Thoughts from England

My sister, Nicole, had the opportunity to become a missionary in Preston, England right after she graduated from DBU a little over two years ago. While she was over there, she eventually fell in love with a British lad named Adam, and they got engaged on March 2nd of this year, which also happened to be Nicole’s 24th birthday. So, my family and I were gifted the opportunity to go over to England to celebrate my sister’s marriage, and my parents thought, “Well, if we’re going to Preston, we may as well spend some extra time touring England.” Fortunately, the date of the wedding aligned very nicely with my fall break, so I was able to join my parents on their British excursions around the country and take some notes along the way.

Note: Keep in mind that this is all from the perspective of an American that has never left North America and doesn’t travel that much in general. Everything written here is solely from what I remember from the trip. I don’t want this to just be a history lesson about stuff in England, but rather a detailing of what I experienced while in the country. Also, I’m not a history teacher, so just Google this stuff if you want real detail.

1-2 Oct. 2019

One of the most exhausting days of my life, even though it was technically two days. My dad, my aunt, and I pulled out of our driveway in Denton, Texas at 4:15 pm CST, and we got to the DFW airport around an hour later. From there, my aunt dropped me and my dad off, and we did all the normal, uneventful things that happen at airports. We had Chick-Fil-A for dinner, and I realized I wouldn’t have Chick-Fil-A for another two weeks (a crushing revelation). Our 8 and a half hour flight from Dallas to London left at around 7:40 pm CST, and the plane served us dinner at around 11 pm CST (eating pasta at 560 miles an hour while 39,000 feet in the air was a huge item checked off of my bucket list, thank you American Airlines). Our plane landed in London at 4:15 am CST, by which time my body was thoroughly confused, as it was 10:15 in London with the sun beaming on my stupid, tired face. We got to chill in the airport at Heathrow for about four hours until we boarded our plane to Manchester. The hour flight from London to Manchester was literally the shortest hour of my life, and we left the Manchester airport in a rental car at 4:45 pm LT (10:45 am CST), only to get stuck in ridiculous rush hour traffic for about two hours. We made it to our house in Preston (Hollowforth House in Woodplumpton) close to 7:15 pm LT and almost immediately turned around to have dinner with Adam and many of his friends and family at Guy’s Thatched Lodge and Tavern. I set my mouth on fire with some Lasagne al Forno and had a good time chatting with the boys.

3 Oct. 2019

Wedding Day Eve. I got to see the stunning venue we would be using for the reception, which was the Inn at Whitewell, several miles outside of Preston. The property itself is actually owned by the Queen, so you could basically say I’m related to royalty. We did a good chunk of preparation at the inn, then moved over to Crossgate Church back in Preston where the ceremony would be held and did some setting up there. Then, we celebrated with some dinner at a pub called The Continental. The soup and chicken I had was pretty good, but then came the peanut butter and Belgian white chocolate cheesecake. Here’s the deal: I will die before I have to live another 21 years of life without having this cheesecake again. It weighs about 100 pounds when it’s inside your body because it’s so rich; it could weigh 100 tons for all I care. Just incredible.

4 Oct. 2019

Wedding Day! Honestly, the whole day was a blur, but it was such a sweet celebration. Some of my extended family came in right before the ceremony began, and I got to chat quite a bit with them through the reception, which is always nice. There was some incredible worship incorporated in the ceremony courtesy of the Crossgate Worship Team, and everything went about as smoothly as it could have. I look like a pack of flimsy spaghetti noodles blowing in the wind when I dance, but there was dancing indeed. I am now a proud brother of two married sisters.

5 Oct. 2019

To start the day, we went to an inn called Derby Arms for some lunch with the bride, groom, and some other friends and family. Afterward, my parents and I officially said our goodbyes to everyone, and we ventured east. Our first stop was at the ruins of Priory Church in the Bolton Abbey. This is the location of a large cathedral that was mostly burned down as a result of King Henry VIII’s establishment of the Church of England. A smaller section of the church was somehow preserved, and there are still weekly services held even 850 years after the church’s conception. After some time on the road, we arrived in York for the night. We had dinner at a pub called Hole in the Wall, and I had the Chicken Tikki Masala (don’t know what that means but it was delicious and spicy).

6 Oct. 2019

York! I had beans with my breakfast (beanfast), and we met up with a tour guide in the Museum Gardens right in the middle of town. He gave a really engaging overview of the history of York before showing us the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey, the Roman wall, and other smaller landmarks in the town. St. Mary’s Abbey was similar to Priory Church in both its size and circumstance; however, much less of St. Mary’s Abbey remained in comparison to Priory, as there are just a few walls and frames to observe.

The Roman wall doesn’t seem like much until you understand the context of the city. The Romans established the city of York in 71 AD and built a massive wall around 300 AD that surrounds what is now the very center of the city. The top third of the wall was added later in the 1300s during the Medieval period, but there is still a wall in the city that has been standing for around 1,700 years. How do you even begin to wrap your mind around that? The short answer is you don’t (at least I don’t). That one idiot that loves goofing with his boys at Whataburger and local DFW parks (me) walked along the same wall that Roman soldiers walked along in the 4th century, not even 300 years after Christ himself walked the Earth. So yeah, good luck trying to process that one.

