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Posts Tagged ‘journey’

Well, technically to London, but that’s not the point. The point is…I am GOING! Going to Oxford Brookes to earn a master’s degree and discuss books with people who love them as much as I do. Going to work with the Morgans at the ACU houses as the admin assistant/keeper of Ron’s sanity. Going to walk down Cornmarket and through Port Meadow and up and down Headington Hill again and again. Going to St. Aldates for dozens of Sundays. Going to live in the same city as Jacque for two fantastic semesters. Going to live with Lizzie and Jo and Grace in a charming little house in Ablett Close. Going back to the city that has my heart…and traveling while I’m there to lots of other cities that have pieces of it…or will.

“It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap…”

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I’ve been promising Oxford highlights and pictures so here’s the first installment. See Jeremiah’s blog for a marathon post about his experience of Oxford, coming soon. I will break mine into more bite-size chunks, but here we go:

After arriving at London Gatwick at 8 a.m. Saturday, we took a bus to Oxford and ran into my friend Katie at the bus station. She was waiting for her sister Kara, who was in Oxford with me three years ago and was coming to visit. After hugs hello, we did exactly what I had told everyone we’d first do in Oxford: we walked home.

Home. Houses 9 and 10, on Canterbury Road…a quiet street in North Oxford, the southern border of St. Hugh’s College. Two brick Victorian houses, stuffed with students and mismatched dishes and textbooks and laptop computers and green sheets (the standard-issue ones from the college) and lots of love. Where I learned the meaning of living in community, three years ago this semester. Where my heart will always be at home, no matter who’s occupying the rooms.

After dumping our bags at House 10, we ran next door and pounded on Janine’s office door; she squealed with joy, then squealed into the phone when Ron called at that very moment. We headed into her lovely living room for a good hour of sitting in the sunshine and catching up. Future plans, present life, friends, Oxford, travel, memories…it all enters the conversation with Janine instantly, and I so enjoyed the chance to be with her again. She is someone with whom time is always rich, no matter if it’s five minutes or five hours.

We eventually made it to On the Hoof, the best sandwich shop in Oxford:

I purchased my traditional favourite, the Sexy Brazilian (for the uninitiated, chicken tikka on a panini with tomato, cheese and mango chutney, toasted). Motivated by the unexpectedly sunny day, we took our sandwiches to the park, where we beheld this loveliness:

After finishing lunch, we strolled around the park for a while, taking in the spring flowers and breezes and students playing rugby and football. We both needed a nap, though (neither of us had slept on the plane), so we headed back to the houses where I crashed for an hour. When I went down to wake Jeremiah up, he fell asleep again while I was talking to him (or so he claims), so I had to go down a second time 45 minutes later. I wasn’t being mean – you’re not supposed to nap for more than an hour or two, in order to get your body adjusted to the six-hour time difference. It really was for his own good!

We had planned to head out for dinner, but hopped next door to House 9 to check if Kara had ever come in. She had and was up in the top-floor kitchen talking with her Katie. J and I hung out up there for a while, chitchatting and trading memories, then headed downstairs with the intention of going out for dinner. (Jacque, my hostess for the week, had gone bungee jumping in Bristol – see her blog for more about that – so we didn’t see her until Sunday.)

Since I hadn’t seen Ron yet, we knocked on the Morgans’ door to say hello, and when J found out that Ron was watching football, it was obvious he reeeeally wanted to stay. 🙂 Janine, who is among the most welcoming people I know, invited us for dinner (fresh ravioli cooked in broth, in big blue bowls), and the four of us had a fascinating conversation. History, sociology, culture, politics, faith and humor are all a part of any Ron Morgan discourse, and they were all present that night. ‘Twas quite fun; also informative and rich. We left well after 9 p.m. with hugs and promises of an invite for “a real dinner” (Janine’s phrase, not ours) later in the week.

Here’s a picture of the Morgans, actually taken last year at Spring Break…two treasures.

