Archives for posts with tag: skype

Tuesday: Adjusting to my wet shorts

I was sitting in the library at Harris Manchester the following Tuesday afternoon. From my old familiar spot by the window on the second floor. Reading for my Patristics essay. When I stopped. And smiled. Realizing where I was. And what I was doing.

A couple weeks earlier, before Steve had arrived, I had been sitting in the same seat. Late one night. Staring out the window at the Oxford countryside settling into the darkness of another evening. Thinking how weird it was. To have received my dream of coming here and at the same time feeling like all I wanted was what I had left. Wanting so badly just to be back home, with my family and friends. To hold my new niece. To be doing what I knew how to do well. To have things back to the way they were. To just be back where things are familiar and comfortable.

But now, on this afternoon, I found myself fully aware of what an incredible blessing this was. Studying Theology at Oxford… The dream of my heart. The dream I was too embarrassed to share with others for so long. And now here I was. Right in the middle of it. And it felt amazing.

Reading the incredible works of these early Church fathers. Brilliant men. Men who didn’t just take this faith for granted, but who actively defended it. And explained it. Teaching others the truth that been handed down to them. With only a generation or two between them and the Apostles. The Apostles who had received these teachings from Jesus himself.

Since arriving here in Oxford, I regularly have the opportunity to listen to incredibly brilliant speakers. The kind of men who make me feel as though I should be off playing in a sandbox while they discuss such things. I get to be around the kind of discussions I may never again be fortunate enough to be around.

I get to translate Greek. Which I would normally say is just a horrible experience. But now, all of a sudden I’m beginning to see these words come alive.  In a way I’ve never known them before, almost as if I’m reading the Gospels for the first time. Even though I know them so well.

And I remembered what Principal Waller said to me that first time I sat in his office last fall. With the sun shining through the windows as he welcomed me to Harris Manchester. I remembered how he had told me that it probably seems overwhelming and really uncomfortable now, but that it would get better. I remember him comparing the transition to putting on a wet swimsuit. Totally uncomfortable at first. But then you jump in the water, and soon the discomfort fades away completely.

That’s really how it’s been. Without even realizing it, all of a sudden you find yourself swimming in this stuff and loving it.

And it made me think about being home. About all those summers spent at the lake with Jen and her family. It made me think about those hot summer days, falling in and out of sleep while laying in the sun and listening to children’s laughter bouncing off the sound of waves washing ashore. It’s probably the most peaceful place I know of. It’s my happy place. And I have a hard time thinking of anywhere else I’d rather be.

But it made me think about how often times I’d be lying there, in the sun. Warm. And not wanting to move. Being totally at peace. But then being asked to go for a ride behind the boat. To go wakeboarding. Or tubing. And not really wanting to. Not wanting to move because the sun just feels so good. Not wanting to feel the tight clench of the cold water when you first jump in.

But then you do. Hesitantly, you leave your dry, peaceful spot in the sun, you put on your lifejacket, and you go for a ride. And all of a sudden you’re having an incredible time. Soaring across the lake. The sound of your own laughter now echoing off the water. Sure, you get wet, and you’re not as warm as you were before. It’s not nearly as peaceful. But you’re also having the time of your life. And were you not to leave that place in the sun, you wouldn’t have experienced these laughs. These amazing experiences on the water. You would’ve had some more time in the sun, lying there, sure. But you wouldn’t have had these exciting experiences.

It’s a bit like that. It was so incredibly tough leaving home and coming here. More difficult that I can probably put into words. And it’s still tough. Very much so, at times. And yet, I’m so glad I did. The wet shorts are uncomfortable at first, sure, but pretty soon you’re having the time of your life. You’re having incredible experiences. And you’re thinking how glad you are for leaving your spot of comfort in the sun.

If you’re in a spot like that. Loving the comfort of the sun, loving how peaceful things are, but also thinking about pushing yourself. If you’re considering answering that call that keeps tugging at you to get up and leave your place in the sun, I’d tell you to go for it. The water feels great.

Doing well

My face must’ve shown it, how good I was feeling about everything all of a sudden, as I ran into Amanda from the front office while stepping out to grab a panini.

“Ryan, how are you?” she asked me with that look of sincere concern and genuine interest. Her eyebrows going up in the middle just so, as we approached each other in the hallways of Harris Manchester that afternoon.

