Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Trip to York

We hopped on a train and headed north to York on Thursday.

We had a rough idea of what we wanted to do when we got there but 
played a lot of it by ear. Danielle and I make great traveling partners because we're pretty flexible and go with the flow. We bought a two day "York Pass" that let us into many attractions around the city for one set price. I highly recommend looking into these for big tourist cities, and there's even one for London that I'm going to check out.

We toured York Minster, a beautiful Gothic Cathedral in the heart of York containing the largest expanse of medieval stained glass windows, each window being cleaned every 100 years. Imagine the dust!

Outside the minster is a statue of Constantine the Great, close to where he was appointed Emperor of Rome in 306 AD. What?!?! York was founded by the Romans in 71 AD, and the entire Roman Empire was even governed from York for a couple of years. I love the history here!

I got excited when I heard there was a Roman Bath in the city, but when we went to see it, I was a bit disappointed. There was a Roman Bath there and all, but it was just a one room "museum" underneath a pub, jazzed up to make it more than it was. It wasn't professionally done (there was construction paper cut outs hanging on the wall, ha)  I guess I'll have to wait until I can actually go to the city of Bath when my mom comes to visit in March.

Walking the streets of York was a lot of fun because it's very picturesque. The streets and architecture look exactly like I imagined England should look like. Sheffield is great and all, but it's not as pretty as York. The city is surrounded by fortress walls that are open during the day to walk on. Danielle and I had a blast walking along them, even though some parts don't have railings...scary! It was fun to imagine what it would be like standing on them 2000 years ago, guarding the city. Apparently there's a law that still exists today that anyone standing on the city walls can shoot a Scottish person with a bow and arrow if they're spotted after dark. Maybe that's why they lock the gates at dusk...

We caught the musical 42nd street at the Theatre Royal for just 5 pounds! Of course we paid for our cheapness when our seats were at the very top of the theater, above the stage lights. The best part of the musical? Hearing people with British accents attempting New York accents and one character tried for a Texas accent. The lady next to us asked if they sounded American, and I tried to be sweet and said said some of them did but then Danielle came right out and set they weren't even close.

Friday was a beautiful day filled with more tourist activities. My favorite part was walking through the Clifford's Tower, the only remaining part of York Castle. William the Conqueror had built a small tower on this same piece of land, but it was burned down two years after having been built. If you look closely, you can see small slits on the walls. That's where bow and arrows were shot. They were big enough to allow the arrow through but small enough that no other arrow would get through....clever clever!

After that we headed to the Fairfax House, a townhouse displaying furniture from the 18th century, and I learned a little about Georgian architecture. We also toured the York Castle Museum which had a replica of a city street as it would have looked in the 1700's, down to the bank, general store, and schoolroom.

We ended the day by having tea at an Italian cafe. I drank white hot chocolate (am I the only one who has never heard of this?) and tried chocolate caramel shortbread for the first time. It was delicious and is now my favorite snack to get at coffee shops here.

I highly recommend York if you're ever in England, and I hope that I get to come back before I go home in June.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Treasure Hunting #2

I was very excited about treasure hunting today. The weather was just beautiful with the sun shining and everything. This week I was hoping to see some of the clues that the Lord spoke to me during our prep time show up on our trip out.

My group ended up being Daniel (the pastor whose family I live with), Izzy, and me, and when I was sharing my handful of clues, one of them was clearly the word lonely/loneliness...which Daniel had heard as well! It's always exciting to see when more than one person has the same thing. One of my other clues was the name Matilda. What? Matilda? I refused twice to write this down because I'm pretty sure it's not an English name or common name at that. As it turns out though, there is a street in Sheffield called Matilda not far from where we were. I got so excited when Izzy said this!

One thing about treasure hunting that Danielle had reminded the group before we started was that we need to be creative with our clues. For example, a name might not be the person we end up talking to on the street but the name of a family member who they want prayer for, etc. Well, we didn't end up making it out to that street because we ran out of time, so Danielle said she would go with me tomorrow so we could check it out. I'm just so curious!

Anyway, my group of 3 ended up going to the Peace Gardens (a central location in the city centre) because Daniel had a picture of this location, specifically near two restaurants. The three of us were walking around looking for someone sitting by themselves and saw a few people but decided to go to the specific area between the two restaurants. As we rounded the corner, we saw a guy sitting on a bench. We knew we needed to go talk to him. Izzy and I decided to give it a go while Daniel waited close by (so we didn't overwhelm the guy). We sat down next to him, explained what we were doing, and asked if there was anything he wanted prayer for. He said no, he wasn't feeling well, and then started convulsing. I couldn't really understand him at this point and wasn't sure what to do. Daniel walked over, and we all tried to talk to him.

