Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Maybe I'll become a blogger yet...

Okay probably not but I can always aspire to be some deep thinker or hilarious internet personality right? Uh huh, sure.

Anyways, I started this blog as a way for me to post about all the amazing and life changing things that I was discovering and doing while I spent a semester in London. Since my last posting, ashamedly in April, many many things have changed. I've come back to the States, graduated with a BBS in Ministry, had an amazing internship at South Main Baptist Church all summer, and moved to the awe inspiring town know as Waco, TX to start seminary at Baylor University. Yes, I am being sassy, Waco is tiny and I miss London and Houston. PS, I've been living alone for the first time ever for 5 whole days and good news my friends, I don't want to fling myself off of the nearest building. I'm not exactly a fan of living alone but dare I say its getting better with every day, every new friend I make at school, and every silent prayer said. On Saturday when I was driving up to Waco alone I was nearly in tears but decided in that moment that I could look at the next 2 to 3 years of living alone as a season of lonely solitude or as blessing that would be filled with quiet sweet moments with my Savior. I'm choosing each day to be the latter.

I actually logged back on here to share quite an amazing story with you all and felt that this was probably the best way to document just how amazing my God is. So I'm in seminary and that basically means that I'm poor. Like really poor. BUT part of this amazing season in my life is seeing just how God will come through in real ways, He hasn't kept the loaf of bread on the counter mysteriously fresh or multiplied the frozen dinners in the freezer but oh my has He been gracious to me. It was just this afternoon that I was contemplating the declining balance in my checking account coming close to tears and hitting the refresh button on the "employment" tab on the seminary's web page when I remembered a conversation. This conversation was between Jerome Smith, Tallowood's youth minister, and myself well over a year ago when it was planted in me that I shouldn't take the easy way out of going to grad school in Houston but that I should listen to the guiding of the Spirit in all areas of my life. Hence my being in Waco at Baylor this year. But another thing that Jerome said came to mind, he said "We as ministers in the Body don't look for work in a way that any other profession does. Ministry isn't about sending out resumes and going on job interviews and if it does look like that I would run has far and as fast away from it as you can. Ministry is about waiting for God to lead, to open doors, to call you somewhere that He has already set aside for you." (Okay, so I'm paraphrasing but nonetheless those of you who know Jerome know that he is an amazing man of God who is that eloquent.) Upon remembering this conversation I wept and prayed to my Savior that I would wait until He called me somewhere, I would stop the mindless ministry job searching and just be content to wait on His timing. I thought that this meant that I would work retail or as a graduate assistant or some other work that wasn't directly in the church (Not to say that every single job and place of employment isn't a place for ministry every single day! It is!) After this grand revelation I felt an overwhelming sense of peace come over me, like everything would work out, like the God who made the heavens, who knows the stars and calls them by name was taking care of me.

I had gone out to dinner with Susan and Joe Womack and had shared this moment of clarity in the chaos of my life with them and was encouraged by their sweet presence. (Side note, Susan was the preschool minister at Tallowood for many years and retired to Waco about 4 years ago. Since I've been here, even less than a week, they have practically adopted me and made me feel so welcomed into their home and lives and I could not have asked for a better couple to want to invest in my life. Thank you both for your tremendous love for me. God knew I'd need a family here.)

Fast forward just 4 hours

I'm sitting at my kitchen table reading a textbook, just as I plan on spending the next 2 years of my life doing, and I get a text message from a friend saying that she's been on the phone with a new pastor in a nearby town and he is looking for a part-time children's minister. WHAT!?!? I couldn't help but laugh and literally say out loud "God, I don't know what You're up to but it's amazing!" I've known this pastor from Tallowood and he and his family are very old friends of the O'Quinn's. I know that once I gave up my need to find a job, to make some money, and to be in active ministry, once I was completely vunerable, that's when God said okay. Obedience and trust, it's what's best! After a little conversation with this friend I sent my resume off and will wait to see what God does next. Maybe I'll be the right fit for this body of believers, maybe not. Either way, I know that my God is working all things together for the good of those who love Him, that He has a plan for me that is to prosper me and not to harm me, that He has got the whole world in His hands. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Don't Ever Change

Today was perfect. The weather was beautiful and sunny, the feel of the city was lively and the company was even better. To start off the day I slept in, talked to my parents for a little while and then went out in the fray of the city with some of my favorite people. Bekah, Lanna, Steph and I headed out to try and find a place to do high tea but after a little bit of searching and realizing that it would cost about half of our weekly allowance, we opted out and just spent a little time enjoying each others company. We fondly refer to ourselves as "the sisterhood of the denim shirts" now, because 3 out of the 4 of us were wearing them today. You can't coordinate awesome. After some laughs and hugs we divided up for lunch and to see what else the city would show us. Stephanie and I ended up at Wagamama for lunch, basically just fancy ramen! It was so good and we both used chopsticks the whole time. Skills.

Once we had had our fill of deliciousness, we decided to stop by Covent Garden one last time. Covent Garden is one of my favorite places in the city and even though it is always busy and crowded I feel right at home. Its sort of starting to hit me that I have to leave London and I don't like it one bit. I've come to love it here and no matter how often I visit or come back it will never be my home, not like this anyways. I'm trying not to sob every time I walk up the stairs to my flat or sit at the kitchen table because I can't help but think that its one of the last times. I don't have any profound statements about my life or about being a world traveller but I can tell you that this semester has changed me, for the better. I quoted this on twitter the other day and think its appropriate here:

"You get a strange feeling when you're about to leave a place.
You'll not only miss the people you love but you'll miss the person 
you are now at this time and this place, because you'll never be this way ever again."

These are from a few days ago at our cronut outing!

It's hard for me to express to you all how much I love these girls and how special they are to me. Coming here I literally had one friend and only really knew her from the one class we had had together, leaving here I've made memories and friends that will last a lifetime. To each and every person on this trip: I love you guys and can't imagine spending my last semester of undergrad with anyone better.

Time for some pictures of my last few days:

This is my bestie Zac, he's a pretty cool cat. 

Regent's Park last Saturday with Stephanie.

I found flowers!

Stephanie is just the sweetest

Napping in the grass at Hyde Park :)

From the Spiderman premiere! I met Emma Stone!!!