“I’m doing well, thank you,” I told her with a smile. “I’m doing really well,” I said, looking back while continuing toward the stairs.

“You look like you’re doing really well,” she said, like a parent, comforted after seeing her child again for the first time since being apart for a stretch.

“Thanks, Amanda. It’s great to see you,” I said waving.

A proud uncle

Jennifer sent me this picture earlier this week…

Is that not the most amazing thing you’ve seen in a long time? It took your breath away a little bit, didn’t it?

That’s my niece, Khloe Dawn. She’s now the new wallpaper on my Macbook Pro.

Jen and Leann have been doing a great job of making me feel connected with everything back home. With Khloe. Even though I’m so far away from it all. I get photos pretty regularly in my e-mail inbox. I get to see Jen holding Khloe (who’s usually asleep at the time). And Leann writes me telling me all about the new experiences. About how Khloe rolled over for the first time.

And I love it. All of it. Which is funny, because I’ve never been a big baby guy. Until now. Khloe has made me change my ways. She’s beautiful. And every time I see her I just want to reach out my hands and take her in my arms. I told Jen the other day I’m going to have a lot of catching up to do come summertime when we get back home.

It’s official, I’ve become that uncle who brags about his niece. I never thought I’d see the day…

Wednesday: When my Greek came alive

I stayed behind after Greek that next morning. To talk with Rhona. I stood by the door as she gathered up her things and made her way out of the room. Looking up, I think she was surprised to still see me there.

“Hello,” she said with that wide smile of hers, eyes squinting just so behind her glasses.

Rhona has the kind of voice that would make her a perfect grandma. That sing-song kind of a voice that shoots up high with excitement and warmth at each greeting.

“Hey Rhona, I just wanted to share with you about what happened yesterday while I was translating our Greek text for class this morning,” I told her as we came to a stop just outside the door leading into the classroom.

“I was making my way through Mark 15,” I told her, “when I came to verse 24. And I know this story. I know it really well, actually. And so it’s not like I was hearing it for the first time. But, for whatever reason, as I was translating this text, it was almost as if I were hearing it for the first time.”

Her eyes were big behind her glasses, and she was leaning foward just so. I could tell she knew what I was talking about.

“And when I came to verse 24, I just found I had to stop. I knew what this word meant, but I just couldn’t do it… It was almost like, if I translated it, it would be real, and I didn’t want it to be real…”

“Yes, yes I know,” Rhona said. Her brow sinking low, as if she had complete sympathy with this experience, assuring me she did in fact know what I was referring to.

“No, you’re right, we don’t want it to be true,” she said.

“But I translated those words, ‘they crucified him.’ And I don’t know any way to describe it, other than to say it was like this familiar story was new, for the first time,” I told her. “And it really made me appreciate being able to translate the Greek.”

“I remember getting to the end of this account and just thinking to myself, ‘This man’s been murdered!'”

“Executed,” Rhona corrected me. “Yes, and for holding to the truth.”

Rhona’s a believer. She loves Jesus. And I could tell, in her voice and in her face. That this was real to her, too. Jesus’ death. That it both broke her heart and caused her to love this man with deep gratitude, at the same time.

That’s how it made me feel. It was a beautiful, incredible experience. Translating the Greek text from the Passion Account for the first time. It was as if I really was experiencing this truth for the first time, and it was so encouraging to share it with her. And to have it understood.

Grizzly Adams did have a beard

I’ve never been a facial hair guy. I don’t know what it is. I guess it kind of drives me nuts a little bit. It gets itchy, letting my facial hair grow much. And so I usually do a pretty good job of keeping my face shaved.

But Jen, well Jen’s even more against facial hair than I am. I swear, sometimes I can hug her that very same day after shaving and she’ll accuse me of trying to poker her eye out with my facial hair. And I’m not a hairy guy. Not in the least. But that’s how she is. She’s really sensitive to facial hair.

And so, knowing I had a couple weeks before Jen arrived yet, I decided to let it grow out.

“Why not,” I figured. “Now’s my chance to be a bit of a bum and get away with it.”

It’s a funny feeling, going from being clean-shaven and getting dressed up every day to meet with clients to not shaving and wearing whatever I want for class. I feel like I’m living someone else’s life most of the time I’m here still.

