Friday, December 7, 2012

Beautiful Things

Driving to and from Richmond in this past day, I watched the world fly by outside my windows and thought about God and all His goodness. Yesterday afternoon, driving home while the sun was setting, I saw the best, big tree in the middle of a wide open field, and I wished I could have stopped and just looked at it for a while. I kept driving and just let my mind wander.

Trees in the middle of winter are beautiful. The world looks at them and thinks they look dead and depressing- they've lost their leaves and they're mere skeletons of the fullness they once were. But they're beautiful. They've gone through seasons of fruitfulness and beauty, seasons of warmth and light and growth. And now, they're in a new season. They're in a time of drawing back, of releasing leaves, of enduring the bitter cold and the gray, dreary skies, and of spending energy growing deeper, stronger roots.

Seeing so many of these barren trees silhouetted against the watercolor sky reminded me of my life, and the Gungor song "Beautiful Things."

Go ahead, click the link, play the song, and keep reading.

There are times when I look at myself and my life and just feel dead and depressed. I feel like how those trees look in the winter. I don't feel like my life is producing fruit and showing His beauty and goodness, and I feel like a skeleton of who He has made me to be.

But, we have a Creator who made us beautiful. He made us in His image (that really blows my mind, honestly), and He is beauty we cannot even imagine. If we are like Him in any small way, we are then shaped and molded by Him to be beautiful in our own ways, too.

The year goes by in seasons. Life, too, goes by in seasons. Winter seasons, with gloomy days and bitter cold winds and colorless scenic drives, bring us to spring seasons, with hope springing up from old ground, beautiful things coming out of the dust and the darkness, and renewed life and joy.

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

There are times just as often that I look at my life and am amazed at all the good things that are happening. I'm in awe of how my God is providing and answering prayers and using me to be a part of something incredible going on in His kingdom. I see fruit coming about in my relationships, I see new things being born and passions being stirred and provoked in my heart. And in those seasons, I know how much I needed to go through the winter to feel the depth and width of the goodness of the spring.

Rest in the comfort that He is making You new in this season, whatever it may be. He is growing you, deepening your roots further into all that He is, preparing you for new life, new joy, new hope, and new beauty.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What makes my heart beat.

In my SMAD 311 Feature Writing class this week, we had to spend a class period writing an opinion piece on a topic we chose. I chose to write about sex trafficking, because there's nothing I'm more opinionated and passionate about. Read on to hear a bit of my heart for abolishing this epidemic and horrible industry.

It’s a trade of exploitation, manipulation and corruption, and it’s happening in suburban, urban and rural areas all across the United States—a place we unrealistically call “the land of the free.”
Human trafficking is much closer to home than you think; victims, younger than ever, are just as likely to be the homegrown American girl next door as illegally imported foreigners,” said Amy FineCollins of Vanity Fair.
Women, children and young girls are held captive by their pimps or johns. They are beaten if they refuse to comply with his demands. They are often forced to take drugs, and they at times don’t remember the events of their nights.
They are scared into submission with acts of violence or threats of death. Their pimps tell them they are loved, promise them happiness and an escape from the struggles of their former lives, but then force them into a life worse than any they could have imagined.
They are made into objects of no value, stripped of their humanity and personality, alive only to make money for the man that owns them.
            Human trafficking is now the second fastest growing criminal industry, behind only drug trafficking, and children are approximately half of all victims, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
            It is a crime not often talked about, and its victims often stay silent out of fear of the repercussions from their pimps or johns. It’s not a lifestyle these women and children ever choose, but it’s one forced upon them out of desperation and trickery.
            Many victims come from backgrounds of abuse and neglect in their families, and they are seeking love and wanting to be wanted, and there are men waiting who know how to prey on them and play with their emotions.
            President Obama has declared January National Slavery Human Trafficking Prevention month in efforts to shed light on this illegal and immoral industry, according to the CNN Freedom Project.
It’s a step in the right direction.
            The FBI has also recognized the need for radical change, and states that they are “working hard to stop human trafficking—not only because of the personal and psychological toll it takes on society, but also because it facilitates the illegal movement of immigrants across borders and provides a ready source of income for organized crime groups and even terrorists.”
            Sex trafficking is an industry, and financially, it has been extremely successful.
            The Polaris Project based out of Washington, D.C. said “trafficking for sex and forced labor generates billions of dollars in profits by victimizing millions of people globally.” 
            The size and scale of human trafficking is sickening and horrible, and we need to take a stand against it.
            On average, victims are young children when they are forced to enter into sex trafficking of some sort. They can’t defend themselves against their johns, and we as a nation need to be their voice and their rescue.           
            The Shenandoah Valley Justice Initiative recently worked to create a JMU club called SVJI-JMU that works to involve students in the fight against modern-day slavery.
            Get involved. Don’t let this continue to be what the FBI calls “a problem of epidemic proportion.”
            These women and children are not criminals—they are victims of a horrendous crime. They should not be prosecuted—they should be protected. They don’t need pity—they need action and they need us.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Reading through Romans: Chapters 1-part of 3

