Thursday, December 18, 2014

Onesies and Doughnuts

Christmas set up at JMC!

   Christmas Music was playing, our Secret Santa gifts had been exchanged and opened, and the bill was sorted with yet another lecture on why I don't need to Tip 20% here in Britain (don't think I will ever get used to that). I sat around a table with 9 students who were laughing and sharing stories from the past week; discussing faith, tough questions, and Christmas traditions; and all I could do was smile. This bunch has grown, not only in number, but also in maturity, faith and friendship.

Over the past year and a bit, a big focus for me here at Jesmond Methodist Church, has been University students. And since then, I have come to see them take on Uni life and settle in as an integral part of the JMC family. As new students found their way through our doors this year and, as I mentioned, around the table at the student Christmas dinner, I remembered a reflection I wrote just before the number of students at JMC grew to require a booking deposit for a dinner reservation!
Christmas set up at JMC!

So in the spirit of my month of sharing, 
here is the 2nd post (my own blog version of TBT) 
from October this year...

     Tonight I saw my students come together in such an inspiring way. Each bringing their joys and struggles of the past week to share in community and laughter; through tears and prayer and, of course, over doughnuts!

It is a random mix of characters, all coming to JMC separately, but have joined together and slowly become a tight support group for one another. They affectionately call this group, "Onesies and Doughnuts," and they often refer to me as "the mom", or "the crazy church lady", and of recent..."tea slave." So, in line with this new title, I want to introduce them to you here by way of their respective hot drink order...

Coffee. 2 sugars. Milk.
   He is quiet and kind. Ready to give his time for others, with a patience and willingness that speaks volumes in itself. He is the great, listening ear of the group and forever, graciously going along with some cooky ideas: such as hiding from Elie whenever she leaves the room (or at least I tell myself that he simply obliges to these plans, when in reality, he could actually be the silent yet devious mastermind behind all the shenanigans...I may never know).

Tea. 5 sugars (yes 5). No milk.
   Our chatterbox, always sharing stories and jokes to bring smiles to others faces; he is consistently the first to offer condolence, support, and advice when needed. And the verdict is still not out on whether or not he knows that the word "no" exists, as his diary (remember this means schedule/time-table) is permanently filled, yet he is the first to offer help to run each new event: a true servant's heart.

Tea. 2 sugars. Milk.
   She is a passionate, kind, and strong young woman, who brings the perfect dose of reality to the group, followed immediately by some sass and a good cuddle (hug). She has an amazing heart to see justice and possibility for change around her; and you just wait, one day soon she will accomplish far more than she knows is even possible.

Coffee. 1 sugar. Milk.
   Wise beyond her years, she has a gentle kindness and is a sure bet for a good, meaningful conversation. She is a natural leader, while also happy to watch others succeed; and this humility makes it a joy to watch her shine, which is far from a rare occurrence.

Tea. 3 sugars (or 2 teaspoons). Milk.
   She is our "life adventurer." Smiling and laughing all the way, she takes life with both hands and runs with it! She is well in tune with how her faith can grow and strengthen, and will not apologize for who she is (not only because she is a gem, but because she knows there is not enough time in our lives to worry about what anyone but God thinks of us).

It has been such a pleasure and joy to watch these students group together into a wonderful community over the past 14 months. From strangers to family in Christ huddled together in prayer.

Tonight I looked over them, clinging to one another, some tears rolling down cheeks, hands in hands, heads on shoulders, and smiles emerging from under the tears as we prayed.

One of them asked what they were gonna do without each other after uni, but I have no fear that these five individuals will go on to do great things, make wonderful friends, find another strong community, and forever remember the night at Jesmond Methodist Church when they held, not only each others' hands and shoulders, but each others' burdens and joys in prayer.

You got one proud mamma bear right here!

Cheers - Elie

We had an Advent Evening Celebration at JMC earlier in December. It was a great night of food, fun, and fellowship!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Long Time, No Talk. Long Time, Much Thanks!

Long time, no talk...
I have been down to London twice since I have been back! 

      So I realized that I haven't posted a blog since September and I thought that ought to change. Sorry for my silence, but to make up for that, I will be posting a few different reflections this month that I have written over the past 3 months since I have been back in Newcastle. Enjoy :)

Took my flatmate's family dogs out for a walk up in Alnwick with sheep roaming the field and the castle in the background! Classic England :)

Here we go! 
Post number 1,
from 28th November....

