patronage was not appreciated, that my order was unworthy of his time, and would I just pay and go already. My resolution to not enter another McDonalds is more resolute than ever.
However, my attempts at trying the foreign foods here is at a standstill as well until my poor stomach has a chance to regroup. The final straw was a harmless looking little cup of “Goat Milk Yogurt.” I stood in the grocery isle staring at this and thought, well, I really like goat cheese. This is probably good. So, I brought it home, peeled back the lid, stuck my spoon in, and brought it to my mouth. The first bite seemed odd, so I put a second bite in. Then I proceeded to make such faces that surly have never been used in C. S. Lewis’ kitchen ever before! Think of the worst barn smell you’ve ever smelt, combine that with the smell of soured milk, and then imagine what that would taste like and you get close to the retched flavor of Goat Milk Yogurt! That was yesterday, but my poor stomach is still giving me grief over that one.
And now I must go because the biggest bee I have ever seen just flew by my head and is rapping at my lamp stand. Off to my next adventure!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My Favorite Stories of The Kilns

Maureen & Children’s Room (My Room Too!): Maureen was the sisters of Paddy Moore, C. S. Lewis’ friend in World War I. He and Paddy had made a packed together that if either of them were killed in battle, the other would take care of his family. Paddy had a mother and teenage sister who were estranged from their cruel father and didn’t have much to live on, and Jack, as C. S. Lewis liked to be called, had his father and dear brother. Sadly, Paddy did die in the war, and so, true to Jack’s word, he took Mrs. Moore and her daughter Maureen into his keeping and they in time became like the mother Jack lost as a child and the sister he never had.
Maureen lived at The Kilns with Jack, his brother Warnie, her mother Mrs. Moore, and a small host of help until she married. She had been incredibly fond of music and often annoyed Jack with her violin and piano practicing. She loved music so much that she married a music teacher.
However, through a strange serious of events and with just the right people dieing, and at just the right times, Maureen inherited a castle on the very northern shores of Scotland and the title of Lady Dunbar, Baronet. This happened just before Jack’s death.
When Jack was toward the end of his life, in the hospital, Maureen came to visit him. Walter Hooper, Jack’s secretary and friend, met her at the door and warned her that he hadn’t been recognizing anyone and to not be upset if he couldn’t remember who she was.
Maureen walked into his hospital room and put her hand into his. “Jack?” she said. “It’s Maureen.” Jack looked at her and said, “No it isn’t. It’s Lady Dunbar.” Maureen was astonished. “Jack! How could you remember that!” And Jack replied “On the contrary. How could I forget a fairy tale?”

Music Room: Toward the end of C. S. Lewis’ life, when he was dying from renal failure, they had a live in male nurse to take care of him at The Kilns during the nights. During the day, the nurse would sleep in the Music Room, where Jack actually eventually died. Now this nurse was quite the curmudgeon. He was constantly in a critical mood about the smallness of the house, the dirtiness, the filthiness, and the clutter of all the books. He had been used to tending wealthy patrons, but Jack was just famous.
One day, Jack decided to play a joke on his cranky nurse. He had sent Walter Hooper, his youngest stepson Douglas Gresham, and a few others to gather all of his books from his rooms at Cambridge University, as he had retired from teaching. They ended up bringing about fifteen hundred books back with them and Jack directed them to stack the books around his nurse’s bed, where he lay sleeping. They stacked the books several rows thick all around the nurse’s bed and all the way up to the ceiling and managed to do it all without waking up the nurse! Then they waited.
As soon as the nurse awoke, everyone in the house heard shouts of expletives and then a loud crash. Jack was in tears of mirth, and when the nurse finally cooled down from his shock of being quite literally buried alive in the books he had made such a fuss over, he found the humor of the joke and from then on was a dear and loved Jack just as much as everyone else.

The “Bathroom:” One day shortly after Walter Hooper had come from America to meet C. S. Lewis in person, him and Jack had been sitting in the Common Room at The Kilns drinking cup of tea after cup of tea, draining at least four kettles. Soon Walter started feeling the pressure of the massive amounts of liquid he had ingested and asked Jack if he could use his “bathroom.” Jack, with a serious air, took Walter into the room that contained a bathtub and a sink, gave him several towels, a bar of soap, and then asked with Walter thought he had everything he needed. Walter was so taken aback that he gave a non-committal “I suppose,” to which Jack left him and closed the door.
Walter stood dazed in the “bathroom” he had requested for a time, but the building pressure inside of him forced him into action. He came out of the “bathroom,” found Jack back in the Common Room and said, “Jack, I’m sorry, but I don’t want to take a bath. I need the lavatory!” Jack looked at him with a prankish gleam in his eye and told him, “Then let that be a lesson to you to stop using silly American euphemisms! Now, let’s start over.”