Tag Archives: Lessons

Home Sweet Home

Well it has been far too long since we last wrote, sorry about that!  As most of you know, we spent the first part of the summer visiting family, making moving plans, and just enjoying the land of the free!  It has been really good to be home.  Ben and I are now settled into our new place and absolutely loving it.  It would be hard not to love it though after three years in university accommodation!  Nonetheless, I thought it would be fun to show you our new place and mention some of my favorite details.

It was pretty fun moving into a place and getting to unpack all of our belongings for the first time in three years.  It felt like we were getting married all over again!  I have to say though, one of the things that God really changed in me while we were in Cambridge was my attachment to “stuff.”  I love stuff.  I love to decorate and entertain, and keep every special memento which means that it is very easy to accumulate.  There were times when Cambridge was really hard because we had so little, and yet the simplicity of life there changed me.  I loved having space.  I loved having empty drawers and cabinets that weren’t packed to the brim.  So as we moved into our new place, there were moments when I felt overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we had.

I counted eight spatulas.  Eight.  I have certainly never cooked with an octopus so it just seemed a tad excessive.  There was a point when I was unpacking our kitchen that I became overwhelmed as I was running out drawers and cabinets (granted, we don’t have many at all), and I just kept thinking, “what am I going to do with all this?”  I had never even used some of it.  So after we had opened every box, I started really looking at things and making “keep” and “give away” piles.  I had so looked forward to moving home, but I did not look forward to feeling like we were already bursting at the seams.  So we took about four boxes of stuff to goodwill and now I feel like we can breathe.  We have space.  Not every shelf is taken and not every drawer is filled.  It feels good.

So here is just a quick glance into our new home…

Entry way...I love the birds  :)

Entry way…I love the birds 🙂

I have my own couch again!!!!

I have my own couch again!!!!

My new dining room table...love, love, love!

My new dining room table…love, love, love!


Hallway to the bathroom and bedroom...love all the colors in the house!

Hallway to the bathroom and bedroom…love all the colors in the house!

Very small bedroom but it works!

Very small bedroom but it works!


Hands down my favorite thing is having a dishwasher again!

Hands down my favorite thing is having a dishwasher again!

Ben's little garden

Ben’s little garden


We needed extra storage and Ben said he liked these wire racks...I was not a fan at first...now it is one of my favorite areas! Smart man that one!

We needed extra storage and Ben said he liked these wire racks…I was not a fan at first…now it is one of my favorite areas! Smart man that one!


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!

Embarrassing Moment #9 Spring Cleaning Mishap

My department at work has been restructured over the last two months and because of this, there were a lot of changes that needed to take place.  The biggest change was that we were moving desks, getting rid of old filing cabinets, getting new filing cabinets, and moving our payroll department into the adjacent office.  With all moving, cleaning, and clearing out, we decided to have a dress down day where we shut the office to get ourselves organised.  I love organising things, so I am always eager for these kind of days.  And then there is the reality that I just love any excuse to wear jeans to work!

I woke up that morning and felt especially excited about the day.  I get to wear jeans and my favorite OU t-shirt.  I was rumaging in my closet when I found that my favorite pair of jeans were clean.  I have had these jeans for years so I took a good look at them debating on whether I wanted to clean in them or not.  These were my favorite jeans but they were also my oldest which made them the best candidate for cleaning.  The only problem was a small little tear near the crotch.  I took a good long look at it and couldn’t decide if it was worth the risk.  I showed them to Ben who said, “It is only one day, they’ll be fine.”  So with that vote of confidence I put them on and headed to work.

We had a great morning.  We got the majority of the moving done by around 10:30 and even though Ben had said I would be fine, I found myself being cautious when I was bending down.  For those of you who know me, you will completely understand why I felt especially cautious.   We had finished all the big stuff and were now just moving small boxes.  It was then that I made my fatal mistake.  I bent down to pick up a heavier box and in order to use my legs instead of my back (as they always tell you to do), I pushed my knees out a bit like a frog and that was all it took. I heard the rip and suddenly I felt a woosh of cold air hit my inner thigh.  I looked up with panicked eyes to my colleague who had heard the same thing. She quickly made sure none of the guys came over to our side of the room.  I needed to assess the damage before I tried going anywhere, so I bent down and looked between my legs to find a three inch tear all along the seam of my favorite jeans.   Oh man!  Thankfully it was on the inside of my leg and wasn’t really that obvious to anyone who didn’t know it was there.  Still, I needed to change pants.