It's time for me to go soak in all the last little bits. I don't want to leave here. Yes, I want to see you all, be at home in Abilene, and love on my puppy but oh London, my London don't ever change. 
3 more days.

Missing you all, 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

London Farewells

No need to state the obvious, I'm a bad blogger. It hasn't been a whole month yet if that counts for anything... not really I suppose. Anyways, it's almost time for me to head back to Texas and it is so bittersweet. The past month or so has been really busy, primarily with school work but not to worry, I've made a little bit of time to see more of London. Before Spring Break my bestie Rebecca was here and I loved spending time with her and showing her around my favorite parts of London, leaving was so sad but I'm excited to get to see her soon! Our Spring Break was spent in parts of England, Scotland and Wales where we visited all sorts of places. We went to Whitby and the North Sea, saw Loch Ness, relaxed in Glen Coe and hiked a little bit, and many other places...of which the names escape me, but nonetheless, it was a wonderful 10 days! We were all pretty tired of being on a coach bus...and of each other once we got home but I think that its safe to say that it has been my most memorable college SB. My favorite part was on one of the last nights a bunch of us were hanging out in the hotel lobby in Caernarvon (did I spell that right? Its Welsh.) playing pool and piano, drinking coffee, and having good conversation with good company. It's the simple things that I'll miss with some of the greatest people that I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Once we got home we were immediately back into the fray of everyday life in London. One of our first classes was through Westminster Abbey, I was practically dancing at how excited I was! I had a quick conversation with Queen Elizabeth and some of my other favorite English people. Some people get excited about sports or celebrities, I get excited about seeing dead English monarchs! To each their own?
I made a to-do list a week or so ago...and cried. It was that long and I was that worried about it. BUT with the grace and peace that comes from God I've survived this crazy hectic week (I had 3 huge papers due + other assignments) and I intend to survive the next 2 just fine. I would greatly appreciate it  though if you all would pray for me as I finish my last semester of undergrad! Pray that I would finish well and that whatever God has for me after HSU would be clear to me...and soon!
I've grown to love London, learn London, and make it part of my heart. This place, that I got to call home for this very short 13 weeks has been life changing. In the midst of making new friends, preparing for graduation, adapting to living in a foreign country, and getting school work done I learned more about myself than I ever have before. Farewell, my sweet London, I'll be back someday.
Missing you all & see you very soon,
(11 days to go!)

Tuesday, 11 March 2014


Miracle of miracles guys, I feel like blogging! Since we've spoken last I've done so much and have been in a remarkably good mood for the past week or so, God is so good! On 3/6 (last Thursday) I was just having one of those off days. Ya know, when you wake up late, forget to take your hair out of the "I just washed my face" bun and scramble frantically down the 4 London city blocks to the classroom only to find that class had been moved to 10am and not 9. Our prof told us this and Emily and I had just forgotten... What college students in their right mind would forget that they got to sleep in, you ask? Us. So after a haul back to our flat we ended up with time for tea and oatmeal at our kitchen table while overlooking the gardens behind our flat, the day was getting better. Once we got to class there were schedule changes (I'm learning to be a go-with-the-flow girl but its a work in progess), the room was hot and I just felt that the weight of all the assignments for the semester were piling up no matter how on top of things I tried to be. The day carried on and I refused to enjoy the beautiful day, it was one of those sulking sort of ways. But then one of my friends, who shall not be named *cough Janelle*, surprised Emily and I with a package of brownies and a sweet note, thanks girlie! And the sun came out. There was an overwhelming sense of peace that I felt upon being reminded that I was loved and that everything would work out. "God's plans for your life far exceed the circumstances of your day." Amen to that. That night we got all gussied up (well most people did, I missed that memo and my faithful jeans made an appearance) and went to Royal Albert Hall to the opera and saw La Boheme. It was a beautiful show, in Italian I might add, the music was so moving!
The next day was FrIdAyYyY!!! Its my favorite day of the week and consequently the day that I chose to go exploring around Hyde Park and simultaneously take pictures of war memorials for my Britain at War class.

Hyde Park, well all of London really, is in full bloom! Spring is almost here and the flowers are the first to tell us!

At Hyde Park I not only got a lot done for class but I walked to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, a beautiful little stream that is shaped like a circle and has water running in it that bubbles, swirls, and cascades gracefully at different points, it is supposed to be a representation of her life and they even encourage people to put their feet in and relax. I thought it was a sweet testimony of her life. There were also lots of ducks, swans and friendly squirrels which I've got to go back with bread for! One little squirrel came up and looked at me expectantly waiting for me to feed him. They are such curious little things. I got back to the flat after dark and enjoyed a quiet evening in with a book and tea, perfect. 
Saturday was very full and very wonderful. Emily and I began our morning by leaving the flat early to photograph more war memorials, yippie, and get coffee. We then met our group and took a ferry to Greenwich, so fun! After a lecture, the painted hall, a place where many movies (including Thor) were filmed and lunch we went to the royal observatory and stood over the Prime Meridian! Whatttt! 

I'm in 2 hemispheres at once! 

Real excited about this craziness!

I rushed back home (only about 30 or so minutes) because my best friend was coming to London!!! Rebecca, her sister Rachel and their Mom, who is now my mother too ;) had landed at Heathrow when I was at Greenwich. Me being gone gave them a little time to ride the tube to their hotel, get settled and then figure out where we were meeting. We met at Russell Square station and when I finally got to hug my Rebecca I cried. I have missed her so much and lets be honest, some people go their whole lives looking for a friendship like I have with this girl. My mother affectionately called us "lifeies" ya know, friends for life, like her college roomie and bestie, hey Aunt Kelly! Anyways after a teary reunion (only on my part that is, she just puts up with my crying) :) we headed to The Ship Tavern for dinner. While the 3 of them tried not to fall asleep on the table, I rambled on about London and all the places that they had to see! That evening Rebecca stayed late at my flat and we just talked for wayyy later than we should have, but there's something special about seeing her face not on a computer screen, and we even had a little pre-birthday party for me, sponsored by my parents. Thanks Mama and Dad! 

My dad thinks that confetti makes everything more fun... he's right! 

