“I think for me, for my personality, I really needed a small school. I definitely needed an environment where I could know everyone,” he explains. He knows some people want a big school, but that was not for him.
“I would have been lost and only had a few friends. Instead I left school with eight or nine hundred friends!” he says. “Any time I am asked what made Erskine such a great place to be, I always have one answer—the people that make up the Erskine family.”
Considering this, he concludes, “I think the biggest advantage I received from Erskine is a mindset that every person counts, every person is valuable, and every person around you deserves your time and effort.”
Read the full story: » Fueled by his Erskine experience, graduate moves forward (Erskine News)
Where did today go? Whether we are knee-deep in classes or on break, it seems that time skips gaily by while I am left in the dust wondering where it went so quickly.
Today I promised part II of my list of blessings, so without further ado, I shall continue. [Sidenote: yes, I have been reading poetry. Why do you ask?]
Books, books, books. What is the best book you have ready lately? What is the last book you read? I have been an avid bibilophile since I was little and scared myself silly reading too many Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. I used to get in trouble for reading when I wasn’t supposed to. (Yeah, figure that one out.) Literature has provided me with entertainment, friends, profound emotional experiences, a greater understanding of the world, a better perspective of the human condition, and a basis for my understanding of God. Though I am not the most talented writer in the world, I have a sincere respect and appreciation for those that are blessed with a such a talent. And I am truly, deeply grateful for the gift of words.
Home is where the heart is. Home can be anywhere, and is anywhere. Some once tried to tell me that I couldn’t be homesick for Scotland because it was never home–I respectfully disagree. I believe that home is anywhere where there is a piece of your heart; though I only spent 4.5 months there, it was enough time for my heart to grow some and leave a piece behind. Of course, home is definitely wherever my family is, too.
I am getting ready to graduate and go to grad school, though I’m still not sure where yet. I literally have no idea where I will be in 6 months. But I am so fortunate to have places to call home. And I am excited to see where else God will let me call home!
I am blessed to have friends all over the world, even though I don’t get to see many of them very often. Friends amuse, encourage, love, provide companionship, and help you learn valuable life lessons. True friends are hard to come by, and quality is definitely more important than quantity. Who cares how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers you have? I am grateful for those who know the real me–good points and flaws together–and love me regardless.
Not much explanation is needed here. Though I would/will praise God no matter what, I am grateful for the health that I have enjoyed thus far in my life.
Hope allows me to dream. Hope gives me something to smile about on the worst days. Hope has guided me through darkness. The capacity for hope is something which separates us from the rest of God’s creation, something which beats pessimism and cynicism. I hope for a lot of things, and it gives me direction and goals. Hope shapes our lives in so many ways.
Christ died for me on the cross. What else needs to be said? But there IS so much to say. I mess up daily, hourly. I am the queen of making mistakes. God’s forgiveness is one of the single greatest blessings I have known; and I truly appreciate forgiveness from friends, family, and foes alike. I am grateful for the capacity to forgive others, and how I learn and grow through that process. I am sp blessed that forgiveness affords me opportunities for new beginnings.
Breathing is, well, necessary for survival. I am blessed to have every breath that God has allowed me in my life.
Speaking of life…how incredible is the world in which we live?! We get our food, the components of our clothes and houses, and so much of our inspiration from the natural world. From the daffodils blooming everywhere right now to the mountains to the vast ocean, and everything in between, I consider the earth to be a blessing from God. Though it’s easy to take it for granted, I appreciate any opportunity to be out in the fresh air soaking up the sun. Or being rained on. Snow is great, too. I’m not really picky. And sunsets are often known to stop me in my tracks. God is truly the greatest artist!
The more I hear about the war and unrest and fighting in other areas of the world, the more I feel blessed to live in such peace and stability. (Governmental disagreements aside.) Yes, crime happens. Yes, We have been victim of terrorist attacks. But compared to countless millions who live in constant fear for their lives, I am so blessed to sleep each night feeling safe.
