Wednesday, June 13, 2007

From Backpacking Europe to Assembling Strollers

A few days ago, I had a strange thought. I was putting together a new stroller when suddenly two things hit me very hard. The first one creeped up so naturally, that it almost passed for a normal, reasonable tidbit before I caught it as an unlikely visitor at the doorstep of my conscious. I simply thought to myself "Hmm, I like this design. Funny to think that I could actually be doing this for my little girl one day- Wait... What?" Now, realistically, this could actually happen. At this point in my life, however, it seems so far away, and with that idea comes all the warning flags of my own looming, and at times still very present IMmaturity. From this succeeded the second big thought: "Two months ago I was discussing Sartre and Kierkegaard over a beer at my favorite pub in Oxford." Again, back to reality, while this thought is not one of those romantic daydream kind but more of a true reminiscence, right now I am putting together a stroller because I work at USA Baby. My sister, who is the manager, helped get me the job.

Stopping again to think about the interaction inside my head at that moment, I see now that this is very indicative of my current spiritual and emotional state. Earlier on in my Oxford experience, I had to do the same thing I am doing now. I had to find my place, and it took a good amount of time. Now that I am living at my parents house again, working two part-time jobs, and seeing few of the faces I had grown to love so much over the last 5 months abroad, I need to replant my roots on this side of the pond. Having pondered everything from the existence of God to the philosophical message behind the Monty Python films, my life here can seem like an old sepia tone photo in comparison to the color-rich panaromic memories of the last few months.

There is hope.

After work today I decided it would be a good idea to climb Garcia, a steep and dusty little trail a short drive from my house. It was a good idea. As I started to navigate my way through the switchbacks and valleys, I remembered that there is a cross on the top of Garcia. Fittingly, the cross is only visible during certain sections of the hike. When I finally fought my way to the top, with some sweat, soreness, and a few spills on the way, I reached the foot of the cross just as the sun was beaming her last rays over the adjacent mountaintops. Again I was hit by the profudity of the moment, but now I was the sum of all things past and present. This is the person that I want to be, and the struggle that I face. I want to synthesize my life-changing experience abroad with the things that I am learning now. Yes, building strollers and selling cribs does build character...and patience. But more importantly, it is the knowledge that while God has a plan for every one of us, we have a choice to continue on the path we are called, or to tread elsewhere. Sometimes it is easy to look up the mountainside and behold the empty cross. In the other times we must press on with faith that the cross remains.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I'm home...

Family and Friends,
Thank you for reading my blog and keeping up with my life in the last few months. I have seen some incredible things, and I hope my way of sharing them with you has been beneficial and enriching to your lives. I am now back in the United States, trying to get settled in, and eventually find a summer job before starting school again in the fall. I apologize that I have not been very diligent with my updates recently, but please bear with me in this transitional period. You can expect to see some changes on this blog in the near future, as I feel that it is important to visually reflect the changes that have occured in my heart over the past few months.

Thanks again for going with me all over the world.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


The other night I had a beautiful conversation with my mom about my experience here in Oxford thus far. Of the many realizations I had during that conversation, the most poignant was that my mom has a beautifully sensative heart, to which God often speaks. Yet what is so incredible is that I feel that she has passed on that sensativity to me. At times, this has gotten me into trouble, as I have given my heart to certain people and gotten it back in an injured state. But God also seems to tug at it in certain times, quietly reminding me that He is around, and has a purpose for my life, though I have to seek it out. What's more encouraging is that my mom seems to be experiencing the same themes in her life. She, though with much more wisdom and experience, must also seek God's plan for her life.

My roommates and I often sit around, taking a break from our studies or just procrastinating, and ponder the tough questions of life. Though we all come from different backgrounds and often approach things at different angles, there are a few things we agree on. One of those things that we unanimously agree on is the notion that it is dangerous to have everything figured out. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we shouldn't have fundamental beliefs in certain things, even if we know it takes a leap of faith to get there. We all seem to agree on the fact that life is not just a checklist, and once you've filled in all the blanks, crossed the t's and dotted the i's you can check out and be happy.

That's what I love about my mom. She graciously shows me that the adventure of life is in the searching. It's like a never ending scavenger hunt, where we find new items, and put them into our arsenal, all the while looking for more new and exciting pieces. It's only when we look back that we can see how the pieces fit together. But there are no corner pieces to this puzzle, the picture keeps getting bigger and more beautiful.

When we were on the phone, I was so impressed how my mom felt safe with being vulnerable to me. She has been in, and will be, a few situations that put her out of her comfort zone. Yet she softly and confidently told me how God's grace is sufficient for her every need and that maybe she needs this time of vulnerability for God to work in her heart.