Sunday marked the start of their London adventure and my new discovery of a calling to be a tour guide, juuust kidding! We started off at St. Paul's for Sung Eucharist in the morning and I pretended to be an old pro at Anglican services (which we all know I'm not) but it was a great worship experience. Sunday afternoon was exploring the Covent Garden area and Jubilee Market, one of my favorite places in the city and getting crepes! We found whimsical little souvenirs that aren't all that touristy but still have a hint of London in them. So fun! 

In front of St. Paul's (:

The evening was spent at a few places: Skoob, a used bookstore that I and now Rebecca love, Primark, you've heard about this glorious shopping experience, and my flat for a delicious dinner of sandwiches.

Monday started off with me having to go to class (boo) and them getting to go to the Tower of London (yay)! From what I hear they had a great time and even took a boat up the Thames River, jealous. We met up and decided to tackle climbing 311 stairs up to the top of monument. You may remember this from earlier posts but the Monument is for the Great Fire of London in 1666 that started in a bakery on Pudding Lane. Anyways, we decided that it sounded like a good idea to climb it! It really wasn't as bad as I was expecting, I think London has been secretly conditioning me with stairs for 2 months now. We all made it and the view was spectacular. 

We got certificates that said that we climbed the whole thing! Yayyy!

The rest of Monday was eventful and very chilly! We went to the Old Operating Theater and Shakespeare's Globe (see previous posts for details about these) and had to walk across London Bridge! The evening was pretty uneventful except for Rebecca making fajita pitas, a twist on fajitas when you don't have tortillas, it was delish though. 

Tuesday, ah finally today! We went to Oxford and spend the morning wandering, we came across the lamp post that CS Lewis used as inspiration for Narnia, so cool! I've been to Oxford before but it was rainy, cold and pretty miserable when I went so today was a chance to change my impression of Oxford and the town did a pretty good job. Lunch was at the Eagle and Child, a pub where CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien were known to hang out. It was great food with great company. 

Had to make sure we got a picture in Oxford! 

Tonight those lucky ducks went to see Wicked!! I went to see a different show for class but enjoyed it quite a lot, I'm sure they loved where they went! Tomorrow we have another full schedule. That's all to report for now!
Missing you all,

Wednesday, 5 March 2014


Happy March, y'all! Its my favorite month of the year and I'm so excited that I get to spend it here; not only will I be celebrating 22 years of God-given life but I get to go to Scotland, my best friend is coming to see me soon (I would probably loose my mind if she wasn't), and of course its almost Spring! I couldn't even imagine trying to catch you all up on what I've done in the past few weeks, seeing as how I've fallen off the face the the earth in blogging terms anyways, so a brief recap of what I can remember :).
  • Many, many papers have been written
  • Saw a big boat...the HMS Belfast, a British ship used in WWII so yeah, a big boat
  • My sister turned 24 and I cried a little that I couldn't celebrate with her sweet face
  • I discovered a store called Primark, its basically a huge Forever 21 type store but everything is dirt cheap but super cute! 
  • I went to see an art exhibit of German Renaissance Art where the most intriguing question was asked of me: "Is ugliness more authentic than beauty?" Still mulling this one over...
  • Saw a few theater productions, none were particularly memorable 
  • Had a class walking around the outside of Westminster Abbey 
  • Did a walking tour of Jack the Ripper from the world's leading expert on him, our tutor Donald Rumbelow. Look him up, he's kind of a big deal ;) 
  • Got lost walking through Epping Forest looking for Queen Elizabeth's hunting lodge, we found it eventually!
  • Spent a day getting beautifully lost in the British Museum and only saw half of 1 floor! Ancient Egypt must have been a pretty cool place though.
  • Went to the Royal Air Force Museum, again not super impressed...planes. Cool. 
  • Got a package from my very wonderful mother that included peanut butter, valentines, and some American mac & cheese among other goodies!
  • Had a day trip to Bletchley Park, The Cambridge American Cemetery, and Cambridge
    These somber white crosses were a beautiful reminder of the American's who lost their lives in the Second World War. Thank you.
Goodness gracious I have been busy! Right now though, it is quiet and in these few moments of peace in a flat where 5 girls live, this is precious. I feel like I usually don't have time to process what I'm seeing and learning, so right now I am grateful. I've just re-read the list that I made of all the wonderful things that I'm getting to see and do and this doesn't even begin to cover all the tiny things I do and see each day. The sheen of red double decker buses, the quiet squares where old couples sit and hold one another hands while nestled away in the heart of this busy city, the somber silence that the Thames River has, and every single pigeon that gawks at me as I pass it and resist the urge to feed it part of my breakfast, they are all a part of this place, as am I. Needless to say the initial tourist phase is gone.
Pray for me friends, as I am so desperately wishing to go home, that I would value my time here and find energy to finish my last semester of undergrad well! It is physically painful how much I miss Lily, I got that baby when she was 6 weeks old and have only ever been away from her for 3 weeks! I hope that I never have to leave her for this long again.
But then I get gems like this and I feel a little better :)
Back to is a never ending stream of reading, papers, and tiny annoying assignments. Back into the fire!
Missing you all,

Monday, 24 February 2014

Roma, Italia

So I'm apparently the worst blogger in the world. I just haven't been in a very "bloggy" mood lately but before my mother and sisters decide to virtually throw something at me I'll post!
The last that you all heard was that I was flying into Rome and going to spend the weekend there. Let me just say that Rome is an amazing and beautiful city full of friendly people (a nice change to London)  and that I will without a doubt be returning to it someday. After all I threw coins into the Trevi Fountain and now its my destiny to return to the eternal city ;). Getting to Rome was definitely a bumpy experience. Everything from having our car to take us to the airport be 45 minutes late, to one of our friends having her entire suitcase searched at Heathrow security, and then finally not speaking any Italian to explain how to get to our hotel to a cab driver, we made it!

On the plane from London!

However, I will say that we did get a ride to the hotel from a sketchy shuttle driver outside the airport (maybe not our best decision ever and if you're my mother then I'm lying and that didn't happen...) but no worries, we made it and the grace of God abounds even as far as Rome, Italy! Once we finally got to the hotel we had to hunt down someone to let us in the door and then we got to settle in for just a little bit. We all decided that when in Rome one cannot sit in a hotel room! So we went out to explore the city a little bit and see if we could find some genuine Italian food. We are 4 American girls trying not to get lost in the middle of Rome so naturally we stuck out like a cat in a tutu but after a few wrong turns, kind strangers, and almost giving up we found where we were supposed to be to pick up a ticket for the next few days adventures to be less expensive and let us cut the lines. Victory! Dinner was at a small restaurant and on the first night in Rome you bet your left foot I got spaghetti!

