Friday, November 25, 2011

The last stretch

Dear everyone,

Happy Thanksgiving! 

First off, I want to thank all my awesome Lincoln peeps-- Thanksgiving was great! I got several emails and Facebook messages wishing me a Happy Turkey Day and celebrated last night with the Shepherds, who cheerfully ate all the random, American dishes I put before them. I made my family's dressing for the first time ever and managed to whip up a delicious pumpkin pie. (And now get to enjoy left overs for lunch, lol).
I missed my family a bit but Rachel took off work and Neil was home sick so I never had to be alone. We also made it out to the cinema (true Smith-family style holiday) and saw Arthur Christmas-- a brilliant Christmas film with Hugh Laurie and James McAvoy voicing the sons of Santa. 

I was sad not to get to Skype my family but we did Facebook and I should be able to call them this weekend. 
And, in less than two weeks, I will be home! 

It's mad to think that I've almost been here for five months-- I ran a Holiday Club, finished my classes for DBU, traveled all around England, worked with five weekly clubs, seen Chatsworth House (the likely model for Pemberly), organized the children's ministry supplies, reorganized Jonathan's office, started a small group, taught several levels of Sunday school, learned how to lead worship, and more in just this amount of time. I've had some days when I wanted nothing more than to hop on the next plane to Texas. But I've had more days of being astounded by the warm welcome, total acceptance, and general love of this church. I have so many wonderful friends here and have really enjoyed working with all the kids-- from the sixth-month-old who I've literally watched grow to the preschoolers who steal my biscuits and the youth kids that come to everything and those that maybe come once a week.

This afternoon, I was just thinking about what happens next. I go home, graduate, have Christmas and New Years, and then.... well, God only knows. I have been invited to come back and we are praying about that. There is talk of staying with my grandmother or substitute teaching. I've even applied to some grown-up jobs, though I've yet to hear back from any of them. (Ka, can I please come back to the UWC???) It's funny, three years ago, I claimed to not be cut out for children or youth ministry, to only be helping until they found someone better, and that babysitting and tutoring kids were alright but I would never want a job working with kids. God laughed. Somehow, I have gone from leading worship on Wednesday nights and being the Sunday-School-Hermione to being, well, a youth ministry. A children's worker. Someone who crowed with delight when she got handed the six-month-old this morning. I've been reading these books on youth ministry and thinking I am too young for this! I don't have anything wise to say-- I haven't lived enough yet! I don't have any sort of Bible degree and there is no way I will every find chubby bunny funny and then the verse from Timothy popped into my head "Don't let anyone look down upon you because you are young, but be an example for the believers in speech, in life, in faith and in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12). 

So yeah, I don't really know where God is taking me in January. Currently, I would like to come back. I feel like my work here isn't finished. We went to a youth leaders forum on Monday night and now I have soo many ideas for a ministry I am about to leave! I don't know if  God is calling me to full-time children's and youth work but I do know he has a plan for me. 

These past few months, I have been able to use my natural leadership abilities (called 'bossy'-- ask my mom or any of my old babysitters) along with the things I learned at DBU, TCAL, and Fortress to fill in the needs here, creating a role that covers under for my leadership and covers over for the people I am responsible for. I was so afraid to start Harbour (our college and uni Bible study) but it's become one of my favorite programs. I didn't think I could lead worship without becoming a diva but God has allowed me to use my talents and helped me keep my ego in check. He has taken me so far beyond what I thought I was capable of (this internship, in my mind, was update the website and follow the youth and children's minister around... hahaha!). I am so honored to be a part of the thriving ministries God has based at Lincoln Baptist Church. 

I can't wait to be home; I really do miss you all horribly. Every now and then, I get a bit nervous about the future. But God keeps telling me to rest in him. It's so great to serve a God who has it all figured out-- so I don't have to! 

I guess we will see what January brings!

Please pray for my last week and for the church, that any hole I leave will be filled and for their own direction in the new year. 