Long time, much thanks...

    Today is the day after Thanksgiving, and although for the rest of the country it is simply another Friday, for me it is a day to be thankful (as I ride the train down to London for a 2nd Year TFG conference). 
I would have done this yesterday , but I was too busy cooking an entire Turkey Day meal for two fellow Americans and my lovely flatmates :) -which is obviously number one on my list of gratitude.

Joined my cousin in London for the US vs Columbia football match.
It was a great day of cooking (with help from an Nebraskan native who is in Newcastle to get her masters), watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and all 10 Thanksgiving episodes of "Friends." 
Then we brought American traditions to Britain at little ol' 56 Ashleigh Grove, with all the fix-ins of the big meal, the breaking of the wishbone, a night stroll through the moor after dinner, and my flatmate even prepared some fun USA Quizes to really make the night a blast!

But generally, I feel the need to reflect back on the last two months, as they seem to have gone by in such a blur!

    October was, admittedly, quite tough, with a combination of bad health, rocky relationships, and a lack of faith in how God was using me at JMC. Despite how busy I was in September with freshers and welcoming past students back, all that excitement and energy seemed to produce no fruit (excuse the cringe Christian metaphor). Although I have such a great support system here in Newcastle that was so reassuring through it all, it is very difficult to not let a lack of results affect the way you judge your "success."
But, as God does (as if it amuses him sometimes- I can just see him watching down, chuckling to himself, "silly Elie"), he pulled through this past month, without any action on my part!

I am still working on my musical side in the JMC worship
team on sunday mornings.
I got my health back on track, let go of stress from relationships, and JMC was suddenly filled with new people eager to become apart of our quirky little family :). 
One great example, was the Christian Union Church Search, which rarely brings in any new students for us. Normally, I would go each Sunday, sit around for 10 minutes, and then leave alone. Rob and I had discussed whether or not it was a good use of our time, but thought that the week we aren't there, will be the week someone shows. And low and behold, that very Sunday as I arrived and got out my JMC sign, two students immediately bee-lined their way to me!

Now we have a second student group started, a new young professionals house group going, and by the third song on a Sunday morning service, the Church is full! 
It was a humbling lesson learned (as it always seems to be), that God has his own time and plan, and all I can do is pray that my work is in line with that "schedule." 
This year's UK YAGM group has some gems that I am so
glad to have the opportunity to meet! Including this lovely
lady, Anastasia, who is doing amazing work in a small
town just south of London. Please keep all the new volunteers
in your thoughts and prayers (especially with the coming
Holiday season they will be spending away from home)!

Apart from work, I have had some great time spent getting to know the new UK YAGMs from London to Edinburgh! And now, here I am again on a train--a favorite part of British culture--, eating Thanksgiving leftovers--a favorite part of American culture--so there is much to be Thankful for.
Hanging out with a life-size (yeah, he was
 a short little man) sculpture of
Wesley- the main man of Methodist Church

Thanks G-man!

The other 2nd year volunteers in London for our conference. Only
three of us now, but our numbers will double next month as a few
January starters will be staying on for a second year as well!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Beauty of a Needle in a Haystack...

Love being back and taking the
evening walks I fell so in love with
last year.
Sometimes God has a funny was of taking us by surprise. We may walk into some situations with certain expectations and enthusiasm, and we end up walking out with a different excitement than we had anticipated; yet still somehow meeting our expectations.

This month is crazy busy, with students returning and plenty of work to do at JMC...and I am so pumped! I have such a good feeling about this year, especially for the next few weeks--to meet new students and young professionals moving to the area, and make solid connections. My diary (British for a planner/schedule book) is filled with events at the university and JMC to welcome people to Newcastle and put myself in the right place at the right time to make these connections....but it seems that each day I come out with stronger and unexpected encounters from times and places outside the ones I have penciled in.

It took three brilliant examples for me to finally see the pattern...

