Why Philadelphia Isn’t so Bad After All

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PhiladelphiaI’ve spent the past five months living just outside of downtown Philadelphia. I’d always heard people make comments about Philly as they would of New Jersey or Long Island, “You’re moving to Philly,” they’d ask me…rhetorically of course, the words dripped with condescension. “You don’t want to move there, do you?” Rhetorical question once again. I got the point. Philly, they said, had too much crime, was dirty, and wouldn’t have anything for me, a 23 year-old urban explorer, to do.

Actually, they were wrong.

Philadelphia wasn’t as romantic as London or as bustling as NYC, but Philly surprised me in a million ways. Sure, there were sketchy parts of the city-just as there are in NYC, London, or even Denver-but you learn quickly to avoid them (except if you want to find cheap groceries, then you grab friends and make an event of it). The city wasn’t any dirtier than any of the other cities I’ve lived in over the last three years, but what struck me most was how quiet it was, how appropriate the people-to-sidewalk ratio was, how beautiful the murals adorning the sides of old warehouses and buildings throughout the city were, and how history was thick and rich everywhere I turned. I loved it! I like to say the only thing I drop like it’s hot is history knowledge. I learned so much about our great nation’s history (USA!) and saw several of its most important edifices and artifacts too.

James Madison

And the food! How can I forget the food (or coffee?)? As a hard-core glutard (gluten-free sounds too hoity-toity to my ears), I feel like a pain and get embarrassed when I have to ask for alternative dishes at a restaurant. To my delight, I found Philly to be more than accomadating, even a haven for foodies and those with way too many food allergies (aren’t they the same thing?). I can’t wait to come back for a day trip with NYC friends for a food and coffee crawl.

Independence Hall

One of my favorite spots sits on Market Street, a block away from Christ Church (where the Founders and Framers worshiped in the 18th century! When I say it’s gorgeous, I mean it. Plus, seven signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried in the graveyard outside!) and a five minute trot from Independence Hall (HELLO Georgian architecture! Makes me swoon. Seriously.). Tomorrow I’ll tell you all about it.

High Table on Market Street

Philly, you’ve been fun.

NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette by Nathan W. Pyle

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Each city has its own code of conduct that goes deeper than neighborhood slang, driving idiosyncraseis, or favorite sandwich. After living in five large cities in three years, I know full-well this especially is true of New Yorkers. Why did I get yelled at for standing on the left side of the escalator? How can I tell what the light on top of the yellow cab means? How do I successfully eat a slice of pizza while en-route to wherever it is I am going? The questions seem endless, but now – thanks to Nathan Pyle – they have been answered.

In his newly released book NYC Basic Tips and Etiquettewriter and artist Nathan W. Pyle lucidly positivizes the unwritten rules of the largest city in America in GIF and written form. Nathan has lived in NYC since 2008 and has picked up on the social subtleties of the city that never sleeps. He illumines the basics of NYC life in simple black-and-white images that are sure to make you chuckle and exclaim a knowing “ah-ha!” with every page:

Panther Coffee: Wynwood, Miami

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It was 5:45 AM the Friday before Christmas and a solitary thought filled my mind: Panther Coffee. You see, I drove down to Boca Raton for a reunion with some of my closest friends, but knew that my South Florida experience would not be complete without a trip to the infamous Wynwood Panther Coffee shop. Daniel, one of my best friends who happens to be a photographer/coffee enthusiast, introduced me to Panther’s Chelba roast last summer and my taste buds exploded with gratitude after the first sip. It was fitting he would take me to Wynwood (an incredible street-art district in North-East Miami) for a sunrise photography and coffee excursion.

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Dreams & the Sea.

Oxford is the most lovely place to be, even when you aren’t allowed inside of the RadCam anymore. Although life in Oxford feels incomplete since my Bodleian card expired yesterday and term is almost over, I’m thankful for a few trips to “the continent” and a month-long worldview intensive that are just around the corner. Still, it’s bittersweet to be on the outside of my favorite buildings. Maybe I’ll have an opportunity to come back to Oxford and study in the Bod again, who knows?

As I finish research for my final tutorial (Isaiah Berlin with Dr. Tudor Jones) on Tuesday, a few questions have popped into my mind. I love theology, political theory, liberty, and virtue, but these topics are so broad.  Finally, I think I’ve begun to narrow my search for what I’d like to study in graduate school, should that door open. Right now I’m stuck on two questions that I’d like to explore and understand:

1. What is the formative bearing of religious concepts on moral life?
2. What is the contribution of religion and virtue to the health of liberal societies through art, culture, and the church?

