As of this moment, I am listening to Frank Sinatra Christmas music (thanks, dad) and reflecting on my first term at Oxford. It has been a surprising slew of ups and downs, and I am sure I have grown because of it. It seems inadequate to try and describe what this first term has been like, as I have been writing and rewriting this sentence for nearly five minutes. (Apologies in advance for what is sure to be a lengthy post.)
Before I try and describe some things I have learned during Michelmas term, I wish to tell you a bit about my past week. Tuesday afternoon I was able to see Haley and her wonderful parents before she went off to Paris (I was so happy to see the three of them together again!). Tuesday evening, Zak and I went to The Kilns, which is where CS Lewis lived for most of his life. We helped prepare snacks for the CS Lewis society and were toured around his house. We saw the room he died in, his study, and the room where he wrote the Chronicles of Narnia. We heard the scene in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Father Christmas returns, which was made all the more special with this group’s shared admiration for CS Lewis.
Wednesday morning, I woke up early to travel with Thais to Southampton. We had been trying to plan an excursion for the entire term, and so I was really looking forward to that day. We went ice skating, toured a Tudor House, almost died of fear in a bomb shelter (don’t worry—nothing bad happened!), saw an exhibit on the Titanic, and toured through a board game museum. However, my favorite part of that day was eating lunch with Thais at about two in the afternoon, and being able to slow down and have good conversation with someone that I care deeply about over a cup of tea.
Thursday afternoon the visiting student program at LMH took us to Waddesdon Manor to see the house and the Christmas markets. While it was very cold outside, good cider and hot chocolate (and friends!) kept me warm.
And Friday afternoon I was able to have tea with Meg, a very dear friend of mine, to catch up again on the end of term and holiday plans. Every time I am able to spend time with my Jewell friends, I am reminded of this quote by CS Lewis in one of my favorite books:
“In friendship...we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births...the choice of one university instead of another...the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting—any of these changes might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been a work. Christ...can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”
I find so much truth in this statement, and especially in the last sentence. I have been taught (and am still learning) how to see the beauty in the other. The things that are different from what I have grown up with—the people who are not the same as me. Each location I will be blessed to live in, and each person that I come across, will be different and will offer beauty that nothing and no one else can offer. It’s just a matter of seeing it. And while this might not be a foolproof way to live, I think it’s a closer approximation than the one I had before.
Some smaller nuggets before I sign off today:
Moving to a new place is hard, especially when you have one large and one small suitcase with which to carry your whole life. But it gets easier.
Learning that minims, crochets, and quavers are the English equivalent of half notes, quarter notes, and eighth notes is something best learned before the music rehearsal.
Staying in touch with family and friends from home is difficult, but worthwhile. Staying in touch with Jewelligans also in Oxford, perhaps even more so.
Mince pies do not contain meat and they are sweet, and crackers are not edible if people mention them during Christmastime.
Pudgies are a type of bird that does not exist in the United States but apparently does exist at Oxford.
Within the next eight days Zak and I will be traveling to Munich, Prague, and Salzburg before flying home for Christmas. I hope to update you all with pictures and stories soon!
Much love and Merry Christmas!