I've started going through Romans in little chunks in my quiet times. It's a book I know is full of power and conviction and bold truths, and I know I love it, so I really wanted to study it more deeply and thoroughly. Here's what I've been learning so far:

Romans 1:1-17- Introduction and the righteousness of God

  • Paul was called to be "set apart" and to be an apostle for the gospel of God. He was commissioned by Christ and called by His grace. The past month, the whole theme of "calling" has been hitting me over and over again. I've made a commitment to follow wherever the Lord calls me, and Paul did too. It's made this book a lot more relevant to me in where I'm at in life right now. We are all called to be servants and apostles and spreaders of the gospel of God in our lives.
  • Verse 7 says "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ." It's easy to skip over those little verses of blessings- they're all throughout the Bible. I actually read the notes on this one in my Bible though, and it's a lot more significant than I had realized. It combines the traditional Greek and Hebrew greetings, but connects them clearly to the only source of true grace (God's unmerited favor) and peace (total well-being and security that God provides). Pretty cool.
  • Verse 12 states Paul's desire to "be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." This resonated with me especially now as a small group leader. My role is to lead them and minister to them, but they always challenge me and encourage me in my faith and minister to me in return in how they share and grow and are involved in our small group and in our Bible studies. Faith isn't meant to be lived alone- we need support and community and accountability and mutual encouragement.
Romans 1:18-32- The unrighteousness of all people: Gentiles
  • Verse 21 says "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened." Verse 25 says "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator- who is forever praised." Powerful verses, and sadly, so true for so much of our society. So often, the created is worshiped and held in higher importance than the Creator. Most Americans, especially, know of God, but don't glorify Him or give thanks to Him as they should. I know I'm included in that group- it's the battle of our hearts as we live in this world but strive to not be of it, even when it seems easier to just live in the ways of the world. These verses were convicting for me- I want to wholeheartedly glorify Him, give praise to Him, and serve Him as Lord.
Romans 2:1-3:8- The unrighteousness of all people: Jews

Verses that stood out to me:
  • "God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance." -2:4
  • "You, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?" -2:21
  • "But if our unrighteousness brings out God's righteousness more clearly, what shall we say?" -3:5
My rambling thoughts as I read through this passage:
  • We have no place or right to judge others because we are guilty of sin just as much. We judge others and somehow think God won't judge us in return. God's patience and kindness with us is not Him giving us the okay to keep doing what we're doing- it's Him giving us a chance to repent of what we've been doing. Eternal life will be given to those who persistently do good in seeking glory, honor, and immortality. Those good works are an overflow of genuine faith being lived out- not what creates faith. God is ultimately concerned with our hearts and not our bodies being circumcised or not. The true sign of belonging to God is not an outward mark on your body (circumcision) but a regenerating power of the Holy Spirit within (circumcision of the heart). If our hearts are seeking Him and obeying His laws, we will be declared righteous. Our current sinful state of unrighteousness and sin illuminates His perfect righteousness even more, which should stir our hearts and call us to repent and turn our hearts away from darkness and into His light.

Stay tuned as I continue through Romans! Read along and share your thoughts with me if you want, I'd love to hear other thoughts and perspectives!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Future plans

Everyone always says that home is where the heart is. It's a nice idea, but it's so much more complicated than that. Ever since this past summer in London, I've been wrestling like crazy with trying to figure out where I'm supposed to be.

My heart has been so torn between so many places and so many people and so many passions, and I haven't had any peace or clarity about where I'm meant to be.

I came home from London with the mindset that I was graduating in May, and taking a few Maymester classes to finish things up. It was shocking to adjust to, but I came to terms with it. And then I came back to JMU. And it was exciting and high energy and I got so wrapped up in all the potential of new communities and positions and I didn't want to ever leave. So, I dropped a class that was stressing me out, and I decided I was staying until next December and only graduating a semester early.

And now, the semester has reached the halfway point, and I've been realizing a LOT. This isn't where I need to be for another year and some change. I have absolutely loved my time at JMU, but I can feel it coming to a close sooner than that.