Saturday: Breakfast with the guys

After our traditional English breakfast the previous week, Max told us he’d try to find us a place with a bit more of an American menu for our next get-together.

“Someplace we can get some real, American pancakes,” he said.

I’m a pretty big fan of pancakes, so I wasn’t about to argue with that.

He sent us an e-mail a couple days before Saturday rolled around. Telling us there was a place called Giraffe in the city center that should do a pretty good job with some American pancakes.

I never knew pancakes would be a tough thing to get here, but apparently the English pancakes aren’t quite what they are back home. I probably shouldn’t be surprised by that at this point, but they’re not. They’re more like crepes, which is a different thing altogether, if traditional pancakes is what you’re looking for.

I met up with Rich and Max that Saturday morning for breakfast. And for our second prayer meeting. It was good to see them.

I was the last one to arrive, pulling off my sweatshirt and vest, pulling out a chair and draping them over the back of the chair before taking my seat.

“How’re you guys doing?” I asked, catching my breath from the bike ride.

Giraffe’s a really cool spot. I wouldn’t mind if we met there every time, actually. The decor strikes a pretty even balance between simplistic modern design and eco-friendly / funky.

A combination of sleek, wooden booths and tables filled the room, with minimalistic chairs circled around them.

The menu was definitely on the healthy / “I care what I’m putting into my body” side. Looking over the options, we all decided to go with the pancakes when the waiter came around to take our order. “Blueberry banana pancakes,” it read.

“I’ve been thinking about pancakes all week since you mentioned that the last time we met up,” I told Max, handing my menu to the waiter.

He laughed. “Yeah, I know what you mean.”

We had a great time catching up. On our past week. And just sharing life over sips of coffee. Bouncing things off of each other to the response of head nods and softly-delivered advice. It’s great to have a group like that. To share stuff with. To bounce things off of.

We were all taken aback when our pancakes made their way to the table. Their presentation was something else.

The pancakes came in threes. And in-between each pancake stood four or five slices of banana, acting as columns to hold up the pancake on top of it. It was like that between the bottom and middle pancake, and then again between the middle and top pancake. And then, on top of the tower of pancakes, sat a dollop of fresh, crushed blueberries, with their juices draining over the sides. It was a thing of beauty.

We said a prayer, blessing the food, and then we took turns pouring liberal amounts of syrup over the pancakes before digging in.

“Mmm… those are good!” I said in-between bites.

I told the guys about a time I was having breakfast for lunch with a good friend of mine back home.

“A former colleague of mine,” I told them. “Really bright guy. Member of Mensa. And a devout atheist. We were sitting there in this restaurant and I was eating my pancakes when I looked up from my plate to ask him, ‘You know why I believe in God?'”

“Why’s that?” he asked, looking over at me from across the table, not seeming terribly surprised by my question.

“Pancakes,” I said with a smile. And he just smiled in response.

The guys laughed.

My shadow beard

My Mom Skyped in with me that Saturday. During their afternoon. We were talking, catching up on how the week had wrapped up, and talking about the weekend. My brother Zach was there, too. So we talked for a bit after Mom and I had caught up. About movies that had just come out. About what he had seen. About what I was hoping to catch.

After several minutes of talking with Zach, my sister Lucy stopped by. I hadn’t seen her for a while, and she had no idea I was pulling a Grizzly Adams while Jen was away.

“Hey Ryan!” she said, greeting me on the computer screen as she came into the room. “Wait, what’s that on your face?!” she asked with a look of confusion.

I laughed.

“It’s just a shadow,” Zach said, trying to pull one over on her. We always give Lucy a bit of a hard-time about being gullible.

“Oh,” she said. “It looked like you had a beard there for a second.”

Zach and I just laughed. It was great catching up with them again.


I was heading out to the gym this morning, to start my day, when I noticed a letter at the foot of my door. Beng must’ve left it for me. It was a letter from my Mom. I was pretty excited to see that. I wasn’t expecting any more mail for a while. And there’s nothing quite like a hand-written letter.

Since I was meeting someone to workout, it’d have to wait. Gave me something to look forward to when I got home.

Tim’s stolen computer

I met up with Tim at the gate outside Harris Manchester on my way to the gym. He had made it the week before. I had not. We have free memberships to LA Fitness here in Oxford through our college. I’m not one to let something free go to waste.

