Being home again from a fabulous trip to visit our family at Oxford, I can now settle into the fun of writing about a few of the highlights. Nothing profound, just a little chatty post about the last couple weeks. And since Doug and I both woke up way too early this Sunday a.m. due to our internal clocks still being on Greenwich time, I have leisure to blog.
We divided our time between traveling around the countryside and simply being together at Oxford. This trip we wandered through Merton College, which is one of the oldest colleges at Oxford (I believe) and was Tolkien’s college. We also saw Tolkien’s house one night as we were driving through his old neighborhood. After his wife’s death, he moved into Merton and lived there until his death. (Bekah stumbled across the mantel from his home on ebay, and it was selling for a ridiculous amount.)
But I digress. We worshiped on Sunday morning at St. Ebbes, and there is something quite otherworldly (for us Americans) about walking down old, narrow cobblestone streets to the sound of church bells ringing.
Ben is rowing for Christ Church (his college at Oxford), so after church we wandered along the Thames by the college boathouses and saw many of the students practicing. We had just gorgeous weather the entire time, and the daffodils are up and blooming.
We went on a few expeditions out of town: London to visit friends at Oak Hill Seminary, where God is equipping men for the ministry; Salisbury to meet more Merkle friends; Blenheim Palace for the Credenda Conference (which went very well with full attendance, for which we thank the Lord); and Stratford to see the Shakespeare sites.
On the way to Salisbury we stopped at Stonehenge, which is every bit as amazing as I had heard, and we stomped around Old Sarum, which is the site an iron-age fort with incredible earthworks. Salisbury Cathedral was fascinating as well. My favorite artifact in the cathedral was John Donne’s seal. Among the collections in the chapter house (where we saw a copy of the Magna Carta!), was his seal and ordination pin attached to a piece of paper where he had written a short poem with sketches of both his family seals: the first was a bundle of snakes; the second, an anchor with the cross of Christ over it. Wish I could remember the poem by heart, but the last line was about taking off his old coat to go to the arms of Christ. That was pretty thrilling for me.
Okay, so I’ve gone on quite enough no doubt. But I want to make mention of one more thing. We enjoyed warm hospitality at the Merkles’ farm house. God has given them a perfect set up for their sojourn. The children have room to run and play and ride their bikes, and Bekah is slowly accumulating furniture. In fact, she found a much-needed desk at an antique store while we were there, and her list of furniture needs is getting shorter. The children are great little travelers, eager to see the sights, wandering with us through cathedrals, museums, and down cobblestone streets. They are quite happy and always busy with some game or other.
We also enjoyed hospitality at four British homes on this short trip. Doug confessed that he is going to have to stop making jokes about British cooking, because it just isn’t true! We had lovely, delicious home cooking, warm and gracious hospitality at each home. We tasted lamb cooked two ways (one with mint sauce, the other with beans), both fabulous; shepherd’s pie (the children kept asking for more); and chicken curry with a yogurt sauce that I could have just eaten by itself! I’ve never cooked a leg of lamb in my life, but now I will just have to give it a go. Not only did this dispel the idea that the British can’t cook, but also the notion that in England a man’s house is his castle and the draw bridge is always up. Not so with these Christian households. And speaking of British food, three cheers for Bekah’s porridge! Nothing like the oatmeal (which they call gruel) that we cook with water.
Ben and Bekah’s pastor was able to join us for dinner in their home one evening, and it was a real pleasure to get to see and hear some of what God is doing in Oxford through his labor and ministry. God’s church in England is under assault and in need of our prayers. Please pray that God will give His ministers in the UK faith and courage to preach the Word boldly.
Separation is always hard, but what an encouragement to us to see our children and grandchildren and how God is prospering them, in both body and soul.