Friday, September 26, 2008


The tomatoes are shriveled red orbs that roll and bounce against their green plastic cage when I pull them from the back corner of the refrigerator. I'd had high hopes for those tomatoes back when they were fat and wrinkle-free.

Those are tossed. But the yogurt and butter, cranberry juice, cream cheese and milk go in a bag for Lindsey and Tyson. I remember being married only a month and still in college. Sometimes a handful of items makes the difference. I'll add the recyclable bottles, which they can trade for a few euros.

We've said our good-byes and hugged everyone we could snag. The rugs have been shaken out, the floor swept, the last of the dishes returned to the cupboards. Our suitcases are packed. There's nothing left to do but sleep, and rise, and walk across the street to the train station. One adventure gives way to another. Tomorrow night at this time we'll be sleeping in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower ... more or less.

A woman I know is dying of inoperable cancer. She's beautiful and young and filled with a bright love for Jesus. In this last week she's been on the phone with her friends--preparing them for what's to come, speaking her love, and asking for prayer for her husband and still unsaved mother. She's been planning her funeral, and visiting my dreams.

We eventually leave these places where we sojourn but a moment. We leave a mess behind us, or we sweep the dust of our tracks before closing the door.

And no one makes that choice for us.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

germany-part 5

(Blogger won't take my pictures today ... but I'll keep trying)

I will take you to Buchenwald, I really will. And a walk through the Ann Frank House in downtown Amsterdam. But those tellings will only come when I push aside the happy-of-heart condition I'm in. You can't type those words while feeling light and satisfied. You have to go deep and lonely to find those words ... and I'm not ready.

Yesterday was too lovely a day to set aside for long. I'll write about that first.

You know the story of Annika, the girl God placed in our path to save us from a life of Siegen-wandering, back when we first disembarked the train and took a walk on the wrong part of town. I'm quite convinced that had Annika not been working that day, we'd be cresting some distant green hill still waiting for a Calvary dove to pop out at us. But He had mercy.

Our first Sunday at Calvary Chapel Siegen, Inga-Lill introduced me to Annika's beautiful mother, Marita. She was nervous about speaking English to me at first, and I liked her for that immensely. Up to that point, no one but me had felt nervous about the language difference. But Marita ought not to have worried. After talking a bit and hugging and telling her how grateful we were to her daughter, we said our good-byes. When I saw her next, though, she'd hatched a plan. "We would like to take you all to lunch." "You all" meant the Guziks and us.

And yesterday was the day. David picked us up and drove us to a part of town that was familiar to me, as I had just been there the day before with Inga-Lill to drink cappuccino and ogle jewelry and sigh over yarn in a just-right-for-me yarn shop. When David drove us up that street, I experienced a rush of pleasure at feeling at home in Siegen. This no longer seems like a foreign city to me.

With no parking spaces in sight, David dropped us off and we went ahead into the restaurant, past all the potted greenery that outlined a front courtyard and made me want to be down on my knees planting kale or tugging at weeds. Siegen has reawakened a gardener's hunger in me.

Our eyes adjusted to the shift in light and I took in table after table of rough-stained chairs and benches, most covered with a cushion of cowhide. Somehow, those splotchy seats and the lighting and the curved, space-separating arches worked themselves into a quiet sense of elegance. it felt like a room I'd visited before, and had missed.

Marita saw us and rose from her table to give me a welcoming hug. I introduced her to Dave, and then we both met Marita's husband, Berndt. At Marita's invitation, I slid into the center bend of the horseshoe-shaped bench.

"What would you like to drink?" Berndt asked.

"I'd love some water," I said.

He looked disappointed. "Only water?"

It was going to be that kind of lunch. These people wanted to bless us--and they did. They recommended the steak, which we tried. And the salad bar. And after lunch, at Berndt's pressing, I gave in and had a cappuccino. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

David Guzik joined us after several minutes. Inga-Lill, who was teaching a class at the Bible College, was longer in coming, but it gave us a chance to hear about how Marita and Berndt met. Back when Marita was a single mother of a nine-year old girl, Isabelle, she was in no hurry to meet a man. But Isabelle met Berndt at the coffee shop she and her mother frequented, decided he was just right for her mother, and invited him to come home for tea. And that was about it. The two have been married 20 years. All single mothers should have Isabelle's--or the use of someone else's Isabelle.