"He intentionally puts his people in situations where they come face to face with their need for him." -David Platt in Radical

This past weekend brought a lot up in my heart. I went home and got away from all of my life here and had time to just think things through. Yesterday, I spent all evening calling all sorts of people in the registrar's office and checking MyMadison a million times and trying to figure everything out...and it's all working out flawlessly. I can walk in graduation in May, and finish my remaining credits this summer.

God is so, so, so good. I'm finally at peace about it all. I didn't believe it could all work out this late in the game, but God is opening so many doors and creating such a clear path ahead of me.

It's a big change, and I know people are going to have all sorts of opinions on it. But, I'm ready. I'm ready for graduation and moving on and new adventures and new places and new challenges. And more than that, I have such peace and confidence in the fact that I know this is what God is calling me to do.

"This is how God works. He puts his people in positions where they are desperate for his power, and then he shows his provision in ways that display his greatness." -David Platt in Radical

I'm thankful for a Father who is providing for me so tangibly. I'm thankful for my time at JMU and for how much I've grown in my faith and in my relationships. I'm thankful for the people closest to me who are supporting me and encouraging me to follow my heart and where I'm being led. I'm so excited for what's ahead and for how I'll grow so much more in my dependence on Him and confidence in His will for my life.

"I'll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out- plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. When you come looking for me, you'll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed." -Jeremiah 29:11-13, The Message

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Four days of solitude

It has been building up in me for a while: a need for solitude. A need for aloneness. A need to disconnect. A need to then reconnect.

Wednesday night, I decided to take the leap. I called Kyle and tried (and probably failed) to explain why I needed to cut off all communication with him for a while. I logged out of Facebook and Twitter on my phone and my laptop and turned the self-control app on for as long as it would let me. I cancelled lunch and dinner dates and didn't schedule any new ones. I didn't make any plans. I was going to do this all or nothing.

It might sound petty or stupid or like a really dramatic and unnecessary idea, but I knew I needed it. I knew the Spirit was leading me to just take a step back from things that had been consuming my time and energy so I could focus on what He was doing in my heart. So, I trusted, and I did it.

It was NOT easy. Let me tell you. I'm an introvert, and I always love my alone time. This time, though, being alone with myself meant really being focused on my heart and my emotions and what God was speaking into me, and it was intimidating. I didn't have distractions of checking Twitter or texting Kyle or just being absorbed in my phone. I really just had myself and God and a lot of thoughts in my head, and it was a little scary.

Thursday I was reluctant. I lingered where people were. I stayed in the kitchen with my housemates instead of just going to my room and being alone. I didn't know if I wanted to know what I was going learn from this time. I was just so hesitant to really embrace this period of time.
Thursday I was refreshed. I noticed little things around me. I looked at the faces of people I passed instead of looking at my phone like usual. I looked at the sky and the ground and I just observed. It was refreshing to not have to worry about keeping connected with other people.
Thursday I was present.
Thursday I was really, truly, alone. I shut everything and everyone out. I made a new playlist of calming worship songs that I love. I lit all the candles in my room. I listened. I wrote. I sat. I thought. I prayed. I cried. I worshipped. I wondered. I struggled. I wrestled.

Friday I was reminded. It was a beautiful morning, and I was so overwhelmed by God's love for me. I saw it in everything around me. I felt a real, tangible sense of a beautiful and powerful love that only my Abba could provide. I was so content, so at peace, so rested.
Friday I was craving. The words of 1 Peter 2:2 kept ringing in my ears- I was like that newborn baby, CRAVING more. I had tasted the pure goodness of my Father and I was so hungry for more. I was so engaged and tuned in to what the Spirit was pouring into me, and I wanted so much more. I was so encouraged.

Saturday I was uplifted. Spending the whole day with my family was wonderful. It was a day full of fun adventures- farmers markets and book fairs and football games and meals. It was fun and simple and easy and just perfect. Being with them reminds me of everything I am. They have always known me  and always loved me. I'm the realest form of myself when I'm with them, and it always refreshes me and encourages me. They're my best friends and favorite people in this whole world, and they just make my heart happy.
Saturday I was content. I've learned a lot. I've struggled. I've grown. I've been so reminded of the basics, of what's important, of what my Father says I am, of how He loves me perfectly. I needed time away from things, but I'm so ready to step forward and re-engage with people and my passions in a more confident and committed way. No more apathy for this girl. I feel so refreshed and restored and ready for what He has ahead of me.

Having to depend so fully on the Word and my time with the Lord over the past few days because there was nothing else to turn to reminded me that He truly is the giver of life as it's meant to be lived. Apart from him, I'll never feel fulfilled or alive or restored. I'm restless until I rest in Him, and that has never been more true than now. Resting in Him restored me in ways I didn't know I needed restoration. And it feels good. Really good. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Abba.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Stay tuned...