Easy, right?

Oxford has a school of Moral Theology that studies these very questions. (Hint: mom & dad).

On another note, last weekend I went on an adventure to Portsmouth, England’s gateway to the sea, with several other “international” students (it’s crazy to be considered an ‘international’ student along with others from Africa, South America, and Asia). The day began cloudy and damp, typical UK weather. Suddenly, a half hour before dusk, the sky cleared to reveal a beautiful sunset! What a gift.
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Gloucester

Gloucester

Gloucester

Last Saturday I went on an adventure with Lauren and Anthony-two of my friends from Apostles Church NYC-to Gloucester. Gloucester sits about 1.5 hours northwest (I think?) of Oxford. We visited the Gloucester Cathedral, the church George Whitefield was ordained at, and some incredible ruins from 900AD. It was a chilly day, but the crisp blue skies were a blessing and the company was even better! I’m so thankful to have some dear New York friends over here in Oxford with me. Words cannot describe what a blessing their friendship is to me! Continue reading

Deep Seated Joy

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This place has all sorts of joy.

So much joy it tingles to the very tips of your fingers and toes almost as if they’re thawing out after hours in the freezing snow. It’s satisfying yet uncomfortable-like that sharp thawing pain-only because it’s foreign, but it’s necessary. This deep-seated joy marks our community at Oxford.

We are here. We want to be here. We are humbled and in awe of the people we’ve met, places we’ve been, and everything we’re learning. I think this joy is best named contentment. There’s a correlation between joy and contentment that I’ve barely begun to understand. Our flats may not be perfect, we may barely have enough money to get through the week, our tutorials may be overwhelming, and we may be homesick, but we are blessed. And we know it. We are grateful, not in the canned say-thank-you-after-you-get-a-birthday-present sort of way, but with genuine, raw gratitude that leads to contentment and joy. What a gift!

Isn’t Oxford gorgeous? Living here still feels like a dream:

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IMG_6307IMG_6300 IMG_6302IMG_6303Oxford look like Narnia when she’s covered with a blanket of snow. Unfortunately, the snow melted a few days ago, but it left us with a gift- tulips and daffodils exploding all over the ground!

My favorite parts of the week have been Skype sessions with my two incredible parents. I’m blessed by them and am thankful for their continued encouragement and support during this unconventional adventure to Oxford.

Please continue to pray for me as I push through my tutorials. I’ve never loved school as much as I do now. It’s an honor to study Religious Liberty with Dr. Tudor Jones and C.S. Lewis/Philology with Dr. Michael Ward. Can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with you all!

I’ve received word from the International Justice Mission about continuing the interview process for a Fellowship position with them this September. In addition, I’m in the process of applying for a Fellowship position with the John Jay Institute in Philadelphia, which would begin in September as well. I’m confident the Lord will provide and will guide my future steps as He has the past.

“Now unto him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
-Ephesians 3:20-21

A Grief Observed

The Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library

I was reading Locke in the Political Philosophy section of the Bodleian Library this morning when I received a series of text messages from my Aunt and an email from my dad with the same message: my grandfather had passed away.

I loved my grandpa. I am thankful that he loved our family so much. He was a good and Godly man. Last time I was with him (December of 2010), we snuck out of the house (against my grandmother’s orders) to a coffee shop. He had heart problems and wasn’t supposed to have caffeine, but he loved a good cup of coffee (now you know where I get it from) and wanted to spend an afternoon with his granddaughter, me! I was beaming the entire time we were together. He ordered us double lattes with extra froth, which probably was a bad idea-at least, on his part. We talked for hours and hours. I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.

Papa told me about his first wife, my dad’s mother Jean, how much he loved her and how he wished he had more time with her before she died in her 20’s from breast cancer. He told me of his days in the army and landing in Germany during WWII, his success at the bank in Denver, but mostly, he talked about his five boys, how proud he was of my dad, and how thankful he was that my father and his family were walking with the Lord. Papa Guy was a big man (he played college football in Missouri) with a big heart and this morning he went to be with Jesus.

I’m thankful for that afternoon I spent with him. I am sad he’s not with us anymore.