These are my lovely traveling companions! (from left to right: Ally, Lanna, and Jacey)

I am so grateful for these women who God so perfectly placed in my life for this semester, whether its a hug when I miss my mom or a huge laugh, they always know what I need. After dinner (which was crazy expensive, the exchange rate to Euros is terrible plus I am so tired of paying for water) we headed back to our hotel, Casa Di Fiori, and got directions to a few key touristy places in Rome. We headed out with a map (or 3) in hand and confidence that we would not let Italian master us anymore! Lanna had given up on leading us places so Jacey and I took over and got us safely around that night and back home in one piece, score! We went to Pizza Narvona, the Pantheon, and the Fontana Di Trevi all in one night. I'm telling you, we were bound and determined to make the most of our very short time in Italy. There was a moment out on the streets that night that I knew I could handle being an adult. It may sound silly as I am 21, almost 22, and living in a foreign country currently but it was dark, Italian, and a little sketchy but I knew where I was, where I was going, and how to get there. I literally said out loud to Jacey "I can do this! I can survive in an unknown place and figure it out! I can read a map!" See adults, my generation really can survive without GPS and Siri, I have a brain and I used it. Score! The rest of the night was spent just being in awe of the city, as it looks so very different in the daylight, and getting gelato. 
Full Day 1:
The day started out with an open bus tour and we decided to get off and explore THE COLISEUM.
Yes, I have been there and yes, I freaked out when I first saw it. It was off in the distance but I knew what it was and I stood up on the bus and practically shrieked! When we first got off the bus it took everything in me not to run and just touch it, I had waited so long to see this place and here I was, this really is what dreams are made of! (That was a Lizzie McGuire Movie reference, for those of you who got it: props, for those who didn't: carry on, I won't judge.) 

So in all honesty there isn't a whole lot to do at the coliseum, its really just the experience of being there with your own two feet and being a part of history. People have been standing where I was standing for thousands of years, crazy! The coliseum was the first stone amphitheater of its kind and was built from 70-80 AD and was used as one of the main forms of entertainment for ancient Romans. They would hold fights between animals of all kinds many of them were imported form Asia and Africa, gladiator competitions, and it could even be flooded to hold naval battles. It was really amazing to be there and to just imagine all of the things that had taken place in this open air building. While we were there I said that I never wanted to leave! Except for its stairs that are practically at 85% angles and the no roof part I could just live there and bask in its glory. 

"Guys, I'm touching it!!!"
Thank you iPhone for panoramic mode!! 

I told you I was crazy excited!

Once my group practically dragged me out of the coliseum we headed over to the forum. Basically just a lot of ancient ruins, suh-weet! We hung around for a little while, looked at ruins of the temple of Saturn, the arch of Septimius Severus, the temple of Titus and you guessed it... more old rocks! Needless to say I preferred the coliseum to the forum but it was still pretty cool. We left and met up with another group of our students from London who had also come to Rome for the weekend and all went to see the Trevi Fountain in the daylight! 

Sitting on some Roman ruins at the forum with my girlies! (Chloe, Ally, Me, Jacey)

We didn't want to pay for tours so I had a nifty book and would just read about whatever we were looking at and would answer questions as they arose, haha! I spent much of our time in Rome like this.

When we got to the Trevi, via open top bus again, we all got gelato and just spent a little time people watching and of course made wishes! There is a legend that any foreigner who throws a coin into the Trevi with their back facing it over their shoulder is destined to come back to the Eternal City! Being at the Trevi was one of my favorite things to do while in Rome, I passed by it about 5 times in our 2 1/2 short days but I loved every time I got to see the beauty of it. On valentine's day we even saw a proposal there! What a special place to be asked that question! 

So apparently my wishing face is really dumb. Enjoy, while I go bask in shame.
Fontana Di Trevi!

The day ended with Ally and I going off to do a little bit of shopping and a quick pit stop inside the pantheon. Its not a far walk from the fountain so we moseyed on over, making a few pit stops on the way and enjoyed our time together. Once we saw the pantheon in the day time I was awestruck! It is, like the coliseum, huge and pictures will never and I mean never do it justice. 

The inscription reads: "Marcius Agrippa, son of Lucius, third time consul, made this temple." It was originally built in 27-25 BC and was dedicated to Mars, Venus, and the Divine Julius. However, what we see today dates from the early years of Hadrian's reign, between 118 and 125 AD. 

The rest of the day was very slow and we ended up getting pizza somewhere and taking things slow, we were all so tired after this day!
Full Day 2:
The morning began with a beautiful Italian breakfast at our hotel and typical confusion as to what bus to take to get to the Vatican. Once we figured out how to get there and got inside, holding our purses tight I might add, we began a very long traipse through the smallest country on earth. I'm not going to lie to you, I was pretty bored and unimpressed with the whole shindig but tried to make the best of it! The whole time I was there I just kept thinking of my great grandmother, the sweetest, sassiest, most precious woman that anyone could ever have had the privilege of loving. She was a devout Catholic and I know that she would have loved every minute of being there but because heaven has taken my hero, I will tell her all about it someday. 

We had such perfect weather all weekend! Time to break out the shorts and sandals (well almost). 