How can I pray for you? 

Internationally yours,


PS: Thanks for being patient and keeping up with these posts-- I appreciate all of you who read these and pray for me!

Sunday, October 30, 2011


First off, thanks everyone for all the responses to my last post. It was a gross 24 hours but but the end of it, I felt so loved and taken care of-- thank you thank you thank you! 

Now, for more cheerful fare: 
I got to go to OXFORD! And STRATFORD-UPON-AVON! And Cambridge and to Cotswolds were pretty too. 
Ah-- I really like traveling, being new places, meeting a few people, or just wandering about on my own. I have a whole 5 day adventure right through the soul of England. 

Day 1: Depart for Oxford

I have longed to be in Oxford since reading these lovely books (careful, the link comes with Narnia music). Oxford is where CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien and so many other great minds were and are. It's been a center of learning since the 1100s-- wow!!! It shows up in so many books and authors' bios that I had to go. We followed a CS Lewis-themed-print-off-from-some-blog-tour that actually took us to some great places. The city was full of beautiful buildings-- ever so often I would just stare up in wonder, silently adoring the dreaming spires. 

Bridge of Sighs
Magdalen College

The Bodliean, Radcliffe Camera

And in the midst of marveling at the wealth of beauty and brilliance, we made a few Lewis-inspired stops:

We didn't do an official tour of Lewis' house and the church was closed but I got a quick picture of The Kilns (and probably accidentally creeped on Dr. Naugle....) and the grave. The church was lovely and there was just this gathering tranquility in the twilight. I am really glad Neil drove me all the way out there.

Going around Magdalen College was lovely and I really enjoyed seeing the treasures of the Bodleian Library (they had a First Folio of Shakespeare!!!!). I left Oxford quite worn out and extremely pleased with the day.

Day Two: Rest, as it was Sunday, church with Neil's parents (who opened their home to Neil and Rachel and I since they live smack between Oxford and Stratford-Upon-Avon), and a nice driving tour of the Cotswolds. 
The Cotswolds are an area of England full of charming little villages, old churches, and lots and lots of fields. The scenery is lovely and they were just beginning to dress up for autumn so driving over little hills and around quick corners provided no end of pretty country sites.

Day Three: Neil and Rachel dropped me off in Stratford-Upon-Avon and headed back to Lincoln. After dropping my bags with my B&B, I set off exploring.

I mostly did Shakespeare stuff and it was marvelous! Anne Hathaway's Cottage was my favorite-- it was a short walk out from town and this lovely house with a large garden and friendly guides. They had a scary walk through the woods set up (for kids) with figures from Shakespeare's tragedies along the path. The house itself held so much history-- it was all restored to it's 14th century glory and there was quite a bit about the romance of Will and Anne. It was a pretty, peaceful place.

The other houses were neat but nothing much stands out from them. They had much of the same furniture and same details about the life of The Bard. At Hall's Croft, I learned a bit more about 15th century medicine to add to my knowledge from "Matilda Bone" and  "The Midwife's Apprentice" while creating my own cure for the plague. Nash's house had some nice details about Shakespeare's post-retirement life and a cool dig for the house Will actually lived in once he got back from London. Shakespeare's Birthplace was actually chosen randomly but had a lot about his early years and what life would have been like for the boy Will. And Mary Arden's farm (Will's mum) was also quite nice though quite far out-- I took a short train ride. This was my second favorite for similar reasons to Anne's house: lots of nice places to walk about outside. There were lots of fun, silly things going on for kids for Halloween and I did a few but for the  most part, I enjoyed breathing in the history of Shakespeare and walking through the world he came from. 

That evening, I had a fun, fancy dinner where I tried pumpkin ravioli (I'll stick to meat or cheese or mushroom but it was interesting) and looked around the Royal Shakespeare Company's theater. In the morning, I got up early to visit the church where Will is buried before my train left for Cambridge. I got there so early that I hopped up level with the grave markers and was taking pictures before the caretaker could shut the gold-do-not-cross-this-ever bar! He was really kind about it and the staff thought it was funny that I was there at opening time but I got some great pictures and quite enjoyed an early morning visit to the greatest writer ever. 