Berndt told us about coming to Christ--again, through Isabelle, who wanted to start attending the Free Evangelical church near their home, and kept asking her parents to join her. He told us too about the first time he walked into Calvary Chapel Siegen, and was startled to see so many young people, and startled further when Pastor Nick Long said, "Let's turn in our Bibles ..." and the room came alive with the whispery swish of rapidly turning pages.

I never get over the amazement I feel when I talk about Jesus with people from other places. Our hearts speak the same language. No time difference, no geographical space can separate those born of the same Spirit. And this day was no different. Love for my Savior shone in the eyes of these people, knitting us in a way that nothing else could.

Annika joined us next and I thought again about both her beauty and her resemblance to her mother. We chatted with her a bit about her plans for college (she wants to be a teacher) and about her trips to London, which we can now visualize ourselves. We told her to make sure she heads north during one of her planned touring trips and visit us; she promised to do so.

Inga-Lill arrived then, followed by our maitre d', who told us they had steak available from Arizona. He promised it was very good, and we believed him. What he didn't say, but could have, was that it would be the best steak we've ever tasted. We're still talking about it--and I still find it funny that I had to go to Germany to find this incredible Arizona steak. The chef cooked it exactly the way we asked (which doesn't always happen) and it came served with a round slice of herbed butter, which melted in flecked, opaque puddles that slid down the sides of the steak at a slow, enticing pace. I grieved that last bite ... but you can probably tell.

And I grieved when it was time for Berndt to head to his meeting, and David to bring Dave back for his Revelation class, and Marita and Annika to leave for home. We all hugged good-bye and promised to write. The language barrier had been no barrier at all, and those who had been nearly strangers to us at the beginning of our afternoon now felt like close friends.

The afternoon held more leisurely wonders. Inga-Lill took me to Siegen's own castle--astoundingly beautiful, and tucked into a residential area as though that were nothing at all. She then took me to the mall to pick up something for my computer. We tried on boots. We bought matching green earrings. We shared one perfect scoop of zitron (lemon) gelato and laughed about nothing.

I miss my children and our church family back home ... but I've come to love this place and these people. My heart will hurt at good-bye.



Friday, September 19, 2008


Several of the girls at the Bible College have asked me for recipes this week (and can I just tell you how much that delights me? I love that you all like to cook!). I thought about writing out the recipes and then copying them and cutting them and then trying to track down all the askers ... but then I thought, Why? The internet is so much easier.

So here's a link to my recipe collection. Included on the page you'll find the Cabbage Patch Soup, Snickerdoodles, and Frosted Brownies (among others). And P.S. ... I apologize about the Styx "Sail Away" loop that plays over and over and over. It makes me happy. But if it drives you crazy, turn your volume down while you're copying recipes.

A word about the recipes: Except for baked goods, I seldom follow an actual recipe or measure what I'm putting in, so you'll have to forgive my estimations. But I encourage you to try the "toss in and taste" method. It's really the best way to free yourself from the notion that you have to follow someone else's ideas to the letter. Cooking is very personal. If you like it hotter, throw in some more chili powder or a dash of tabasco. If you want to add a different kind of vegetable, go ahead. The only time this doesn't work well is with baking, because baking is pretty much an exact science. Sometimes, like with the frosted brownies, you can throw in different additions, but you can't change the quantities of baking soda or flour or eggs without causing a noticeable difference in the outcome.

Write if you have questions!

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

post #400 ... and germany-part 4

I can hardly believe this is my 400th post. How did the last four years go so quickly? Not quite four years, actually, but it will be in December.

I've been putting off posting, because the next logical post should be about our trip to Buchenwald, a concentration camp about three hours from Siegen. But what I saw and felt there was so heavy, I've only been able to put together half a post.

I suppose I can't avoid it forever, but I'm going to stall for at least one more day. Today I'll simply tell you about BIG FOOD. Do you see this cheese? It looks fairly normal, until you take a look at Inga-Lill's foot next to it.

This is at "Metro," Siegen's version of Costco. But at Metro, you can also buy office supplies in normal-people sized packages (say ... four pens instead of forty, or one polite package of typing paper, instead of a ream). You can also buy fall decorations. If my suitcase wasn't already bulging, I may have bought some fall leaves or a paper-mache pumpkin. But I had to leave them on the shelf.