My favorite thing that we did while at the Vatican was meet the Pope! Juuuust kidding. The Sistine Chapel was breathtaking. I had heard so much about it my whole life, about Michelangelo timing his painting on fresco perfectly and about his contemporaries hoping he would fail because he was primarily a sculptor. To see The Last Judgement and the famous paintings of God reaching for Adam and Adam and Eve, among so many others I was literally awestruck. I stood there for a good 15 minutes with my eyes glued to the ceiling, my mouth probably hanging open, and my heart so engulfed in the images that they became engraved in me. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the chapel and honestly I'm glad. I think knowing that I couldn't pick up my camera and look at it through a lens made me appreciate it more. All I had was my eyes and whatever my heart could carry. Once we had finally escaped the maze that is the Vatican we opted not to climb up St. Peter's Basilica (the huge dome building) or "The Greatest Church in Christendom", well I don't know about that...have you seen Tallowood's stain glass and new sanctuary?! ;) But decided that we would rather go to St. Peter's prison. Too bad that it took us the better part of 2 hours to find and then when we did find it, it was a one room cell that may or may not have been where they kept Peter one time in Rome. Cool beans. I guess? Although, anonymous travel buddy: "Why is everything named Peter? Who is he anyways?" Everyone else: "Ummmm. You know like the disciple..." ATB: "Ohhhhh, I knew that!" Uh huh, sure you did. It was a hilarious moment for all of us who go to small Baptist colleges in Texas! After our small let down of the prison we began a new quest: The Spanish Steps. We found them! and with not nearly as much trouble as the prison. They were ya know...stairs that were covered in people. Cool. I can see that at the mall in the US, haha. But really, they were pretty neat and if I knew the significance of them I'd tell you but I have no clue so here's to doing research! We met up with everyone from London and just hung around the pantheon like no big deal right?! I happened to have great wifi signal and got to FaceTime my dad and make him super jealous so that's a plus! The rest of the day was spent eating more carbs (seriously how do these people survive?!) and packing for our journey back to London. Our flight was set to leave Rome at 6:20 am which meant that we were being picked up to go to the airport at 4 am...Lanna and I just ended up pulling an all-nighter for fear of not waking up at all. Perks of freakishly early flights though:
Sunrise over Rome, God really does have the whole world in his hands.

My girls and I at the coliseum. <3 
The past week or so in London has been uneventful although full of homework and writing papers, but I cannot believe how blessed I am to be here and to be having this experience. More blogging to come later but this has taken me almost 3 hours! 
Missing you all,

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Plane Writing

I'm so sorry that it's been so long since I've blogged (Kellie is harassing me about another post) but to be frank, I've been too tired and nothing that crazy has happened. I'm actually writing this on a flight to Rome and figured that I should write down some of the past week before I get bombarded with more! I think the last thing that I told you guys about was the globe and seeing
Oh What A Lovely War so let's see how well my memory serves me because that was over a week ago. Last Saturday our group took a day trip to Bath, an ancient Roman settlement of...wait for it... baths! I know that was shocking. The baths that we looked at (you aren't allowed to swim in them) are a natural hot spring that ancient Romans thought would make a good hot tub I guess, haha. But in all seriousness the baths were used for religious cleansing and healing. The people came from all over the country to seek relief from various illness and ailments. They have been in existence and used for over 2,000 years! (Did I make that number up?) Our tour guide was hilarious and said that she wasn't surprised that Romans came to Bath because if they showed up in the winter of Britain in nothing but their knickers that are skirts and sandals they would be very cold! There was one large bath that in its heyday would have been covered and very architecturally sophisticated. Around the top of the bath house were statues of Julius Caesar and Herodian (did I make up that too?) among other prominent Romans of the day. The city itself was a quaint little town that provided a touristy atmosphere and lots of shopping opportunities. And since you asked yes, I did finally get my British tea set and a cat scarf :) not a scarf made of cats...just for clarification. You'll have to wait until I get back to London for pictures, I didn't bring my laptop with me to Italy. I know that the anticipation will be mounting for the 3 days that I'm here but you can make it!
Sunday we went to a tiny little Baptist church in the heart of London called Bloomsbury Baptist, we more than doubled the congregation but it was a great experience to get to worship with them! We were greeted warmly and asked to remove our ten gallon hats. ;) After church Emily and I set out to enjoy a quiet lunch just the two of us, I love spending time with that girl! We ended up getting crepes and window shopping around the jubilee market in Covent garden. Of course by then we had to be getting back to the flat for homework. Sidenote: now that I'm a senior I feel like I've actually got the hang of college, perfect timing right? Like I know how to study, set time goals for reading and writing papers. Also my mother was right...if I had read everything that I was actually supposed to read for high school and college I would be 1,000x smarter. Oh well, I guess that'll make me a better graduate student! (HBU and Baylor if you're reading this...I'm just kidding I was always a perfect student!) ;) 
Monday was, how do I phrase this nicely...gross. We had our British Life and Culture class first thing Monday morning but once our walking lecture was over about London Bridge, Shakespeare, and Dickens we headed off to an old operating theater. Sounds cool right? Yeah I guess so... The brain, kidney, and other specimines were enough to make my stomach churn not to mention the crazy medical equipment that looked more like torture devices than things used to help people. This may be tmi but you clicked on this link, there was a cervical dialiator that literally looked like a metal spider of death that is used to rip women inside out. We then had a demonstration of how surgeons would have amputated limbs. With no anesthesia, no pain meds, and no sterilization. A good surgeon would have had a limb off in under a minute and a half, a great one in under 30 seconds. Napoleon had a surgeon in his army that could take an arm off at the shoulder in 17 seconds flat. I have never and I mean never been so grateful for modern medicine. I salute you all who are in that profession and am grateful that it isn't me. 
The rest of the week was spent going to class, finishing a book for class and starting another one,  writing a few papers, not blogging, going to a theater show and getting ready for Rome! Speaking of, we're starting our descent now!! 
Missing you all,