A few pics for you (my camera didn't get batteries till about halfway through my day--- so I bought waaay too many postcards-- so nothing too exciting):

The grave curse! 
the church
actually at the grave...

Day Four: Early visit to the grave, then on the train to Cambridge. I spent most of the day on the train, writing and reading, and then the evening in my hotel room because it was about two miles out of town and I didn't want to walk back in after dark! It was nice to have time to just rest, especially after my frenetic tour of Stratford the day before.

Day Five: Cambridge did not have the soaring beauty of Oxford or the rustic charm of Stratford. It almost felt like a wanna-be Oxford until I got on my handy dandy hop-on-hop-off bus tour and began to listen to the commentary. Oxford was full of amazing minds but Cambridge holds it's own: Newton, Watson and Crick, Byron, Milton, Darwin, Marlow, Jane Goodall, John Cleese, Samuel Taylor Colridge, CS Lewis himself, and many many more brilliant minds studied or worked at Cambridge. I spent most of the day here taking pictures of grand buildings (less airy than Oxford but still lovely) and doing the bus tour. King's College was absolutely magnificent but I was also pleased to find this legit old round church built by the crusaders!
Some photos:

King's College

About 2 pm, I hopped on my train and headed back to Lincoln, back to real-life and rude people and hanging out with friends and work that is *hopefully* making a difference. I loved visiting around England I can't wait to do it again. But I also like having a place I belong (for now) and work to do when I am done. 

And look what was waiting for me in Lincoln! 

Seen through a grimy train window. I read a lot of Lewis on the trip as well as a dash of Shakespeare and I think both would see poetry in this picture--the lovely bright rainbow viewed through a grimy window-- promise of a magnificent world to come if we can only deal with the window for a little while more (it was stunning in real life, oh just wow).

So that was my grand adventure last week! It was marvelous!

Thank you again for your prayer and your concern. Please continue to pray I finish strong and also for direction for January-- it's getting close and it's a bit terrifying! Let me know how I can pray for you!

Internationally Yours,


PS not matter what I do to arrange these photos, they do silly things! Any tips?

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Not gonna lie, it's been a fairly cruddy day. Yesterday I had an old lady be rude to me at the train station. I deserved it-- I left my bags on a bench rather than putting them on the nasty wet ground while I waited for my ride. I let her and her friend have the seat I was going to sit in but left my bags out of thoughtlessness, germaphonia, and a whole host of other stupid reasons. Rather than ask me to move my bags, she made a really cutting remark as they left. She probably had a bad day, her feet hurt, there was a big group of them and she wanted to be alone. But I chose to be selfish and leave my bags. She chose to be nasty about it when leaving when there was no way to fix the situation. She could have noticed my distraction (racing from door to window), she could have asked me to move them. But she didn't. And I wasn't noble, thoughtful, smart, kind, etc. enough to do it on my own. Now I am dwelling and trying to forgive myself for being dumb and her for calling me out on it in a mean way. But it's really hard.

Today is gray, drizzle as far as the eye can see. I have a looooong post-vacation to-do list and part of this included getting my dance shoes looked at because part of the heel came out. I called the dance shop and he told me to come by and he could work with the shoe company from there. I thought I adequately explained what was wrong with my shoes on the phone (the spindle and rubber bit on one heel came off) but apparently jot. I walked the two miles out to the shop (other errands meant going via foot rather than bus was less confusing). I showed him the shoes and he lectured me in a thick accent on how this is just wear and tear and how could I expect him to do anything and why was I wasting his time and he couldn't believe I would even bother him with this. I said okay about 20 times and walked out pretty much in tears. I didn't know that dance shoes wear out so quickly-- my Capezios lasted though two musicals and three months of swing dancing. These lasted two months. When I tried to explain my other shoes lasted much longer and thus I expected these similarly-priced and -advertised shoes to last as long but obviously not, I will just go now, sorry to bother you--  he continued to rant about how I wasted his time and it was just wear and tear. Ug. I felt so stupid and so looked down upon.