1- I was working a stall at one of the welcome fairs last week, thinking that I would meet students that are really looking for that home away from home, and we (the university chaplaincy team) would be there to help. Instead, God gave me a taste of home myself! One of the students I greeted, of hundreds at the fair, had an American accent, so naturally I got all "USA proud" (as I do when I meet another's a rare occurrence here), and asked him where he was from. When he said Colorado, I got even more geeky-excited, because I have never met another Colorado native in the UK, let alone Newcastle of all places. And to make this world even smaller, and make the encounter a bit more unbelievable, he said he was from the Vail Valley! Completely unexpectedly, I met probably the only other valley kid to have ever lived in Newcastle. We knew each others siblings and were flabbergasted at the coincidence because, for those of you who don't know, Vail is a very small and tight community. But apparently the world can be even smaller :)

Who would ever expect the preacher to ask you to sleep
through their sermon?...mine :) in order to create an image of
waking up and shedding the comfort of our personal
"sleeping bags", Katie asked me to crawl into this bag
and take a 10 min nap as she gave her sermon on Sunday.

2- I was booked in to help with the international student meet and greet last week. So when I arrived at the Student Union and saw a table with another Chaplin helping hand out coffees, I walked over and started pouring hot drinks and chatting with the students who turned up. I had quite a few good conversations and welcomed students from all over the world. There were two students who I had a great conversation with and connected them to some helpful information for their first few weeks. It was a great afternoon and they were very sweet and thankful for the event. When we were cleaning up, I asked one of the student volunteers if she was going to be at the next week's meet and greet. She laughed and told me, "the meet and greet is going on in that room right now, this was the student life coffee lounge." I had been in the wrong room! Honestly I felt very silly, but it turned out that again my expectations were twisted, and although I was at the wrong event, I made those solid connections (and I don't think Student Life minded me helping out either haha).

3- And to really drive the message home: we had a few newbies at JMC's Sunday service this weekend, which was great! But, as I was apart of the worship band that morning, I wasn't able to welcome and meet them all until after the service. So when we found that one girl (who had come to the service on her own) left early, I was bummed that I didn't get the chance to talk with her or get her name.
The next day, I was working another stall at the Fresher's fair. It was buzzing with hundreds of students and over 50 stalls! So as I was leaving when my shift was done, you can imagine I was trying to sift through tight crowds to get to the exit. And randomly, through the mass of students, I bumped into that very girl from Sunday! I said hello and she explained that she's sorry she had to leave early, but she really enjoyed the service. We agreed how lucky our chance run in was and made a plan to have coffee later this week :) again God surprised me and twisted my expectations.

I don't know how, and I fully give that up to God, but I know this year is gonna be a good year :)

Cheers for Now!

Some people in the states asked me what English Muffins are called here...well there you have it! They are simply called "muffins."

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Found this gem in Vail :)

I'm Back!

After spending a solid 3 days asleep (jetlag), I'm back in good ol' Geordie Land, and have hit the ground running!
Back to leadership training days, meetings in preparation for the arrival of the students (which is just around the corner!), catching up with friends, and of course back to Sunday mornings at Jesmond Methodist Church. All this activity and excitement makes me so thankful for my time back home in the Mountains to relax and play.

As blessed I have been here in Newcastle, it did not take long to be reminded of the amazing support and blessings I have back in the states. I was reminded of the beauty in Colorado that I got to call my backyard growing up: hiking, biking, paddle boarding, off-roading, and even just looking at it all! I spent time with my amazing family and life-long friends that prove, it did "take a village" to raise this kid. And what a village I am lucky enough to call home :)

Left: Took my dad's Jeep up the mountain to hike around Piney Lake

Right: Some of my childhood friends that I got to catch up with while I was home.

Left: I was able to make it up to Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp for a week, which was such an amazing time as always :)

Right: I had time to relax and just be (my parent's home)

Left: More of my friends supporting me at my "Very British Evening" fundraising night.

Right: Hiked up Pitkin Lake Trail behind my friend's house.

Although I will always be a mountain girl at heart, it was time to get back to Newcastle and the home I've found here for one more year.

So looking at all that lies ahead this year and all the plans being devised and set in motion, one quote has sprung up to the forefront of my thoughts.