After our guide finished his tour, we took a tour of our own into the York Minster, an absolute unit of a cathedral. There’s so much that could be said about the minster, but I’ll just say this: I’m blown away at how a building can be so overwhelming in its history and size while simultaneously maintaining such a peaceful aura. You would think that the colossal structure would lend itself to a more chaotic atmosphere, but somehow there’s an incredibly soothing presence throughout the cathedral.

7 Oct. 2019

We began the day climbing the hills of the Peak District near Castleton, and we were welcomed with quite the view. The wind was blowing at about 40 mph, but overlooking the hills of England was worth the endurance. After grabbing lunch at Three Roofs Cafe in Castleton, we made a short trip over to the church in Tideswell. While the site is not as imposing as the York Minster, it’s still crazy to think that people have been actively worshipping in the church since the 14th century. It’s also funny to me how aspects of the modern church merge together with more ancient sites like Tideswell. “We’ve been an active congregation for over 600 years; anyway, follow us on Twitter to keep up with our announcements.” After Tideswell, we made a lengthy trek down to Warwick, and I tried a popular English dish called Fish and Chips for the first time in England. I’m not a huge fan, but I also regularly consume and enjoy Taco Bell, so take that opinion with a grain of salt.

8 Oct. 2019

Warwick Castle! This castle began as a wooden fort in 1068 and was established by William the Conqueror. Fun fact: I am a very distant relative to William the Conqueror. I have no idea how, but my family has done some research, and our lineage is indeed connected to his. I guess what I’m saying is I should own and run Warwick Castle. Originally, the castle was owned by the Earls of Warwick, serving as a symbol of power and for good reason. The castle was rebuilt with stone in the 12th century, and other towers were formed to add to its intimidating presence. While there’s a very tough and domineering exterior, you can find an incredibly glamorous and polished interior when you enter the castle. There’s a very distinct medieval aesthetic in its dining room, living space, chapel, and other rooms throughout the castle. I always wonder if the families living in the castle 300 years ago thought about who would be walking through their castle in the future. I feel like they would be pretty disappointed to see a bunch of goofy Americans ogling at all their shiny stuff. Anyway, we then saw some gorgeous flowers in a garden outside the castle, got rained on super hard, and ventured south from there.

9 Oct. 2019

We took a trip to Blenheim Palace, about 20 minutes from Oxford. If that name doesn’t mean anything to you, it was the birthplace of Winston Churchill. If that name doesn’t mean anything to you, go read about World War II or something. In 1704, John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, played a key role in a decisive military victory for England against the French in the Battle of Blenheim. As a gift, the Queen awarded Churchill with the land, as well as £240,000, which would eventually become the behemoth that is Blenheim Palace. Presently, the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough reside in the Palace. We looked through all the major rooms inside the palace, which included a neat exhibition specifically dedicated to Churchill. What I found more impressive was the land surrounding it. There were some beautifully crafted gardens right outside the palace, and there was so much more to explore beyond that. The square footage of this place is insane. We stopped in the rose garden, walked alongside the river, and took a gander at an actual waterfall on the property. Imagine just having a waterfall outside your house (and also your house is literally a palace). From there, we scurried down to London, and good Lord, driving in London is bonker billies.

10 Oct. 2019

London Tour! We had a guide walk us around some pretty monumental landmarks in downtown London, such as Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, and Trafalgar Square. A bonus aspect of the tour was the Extinction Rebellion, which was a climate change protest that had been going on in London for about a week. This mainly took place in Trafalgar Square in the heart of the city, but protesters were walking and camping out all over the city. Buckingham Palace is where the Queen of England resides, so obviously, we couldn’t get too close, but it was quite a site to behold. They have a flag on the roof of the palace that indicates whether the Queen is in the palace or not, and she happened to be there while we were, which was neat. God save the Queen, you know what I mean? Parliament Square is in a cool part of town with significant structures surrounding all of its borders. There is the Treasury to the north, Westminster Abbey to the South, Elizabeth Tower (commonly mistaken as Big Ben when Big Ben really refers to the bell inside the tower) to the east, and the Supreme Court building to the west. There are also statues of individuals deemed significant to British history here, such as Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, and even Abraham Lincoln. Trafalgar Square would have seemed much bigger if it wasn’t packed to the brim with protesters, but it was still really neat. There is a crazy tall monument of King Charles right in the middle of the square that is apparently equidistant from Oxford and Cambridge (don’t know if that’s true but it’s a neat architectural detail).

We saw and did so much more in the city that I don’t have time to write about here, but I will say that London is such a fascinating place. One thing our tour guide noted about the city that I think is true is that London has such a strange mixture of traditional and progressive characteristics that make it really unique. The history is so incredibly rich in just about every part of town, but there are so many modern features that can be seen in just about every other contemporary city in the world. It sometimes feels like I could be walking in downtown Dallas, which is 45 minutes from where I grew up, but then I’m reminded of the history that spans over hundreds of years. There’s a feeling of familiarity merged with antiquity, and I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.