Izzy and I went to grab some water from a nearby cafe and brought it back to him. Daniel told us his name was Aaron, he was from India, said he was a Christian, and was a student at the university here and didn't like it. He was lonely and hated Sheffield. All the while, he's still convulsing. Daniel prayed out loud while Izzy and I prayed. We started to talk to him about sin in his life and asked him if there was anything he needed to confess. I asked him if he had an addiction to anything, but he never clearly answered. The more we talked to him about spiritual things, the less Aaron could talk. He seemed to try but nothing would really come out.

After a long while of praying and trying to talk to him, we had Aaron take a walk around the gardens with us to gain back some control. He was able to talk more clearly again. Pretty soon into our time with Aaron, we realized he was not just sick but possessed by a demon. Something was clearly not right with him, and when we started mentioning Jesus and confessingsin, he became more and more mute.

This was my first time to be around this kind of situation, and I truly believed he would be set free from his oppression. When he wasn't, I was really confused. Jesus' disciples cast out demons all the time. I have faith and truly believed it could happen so why didn't it? Did I do something wrong? As I talked to Daniel, he said that it all comes down to Aaron having to confess his sin not just us praying for him or rebuking the demon. He had to be willing to do this, and he didn't seem to want to confess anything.

I know we found and talked to the person God intended for us to. It makes me sad for Aaron that he wasn't willing to let go of things, but I pray he's still thinking about it. I pray he realizes someone cares for him and that he doesn't have to be alone and depressed in this city, far from home. I'm hoping he'll come to church on Sunday and find community, so we'll see.

A Little Bit of Texas

I loved my video!

My sister, Alyssa, made me a video of family and friends from home saying encouraging things to me about my trip. She hid it in my bag so I would find it when I arrived in England. Well, I ended up finding it at the airport but saved it until I needed a pick-me-up. I watched it last night, and it was awesome!!

Ryan: I felt like a little kid watching PBS and getting ready for story time with your "Oh, hello there..." intro.

Mrs. Duffie: I loved your excitement and the fact that I could hear Bella in the background. Is she still as spoiled as ever? :)

Tracy: I appreciate you sending a stand in since you couldn't make an appearance, and I will for sure scope out stuff for the Olympics. Should I go ahead and start waiting in line for tickets while I'm here?

Ann: You crack me up. I love how you had Alyssa tape you again with a written out letter because you couldn't get through the first time. Your sweet spirit is what I miss about you!

Mrs. Huggins: I felt like I was in your 2nd grade class learning a scripture verse with everyone. I love your creativity with holding up the sign, and I love that verse. Did you get that sign in Granbury?

Mallory: You're absolutely right...we may go 3 months without catching up but then when we do...we haven't skipped a beat. I love that. Thanks for your prayers and wisdom. I looked up Psalm 25 and you didn't "butcher" it too badly ;)

Mr. and Mrs. Nance: You are the best neighbors ever! Thank you for your prayers and for the memories.

Stefanie and Jimmy: I loved your practical and not so practical advice Stefanie...and Jimmy, way to not say anything, ha!

Lindsey and Grant: I will try and find a Big Ben statue for you and great job despite your last minute notice of being put on camera.

Lori and Byron: I appreciate your encouraging words and thoughts on this trip. I had so much fun with y'all at Christmas and am up for some more ping-pong when I get back if you're game.

Austin: I was shocked at how serious you were and even commented to Danielle about it...but then you made "the face" which made me laugh.

Justin: You are precious, and Danielle and I decided you're very euro with your hairstyle and should move here.

Mom and Dad: You guys have been so supportive of me going since I started thinking about it a year ago. Thank you for your encouraging words and advice. I can't wait for you to get here Mom!

Alyssa and Michael: Or should I say Capri and Cookie? Haha, I loved that they were on the video. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this for me. I laughed through the whole thing and am about to watch it again!

Thanks to all of you for being part of the video. I'm so blessed to have you in my life!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Happy Birthday

You are my fellow 'J'.

I can always depend on your loyalty against the 'A's.

You're 18 and can officially vote.

You can buy a lottery ticket.

You make the best cheesecake ever.

Nine out of ten times you're looking off into the distance in pictures....

...or getting everyone else to do it.

Happy 18th birthday Justin!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Treasure Hunting

Every Monday a group from church meets at the offices to go treasure hunting. Anyone can join, so Danielle and I went for our first time yesterday. Here's how it works. We worship for a little bit, pray, and wait to hear from the Lord. We write down anything we think He is telling us that could be clues to people He wants us to find. The people are the treasure!

Sound crazy? It's really fun, but I was definitely intimidated. I'm sitting there praying and people around me are writing down all sorts of things, and I have nothing at all. Someone then shares with the group that we should write down things that come to mind, even if they sound random. Why? 1 Corinthians 2:16 says, " 'For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ." As a group, we prayed this verse and asked for God's favor.