It was off to G&D’s after that – the BEST ice cream in the UK, I’m convinced. They have some lovely innovative flavours and a fun atmosphere, and they’re open until midnight (handy in a town where lots of stuff, except pubs and clubs, close at six). Then back to the houses and to bed. We were exhausted.

Sunday morning brought more sunshine, a joyous reunion with Jacque, and a long, lovely walk to St. Aldates, past so many things I love: St. Giles’s Church, the Church of St. Mary Magdalen with its joyfully cacophonous bells, the pedestrian section of Cornmarket, half a dozen Oxford colleges, the High Street, and finally Christ Church, with its imposing Tom Tower. We eventually arrived here:

This place is, quite simply, my other home. Joyful, sensitive worship; a mix of people of all cultures, ages, education levels and walks of life; several inspiring ministers who know how to preach the Word; a vibrant student ministry that took us right in when I was here before; and people who remember you, no matter how long you’ve been gone. My American friend Michelle and my French friend Francois were delighted to see me and to meet Jeremiah. He loved hearing my witty, brilliant friend Simon preach; he loved the worship; he loved going up to the front to take communion. (“The body of Christ, broken for you, keep you in eternal life.” I love those words.) I am always overjoyed to be back at St. Aldates; my heart is at home there. This time was no exception.

After church Jacque led us up the Cowley Road (southeast Oxford) for lunch at a pizza cafe; yummy and fun, and we got to catch up with her a bit. Her boyfriend Mike came and met us later; we all drove back to the ACU houses in Mike’s car and watched their bungee jumping video from Saturday. We watched part of a movie before heading to a very different kind of church – this one meets in a community centre in the Cowley area. It’s called hOME, and is an offshoot of St. Aldates, of sorts. Sort of like a house church with a Taize influence and a liturgical bent – a bit like small group, sans small children, and with a contemplative aspect. Warm, sweet people, who were very glad to welcome us. I had been once before, but was glad to go again and take J.

That wraps up the weekend…more pictures and stories to come, but I’m out for now, dear ones. Happy Sunday!

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Oxford, in brief

Now that we’re back in Abilene, we seem to be getting the weather we expected but didn’t have in Oxford (cloudy, windy, possibly rainy and quite changeable). Oxford, by contrast, was windy, but unexpectedly warm and sunny. It was putting on a pretty face for my Jeremiah, of course, who quite enjoyed meeting and getting to know my favourite city.

We walked around nearly the whole perimeter of the city, ate at several of my fave places (On the Hoof, G&D’s, Ali’s kebab van and the Morgans’ kitchen), enjoyed a long, worshipful service at St. Aldate’s and a highly entertaining sermon from my friend Simon, visited meadows, parks and markets, and spent loads of time with my lovely Jacque and her charming Mike.

More stories and pictures to come…but yes, we are back in Abilene; yes, we are now un-jet-lagged; yes; we had a lovely time; and yes, I cried as we left Oxford. But I am going back. Which makes the leaving, not easy, but bearable.

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Countdown to Oxford

We leave in a DAY! Eeeeeeeeeee!

Today so far: tying up loose ends at work, sending reminder emails, piles of paperwork, CAYA chapel, leftover lasagna lunch with Heather, blossoming trees outside my office window. This is the week to have an office window in Abilene, for sure. These trees are covered with delicate white star-shaped blossoms, and the bees, living up to legend, are busy. According to Glenn, by the time we get back from Spring Break they’ll be in full leaf. I almost hope not…I don’t want all the bloomy loveliness to go away so soon.

Tonight: dinner date at Chili’s with J (thank heaven for gift cards and not having to cook), last-minute trip to Wal-Mart, PACKING, slipping out to coffee night with the ladies. In a day and a half we’ll be on the other side of the pond. Worship at St. Aldate’s, ice cream at G&D’s, sandwiches at On the Hoof, browsing lots and lots of bookstores, showing J ALL my favourite places in my favourite city. I can’t WAIT!