While in Dublin with a fellow YAGM last year, exploring the Trinity College campus, we came across the hashtag "#Failbetter." The quote preceding the hastag read, "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Looking forward to this year, I hope to take on this mantra fully and give my all to JMC for one last year. We will be doing a lot of the same, and even more new things here at the church and in the surrounding community. I want to approach each situation with such enthusiasm and hope that we blow people away, or fail more epically. It may seem a bit mad, but isn't that what faith is sometimes? A bit mad?

So, here we go. Round two. Faith is fully in God's hands. And JMC is gonna #Failbetter!

Cheers for Now!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Year One...Check!

Newcastle Quayside looking beautiful!
It’s crazy to think that is has been a year since I left everything in the States and headed out to live in England. And not London (what we Americans are sometimes guilty of summating the whole of the country to), but to a city in the North I had never heard of; to take on a position, which I wasn’t even sure of the job description; to live in a community where I knew no one; and to live there for a year without returning! Before my last year at Gonzaga University, I wasn’t sure I would ever even get the opportunity to visit Europe, let alone live in Britain for two years! And now here I am, on the plane ride home for a visit before I go back to Newcastle for round 2.

Flashback! UK YAGM Abby and I on our
way to England last August.
As cliché as it is, it seems I was just at home and at the same time, life in Newcastle has a comfort as though it has been my reality for years. Honestly, I’m a bit nervous to see just how much “counter-culture” shock I subconsciously pass over this month back in the states. I’m anticipating the first time I make someone blush by asking if I can use their “toilet” rather than their “restroom,” just as it used to make me cringe when I first arrived in the UK. But apart from the English language variations, I have about a hundred things running through my mind as I make my way home (could be out of boredom from the 9 hour flight, but oh well!)

It’s tough to contain 11 months in a quick reflection, but this last week has been the perfect snap shot of what my year was like. Starting with a visit from Abby (another YAGM in England) and an attempt to get out for the night while saving some pennies with wowcha (like groupon)—we ended up in a new and fascinating corner of the city center that took us by surprise, reminding me of all my adventures with the UK YAGMs this year and how we experienced so many new things together.

American style BBQ with JMC folk
earlier this summer.
Next was, of course, the Sunday service at JMC. I played my guitar again, highlighting just how far I have come from barely knowing three chords when I arrived, and the family feel was practically tangible. To say that the service was an “all hands on deck,” effort would be most accurate! This week’s local preacher noted (speaking to the congregation), “you may just be in the minority if, by the end of the service, you haven’t been up front to speak at some point.” It was a service that captured the sincerity and closeness of this community that I have fallen in love with this year.

I had a couple leaving dos throughout the week with various people, reminding me of all the wonderful connections I’ve made and relationships I have been blessed with this year. Not only that, but Wednesday night was a nice, clear night so we went to the Quayside, and it was impossible for any of us to deny what a beautiful city Newcastle is—we are so lucky! It was also a plus that each occasion was filled with reminiscing over the year, lots of laughter, and confirmation that this is where God wants me to be.

So next to my excitement to be less than three hours from Colorado, and my extreme thankfulness for all this year has been, I have many people on heart…

I pray for the JMC family: for all the support and love they have shown me in so many ways, and for so warmly welcoming me into their community. I pray for Brother Ian: for always bringing such joy wherever he went (as well as all others in hospital right now and their loved ones). I pray for my flatmates: for being such fun to live with, weather we be dancing around a “Mexican” hat for a last minute Cinco de Mayo recognition, or getting overly (but perfectly acceptably) excited when the take away arrives. And finally I pray for the other UK YAGMs: for fun memories and the wonderful friendships I have found in each of them!

Candles representing all the YAGMs throughout the world
this Year, lit in Chicago last August at our orientation.
Please keep all of these in your prayers as well, especially as the YAGMs (UK and across the globe) say their goodbyes and make their way back home.Thank you again for the love and support this year, and I’ll be back in September!

Cheers for now!

(Below is a collage I made of my year with an application a fellow YAGM shared, which is appropriately titled "If I stay." I used some photos of the most memorable events, places, and people that made up my first year in Newcastle.)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sweet Pea

(Photo from the train of the sun setting at 10pm in early June!)