How can the sight or sound of a young child–especially a baby–not make you smile? Children represent imagination, innocence, hope, joy, love. I hope to be a mother some day, and for now I cherish any opportunity I have to spend with kids. Every child is truly a gift from God!
22. Emotions–all of themWhen I say all of them, I mean the bad ones as well. Without sadness or anger, how can you understand true joy? Without frustration, relief means little. Emotions remind me that I am alive.
23. (one to grow on) YOU!
Whether I know you personally or not, I know that God made you with care and that He has a great purpose for your life. I consider it an honor and a blessing to share this world with you, and to be able to share pieces of my life with you.
Wow! Starting a blog series right before midterms week was poor timing on my apart. I apologize for taking so long to start writing again! I am not going to publicly admit how many days last week I napped in the Student Center rather than getting a proper night’s sleep. This was one of my most overwhelming midterm weeks ever, especially considering that I had no midterms in St Andrews…
Speaking of St Andrews: I was in Paris, France, a year ago today! My, how the time has flown. I miss so much about Europe and am looking forward to visiting again some day.
But on to my post for today. A week ago I turned 22 (which feels sort of old when you live in a dorm full of 18- and 19-year-olds…) and despite my hectic and stressful week, so many little things along the way reminded me just how blessed I am. Lent is a time of reflection, preparation, and gratitude, so today’s post is 22 things for which I am grateful.
I am grateful for my Faith in God, in His love and mercy. I have faith and hope for forgiveness and salvation. My faith has strengthened me and saved me in my darkest moments. I have faith in people, in love, in goodness, in the future. Faith is all-encompassing in life and the anchor for my soul.
We are by no means perfect, but my parents and siblings are my biggest support and encouragement. I am so blessed to call my mom one of my best friends. I appreciate [though I do not say it nearly enough] that I can sit and talk to my parents for hours about literally anything. I am so grateful to have a little brother with Down syndrome. Growing up with a special needs sibling has taught me countless valuable life lessons and given me a completely different outlook on life. I know no one who embodies unconditional love the way that Luke does.
Though originally I had no intention of going to Erskine (who wants to attend college where her sister goes?!), I am so glad that God led me here. I have learned so much, been challenged in ways I never expected. made amazing friends, travelled so many fun places, gained valuable life lessons and mentors, and become more certain of the path which God desires me to follow.
4. St Andrews
Just as Erskine has shaped me and changed me for the better, my study abroad experience is probably the single experience of my life that has most helped me to realize who I am and gain confidence in myself. I left last January knowing not a single person, and left 1 June with scores of great friends and countless life-changing experiences. I have a stronger faith and a different perspective of the world from studying in Scotland and travelling around Europe. Of course, I now have what feels like an insatiable desire for travel and adventure…I am so excited to see what my next opportunity will be!
I by no means have the best voice in the world, but I truly love singing and that voice that God DID give me has allowed me the opportunity to be involved in so many different choral ensembles, from my church choir to high school chorus and show choir to several groups at Erskine. I am a veteran member of the Erskine Choraleers and have also sang with Bella Voce and the Chamber Singers. I am grateful for the ministry that music provides in my personal life as well as the opportunity to use music as my ministry in church.
From the time I knew what one was, I wanted to be a ballerina. When we played dress up as kids, 9 times out of 10 I wore the tutu. When I was 6 or so years old, we hosted a French exchange student who taught me how to do a pirouette and I practiced until I was too dizzy to walk. My family moved to SC when I was 8 years old, and within a year I started taking ballet lessons. I continued for 6 or 7 years, even progressing to learning pointe (yes, dancing on your toes. yes, OUCH). High school afforded me the opportunity to branch out and learn some different dance forms, as well as the art of singing AND dancing–a.k.a. show choir. Since I’ve been in college, and especially since studying abroad, I have fallen in love with all things swing dance related: traditional, Charleston, lindy hop, blues…[Speaking of which, if you have never seen the I Charleston St Andrews that we in the St Andrews Swing Dance Society made last year, you should definitely watch it!]
