Category Archives: Life and Leisure

Farewell to Cambridge

It has been far too long since we have written on here and a lot has happened since our last entry.  It has been a very busy, intense two months, but things are finally starting to settle down for us.  Well, sort of.  Our time in Cambridge has just come to an end and now we are spending about a month with our families before we move to Chicago.  We are moving to Chicago as Ben will be starting a job at Moody Bible Institute in July which we are beyond excited about.  I will be starting my own wedding and event planning business so as you can imagine, I am pretty elated.  We are excited, but there is also a lot of change ahead of us.

Before I start looking forward though, I want to reflect on all that has taken place the last few months.  Our time in England was such a wonderful, unique time in our lives and I want to share some of the highlights of the last few months.  In no particular order, here they are…

1.  In April my mom decided to take a last-minute trip and come visit us before we left.  It was a whirlwind visit but it was incredible.  I wanted to show her everything, so we did from walks to Grantchester (even in the freezing cold wind!!), afternoon drinks with my girlfriends, walking around the colleges, a day trip to London,  and afternoon tea, we did it all!  We had such a great time and it was wonderful to just enjoy the city I love with my mom.

A couple of days before my mom came she decided that she wanted to also do a short trip to Italy so we spent about four days in Venice toward the end of her stay.  It was an amazing trip and we had so much fun together.  We laughed so hard my mom was bent over holding her stomach and couldn’t even walk!  We kept getting turned around in the canals and we just couldn’t stop giggling.  We enjoyed gelato, Italian opera, views from the bell tower, a gondola ride, and of course, tasty Italian food!  It was such a memorable trip and I am so glad I got to share it with my mom.  The only thing that would have topped it off would have been having my dad, brother, and sister-in-law there!

2.  For most of the last year, we had been praying about what to do when our time at Cambridge came to an end.  Graciously, the Lord answered our prayers – after teaching us many lessons in patience – and opened some exciting doors for future ministry.  Ben couldn’t be more excited to start his job at Moody.  Chicago is going to be a wonderful city to move to.  We feel incredibly blessed, and we can’t wait to start the next phase of our lives there.

3. We went out with friends to Wimpole Hall one day and it was one of the most relaxing afternoons I have had in months.  We sipped on hot chocolate, walked the gardens, escaped a hoard of mangy looking cows, and strolled through fields in the fading sun.  It was afternoon of fun as we posed for photos, played on the bridges and hiked to castle ruins.  The setting was gorgeous, but it was the people that made the afternoon so wonderful.  The Brock family along with Jack, Jess, and David never fail to keep me laughing.

4. One of the things that we have not really shared on our blog has been our desire to start a family.  Through our training in natural family planning, we have known ever since we got married that we may have some problems with getting pregnant.  When we moved to England we began trying to have a baby, but after two and half years the doctors in the NHS told us that we would not be able to conceive without surgery and in vitro fertilization.  No sooner had we received that depressing news than we found out that we were pregnant!  That’s the NHS for you (sorry British friends…you know it to be true).  We couldn’t wait to tell our families once we returned home, but sadly we lost the baby around 8 weeks and this was devastating for us.  We had a very difficult few weeks as we grieved the loss of our baby.  Nevertheless, the very fact that we were able to get pregnant has filled us with a hope that one day we will get pregnant and eventually hold a baby in our arms.

5. Another highlight for me was a girls weekend away in the Peak District.  Me and 10 of my girlfriends rented a house in a little village named Calver and we had such a great time!  It was a weekend filled with great conversations, painting our nails, an afternoon at Chatsworth House (where Pride and Prejudice was filmed), cooking amazing meals together, reading in front of a cozy fire, dancing in the kitchen, playing games, and just enjoying each other’s presence.  This weekend came after my miscarriage so it was exactly what I needed in terms of rest, laughter, talking, and great food!  I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend or more amazing friends.

6. Our lease ended in late April and so we were in need of a place to stay until we left on the 21st of May, and our Cambridge family came to the rescue!  We stayed with five different families during this month and we could not have been more blessed.  We were not only given a bed to sleep in, but we were provided meals, rides to and from here and there, a washer to do our laundry, and best of all, quality time with each family.  While it could have been a really stressful time, our friends made it a time of real blessing and encouragement.