So June 21st was this Saturday, which means we are officially well into the summer season. Although, I am currently in the cafe comfortably sipping a hot drink in a sweater and seems someone forgot to tell Newcastle that it is June! Yes the sun is only absent from the sky 11:30pm to 3:30am these days, but shorts and flipflop weather is not an everyday reality for summer in the Northeast of England. But I am not one to complain- as a Colorado girl at heart, the cold never bothered me anyway (yes that was a shameless Frozen plug).
However, one obvious sign of summer has been all the green growth lining the streets and flowers bringing color to the neighborhood. One flower in particular I am excited to see bloom is the Sweet Pea. 

Beginning in early September, Sweet Peas have taken on a significant role in my year. 
At our very first Time For God (TFG) conference, we were each handed a different bag of seeds to write our name on, and as you may have guessed, mine were Sweet Peas. 
We then anonymously redistributed the packs of seeds to another volunteer to take home and plant-- keeping that individual in your prayers for the year.

Fast forward to a meeting with some of the JMC leadership, during a time when I was struggling a bit with stress and homesickness. And without the knowledge of my TFG flower support system, one of our stewards gave me advice and encouragement using the metaphor of a Sweet Pea reaching up to the sun for energy.

Fast forward again to a Cliff College conference-- one of the TFG field officers had been doodling a picture in the lecture, and approached me at the break saying she felt like she needed to give it to me for some reason. It was a sketch of two flowers rising up to catch the sun rays with a quote from Psalm 3.

All I could hear was Bill Engvall (Blue Collar Comedy Tour) in my head saying, "Heeeerrrrreeeee's your sign!"
So I told our minister Rob and he planted some Sweet Peas in his garden.

As you can imagine, those seeds, that were planted this winter and have since slipped my mind, have now bloomed into a beautiful batch of Sweet Peas. These gorgeous flowers that have held such significance in my year, went unseen all winter, until suddenly there they were. Fully bloomed and smelling wonderful-- reminding me of a support that I had forgoten I had this year. 

It is a humbling lesson I experienced at Gonzaga University and truly believe we all need reminding every now and then. It is a realization that love and support are always more present than we will ever know or see. An, "invisible love," if you'd like. Even though the Sweet Peas were not in bloom all winter, even though I didn't see them until this summer, they were still there in the ground, growing and developing a root system.
Some of the Sweet Peas from Rob's garden

Just as I am that "invisible love" and prayer support for the TFG volunteer whose flowers I have, we each have those sources of unseen support we will never know exist. But when you take a moment to think about it, it can be so encouraging and refreshing. 
I realize this is a very vague reflection, but maybe part of the power of "invisible love" is that we aren't meant to fully grasp or understand it. 
So today I simply ask you to pass it on. Pray for the TFG volunteers, pray for the YAGM program, and pray for my community.

And as always thank you for your continued love and support!
Cheers for now

*Today I would like to give a special thanks to Eagle River Presbyterian Church in Eaglevail, CO for being an amazing source of "invisible love" and tangible support!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Seconds Are A Blessing!!

UK YAGM ladies back at Cliff College.
 Gonna miss them next year!!

At Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp, we have a saying to indicate when the campers are welcome to a second helping of food if desired...we simply shout out, "SECONDS ARE A BLESSING!"
This helps to let them know that everyone has had a chance to eat and remind them of how blessed they are to have the option of seconds.

This year has been such an amazing experience and being apart of the Jesmond Methodist Church family has brought me such joy from day one! Which is why I am so incredibly happy that I can now officially say, in regards to my year with JMC....SECONDS ARE A BLESSING!!!
That's right, I will be staying on for a second year with JMC (after a month back in the States this summer to renew my visa and visit home of course!!).

Although YAGM (Young Adult in Global Mission with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) is only a year long program, our sister programme here in the UK (Time For God or TFG) offers a second year option. So after putting much thought and reflection into my experience this year, and the possibility of what a second year would look like, I decided to do a second year as the student and young professional coordinator with Jesmond Methodist Church. Of course with blessings from my community, the JMC leadership, YAGM, TFG, and most mother ;)

One of the JMC students enjoying the waves at
our Alpha Away Day on the coast
Knowing I will be back for a second year has put many plans in motion for JMC and what my job will look like when the next University year begins.
It has been wonderful watching the younger community members of the JMC family grow in fellowship and to see new talent emerge in our worship team, and I hope this growth continues into next year. Above all this, I am looking forward to helping new leaders step forward and find confidence in their role in the congregation. We may be a smaller church, but this only opens more opportunity for our members to grasp this personal importance.