So back to the food. Here's another picture of Inga-Lill's foot next to a different variety of big cheese. I really loved how accommodating she was. Never once did she let on that my request was odd. I like that about Inga-Lill. It's one of the things I'll most miss when we return home. She's a go-with-the-flow friend.

These other pictures are of BIG COOKING. Because I desperately miss our "First Seven" marriage group back home, when, twice a month, the young-marrieds from church come to our house for dinner and fellowship and a video teaching, I asked if I could cook for the students a night or two. And Inga-Lill ... that easy-going Inga-Lill ... said, "Of course." So I made Cabbage Patch Soup for seventy. Look at this giant can of tomatoes. This wasn't the only can of tomatoes I used, just the biggest. It took three huge pans of hamburger, a head of garlic, ten onions, several cans of kidney beans, and more chili powder than I care to admit to. Actually, I toned down the heat in the soup, which was a good thing, because apparently it was considered to be VERY hot by the German students.

Along with this, I made four pans of frosted brownies with white and dark chocolate chunks flecked throughout. Next week I'm making "Poor Soup," which was my grandmother's standby. It's a mixture of white beans, carrots, potatoes, ham hocks, and tomatoes. To go along with that, I'll make four pans of cornbread with honey-butter.

I already love these students. Today I met with a beautiful girl from Argentina, who poured out her heart about her desire for missions work. I spent a little time talking to another of the girls, and I could easily see building a relationship with her as well. It will be hard to leave them all behind, but I miss the people at our church very much. I can't wait to see their faces again.

As soon as I'm up to it, I'll write about Buchenwald. Tonight, I'm preparing my notes for a teaching I'm giving tomorrow at Calvary Chapel Freier Grund, in the nearby village of Nuenkirchen. I spent a wonderful afternoon getting to know Hannah, the pastor's wife of CC Freier Grund, and her two sweet daughters, Maya and Tyler Jane. We walked for about forty minutes along the river, then drove to Burger King (can you believe it?) where we had sundaes and milkshakes, and then on to IKEA (can you believe it? :) where we bought fabric to decorate the tables at tomorrow's women's ministry kick-off. Hannah--who speaks flawless English--will be my translator tomorrow night. That's going to be interesting. I hope she can talk fast ...



Saturday, September 13, 2008

germany-part 3

I thought I'd make brownies for Dave, but it meant getting a little creative. I couldn't find unsweetened baking cocoa at Edeka, but I knew that with a little finagling, I could reduce the butter and substitute for unsweetened baking chocolate. But I really had no way of knowing which--if any--of the bars of chocolate I found in the baking aisle were unsweetened. So I bought the darkest looking one ... the one with a word that looked suspiciously like "bitter." But when I walked home (through an absolute deluge ... I was grateful for the umbrella I borrowed from the Bible college) and tested the chocolate, it was simply dark chocolate, not unsweetened. So that meant fiddling with the sugar in my tried-and-true recipe. So to cover up all my substituting, I figured I'd just throw in a cheesecake topping on my brownie and swirl it all together. Here's the result.

I couldn't wait for Dave to walk home from his class. He teaches from 3:00 until 6:00, then walks the ten minutes back to our apartment, passes the building, and continues down to a crosswalk. For awhile, we just jaywalked across the road right at our building. We picked up that habit in England, where crosswalks are simply suggestions. Jaywalking seems to be a national pastime in England. But here in Siegen, jaywalking is verbotten. Plus, the students have been cautioned firmly against doing it, so we thought we'd better go along.

When 6:00 rolls around, I lean out our apartment window, look to the right, and wait.

And pretty soon, here he comes. Here he is after dutifully crossing at the crosswalk.

Coming up the steps.

The candles are lit, a playlist is going, and a big pan of cheescakey brownies are waiting.

Sometimes, 2008 fades away and it's 1985 again, and I'm back in our tiny apartment on Rucker in downtown Everett, waiting for Dave to walk home from work.

More later. We've brownies to eat.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

rescue me

I saw the first of these signs in Scotland, I believe, in an area where there was a lot of road construction going on. Apparently, if you find yourself stranded within these random pockets of rescue, all you have to do is wait and someone will come along to "recover you." It struck me then, and I couldn't shake the thought. So when the same signs began popping up on the road somewhere between York and London, I had to take a picture.