Dance is a part of my heart, a part of who I am and how I relate to the world. I am grateful for any and every opportunity to practice and share my love.
No, I am not going to list every art form that I can possibly think of (though I am definitely grateful for all of them!). Singing, dancing, and acting, though, are all art forms which I especially love. I truly enjoy acting on stage, doing tech work or working back stage, and watching performances. I love the challenge of learning a new character and bringing her/him/it to life, the challenge of improvisation, the chaos of tech week and opening night, the feeling of pride earned by a successful performance. Long rehearsals test patience, energy, and relationships but ultimately strengthen all of these. I know that my participation in theatre will only help me in my life.
Sounds cheesy, or cliché, I know. But how many countries actively persecute Christians? How many countries severely limit the rights of women? Yes, we can sit here and debate the meaning and context of the word “freedom,” but I am grateful for the opportunities that growing up in the United States has afforded me.
If college has taught me anything, it is the value of sleep. I think back now to when I hated going to bed as a child, or when I used to wake up at 4AM and go to the basement to read or play by myself while everyone else slept. The 22-year-old me wants to ask the 6-year-old me, “WHY?!” It is so easy to make other things a higher priority than sleep, but it really is essential to proper functioning and good moods. I truly am grateful for the times that I get a good/full night’s sleep. Nap time, anyone…?
Along the same lines, who doesn’t like food? It’s delicious. It’s satisfying. It’s strengthening. It makes you feel happy, body and soul. Nothing says home and love like Mom’s home-cooked dinner. Food is a common denominator of our social gatherings. Food encompasses culture, tradition, seasons, memories, creativity (yeah, that art thing again…), nature, and love. Though I cannot say that I love every food I have ever tried, food is definitely one of the ways I know for a fact that God loves us.
11. Social Media
“Aha! Another Facebook addict!” I know you’re thinking it. Yes, you. And perhaps I am slightly guilty as charged, though I’m working on it. While realizing the importance of maintaining a healthy balance, I do believe that most of these platforms can be very useful. My primary use for Facebook is staying in contact with all of my friends from abroad and all over the United States. We are using Pinterest as a common space to plan my sister’s bridal shower, and I use it to collect articles and information relevant to psychology and therapy. I get the majority of my world news from Twitter. Everything in moderation, but I really am grateful for these connections.
Odd place to stop for the day, but I’m halfway and this is quite a long post. So…stay tuned tomorrow for part II! [I seem to like multi-part posts.] Until then, I’d love some feedback! Do you agree with some of the points that I made? Do you disagree with any? What are you most grateful for today? What am I forgetting? How cute is my little brother? [Correct answer: the cutest!]
As an American sojourning in a foreign land, I felt that it was my personal responsibility to introduce my fellow students to the happiness and joy that a genuine spirit of thankfulness can bring to a person (especially when that spirit of thankfulness is expressed in a large turkey!) In other words, I really wanted to cook a whole bunch of food for my friends over here, and let them know what a real American Thanksgiving is like!
It makes sense that they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving over here. After, Thanksgiving is a celebration of a first harvest in the new world, and Scotland is certainly part of the old world. It’s a little more surprising that none of them seem to know what Thanksgiving is about, and many seem to guess that is has something to do with Lincoln. (A fact that I find quite interesting, Lincoln was the first to declare Thanksgiving a national holidays, but US citizens are more likely to think of pilgrims.) What really got me, though, was my friend Rachel declaring that she had never even heard of Thanksgiving! I wondered to myself, what do they DO in Northern Ireland??
Every Thursday evening here in St. Andrews, I take part in a wonderful small group with some of the best people I have met here in Scotland. The group is diverse; we have two Americans, one person from Singapore, three Northern Irish, as well as a healthy blend of Scottish and English students! 🙂 And of course, because small group occurs every Thursday, the two Americans (Vannah and I) realized fairly early on in the term that we needed to introduce our small group to a proper Thanksgiving!