I grabbed my sweatshirt and wrapped it around my waist and sat on the floor and organised folders until lunch.  We were going to order lunch and thankfully the pizza place is near my flat, so I just had my colleague drop me off so I could quickly change pants.  I walked in the house to find Ben making lunch and he looked at me quizically as I dashed into our bedroom.  He came in and asked what I was doing home and it was then that I tossed my jeans at him for him to see how his advice had worked out.  This of course sent him into a fit of laughter and made me question if he had really thought I would make it a whole day in my pants, or if he was just hoping this exact scenario would occur!  As funny as the moment was (for everyone else), I found myself a little sad.  My favorite jeans had just died.  Right along with my dignity.  So much for my professionalism. 🙂

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…

My Movie Mistakes

I am a bit of a movie addict.  It is something that I have under control most of the time, but with Ben being out of town, I am afraid I have lost control.  This weekend I have watched one film after another.  I can’t seem to get enough.  Thank goodness Ben is back on Wednesday as I will be forced to regain some self control again.

It is on these sorts of occasions that I like to watch movies that I know Ben will never want to watch with me.  He is a pretty amazing husband, and there are few films he won’t watch with me, but he has to draw the line somewhere.  So anything with Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey is a definite no go.  Now these are definitely not first class actors in my mind, but they have made a few movies that I like.  So you can understand why I hit the play button when the opportunities presented themselves this weekend.  Big, big mistake.

First mistake.  A Little Bit of Heaven.  What on earth was I thinking?  Ben is gone for ten days, and me being the fear crazed woman I am decided to watch a movie about a woman dying of cancer.  Hello, are you trying to lose your mind?!!!  Two hours of crying.  And I mean non-stop tears.  You think I am exaggerating, but it was one painful moment after another. The tears didn’t stop until long after the movie had ended.  The sadness nearly swallowed me whole.  I had to call my mom and talk about what she making for dinner before I could regain composure.  Total and utter lunatic.

Second mistake.  We Are Marshall.  Now this isn’t your average Matthew McConaughey-can’t-keep-a-shirt-on-film, but Ben has never cared to watch it.  I am always surprised by this since he loves sports, but he really doesn’t like sports movies.  Having been a cheerleader, I absolutely love them as they just scream team spirit and people coming together to make dreams come true. Drumlines and letter jackets, pom-poms and pep rallies, I can’t get enough.  Sappy to the core and I love it.  Ok, maybe now I see why Ben isn’t a fan.  Nonetheless, I took my opportunity today.  Big mistake.  Do you know why?  Because I forgot the small fact that the whole premise of the film is based on the fact that over 70 players, coaches, and townfolk were killed in a horrific plane crash.  Floods of tears.  Not just the leaking from the corner of your eyes kind, but the convulsive, can barely catch your breathe kind.  What kind of horrible timing do I have?

The movie is actually quite good and I really, really liked it, but this just was not the time to watch this kind of film.  Thank goodness it had some funny parts along with some of those feel good, everyone is working together to achieve something great moments.  Otherwise I think I might have drowned in the puddles that I had created on our couch.  Lesson learned: never watch Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey without Ben.  Despite the fact that I have probably just watched their two best films, he will just have to live through the torture with me next time.  Sorry honey, I tried to save you from this cruel, cruel fate, but it is apparent that it is your destiny to watch all their films.  But don’t worry, I won’t make you watch How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days again. 🙂

To Drive or Not to Drive

Today I was asked for the first time in 12 months if I wanted to drive.  My fingers started twitching at the idea of being behind a wheel again.  I could feel the adrenaline course through my body at the idea of my right foot slowly pressing down on the accelerator.  I could practically feel the car picking up speed and I couldn’t help but smile.  I have missed driving so much.  I was in a pretty bad car accident in college and was afraid to drive for several years, but after a few months of driving in California, I was cured.  I am still a far more cautious driver than before, but I love to drive.  I pretty much never pass up an opportunity to drive.  That is, until today.

I have been extremely nervous to drive here in the UK since they not only drive from what I think of as the passenger seat, but they drive on the right hand side of the road.  Double whammy.  I just can’t get my head around it.  Thankfully I haven’t been put the situation where I have needed to drive and I have quite simply avoided all forms of transit that depend on me being in control (ie. cars and bikes).  Today however, my coworker asked if I would like to drive the company car to our induction site.  Me, drive?  You’ve got to be kidding.  At least, that was my first thought.  As we climbed into the car, I watched my coworkers every move.  I sat silently watching him turn the car on, shift the car into drive, and cautiously pull out of the parking spot.  I could do that.  I am sure I could pull out of parking spot from the other side of the car.  Now I wanted to drive.  I wanted to be in the driver’s seat, but it was too late, we were already driving.  Well kind of.

