Posted in Blogging for Books, Book Review

English Lessons

Hold on…don’t go anywhere. I’m not going to (intentionally) give you any lessons about English. Instead, I want to talk about an interesting little story that I recently read.

Through bloggingforbooks, I stumbled across a book by the daughter of Max Lucado, Andrea Lucado, that tells the story of her journey closer to God that happened to coincide with her journey to Oxford (England that is).

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From the first page of this book, I was connected. This girl gets me. She and I both practically grew up in church, so our faith in God just seem connected to who we are. That doesn’t mean we were immediately saved upon birth or anything; we definitely still each had to make our own decisions about who God is to us. In fact, that’s the purpose of her book, English Lessons.  In this personal memoir, Andrea tells of how she traveled to Oxford thinking she could use it as her personal mission field (that’s how I felt in London). Once she arrives, she realizes that being the sole Christian in her graduate classes may be harder than she thinks (I can relate). She begins to question the validity of her own faith. Through a series of friendships and experiences, she comes to realize that her life is so much richer with God, and she can’t imagine her life without God.

I was immensely jealous of Andrea’s story firstly because Oxford was a place in England I did not get to visit. Secondly, she was able to experience the city and meet so many interesting characters. Thirdly, she is very articulate about her story of questioning her faith and then coming back to God. She tells the story in a way that makes me want to ponder my own story again and be more reflective. There are possibly still lessons I could learn from the events that have happened and will happen within my own life.

Even though this book is clearly marked as an uncorrected copy and won’t actually be published until later this year, I am glad to have read it now. Andrea’s story is both personal to her and relatable to the many church kids out there who wonder what their life would have been like if they hadn’t grown up going to church.

For more information about this book, visit the publisher’s website.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Posted in Life, London, Music

Everything Rides on Hope

“Everything rides on hope now…”

The past couple weeks have been a bit of a rough transition back into life here in the States. I knew I might have some stress jumping straight back into classes and work, but I never imagined how stressful and how purposeless I would feel. There have been times I just feel like I’m moving through life with no purpose. Most of this feeling is just because I have been exhausted and tiredness always messes with my emotions, but part of this emotion is true. My life in London had so much purpose on a daily level, but here at school it’s harder to see the purpose of everyday life. I have been frustrated with the idea of sitting in classes and writing papers just to get a grade. It feels so pointless compared to the work I did in London. Last night was one of those nights, but my friend reminded me that I have to look at the bigger picture. Sitting in classes and writing papers does have purpose in that it is preparing me for more. Also there are little things in life that I can do that have daily purpose and serve a goal of sharing love.

“When my life is like a storm
Rising waters all I want is the shore
You say I’ll be ok and
Make it through the rain
You are my shelter from the storm”

Hope is what will pull me through this transition back to the daily grind here. Hope that God has it all figured out. Hope that He will reveal my heart’s questions in the right time. Hope that God knows what I desire and how and when to best fulfill those desires. Hope that it will feel better soon. Hope that I will make it through.

There’s nothing I can do to make life slow down a bit.

Hope.

“Everything rides on hope now.

Everything rides on faith somehow.”

Posted in London

Traveling Cheap

I don’t think I should ever get rich because I wouldn’t be any good at it anyway.  I can’t bring myself to live extravagantly.  So here are my tips on how to travel cheaply.

Tips for Traveling Cheap

1. Walk…not only does it save you bus fares but it means that the money you save by not buying bus tickets can be used to buy more treats (such as ice cream!)

2. Pictures make good souvenirs.  They’re free to take, you can personalize them, and they fit well into your luggage.  And really, they’re worth more than the cheap keychain you’d buy at the tourist shop anyway.

3. Speaking of tourist shops, avoid those.  You really don’t need any of that stuff.  If you really want a souvenir, find a local artist and support them. You’ll get something more unique anyway.

4. Couchsurfing is cool!  You meet locals, who can usually show you around and give you pointers about the area that you won’t find in a guidebook, and it’s free, although it is nice to do something or give something to your host.

5. Buy food at grocery stores rather than eating out every meal.  Typically this is cheaper, especially if you can split it with some buddies.  I usually try to do grocery store food for two meals and eating at a restaurant (although I don’t spend much at these either) for the other meal.

6. Free museums mean a free toilet.  There’s nothing more costly than having to pay to pee.  I know it helps keep the thrones clean but I don’t like to pay for this.  So when you see a free toilet take advantage of it.  Now this does not mean to just run into museums to solely use their toilet; at least take a look around while you’re there.  Restaurants also are a good place, but they usually would like you to buy something.