The night before, Tim’s laptop and cell phone were stolen from the college library. He had left them out, just like everyone else, and someone had not closed the library door all the way. Apparently someone wandered in from off the street and slipped Tim’s stuff into his jacket before walking right back out. Made me sick hearing about it.

“The worst part about it is, that’s just what everyone does, you know? It’s not like you were the only one to leave yours out,” I told him.

I had actually been sitting in the library yesterday when Tim came in and left his things.

“I have a tutorial to get to, but I have to save my spot,” he had told me while setting out his laptop at the desk across from mine. I didn’t think twice about it. I left before it happened.

“Yeah, I’m never going to do that again,” he told me.

I told him I felt horrible. And partly responsible, since I had just written about the fact that that’s what everyone does here.

“It’s okay. I’ll let you pitch in on my new Macbook,” he said with a laugh.

A letter from Mom

I returned home from the gym for a quick shower and then I was back to school to get to work on some reading for one of my essays. I didn’t have much time, but I wanted to read the letter my Mom had sent. Like I said, I really appreciate handwritten notes, and hearing from people. I’m a words guy. They mean a lot to me.

It was a wonderful letter. My mom’s a great writer. You can hear her voice in her words.

She told me how proud she is of me. She told me my Heavenly Father is proud of me, too. And that she could see that by what I’m doing. By being here. That showed He was proud, and that He has richly blessed me because of my faithfulness.

Along with the letter, she sent a photo of us. From my childhood. I’m the one in the blue.

Thanks for the letter and photo, Mom. I love you.

Skype with David

I Skyped with one of my very good friends back home tonight. David. He’s a great friend of mine from college. Jen and I both really appreciate he and his wife, Monika. They’ve been great friends to us over the years.

They’re having their first child this winter. In February. I’m thrilled for them. They’re going to be amazing parents, too. I told them that. I’m just disappointed I won’t be there for it.

It was nice to catch up with David. And to share with him all about the experience here.

He asked what my favorite part about being here was.

I told him it was probably just being in the world Lewis used to occupy. Going to his old pub. Meeting people who knew him. Hearing their stories about him.

“I’m going to tea at his old house in a week. That’s just crazy to me,” I told David. “It feels like I’m living in a dream world, you know?”

I told David that I’ve actually felt more encouraged about writing, lately. Which is funny, being in such an academic environment. Where so many people I’ve met already have a PhD, and they’re changing fields and getting another.

“It seems kind of counter-intuitive, really,” I told him. “If anything, this place should make me want to do something more academic.”

I told him how I feel like all of a sudden, for whatever reason, I’ve been able to come out and say, “I want to write.” And that’s been a big step for me.

I’m not sure what that looks like exactly, but I know that’s what I want to do. More than anything else. And I feel like this is leading me into that spot where I can do that. Unapologetically. Even more so than when I was back home. And that’s encouraging.

I told David about the letter from my Mom. Telling me this is God’s blessing. That it’s a gift. And how I needed that reminder. Instead of just thinking this is all some big mistake on the part of the school. Or a series of fortunate events for me.

Book hunt

After a quick shower and a bite to eat, I hopped on my bike and hurried back to the University. I had hoped to wrap up a book for one of my essays today at the Radcliffe Camera. I hadn’t been able to check it out of the Harris Manchester Library, as someone had beat me to it, but I could read it at the Rad Cam.

I got there this afternoon, a couple hours before they closed. I planned to dig in and plow through it. The place was packed. Apparently I wasn’t the only one with this plan.

I found an open spot that no one appeared to be in, but there was a book still setting in its place. I whispered to the girl seated next to it if someone was sitting there. They weren’t, she told me, in a hushed whisper.

I sat down and pulled out my laptop, to take notes. It’s incredibly quiet in the Rad Cam. Just as much if not more so than the library at Harris Manchester. Opened up my laptop and Barlow Girl’s “I need you to love me” began cranking. Loudly. Apparently it was playing when I closed my computer last. Yes, yes, Barlow Girl. That’s right. Laugh it up.

I frantically tried muting it, but of course it wouldn’t respond.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I said in a hurried, hushed voice. Lots of stares were being shot my way. Lots of daggers. Finally I just had to close the thing up. I plugged my earplugs into the laptop so I could open it without the music playing again. I was so embarrassed. I felt like the biggest jerk in the world. Like I should be wearing a shirt that says, “I’m an American, and I have no idea what I’m doing here.”