We pulled out of the spot, which took about a full minute, and no, we didn’t even have to reverse.  My coworker was absolutely paranoid about driving a car the size of a small Durango.  He practically panicked when leaving the parking spot.  We drove the .5 miles to the induction site and it literally took about 5 minutes.  I had a hard time not laughing out loud.  You see, one of the crazy things about British citizens is that a lot of them do not get their driving licences until they are adults.  My coworker is nearly 30 years old and he has only driven his car since he began driving which was only a few years ago.  The idea of driving anything else was terrifying to him.  When I got home, I counted how many cars I had driven over the years, and it was at least 20.  Not exaggerating.

I have had so many conversations with my coworkers and other British friends and it never ceases to amaze me at the differences in driving in the UK versus America.  People here are constantly surprised to find out not only that I have a driving licence, but that I have actually been driving for over 11 years.  At my age that is practically unheard of over here.  I have tons of employees who hold driving licences (and have for years) who don’t feel comfortable driving on a highway or for any length of time over about two hours.  This seems absolutely crazy.  When I think about the fact that I drove by myself to and from college which was 11 hours away at the age of 18, I find myself speechless when someone who is 30 who won’t drive 3 hours down a main highway.  It just seems crazy.

Now with that being said, I do admire how serious the British take their driving.  It isn’t something they take lightly and they are for the most part pretty cautious.  It is also comforting to not see so many people who look about 12 driving a vehicle at 70 mph.  As crazy as it seems that they don’t drive until their 20’s, and they rarely ever drive someone else’s car, I guess I find myself happy that they go to such lengths to be safe.

As much as I want to drive and long to be behind the wheel of a car, I know that until I understand the road signs and am confident that I will stay on my side of the road, I will have to continue my journeys as a passenger.  But that won’t keep me from giggling when I think about driving less than 5 mph down a private road, in a car that is half the size of the car I learned to drive in…with someone who is nearly 30.

No Thieves in England?

One thing I learned in my job in the states was that nothing was too little to be stolen.  Every month we had a meeting where everyone in our head office would meet to discuss how we had done the previous month and any relevant topics for the current month.  These meetings were always professional until the very end where we would all be chided on how unkempt the bathrooms were, and how certain individuals needed to stop stealing people’s lunches out of the fridge.  As I knew that neither of these areas applied to me I typically zoned out, but after these meetings me and my coworkers would all have a good laugh at the idea of catching the lunch thieves in action.

We regularly heard about ipods, cellphones, computers, cash, lunches, and even birthday cakes getting stolen.  Yes, birthday cakes.  Some people clearly have no conscience.  When I first started working in my office, they stocked the kitchen with paper plates, plastic silverware, napkins, salt & pepper, and random things like that.  The basics.  Apparently this was too tempting for many people in the office though.  Within a few hours of it being deposited in the kitchen, it would be gone.  The same went for things like reams of paper, highlighters, brightly colored post-it notes, and of course, the most coveted of all office supplies, kleenex and Clorox wipes.  You might think I am exaggerating, but it was so bad at one point, that we eventually had to have the receptionists lock away all the office materials and employees would have to come and request what they needed.  Finally the stealing came to an abrupt halt.

You can imagine my surprise then, when I came to work here in the UK and found that there were shelves in the kitchen stocked with all sorts of cups, mugs, plates, bowls, and utensils.  Real ones…made of glass.  It isn’t fine china by any means, by it is real dishware.  We have huge 5lb bags of tea, sugar, and hot chocolate constantly stocked along with rolls of paper towels, loads of glass jars filled with milk, dish soap, tea towels, and various specialty teas.  I am still surprised every now and then when I walk in the kitchen and everything is still stocked.  And no one has to label their lunches.  It’s incredible.

When I first got there, I found myself stowing my lunch in the very back of the fridge on the bottom shelf so no one would take it.  Then I realized that no one cared to steal my lunch (and not only because my American pb&j disgusts them).  It just simply doesn’t happen here.  Every few weeks, we have these book sales where the seller brings in loads of books and leaves them in the kitchen for anyone who wants to place an order.  The first time I walked in and saw 30 books lying by themselves on the counter, I kind of panicked.  I didn’t want someone’s books getting stolen and I didn’t know who in their right mind would leave hundreds of pounds worth of books just lying around.  But to my utter surprise, not one was stolen.  I just don’t get it.

How is it that my nasty, fat-free yogurt wasn’t safe, but all the appliances, food, dishes, and books to fill a house sit safely everyday?  It just doesn’t make sense.  Maybe the British are just far more civilized than Americans.  Or maybe there truly are no thieves in England.  Whatever the case, I am just glad I can stop labelling my lunch.