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Longview highlights

Highlights from my Pine Tree/Longview weekend (these are a week late, I know, but I thought they were worth sharing):

-Seeing Jeremiah exit the house as I got out of my car and running up to give him a big hug…my feet were slipping around in my shoes because it was SO HUMID, but we didn’t care. We stood there and hugged forEVER. Call me sappy…I don’t care. I missed my boy!

-Playing with Socks, the 10-year-old mini poodle…she’s a sweet little ball of gray fluff who loves to be petted!

-Hearing Spencer (the oldest Hemphill boy) play the piano for hours on Sunday afternoon, as the rest of us napped or relaxed

-Riding 4 roller coasters in a row at Six Flags on Monday, with Jeremiah and several high school boys…the highlight of the Batman ride was Spencer Hamm (the preacher’s son; different Spencer) yelling, “Jeremiah, I love your girlfriend!”

-Watching Jeremiah lead worship on Sunday night (and trying not to crack up at Spencer’s random side comments, which included, “Do you think he’d get mad if I tried to make him laugh?”)

-Being asked by at least half a dozen of the Pine Tree kids, “When are you coming to visit us again?”

-Playing basketball in the driveway, tying Jeremiah 1-1 at HORSE, and watching him chunk the basketball into the neighbors’ yard at least 3 times

-Spending a whole afternoon with Bethany at McAlister’s deli, Old Navy and Books-a-Million, talking as hard as we could

-Talking with Blake (the middle Hemphill boy) about who was sponsoring the trip to Mexico, and Jeremiah saying, “Your mom’s going to Mexico!” It was true – Mary Lynn is going – but we must have laughed for 10 minutes!

-Sitting in the kitchen and talking to Mary Lynn as she iced a strawberry cake on Sat. night…then savoring a slice…it was light and sweet and delicious!

-Jeremiah introducing me to the high schoolers on Sunday morning: “This is my girlfriend Katie” – at which point Blake Hemphill casually puts his arm around my shoulders and leaves it there for several minutes. The room cracks up! I love high schoolers.

-Standing on the bridge at Splash Water (at Six Flags) and getting wetter than a river rat…I felt like one too!

-Hearing late Monday night, as I was back in Abilene, that three of the high school guys jumped to my defense when Jeremiah made some comment about girls on the bus ride home. Apparently they were being drama queens, complaining about girls, and he told them girls weren’t worth it or something like that. Immediately three of them jumped on him: “I’m gonna tell Katie you said that!” Nice to have someone sticking up for me. 🙂

If I keep going like this the whole weekend’s going to be a highlight. But that’s pretty much how it was. The Pine Tree youth group welcomed me right in, and so did the Hemphills. What sweet, wonderful people, and what a fun weekend with my Jeremiah. I want to go back.

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I think we’re going somewhere
We’re on to something good here
Out of mind, out of state
Trying to keep my head on straight
I think we’re going somewhere
We’re on to something good here
There’s only one thing left to do
Drop all I have and go with you

Somewhere back there I left my worries all behind
My problems fell out of the back of my mind
We’re going and I’m never knowing where we’re going
To go back to where I was would just be wrong
I’m pressing on

-Relient K, “Pressing On”

I’m pressing on to Longview in less than an hour – to go visit Jeremiah and Bethany! Blessings on the weekend, everyone!

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a week out of time

It’s been a strange week and a half. Back to the grind of papers, choir rehearsals, plowing through several books a week and typing up ACU Today EXperiences. (That’s alumni news, for you non-ACU readers.) Oxford felt like a week out of time. I didn’t do homework. I didn’t stress about being anywhere exactly on time. I didn’t worry about bills or housecleaning or commitments or even the way my hair looked. Instead, I walked several miles a day. I browsed in bookshops for hours. I sat and drank tea and listened to Fernando Ortega with Jacque and Janine. I took a bitterly cold walk across a meadow with four people I love. I had lunch with one of my favourite pastors in the world. I drank in the centuries-old, history-steeped, yet ever-changing air of my favourite place on earth.

Still don’t know what I’m up to after graduation. (My newly resurrected dream is to go back and work at St. Aldate’s Church for a year.) It’s frightening, and more than a little unnerving (especially as I get asked about it several times a day). I know there’s something out there for me to do. Just don’t know what it is yet.

