Tag Archives: Cambridge

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


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.

The Elusive Virtue of Contentment

Contentment is an area of my life where I really struggle.  This time in our lives has been very unique in that we don’t have any of our belongings here except our clothes.  I have grown to be a lot more content with what I have, but there are others areas of discontentment that have snuck up on me.  The things I long for now are not so much material but relational and experiential.

I long for the closeness of our families.  I miss my friends from home.  I have missed everyone these last two years, but what I am experiencing now is an acute sense of sadness at the distance between us.  I find that it consumes my mind sometimes.  It isn’t so much that I am ready to go home because I love it here in Cambridge.  I want to soak up this time we have here and enjoy it for all its worth.  At this moment in time I am not looking to get home earlier than planned.  But that doesn’t keep me from wishing I could just get on a flight tomorrow and spend a few weeks with our families and friends.  I long for home and all that comes with that.

I could never describe our time here as anything but an incredible opportunity, but even the most amazing of experiences have downsides.  As with anything new, there is a honeymoon phase and our time in Cambridge was no different.  I was absolutely enchanted with the city and the English way of life.  Everything just felt so quaint.  Even now there are days that I walk down the street and find myself smiling as I look at all the beautiful architecture and cobblestone streets.  It feels like a dream come true.

I love the city, but I find that occasionally certain things will hit me like, the fact that I really want to drive a car.  And it isn’t enough to drive here.  I don’t want to endanger my life or the countless others that would inevitably be casualties of my desire to be behind the wheel.  I want to be on the right side of the road on the left side of the car cruising down the interstate at 75 miles an hour.  I want to be able to just get in a car and drive to Wal-Mart (yes, I honestly fantasize about this!) and not have to walk 20 minutes bundled in just the right amount of clothing so that I don’t sweat or freeze.

It is strange, because a lot of people ask me how I feel about not being able to have kids yet, and though I can’t wait to have babies, I find that I am content in this area.  We have been trying to start a family for over two years and as much as I really long to be a mother and start that next phase of our lives, I don’t feel the need to obsess about it.  In reality, I don’t have a lot of control over when this happens!  For some crazy  reason, I am content to wait on God for this.  This has been the first time in my life I have experienced contentment despite not being where I want to be.  It seems so bizarre to me.  How is it that I can be content to not be able to have children, even though this is my one of my greatest ambitions, and yet I am so discontent about going home for a few weeks?

I know it may seem crazy to miss home so much, but I guess it was inevitable that I would get homesick at some point in this whole adventure.

The Peterhouse May Ball…It Doesn’t Get Much Better!

The Peterhouse Ball is quite unique as it is on the only white tie ball in Cambridge.  I couldn’t wait to get all dressed up and I was even more excited to see Ben looking dapper as always in a tux!  The women strolled in wearing long evening gowns and the men wore tuxes, white gloves, and some even donned top hats and canes!  At one point in the early morning I asked a fairly drunken young man if I could borrow his hat for a photo.  He smiled and obligingly handed over his hat to me.  After a few photos I handed it back and said thank you, to which he bowed and tipped his hat!  So funny!

The ball was stunning.  We broke up the ball into several areas and it was amazing to walk through.  Guests entered through the gates to the Deer Park which is attached to the college.  This area had the main stage and a huge dance floor as most of our big acts went there.  This stage featured Cocknbull Kid, Urban Myth Club, and Jakwob just to name a few.  The highlight for me in this tent was the Abba tribute band that we had toward the end of the ball.  I am not a particularly big Abba fan, but I couldn’t help but sing along to classics like Dancing Queen!  The band was amazing and the place was packed.  Ben’s sister Rachel and her husband Alex were hired as photographers for the ball, and this was one point where we all met up and danced and sang along together.  It was so much fun! As the sun came up at the end we headed out to the rest of the park.

Outisde the main stage was the fair area where we had our largest attraction, a ferris wheel.  The Peterhouse Ball is known for having a ferris wheel and this year was no exception.  In this area there were lots of food tents, bars, and an outdoor stage that featured magicians, escapologists and my favorite, brass bands.  We also had wandering magicians and beautifully dressed stilt walkers.  We had three different brass bands play throughout the night and these got more people dancing in this area than anything else.