There's going to be a nice and juicy blog post coming soon...

Detoxing from Facebook/Twitter addictions and cutting off communication in my relationship and taking a step back from social engagements this week has opened my eyes and my heart to a lot. Get ready for a whole lot of processing via writing and blogging to come in the next few days!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

You are.

You are in the still of the night, in the cool, crisp darkness full of the chirping of crickets.
You are in the fog of every dawn, in the sweet breath of life the sunrise brings.
You are in the joyous, wide-eyed smiles of infants discovering the world minute by minute.
You are in the distance, in every mile, in every conversation.
You are in the foundations, in the cornerstone on which my hope is grounded.
You are in the changing of seasons, in the transitions and turning tides and tomorrows.
You are in the past, in the hurt and in the healing, in the hope and in the heartbreak.
You are in the moment, each unique and each an opportunity.
You are in the circle of friends coming together as a community and a family.
You are in the stillness, the silence and solitude of aloneness.
You are in the chaos, in the hectic and in the frantic and in the panic.
You are in the ancient days, in the days of creation and separation and redemption.
You are in the heavens, glorious and full of splendor.
You are in all. You were, you are, you always will be.
You are.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

NSR- Take two.

NSR (New Student Retreat). It's a weekend retreat an hour away from JMU in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, it takes place about a month into your freshman year, and you go with your small groups that you really hardly know.

DOE bridge pose!

DOE piggybacks


Flashback to my freshman year. I went to the first IV Large Group with a friend who knew upperclassmen who were on exec. I signed up for a small group, and subsequently signed up for NSR a few weeks later. The girls in my small group seemed nice, but I had SO MANY guards built up, I had been hurt so much by so-called friends and past youth groups. I knew that I so desperately needed community, but I was so actively fighting it with all I had. I didn't want to share my story. I didn't want to let these girls in. I didn't want to be hurt again.

NSR was rough. I stayed glued to one girl's side, and everyone saw us as a clique and didn't really talk to us. I almost liked it, because it gave me a reason to feel entitled to keep my guards up. I loved worship, I loved CJ's talks, I loved being out at Highland Retreat Center. But I did not at all want to talk to these girls or share anything about myself with them. So I didn't. Our leaders (Anna and Vianne, you guys are awesome) tried so hard to get us all to talk and share, but it just was not happening. They had to call me out to get me to talk, and it just pissed me off even more. "If I wanted to talk, I would have talked," I kept thinking. I just kept on building up my walls even higher, keeping them out more and more.

Now flash forward to this year. I've grown SO MUCH in the past two years, I've shared my testimony and my life with the girls in my small group, and we've become a community, best friends, and family. I could never picture my life without those girls by my side through everything- God has moved mountains in my life through that support system and group. And now I'm leading my own group of freshman girls.

I was so anxious about this NSR weekend. I didn't want it to be like my experience was. I wanted to be excited about it, present in it, and open to what God had in store. Well, He blew me away. Not all of our girls could come, but we had an awesome group of 6 girls there with Stephie and I. We laughed, we were goofy, we sang a LOT of One Direction to practice for our freshman parody skit, we ate a lot, we had lots of inside jokes, and we got more real with each other.

The talks were awesome, as they always are. The worship was powerful. And our small group time was so much more than I ever expected. Getting to see the hearts of our girls and to start to deepen our relationships was so incredible. I never expected to be so overcome with emotions that I would cry...I'm really not a crier. I just was so in awe of what God was doing, of how present He was in the weekend, and of what He was reminding me of throughout it all.
our new bridge pose :)


Our inside joke pose ;)

God is so sovereign, so in control of everything I stress over and worry about. He has it, and He can do more with it than I could ever dream of. And He did. I'm so thankful for this weekend. I'm thankful for the girls I get to hang out with and get to know and lead. I'm thankful for a co-leader who is just awesome. I'm thankful that God loves me like He does, in such an overwhelming and unending way. I'm thankful that He equips me daily with everything I need, and that He covers me with grace that I can't understand.

Small groups rock. I'm so unbelievably blessed and in awe that I get to lead one. God is awesome. NSR is the best. The end.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Be Thou My Vision

Life has been moving at an insane speed since I last posted. I got home from London, Kyle visited for two weeks, I moved back to Harrisonburg and into the Dugout, I started training to be a freshman small group leader with IV, classes started, I went back to work, my health got significantly worse and no doctors have found answers, etc.

Here I am though, still trusting that God is good and sovereign amidst the craziness of my busy life, and still failing and needing His grace more and more.