Our Thanksgiving actually happened the day before Thanksgiving, on Thanksgiving eve. Vannah was super amazing, she was the one who really made it happened and organized everyone! She invited all of the guests: all I had to do was show up and help prepare. She and I spent almost the entire day in the kitchen! We made homemade pies, chickens (since most people don’t like turkey 😦 ), green bean casserole, dressing, and sweet tea. The kitchen was exploding with ingredients! I think the best way to describe to you how messy our kitchen was is to tell you there was a point where we LOST an ENTIRE CASSEROLE! That’s when we knew we needed to think about straightening up! J
The most hilarious thing was watching all of the British students see all of our food for the first time. None of them had ever had green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, or even heard of dressing (stuffing!) They wondered at sweet tea and asked if they were supposed to add milk, or if it was alcoholic. They stared at their plates and made comments about how they had never had so many strange foods on their plate at the same time! It was basically hilarious! J One of the best parts of the evening occurred at the end, when everyone around the table shared what they were most thankful for! It is always amazing to take time to give thanks to the Lord for all of His amazing blessings, and I certainly know I have MANY things to be grateful for!
The day after Raisin Sunday is Raisin Monday.
After Raisin Sunday, Tiffany and I were exhausted. We were covered in paint, whipped cream, cheese puffs, and sand and we were ready to take a shower. We crawled into our beds and vowed that we would never move again.
Unfortunately, we had to move again. The alarm clock rang on Monday morning. We rolled over and looked at each other. We knew that we were going to have to get out of bed, and neither of us wanted to do it.
Once we did get up (an hour after the alarm rang, shockingly!) things got a whole lot better. The traditions for Raisin Monday are just as interesting for Raisin Sunday at St. Andrews. Every year on Raisin Monday morning, students go over to their mum’s house. The mum can then dress the children as WHATEVER SHE WANTS before sending them off to their dad’s house. The dad then gives them a “raisin receipt” which is usually the most ridiculous item he can think of. All of the dad’s children then carry the receipt off to St. Salvador’s quad, where they turn it in for entrance into a school wide massive foam fight..
Make sense to you? Yeah, me neither! 😛
On Monday morning, Tiff and I went over to our mums’ house to see how they would dress us. They were really sweet and made all of their children a delicious breakfast of bacon rolls and fresh fruit. They then dressed us up! My mum, Elisabeth dressed me up as Donald Duck. My siblings were dressed up in all sorts of random costumes, my favorites were Mario and Shrek! Tiffany’s mum dressed her and all of her siblings as teletubbies. (Tiffa was the yellow one, La-La!)
After getting dressed we went to our dad’s house (TIff and I have different mums, but the same dad!) James gave all of his children a joint gift: a HUGE block of ice that we had to carry for 20 minutes across towns with our hands! It was very cold, and he put green food dye and sugar in it to make it sticky 😛
Walking to the foam fight was hilarious! Mums dressed up their children as all sorts of things, we saw bees and flowers and monsters and babies wearing only a diaper. We saw one dad who dressed up as Aladdin and made all of his kids carry him along on a huge mattress through town. Most of the mums went ALL OUT on their costumes!
Last weekend I completed a photo scavenger hunt around town while tied to five other people, had a paint fight on the beach, was thrown into the sea, ate an almost an entire chocolate bar in two minutes (and had to drink an entire wineglass full of random kitchen ingredients because I did not finish on time!), and dressed up as Donald Duck to participate in a school wide shaving cream fight.