I love my mom dearly, and I am honored that she would be so open with me. But perhaps she knew that sharing with me would open my eyes to this time of vulnerability in my own heart. Maybe Oxford has been somewhat of a wilderness period for me, where I am to seek answers to the questions in my own heart. I'll end with a quote from C.S. Lewis that seems to describe it in not-so-complicated terms. "Further up and further in".

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Walk in the Meadow

I decided to go think and take pictures this afternoon in the meadow by my house. It strikes me that this much beauty cannot come from randomly arranged particles. There's got to be some genius behind this masterpiece.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

All Things Work for Good...

It's about 3:30 in the morning, and I am finding myself awake and in deep thought for the second or third night in a row. Earlier this week, I was thinking about the verse in Romans that talks about how all things work for the good of those who love God, and who are in his purpose. I felt especially impressed by this after some difficult discussions with a friend at home, and a rough transition from dropping one class and picking up another, that there were some redemptive process that pulled me through. In the end, things turned out better than I expected.

Yet I was mistaken to proudly accept this turn of events as an act of God's sovereignty without looking at my own reactions. Now I see that this redemptive process was God's grace, and that I, lacking enough humility to see that, attributed it instead to a reward for my trust in Him. I don't think this is how it works. As I look at this passage again, I think that more importance is placed on the purpose.

My sister took this picture when we were hiking on the cliffs of Dover, which overlook the English Channel. To me, it sort of represents an ideal picture of the type of man that I want to be. I seem adventurous, standing tall and firm, in front of the sparkling sea. And yet, I know I am not that man. Maybe a part of it lives within me. It is probably the same part that enjoys the walks (when I force myself to get up early enough) in the meadow by my house. When I feel free to have conversations with the Creator of the meadow, as if He is walking beside me . Maybe Jessie sees that potential, and God has that version of me within His purposes.

There is a scene in Braveheart where young Willam Wallace's father turns to him and says "Your heart is free. Have the courage to follow it." Deep down, that's what I want to do. My family has been so supportive in cheering me on, and telling me that they're proud of me and that they love me. Jessie sends me devotional emails about how she danced like David did, unabashed and wholeheartedly in worship. Right now, Dad and Jessie are on a plane to Thailand, pursuing their dreams. What will it take to pursue my dreams? What will it take to pursue His purpose? Do I have the courage to do so?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Finding My Place, Day by Day

On Tuesday I had my first tutorial in Social Anthropology. I had turned in my paper on the Thursday before, so I wasn't thinking that hard about Social Anthro when I showed up to meet with my professor. That was my first mistake. The second came from that fact that I didn't put as much effort and time into my Anthro paper that I have been puting into my Philosophy and Film paper. Big mistake. My tutor, as kindly and as Englishly as possible, tore me apart.

Wednesday, I was feeling really hurt, because I felt as if I was a fish out of water in the field of Social Anthropology, floundering for a basic understanding. By Thursday, I was feeling better about it, with the help of some encouraging my from amazing family and friends. I realized that it's better to start small, and work toward improvement than to start really strong and regress instead of progress. I also spent the majority of Thursday thinking about the direction that my life was headed, and researching and writing a paper on the role of television in contemporary society.

Friday, I was starting to get a sense that this semester will be a time of reaffirmation for me, and a focusing of those dreams and aspirations into actual thoughts about, and action toward, what I will do in the future. I also had my tutorial in Philosophy and Film, and came away with an even greater excitement for studying Theology within media. I spent friday evening laughing around this brazier at one of my favorite pubs, the turf tavern. Then we watched a great movie called Children of Men, and had a good discussion about some of the concepts of the film.

Today, walking back from a great game of Ultimate (Frisbee), I came to a beautiful realization. If I am looking for it, I can find God's hand in everything I do. Every day of this week has had some new element of Truth for me. Whether it's the challenging task of learning a completely new subject, the rewarding feeling I have after leaving a great class, or even the things that I do in my free time, God is there, and He's teaching me how to become of man of integrity. The only thing is, this isn't just for me. If I set my mind and my heart on building the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth, on gaining more knowledge that I can share with others, and on loving my friends sacrificially and unconditionally, I honestly believe that I am making a difference in the world. That's what I want to do with my life. It's an ambituous place to search for, but I search nonetheless.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

One More Day...

The week is basically over, and I'm finding myself in an interesting reflective mood. This week has been marked with a few certain realizations for me. One of which is that I did better at using my time this week, though not as well as I would have liked. During the first few days, I did a lot of research and some goofing off. That left the last couple days for me to do the writing. It worked out ok in the end, but I hope to not repeat this cycle. Over Thursday and Friday, I read a large portion of 5 books and wrote 3600 words, finishing at 4am on friday, and crashing for 5 hours before a really good tutorial at 10.

