Before leaving for class this morning, I stopped in to say “bye” to Jane. They’re leaving for Rome tomorrow morning, and I didn’t know if I’d see them before they left.

Beng greeted me at the door. She was doing some cleaning.

“You have another beeg box by the door,” she told me as I came in.

“What? Really?…” I asked, completely surprised. Funny, I had received mail the previous two days, and I woke up this morning realizing it’d probably be a while before I get more. I was kind of bummed, but this was good news.

Beng led me to the dront door and, sure enough, there was another one. A 30 pounder this time. From grandpa, again. That guy…

I was in a hurry, so I wasn’t able to open it before leaving for class. It did give me something to look forward to that evening, though.

An Oxford kind of lecture

I just have one lecture to attend on Thursdays. The rest of this day is spent studying, reading and working on essays. And taking in views like this on my way to class.

My lecture this morning was on Pre-Nicaea Christian Doctrine. Basically, what the early Christian church believed. I can hear a few of you yawning, but I really enjoy this stuff. Early church heretical views and the like. Very interesting.

And our professor is great for this lecture, too. Dr. Mark Edwards. The guy’s brilliant, no doubt. He enters in his very Oxford attire: button-up dress shirt, tie, sweater (stained), scarf, tweed jacket, black academic gown, glasses. Messy hair. Scruffy face.

He enters the classroom, gown flowing behind him, pours himself a glass of water (which he holds for the entirety of class), and then he immediately begins. A two-sentence recap of the week before and then it’s on to the new material. Non-stop for an hour. No pauses. Straight through. Spitting out names and dates with ease. Smooth transitions. This guy knows his stuff front and back.

And then, at the top of the hour, “Next week I shall talk about the gnostics.” He drinks the glass of water he’s been holding for the past hour in one long swallow and then he’s out the door. First one out of the room. This guy is something else. It’s comical, really.

Studying at Blackwell’s

I spent most of this afternoon at Blackwell’s. The book shop I first visited yesterday. I had a bunch of Greek to get through, and I thought I’d try it out.

I really liked it, too. Very busy. Students. Professors. Others. Not a quiet place, by any means, but I liked that. It let me say my Greek aloud to myself without interrupting anyone.

I can’t really practice my Greek aloud at the Harris Manchester Library or the Bodleian. You feel bad walking too loudly in those places. I could probably yell my Greek here and people wouldn’t notice. Perfect.

It was about lunch time when I arrived, so I decided to snag a bite while I was there. They were advertising their paninis on the way in, so I thought I’d see how they compared to the Alternative Turk.

I was not impressed. For starters, you pick them up out of a cooler. Pre-packaged. And then they grill them for you when you pay. They also cost more than the Alternative Turk. And they’re not nearly as big or as tasty. Looks like the Alternative Turk is going to be taking my money for some time to come…

It was busy there. People were circling tables shortly after I arrived. Looking for a place to sit.

I noticed one guy, probably in his early 50’s, trying to get a table. Another guy was getting up to leave so he waited. Then another, younger girl walked up and set her things down at the table. I was just waiting for the first guy to get upset. He didn’t.

“They must be together,” I thought to myself. “Professor meeting with a student, perhaps?”

I’m not one to listen to other people’s conversations, but I struggled not to in this case. For starters, his American accent caught my ear. And he spoke loudly, so that I couldn’t not hear what he was saying. And I noticed he was talking a lot about God. And prayer. And how God wants to hear from us. It sounded like this girl was having a tough time, and he was encouraging her to seek Him. Because that’s what God wants us to do, he told her.

“He knows our desires,” he told this girl, “but he still wants to hear from us. We don’t have to fully understand it, we just have to do it.”

He was being pretty firm with her. Not in a bad way. Just like he knew what she needed to hear. And it surprised me. All the God talk. Especially in a public space like this coffee shop. I heard Wycliffe Hall mentioned. “Maybe he’s a professor there,” I thought to myself.

Toward the end of their conversation, he handed a camera to the table next to them and asked if they’d take a picture.

“Okay, now that’s just weird,” I thought to myself.

They both got up, he was leaving, apparently, and I realized this man was this girl’s father. He was saying goodbye.

I spent a couple hours more in my Greek after this scene ended. After wrapping up my assignment, I packed up my things and made my way out of Blackwell’s. But all of a sudden I felt the urge to go to talk to this girl. Even though I didn’t want to .

“I don’t want to come across as some creeper,” I told myself, pushing aside the internal prodding to introduce myself. “That’d just be weird”

I began to take the stairs out and ended up stopping before getting all the way down. It felt like someone had reached out a hand and pushed it into my gut, blocking my way out.

“All right. Okay. I’ll go,” I said to myself. Still not wanting to. Still feeling weird about the whole thing.

I made my way back up the stairs and shuffled through the tables to this girl. She was reading a book. And she looked up at me with this look like, “Yes? Can I help you?” as I did.

I told her I knew this sounded weird, but I overheard her conversation, and I felt the urge to come introduce myself. I was just waiting for her to tell me to go away. She didn’t.

I told her I noticed her American accent, and the other guy’s with her.

“Oh, yeah, that was my Dad,” she told me.

She introduced herself. “Karis. It’s Greek for Grace.”

I told her I was studying Greek, but I was horrible at it.

She told me she’s going to Wheaton. And that she’s studying abroad for a term. She told me she just got done saying goodbye to her Dad. I told her I would be a complete mess if that were me. She asked if I were close with my family, and I told her I was. Very much so.

“Me too,” she said.

She’s interested in apologetics. And she’s studying at Wycliffe Hall.

I told her I’ve met a number of guys from there, and that they’ve all been super nice.

“They’ve been great to me. Even inviting me over for dinner and lunch,” I told her. “Yeah, I’ve really had a great experience with Wycliffe.”