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back to Oxford

I’m going to Oxford tomorrow!! I literally can’t believe it – feels like I should have been anticipating for much longer than this. I tried not to think about it all the time before Sing Song and Lectureship – and then my life exploded for three weeks – and after that, when I turned around, it was almost here.

Hundreds of ACU students have been through the Study Abroad program in Oxford since its inception. Some become more attached to Oxford than others – and a few of us become what my dad lovingly calls “obsessed.” It’s true. I felt like my heart was being yanked out when I left Oxford two springs ago – and though I’ve slowly healed and come to terms with it, I have always longed to go back.

So back I go, to a city that has been the same for hundreds of years and yet is always changing. I’ll go back to the same houses, with a new set of people in them; the same church, with a very different staff; the same narrow streets and green, flourishing gardens and quaint little shops, with the old and the new sandwiched in side by side. And I am coming back different. I am not the same Katie who left England on May 17 two years ago. I’m so excited to see what this trip will bring – lots of fun and nostalgia, I am sure, but also some important time alone and some wonderful new memories, and new discoveries on every level.

My plane leaves DFW in 29 hours. Ready or not, here I come…

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We’ve started another new book in World Lit; this one is Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. It’s more like poetry than a novel; there are only two characters, and not much of a plot. The pages follow Marco Polo telling Kublai Khan about all the different cities in his empire, but the descriptions are extraordinary…brief, lyrical and fantastic in several senses. It’s almost like a travel guide to another world. Sprinkled in among the descriptions of cities are little nuggets of philosophy and wisdom, and of course I can’t resist blogging about at least one.

The Khan asks Polo if the purpose of his journeys is to relive his past, or perhaps to recover his future. Marco Polo replies, “Elsewhere is a negative mirror. The traveler recognizes the little that is his, discovering the much he has not had and will never have.”

This has been true in my travels, on several levels. Someone said in class today that part of the discovery of travel is that we don’t belong in certain places, or that we are not certain things: i.e., I am not Spanish; I don’t belong among the lights and hype of Las Vegas; I don’t quite understand the attraction of a pint of ale, like the British. (Of course, I’ve also discovered many positive commonalities in my travels, like my love for flamenco music and English tea with scones and a simpler, slower way of life.) But I wonder if we also are pared down to our essence when we travel. So much of what we normally perceive about ourselves is shaped and bound by culture, routine, relationships. In Midland I am a daughter, a sister, a longtime member of First Baptist Church; in Abilene I am a roommate, a singer, a member of Highland, a part of the Oxford family. Were I to leave this place tomorrow (and when I leave it in May), part of my identity will change again. These changing parts of my identity are important – there’s no denying that. And the bonds remain, tugging at my heart, as I travel from place to place. But the essential me is perhaps a much smaller thing. Maybe there is very little, even of myself, that I truly take with me everywhere.

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The Two Towers is probably my least favourite of the three books, since it is sort of the long middle of the story between the exciting beginning and the triumphant conclusion. I was reading along today and came across this sentence:

“For a while they stood there, like men on the edge of a sleep where nightmare lurks, holding it off, though they know that they can only come to morning through the shadows.”

I know all great stories must have their black nights before they can have their brightest days – “the darkest hour is just before the dawn, etc.” However, I sometimes forget that the dark times are truly unpleasant to slog through – and they’re supposed to be. If the passage through the Dead Marshes had not been so grueling, Frodo and Sam would not have been so glad to see Ithilien, which reminds them of their own country. In the end, the whole Company is infinitely more grateful for peace and reunion because of their dark times of pain and war and separation. In order for those beautiful times to happen, though, the nightmares have to happen and even we, the readers, have to struggle through them. I appreciate these long, shadowy days of the journey more because I know what is coming at the end. Thus, in a strange sort of way, I’m enjoying this book more than I ever have before. I suppose knowing the end of the story helps one gain a bit of perspective…

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