7. Our last two weeks in Cambridge were amazing.  We were showered in love nearly every day.  We had two going away parties that were just incredible.  The first one was a surprise party where everyone was dressed in Victorian apparel and it was unforgettable!  Not only was everyone dressed in Jane Austen style clothing, but they provided us with matching attire!  There was a five course dinner to follow complete with menus, candelabras, and place cards with me and Ben’s silhouettes on them.  Like I said, it was an unforgetable evening.

We had another going away party that was in the Tyndale garden and this was another memorable evening.  The night was filled with all the things we love…burgers, an all chocolate dessert buffet, vases and jars filled with peonies (which is my favorite flower!!), and country music!  My favorite part of the night was once the sun went down and we sat around a fire eating smores.  It was such a sweet time of everyone just enjoying being together.

Our going away parties were so special, but we had a hundred other ways that we were blessed.  We received some of the most incredible gifts and we could not say thank you enough.  From gigantic Cadbury bars (and I mean GIGANTIC) to lovely bracelets, an underground sign with messages from our youth to a painting of me and Ben, a book of photos and notes from friends to a slide show of photos of Cambridge with music by Taylor Swift, we could not have felt more blessed. We felt so, so loved these last few weeks and it made it that much harder to leave.  Thank you to all our Cambridge friends.  When I say that you have been family to us these past few years, I mean that.  Leaving you all and this special time in our lives has been very difficult, but we are so thankful for the time we had with each and every one of you.

There are so many more highlights, but I will stop there for now as anyone who has read this far is probably now in need of stretching their legs!  Below are some photos from the last few months (sorry for how jumbled they are).  More will follow I am sure!!

The whole gang at our surprise going away party...don't they all look amazing?!

The whole gang at our surprise going away party…don’t they all look amazing?!

The whole group at Wimpole...even the family dog made it in the photo!

The whole group at Wimpole…even the family dog made it in the photo!

I love the Brock women. :)

I love the Brock women. 🙂

Me and Lady Roe squeezing each other to death!!

Me and Lady Roe squeezing each other to death!!

Ben and Jack looking cool with their jackets over their shoulders!

Ben and Jack looking cool with their jackets over their shoulders!

Venice...so beautiful.

Venice…so beautiful.

Me and mom having a laughing fit in London

Me and mom having a laughing fit in London

Mom and me posing in Notting Hill

Mom and me posing in Notting Hill

Mom laughing in Venice...how fitting that it was in front of the crazy bar!

Mom laughing in Venice…how fitting that it was in front of the crazy bar!

Me and mom in the Peterhouse gardens.

Me and mom in the Peterhouse gardens.

Amy...our resident chef for the weekend!

Amy…our resident chef for the weekend!

Jackie and Ben posing in their period clothing!

Jackie and Ben posing in their period clothing!

Group photo at Chatsworth!

Group photo at Chatsworth!

Brittany and Laura in Mr. Darcy's garden...so fetching!

Brittany and Laura in Mr. Darcy’s garden…so fetching!

Dinner with the girls in the Peak District...so fun!

Dinner with the girls in the Peak District…so fun!

My beautiful peonies and chocolate desserts!

My beautiful peonies and chocolate desserts!

I love these girls :)

I love these girls 🙂

The guys playing it cool

The guys playing it cool

Amy LOVING her first smore!

Amy LOVING her first smore!

Amy making her first smore

Amy making her first smore

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Birthday Surprise!

I forgot to post this a few months ago…better late than never, right?!

For those of you that don’t know, birthdays are a very big deal to me.  Growing up in my family birthdays were always something to look forward to.  If my birthday fell on a school day, my parents would always send a large bouquet of balloons or yellow roses.  I would be loaded with cards, flowers, balloons and gifts, and let’s be honest, I absolutely loved this.  Birthdays were always fun celebrations of love and laughter and I came to cherish each and every one.

As an adult I find it a little more embarrassing to be as openly excited about birthdays, but the truth always slips out.  I just can’t contain the joy that overcomes me when birthdays are near!  This year, the day before my birthday at our Bible study, I was surprised with the most amazing birthday cake ever.  I mean ever.  It was a tribute to America and me and I loved every bit of it (including the person who made it!!).  Everyone at my work knows how much I love birthdays so they did an amazing job of decorating my desk in the craziest way possible.  There were decorations everywhere, cards on my desk, a beautiful bouquet of roses, and a nice big gift!  I was ecstatic.

