Tag Archives: Family

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)



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.

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.

Back to Life as Normal – Reflections on Zambia

The last few months have been an absolute whirlwind.  The fact that tomorrow is the first of July is bewildering to me since inwardly I feel like it is only March.  Where have the last three months gone?  Here is a quick run down of what all has gone on in our lives the last few months: a youth girls sleepover, the Cocksworth wedding, a three-week trip to Zambia, a girls weekend away, Ben’s parents arrived and we went to Brighton one weekend, I worked a few days and then we headed off to Rome for the Jubilee weekend, Ben’s parents left, Ben’s sister and her husband arrived a week later, the May ball took place, we attended another May ball two nights later, I worked a few days and then went to San Sebastian Spain with Ben’s sister and hubby, and then they left for the states on Tuesday.  It has been four days of calm and quiet.  My mind and body are only just beginning to take a deep breath and realise that the craziness is over.  Back to life as normal.

Now that I am starting to unwind, I would like to share some of my own thoughts on our adventure to Zambia.  This was our first trip to Africa and it was amazing.  Not in the “everything went perfectly” kind of way, but in the “I LOVE these people” kind of way.  It seems like a lot of people go to Africa and their lives are completely changed.  I think I experienced more of a gradual shift in my thinking and awareness of African culture.

Every day I learned something new.  I learned about courting and marriage customs. I learned that there are 73 tribes and numerous languages in just this one country.  I learned that nshima (pronounced cheema) is the staple food and they eat it every day and it is eaten with their hands.  I learned that fruits apart from mangos, are a luxury.  I learned that Zambians are extremely proud to be Zambians and take great pride in being a peaceful country.  I learned about generosity and kindness nearly every day.  I learned that Zambians take great pride in being a Christian country and I was blown away by how this actually plays out in so many aspects of their day-to-day lives. More than anything, I learned that the Zambian people are full of love and laughter.  You have not known hospitality until you have been to Zambia.

The experiences we had were wonderful, but as Ben said in our first post, it was the people who made our trip.  In just three weeks we made some amazing friends.  It was difficult to leave such loving people.  They filled me with joy and I am so grateful for the chance to have met them.  I can’t wait to tell you more about our trip…I get excited now just thinking about it again!

Belated Thanksgiving

This is one of my favorite seasons of the year.  Halloween kicks off the fall with pumpkin carvings, crisp nights, and cozy fires.  Thanksgiving rolls around and I am practically giddy with joy.  I love the food, the snow, the festivities that bring all those you love together.  It truly is a time to be thankful.  The fall season builds in wonderful anticipation for the pinnacle, the celebration of the birth of my Savior.  I find myself getting more and more excited as the weeks go by and my heart seems to be constantly drumming out a beat of thankfulness.  This season just brings an immense amount of peace and joy to me.

I spend a lot of time at bus stops.  Probably about an hour a day.  So I stand there every day in the FREEZING cold, wrapped in layers of scarves, mittens, and hats, headphones in, just smiling to myself.  It is pitch dark when I go home and pretty cold, but most nights, I am pretty content.  Not just content, I am really, really happy.  I am headed home to a husband I love and on a lot of nights, I get to look forward to spending time with people I love here in Cambridge.

We had a pretty amazing Thanksgiving this year.  That is partially because we had two of them!  We hosted Thanksgiving day at our new flat this year (and amazingly fit 14 people around our make-shift table!!) and it was wonderful.  Everyone brought a dish or two and it was a night just spent sitting around the table chatting and connecting…wo things I love to do.  Then just a few days later we hosted another Thanksgiving at the home of some of dear friends here in Cambridge. We had a large group of British students (21 to be exact!) who for the most part had never had an American Thanksgiving.  We assigned each of them an American dish and it was fantastic.  Both Thanksgivings were filled with fun, A-mazing food, and lots of wonderful conversation.  They were two very special Thanksgivings.

This Thanksgiving made me a bit more reflective and as I looked back over the last 6 months or so, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelming blessed.  Here are some of the things that came into my mind.

1. Our siblings weddings.  It wasn’t just the weddings of Zach & Stephanie, and Alex & Rachel, it was everything leading up to those beautiful days.  It was precious time with our families and their closest friends.  The four weeks we were in the states this summer will be some of the most memorable four weeks of my life.  Our friendship with our siblings is one of the greatest joys of my life.

2. My friend Cassie spending her savings to come and see me!  The two weeks that Cassie was here were beyond fun.  It was a whirlwind tour of Cambridge, London and Paris and my goodness it was a blast!  Getting to show one of my dearest friends around this beautiful city and just see our life here was so special.  She is one of those friends that just warms your heart.