Turns out I wasn’t even able to get the book I needed there. Someone else had it. At their desk probably. It wasn’t on the shelf. So, after making a complete fool of myself, I packed up and left.

I think I may have heard applause as I made my way out the door, but I don’t know for sure.

Dinner at Mitre

After getting some reading done at Harris Manchester (and doing my best not to make a nuisance of myself), I met up with Cole at Mitre for dinner. I hadn’t been there before, but he highly recommended it. The words, “beef eater” were scrawled across the top of the entrance. That was reason enough for me to give it a try.

It’s an old pub that’s build on catacombs, so he told me.

“They used to give tours, but I don’t think they do anymore.”

There’s a restaurant and a bar. We made our way back to the bar. Not shady at all. Much more low-key than the restaurant side, from the looks of things. Low-ceilings, dark wood. It was great. I love the pub atmosphere.

Riding around town this evening on my bike, and being in the pub tonight, I found myself thinking, “I’m really going to miss this when I’m not around it all the time.” England. Oxford. It’s a pretty great place.

It’s kind of funny, you get here and everything feels so foreign that you just want to go home. Where everything is normal. Where you can plug something into an electrical outlet without having to think too hard about it. And then it seems like someone flips a switch and you start appreciating everything around you. Kind of how it felt tonight.

I went with the rump steak tonight. That’s Cole’s go-to dish, and I thought I’d give it a try. I was at the “beef eater,” after all.

It was really good, too. Not sure if we have rump steak back at home, but I don’t remember seeing it before. We need to make more steak out of rump in the States, I think.

Had a great time talking with Cole tonight. We talked about a bunch of things. Lewis, of course. Tutorials and essays. How to get through your reading list without actually reading the books in their entirety. It’s basically impossible, I realized today.

I shared with Cole about losing Hayley this past spring, before coming to Oxford. And how that had made it even more difficult leaving home.

I told him how seeing that my writing had had an impact on her, considering where she was at in life, and the road she was walking, that that had made me want to write even more.

“It just made me think, ‘maybe I can do that for other Hayley’s of the world’, you know?”

I told Cole about how we had gone out to get tattoos the day before Hayley’s funeral. All six of us. Jen’s parents. Her sister Leann and her husband Ben. And us. As a way to remember her. Not because that was like any of us to do, but because that was like her. And how we did that knowing she was looking down on us and just laughing.

I told Cole about Hayley’s memorial service. About how I had said a few words, and how I had invited those who were having a tough time to come up afterward so I could pray with them.

“There were some people there that day who were living a pretty rough life,” I told him. “And I knew that going into it. So I felt like I needed to do this, even though I had no idea if anyone would come up. I ended up meeting a bunch of Haley’s friends that day. And praying with them. For two hours I was there. It was amazing. And I couldn’t help but think, ‘How could there be anything more rewarding than this?'”

“Sounds like you’ve got a mission,” Cole said from across the table with a smile.

“Yeah. Yeah I guess so.”

Riding home in the cool night air tonight, I was excited. Thinking I am here for a reason. Thinking about the idea that all of these experiences are leading somewhere.

Like Carol said before we left, I might not know where exactly now. But I will. And I already feel like it’s becoming more and more clear.

I keep telling myself I can’t possibly keep up the pace with this writing. I feel like I haven’t slept in days, and my body is punishing me by beginning to shut down. Sore throat. Wanting to fall asleep before noon. Each day I find out about more and more reading, studying and writing to be done. About another exam, it seems. But there’s so much I want to capture. So much I don’t want to miss or forget.

The Great Hall

After a Skype with Jen, a bit of studying, a quick workout (in the family’s gym) and an even quicker breakfast, I made my way to the final Greek Pre-Sessions this morning. Through Oxford City Center. Even at 8 in the morning, there is still a lot of hustle and bustle going on. Plenty of people starting their days. Students. Business owners. Tourists.

It was the morning of my last class at Hogwarts (aka Christ Church) for the quarter, this morning. I’ll miss the school, for sure. The class will carry on next week, in a different building, unfortunately.

Even though classes are getting going this week, there are still a bunch of tourists around. You can hear their voices over the sound of the professor while in class. Jen and I commented last summer while we were here how strange it would be to be studying someplace that was such a large tourist attraction. And it is. Particularly for someone who wore the tourist shoes only a year ago.