Thursday, 6 February 2014

If Music Be The Food Of Love

The past 2 days have been very very busy! There has been a tube strike for the past 2 days and its forcing millions of Londoners (and us) to walk, cram on busses, and ride bicycles among other forms of transportation I'm sure. That said, the city has seemed more crowded with all of these people above ground! The strike is supposed to be settled tomorrow and hopefully there will be some sort of agreement or else this strike will happen again next week. This city is so dependent on the underground and I am grateful. All that to say the getting to class on Wednesday was not only cold, drizzly, and crazy windy but it was virtually impossible to get anywhere in any rush. A journey that would have taken 20 minutes on the tube took almost 2 hours. Pray for our patience! Wednesday started off with a tour of the globe theater! When we first got to the theater I was, in all honesty, unimpressed. Ya okay, its an old theater with no roof and its round. Big deal? YES. Big deal!
Once we walked into the theater it was like Shakespeare himself was sitting next to me, whispering the words of Othello or A Midsummer Night's Dream (two of my personal favorites) right into my very being. It's really hard to describe what happened when we entered, I was giddy literally giddy and couldn't help but grin. This was Shakespeare's theater (rebuilt and moved but still). Pardon me what?! Our tour guide was one of the actresses of the company that preforms there and she had such a passion for this theater and for the genius behind the words spoken there that it made me fall in love with him all over again. She sat us down in the audience and explained all about how the theater would have worked in Shakespeare's day.
There is so much in the his plays that dealt directly with how the theater, this theater, was built. Actors making references to heaven and hell, could visually play to that area of the stage. Juliet's balcony is there, the sets of his plays are so minimalist that architecturally the theater itself had to be built to accommodate such scenes. Plays would have started at about 2pm, because it would have been too hard and dangerous to light a theater at night, and they ended near when the sun was setting. Shakespeare is littered with repetitive statements and with obvious articulation. Modern audiences are thinking "You don't have to tell me that she died...I can see that." Our culture is so visually stimulated that nothing surprises us anymore, we pick up on visual clues very easily. This was not the case more than 400 years ago and the people had to be told what was happening on stage, not to mention some of them probably couldn't see after cramming 3,000 people in the building! Our tour guide then took us on stage! It was the most amazing feeling to stand there and look out, to see the audiences seats, the sky that would have not always cooperated with weather, and to feel only a tiny fraction of as much anticipation as the actors would have felt, and still do!
After our quick rush on the stage we were hurried inside for a brief lesson on understanding Shakespeare's words, definitely helpful! We discussed how when a Shakespearian character speaks in prose they are generally speaking "from their head" when ones speaks in verse it "comes from their heart." The plays are littered with literary clues as to what is happening on stage. My favorite tool that this remarkable genius uses is called iambic pentameter. It is a sort of beat that each line of a play receives and is counted out in syllables. For instance when Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night says "If music be the food of love, play on" his phrase is a balanced 10 beats while Hamlet in Hamlet says "To be, or not to be, that is the question-" is an uneven 11 beats. These beats can be compared to a characters heartbeat and Shakespeare is telling his audience (albeit very sneakily) that uneven beats often mean that a character is under emotional or psychological stress. I'm telling you, genius. There is something about a play that connects us with story and with narrative, a characteristic of humanity that runs in our veins and makes us alike and yet beautifully different. Theater, with story, with movement, and with passion makes that come alive. Being part of an audience is one of the most real things that you can do, a show will never be the same 2 nights in a row and unlike film you can use all of your senses to let go of reality and envelop yourself in another. The story may not be yours exactly but at the heart of every story is a heartbeat from which we all come.
Once we left the theater to which I have now lost my heart in, it was time to weave our way through the crowded streets to my afternoon class which was yes, London Theater. Long story short I was almost an hour late to class and very cold and wet by the time a few of us sulked in looking like drowned rats. Class was short because we then headed wayyyyy across town to Stratford East Theater and saw Oh What A Lovely War. It was terrible. It was supposed to be a satirical expression of WWI, I guess it was funny. I just felt like it made light of war and of the millions of lives that were lost.
On another note today was great! Class was held at the Churchill War Rooms and Museum and we spent about 3 hours there exploring Winston Churchill's life and work, talk about a cool man! I would talk about it more but the history of war isn't really my speciality...or interest. So I'll just let you all come to London and see it for yourselves! Then I took a NAP. It was the most glorious hour of mid-day sleep that I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I drudgingly climbed out of bed to get ready to see Les Miserables!! It was the most amazing show that I have ever seen. I've seen it before but something about this time hit home with me. I cried with Eponine died, I was moved when the rebels fell, and I sang with them that "to love another person is to see the face of God". Tonight I left part of myself in that theater and I'm so glad that I did.
Tomorrow we're going on an all day trip to Bath. Better get some sleep!
Missing you all,

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

New Year, New Friend

It has been a few days since I've blogged, apologies. Since I spoke with you all last, I haven't been up to a considerable amount, mostly just everyday class and hanging out in London. Sunday Jacey and I went to Chinese New Year in Chinatown, supposedly it is the second largest celebration outside of China...I don't buy it. After a parade of 2 dragons, white kids doing fake karate, and people dressed in horse costumes (it's the year of the horse), it was over as quickly as it began. A real let down after all the hype we had heard around town! Nonetheless, I've been to Chinese New Year in London and if that's not cool to check off a list then I don't know what is! After our somewhat disappointing morning Jacey and I went home, to Starbucks that is! Sad as it might sound Starbucks is one of the places in this city that actually feels like home, no one is rushing you or yelling for a taxi, people just sit in oversized armchairs and relax. If I close my eyes it feels like I'm at Starbucks on Buffalo Gap in Abilene with Kayla, Corinn, and Rebecca. Miss you girlies by the way! Anyways, we ended up spending the better part of 2 hours in there just talking and getting to know one another. Jacey is a super sweet girl who has such an amazing outlook on life. Her testimony is amazing and I love how Jesus rescued her, seriously I love how good God is!
At New Years!

With my sweet new friend :)
We then went to the afternoon service at Hillsong United Church London. Hillsong is a church that was started in 1983 in Sydney, Australia and now has hubs all over the world. For those of you who have been to Passion it felt like that! It was so crazy that that much passion for Jesus and His name was in one place, to be a part of something bigger than myself. The rest of Sunday was spent doing homework and watching Princess and The Frog with my roomie, its okay to be jealous, she's pretty great. Monday was an uplifting class on the Black Plague, endearingly called the Black Death, and the Great Fire of London in 1666. Seriously though, everything in this city has burned down multiple times. JUST PUT OUT YOUR FIRE AND THE THATCH ROOF WON'T CATCH. Or at least get a fire extinguisher, geez 17th century Londoners get it together. Other than that miniature rant, I have nothing to report!
Missing you all,

Friday, 31 January 2014

Hugs (not drugs)