7. Street performers are like a free concert.  Who needs to pay exorbitant amounts to go to a concert in West End London when you can find some wonderful performers on the street?  Yeah, it’s not the same experience but if you’re on a tight budget this might be somewhere you can save a bit, unless there’s just something you really really want to see.  It might be nice to leave a tip if you’re gonna sit and enjoy their music for a while.  Also, on this strand, look for free or discounted concerts and theater productions in order to get your performance time while traveling.  

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8. Plan ahead.  Typically train and bus tickets are cheaper if you buy these in advance.  I know it cramps the free and independent style but it also saves a few dollars or pounds or Euros or whatever you’re using.

9. Pack your own silverware.  This seems small but it means you can buy cheap cans of food to snack on when you’re not eating out (see tip 5).  It is also better for the environment rather than using plastic all the time.

10. Take-away food is generally cheaper.  I love pastries and baked goods, but I’ve found that to get the treat for take-away is almost always cheaper.  I don’t mind finding a park to eat my treat if that means I save a bit.  Plus those places are usually tiny anyway and I much prefer the open outdoors.

11. Refill your water bottle, as long as the water is safe to drink.  This better for the environment and it saves you from buying a bunch of water bottles, which are always overpriced.  Water is good for you while traveling!

Posted in London

Looking Back

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My time in the UK is coming to a close.  Next week this time I’ll be home.  It feels strange to think that but comforting in a way as well.

Before I left, a friend sent me an e-mail encouraging me to think on how this experience would change me and to consider who I was at that moment and hold on to my cores.  I knew this trip would change me and I also doubted that it would change my core self.  Looking back, I don’t think it has negatively changed my core self- which I equate with my faith in God.  If anything, it has made my faith in God stronger.

So now that I am T-minus 5 days before I board a plane to the United States, I want to try to articulate what I’ve learned through my experience abroad.

1. God has to be enough.  In order to feel peace, I have to be at the point where if everything enjoyable and familiar were torn away, I could still be happy because I have God.  At times on this trip, I felt homesick and longed for people at home (home is a broad term to cover the US by the way).  I wanted the familiar but I couldn’t have it.  Those experiences taught me to love and trust God more because He was the only familiar that I had.

2. I can navigate a city.  I only got “lost” a couple of times, and I don’t count those as lost because I had a general sense of where I was.  I should add here that I can navigate a city without a smart Phone or internet access.  I relied mainly on paper maps.

3. I’m not wired to live in a city all the time.  Some people are but I need the open spaces where there is stillness and quiet.  Yeah it’s exciting to be in the city and there’s always something to see or do but I can’t be in the chaos all the time.  I have to get out.  It’s okay because I’m a small town kind of girl.

4. When I get stressed, I need alone time with music and God.  Really nothing else can fill that void and ease the stress.  Sleep and chocolate help as well.

5. Traveling is more enjoyable when it’s focused on people rather than places.  After a while, museums and old buildings start to lose their glamour once you’ve seen several.  People though are always changing.

6. Christian fellowship.  I’ve missed that.  I’ve had it with the church and small group I’ve attended but I miss the times at school when I have some sort of fellowship, whether it be church or Bible studies, with Christians on almost a daily basis.  It has been good to stand alone with God but I like it when there are others to stand with me and God.

7. The best laid plans of mice and men.  The best days I’ve had are the ones where I did very little planning.  I enjoyed the things that I stumbled upon probably because I was able to enjoy their awesomeness with no build-up in my mind.  Also, if I didn’t plan a ton then it was okay when things didn’t go exactly according to my plans.

I think I knew some of these things and this experience just reinforced them for me.  I’m sure there are many more things I could say I’ve learned but I’ll leave the list at seven for now.

Posted in London

The Magic of London

Dear You,

Six years ago I visited London in a whirlwind of tours and buses and buildings.  I was dazzled by the black taxies, red buses, and gold fences.  I stood in awe of the stature of Big Ben, the cycle of the Eye, and the length of The Mall.  I soaked in the way everything moved in a blur of busyness.  I came, I saw, and I went home thinking London was a magical place.  It is a magical place.