Between those two encountered, the long drizzly walk, and immense wave of homesickness, I found myself despising Lincoln (because people are so much nicer back home... Not so much. People are people everywhere and they are grumpy or rude or thoughtless everyday, everywhere. Welcome to the fallen creation known as Earth.) And because Oxford and Stratford are so much prettier. And there I could be the young American tourist. Here I have to be something of an adult.

I picked up the box from my mom, found a coffee shop and had peppermint tea while opening the box and reading the comics, which did actually make me laugh. And I put on my music and got two great songs right off the bat: Let it Go by Superchick and Sunrise by Brandon Heath. Now Falling out by Reliant K is on.

I just got back from a great trip around England and I loved the trip. But I didn't make time for my usual Bible study routine and my exercise routine while away, so my spiritual barriers were down. Little things have jerked me sharply back to reality and my emotions are not at all being logical. I feel like I'm on this roller coaster of being really happy and wanting to collapse and cry (yeah, the whole month thing doesn't help). Today, and last night really, I jut felt wry homesick and weary, very much under attack. On my end, I have gotten back into my Bible study and prayer routine, I've got my Air 1 (Christian radio) mix on my iPod, and I am going for a nice jog this afternoon. Could you please be praying for me? I have a month and two weeks left and I refuse to let Satan pull me to pieces. This trip to England is not about me-- it's about living my life for Chris, about sharing Him with the kids that come to our church, and about pouring my gifts and strengths into strengthening this church. God doesn't need me but e gave me this awesome opportunity. So please pray I stand strong and not be afraid to share my struggles. Pray thy God reveals his face and power to me and then through me. Pray that I just feel better.

Thank you for reading, for caring, for praying.

I would like to be praying for you as well-- just let me know what I can pray for.

Thank you.

Internationally yours,

PS sharing all this rather than bottling it up has helped as well. Thanks for reading.

PPS Since writing this, I looked around my room at all my cards, listened to some really good music, had lunch, and cleaned my room. I feel much more sane now. But the whole point is that what I feel doesn't matter! God is in control and it is what He feels and He wants that I need to be focused on. And in the end, what is a terrible, horrible, no good day really depends on my perspective and how I chose to react to what I cannot change!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Bit about the Whos and the Whats and the Wheres and the Whys

Hello everyone, 

Someone recently asked me about my work here and what specifically to pray for. Thus the second blog in a week! Yay!

I don't have a nifty title but I do a bit of everything. On Mondays, I have a team meeting with the pastor and youth pastor where we go over what's been done in the past week, what is coming up for the current week, any problems, and then pray into the issues, plans, and other stuff for the new week. Then I make a nice to-do list and get it approved by Jonathan, youth pastor and my supervisor, and do that over the week, inter-spaced with actual ministry events. This list could have 'design website page for children's ministry, write children's talk, prep for middle school Sunday school, plan youth event, email that guy about university stuff, run college/uni group, and organize a corner of the office' or something along those lines. Throughout the week, I do my list, adding things and crossing things off as they come and are accomplished. Some things are easy-- call the school to check on my background check (remember to dial 9 to get out of the church!)-- and others are harder and more time consuming-- write this weeks Bible lesson for the university group. 