Another reason I love birthdays aside from all the attention you get, is I adore surprises.  With that being said, I am a fairly difficult person to surprise because I am always thinking of how people could surprise me!  You can imagine my delight when Ben took me out to a nice romantic dinner and all my girlfriends were there to surprise me!  Ben kissed my cheek and left us girls to enjoy a nice night out together.  We enjoyed tasty Italian food and good conversation.

The last surprise for my birthday came a few days later.  Ben had asked all of my Cambridge friends to write limericks (I had to have him clarify exactly what kind of poem this was!) about me and the past year.  There were 29 of them and each one was made up (for the most part) of 29 syllables.  They were amazing.  Some had me crying, others had me smiling, and some had me rolling with laughter (Jackie!!).  Ben put them all together in this great book that had photos of my friends and favorite memories from my 28th year.  This is a gift I will always treasure.  I thought I would share one of my favorite limericks with you since so many of you won’t have the opportunity to see it anytime soon.  I hope you enjoy!

The Surprise by Ben Wilson
She flew across the ocean,
holding this crazy notion:
To home she goes,
but no one knows-
this might cause some commotion!

IMG_8644 B&W IMG_8733 photo (8) photo (9)


Surprise!

One thing you should know about me is I love surprises.  I love to be surprised and I love to surprise others.  I absolutely live for the challenge of pulling off a great surprise.  This Christmas I pulled off my biggest one yet.

We had the blessing of being able to go home this Christmas and we decided that instead of telling my parents we were coming home for the holidays, we would simply show up on their doorstep on Christmas day.  I started planning with my brother (Zach) in October making sure that he and his wife (Stephanie) would have some time off and that they could plan to be with my parents.  Not only would we get to spend some quality time with them, but it would also ensure that my parents didn’t plan some sort of last-minute Caribbean cruise or something!  With the planning underway, we got more and more excited.

When I spoke to my parents, I carefully avoided the subject of what we were doing for Christmas and talked more about my company’s Christmas party and all the things our church was doing.  Finally on the 23rd of December, we set off for the airport.  We had a fun two days leading up to Christmas day and I couldn’t get over how excited I was to see our families.  My enthusiasm for all things America and family just kept bubbling over.  I was like a giddy schoolgirl.

Christmas morning finally dawned and it was an amazing day from beginning to end.  We enjoyed Christmas morning with Ben’s family and then had a great lunch together.  We then set off for my parents house.  I have to say that I loved the two and half hour drive to their house.  After having not driven in over a year and a half, it felt great to be on the open roads.  We arrived at my parents house and I drove extremely slowly up their driveway so that they wouldn’t hear the car.  We gently shut the doors of the jeep, crept up the walkway and then slowly tried to open the front door.

It stuck.  I had to mash the handle pretty good before the door gave way and opened.  I could hear my family talking in the living room as Ben and I slowly walked in.  As I turned the corner I said cheerfully, “Merry Christmas!!”  Everyone turned our way and my dad was the first to respond.  He promptly shouted, “What?!  Who is this?!”  My mom’s hand flew to her mouth as she gasped out loud.  The next thing I heard was my dad saying, “this is so cool!”

It finally sunk in to my mom (who thought she was hallucinating!) and she got up and put her hands on both sides of my face and just stared at me for a minute.  Then she kissed my check and pulled me in for a fierce hug.  My dad had finally recognized me by this point and after hugging Ben, he wrapped his arms around me and my mom who were just standing there hugging.  It was the best Christmas gift I have ever been given and the best surprise I have ever pulled off.


Belated Thanksgiving

We celebrated two amazing Thanksgiving celebrations this year, but I have to say that it was the one that was with our small group from church that will really stick with me.  Between the excitement over candied yams, paper hand turkeys, and a never-ending game of mafia, it was a great night.   There is something about celebrating American holidays with people from other cultures that makes it so fun.  Our small group of British students and young adults was no different.

We celebrated Thanksgiving last year, but I think there was even more of a buzz this year about it.  They knew what to expect and embraced it for the wonderful holiday tradition it is.  Each person who came brought some sort of authentic American dish.  I have to say, they did a great job!  Everything was so delicious.  Especially those candied yams…and I don’t even like sweet potatoes!