Things I need to remember:
1. He is good, He is glorious, He is full of grace.
2. I'm nothing without Him.
3. The girls I'm leading are girls He loves fully and completely and deeply, and they are His creation. Nothing I do matters more than that. Loving them like He does is my goal.
4. My flesh may fail (and it most definitely is), but His spirit is so strong in me. My weaknesses let me rely more fully on His all sufficient strength.
5. I need to take one thing at a time and present all my concerns and fears and worries constantly to my Father in prayer. I don't need to get overwhelmed by my busy schedule and growing to-do list.

I've been constantly reminding myself of the words to the beautiful hymn "Be Thou My Vision"...

By thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I thy true son,
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise;
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
may I reach Heaven's joys, O bright Heaven's sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Finals Week

Sunday- submitted my final Writing in the Public Sphere paper to Nina via email...since my blog is already all wrapped up, THAT'S IT for that class! Just waiting for her feedback on everything and my final grades.

Monday- Media and Politics final at 10am. He had given us five essay topics during our last class session, and we had to write two of them in class. It was stressing me out to prepare for it, because I didn't know how much to research, what I needed to include, etc etc etc. It turns out that I prepared exactly how I needed to. I sat down in class to write them and completely visualized all the notes I had written out this weekend, and I breezed through writing both of them in the 90 minutes we had! I feel pretty good about them overall, I'm just nervous about his grading because he's so arbitrary with things like that. We'll see, I guess. I'm fairly sure I'll get a B in this class, but it's the only one I know I won't have an A in, so it's all good.

Tuesday- Turned my final Culture by Design paper in to Charlotte (it's due to her by 4 pm). Feeling good about that, good about that class in general! Had to go Media and Society to turn in our papers (differences between churches/faith/religion in the UK and the US and how media plays into it), and have a discussion about things we learned this semester being here. We were out of there by 10:45, and now there is absolutely nothing left that I have to do!

Aaaaannnndddd, just got an email from Nina about my final grades: A- on my exam, A on my blog, and A- in the class overall! HOORAY yayayay.

Her comments about my blog: 
 "It was such a pleasure to read your entry every week: I will really miss them! Your writing is polished, elegant, and, above, all thoughtful. I loved the way that you were able to strike such an effective balance between responding to specific questions and situating those answers within a much broader context. Keep on writing – always!"
She's awesome. And then there was this:

"Thank you for your very kind words in the final blog. This course was such a learning experience for me, and I was really anxious about how it would work in the beginning. We ended up making it up as we went along, but you made that so easy to do. You’ve impressed me over and over with your quick intelligence, thoughtfulness (this seems to be a word I keep returning to!), and curiosity. I wish you all the best. Please let me know occasionally how you are doing. And remember that you always have a room in Wimbledon! 
Enjoy the final days of your stay in London, and have a safe trip home. Nina" 

WAAAAHHH I'm going to miss that class like no other.

But, in other news, total freedom until my Saturday morning departure! What to do, what to do. I'm just ready to be back at this point. Trying to motivate myself to do things this week and stay busy, but I'm just pretty much checked out and tired. Almost done- so so crazy.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Things I'm looking forward to about the States

I've started to realize there are quite a few random things I'm really looking forward to about being back in the States. Friends and my family, you're a given.

Here they are.

1. Air conditioning.
2. Ice. Ice water. Ice all the time. Ice whenever I want ice.
3. My shower that has room for me to actually move around
4. Dishwashers. I've hand washed entirely too many dishes this summer and have really come to miss and appreciate dishwashers
5. Cell phone service, texting, iMessaging, not needing wifi to be able to talk to everyone all the time
6. Only a three hour time difference from Kyle (you mean we'll actually be in the same day most of the time?! Insane.)
7. Driving my car. I think I might have forgotten how to drive, though...
8. Listening to music on Pandora and Spotify. They don't work in the UK, and I miss having unlimited music all the time.
9. Pools. The river. Belle Isle.
10. Actual summer weather. And sunshine. And heat.
11. My whole closet full of clothes to choose from, not just the things I was able to bring with me.
12. Blinds and curtains that shut out the light when the sun rises so it doesn't wake me up at 4 am everyday.
13. My dog. Silly but so true. I miss that stinker.
14. Getting to be artsy. I miss painting and crafting and having everything I need to do so right in my room.
15. Wearing shorts. And dresses. And not lots of layers and rain jackets and rainboots everyday.
16. Family dinners.
17. Having tv, and catching up on my shows that I've been missing all summer.
18. All my usual hair/makeup/beauty products. For some reason, I didn't bring hardly anything. I'm pretty tired of the cheap, mint eucalyptus shampoo I bought here, and the funny smelling lotion that isn't even that great. And my hair products so I don't have to keep my hair all tied up everyday.
19. Actual coffee makers that are quick and easy and not French presses.
20. Being able to work out in my own house, with plenty of room and all the equipment I need, etc. It would be weird and really awkward if I did yoga in the common room here. I can't wait to work out again.
21. Ranch dressing! It doesn't exist here.