Leaving class, I remembered our conversation over dinner the night before. The one about Harry Potter being filmed here at Christ Church. I asked around, and a few steps later I found a line of students getting ready for lunch. In here…

I quickly put my tourist shoes back on and snapped this photo. You’re welcome.

Harris Manchester Library

I found myself back at Harris Manchester this afternoon. To be introduced to the university’s Tutor System. Which basically equated to what we could expect from our course load and how best to handle it all.

The woman speaking was incredibly nice. A professor at the University (or Tutor, as they’re often referred to here). Leslie Smith. She helps students adjust to the frantic pace of Oxford life. She told us to expect to feel completely overwhelmed for the first few weeks, and that we’ll then then quickly find ourselves adjusting. Our terms are shorter here. Only eight weeks long. And, since it’s Oxford, that means more work to complete in a shorter period of time to complete it in.

Leslie said the most common things she hears from students is that there must’ve been some kind of mistake. That there’s simply no way they could’ve actually been accepted here. Everyone else seems so. . .brilliant. Apparently I’m not the only one who feels that way. She said she always tells such students not to worry. That they have a very careful selection process and each student was chosen because they not only have the potential to do well here, but to contribute to their field.

“It’s all just an act,” she said in her very British accent. “Everyone’s scared out of their minds.”

We were introduced to the library afterward. By a woman who guys by a title other than Librarian. Library Fellow, perhaps. She was incredibly kind. She told us she was here to serve us. That there’s no stupid questions. And that if there’s anything she can do to help, that we should just ask. After looking at our reading list (mine’s 11 pages, for one class…), I was hoping she knew what she was doing.

I absolutely loved it there. In the library. I was so at peace. It’s a beautiful place.

Old books, of course. Row after row after row. Stacked all the way to the ceiling. Lots of leather and wood, everywhere you look. Leather chairs framed in wood. Leather-topped tables framed in wood. Ceilings and walls, all old, dark, rich wood. The room has a second floor for additional seating, and you can look up at it as it is merely made up of overhead walkways. The first floor has windows at the end of each book aisle. Stained glass windows. An ivory statue of an old cloaked man with a book in hand sits at one end of the room, and there’s a fireplace at the other. A clock sits on top of the fireplace, tick, tick, ticking away.

The room is incredibly quiet. So much so that you feel guilty about the sound of your footsteps on the wooden floor beneath. A pile of shoes sit just outside the door. By students who’ve found them to make too much noise, apparently.

Dinner with Felix

With Justin and Jane at Sir Elton John’s private dinner party, I joined Felix for supper shortly after returning home tonight. Beng had prepared us dinner. A meat and noodles dish. Italian. Very good, although I’d be hard-pressed to describe it. She called it spaghetti, but it definitely wasn’t the kind of spaghetti I’ve ever had. Again, very good, though. Broccoli. Green Beans. Carrots. Plenty of vegetables to round out the meal. It was great.

Beng set the table and served us before excusing herself from the room so Felix and I could carry on. It all felt very odd. Very much. . .for someone else.

Felix was still dressed in his private school attire. Dress shirt and slacks. Dress shoes. Although his shirt was now untucked. His latin homework book sat at the end of the table. Latin. At 10. He’s brilliant. I’m confident his vocabulary outnumbers mine by a ratio of two:one. On a good day. My good day.

He’s very into animals. We talked about the different kinds of animals he has here in Britain. The kind of animals we have back at home. And then he told me about the safari he went on. And all the animals he saw there. He told me there probably aren’t any African animals I can name he didn’t see. I gave it my best shot. And, after getting through about three or four, I had to turn to my memory of The Lion King to think of more animals to throw at him. Still, no luck. He’s pretty much seen them all.

We went out to the backyard after finishing our second plates of dinner. To show me around. To introduce me to the rabbits. To point out which neighbors get fussy when you accidentally throw a ball into your yard, and which neighbors don’t. And to give me a quick introduction to the game of Cricket. As if I didn’t have enough to learn all ready. I really did want to learn, and I think I have a better understanding of it now, but I still don’t know whether the guy who throws the ball is a pitcher, a bowler or a punter. Too many new terms all at once, I suppose.