So. Tired. Just...yeah.
The past few days have been packed full of fun and adventures! This school week I definitely failed at blogging but there's really only so much that I can say about me reading textbooks and going to class. However, Wednesday night we got to go see Henry V starring Jude Law! I'm pretty sure that most of the girls in our group only wanted to see Jude and had no clue what was going on but nonetheless, I enjoyed him and Shakespeare. Speaking of, Thursday morning started off with us meeting super early and heading over to Stratford On Avon the birthplace and grave of Shakespeare. That afternoon we got to see Wendy and Peter Pan  preformed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, it was so good! I cried. Alisan, stop judging me. This show is different from Peter Pan and focuses on Wendy more as the central character and her story of dealing with the grief of the loss of her younger brother. The rest of the day we spend going around the town and looking at little shops, Stephanie and I ended up having tea in a little 40s themed restaurant called "The Four Teas", get it?! Hilariousness. The whole group met together and we had dinner at "The Dirty Duck", sounds appetizing right? It was pretty good  except for the gross smell of fish and chips that enveloped the whole place. I feel bad for complaining about the staple meal that these people eat but seriously its a problem. Emily ended up just playing with her food...
We spent the night in Stratford at adorable little Bed and Breakfasts and this morning I even had my first true English breakfast complete with tomatoes, baked beans, mushrooms, bacon (really just ham), and of course tea. Then we went to Anne Hathaway's cottage, the wife of Shakespeare not the actress :), and got to look around her place for a little bit. It was so cute and quaint but also very touristy, haha.
Once we left the Hathaway's we went to the Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare was baptized, married and eventually buried. Now I'm not sure if I'm just getting tired of looking at old things and old dead people but for some reason I was just not feeling it today! (I know blasphemy.) Anyways, we then went to "The Birthplace" which was Anne and William's first home together as well as where William was born. Sadly we were practically running through the house so that we could make it back to the coach in time to make our Oxford tour. It's kind of a blur now but I do remember one of the guides quoting us part of Hamlet from a cat's point of view, needless to say it was brilliance. While still in Stratford I got to briefly run into a Christmas shop that was called "The Nutcracker", Dad you probably would have died from excitement. I ended up with a little nutcracker ornament, he's so cute!
This is obviously not the ornament... :)
Our coach then headed off to Oxford and we went on a tour there! Outside, in the rain, and wind, and not so weather-proof jacket that I had, and canvas tennis shoes, with no umbrella. I'm still defrosting but despite the frigid weather I think most of us had a good time touring the University and seeing a few of the sites used for Harry Potter movies. Because of the weather though I only took out my camera once, to take a picture of the first theology building founded on campus, priorities people! 
Once our very wet tour was over we just wandered around Oxford until it was time to head back to London. I'm sad that I didn't really get to enjoy Oxford the way I would have liked but once your shoes are wet from the inside out there's really no making the day better. We are now back in London and things are drying over the heaters, my flatmates have all gone somewhere or another and it gives me time to be alone in the quiet. I've recently realized something about travel, part of what makes it so fun is going places with the people that you love. While I am definitely making friends here and they're all great people they're not my best friend or my sister, my mom or dad. I can't tell you how many times a day I want to laugh with my sisters or call Rebecca, I want to share this experience with someone other than my camera. Yeah yeah, I can hear you all telling me to stop having a pity party for myself and I hear ya loud and clear. It's not like I'm not having fun by the way! However, it has been over 2 weeks since I've had a hug and I am having serious withdrawal. I've heard that it takes 9 "positive human physical interactions" to keep a person sane, ya know a handshake, hive five, hug, pat on the back, whatever...although hugs are my personal favorite. There are no hugs in this country (the smashing together with strangers on the tube does not count) and I think that my sanity is in serious danger. Basically all that to say that I miss y'all and your arms and that I'm going crazy. Future husband, you have been warned. 
Seriously missing you all, 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

A Name

Today I was super productive! I went to the post office and the grocery store, got a lot of reading done for my classes and had a cup of tea. That being said, I don't really have a lot to put into a blog post (except mom: I tried to make red beans & rice yesterday with British ingredients and it turned out super weird). So instead of telling you about my day how about I tell you why my blog is called "Keep Your Eyes Open". It is the title of a song by Needtobreathe, my new favorite band, and the song just really spoke to me. When I heard the chorus for the first time I knew that the words that had been written were for me as I started this new adventure in my life. It goes "Cause if you never leave home, never let go. You'll never make it to the great unknown, till you keep your eyes open, my love." The rest of the song is pretty amazing too. I love all of their music but this is the song that I chose to tie myself to...or maybe it chose me. Either way I'm here, in the great unknown.

Here is a link to the video, I hope you love it as much as I do! Keep Your Eyes Open

Monday, 27 January 2014

Good Morning Sun

Happy Monday everyone! Today we had our second week of British Life & Culture and goodness gracious I love that class! The class is basically a walking tour each week with our British tutor Professor Rumbelow and his incredible brain. Seriously though, this man is such a great story teller and that is exactly what history is, a story! Today we had class inside the Tower of London, the morning started off with our group meeting outside of Tower Hill tube station where we were greeted warmly by the sun, a welcome sight for anyone who has spent any time in London. 
This is Tower Bridge right outside of the Tower Of London, we were there to see the bridge being raised for a freighter. Can you say hello sun?
After taking a few notes and seeing the public execution site, that was last used in 1787, we headed inside to the tower! The tower was originally built in the 11th century and was built to protect the people inside the tower from potentially angry Londoners who could quickly turn into a mob. There is no entrance to the tower that is on the ground level so that the towns people could not swarm the castle, there has always been a wooden staircase that leads up to entrance so that in an emergency it could be cut down or burned. Since its original building, the Tower has expanded and grown into a national landmark and is often times the face of London. It was in this tower that Anne Boleyn was executed as well as the "two Princes in the tower" were murdered in 1483, among others. The tower serves also as the home of the Crown Jewels! All of the crowns were absolutely stunning and I loved looking at them all. My favorite was probably the 530.2 carat diamond called the First Star of Africa, ya know I would pick the biggest and most sparkly thing in there to fall in love with. 

One of the guards just ya know, marching around. We were even present when they switched guards, so cool!

