Archives for posts with tag: Blackwell’s

Wednesday: Christmas Dinner, Caroling and the Christmas Story

Harris Manchester had a Christmas carol service and dinner on Wednesday night. A formal event. I didn’t find out until after going to get two tickets for Jennifer and I that it was a members-only event. Not like the jacket. Only Harris Manchester students and faculty members were invited to the dinner.

I was pretty bummed. I’m not a fan of leaving Jennifer to fend for herself for dinner. Not at all. But she insisted. She told me she didn’t want me to miss out on my college’s Christmas dinner for her sake. And not in some “I’m saying this, but I really want you to do that” way, but she meant it. So I went.

I threw my suit and tie on, hopped on my bike and hurried to Harris Manchester. On the snow-dusted road. It’s a weird feeling, riding your bike in a suit. But it sure beats walking 30-minutes in a suit.

I made it to college about 10 minutes after the carol service began. I left my coat and scarf with John (the night porter) at the front door and slipped into a pew in the back of the chapel. The song being sung when I arrived finished and someone came to the front and read the birth narrative from Luke. The chaplain, I believe.

His face was lit up by the light looming down on his Bible. It presented an almost awminous mood as he read the birth account. He read slowly. And deliberately. So much so that I felt like someone hit the slow-motion button on a dvd player.

But I really appreciated it. It was like great consideration was being given to each word. The words we tend to plow through because we’re so used to them.

After finishing the reading, he slowly lifted His Bible up from where it sat, stepped slowly back, and then walked slowly to his seat.

We sang a few more songs before making our way out of the chapel and into the college halls for some hot mulled wine. And more carols. The halls were crowded tightly with men dressed in their suits and ties and women in their dresses and formal wear. The smell of mulled wine filled the air. And the Christmas carols echoed off the stone walls. It was great.

After several songs, we ventured out into the cold night air just long enough to walk down the stone path leading to Arlosh Hall for Christmas dinner. The tables were arranged differently than normal. And they were lined with Christmas decor. Place settings standing out amongst the green pine decor and candles and treats. A giant Christmas tree, complete with lights and a star on top, sat in the corner of the room. Behind the head table. I asked Tariq how he thought they fit it in the hall.

“No idea,” he said, shrugging his shoulders with a laugh.

The meal was great. Salmon for starters (I’ve been surprised by how good the salmon is here). Turkey and mashed potatoes and green beans for a main meal. And I left before dessert. I was meeting up with Jen for a(nother) carol service at 8:30, and I didn’t want to keep her waiting.

I asked Tariq to excuse me and hurried out of Arlosh Hall. Tariq and I had been talking about the essay he was handing in that week. He had written a 12,000-word submission for a paper that’s supposed to be 2,000 words. . .This guy’s something else. He’s the medical doctor who left his practice to study Theology. And who still has yet to tell his parents he’s here.

I grabbed my coat and scarf from John at the front desk, hopped on my bike and rode the quarter-mile stretch to the Sheldonian to meet up with Jennifer for the Christmas Carol service. I locked up my bike across the street and found Jen walking up a few minutes later.

It was an amazing service. It definitely made it feel like Christmas time.

Christmas Carols and the Christmas Story at the Sheldonian

We were in the upper balcony of this circular-shaped building. Looking down from our wooden seats in the balcony on the brass band that sat in the middle of the first floor, with students and families seated all around them.

The circular ceiling had an ornate painting of a heavenly scene, complete with cherubim. It was an amazing building, and a perfect place for Christmas carols.

A guy from my Greek class was seated behind us with a small group of friends. He noticed me before I saw him there. He said “hi” and I went to introduce him to Jen only to find, mid-sentence, that I was second-guessing his name. I wanted to say “Tim,” but I wasn’t sure. So I just kind of mumbled the second-half of my introduction. He laughed.

“Tim,” he said, looking to Jen.

I told him that’s what I was going to say, but I’m not so sure he believed me.

After several Christmas songs I whispered to Jennifer that I loved Christmas carols.

“Didn’t you just come from singing carols?” she asked me.

“Yeah…”

She shook her head and smiled.

Mary Was Surprised, too

A guy by the name of Michael Ramsden spoke after several songs. He wore dark glasses and a light-colored blazer. You knew he was a pretty brilliant guy before he even had time to open his mouth.