Now begins another effort to make this happen. Now begins a 2nd round of fundraising!
This time around I will be collecting the fundraising, as I am now responsible for the Travel expenses and fees for Time For God.  My community here in Newcastle is going to be an amazing help over the next few months towards my funding, but it would be great to have some support from the States as well!

Regardless of if you are able to help me reach my monetary goal (Flight expenses and 1,200 pounds/2,020 dollars for TFG fees), I would love to have your prayer support throughout the next year more than anything.
Feel free to email me with any questions about how you can support me, and as always, I can't thank you enough for the love and support over this year so far!!

Cheers for now,
and remember....SECONDS ARE A BLESSING!!
Please Help Bring Me Back To This Beautiful City!


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Picture Perfect Pup

 The other day I was walking home from meeting some students in town, and as I was passing some terraced houses, I spotted an adorable black lab poking its head through the fence. Her owner was a petite old woman who smiled, asking the lab, "Who's that?" So I took this as an invitation to stop, and asked permission to pet the pup....

Me: Would you mind?
Owner: Not at all!
Me: She is precious! What's she called?
Owner: Louise. She used to be able to nearly hop right through the fence when she was little.
Me: Well she is a sweetheart.
Owner: Yeah she loves the attention...

As I was petting her lab and chatting away, I had a momentary day dream about how this sweet old woman and I might meet like this again and possibly share wisdom and life stories over a nice cuppa one day; just like you see in the movies. But this image, and our conversation, was suddenly interrupted when Louise unexpectedly got sick on the pavement!

The woman apologized and explained that the lab had been munching on the grass earlier. We shared sympathy for the pup, before I turned towards home. The woman called after, insuring that I would feel free to stop by and give the Louise some attention anytime she was outside. So I agreed, thanked her and continued on my way.

Crossing the next street, I couldn't help but giggle--such a seemingly, movie perfect interaction that took an odd little turn.
Life is not meant to be picture perfect, people. But you CAN see God's beauty (and sense of humor!) in almost any situation if you have the wisdom to laugh it off. :)

Cheers for Now!

PS- I have some exciting news to share with you all in my next post! Stay tuned :)

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Purest Heart I Have Yet Met

"Brother" Ian (who I first wrote about in November under the post "Brother") has been in hospital recovering from a hip surgery and I had the chance to visit him this week with another woman from JMC. Seeing him and his bright spirit automatically reminds you of the beauty of god's love. Just sitting with him and Jenny in the shared hospital room hearing his stories of all his visitors and seeing him interact with the other men sharing his room, it is so obvious what an amazing heart he has. 

One of the other men sharing the room didn't have visitors that afternoon and as I was Ian's 24th visitor, I felt for this man not having someone by his bedside. But then I thought, there is no need for me to feel sadness for this man....he is sharing a room with Ian!! Even if he didn't have visitors apart from that afternoon, he had the one man sharing his room that can easily remind anyone of how loved they are! When he came over to chat with us, he and Ian seemed to be life long friends, but you know it's simply because Ian has been friendly with all of them in the short week he has been in recovery: making mere hours of camaraderie in ward 19 stronger than all their years. 

Ian reminds Jenny and I that he has had 24 visitors, and we know that represents only a small portion of the people he is constantly praying for. He remembers the details of every life he encounters and has such hope for their health and happiness. He genuinely takes the time each day and has everyone he meets on his heart--the purest heart I have yet met.

He left me with a prayer and words for my friends and family back in the states, so this is for you from "Brother" Ian....

'Exalt The Lord over all the earth.
Hold the hand of He who calms the waters,
And sing songs for him'

Ian read us some scripture that he had chosen for us earlier that day.

He really loved my bright shoes :)

Cheers for now!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Take A Short Drive With Me Through the English Countryside (Coast to Coast)

It seems as though all the roads outside the city are quaint back country roads: rhythmically winding through endless fields, scattered with sheep and the occasional lama, dipping up and down the rolling hills. The small two way lanes are lined with shrubs and tall trees whose branches reach out to each other from across the road above your head. It's a beautiful sight on this sunny winter day, leading me only to crave the view in summer or autumn. 