Before you start wondering if I have gone mad and need to be rescued from this foreign land, let me remind you that this past weekend was Raisin Weekend at St. Andrews: one of the best and most fun traditions of the 600 year old university. The tradition goes something like this: every year new students are adopted by older (usually third year) students who become their “academic parents.” Academic dads and mums usually are not married and may have anywhere from two to fifteen children. These “academic families” usually meet several times per semester with their children to spend time hanging out, eating, and playing games. Academic families are not only fun, but a great way to make new friends! Keen students will even go around and find/meet their academic uncles/aunts/cousins/grandparents/etc. in order to build up their family tree!
The biggest responsibility academic families have to their children to help them have a fabulous Raisin weekend. (The weekend is rumored to be called “Raisin Weekend’ because academic children would thank their parents for their hospitality by bringing them a pound of raisins.) Raisin Sunday starts as all of the academic children go over their mum’s house in the morning or early afternoon for a party. Usually they play games and have to complete challenges in order to avoid “forfeits.” (If, at any time, during Raisin weekend your parents decide you are not behaving to their standards or did not successfully complete a challenge, they can give you a drink called a forfeit which you MUST drink and can contain anything the parents decide sounds good.) After their mum’s party, children go over to their dad’s house for another party and more challenges (and forfeits!)
On Raisin Sunday we all had to be at our mum’s house at 1:11 pm. A minute early or a minute late, and we would have to drink a forfeit. Like total dorks we stood outside of their house right around the corner until exactly 1:11 (we didn’t want to start the day with a forfeit!) My academic mum, Elisabeth, had adopted five other children so she could have a family of six. She and four of her friends held their parties together so that we would all be sure to have plenty of siblings AND extended family at the party!
We started with a relay race. Members of the team had to complete challenges (eating a donut off of a string, carrying an egg around on a spoon with your mouth, smashing an egg on your forehead, etc.) Our parents then surprised us by dividing us into three teams and tying us together! Each team was given a list of fourteen things they had to find around town and photograph or film. We had to propose to strangers, dance in front of strangers, and plank in the most interesting places. After completing the checklist we had to rush back to the beach in time for a version of twister and a gigantic paint fight on the beach! After a little rest and warming up from being thrown into the sea, Tiffany and I started the process all over again with games and challenges at our academic dad’s house!
I could try to tell you all about these experiences, and how much fun they were, but everyone knows that a picture is worth a thousand words! I definitely do not think I could have asked for a better academic family, or a better Raisin Sunday!
Last week was one of the most difficult weeks of my entire life. A giant monster with sharp claws and a strong bite, formally known as the GRE, came down expectantly to attack me when I was least expecting it. The giant beast attacked from the right and the left throwing all sorts of touch math and vocabulary questions which I needed to overcome in order to save me life! Fortunately, I survived, although it was a rough 5 hour long battle which wore me out completely!
This is the part of the story where my wonderful Daddy comes in. Knowing that I would have a hard time saying no to fun in Scotland to study, he told me that if I were to have absolutely no fun for a week before the GRE, and just study, he would take me and a few friends out to dinner. He tasked my roommate, Tiffany, with the task of ensuring that I was actually having no fun and reminding me to study for every possible second that I was awake. And Tiffany rose to the challenge! Every time I would start to talk on the phone, or text, or get comfortable in bed she would tell me that I looked like I was having too much fun and that I needed to get back to work, now!
The night before I took the GRE my daddy called me on Skype to wish me good luck and give me a few last tips before the test. After we chatted for a bit, he asked me if I had my suitcase nearby. And I think to myself, what on earth? What does my suitcase have to do with the price of tea in China??? I told him that it was on top of my wardrobe and pointed my camera at it. He asked me to get it down. I was really confused, and speculated that he had seen the mess all over my room while Skyping with me and wanted to remind me that I only have one suitcase to lug all of my stuff home…. But I got the suitcase!
But the inordinate amount of stuff lying all over my dorm room floor was not what my dad was trying to point out, at least not in that instance. He had me unzip the main compartment, unzip the inner lining, and look under the plastic on the side. And there, taped to the inside of my suitcase, was a one hundred-dollar bill! My dad had put it in there a week before I left for Scotland, as a surprise to remind me that he had been planning a surprise for me long in advance! He told me it was a present from him to reward me for all of my studying and to allow me to take a few friends out to dinner as a treat from him!