He talked about the story of Christmas. And how it’s one so many people struggle to believe. Or simply don’t bother struggling with it at all. He mentioned a professor who recently said no one after the 18th century had any right to speak of the virgin birth as a historical event without sounding completely foolish. That the science of our day simply wouldn’t allow it.

Michael claimed that the virgin birth wasn’t pre-science. That, even as a young teenager, Mary would’ve understood the science behind what it took to bring a child into the world. That she would’ve seen the idea of giving birth to a baby as a virgin as not natural in the least bit. That she would not have seen this as a normal occurrence, which is why she responded as she did (“But how can that be, for I am a virgin?”). And so, it doesn’t do any good to say that somehow we have advanced to the point that we can see that it’s unnatural to presume a virgin can give birth to a child. Apparently, Mary thought the same thing.

And we find the same is true of Joseph. He, too, understood clearly what it takes to bring a child into the world, which is why an angel had to come and prepare him for the news. Any man, married or not, knows that short of an angel appearing, there’d be some explaining to be had if your virgin wife comes to you and tells you she’s pregnant.

And so, what we find is both Mary and Joseph, on separate occasions, being approached by an angelic being, and being told that God was doing something quite special here. They didn’t need to be told this was a miracle; they fully understood that part. But the angel came to tell them that this miracle was from God.

But that’s not to say being approached by an angel was an expected event for these two. It was not. And they responded probably the same way most of us would. We’re told Mary was troubled. The angel had to reassure her that everything was just fine. And that he had come to testify to the fact that God was doing something extraordinary here. Something miraculous.

And that’s just the way it should be, isn’t it? For it should not be something of ordinary origins testifying to the validity of the miraculous, but something of miraculous, even divine origins that testifies to the miraculous.

If you want to know if the “genuine Italian” leather shoes you get for a great deal are actually “genuinely Italian,” your best bet is to ask someone who is familiar with genuine Italian leather. Better yet, you ought to ask someone from Italy who works with Italian leather. And that’s precisely what we find here: a being from heaven testifying to the miracle that would be forthcoming as that of heavenly origins.

Michael went on to talk about the fact that many people simply refuse to even consider such a story because it doesn’t follow the laws of nature. They argue that all of nature has to agree with the laws of nature. And since this obviously doesn’t, then we can’t possibly believe it to be true.

But he suggested that’s not an argument against this story at all, for the laws of nature are precisely what makes the virgin birth a miracle. If the laws of nature tell us a virgin simply does not give birth, then that doesn’t mean we’re claiming the laws of nature have been broken, or that they’ve somehow failed us. Rather, they tell us we must look to something outside of the laws of nature for an explanation.

He used an anology I thought was pretty helpful to explain this.

He told us to imagine him going home this week and putting £2,000 in his nightstand. And then going and doing the same thing the next week, with another £2,000. Now, if he goes to his nightstand in the third week, the rules of arithmetic tell us he should find there £4,000. But say he opens up his nightstand and only finds £1,000. What then should he conclude? That the laws of arithmetic have somehow been broken? Or that arithmetic has failed him? Of course not. The laws of arithmetic describe what will happen when you add £2,000 to £2,000, not whether someone will come in and snatch £3,000 from his nightstand. That outside agent (a thief sneaking in while he is gone) is not accounted for by the rules of arithmetic. And, in the same way, a being outside of nature (namely, the Creator of nature) is not accounted for by the rules that describe the nature he created.

I thought that was helpful. He spoke to the students in the room that night. And their families. Encouraging them to not dismiss this story just because it doesn’t seem like something that’d happen in our day. Apparently, that’s what Mary thought, too.

A perfect end to the evening

Jen and I walked home afterward. Me with my bike, whistling Christmas tunes from the evening’s service. Jen in her black peacoat and red gloves. And as we walked in the frigid night air, pulling our scarves and collars high up against our cheeks, the snow began to fall. Slowly.

I looked over to see Jen staring up into the sky with that beautiful smile painted across her face. Looking up into the deep, dark night sky as the snow spun and twirled in the air. Swirling around the street lamps like moths to the light.

It was a beautiful scene. The snow falling in Oxford. Our breath forming little plumes as we walked home in the cool night air. And it was the perfect ending to a wonderful night of Christmas carols and decorations and food and the Christmas story.

Thursday: A Snow Covered Oxford

Thursday morning saw another dusting of snow in Oxford. The street leaving our house, the trees lining the streets and the sidewalk. All white from the fresh sheet of snow. Not thick. Not deep. But just enough to paint everything white.