"Free recovery ... Await rescue." Has ever the gospel been expressed so simply, so succinctly?

I'm waiting for You, Jesus. Please come quickly.
* * * 

For the reward of sin is death; but what God freely gives is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord ~Romans 6:23 BBE

Let not your heart be troubled: have faith in God and have faith in me. In my Father's house are rooms enough; if it was not so, would I have said that I am going to make ready a place for you? And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come back again and will take you to be with me, so that you may be where I am. ~John 14:1-3 BBE

... in the twinkling of an eye ... ~1 Corinthians 15:52

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

germany-part 2

Today I've got a handful of interesting facts to share with you. Mind you, I've learned all of this while on a simple quest to buy the ingredients to make cookies. Our apartment has a full-but-tiny kitchen, and I thought I'd make a few dozen cookies to send with Dave for his class.

My first thought was chocolate chip cookies. But I learned that you can't buy chocolate chips in Germany. What? you say. Isn't this the land of chocolate? I think that's the point. I think they've so perfected chocolate-making that they can't bring themselves to package up little bits of lesser chocolate cut with paraffin. If you want to make chocolate chip cookies in this country, you get yourself a big bar of the real stuff and set to chopping. The problem is, we are both pretty attached to our big bars of chocolate. Dave has a big bar of the plain variety on his study desk; I have a bar with hazelnuts near my computer. You never know when a famine might strike. It's good to be prepared.

So I went to plan B, which, of course, is peanut butter cookies. In the dream world in which I live, no one has peanut allergies, and everyone loves peanut butter cookies. But guess what? Germans have a great dislike for peanut butter. Apparently, because the peanut bush grows near the ground, it is considered a sub-standard crop. But Nutella? They're wild for the gunk. Nutella is a breakfast staple in these parts.

So no chocolate chips and no peanut butter. I felt certain I could make a go of Plan C, which is Snickerdoodles. But I hadn't counted on walking the mile to the grocery store and forgetting my little English-to-German, what-to-say-in-a-pinch booklet. So after accosting a woman and her son, I pantomimed my way through an explanation of all the many wonderful cinnamon-based products one could make if they could just find the elusive spice. My biscuit and cookie miming yielded no looks of recognition. Not even the giant cinnamon roll I teased and tugged and sprinkled and rolled up and cut right in mid-air garnered any sudden understanding. It wasn't until I spied a jar of Chinese 5 Spice on the shelf and pointed to a picture of a cinnamon stick that the woman lit up. "Ah! Zimt!" she said. So a packet of Zimt got tossed in my cart.

And the cart brings up another interesting detail about Europe. In order to use a shopping cart, you must first insert a euro (or pound, if you're in England) in a little slot near the handle of the cart. When I first saw that, I didn't realize you got the coin back at the end of the trip when you returned the cart. And I just couldn't bring myself to pay the store $2 for a twenty-minute use of their cart. So for awhile, I just lugged around a basket, into which I crammed a heaping mound of goods. But I'm cart-savvy now. You should see how adept I am at shoving that coin in the slot. And if you happened to be walking by as I was returning the cart, and you saw how quickly I inserted the key in the back lock and retrieved my euro, you'd think I was a right proper Fraulein.

So ... what else ... ah. Baking soda. You can't buy it at the grocery store. Because it's "bisodium carbonate," (or words to that effect), you have to get it at the pharmacy. And no vanilla extract--they only have vanilla powder. Also, don't be thinking you're going to use shortening while in Deutschland. They haven't heard of it.

But do you want to hear something truly fabulous, fantastic and brilliant? (I don't think they use those words here, but indulge me. A bit of England followed me here.) They have REAL gummi bears! I couldn't believe my eyes when I spotted a bag at Edeka, my new favorite grocery store. The first gummi bear I ever tasted, back about 25 years ago, was a real, honest-to-goodness German gummi bear. But somehow, America ruined it. They decided consumers didn't want candy that is the equivalent of tiny jaw-dumbbells. Because truly, a handful of these little jellies will put some muscle on your jaw. But in the name of squishiness, we sacrificed all that is glorious about the gummi bear. It's not supposed to be a glob of gelatinous fructose. It's suppose to have heft and weight and substance.