3. Our brief but wonderful night with Sarah and Mark in London.  One of my old co-workers from PDS was in London for a few days and she and her husband invited us down for dinner.  We met up with them and enjoyed one of the most amazing meals I have had in England.  We ate at this absolutely phenomenal Moroccan restaurant (and I mean phenomenal) and spent the night just catching up, marvelling over how tasty the food was, and just sharing our lives with each other.  I have been so blessed by Sarah as she has made such an effort to stay in touch despite the distance.  The night was wonderful and is one that I think back on a lot.

4. The group of university students and older youth that we meet with.  We started meeting with these students about three months ago and they have just taken up residence in my heart.  They are such a joy to be around and I feel so blessed that we get to be a part of their lives.  The joy and laughter they bring into our home each Wednesday is something I look forward to each week.

5. Dream opportunities.  I never would have thought that I would have so many opportunities come my way that would make my dream career become more of a reality.  I have a good job, but it is what I do outside of work that makes me come alive.  I love planning events and connecting with people and I have been given amazing opportunities to that this fall.  I am so grateful to God for the way he makes un-realized dreams come true.

6.  Our parents.  I feel so fortunate to have the parents that we have.  They have become some of our closest friends and it has been such a joy to see how our relationships have grown in closeness since we have moved here.  We have gained a new appreciation and love for our parents being so far away.  I have felt especially blessed by the ways they have shown us love since coming here.  My dad has written me encouraging Facebook messages and sends me links to things that remind him of me.  Ben’s parents have recently sent us a box of American food that filled us more excitement than just about any other gift we could have received!  My mom has sent me the most amazing letters and cards that leave me feeling so special and loved.  We are truly blessed by the love and generosity of our families.

7. I have a great boss.  For those who know me, you know I haven’t had a great working experience here in the UK, but the redeeming factor has been my boss.  She is by far the best boss I have ever had.  She knows how to get the best out of me, and how to motivate me.  My job and salary are not ideal, but when you have a great boss, those things aren’t quite as important.  I am gaining new skills and being given opportunities that she knows I will be excited about.  That just doesn’t happen every day and I am really grateful for her.

8. My amazing husband.  There is nothing like two weeks apart that makes you acutely aware of how crazy you are about your spouse.  I don’t let too many days go by without telling Ben how much he blesses my life, but two weeks apart makes you aware of other things you are grateful for.  I am thankful for the humour and laughter he brings to my life.  I am thankful for how reliable and constant he is.  I am thankful for all the small ways that he tries to serve and care for me.  He makes me feel like a cherished gift.

9. A renewed sense of conviction.  We have been challenged a lot in our faith since coming here and we have spent countless hours talking through why we believe what we do, and why we hold certain convictions.  There are some areas where my convictions have lessened (rightly so I believe) and others where they have gotten stronger.  I am grateful for all the ways God has grown me, and I am so thankful for His closeness and nearness.

I could keep going, but I am guessing that most people have stopped reading by this point anyway.  Thanksgiving is a special time to reflect on how God has moved in our lives and all the ways He has blessed us.  I pray my heart would always see the beauty of our Lord and that it would rejoice in the goodness that flows from His hand.  Here are a few photos from the last few weeks…

In Case You Didn’t Know, We Miss You

There are a lot of emotions that come with moving half way across the world.  We have experienced excitement, nervousness, frustration, joy, confusion, and most recently, sadness.  I suppose sadness isn’t really the appropriate word.  We feel melancholy.  Very, very melancholy.

You see, our one year anniversary of moving here occured about a month ago.  Since that time, it has been like a switch was flipped.  The miss home like crazy switch.  Throughout our time here, we have missed things like food and driving, large grocery stores, and customer service, but those aren’t the things we are missing right now.  Those are all great things, but right now we miss people.  Friends from church, Talbot, work, Oklahoma, and Colorado consume our conversations.  God has blessed us with so many amazing friends and mentors and it has been hard to be so far away from all of them.  We miss dinner dates with our friends the Van Schoicks, brunch sunday at Grace, family night with the Klinks, praying with our small group, and so many other people and experiences.

I miss shopping with Ashley (even though we never had any money to spend!), my Esther Bible study girls, starbucks runs with Dani on breaks we weren’t supposed to take, Talbot Wives prayer groups and ALL of the amazing friends I met there, eating hot dogs and burgers on the patio with the Polks, and coffee dates with my mentor, Teri.  There are so many more people we could mention that have impacted and blessed our lives, but this is a blog, not a book (though I know some of my posts could make one think I don’t know the difference).