Our Greek class was moved from Wednesday morning to Thursday morning this week, as Rhona wanted to have everyone over to Christ Church for treats. For the second-to-last Greek class of the term. (The last class would be reserved for more serious matters, she told us).

It was a beautiful scene, walking into a snow-covered Christ Church Thursday morning.

Rhona welcomed us into her home at Christ Church, where we found a table brimming with warm mince pies, fruit cake and hot tea and coffee. It was great. I’ve never really had mince pies like I’ve found here in Oxford. Not back home.

They’re basically mini-versions of a full-size pie, complete with a pastry crust. And their filling is amazing. It tastes a bit like Christmas in your mouth. Warm, gooey center with hints of cranberries and cinnamon.

And the fruit cake was really good as well. It gets a bad rap back home, but I quite liked it. Nuts and fruits in a cake-like bread. Not sure what’s not to like about that.

We took a rather informal exam, where Rhona walked through what would be on the exam and then gave us a few minutes to take it. We graded our own and then she went over a few last items she wanted us to know before the end of the term.

We were all seated around the large Christ Church dining room table as she talked. Tending to our warm mince pies and hot drinks. It was great.

Rhona mentioned one of the students who had began the term with us, but who was no longer in our class. She must’ve left after about a month or so. Fiona. She explained to us that Fiona decided this wasn’t actually the path for her. Not at this point, at least. I was surprised to hear that, as she had been doing quite well in class.

Rhona didn’t know the details of Fiona’s decision to leave, but she asked if someone would be willing to pick up a Christmas card to send her. No one seemed to jump at the opportunity. After several seconds of awkward silence and avoidance of her eyes from students around the room, I told her I would. She thanked me, in that warm, motherly voice of hers. Tilting her head to the side just so and smiling warmly.

A John Wayne like American accent

I was talking with Lyndon and Emily as we left the Deanery at Christ Church that morning, stepping out into the snow-frosted courtyard.

I forget how we got on the topic, but we were talking about how you tend to pickup sayings and accents when you’re around another culture for long enough.

Emily asked me if I had picked up any British accents or sayings since being here. I told her I hadn’t. That Jen would give me too hard a time if I did. She laughed.

Lyndon gave his best go at an American accent, which made me laugh. He sounded a bit like a cowboy. Like John Wayne.

I said I had noticed myself picking up on different English inflections that I wouldn’t normally use since being here, though. At times. Emily asked for an example, not knowing what I was talking about.

“Well, say I want to ask a question. If I were in the States, I’d just say, ‘Where do you want to go?'” without adding any sort of inflection to my voice. Emily picked up on what I was talking about immediately.

“You mean, you wouldn’t go up at the end?”

“No, that’s the difference. I wouldn’t back home, but I’ve found myself doing so here from time to time, and I catch myself thinking, ‘Wait, what am I doing? I wouldn’t do that back home…'”

They both laughed.

Lyndon say that inflection gets abused back home. In New Zealand. To the point where it’s used for everything, not just questions. And you’re left wondering what’s a question and what’s not.

I pointed out the icicles hanging from the water fountain as we walked through the center of the courtyard. It was beautiful.

Friday: My last day of Greek

Friday morning was my last day of Greek for the term. Saying I was excited about that would be putting it lightly.

I had a bear of a time studying for the morning’s exam the day before. It was just a vocab exam, nothing too difficult. But I just didn’t feel like studying. I kept finding myself distracted. By the most mundane things. It was like I was having a case of senioritis, but five-terms too early.

Rhona greeted us all with a smile as we took our seats that morning, addressing us before handing out the morning’s exam.

“You should all be quite proud of yourselves,” she said to us from the front of the room, wearing that wide grin of hers.

She was standing in front of the deep blue table runner with the “Oxford University” emblem emblazoned on it. She can’t stand that table runner. She says it looks far too commercial.

“You’ve had a massive amount of coursework, and you’ve stuck it out,” she continued, now with a more serious look. “That takes courage.”

I had picked up a Christmas card after class at Christ Church the day before. For Fiona. I gave it to Rhona to pass around at the start of the class, so others could sign it.

“Oh thank you,” she said, taking the card from me.

“Lyndon has picked up a card for Fiona for everyone to sign,” she then declared to the class.

I smiled, fully intending not to correct her. Lyndon looked up with a look of confusion on his face, as if to ask, “what is it I have done?”