So I've got my bag of real German gummi bears sitting next to my giant bar of hazelnut-studded German chocolate. Like I said, those famines can sneak up on you.



Monday, September 08, 2008

germany-part 1

Jumping ahead again ... but I'll fill in the gaps eventually.

These are pictures of the train station in Frankfurt, Germany. It's still a mystery to me how we made it from the airplane down to this platform, because between us, we know only two German words: Ya, and Nein. You can't go too far with Ya and Nein. We managed to pantomime our way through a couple of conversations and just kept following signs that had the word "Bahn" in them. After annoying one porter, who waved his finger at me and then scoffed repeatedly as he walked away--even stopping to scoff again when he was about twenty yards away--we found a sympathetic stranger who pointed us to platform 4.

We finally figured out that we had to switch trains two more times to get to Siegen. So again, relying on the kindness of strangers, we changed trains at the Frankfurt Main Hbf, and then again in Geissen. It felt good to hear the conductor announce "Siegen" about an hour later, but our adventure was only just beginning.

Dave and I had both read David Guzik's instructions, and both of us picked up on the fact that the Bible college was "just across the street from the train station." Not only that, but I had seen a picture of the building and knew that it was underneath a giant overpass. So what could go wrong? Well, for starters, we didn't realize the Bible college wasn't in downtown Siegen. It was actually down the track a bit in a place called Eiserfeld, which is kind of a suburb of Siegen. We disembarked feeling confident. "It must be over there," I told Dave, pointing across the tracks at a row of buildings framed by an overpass. Just as we started up and across the overpass bridge, the rain began. And not the pleasant, drizzly, "just kidding" kind of rain. This was pelt you in the face, soak all your clothes in 30 seconds rain. I had my black shawl with me, so I tied it over my head babushka-like. Dave and I were both hauling our Rick Steves' rolling suitcases behind us and wearing our backpacks. In addition, we both carried a pair of our sweatpants. Back at Heathrow airport, we'd been told our Rick Steves' suitcases were too bulgy and we'd need to pull out some of the clothing. So Dave, who is very smart about these things, figured out that we could knot the legs of our sweatpants, fill them with extra clothing, and cinch up the waist. And yes, it was as hobo-ish as you are imagining. But it worked. So while traipsing through Siegen in the rain, we had our bulgy bundles of sweatpants on top of our other luggage. At one point, Dave took mine and put it over his neck, because it looked to him like it was about to fall off my suitcase. I can only imagine what these Siegen-ites thought of the two of us.

We walked Siegen for over an hour, up hills, down hills, through the town center ... asking stranger after stranger if they'd heard of Calvary Chapel Siegen or the Bible college. A few had heard of it, but all had different ideas about where it was. Two mentioned "Eiserfeld," but neither of us had heard anything about Eiserfeld, so we were reluctant to take that seriously. We had no phone number, no Euros (only American dollars and English and Scottish pounds), and no one seemed to know where we could find an ATM or connect to the internet.

After an hour of wandering the streets, we came back to the train station. Dave had me sit with the luggage while he went out in search of someone--anyone--who had had more than a quarter of English in school. While he was out doing that, I pulled my laptop out and began searching the files on my hard drive for "Siegen." I was pretty sure the info I needed was locked away in my Gmail files, but I thought I'd search anyway. And lo and behold, what came up was a document Kim Underwood had sent me when she was helping me research the pastors I was interviewing last June at the pastors' conference. (Thanks, Kimmie! :) Right there on that document I read that the Calvary Chapel Bible College was in Eiserfeld, just ten minutes from Calvary Chapel Siegen. Aye yi yi. We had bought train tickets for the wrong city.

The thing is, it wouldn't have been any big deal to just hop a train. No one even checked our tickets on the three legs of our trip to Siegen. But I knew we couldn't do it. We couldn't steal a ride, and we couldn't pay for one, so we were stuck.

I had prayed a bit while we wandered Siegen, but I really started praying now. I said, "God, please direct us to someone who can help. Just have someone be there, right where we need them."

