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.

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!