Emily laughed from the chair next to mine.

Rhona picked up on her mistake and corrected herself.

“Oh, right. . .Of course. Ryan picked up the card,” she said.

Appears she still has a tough time with my name. She explained to the class that she regularly mixes up her children’s names, and so we shouldn’t take any offense when she makes the same mistake with us.

We then had our final Greek exam of the term, and Rhona talked about what she’d like us to do over the holiday. “Revisions,” as they call them here.

Our breaks are six weeks here at Oxford. Which sounds pretty great on paper, except for the fact that they aren’t really much of a holiday, per se. It’s really more a time of self study. To prepare for the tests we take when school starts back up again. “Collections,” as they’re called.

Rhona told us about a mosaic in the tiles of the entryway of the building we were in. The Exam Schools. She said she’d point it out to us as we left the class, but that it’s of a tortoise and a hare. And she told us it is there for a reason, for we all know the hare wins the race, and so we ought to take note of that. “Slow and steady wins the race,” she reminded us, referring to preparing for Collections.

Several of us laughed.

“Funny, because I feel like this term has been rather fast and shaky,” I said, in a quiet voice.

Rhona had asked us to write up a plan for our revisions over the holidays. Of what we’d be working on each day. She looked over my shoulder at mine, on my laptop, and she said it looked wonderful. I didn’t think it looked wonderful. I thought it looked rather dreadful.

We all made our way to the front of the building after class. Through the large hallways, with the marble tile underfoot. Until we made it to the entryway, where Rhona pointed out the tortoise and the hare in the tile mosaic. Sure enough, there they were.

And it was funny, really, because “slow and steady” certainly doesn’t seem to be the Oxford mentality. Perhaps the tiles were placed there by a past student. As a protest, of sorts.

I told Rhona “goodbye” as I left, and to have a “Merry Christmas.” She smiled at me and said, “You as well, and same to Jenny.” People tend to call Jennifer “Jenny” here.

As Emily, Lyndon and I walked out through the large double doors, I pointed out I thought it rather funny that Rhona knows my wife’s name, who she’s met once, but not mine.

We all laughed.

“She rates higher than you, I guess,” Lyndon said with a smile and a laugh.

“Apparently.”

Tea with Cole

I received a text from Cole shortly after leaving Greek. Asking if I’d like to celebrate the end of my first term of Greek with some tea. I thought that sounded like a great idea.

We met up at Blackwell’s Bookstore. In the cafe on the second floor.

Cole congratulated me on wrapping up my first term, and now having that behind me. I told him it was a bit of an odd feeling, going from deadline after deadline to no deadlines, but also a lot of work to get done.

He nodded with a look of understanding.

We talked a bit about the paper he had just submitted earlier in the week. His extended essay. It was nice to sit down and not feel guilty for not studying Greek, or reading for an essay for the first time in months. It was like stopping just long enough to catch your breath after running a race.

But I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d be back in the books, preparing for collections. Even the holidays have a pile of work here.

More Time With Jen

The highlight of wrapping up my first term has been having more time with Jen. And not feeling like I’m always preparing for the next deadline.

I have loads of work to get done over the break, to be sure. And it seems like I keep realizing I actually have more work to do than I initially thought, somehow, but it’s definitely been nice to enjoy more free time together. For the first time in a long time.

We met in the city center Friday afternoon. At the market. To pick up something for dinner.

“How about french dip?” I suggested, after wandering around the store aimlessly for a while. The look on Jen’s face told me she was sold on that idea.

I found a young guy stocking the store shelves and asked him where I might find au jus seasoning. He looked at me blankly. As if he were listening to someone speak a foreign language completely unknown by him.

“I take it you don’t have au jus,” I said.

“Uh, no. I’m not even sure what that is, but no.”

We ended up deciding on a chicken dish of some sort. With mozzarella and pancetta. The kind of dish you can throw in the oven and not have to worry about. That part sounded great to both of us.

Dinner ended up proving more difficult that we had imagined, though, as I realized about 40 minutes after placing it in the oven that I hadn’t actually turned the oven on…

Once we got that part figured out, though, it was great to sit down to a nice meal together. Knowing I had zero exams to prepare for the following week. Or essays.

We clinked our glasses in celebration of the end of our first term in Oxford.

“Only five more to go,” I said, smiling at Jen, and raising the glass to my mouth.

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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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