Grief is no joke. It’s hard to be all alone in a new place without the people you know and love to walk with you. I don’t know people here well enough to ask them to just sit and watch a movie or to read a good story/series of poems out loud with me. I need a hug and I miss family, so I hope to go to the Bywayer’s house tomorrow. I am thankful for Kevin and his incredible family. They’ve been so gracious, kind, and generous to me. They are a true blessing from the Lord.

It’s been beautiful and snowy outside all day long. After I received the sad news, I went on a walk through the snow to pray and hang out with God for a while.

God is faithful and good. He heals the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Tonight I continue to grieve, but I am thankful for my grandfather, his example, and his love for me.

The First Week

The Radcliffe Camera

The Radcliffe Camera

It’s Friday and I’ve come to the end of the first week of tutorials. All in all it’s been a roller coaster of joy, excitement, and grief. I think the next 7 weeks of Hilary term are going to feel like 7 straight weeks of finals-and I’m excited about that. I’ve re-discovered a love for John Locke and his Essays on Natural Law and Understanding (let’s talk Religious Liberty, Philology, and Civil Society), settled into my flat at Venneit Close for the most part (now I just need to do something with the stark white walls), and am learning more about literature than I could have dreamed of with my C.S. Lewis tutorial. Phew. It’s a whirlwind.

I am spoiled to be here in England. It’s an honor and a blessing to have the opportunity to study at Oxford and to be a part of the Summit Community.  New College is a gorgeous place too!

New College Spires

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IMG_9051Last weekend I explored London with my sister, Krista (she was in London-town for work). There’s a special bond between sisters, especially since it’s just the two of us, and we had the most amazing time. She left at 5am on Sunday morning, so I wandered all over the city until the coffee shops opened up for the day (around 7:30am-this NYC girl is not used to things opening so late and closing so early!). So, I watched the “sunrise” over Big Ben down by Westminster Abbey and Parliament while I waited. It was perfectly beautiful. I was amazed to find I was only one of a handful of people up and about.

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A man worthy of respect.

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Unfortunately, the rest of my photos won’t upload onto WordPress! I’ll get them up as soon as I can.

Cheerio.

Off to Oxford!

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Eynsham VillageAs most Americans rush to the TV tonight to watch the Collegiate National Championship football game, I pack my single suitcase and prepare for an early morning. Tomorrow we move into our flats at Oxford! I can’t wait to make a bit of a home-at least for a few months. We’ve had an incredible week diving into Psalm 32, Genesis 1-3, 12, 26, and 37, the Two Tasks by both of the Malik’s, and endless discussions of systematic theology, morality, the purpose of the law, and to top it off, a conversation this morning with Theodore Dalrymple (one of my new found favorite authors) for our worldview intensive.  We’re thinking more clearly than we have before, and I think we’re learning-slowly but surely-how to ask questions, not just good questions, but important, the right questions; questions with answers that influence our lives and change the way we interact with and respond to other people, policies, and ideas.

This afternoon Kevin told us he desires to do more than ascribe the overused term ‘change the world’ as his goal for our class.  He seeks to train us to be ‘faithful and thoughtful, no matter where we go.’ I think this is a lofty goal, and I aspire to be faithful and thoughtful, especially as I begin my tutorials next week.

My ‘inner planner’ is frustrated, since my two tutorials have not been set yet and we are a week away from class. Please pray for me that I’ll be able to get a tutor who is willing to teach me International Development, as this is a passion of mine, and sure would come in handy for both the NATO and IJM fellowships I’ve applied for. Whatever happens, I know that God works out all things for my good and for His glory. He’s been too good to me. I refuse to be discouraged by the fact that I may not get to take the classes I’d like to take while I’m at Oxford and will trust that He knows best…but I won’t go down without a fight!

I am thankful for the friendship I’ve found so far within our little Summit Oxford Community.  We have a fantastic group of ambitious men and women who refuse to stop thinking and talking about the great ideas that shape the world (even outside of class, even all-day Sunday). Katie and I talked about this idea last night: attending to Summit is so important because it augments your faith while teaching you how to defend your Christian Worldview, encouraging you to enter into the “great conversation,” inspiring you to do more, and edifying you the sheer caliber of people within the community.

I’m also thankful for Kevin and Angela Bywayter. They’ve shared their awesome children with us and have served us endlessly this week.  Even more, I am thankful for the Ferrier family who have “put us up” in their home these six days. They have showed us what true hospitality looks like. One day, I hope to open my home and be as welcoming to other as they have been to me!

Molly loves to carry Eddie the cat around, to Eddie’s dismay.

Cheerio!

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.”
-Ephesians 3:15-21