Every 10-20 minutes we pass through another small village perched atop a small hill or tucked away in the next valley. Each including their own brand of cottages, terraced houses, a church or two, the local pub, and in some, an old castle preserving the country's past as if the history channel was coming to life right before my eyes. From the roman ruins to bombings in the world wars- there are so many stories, there is so much culture and so many different accents for such a small island.

From the sea side (peering across the ocean to the Scottish coast), to the snow capped peaks of the Lake District...less than 30 minutes. From the west coast, back home to the east coast...less than 2 hours. In a day trip, shorter than one to cross Colorado alone, I saw life and culture older than even the country of the US itself. England begs to be explored!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bring on the New Year!

Can't believe it is 2014 already, let alone February! Here is what has been happening across the pond...

1. Christmas events in Jesmond including: watching The Grinch, a midnight service, a onesie Christmas morning, an international student Christmas lunch, watching The Grinch, opening presents with my family over skype, boxing day lunch complete with penguin races, and, of course, watching The Grinch.

Meera and her sons joined Rob in wearing onesies!
       -I was so worried Christmas would be the hardest part of this year, but again God proved me wrong and reminded me I wasn't alone. Rob and his family took me in and I got to see Santa in action for the first time, bringing gifts for he and Katie's grandchildren.
   On Christmas morning, Rob wore a onesie during the service to portray a brilliant image for his sermon, reminding me of how much I love Jesmond Methodist Church!
  And skype is so amazing that I often even forgot I was in England and not in my living room at home opening presents with my family. Although it wasn't the Christmas I am used to, the Christmas spirit I know and love was ever

YAGM ladies at Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland

2. My first trip to London to visit my cousin Kelsey, the other UK YAGMs, and my summer roommate (a former UK YAGM) joined us as well!

3. Welcoming back the students after their winter break, bringing a lively atmosphere back to the city.

4. Time in the hills of Wales for the BIG Time For God conference. As this year's YAGM volunteers, we ran a Leadership session and the final worship. Great week with great people!

All of the Time For God's volunteers in Wales for the BIG conference

5. The start of our Alpha Course that will continue for the next 8 weeks. It is a life-changing course that begs the question, "Is There More To Life Than This?" I have heard many great things about Alpha and am looking forward to see what it can give to those who are joining us! (for info-

6. A Pioneer Conference Weekend, shedding light into a revival for the Northeast that is just around the corner. (for info-

7. And a fun Super Bowl celebration, with a not so fun scoreboard.

Abby (another YAGM in Durham) came up for the night as we streamed the big game and munched on classic american snacks :)

In other words...It has been busy and it has been exciting and I can't say thank you enough to all those who lend me prayer and support :)

Just a thought...

"Here we may prove the power of prayer, to strengthen faith and sweeten care."

Sometimes it seems that prayer is all we have. When there is nothing we can do, when we have run dry of all resources, when we are blind to the future, or when we are halfway across the world from a hug that we desperately want to give.
But if in these moments prayer is all we have...then we have more than we know and more than we need. 
As I came trough the holidays with good memories and a warm heart, I will admit that homesickness is now making an appearance. I knew that it would happen eventually, but I didn't anticipate it to be such a conflicting experience. 
Yes, I am homesick for snow, I am homesick for the blue sky clear over the mountains, I am homesick for Zombie Nation in the Gonzaga Kennel, and I am homesick for my family and friends back in the States. Even now as I sit in the Cafe, Michael Buble's "Home"plays over the speakers, and it all reminds me just how lucky I am to have a home worth missing!
And yet in all this longing I feel such a strong pull to my new community I have found here in Newcastle.  So in these conflicting pulls on my heart, all I can do is pray. 
At first this made me feel helpless, but then I heard the words quoted above in a hymn last week, which reminded me that prayerful power comes not from simply going through the motions of talking to God, but in truly believing that he is listening and cares. Prayer pulls us to put our full trust in God to be with those we can't, and to sort out the path before our every step.
If all I can do is pray, then I can do more than I will ever imagine.

Hope you had a wonderful Holiday season and a good start to this new year!

The UK YAGMs in Wales. Couldn't imagine this year without them!

Christmas nights with my favorite movie, The Grinch.