When Dave came back, he was grinning. He'd walked through McDonalds trying to ask strangers if anyone had heard of CCBC or if they knew where we could get on the internet, but everyone just ignored him. He then tried to talk to a cab driver, who passed him off to a girl walking down the street--Annika, who "just happened" to walk by at the right time. She was on her way into McDonalds where she worked. And as it "happened," she not only knew where Calvary Chapel Siegen was, she attends church there. She called both her youth pastors, but neither answered, so she directed Dave to an ATM and told him we should take a cab to the Bible college. That's what we did.

But there's just a bit more. When we walked out of McDonalds to hail a cab, there were seven or eight of them lined up at the curb. How do you pick? All the men were staring at us, waiting to see if we would come to their cab. So we just went to one in the middle. And guess what? That man not only knew where CC Siegen was, he attends there! He had been a Muslim until 25 years ago, when an American couple by the name of Terry and Lisa Jones witnessed to him. He said, "I like Jesus." We told him we like Jesus too.

So we made it to the Bible college. Once here, we were among family. They were waiting for us and led us to our beautiful apartment, which Inga-Lill Guzik decorated and stocked with all kinds of juice, bread, cereal, yogurt, cookies and German chocolates. I felt just like Shirley Temple in "The Little Princess" when she woke up to find that someone had given her nice soft slippers and a beautiful robe and a tray full of hot food ... and there was even a fire to warm her hands by. Remember that?

We're just back from having lunch with David and Inga-Lill at IKEA. I'm trying to catch up on my blogging, and Dave just headed to his first class. He's teaching through the book of Revelation to about 20 students--five days a week, three hours a day. Please pray for him. :)

Thursday I'm teaching 25 or so of the women. I'm looking forward to that. I'll have two hours this week and two hours next week, so I'm waiting on the Lord right now to see what He'd like me to teach.

I hope He tells me by Thursday.

Here are some pictures of our apartment: (Do you see my Mac sitting on the coffee table? I sit there while Dave's studying at his desk.)



Thursday, September 04, 2008

england-part 5

I know. A few numbers are missing. But if I don't jump up to "England-part 5," I can't tell you about our fantastic, brilliant, fabulous day. So I think I'll jump ahead and fill in the gaps when we get settled in Germany. It will be lovely to land in one spot for three whole weeks. I might even unpack my suitcase.

This morning after a leisurely breakfast of English muffins with slices of Brie and hard-boiled egg and scones with clotted cream ... oh, but I could have eaten that entire tub myself ... Dave and Rob Dingman (pastor of Calvary Chapel Twickenham) left in one car, and Joanie and I left in another, and we drove to Heathrow airport to drop off our rental car. We were a day late returning the car because one of us (the one of us who is not Dave) thought it was due back on the 4th, and not the 3rd. I already miss that car, I must say. I LOVE driving on the left side of the road. I have no explanation for it.

The Dingmans then dropped us off at the Heathrow train station, where we purchased an "All Zone" ticket which was good on all buses and trains throughout the day. We hopped on the Picadilly train, which is actually an underground subway, and in 40 minutes emerged back into daylight and stared straight up at Big Ben. This picture does no justice to the old clock. It's just fantastically enormous (do you see how effortlessly and fantastically I'm acclimating to my new British words?).

Across the street, we found Westminster Abbey. THE Westminster Abbey. As we walked toward it, I kept laughing and saying, "Do you believe we're here? Dave, we're in London. Dave, can you believe it??" Dave could not believe it. He could not believe I kept saying that, over and over and over.

You're not allowed to take pictures within the Abbey, so I can't show you anything. If you're really curious, you can probably google it. I will tell you that it's very much like walking through an indoor cemetery. The entire Abbey is full of tombs and memorials. Oliver Cromwell is buried there, and Mary, Queen of Scots. Several King Henrys, although we didn't find the Eighth anywhere. My favorite spot was the poet's corner. Among those who are either buried or memorialized there are Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Robert Browning, Geoffrey Chaucer, Rudyard Kipling, and Alfred Lloyd Tennyson.

After about an hour and a half touring the Abbey, we walked across the road to the Methodist Central Hall and into their below-level cafe, where we ordered bowls of vegetable soup with French rolls. The soup was delicious, but goopy. I think they pureed the vegetables and added a generous dollop of cornstarch to the mix. No visible vegetables remained. Fresh from the grave of Charles Dickens, I couldn't help but think of Oliver Twist, who had the nerve to bring his bowl up and ask for "More soup, please." I'm pretty sure he was asking for another glob of vegetable puree.