These guys are traditionally called Yeoman Warders but are also referred to as Beefeaters, they are the tower guards. All of them that we got to talk to were very nice and personable! 
 There is a legend that dates back to Charles II that 6 ravens should be kept in the Tower of London at all times, if they ever left it is a symbol that the monarchy will fall and Britain along with it. Some of the ravens have great names like Ronald Raven, Jubilee, and Merlin. I think Ronald Raven is my favorite. Here is a crazy shot of one of the Beefeaters petting a raven like its no big deal! The ravens are notoriously sassy and like to bite!
Nothing else of much consequence happened today. I uploaded captions to the pictures from the Canterbury Cathedral if you want to read those gory details! I'll also put up more from today...eventually. Tomorrow will be pretty boring but Wednesday should prove to be exciting, we're going to see Henry V and JUDE LAW is starring. Yeah, you read that right. *swoon* Anyways I'm off to bed now, its been busy! 
Missing you all,

Saturday, 25 January 2014

"Cathedrals have tried in vain"

Whew, today was a crazy busy day! Warning: this post is very long, its for your enjoyment but a lot of it was just so I wouldn't forget anything! The day started out with the group meeting at 7:45am and getting on a coach bus to Dover, about 2 hours away. The ride was say the least. Once we had gotten to the castle, which was almost completely hidden under a think layer of fog, the professors set us out to explore. 

The entrance to the Castle.

Some of my flatmates, love these girls! We were quite chilly all day!

While at Dover, we got to go on a tour of the secret underground war tunnels that were used in both world wars. During WWI the tunnels were primarily used as ammunition storage for the British. The second world war used the tunnels in a more strategic way, as an underground hospital as well as for living quarters for soldiers among other things. During the battle at Dunkirk in France the base was the place that rescued soldiers would be brought. If I'm remembering correctly over 300,000 troops were brought to Dover once rescued from the coming Nazis in France, as it is only about 20 miles from the French shore. While Dover Castle was never bombed during WWII it received heavy artillery fire. We weren't allowed to take pictures in the tunnels but rest assured, it was very cool! The model of the hospital that they have in the tunnels was actually constructed from illegal photographs that one of the doctors took before he left the base. The photos were illegal because if the Germans had gotten ahold of them they would have known exactly what was at Dover! It literally it could have changed the course of history. What the tunnels actually looked like is still highly protected government information and will not be released until 2074! There was something about being in the war tunnels that resonated with me, these soldiers were my age, were my sisters ages. These people had families, mothers, children, and friends. Today they became real people with lives and stories, the only difference in me and them is that I got fortunate enough to live out my ambitions and not be born in a time of overwhelming war for the entire globe. 

Here is the only "white cliffs of Dover" that I really got to see, the fog was so thick today! Nonetheless, it was beautiful and I'm so glad that we got to go tour this place. 
Once we left Dover we had lunch on the bus, and yes it did feel like a kindergarden field trip, and headed to Canterbury. Let me just say, I loved and I mean absolutely loved everything about this little town, I think it may be my new favorite place on earth... I have a few contenders. Yet again, we filed off the bus and were told to go explore! Dr. Woodfin, Emily, Stephanie and I set out on a small trek to find St. Martin's Church. The church is the oldest church in the English speaking world that has been continually in use! It was founded in the 500s by queen Bertha who was a Christian, her king was Ethelbert of Kent and he was pagan. He gave her this as a place to worship. Walking up to this church there is a cemetery surrounding the church containing at least 900 graves, as was customary to bury the dead in the churchyard, although its just plain creepy if you ask me! The oldest visible date on the stones is 1686.  

This is the door that we walked in to enter the church it is very small and quite, as it is outside of town.
Entering this church gave me immediate goose bumps, I was part of history today. I became a part of my faith on a grand scale and in this tiny church on the outskirts of a small town in England I remembered the people who have gone before me. Thinking about it now, only a few hours after still gives me chills and I am still in awe that I stood here with my own two feet. Pictures will never be able to grasp the raw emotion that being here brought me. I wish you could all smell the green moss that covered the headstones, feel the wind and the chilly damp weather that surrounded us, hear the silence upon entering this sacred ground and see the intricate details that make this place astonishing. While in the church I took a sort of self guided tour, while that was all fascinating I would say that the most wonderful thing was lighting a candle here, being still, and as they put it "be aware that God is present." Amen to that. There are one or two pictures of the inside of the church on Facebook if you want to see a little more. Also, St. Martin is the mother church of the Canterbury Cathedral. 

This is just to the left of the picture above, just a few of the headstones. I felt like I was in a movie the whole time! 
Once we left St. Martin's, much too soon I might add, we headed to the Cathedral for a tour. This was the most fascinating tour that I have ever been on! The fact that I am obsessed with Church history should not sway you in any way ;). We split up by schools and our guide was named Pauline, she was a very charismatic lady who you could tell was still passionate about her job. I want to tell you everything about the tour and remember every tiny detail that she said about all the cool stuff in the Cathedral but literally I could fill a book...lets face it, there are whole libraries you could fill with all of this awesome history. The Archbishop of Canterbury is seated here and is the principal head of the Church of England, a position that dates back more that 1,400 years! Once I put up pictures on Facebook I'll caption them with what they are and yes, some historical documentation of each one, so that I don't have 97 pictures here. I know you're excited to hear me ramble some more.

A shot outside of the Cathedral before the tour. 

These steps, just wow. They were the steps that pilgrims from all over the country would have come up on their knees praying to St. Thomas (more on his story later). This was a practice that went on for over 300 years. Look at how worn they are from thousands and thousands of people coming here to pray on their knees.

This is a shot of the Cathedral from inside the cloisters. It was dusk and perfectly lit!
After our tour, that lasted about 2 hours, we went back inside for the choral evensong. The Evensong was just a service but tonight's was historic! It was the first time that a girls choir sang in the Cathedral instead of a boys. Once the service was over we headed back to the bus through the remnants of a sleet storm that had occurred while we were inside and began our journey home. When I got on the bus I started to listen to my iPod and the first song that came on was Needtobreathe's Signature of Divine, the first line of this song says: "Cathedrals have tried in vain to show the image of Your face." Talk about perfect timing, right?! I listened to the rest of the song and knew that at that moment I was being reminded to be in love with the Creator of all things instead of with things created. Because honestly it is so easy for me to fall in love with these places, with the architecture and with the past that things have. While this Cathedral was absolutely beautiful, it does not even hold a candle to my Savior's.
It went pretty smoothly, until we got caught in a traffic jam that lasted over an hour. After about an hour and a half we decided that we would have better luck getting home on the tube and abandoned our poor bus driver to walk in the cold. Long story short we made it home, finally! It's now after 1:00am here and I am beat! I'm sure that I'll read this later and think I sound completely silly or make no sense but for now, thats life!
Missing you all,