Naturally, I was quite excited! Can you imagine a daddy doing anything nicer for his daughter?? I quite happily scheduled a dinner date for Tiffany, Elisabeth, Naomi, and I because I love them, and I also REALLY APPRECIATED all of the hours they spent helping me to prepare for the big day!
And what a fantastic dinner we had! We all went to the grill house in town and ordered a delicious meals. Elisabeth and I ordered Mexican fajitas, which came out on hot plates still sizzling! (We knew they were coming before we could even see the waiter approaching…. Naomi announced, ~I hear your dinner coming!” and cracked us all up!) Naomi and Tiffany had delicious burgers and chips. And we all had a FANTASTIC TIME! This goes to show, I really do have the best daddy in the whole, wide world! ❤
If you have been keeping up with the Erskine blog, then you might have noticed that I suddenly disappeared last week. Hm, you might have thought to yourself, where has she gone? She normally puts up a blog post about every other day. And now it has been almost two weeks!
Rest assured, I did not suddenly fall off the face of the planet or get swarmed by a herd of angry kittens! Instead, was attacked by something even more deadly: the Graduate Record Exam. In case you are still blissfully unaware, the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is a four and a half long test required as part of the application process for a large percentage of graduate schools in the United States. In other words, it is a super big, important test that I have to do well on if I want to keep going to school.
Here in the UK, no one had ever heard of the GRE. I told my friends in class, at church, and in my hall that I was going to take the GRE and that I had to study. Their response: stare at me blankly and ask what the GRE is. So I tried explaining to them that it is like the SAT for grad school. Still nothing. And I have been standing around all week wondering to myself wondering what kind of strange world do I live in now where no one has ever even HEARD of the SAT or that GRE?? Do these people live under a ROCK?? And then I thought to myself… No standardized testing? Maybe I should live here for good!
Studying for the GRE was at best dull and uninteresting. Normally I like a good study session where I can really feel like I am working hard, but then, normally I am not studying abroad in Scotland! My dad made a deal with me that if I were to study hard for five days in a row and have absolutely no fun he would pay for me to go out to a nice dinner after the test. The problem was is that there are way too many fun things to do in Scotland! I realized I had hit a whole new level of dedication when I skipped a pup quiz to study!
Actually, I lied to you just a lit bit there. Sorry! (My GRE study guide would say that was a peccadillo- just a small sin! 😛 ) There was one part of studying for the GRE that was fun: the GRE vocabulary flashcards. In order to improve my vocabulary for the test, I ordered a box of flashcards containing the top 500 vocabulary words appearing on the GRE. For about a week before the test I carried those notecards with me everywhere. I flipped through them in my bed, I studied them on the way to class, I agonized over their definitions on the elliptical. My challenge was to memorize as many of the words as I could before I took the test.
The fun part of this story is how helpful my Scottish friends were with this goal. Tiffany, my roommate, started quizzing me on the words in our dorm before we went to bed. Then my friend Elisabeth stepped in and dedicated two evenings in a row to painstakingly go over every word and definition with me, carefully stopping to make sure I really understood the words and could use them in context. The last night before the test my friend Naomi came over to help me with the last few words I needed to practice. I will never forget how these sweet girls gave up their time to help me prepare for my test!
The morning of the test I thought I was going to die. Literally, I was sure of death’s eminence. This mainly stemmed from the fact that I had to get up at 5:45 am in the morning! As I am not meant to get out of bed before 9am, this was a real challenge. Tiffany and I took the 6:20 am bus to Edinburgh and arrived just past 8:30. She went to the coffee shop to study for her math test and I went to the test centre to take my test! Although I was also sure I was going to die of stress or, alternatively, fall asleep during the exam, I managed to make it through alive.