Before dinner was ready, everyone took a paper cutout of my hand and drew their own turkey.  The winner would be first in line for dessert.  You can imagine how fierce the competition was.  Once dinner was ready, all 18 of us gathered around a huge table and joined hands as Ben prayed a prayer of Thanksgiving.  Knowing this could be the last time we celebrated Thanksgiving with our small group made me a bit more nostalgic than normal.  I love these kids.  Ok, they aren’t really kids at all, but I just love them all so much.  We each loaded our plates full of Thanksgiving tastiness and sat around talking and laughing together.

My end of the table was practically in tears as Ben regaled us with stories from his childhood.  Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves and no one left the table hungry!  When dinner had finally come to an end we had everyone hold up their paper turkeys for review. There were a lot of close contenders, but Rosie’s two artistically drawn turkeys stole the show.  The American flag border really put it over the edge!  Rosie led the way through the dessert line and once everyone was seated back around the table we had everyone say something they were thankful for.  It was wonderful hearing everyone share what was on their heart.  I love that sort of thing.

I finished it off by saying how thankful I was that everyone humored me by getting so into one of my favorite American holidays.  That set off everyone chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!”  Ben and I burst out laughing and I couldn’t help but smile.  It was amazing.  After the chanting died down we all cleared the table and headed to the lounge for an entertaining game of charades.  Let’s just say that I don’t think anyone could even come close to Rosie and Colin…they absolutely dominated.  We are going to have to come up with much harder ones next time…

We sat in a huge circle, drank tea, and played games for the next few hours.  It was a perfect night.  As I looked around the room, I couldn’t have been more thankful.  This time of year it isn’t easy to be away from family, but they make it a bit more bearable.  If nothing else, they keep me laughing.  Thank you to all of you who made the night so great, and an even bigger thank you for allowing us to be so much a part of your lives.  You mean the world to us.


Just as I am – Billy Graham Autobiography

I recently finished reading Billy Graham’s autobiography, Just as I am.  He has a fascinating story, and it’s incredible to think of all of the ways he has influenced 20th century evangelical Christianity.  From publications like Christianity Today, to outreach and discipleship movements like Campus Crusade and The Navigators, Graham had a major hand in so many of the institutions and movements that have come to characterize mainstream evangelicalism in the last 65 years.

As I read the biography, I felt a genuine appreciation for all that Graham has accomplished.  At the same time, I was also surprised by how often I found myself disagreeing with decisions that he made, particularly when it came to spending time away from family.

Graham’s heyday was before my own, but his story and ministry remind me in many ways of Rick Warren and his ministry.  They share a similar focus on evangelism, a similar pragmatic approach to outreach, a similar reticence to voice criticisms or make what they perceive to be unnecessary theological distinctions among believers.

It was interesting reading the Graham biography in between biographies about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Jonathan Edwards.  Of the three figures, I definitely identify on a personal level with Bonhoeffer the most and Graham the least.  Graham’s energy, charisma, and salesmanship are both an inspiration and something totally foreign to me, and his story makes me grateful for how God uses people with all kinds of gifts in all kinds of shapes and sizes.


Late Night Escapades

I am a late night person.  I don’t feel truly awake until about 7pm and then I am full on energy.  Early on in our marriage this was the cause of most of me and Ben’s arguments.  I wanted to stay up late doing well, anything, and Ben wanted to go to bed at a reasonable hour.  Ben has always catered a bit to me on this, but eventually as I have gotten older (sad but true) and had to wake up for work every day, I see the need for sleep.  I no longer can run on 4 hours of sleep, or at least not well.  I have finally become a real adult and enjoy going to bed before the wee hours of the morning.

I hate forcing myself to go to bed but it must be done.  I had done just this last Tuesday and after my mind raced for a long while, I eventually drifted off to sleep.  I was then abruptly woken up around midnight when shouts and peels of laughter came seeping through our walls.  Our neighbors were apparently having a mid-week party outside in the back garden next door.  I could hear every word they said, hear every shout of exclamation, hear every out-of-pitch tune they sung, and every bottle of beer that was opened. It was like they were sitting on the edge of our bed.

I grumbled to Ben about how ridiculous this was as it was Tuesday evening, but there wasn’t much we could do.  I assumed they would only be our there while they smoked cigarettes as it was raining, but that wasn’t the case.  They stood out there a good 20-30 minutes.  Finally after flipping to and fro angrily in my bed I got up and went to the bathroom where I could spy on them without them seeing me (as our bedroom looks directly over the garden).  I could hear them even louder in the bathroom.  I decided I was going to send a message.  I sneakily lifted our blinds and opened the window.  I then slammed it as hard as I possibly could.  There was a hush of voices as the sound echoed through the air.  I nearly broke the glass panes, but it was quiet.  I smirked to myself as I walked back to our bedroom but I had no sooner sat on the bed, when all the voices started back up.  I was beyond irritated.