I guess not everything about leaving London is bad!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Last full Saturday in London

Is it really my last full weekend here? Dang. Not okay.

Today=Saturday=FINALLY time to go back to Portobello Market! I've been dying to go back all week but it's only on Saturdays, so I had to wait. Amanda went with me this time, and we left around 9:45ish to take the tube to Notting Hill. My migraine still hadn't gone away completely and I was feeling pretty nauseous, but I wasn't going to let it stop me. It also was POURING, so that was fun!

Yep, it was this gray and gloomy all day
It was fun to be back with someone else and not just on my own this time, and we wandered around a lot of the same stores and stalls I had gone to last week. I had a few places I knew I wanted to go back to, and I got to all of them to pick up things I had been thinking about all week. I'm DONE shopping for people now! I need to stop. I have way too much. Oops. That's what I get for being a gift-giving love language, I guess.

While Amanda was looking at a stall of retro Disney magazine covers, the stall owner (a middle-aged guy) started asking us where we were from, and if we were studying here, etc. Those are the questions we are usually asked by locals that talk to us, so it was nothing new or surprising. I started explaining what we were studying, and he started asking me pretty tough questions! I didn't realize how hard it was to define what I've learned in all my classes this summer, especially since they're all so different and so broad in their subject matter. He would net let me off easy though, and kept questioning and challenging what I was saying. It was pretty cool to be forced to explain what I've learned, especially to someone who lives here. The guy knew a LOT and it was an intimidating but really awesome conversation!

It rained basically the whole time we were there, which got to be pretty annoying. It's hard to manage shopping bags and umbrellas and purses and getting out money and looking at things, etc. We kept going until we got to the fruit and veg stands, got some really yummy goodies (strawberries, a grapefruit, asparagus), and then continued on to the prepared food stalls!

This is a little taste of what heaven looks like.

Amanda got Ghandian food that she loved, and I got a cheese and spinach crepe that I did not love. I don't know why I keep trying crepes, I never like them. Lesson learned. We sat on a tiny step under an awning to eat, and everyone stared at us when they walked by.

We found an AWESOME stall that had tons of baked goods for 3 for 2 pounds, 70 pents, so we both did that too! Yum.

Amanda and her rice, peanut butter chicken, and carrot dish!

my crepe getting made

my crepe (that I didn't really eat...)

I got an apple creme turnover, a Bath bun (since we didn't get them when we were actually in Bath), and a donut. Seriously, so good. Best decision. Unhealthy, but best.

We were getting ready to go, as we had no hands left, no cash left, and were sick of the rain. We took the bus back (MY FIRST SUCCESSFUL BUS JOURNEY IN LONDON YAY. Proudest moment.) and it was fun to just zone out and see the city passing by as we rode home.

Took a super long nap when we got back (rainy days are the best for naps, that's no surprise). Finally finished another one of my final papers, took a break to attempt to start packing up all the many souvenirs and gifts I have accumulated...goodness. Packing is going to be rough. I know I need another suitcase, but mine is currently probably way too heavy...ugh. Nightmare.

Made dinner- an omelette, and asparagus from today! Had part of my apple turnover for dessert- SO GOOD.

Wrote another one of my final papers, for Culture By Design. Why am I always the most motivated at night? Weird. Everyone is wanting to go out and drink every night and celebrate while we are still here, but I'm totally winding down and just wanting to get all my work done and be productive and journal a lot and reflect on my time here. I'm such an introvert.

Tomorrow is another day of being productive, and then tea time for our group activity!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Wednesday the 11th through Friday the 13th

Wednesday- last Writing in the Public Sphere class
We discussed 5 articles that had been my assigned reading for the week, and they were all about the public sphere in today's world with social media and the Internet playing a huge role. It was so interesting to see all the theories we've been discussing come into play in today's society. I had time halfway through to come upstairs and analyze my own Facebook and Twitter feeds and look at how many of the posts were about personal/private matters as opposed to matters concerning the general public or matters of public interest, and lemme tell ya, hardly ANY were really worthwhile. Makes you wonder about the point of it all, really.

Our outing was to the London Transport Museum (another outing we had replaced because of duplicates with my other classes) and we met up with Kelly and her teacher Judy (since their class is like ours, with just one student, and they were going there anyway).