We returned to the dining room for dessert. Warm apple cobbler and custard. It was amazing. The phone ringed for Felix while we were eating, so I sneaked in a second helping.

Pub Crawl

The folks at Harris Manchester hosted a pub crawl this evening. To show the freshers around. To introduce them to the best spots. And to provide a chance for everyone to meet one another.

I had debated on going or not going. I really hadn’t been feeling well. Sore throat. Exhaustion. Surely a side effect of going to bed at 1 a.m. and hardly falling asleep before the alarm went off at 6 since arriving.

But I decided to go. “It’ll make a better story than staying in and studying,” I kept telling myself.

And I’m glad I did. I met up with about 20 other students at the college before wandering back down the cobblestone alley to a pub called the Lamb & Flag. A small place with low ceilings. And it felt a bit like you were walking into a sauna that had been stoked with Guinness for a few hours stepping through the door. We placed our drink orders at the bar and found a small room toward the back of the pub. Less crowded. Less hot.

I met a handful of very nice people who’re also members of Harris Manchester. And one girl attending another college. It’s a bit of an odd thing, really. Even though I am technically a student of Harris Manchester, I don’t actually have any classes there. If you’re confused, don’t worry, so am I.

I met a guy from the south of England by the name of Jamie. Really nice. Thick in the chest and shoulders. Bit of a sporty look to him. He told me about the time he hitch-hiked from Canada to Yosemite to go mountain climbing. When he was 20. Or just turned 21. And about how he met the nicest guy in a mountaineering shop in a place called…”Port Angeles?”

Harris Manchester is specifically for students over the age of 21, so most of the group was made up of people returning for second degrees. A lot of people who have decided to change careers, for some reason or another.

“English is what I’m really passionate about, so I applied and now I’m here,” said a girl by the name of Faith. She’s from the Philippines. Her father’s a pastor outside of London. “I actually studied law here at Oxford about nine years ago, but English is my passion.”

“I’d have trouble saying that about law,” said Wei Meng, a really cool guy who went from banking in New York to studying law at Oxford. Wei is originally from Malaysia, but he’s worked for quite a while in the states now. Young guy, still. Late 20’s, probably. “It’s something I’m definitely interested in, but I’m not sure I’m passionate about it.”

I interjected. “Sure, but you could be passionate about a purpose you could use law to accomplish.” He nodded. Others nodded. Another guy spoke up, “Like helping the homeless.”

“Right,” I said. “That’s probably true of most subjects. We’re here because we believe what we’re studying can help us accomplish something. Something special. Something we’re passionate about.”

And I immediately was reminded of the words Hayley sent me a few months before her passing. Shortly after hearing the news I’d be studying at Oxford.

“You’re going to impact a lot of people’s lives. You have mine.”

And it was all I could do to not lose it. I turned my head to the window and the conversation quickly drowned out like stars lost in the thick clouds of a night’s sky as my thoughts were swallowed up by her words.

I am here because I believe in something I am passionate about. Him. And introducing Him to others in a way that makes sense. In a way that removes the haze from the seemingly difficult things of the Christian faith. In a way that makes them appear clear.

And I believe studying Theology here–at Oxford–will help me achieve that. And once that has happened, that’s when His work can really be done. His work of changing lives. Others, just as He has mine. Not because I am so special. Or really because of anything I’m going to do. But because of what He can do. Because of what He’s going to do and what He is doing. By working through this experience.


jen and i skyped with a family from england last saturday morning. justin and jane, and their son felix. they live about a mile from the college i’ll be studying at, and they have a mother-in-law suite adjacent to their home that they were hoping to rent out to a student. they’re both oxford alums.

their home is quite large, particularly for english standards. and they live in a beautiful part of oxford (click any of the photos to see a larger version).

after speaking over e-mail and skype, we found out monday that they’ve offered the suite to us. to live in for at least two months, and we’ll see whether it’ll work out as a longer-term option after we’ve been there.

the suite has its own separate entrance, a living room / dining room with tv and dvd player, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and an office space.

it’ll be quite a bit smaller than what we’re used to here (of course), but it should work out perfect. it’s really close to my school, walking distance to the market and only a five-minute walk to the river.

we’re pretty excited to have a family living right next door, too. it’ll be nice to have people we already know waiting for us when we arrive. they seem great, and it should make for an easier transition to our new home.

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