Thursday, 10 November 2005

Showers of Blessings (and Fireworks!)

Dear All,

I can't believe I live here. Hehe. You'd think after, what, 9 weeks (?) that I would be used to the idea. But no : ) Continual blessings showering down.

The past two weeks, about, have been interesting ones. It was the turning over from one term to the next with all that that entails-- new classes, new pressures. I've been forced to really dig into study and research for my three major essays coming due. I find the system of study in this country involves so much more self-discipline (NOT a fabulous system for the procrastinators among us... ahem...) because we aren't given so many assignments to be doing and handing in all along. Rather, the assessed work is given one deadline at the end of the course and you're meant to be working on it all along... My private research this term ( with essays due Mid-December) involves a biblical critique of the doctrine of Mary in Roman Catholicism, the missionary methods of an influential individual in church history of which I've chosen St. Patrick in keeping with my exploration of God's laying Ireland on my heart, and the providence of God-- answering the question biblically of whether or not God really does have "a wonderful plan" for every life... It all feels heavy, but it will be so good for me to think through these things and develop a firm grasp on what I think about them according to God's word. The more intense burdens on the academic side of things are my 10 minute public speech that I have yet to decide on, and my leading (from scratch) of a bible study group on Philippians 4. In my nature, these two things seem far too much. I would be crushed under the weight of them if left on my own. Absolutely terrified. But here's where I've got to trust that God knows precisely what He's doing... I covet your prayers for those two things though because I really can be so paralyzed by fear and a feeling that I have nothing to say that hasn't been said before or couldn't be said by someone better. This is an area of my own nature that God is gently but firmly coaxing me to confront and it's... uncomfortable and mortifying. But He's bigger than all my fears...

On the community and friendship side of things, it was an up-and-down weekend! Being the end of the term, some of the short term students (called "Striders" here) finished up their course of study and struck out from Redcliffe to prepare for their respective missionfields. One of these leavers this past weekend was my dear dear darling friend Sarah who's been a part of my "prayer triplet" these past 2 months and whom I've grown closer to so far than, I think, anyone else here. But God has been so good to me, and held me so close and povided so well. The very day she left instead of leaving me to despair, He immediately worked to make some other friendships flourish in my life : ) It was a weekend of celebrations in Great Britain over a holiday known simply as "The Fifth of November"-- set aside each year to celebrate the fact that a man named Guy Folkes did NOT succeed in blowing up the royal family in 1605. It is traditionally celebrated with huge fireworks displays and massive bonfires. On Friday night we here at Redcliffe kicked it off with a bit of sparklers in the garden as a sort of Happy Leaving to Sarah and Emmanuel (another Strider) who were leaving the next day. The whole weekend is well-documented in pictures on my pictures page so do go see!: Later on that night, about 30 of us gathered together in the student common room to send Sarah and Manny off (Sarah to Peru, and Manny to Northern Africa) properly. It was such a blessing to find myself a part of this. We squeezed in arm to arm in a circle, people on the floor, couches, and beanbags, and took the Lord's Supper. Overwhelmingly beautiful. So informal and yet reverent, so much love for one another in Christ gathered in that little room. Redcliffe is such a special place. And I am so incredibly blessed.

Saturday night a group of about 10 of us walked down to the football field-- about 45 minutes walk-- to see the Gloucester City fireworks for The Fifth of November! It was like a strange twist on Independence Day, I have to say : ) They set the display to music and we oohed and awwed and laughed and talked and walked and enjoyed ourselves as a smaller group-- I love getting away into smaller groups. Friendships are always fused. This night it was a deepened friendship with a girl from Northern Ireland named Jenny. She is a star. A beautiful gem. I thought there might be something special about this girl that I could really relate to from the get go but then true, deep connection just didn't happen. But I think it is just like my Heavenly Love to beckon a heart-friend to step in the day He calls a heart-friend away : ) And now Jenny has also joined Leticia and I in our prayer partnership-- filling in the gap that Sarah left in our "triplet" in her own unique Jenny-way, and I am so blessed.

Can I just say, we have developed the best and most ridiculous form of the cardgame Uno here at this school? They call it the Dave and Adriaan Special Edition because they have simply made up the rules as we go and new rules are added by these two guys all the time and it is great fun. I'm determined to transplant it into American circles when I'm back this summer : ) Who knew Uno could be this much fun?

Sunday was brilliant. Still needing some relational security after being shaken by losing someone who I really was secure with, God brought me to a church called Kendal Road Baptist which I, for the first time, felt could really be my church home. I think I may still check out one other just to be fair but this felt so right. And almost immediately upon walking in and sitting down I was invited to lunch at the house of a dear older couple who have travelled the world and are happy to share in their experiences. The church was having this thing called "Hospitality Sunday" where everyone invites everyone over for lunch who maybe don't have families to eat with or whatever. I went with the two Dutch guys from school, Henk and Adriaan, and then another guy from Kendal Road. Jim and Joy's house was absolutely perfectly British, the decorating classy and a bit regal-- just as you'd imagine a proper British home should be : ) And the food was magnificent. I need to learn to cook : ) But even more special was their generosity of spirit. They gave us their whole day and kept me there just talking over cups of tea until 5 o'clock! I am inspired by the generosity and hospitality of so many of the people who have welcomed me into their homes here. I am convicted by how little we in America seem to look outside of ourselves to open up our doors and hearts like so many have done to me here-- even if it just means a meal and a talk. I am determined to be more giving upon returning, even if it means simply more giving of my time...

Sunday night we as a college were invited over to Redcliffe House, which is a grand, large old house across the street where most of the students with families are living for an evening of fireworks and more sparklers to celebrate the Fifth as a community! It was such a beautiful thing to just come together like that outside of school and ordinary purposes. Plus, I got to spoonfeed Grace her dinner and cuddlecuddlecuddle that chubby little baby and that in itself is precious enough : ) I am so touched by the kindness and concern we as a student body have for one another. I love these people. And I am so blessed...

This weekend (Tomorrow! Yay!) Adriaan (Holland) and I are taking off to go see Sarah who is at home in Essex (an English county just above London) until she heads off for Peru. I am so excited!! We decided it was time for just a bit of adventure and both of us, being foreigners here, want to see as much of the UK as possible and decided a few weeks ago that we would become travel partners and embark on adventures whenever we could find a place to stay : ) So, expect me to regale you with tales of our expedition to Essex in time!

Incase I haven't emphasized it enough, I am so uncommonly blessed here. My King is far far too good to me and shows His precious Love in so many ways every day-- whether it be a shy gift out of the blue from a sweet Dutch friend (The Dutch are everywhere in this school :-)), people just popping in to my room to say hello, a quiet afternoon spent out of the college in the sunny chill, Impromptu worship sessions day or night, awesome, awesome prayer times, a rollicking random game of Uno or even just a heartfelt hug now and again. He is beautiful and present His blessings are bigger than the burdens...

Cling to Him : )
Leah <><

p.s. for pictures!

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