After about 10 or 15 minutes, we split into two groups and began to make our "treasure map". This included everyone sharing what they heard, writing down other's clues, and making a plan. For example, a couple of people had clues for a location, ie. the Cathedral tram stop and the Waterstone's bookstore, as well as descriptions of people, such as someone in a mobility cart, someone who had fallen on the ice (it's been snowing hard here) and been hurt. The object is to go to all the locations the Lord tells you and find people with these descriptions. Then ideally you approach them, pray for them, and share about the Lord and His love.

It was raining when we began our journey, but we made the best of it. We didn't really see anyone at the Cathedral tram stop that fit our descriptions, so we moved on to the bookstore. When that didn't work out, we were getting pretty discouraged. On the way to our last location, an older man riding in a mobility cart passed my group (he was going the opposite way) and all of our heads turned at once. We had a clue for someone in a mobility cart!

However, everyone just stood there and watched him pass as we contemplated if we should talk to him or not. Why as Christians are we so hesitant?!?! Finally I said we should talk to him, and my friend Izzy and I ran after the man. He had gained a lot of ground on us, so it was quite humorous doing this. We were holding hands, laughing, and trying to catch up to this man in the downtown area of Sheffield. We introduced ourselves, kind of told him what we were doing, and asked if there was anything he would like prayer for. He said no, so I asked if we could just pray for him then. He said he had some shopping to do....bummer. I got his name though (Peter) and we prayed for him when our team met back up. It seemed disappointing, but I have to remember it was good. Even though Peter didn't want to talk, it was a win/win situation because he heard that the Lord loves him, that he's treasured, and he got prayed for anyway.

We met back up with the rest of the group at the church offices and shared stuff. They ended up praying for someone who had fallen on the ice and broken their foot. Praise God! That was one of our clues! This was a great first experience at treasure hunting, and I look forward to growing in this type of evangelism. I realized how I'm lacking in boldness (there was one time in the bookstore when I wanted to talk to someone and just opted not to). I don't want to be like that, but sometimes it's just easier/more comfortable.

Since we do this every Monday, I will hopefully be updating with some cool stories of how God is working in this city. I'm so excited to be part of it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Weekend Adventures

Danielle and I have been discussing volunteer options since we are unemployed. Jeannie suggested we help out at a playgroup she knows abouts. Playgroups in England are a big deal and a great way for young mothers to get together and meet new friends. They bring their kids, drink tea, sing songs, and do crafts. We went for the first time Friday morning and were put in charge of the craft table and also helped set up and tear down. There were probably 15-20 moms there with just as many toddlers running around. What a scene!

Anyway, all the moms at this play group are lost. They don't know Jesus. We're hoping that by volunteering our time, we'll get to know them and have some spiritual conversations. We met one mom and ended up seeing her in town later in the day. I got really excited! I finally felt like I was meeting people in the community and not just people at church. I can't wait to see how this playgroup goes.

Friday night I went to my first professional basketball game here. In my Tuesday night lifegroup, there is a sweet girl named Joy that comes with her husband. He has been playing professional basketball in Europe for awhile and currently plays for the Sheffield Sharks. She invited Danielle, our friend Janette and I to go to the game with her. The games here are much different than the states. For example, music clips are played during the game, such as the Jaws theme song or the Adams Family theme song while the home team is running down the court on offense or defense, and the announcer talks to the crowd during play as well. This would never be allowed in the states! It was a lot of fun though and a great time of fellowship.

Janette, Joy, Danielle, and me.

The Sheffield Sharks!

Saturday morning was quite an adventure. Danielle and I joined Janette on a trip to...drumroll please...COSTCO! It's owned by an American and was actually more fun than you're thinking. We spent a couple of hours going down every food aisle and then trying on tons of raincoats. Our trek home was crazy. We walked all the way to the tram stop carrying our food, and when we were just a hundred feet away, we see an older man behind us running for the stop but no tram. I look back once more and sure enough the tram is rounding the corner. We start sprinting to the stop all the while the oranje juice I'm carrying is falling out of the package, but I keep running. I look behind me and Danielle is trying to pick up the bottles but is balancing a chocolate cake in her hands, so Janette pitches in and picks up some juice as well. We're laughing to tears which makes it really hard to run for the tram as it passes us. We're almost there when we realize it's the wrong tram. We never should've run because now everyone is staring at us...oh well!

Um...gig 'em Costco?? Haha, I'm a little intense.

Enough cooking oil for my life.

Charlie's Angels UK

Saturday night I got to experience my first professional football match. I went to see the Sheffield Wednesday Owls take on Birmingham, and now I can begin to understand the obsession with this sport over here. It can be really intense, and it was cool to listen to the home team cheers and songs etc. Danielle and I went with Daniel, Aiden, and Maddie. It was the kid's first game as well.

Danielle, Maddie, Aiden, and me

GOAL! We ended up with a draw at 1-1 though because Birmingham scored in the last minute :(