As the week goes on, I also answer the telephone and the door, make sure we have supplies to run our ministries, and generally get on with things. We also have regularly run programs that I attend every week. These are:

Monday: Mother and Toddler Group
Tuesday: Young Adult or University group (they meet on alternating weeks)
Wednesday: Senior Citizen's Luncheon, After School Kid's Club
Thursday: Elementary Aged kids club in the evening at the church
Friday: Youth club in the evening at the church
Saturday: My day off! Except when the church has something going on, which it does almost every other week
Sunday:Church, possibly running Sunday school, then evening church or Youth discipleship class

Every day I get either morning, afternoon, or evenings off and then I take a full day off once a week. I do have plenty of time to read (I read a lot!), Facebook (kind of addicted), Exercise-y things (just starting up on that one), hanging out with my hosts Neil and Rachel, watching TV, writing my blog, thinking about writing my book, and hanging out with my friend Hilary (just one). I also go swing dancing every Wednesday night and this is really crucial away time I think. I love working at the church and with all these different ministries, but my job doesn't really end if I am not at the church building or off the clock. With swing dancing, for four hours every week, I am completely away from work.

All that said, I really enjoy working for a church. It's casual and friendly (I can wear my Writing Center gear to work!) and I interact with a lot of different people. I can retreat to my office or even take a walk around the block if I need space to myself and scheduling is quite flexible. I have responsibilities and the freedom to work how I like, though I am accountable to no few number of folks and very accountable to God. I am learning a lot about God too, and about people, as I write these Sunday school plans and live in the midst of a church family. Occasionally I wake up on a Sunday and grumble about going to work, but honestly I really love this job and would like to look at working for a church when I get back. It suits me. 

As for prayers, any prayers are much appreciated. Specifically, you can pray for the church:

Children: that children are cared for at home, excelling in school, loved by those who look after them, and open to hearing the word of God.

Parents: that they will send their children to us, that they will come and interact with us, that God will soften their attitudes and turn their hearts to Him, that God will provide all they need to care for their children.

Pastors: that our pastors will get enough rest and be constantly refreshing themselves with the Lord, that God will give them wisdom and will speak through them in mighty ways.

Leadership: that God will give them strength and wisdom to make wise decisions, that God will inspire those leading others, and that they will seek God daily and in all they do.

The Church: that God will grow our faith and teach us to trust in him, that we will make a wise decision regarding staffing and leadership, and that we will grow in unity and outreach. That we remember our call to the community.

Obviously, much of this can be applied to any church but prayer works and moves mountains and if we are faithful with the humdrum, we will be given more responsibilities. 

Pray for me specifically: 
Direction: I still have no idea what to do in January. Options and ideas involve a job in London, coming back here, living with family, getting a job back home, a job in Dallas, or grad school (though that would be fall because I need to take the GMAT). India has also come up in my prayers so that's terrifying. 

Stress: I got really stressed out a few weeks ago and my body reacted. I didn't realize how stressed I was but yeah. So I've added exercise to my daily routine and am taking more time for myself in the evenings. I usually don't feel very stressed but I may need to slow down a bit.

Pray for Rachel, my hostess-- she is in the hospital and they really aren't sure what's up so that's not fun at all. 

My family: they miss me. I miss them too. 

My leadership: pray that I am a wise, listening leader who does not jump to conclusions or try to simply solve problems but one who waits on the Lord and follows his leading and wisdom. Pray that I give the first portion of my time and talents to the Lord and to the church here. 

England in general: There really is such a strong apathy and even antagonism towards Christians here. Pray that Christians will be unashamed to stand up for their beliefs and that Jesus will strengthen them in prosecution. Pray people will see Jesus in the lives of His followers and will want to know Him as well. Pray that people are having their needs met and not settling for living off government hand outs and pray the church can step in and help meet those need. Pray for the apathy, pray that Religious Education (a school subject here) begins to teach the truth and not just a watery blend of religions. Pray for England. 

hmmm... For the most part, I think this is where I am. There is so much to pray for and so much going on, but this is my life for now.

If there is anything I can be praying for you about, let me know-- I would love to pray for you as you pray for me.

Grace and Peace and Blessings and lots and lots of Love,

Internationally Yours,

London!!! (I even have picture of Big Ben!)