After I finished the test I decided that I deserved a reward. I LOVE to reward myself, and generally reward myself for basically everything that I do. So I decided to reward myself for completing the GRE by getting a professional hour-long massage. Let me tell you’ll something right now: that was the BEST HOUR of my ENTIRE life! Anybody who is reading this blog and has never had a professional massage should drop their computer right now and go get one! I am fairly confident that I am addicted, this stuff is better than crack!
And before you make some ridiculous comment about how I don’t know if it is truly better than crack, because I have never tried crack, let me tell you something. Recent research has found that oreos are probably more addictive than crack. I may not have much experience with crack, but I certainly know a thing or two about oreos!
As my favourite form of procrastination is reminiscing about my semester abroad, and as my week contains multiple exams and major assignments, I think this is the perfect time to write some more about my time across the Pond. [Note: I do not condone excessive procrastination.] I believe I have yet to tell about my visit to Brussels so I will commence there.
After saying goodbye to Anna in Frankfurt over Spring Break, Scott and I continued with our delightful first-class train ride to Brussels, Belgium. I thoroughly enjoyed this segment of the trip by sleeping the entire 4 or so hours: clearly, I am a delightful travelling companion. We arrived that night and were met by Cory, a friend from Melville (our residence hall in St Andrews). It was already dark outside but he showed us a bit of the city before heading to his house. Our first stop was to get Belgian waffles.
Let me pause here. Belgian waffles.
real. authentic. Belgian. waffles.
I am forever ruined. They were beyond delicious! We ate them while perusing La Grand Place–the public square–which is full of wonderfully ornate old buildings. A few blocks away we also saw the obligatory Manneken Pis, which is a fountain of a little boy, well, peeing. For some reason, Brussels is famous for this little fountain. Who knows. There were also dozens of interesting cobblestone alleyways and it was so tempting to explore each of them. It was getting late though, so the three of us took the trams to Cory’s house in the outskirts of the city. And what a cool house! I wish I had time to talk about all of the cool things they have. My favourites were Cory’s huge Lego model of Hogwarts that he made himself and his room, which could have been fully decorated from a Harry Potter set. (Cory founded the Quidditch team at St Andrews, runs a French HP fan website, and speaks at conferences. I dare you to find me a bigger Potterhead. He’s the best.)
After a restful night’s sleep and breakfast–where we got to meet his family–we were off again to the city. And what a city! Aside from the fact that a wonderful friend and my academic dad are natives, it’s an amazing place. One of the first places we went was the Justitiepaleis, or Palace of Justice. It is called a palace for a reason. That monster of a building should make anyone afraid of breaking the law. The Royal Palace is probably smaller but lovely, and we spent some time walking around the park in front of it.
I’m very grateful to my friends for indulging my Catholic-ness. When Cory asked us if there was anything in particular we wanted to see, I said Catholic cathedrals. He asked which one and, not knowing anything about Belgian cathedrals, told him to choose. I am happy in any cathedral. So off we went to Église Notre Dame du Sablon, or Cathedral of Our Lady of Sablon. I especially loved the way the chapels along the edge of the sanctuary were arranged in almost an open-air fashion, let alone being in a 15th-century cathedral filled with beautiful artwork and echoes of ancient hymns lingering in the rafters. There was also a marble alcove dedicated to two families with statues and crests all around, and a baptismal font in the middle. It was so still that I couldn’t help but feel solemn and reflective.
Wow. That was a lot of photos in a row. I wish I could share them all! I also wish I could keep writing, but–alas–academics do come first. I will share more soon; until then, please say a prayer for all of the Erskine students tackling midterms these next couple of weeks. God bless and keep you!