Now, six years and eight weeks wiser, I realize the magic of this city does not lie in the machines and buildings; those are only the containers for the true heart- the people.  The true magic of London is carried on those British-laced tongues which are embodied in people of all colors, sizes, and locations.  I can find it in the way the lady at the Beigel Bake on Brick Lane gave me a small smile before handing me my almond bar.  It makes its presence known when the child in the craft club informs me that I’m late because I arrived after he did.  Even way out in Debden, I found it in the lady at church who brought me baked goods just because she’s nice.  It hides in the museum curators, the street performers and even the bus drivers.  The light is fading in the homeless man but the magic flickers when someone brings him a warm coffee.  Every person who dwells in London for a period of time embodies a bit of the magic that beckons so many people to visit.

The thing is though that this magic is not exclusive to London.  Every city has its own magic.  That’s why you become just a little bit more awesome of a person when you travel- part of that magic seeps into your skin and mixes with the magic of everywhere else you’ve been and creates you as a whole.  So whether you go to another country for ten weeks like I did or you travel to the town two hours from your house, embrace the magic of every place and allow it to seep through your skin and inhabit your soul.

Posted in London

Buying Milk

I think the best days are the ones which aren’t planned.  My plan was to buy milk today.  Today after church, Amanda, my housemate, invited me to go to a farm with her.  We actually didn’t spend very long at the farm but we found plenty of adventures after that.  We bought a chocolate cake at Asda (which is owned by the Walmart company) and accompanied it with chocolate milk. We sat on a bench and finished it off.  It’s a good idea.

Kids on the Tube are cute, usually.  There was a boy on the DLR who asked his dad if the door was for emergencies.  (The way he said emergencies was adorable).  His dad told him it said “keep door clear.”  Then the boy asked his mom who told him that it was for if they needed to get out in an emergency.  He looked at his dad who said, “I think your mom is right.”  He said, “silly daddy” in his cute little British accent.
We ended up at Greenwich where we walked around and under the Thames.  We admired the river and picked up cool rocks.  I skipped my first rock in my life in the Thames.  We watched a gymnast and a group of guys who looked like they invented a game with a couple of sticks that also involved piggy back rides across the road.  We stood on the Prime Meridian line for free and climbed a tree. It was delightful afternoon considering my only plan for today was to buy milk.
Posted in Literature, London

Love some books.

One of the first things I did when I started volunteering at the shop here in London was to sort through the massive amounts of books and now that I’ve been here for 6 weeks, I’m still sorting through books.  There is a really sad problem in the world today: people don’t read.  Or maybe they read but they don’t read paper books anymore.  (To explain, I am an owner of a Kindle, but I still like to read physical copies as well.)

This problem of the world has left little shops like the one where I volunteer with an over-abundance of books.

So this leads me to making a list of why physical copies of books should be cherished (note that I’m not saying they’re better, let’s just not get rid of them):

1. They smell good.

2. It’s just nice to physically turn a page.

3. Conversation starter: ex) person sitting next to you on the train sees your book cover “Oh my! I love that book.  Have you gotten to …[insert part of book that you probably haven’t read yet so they’ve just ruined the plot for you].”  Who knows? You might meet the love of your life in that conversation [now you don’t mind so much that they ruined the plot of your book right?]

4. They look pretty on shelves.

5. You can write notes in them.

6. You can loan them to people…for free and with no hassle.

7. Dog-eared pages…it shows love.  [I know this is a debate among book lovers, but c’mon guys, it’s just a corner.  I don’t like those people who fold over the entire page though.  I myself have a system for how I dog-ear so that I know why I dog-eared which I can explain if you’re really interested.]

8. Great place to hide money.

9. Pressing flowers.

10. They make you look smart.  When someone comes over to visit, be sure to pull out your copies of War and Peace or Les Miserables or some other equivalently long book so you can impress your guest with your impressive reading habits.  [Now once they leave, be sure to actually give the book a chance.  I must admit here that I have not read either book mentioned.]

11. They give you a reason to use all those free bookmarks people give you.

12. You can color your favorite passages and put smiles in the margins so that future readers know the best parts.

13. What else are you going to put on those bookshelves?

14. Hide a note in a book, give it someone, and wait for them to be super surprised.  And you’ll know they actually read the book you gave them. [This could also be a way of meeting that special someone, if you wanna be really discrete…and possibly wait a while. Yeah probably not the best method.]

15. We chopped down the trees for a reason.  We might as well enjoy the by-product.

I’m sure there are many more reasons to enjoy books.  Maybe you wanna share a few?  Anyway, please go to your local used book shop or charity shop and pick up some cheap books.  Used books tend to smell better and sometimes you find really cool notes in them [that note from a special someone?].

Happy reading!