I wrote a blog post for class about the outing and about my reflections of the class as a whole here: read that instead of me writing it twice :)

To sum it up, though, I was SO SAD to say goodbye to Nina after how incredible this summer has been having her class all to myself. She was SO affirming and encouraging throughout the outing, telling me repeatedly how glad she was that I didn't drop the class and how I'm a "real gem" and have been such an incredible student. I've never felt more appreciated, respected, and valued from a teacher. She became so much more than a professor to me over the past two months and I loved our time together so much. I want to soak up more and more of her wisdom and knowledge! Hearing her tell me that I'm brilliant and did incredible work this semester just blew me away and humbled me like no other, especially coming from her. It was a big love fest essentially, as Judy was just as complimentary of Kelly, and we were just as appreciative of them as our awesome teachers! We hugged goodbye at the museum gift shop after the outing and I definitely teared up. Best experience of the summer by far, and I'm so grateful that I had that class. SO thankful.

I spent quite a while browsing through the gift shop after Nina left, and found some cool things for people I still needed gifts for, which was awesome. Of course, when I left to walk home, it started to torrentially pour, and my umbrella flipped inside out about 5 times on the way. It was pretty awesome, lemme tell ya. I even tripped and almost fell flat on my face at one point too, so that was cool. Gotta love being by yourself and having no one to laugh with you when you make a total fool out of yourself!

I grabbed a sandwich on my way home for lunch, and ate when I got back to the house. I worked on writing some of my final papers and such for the afternoon. Made dinner at the house later on, had our group meeting and did our course/program evaluations, and then stayed in for the rest of the evening.

Thursday- no classes!
So weird that all of our classes are over and all that's left is final papers. Where has the time gone?

I woke up at 8 am to bombard Kyle with birthday love since that was when it turned his birthday in his time zone, and talked to him for a bit, and then went back to sleep for a few more hours since I had nowhere I had to be. When I finally woke up, I made lunch and worked more on my papers and got a bunch of random stuff done all day.

At around 6 ish, I left to go head towards the movie theatre where we had our group film night. It was raining like crazy again, and it wasn't the most pleasant of walks to the Soho area. I was trying to find a quick and easy place to eat on my own before the movie, but I wasn't super hungry and really just wanted a quick Pret sandwich. Of course, it was the first time in the entire time I've been here that I didn't see ten million Prets on every street...but I finally found one near the theatre and grabbed a sandwich really quick. Met up with the group at the theatre at 6:45 ish, and got our tickets to see "The Hunter."

I had watched the trailer for it and wasn't too excited about seeing it, but it ended up being a really well-made and intriguing movie. It was pretty intense and I was glued to the screen the whole time, and it made me cry too! Definitely a movie worth seeing, but not one I would need to see again. It was cool to see a movie at a London movie theatre too, since I hadn't done that yet! They have SO MANY commercials and previews before the movie at least 30 minutes of them. Too much.

I came back from the movie and went to bed pretty early.

Woke up early to head to St. Pauls again- there was a group of people who had wanted to go to the top of the cathedral when we went with class a few weeks ago that didn't get the chance to, so they were doing it today. Amanda and I wanted to go to the Twinings tea shop on Fleet Street afterward, so it made sense that I went with them and just waited for them to be done. It was a gorgeous morning, but got pretty chilly and really windy in the shade, but I stayed on the steps of the cathedral while they all went up, and then wandered around a bit to take a bunch of pictures of St. Pauls that I hadn't taken when we went the first time.

there's the group there!

After they all came back down, Amanda and I walked down Fleet Street to go to the Twinings tea shop again- I love that place! And wanted more tea for people back home. And Amanda hadn't been yet, so it was on both of our bucket lists to do before we left.

After a very complicated purchasing process (ringing things up more than once, than not at all, and us going back to fix it, the manager having to help us, etc), we finally got all the tea we wanted and were off in search of a Yo! Sushi for lunch!

One of my mom's coworkers has been reading this (Hi!) and recommended some new places for us to try to eat at, which was awesome since I've definitely been stuck in a Pret rut when I'm on the go. We ended up walking all the way from Fleet Street over to Brunswick Center to the only Yo! Sushi we knew of, and definitely worked up an appetite in the process.

It was such a cool place- a conveyor belt wrapped around the bar area and had color coordinated dishes that indicated the prices, and you just grabbed what you wanted and ordered other things from the waiter as well. I grabbed edamame from the belt, and ordered a veg noodle dish and dumplings too- best meal ever. So, so good.