I got back into bed and tried to calm myself down.  I closed my eyes and tried to think of anything other than the ruckus outside.  After some period of time, I turned to Ben and pleaded  with him to call the porters.  I couldn’t handle this.  He sleepily got out of bed and dialed the number only to find there was no porter about.  Naturally.  I shoved my pillow and blankets about like the noise intruders could see what they were doing to me.  Of course, this only irritated Ben I am sure.  I flipped on my stomach and pulled my pillow tightly over my head.  The noise was barely subdued.  I tried to fall asleep, but it was to no avail.  Ten minutes later I had had it.  I could think of nothing else but how every minute of sleep was slipping away.  I was not having that.

I threw back the covers, tossed my pillow on the floor (a tantrum which only Ben could see of course) and stormed across our bedroom.  I crossed our living room to the front door and jerked it open as fast as I could.  All the lights in the hallway flicked on as I marched down stairs in my pajamas.  I didn’t care how I looked or the fact that it was raining outside.  I quickly made it to the bottom of the stairs where I threw the door open to the back garden and let the door slam against the wall.  That got their attention.  I then yelled into the night, “I AM SORRY, BUT DO YOU THINK YOU COULD PLEASE KEEP IT DOWN AS THERE ARE PEOPLE TRYING TO SLEEP?!!!  YOU HAVE NOW WOKEN MY ENTIRE FAMILY UP TWICE (they don’t need to know that only includes me and Ben) AND I WOULD REALLY APPRECIATE IT IF YOU BE QUIET!!!!”  It is amazing how easy it is to yell at people on the other side of a wall!  As soon as I had finished my rant, the apologies were lobbed over the wall and I felt empowered.  I had put an end to it.  I forcefully shut the door and went back up to my flat.

The group quietly headed indoors and I felt quite content as I snuggled into bed beside Ben.  He was elated that I had acted so drastically and couldn’t stop laughing at me standing in the rain in my pjs yelling over the wall.  I had acted completely crazy, but it felt good!  I don’t plan to have any repeats, but it was nice to know I could get a little worked up if I need to.  The lesson here, don’t go messing with my sleep.  If I can’t be up late, nobody can.  At least not on weekdays.


Last Minute Dinner Plans

Last night we had dinner at our friends Candice and Collin’s house.  It was a simple night, but I loved it nonetheless.  On Friday a couple of us realized that we didn’t have plans for Saturday night, so we decided to hang out and do nothing together.  That is just the kind of thing that I love.  We didn’t have to get dressed up or cook anything fancy, it was just a night sitting around a table enjoying salad, chicken skewers, sweet tea, and good conversation.  These nights are what I will miss most once we go back to the states.

It isn’t that we won’t have simple dinners with friends, but there is a sense of unity here that is very unique.  We are all here because one person in each couple is studying for a PhD.  A good chunk of us are finishing up in the next 3-12 months and we are all starting to think about the next phase…going home.  We talk a lot about what we love here in Cambridge and England in general.  We love the fact that we don’t have Texas heat in the summertime, we love the community, and we all love online grocery shopping!  Most of us have been here for several years and we talk about how difficult it will be to leave our tight-knit group of friends.  We are all excited for the next stage of our lives (when our husbands actually get real jobs!), but we don’t want to rush out of this stage of life either.  We want to enjoy this time for all its worth.

Mostly the night involved laughing about the fact that there are very few job prospects and we may very well have to beg our families for jobs!  We will all be going home to different situations, some of us boxed up all our belongings and shoved them in our parents basements, others sold everything they had, and others brought all they owned with them.  We will go home and have to buy cars, renew driving licences, buy bottle openers and the everyday necessities.  We will be starting from scratch in a lot of ways, but it is exciting.

We don’t know what the future holds, but we will all look back fondly on these years.  The friendships we have made here will last a lifetime.  We have all shared something very special and unique here in Cambridge.  We are all so much a part of each others lives that it will be extremely sad when we all go our separate ways.  I don’t want to think about that yet though.  So today I am going to be thankful for last-minute dinner plans, laughter over a great meal, sharing clothes, and just sharing life.