My favorite band was the Brass Funkeys who at one point jumped off the stage and played right in the middle of the crowd.  The danced and sang and even got on the ground and played while lying down.  The crowd went absolutely nuts!  As the sun was coming up and the other stages were coming to a close, the deer park filled up with people who were making their way to Old Court for the survivors photo.  The last brass band was finishing their set and the students went crazy.  They were dancing everywhere, getting on each other’s shoulders, giving piggyback rides, and running around with toilet paper rolls streaming behind them.  Some students were even wrapping each other up in toilet paper.  It was one of the funniest sites of the whole night.  You start off all posh and refined in the beginning of the ball and by the end you’ve got toilet paper mummies.  Granted, most students were beyond intoxicated, but it was funny to watch nonetheless.

Also in the deer park was a tent that featured a few comedians and the sounds of Motown, jazz, and barbershop quartets.  This tent was filled to the brim all night as it had a huge bar, plush sofas, and large wing back chairs.  Across the way from this tent was an acoustic stage that was set up in front of an elaborate dining area that looked like a classy teepee.  There was an area which we called the Gardens of Arabia, which had smaller tents, large rugs and cushy pillows that all centered around a few shisha pipes.  Probably one of my favorite areas was Gisborne Court which was described as “a tour through the dark, delicious mysteries of the Orient.”  This tent was centered around a tree that we had lit up and had chinese lanterns hanging from it  There were low tables all around and we had tons of throw pillows for lounging about.  There was sushi, sake, tea, portrait artists, and geishas.  It was a beautiful area that was very relaxing.

The next area was the college bar where we had a casino running all night. Students seemed to love this as they didn’t have to lose any of their own money as it was all just for fun!  We also had a powder room for the ladies.  This included a seamstress, massages, and makeup artists from Bare Minerals.   One of the smallest areas of the ball was in the dining hall which we turned into a funky silent disco.  Students put their headphones on and danced around which was hilarious to watch as a bystander who couldn’t hear anything.

The other main area of the ball was Old Court which was called the Mirrored Court.  It had huge full length mirrors that were gilded in gold and hung from the tent.    There were punts filled with champagne, shrimp, and other cocktails.  When I was dancing in this area, I felt as though I had been transported back in time.  It was so beautiful and just so sophisticated.  The stage in this area featured big bands and classical music.  There were waltzes and even lessons to go along with it.  The main event in this area was the image mapping show that took place on the front of the chapel.  At one point the chapel looked like it was ablaze.  It was incredible!

I don’t think I have ever been to an event like this.  There was entertainment at every point in the evening and with six stages, you were never bored.  You could dance the night away, laugh til you cried in the comedians tent, be amazed by escapologists, drink any kind of beverage you could dream of (or in my case…as many hot chocolates and cokes as I wanted!), gamble til the wee hours, or view the sun rise over the trees from the top of a ferris wheel.  Though Ben and I had to work throughout the ball, it didn’t keep us from enjoying the night and all it had to offer.  I loved dancing to so many different kinds of music, eating tasty sugar covered donuts, and hearing the sounds of the ball from the atop the ferris wheel.

Chariots of Fire

My company sponsors a team every year for the Chariots of Fire race which still takes place here in Cambridge, and last week they sent out an email letting us know that it was that time of year and entries were now open.  Motivated by the idea of running in this famous race, I decided that I would bring a change of clothes and attempt to get back into running after a 12 month sabbatical.  You know, just to see if this was even a remote possibility.  I had already been making more of a concerted effort to walk home every day.  The weather is slightly warmer and honestly, I need the exercise.  It is about 2.7 miles which I think is a pretty good walk home.  So last week after work, I headed for the restroom changed into running gear, put my hair into a ponytail and started off.  But not before my CEO saw me and waved.  Super.

My run can best be described as abysmal.  The high point was when a young boy asked if his mom if I was an Olympic runner!  The low point was when his mother quickly corrected him and said, “Of course she’s not!!”  Burn.  Why rain on your child’s excitement is my question?!  Let him think I am Olympian.  Who is it going to hurt.  At the very least, don’t correct him until I am out of earshot!