To top off our day, we decided to tour Buckingham Palace. Again, no pictures allowed, but I do have these two--just to prove we've had the Queen's coffee.

I have no words to describe the opulence of the palace itself. Just "opulent." But I did leave with two questions: one, what can I do to get invited to a State Dinner? (I really, really want to sit at that lavishly set table just once in my life) and two, when she's alone in the house ... or in, say, the art room or the marble collection room ... does the queen ever backflip herself from one end to the other? Maybe not anymore, but in years past--don't you think she's done it once or twice? I know I would.

After the palace, we took bus 24 around Trafalgar Square, hopped off for some nachos, hopped back onto the 176 and headed to Waterloo Station, where we took the Shepperton subway all the way back to Hampton. From the station to the Dingman's house is just a ten minute walk. About three minutes into it, I tripped on some invisible something on the sidewalk and lurched forward about six steps trying to keep from falling. It worked, but after restraining himself for 30 seconds, Dave couldn't help but laugh. That made me laugh too. He then said, "Do you want to see what you looked like?" and handed me our shopping bags. And then Dave proceeded to do an elaborate re-enactment of my near fall, with flailing, about-to-take-flight arms and giant steps and wide, frightened eyes. It was so funny I stopped right where I was and doubled over. From behind us, we heard a man's voice. " 'avin' a flashback, are ye, mate?" The stranger passed us and kept walking. We laughed harder. And then I got the giggles. I couldn't stop. In a few minutes, we could hear the stranger up ahead of us laughing too.

And that's how we ended our brilliant, fantastic, fabulous first day in London.



Wednesday, September 03, 2008

england-part 1

The truth be told, we're actually in London right now ... well, Hampton, really, which is close to Twickenham (Right. Be a love and don't argue just now, eh?) But before I go back to York, I must show you this car I spotted as we left Edinburgh. See the license plate? That made me laugh out loud. Get it?)

Just as we got to the border of Scotland and England, we saw this bagpiper on the other side of the road making sure all the Englanders coming into Scotland got a good Scottish welcome. His rock said "Scotland;" the one on the other side said "England." But my picture of that rock didn't come out very well.

This was our first view of York. You can't believe how beautiful it is, how medieval looking. There's a wall that runs all along the inner part of the city. Since it was built for horses, and not cars, the roads are extremely narrow. That, coupled with the whole "let's drive on the left side of the street" thing, means that a quick trip to the grocer down the street becomes a real adventure.

We drove around that inner ring wall for a looooong time before we discovered that 11 Barbican was on that strip of flats we'd already passed twenty times. We were very happy to read the "Calvary Chapel York" sign in the window when we finally made the connection. Dave Sylvester was out back putting some finishing touches on the new section of the sanctuary they'd just opened up, so after we said hello, we took his advice and headed across the street to the Barbican, which is situated right on the inner wall. They have a long term lease from the city of York to use this building. Initially, it was their church meeting place, but when they couldn't cram any more people into the 25' x 25' room, they moved the church out and began using it for a coffee shop.

I could stay forever in that room above the Barbican. The atmosphere is amazing. This is an historic site, as it's the only remaining Barbican in all of England. By the way, since I know you're wondering, a barbican is an enclosed gate area that extended out from the wall. There would be a gate at one end that marauding armies would have to break down in order to get into the city. But after breaking down that gate, they'd have to slog through a moat and try to avoid all the hot oil being poured over the upper wall from Yorkshire gatekeepers, then try to break through a second gate right on the inner wall.

CC York and the Bible College use the building across the street, which is fantastic (my new English word ... everything is "fantastic" or "brilliant." I'll see if I can slip you a "brilliant" now and then). They actually own an entire block on Barbican street, including maybe ten or twelve flats, a large "L" shaped building they use for a sanctuary and kitchen, and then another very large building across a courtyard that is currently being leased by a hearse company. From our studio, we had a perfect view into the hearse garage. Here's a picture, shot just as they were getting ready to back the hearse out for a funeral. There's something very symbolic about a church and a hearse company sharing the same parking lot. It's a picture of the choice that stands before every man. Which will you choose--death, or life?

And that looks like a good place to end for now. More later ...