I went to London this past weekend!!! Seriously, it's so cool-- London has been around since the Romans, so much history is smelted into it's streets. One weekend was never enough but I got to see some sites, go to Covent Gardens and Oxford Circus (shopping places lol), and made it to the Globe!!! Ah, Shakespeare... We also saw The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) in a little pub and I rode the Tube everywhere! (We actually spent about half the trip getting on or off the tube). At one station-- the deepest on the line-- one of the guys in our elevator to the surface pushed the "help" button and rather than wait for another lift, Jenny, Hilary, and I decided to climb the stairs to open air. All 193 of them. Yeah, that hurt.

So I went down to London with my friend Hilary and we stayed with her friend and my new friend Jenny. We left on Friday and Day One was spent travelling with about four hours in London (including getting Gelato!) and Day Two was spent walking around London (wish Sushi for lunch-- yum!) while Day Three we actually spent in Jenny's town, a little suburb-town called Harpenden, where we went to a wedding fair (because Jenny just got engaged!) and then out walking. Jenny's mom made a splendid roast dinner and we did facials and manicures in the evening. Day Four was return trips and laundry and on Tuesday I was back to work!

I didn't really make it to the Tower or Buckingham Palace or anything so I need to go again... (who wants to come with!) but for what we did do in London, I had a lot of fun and loved being part of such a vibrant city if only for a weekend!

With no further delays, pictures:

Hilary on her way to Hogwarts...

The First thing we did was find Platform 9 3/4

Covent Gardens is a pretty cool area-- lots of shops and performers and food all around. We found a nifty paper-doll theater shop and the Disney store (of course). I loved watching the living statures and this Charlie Chaplin impersonator was pretty funny. I was simply dazzled by London at this point. 

For a while, I went around and just took pictures of stuff. All these cool buildings and statues and history and creativity were just everywhere. Some made me smile, some were just awe-inspiring, and then there was ordinary stuff that kept it all grounded.

St. Paul's Cathedral (Thames side)
Cait getting artistic with her shots
This handsome gent guards Lord Nelson

Artistic shot of Nelson's statue. Sadly this is my best shot too.... 

More handsome lions... and speaking of lions: 

Big Ben! I got creative there too. :) and had my picture done with a charming phone booth (these things are all over the place, seriously!)

Cool bus

Super cool cab-- they are usually black.

Oh, did I mention we stopped by two different Disney stores? Yeah... the one in Oxford Circus was soo cool though! They had this sillouette of London on the store and then the Disney Characters who went there as well. So there is a sillouette of the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Garden and then the shapes of Peter, Wendy, Jon, and Michael swooping over the stature. Mary Poppins, Basil Mouse, Dalmations, and more show up on London via Disney as some point or another. 

of course Captain Jack was there! 

As we moved to more Elizabethan (and older!) sections of the city, we found all kinds of cool stuff. This is Sir Francis Drake's ship, the Golden Hind (great fairy tale too!!!).

A stature of Laurence Olivier... such a great Shakespearean! 

Then.. The GLOBE!!!!

The last evening we went to:

Then went back to the station and left London for now...

So yes, my first Great London Adventure. It was wonderful! 
I have more pics from various other activities so there will be another blog this week hopefully. For now, I get to go home and make some nice Chinese Chicken wings. 

Thanks for all your prayers everyone; I know they are helping to keep me sane and in the Spirit and just where I am supposed to be. I still don't have a clear direction for January so please be praying about that. And keep praying for our church, our program, and all the kids who come here. They are great and God is working here-- it's palpable, it's glorious, and I am so blessed to be a part. None of this would be possible without my support from home and I cannot wait to see you all again. But I also am sad just to think about leaving. Maybe God will let me come back. Anyways, life is full here. I appreciate your prayers and I would love to pray for you. Let me know and I will put you on my prayer list! 

Grace and Peace and Gentle rain Blessings galore to you all,

Internationally Yours,