I haven’t run home since that day.  I came home with burning lungs, arches that were killing me, and sweat pouring from every part of my body.  I was a sight to behold.  All of this plus the aching muscles I had for days led me to commit to just walking home from now on.  Who needs to get home in half the time or run in some silly race?  Not me.  Running and me, we just don’t go together.

I had only just made this decision when I received a phone call from one of the directors at my office who asked if I would be a part of the company sponsored team for the Chariots of Fire race.  Are you kidding me?!  I asked if this was his way of saying I needed to get in shape and it was then that I found out that it was my CEO who mentioned my name.  Naturally the only person who has seen me run in the last 12 months puts my name forward.  I tried to decline.  Then I said I would think about it.  Eventually I said yes.  What is wrong with me?

So despite the fact that I tried to quit running, I find myself in my first-ever race.  Thank goodness I have about six weeks to get ready because I am pretty sad runner at the moment.  I guess this will be the motivation and kick in the pants I need.  Maybe I will run in slow motion like they do in the movies and pretend I am doing it to make others laugh when really I am just looking for a way to not run.  Thankfully I convinced my fellow colleagues to join in so at least I won’t be alone.  Nothing like a little public embarrassment!

Reasons to Visit Cambridge #9 – Imperial War Museum at Duxford Airfield

Just six miles outside of Cambridge lies the Duxford Airfield, where many flights for the allied forces in the two World Wars were based.  Now, the field has been converted into an aviation museum, and really this might be the coolest museum I have ever visited.

My parents and I took a bus out to the museum, which has its pluses and minuses.  On the positive side, if you ride the bus, you get a discount to the museum that just about covers the cost of your bus ticket.  On the negative side, the bus ride takes forever.  We spent a good solid hour on the bus each way.  We kept turning at virtually every intersection, cruising slowly down almost every street in town, gradually acquiring more and more elderly people on our way.  Now, for my mom and me, that ended up being really funny, because my dad was freaking out the whole time about how bad he needed to use the restroom.  Still, if you value your time, you might want to take a taxi instead of the bus.

Anyway, the museum itself is incredible.  There are multiple hangers filled with airplanes, airplane parts, and WWI and WWII artifacts.  You can learn about the history of aviation, climb aboard a Concorde jet, and look out over the airfield that was so instrumental to the war effort.  They also have little tours/informational sessions hosted by enthusiastic guides, which I would definitely recommend.

My favorite part was the American hanger.  The place is filled with planes.  For that hanger, the tour guide asked us to pick one plane, and he would walk us over to it and talk about it.  We don’t know anything about planes really, so the choice was overwhelming.  After standing there with a catatonic stare for a while, the guide narrowed it down for us – Fast, Big, or Old?

We went with fast, and he showed us the SR-71, the fastest plane ever created.  Apparently this is the only SR-71 outside the US.  The guide told us all about the plane, why it was commissioned, how they made it so fast and stealthy, how they ignited the fuel, and how insanely expensive the whole enterprise must have been.

The Imperial War Museum at Duxford is well worth a visit, either for a day trip away from London or a half-day from Cambridge…just don’t take the bus!

Reasons to Visit Cambridge #8 – The University of Cambridge Botanical Gardens

When I hear the words ‘Botanical Gardens’, I don’t naturally get excited.  I think of a relatively small plot of land or greenhouse overrun with plants and flowers.  So I wasn’t initially very excited about visiting the botanical gardens when my parents came to town.

Once we got there, however, I was blown away by how big and nice the gardens are.  It’s like a massive, very well manicured park.  There are some beautiful flowers, some very tall trees, and really just the grounds themselves are pretty.  Now it seems silly to me that I waited two years to go to this amazing garden that’s less than five minutes from my doorstep.  The gardens were one of my mom’s favorite activities in Cambridge – she says they’re as nice as any gardens she has ever visited.

On a sunny day, the gardens would make the perfect setting for a picnic.  If you’re a Cambridge student, entrance is free.  Otherwise, it’s still less than £5 a person.  The botanical gardens are a great place to spend a couple hours outdoors.