Thank you so much for the recommendation, Amy! I can't wait to try Leon next. Let me know if there's anything else you suggest :)

I was pretty tired after all of our adventures, so Amanda and I came back to the flat. A horrible migraine promptly hit and decided to make my day suck, so I spent a lot of time trying to nap and rest and get rid of it, with no luck at all. Slept for a while but really needed to be productive, so I just decided to suck it up and catch up on my blog and get work done. Everyone else is out at a bar celebrating two birthdays of people in our group and I wish I was there...but sometimes you gotta just take it easy. Oh well.

Off to bed, hopefully my head doesn't hate me so much in the morning!

Monday/Tuesday, the 9th/10th

Monday- Media and Politics
We had about an hour of lecture, a break to go grab breakfast, and then no outing, but instead we watched the Prime Minister's questions online! The Prime Minister's questions is a weekly, 30-minute really energetic and amusing interrogation of the PM. Basically, people ask him questions and he avoids them very skillfully while everyone hoots and hollers and makes a ton of noise and gets very worked up. It was interesting to watch and definitely VERY different than politics in the US!

We got our papers back and got information about our final essays that will be written in class- it's the only class I'm really anxious about in terms of the final. I got a B on the paper, which was a little disappointing after all the work that I put into it, and even more so because everyone else wrote theirs the night before and got the same grades or better. Oh well. His comments were that my quotations were too long and I didn't include the page numbers in my if that's why I got a B, I at least feel good that my argument and writing was good, and it was just little things that docked my grade down.

We got out of class super early since we didn't have our outing, and I've spent the day doing readings and writing papers and getting stuff done for all my classes and just overall being productive!

When Amanda got back from her class, we went to the grocery store to get food for the week, and came home and made dinner (an omelette with lots of peppers for me, and fresh fruit). Have been working on writing my final paper for Media and Society all evening, too.

Tuesday- Media and Society
We talked about film and talked more about our final papers and watched two different movies for our class time, and then were off on our outing. We went on a walk around Soho that was pretty random, but we saw a bunch of record shops, saw where 20th Century Fox is located, went to the Radha Krishna Temple, went down a street where brothels used to be very popular, saw the Palladium, went to a record shop, and just explored the area basically.


our professor leading us through the streets of Soho

I'm constantly being surprised by how many new things I keep discovering that are right around where I've been living all summer- London has so much more to offer than I'll ever be able to see and explore fully.

After Soho, we had time before Culture By Design, so a few of us came back to Madison House to eat and kill time before class. I made a quick lunch and then we were back off to the FSU building for class.

We had a guest speaker instead of a normal lecture- the Film Adaptations professor (who is also BFF with our professor) came to talk to us about TV shows and the contrasts between similar types of shows in the UK and US and such. He was a really awesome professor, and I loved his lecture. We watched the teasers (intro scene before the opening credits) of a variety of pilots of TV shows from here and from the States, and it was really cool to see the differences and similarities between them.

After watching the clips, we got in groups and had to plan/write the teaser of our own cop drama show. At first, we had no idea what to make ours about, but we eventually came up with a pretty cool idea about a cop show set in suburbia. Our basic idea was a parallel between kids playing chase/cops and robbers on a playground and that scene switching to a real life chase between a good guy and bad guy in a neighborhood and then back to the kids, etc, as the two scenes echoed each other, ending in a shot being fired by the real good/bad guy right as one of the kids pretends to shoot another kid, and then the kids turning around because it turns out the real chase is on the street near where they are playing, etc.

It was really cool to hear the other groups' ideas and to discuss what was hard about writing the teaser, etc. I really liked that we actually got to do it for ourselves instead of just watching real TV shows, and it was a really fun last class.

We got out pretty early since we didn't have an outing, which was nice. Came back to the flat and had time to kill again before we went to see Matilda!

We had to be at the theatre at around 6:30 pm, and it was just nearby in Covent Garden area, so we all walked there together to meet Rusty. We got our tickets from him and took pictures as a group before heading in to the theatre.

Our whole group with Rusty and his daughters!
I was getting SO excited for this musical- I loved Matilda as a kid and read the book several times and saw the movie and just love Roald Dahl's work, so I was really excited to see it come to life! When we got in and saw the AWESOME set, I got even MORE stoked about it. It was just so cool!

seriously, how cool is this?!

Liz, Kelly, me, Nora

The show was absolutely wonderful- the kids did SUCH a good job and the girl that played Matilda was excellent! It was so fun seeing the story come to life and to catch all the things geared at adults that would have gone over the kids' heads. The songs were so good and the set was just incredible the whole time, I loved it. Such a great show! Ahhh.

Came back to the house afterward and crashed! Tuesdays are always SO LONG.