If you have ever met me before, you may know that I love to describe everything as “the best thing in the entire world!” or perhaps, for some variation, as “the best thing that has ever happened to me!” Most people roll their eyes at my obvious enthusiasm and tell me that I am exaggerating and that whatever has recently happened to me is actually not the best thing that ever happened. This then starts the frequently repeated discussion where I explain that it really is the best thing that ever happened, because it was happening at the same time as I remembered all of the other wonderful things that ever happened to me. And if something wonderful happens tomorrow it will be even better because tomorrow I will also have the memories of today and every other day!!
Most people think I am crazy.
On that note, this weekend was possibly the best weekend of my entire life! For one thing, I did not even have to solve even ONE math problem or attend ANY extremely long lectures. Instead I got to spend the weekend learning about the Word of the Lord and fellowshipping with Christian friends (and drinking lots of tea!) At this point you are probably wondering to yourself, how did Holly manage to have such an awesome weekend?? What a great question! Cornerstone St. Andrews (the church I have been attending here in Scotland) decided they would arrange a weekend away for the Uni students and I decided I would go along.
At first that may seem like an easy enough decision to you: to leave on a Friday afternoon and go for a weekend away in Comrie with your fellow Christian students. Sounds easy, but I was really scared. After all, I have only been in Scotland for one month (today is my one month anniversary in Scotland!) and have only known these girls for a couple of weeks. What if they did not like me? What if I had an awful time? What if they all thought my American accent was weird and decided not to talk to me for the entire weekend! I was quite scared about how the weekend would go.
Despite my somewhat ridiculous fears, the weekend turned out wonderfully! We left on Friday afternoon and drove for about two hours to a small house in a small town called Comrie. Let me tell you, Comrie has got to be one of the most beautiful places ever! It is surrounded by rolling hills, forests, and rivers with riverbeds of small stones. It was one of the most beautiful places in the entire world! One of my favourite parts of the weekend was going out to the river each morning to spend a half hour praying and reading the Word.
The theme of our weekend was ‘Facing Reality.’ We talked about how in our Christian lives surrounding our whole selves to God is more than an afternoon walk in the park and much more than occasional afternoon or evening entertainment. In our small groups we talked about how surrendering your life to God is something that is more about asking the Lord to change your heart and your thoughts than just trying to be a “better Christian” by just doing more “religious stuff.” It is about changing your entire outlook on life and living your entire life for God. We also had an amazing speaker (called Laurence) from the Netherlands who came with us for the weekend and shared his testimony about how he surrendered his life to the Lord at the age of 17 and the ways that the Lord has grown him in maturity and understanding since that time.
A favourite memory from the weekend occurred on Saturday afternoon. After lunch on Saturday we were given a free afternoon until dinner. I was sitting there thinking to myself, what am I going to do with myself all afternoon? Everybody here looks like they all are going to have fun things to do, but what if none of them wants to do anything with me?? But before I could worry anymore about how I would entertain myself, the girls from my Bible study group invited me to come the nearby town of Crief with them! And we had the most FANTASTIC time! We went to a coffee shop to have some tea/coffee and then we went to the park. Let me tell you, Scotland playgrounds have the funnest toys EVER! At first I was not sure if they would all think I was crazy if I threw my backpack on the ground and ran over to the swings and bouncy things, but then I decided that the opportunity was too good to miss!
After this wonderful weekend in Comrie, I am starting to realize that I really love being in Scotland. I love the scenery, and the weather, and the people I have met. I LOVE the girls in my small group and the time we spend studying the Word together every Thursday evening. I am really starting to feel like I am part of a community here in Scotland!
(P.S. Another sweet moment occurred on the first night we arrived in Comrie. My small group of 8 girls were all staying in one room together in a set of 4 bunk beds. That night everyone was getting ready for bed when I went to take a shower. I took quite a long time and expected everyone to have gone to bed when I got out. I came into our room to find that everyone HAD gone to bed, but that they had left the light on for me anyways! All seven of them were rolled up in their duvets like little burritos to keep the light out, but left it on for me so I would not have to search for my bed in a strange place in the dark. It was one of the sweetest things ever and made me feel really welcomed and loved ❤ )