I hadn’t realized how dark it had become until Easter brought the light. Everything came together to lift my spirits: the weather brightened; the government restrictions eased; people began to gather again for Holy Week.
Springtime comes in February for Oxford. Bluebells, snow drops, crocuses, and daffodils are disrupting the sombre charcoal tones of winter, lifting my spirit from lockdown doldrums to a hopeful (and often anxious) anticipation of the future.
With most of the libraries shut down for most of the term, I played church tourist and commenced a round of endless walks, reminding myself that I’m not alone here no matter how much it feels like it.
Christmas cheer was thin on the ground last year. Despite my best intentions, the week leading up to my final essay submission demanded a slog of sleepless nights and soul-searching doubt. Just when I thought I was free to relax into the holidays, the UK government shocked everyone by declaring a stay-at-home order with less than 24 hours notice.
Even so, God was good to me.
Just when I was settling in, the second lockdown hit. The first news that the UK government would impose new restrictions sent me into a tailspin: I imagined myself trapped in my room for four more weeks of self-isolation, cut off from library access just when it was most critical for me to do research for my upcoming term essay.
In the end, as is almost always the case, my fears outstripped reality.Read the rest of this entry
“We should celebrate!”
My first day out of self-isolation, the gracious Audrey paraded me around Oxford for a tour and congratulatory tea (in classic British style, with scones and clotted cream). We last encountered each other while doing undergraduate studies in Michigan – small world!
She inaugurated my first ventures afield into the puzzle of walls, roofs, and doors that unwinds from my newly built accommodations, overlapping medieval, modern, and everything in-between.
Never would I have guessed that my past six months would be spent on my family’s farm in the USA! When I concluded my Peace Corps service, I was making plans to return to South Africa as an independent volunteer in a couple of weeks… or a month or two… and then maybe for the summer… or even just for a quick visit?
Instead, South Africa’s borders have yet to reopen for international travel, and I grudgingly submitted to a time of restoration and fellowship, reconnecting with my loved ones while future opportunities unfolded.
Given the international travel climate today, I can only be thankful that I landed without incident last Wednesday in the United Kingdom: newly “enroled” for graduate studies at the University of Oxford.
My nature rebels against the humility and simple surrender of acknowledging that further action will avail nothing; the outcome is beyond my power to influence; there’s nothing to do but place my trust in the Lord…and wait.
In some small areas, my expectations have made the adjustment: the taxis to my shopping town, the line at the grocery store, the printers at school. Although service providers here rarely hurry and sometimes acknowledge requests reluctantly, that doesn’t mean they aren’t responding. A patient smile does wonders for my health and theirs.
It’s the big questions – about career, family, and the future – that send me into the wrestling ring with God. As a Christian blogger pointed out, there’s a difference between waiting for something you know will happen (eventually) and waiting when you’re not sure whether it ever will. The Biblical images of sowing and reaping acquire new resonance for me as I wonder when the time invested in these critical areas will begin to bear fruit.
The trip to Ireland began last summer, as the germ of an idea inspired by my good friend, Sarah. When I heard of her plans to spend a year studying abroad in Northern Ireland, I decided, some how, some way, to visit her.
We met in Dublin, after the saintly Sarah suffered a 4am bus ride down from her home away from home in Londonderry. Read the rest of this entry
Dancing! Irish dancing! Irish music, too, as it turned out. My angelic father accompanied me to a local performance, “Celtic Steps,” starring five musicians and four dancers. Despite the relatively small size, the show impressed with its sheer talent and irrepressible charm. Read the rest of this entry
Thanks to Fernroyd‘s hosts in Cork, Avril and Tony, we abandoned our plan of traveling the length of Ireland to visit Derry and instead skipped off for a two-day detour to Killarney Read the rest of this entry
We were happy to visit before the flock had migrated there for the summer, however. On a gray, drizzly, nippy Saturday, we shared Blarney Castle with just half a dozen of our new best friends: the brave and the few. Read the rest of this entry
Whoever disparaged Irish food can’t have spent very much time here.
After dividing our time between the capital city, Dublin, and the lovely coastal town of Skerries, we bid farewell to Ireland’s east coast today and headed south to Cork (home of the Blarney Stone). The Lord has blessed us with excellent weather these last few days. When we left the White Cottages in the morning, we met a mother on every block pushing her baby carriage; when we returned in the evening, we passed joggers and walkers on every corner. I wonder if the locals love fitness this much when it’s raining? Read the rest of this entry