The other realization that I've come to will make a little more sense of the title I've chosen for this post. I realized somewhere between the chaos of Social Anthropology and Existentialism, that I've come to ask for a few second chances this week. Some of those second chances, like another day to read and work on those papers, were impossible to have. And yet others have been given with such undue grace that I was ashamed at how little I deserved them. I was walking to the library the other day, and I suddenly felt a song emerge in my heart, with a few specific words sticking out in my head. The songwriter explores many themes, but at one point humbly admits, "I wish for one more day to give my love and repay debts..."

That's how I felt a few times this week. The only comfort for me is, ironically, the idea that tomorrow is a new day, and that God offers his grace afresh if I am willing to wake up and reach for it. As poetically smooth as that idea sounds, I don't want to rely on "One More Day" because one day, there won't be. I guess the lesson here is cliche for many, but with a newfound meaning for me. Seize the day.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Learning to Walk Again

I made it through my first week of official classes. I have spent at least 12 hours of that week in this building. It's called the Radcliffe Camera. It's part of the library system, and I have all of my books sent to the lower reading room (there are only two stories). That room is quite large, with vaulted ceilings, and has some really cool lighting. I usually bring my computer or iPod and listen to chill or or motivating music while I peruse the books for sweet morsels of information that I can use in the papers I am writing.

I wish I could say that I made it through this week without many bumps along the way, but that's not the case. I am learning how to manage my time, and had to humbly ask one of my professors to reschedule our tutorial because I felt that it was too much to try to finish two 2,000 word essays and read 4 books in the space of about 5 days. I probably could have done it, but I didn't manage my time wisely.

I also had an interesting little scuffle with a professor over a request to audit a class. As APU students, we're required to take a 3 unit British Culture course. Early on in the week I heard about a few of my friends dropping the course, reducing their workload to 12 units. I immediately wanted to do this. I didn't think about the fact however that my casual request to drop the class, essentially attending all of the lectures but doing no work, was only founded on selfish reasoning. I eventually decided not to drop the class, and stay with my original commitment to the program. However it was difficult to sleep last night, knowing that I had created a rift in the relationship of one of my professors.

In this shakey first week I realized how distant I had grown from God. I have slept through my precious morning reflection time almost every day this week. Looking back, not putting God at the beginning and the end of my day was the biggest mistake I could made for the first week. Even now, my heart beats faster and my eyes want to tear up at the thought of forsaking He who is most precious to me during a time that I need Him most. Again, I am reminded of the importance of placing priority on the time that I spend.

As I continue to walk these streets and make trips out to the open spaces, I feel closer to the Jesus who walked everywhere, the Father who created it all and loves me in spite of my shortcomings, and the Spirit who speaks through the wind, trees, and the hearts of people around me.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

First Day of School

On Friday, I had two lectures and met with both of my tutors. The way education works in Oxford is much different that Azusa, or most other American universities. Most students meet with their professors in a 1 to 1, weekly meeting focusing on a specific subject. Depending on the major, students have between two and five of these a semester. My education here includes two of these, a weekly seminar (similar to a small discussion class) on the writings of C.S. Lewis, a weekly discussion on faith with all 19 of the APU kids, and a series of required lectures and exams on British culture and society. Overall it makes for a pretty round semester. Though the difficult part is that I'm only in "class" for about 5 hours a week (max.) and the other time I must be diligently reading and writing essays of 2,000-3,000 words for each of my tutorials.

Friday felt like the first day of school for me in a lot of ways. I don't really know if I've had that sense since freshman year of college. It was new and exciting, and I was very nervous to meet my tutors. I came back from my meetings with a flutter of anxiety, a touch of worry that this term will be a lot of work, but mostly a feeling of resolute excitement, looking forward to the amazing learning experience in front of me with determination.

I'm starting to get finally get comfortable with the layout of Oxford. With it's small institutions (libraries, colleges, bookstores, parks) spread out over the entire city, it has beeen a challange to figure out where everything is. Yet I think, after two weeks of wandering around and often asking for directions, I am getting my bearings.

I am even making time to go out into the open spaces. I took this picture a few days after I got here, but I think it will soon be one of favorite spots to watch the trees dance and listen to the wind speak. Though this has been one of the few sunny days we've been blessed here in Oxford, I've taken some interesting shots of my surroundings and hope to post them soon. Until then, I hope everyone who reads this has a better idea of what I'm up to.