At the end of the day, Chick-Fil-A and real milk shakes just don’t fill the void that we feel right now.  When you miss people, everything else just kind of fades in comparison.  And when those people are your family, the comparison is even more stark.  I woke up this morning and read a facebook messge from Ben’s sister, and I just started crying.  The message was nothing more than a simple question about something, but I was just overwhelmed with sadness.

I miss my mom’s amazing chocolate fudge and the way she makes every holiday and every visit so special.  I miss my dad and all his crazy childhood stories and the constant sound of a bass that accompanies him.  I miss my brother who is always bursting with energy and drumming his fingers on every surface.  I miss his beautiful new wife Stephanie who always seeks to serve others and her love for Zach just touches my heart.  I miss Ben’s mom and her fits of giggles when she is with her sisters and the way she dotes on her beloved Oscar (her dachshund).  I miss Ben’s dad and his wonderful smile that blesses your heart because it is so sincere in its love.  I miss Ben’s sister and the way she is always itching to go on walks and just spend quality time with people.  I miss her husband Alex and his witty comments and excitement over amazing books we all equally love.  I wish I could wrap my arms around each of them right now.

It isn’t that we miss America all that much right now, beause we love it here.  We just miss connecting with people that have meant so much to us.  It feels like we are living over here in this kind of pretend world because we haven’t really gotten to share it with anyone from home (minus Cassie of course).  We have come to realize that if you can’t share your world with people, it just lacks the fullness that it would otherwise have.  This exeperience isn’t just something for me and Ben, it is something we want to share with those we love (and even those we barely know would be ok at this point!).  We want to build precious memories with friends from home even now.  We don’t want to wait two years to continue to do that.

I don’t mean for any of this to make anyone feel guilty or sad for us, but along with the exciting and new things that we encounter here, I also want to document the difficult times we face.  Right now is one of those times.  We love people.  We have spent the last six years of our marriage meeting incredible people and building the kind of friendships that just warm your soul.  You don’t leave those people and not feel the loss.  Our hearts are a little heavy right now, but just know that to all of our friends and family out there scattered across the US, we think of you all the time. We love you.  We cherish you. We miss you.  xox


The Jared Diet

I don’t love British food.  It isn’t that the ingredients are disgusting, it is more so the combinations of the ingredients that kind of repulse me.  Salmon and baked beans baked potatoes and pepperoni and corn pizza just don’t work for me.  Uck.  So on our nights out, we can’t help but get excited about the consistency of McDonald’s and Subway.  I hear angels sing every time I walk into Subway.  The bread, the melted cheese, the unlimited soda…sigh.  My mouth waters just thinking about it.

Subway is normally something I really look forward to, and today was no exception.  I met up with Ben after work and we scuttled in and hopped in line.  We started ordering and we were pleasantly surprised when the girl behind the counter actually struck up a conversation with us.  She chatted while our sandwiches toasted and then moved down the line as she started putting the toppings on.

Now, as I have stated before, I am a fairly picky eater, and I can’t help but love the fact that Subway caters to this.  I can get my sandwich made as simple as I like.  Meat, cheese, and mayo.  Yep, that’s it.  Sometimes I go crazy and get lettuce and tomato, but not today.  The girl asked if I wanted salad (that is what they call lettuce) and I said, ‘no, I would just like light mayo.’  She looked from my sandwich to my face and back again.  She said, ‘you don’t want any salad?’  I said no thank you and she just kind of paused before she replied, ‘getting fat.’  I am sorry, but did the Subway girl just say I was getting fat?!  So I like my mayo, can you really blame me?  I did choose Subway over McDonald’s, that has to count for something.  Not to mention, I got the light mayo!

I have a great-aunt on my dad’s side of the family who was always very vocal about whether or not I was gaining or losing weight, and I would prepare myself every time I was going to see her for what her comments would be.  If I had put on any weight, she would say, ‘oh Raquel (she is hispanic and never really called me Rachael), you are really looking chunky.  Maybe you should go on a diet.’  This was obviously never something I looked forward to hearing, but I could handle it as she was family.

There are a lot of things family will say that strangers would never dream of saying.  Apparently we have been visiting Subway too often.  When the staff start sounding like your great aunts, you know you are in trouble.  I may have to put some distance between us as this kind of openness won’t be good for my complex long-term.  What am I saying?  Nothing is going to keep me from Subway, not even ‘getting fat’ comments.  So bring on your worst Subway girl, you can’t keep me away.