“Ah, you must be a Christian, then?” she asked.

She said when she tells people she’s going to Wycliffe, she gets some different responses.

“People think it’s cultish, or something, since it’s a Christian college,” she told me.

She asked where I went. I told her Harris Manchester. Not sure if that meant anything to her or not. Not sure what kind of connotations that name carries. Apart from the fact that we’re all old.

I told her I had just arrived a couple weeks earlier, and that my wife would be here at the end of the month. I told her that would make this feel much more like home.

“Not sure if that made a difference or not,” I thought to myself as I made my way out of Blackwell’s. But maybe it did. I don’t know. I’d be a mess if I were her. At least now I didn’t feel like someone was blocking me from going down the stairs when I left.

Living out my dream

I talk with my best friend Steve every day. By e-mail, usually. And he does a great job of telling me how proud he is of me. For following my dreams. And for living them out. He reminds me that I truly am living my dream right now. And I need that reminder, because it doesn’t usually feel that way. Instead, I usually just feel stressed. About all I have to get done. Mostly about Greek.

Three days out of the week I’m waking up to Greek class. First thing in the morning. Exam every class. First thing. It’s kind of like waking up to someone sitting beside your bed just waiting for you to open your eyes so they can punch you in the face.

But every once in a while I catch myself thinking, “this really is amazing. I am actually here, in Oxford. I am actually doing this.” I found myself thinking that as I left the Radcliffe Camera at the Bodleian this afternoon. Walking up those ancient stone steps. Reaching daylight and being surrounded by these incredible, old, and enormous buildings.

But then, after a few seconds, I don’t believe it anymore. It’s just too unreal.

Discuss

I went to Discuss for the first time tonight. It’s a small group that meets at St. Andrews. The Church just down the street from here, where I’ve gone on Sunday mornings a couple times.

It was nice. Good group of 20- and 30-somethings showed up. Dinner beforehand. Chicken curry and rice, which was really good.

I sat by a guy by the name of Martin. I think he’s 120% Irish. Give or take. A head of floppy, bright red hair. Thick as mud Irish accent. Really funny guy, too.

He asked where I was from. I told him Seattle.

“Ah… Grey’s Anatomy and Frasier!” he said with a smile.

“Yep, that pretty much sums up everything you’d need to know about me,” I said with a laugh.

He asked what brought me here. I told him about the change I had made from working at a marketing firm back home to studying Theology here at Oxford. I asked what he did.

“IT stuff,” he told me. “You know, the internet. Have you heard of it?” he asked, sarcastically.

“Oh, you mean the Google tubes? Yeah, are people still using that?” I asked him. He laughed.

After dinner, we broke up into small groups of about 10 or so people and had a short Bible study.

It was nice to be in the Word with some other folks. Walking through it and discussing our thoughts. And I found myself thinking about halfway through, “I can’t remember the last time I was sitting in a small group I wasn’t leading, in some form or another.” It was a good feeling.

Martin’s wife was also in our group. She’s also from Ireland, but her accent isn’t nearly as thick.

When she heard where I was from, she asked if I was getting any sleep.

“Yeah, actually, the first week was quite hard, but now I’m settling in all right…” but my words were cut off with laughter. Apparently her joke had gone right over my head.

Seattle. Sleepless In Seattle. You know.

I told her that’s actually the only movie anyone watches back home, so it’s weird I didn’t pick up on the joke. More laughter.

I’m pretty sure that won’t be the last time I’ll go. I knew I wanted to find some Christian community when I came here. Seems like it’s lining up pretty great so far.

One girl who was in our small group had spent some time in Vancouver. She was from England, but her parents had moved to Vancouver. She spent a couple years there. I told her that wasn’t far from where I was from. Maybe an hour.

“Bellingham,” I told her.

“I was going to ask if it was Bellingham,” she said. “We’d always go to the Macy’s there.”

“Yeah? You and the rest of Canada, I’m pretty sure.”

(Another) Jackpot

I was excited to return home and find the package from my grandpa waiting for me. Not having a memory has its benefits, sometimes. Like being surprised by things you already know.

I really wasn’t expecting another package from my Grandpa. The first box was pretty comprehensive. Or so I thought…

But he thought otherwise. More cereal. More oatmeal. More trail mix. More protein bars. I’m not sure I could eat all this if I didn’t eat anything other than cereal, oatmeal, protein bars and trail mix for the next two years.

I could hear my Grandpa’s voice, from all those mornings he’d make us breakfast. Huge breakfasts. With more food than we could ever possibly eat. “I’d rather make too much than not enough,” he’d say.

Thank you, Grandpa. This really is incredibly generous of you.

Missing Hayley

I had a bit of studying to do before turning in tonight. Greek. For my exam in the morning. A good hour or two’s worth, probably.

And I’m not sure why, but I found myself missing Hayley tonight. More so than usual. Really badly. I ended up going back and re-reading some of the words I had written following her passing. And I lost it. In a way I haven’t in a long time.

I had to just sit there for a while and let it out. Completely useless. For anything. Studying was hopeless at this point. I just hoped Jane didn’t hear me next door and wonder what was going on. It was that bad.

But then I got thinking, and I remembered what she had said. Shortly before we were forced to say goodbye. And I remembered how it seemed like she knew I was supposed to be here. She believed there was a reason for all of this. She believed something special was going to come from all of it.

I didn’t feel like studying after that. When I had stopped sobbing. I felt exhausted. I felt like I had nothing left in me. I just felt like crawling into bed and pulling the covers over my head.

Even though all of this seemed so pointless in the midst of feeling so overwhelmed with loss, remembering that she believed in this, that kept me going.

I picked up my pencil and started working on my Greek.

I want to honor Hayley in this. In all of this.

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