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.

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!