11 Oct. 2019

Our last full day in England was a full day indeed. We started off the day at St. Paul’s cathedral, and this may have been my favorite part of the entire trip (besides my sister getting married, duh). The grandness that I experienced in the York Minster was also present in St. Paul’s, but the amount of detail in every single aspect of the cathedral is just astounding. Not a single square inch of space is wasted here. The original site of the church was in 604 AD, but the cathedral has burned down a couple times since then. The current structure was completed in the 17th century and miraculously survived German bombings in World War II. Fittingly, there are many references to the Second World War inside the cathedral, including a chapel dedicated specifically to British and American soldiers who died in the war. Additionally, there are some breathtaking views from the cathedral that overlook the city of London that you can see if you’re insane enough to walk up over 500 stairs. I am indeed insane enough, and the view was stunning. It had just rained for a bit, so the clouds looked absolutely incredible. Yep, I think St. Paul’s Cathedral was my favorite thing in England and is pretty much at the top of my list of recommendations if you ever happen to visit England.

There was so much more that we saw and did in England that I couldn’t include here. I wasn’t too interested in making this journal 20 pages long, but these were certainly the highlights. I will conclude with this: go visit places that you haven’t been to before. It doesn’t have to be England. It doesn’t even have to be outside your own state. There are just so many cool things in this world that we don’t know about, and it’s so interesting to experience them for yourself instead of listening to a dumb American like me tell you about them.

Written by Ryan

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Never Grow Up

Ever been to Disney World? If not, then I seriously recommend and encourage you to do so. I have been four times in my lifetime, and all four trips have been fun-filled and simply magical. (I know that’s cheesy, but it’s so true.) Lots of people may consider Disney stuff “just for kids,” but I believe Disney is for everyone. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy letting their inner child shine for a bit? The last trip to Disney World I made with my family, I was 20 years old and my younger sister was 17, but we acted like we were 6-year-old children.

Before we even arrived at Disney, my sister and I were so excited we could barely keep ourselves from bouncing off the walls. We decided to bring as many Disney stuffed animals as we could, or more accurately, as many as our parents would allow in the car. The road trip was about 18 hours with a couple of rests in between, but we started to listen to more and more Disney music the closer we got to Orlando. I’m not talking about only the princess songs like “A Whole New World” and “I See the Light.” I’m talking about soundtracks to all Disney movies from “April Showers” in Bambi to the overture of Monsters Inc. (My whole family is really into all things Disney.) You’d think we would have gotten tired of it all, but we definitely did not. Each song only amped us up more for the experience to come.

There were so many things to do at the parks. Each park is so unique and incredible. So many shows to see, coasters to ride, games to play, foods to eat, and characters to meet. My family and I stayed for a week and didn’t have the chance to do everything that we wanted to do. But the activities we did do were amazing.

Magic Kingdom was one of the first parks I went to. Of all of the different rides here, my favorites were the Mountains: Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, and Splash Mountain. Don’t let the names fool you; these rides are very different. Space Mountain is an indoor roller coaster that is supposed to look like you’re whizzing through outer space. I saw stars inside the Mountain and after riding it. Thunder Mountain is a tamer coaster that’s outside and made to look like an old Western mining site, so there are lots of explosions. My sister and I would take turns squashing each other in the one big coaster seat by leaning dramatically on the larger curves and turns. Splash Mountain is the wettest ride in Magic Kingdom, as implied by the name. Most of it is pretty relaxing except for the 50 foot drop at a near 90 degree angle. My family decided to ride this one at the hottest point of the day, so luckily we were quite cool for the rest of the time we spent in the park.

But not everything is about the rides. My sister and I loved meeting different characters from our favorite shows. My sister had the opportunity to meet and chat with Peter Pan. Both of them were very uppity in their conversation, and I think my sister may as well have been flying after that interaction she was so happy. I think meeting Chewbacca and getting a hug from him was my favorite part of the entire trip. (I am a HUGE Star Wars fan, so I was excited to see any of the characters.) I had no idea what he was saying, but I am sure it was nothing but polite and complimentary. We even had a few run-ins with some storm troopers who were “punishing” rebel sympathizers, meaning they would find people who were wearing anything to do with the rebel alliance (symbols, pictures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi robes, etc.), then put them in a random corner, and walk away. It was quite a hilarious sight to see.

I could rave on and on about what I saw at Disney World. I could tell of how I oohed and awed over the fireworks every night, how my sister and I tried on every single silly hat we could find in the gift shops, how we also almost made ourselves sick in the spinning tea cup ride, or how I teared up when we had to leave to go home. I have so many fond memories from these child-like experiences with my family. And I think that is because at Disney World, I’m allowed to be a little kid again.

Written by Taylor C.

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We are Not in Kansas Anymore

After hearing my phone quietly buzz next to my ear, I jumped out of bed and sprinted into the living room. I would finally be able to check off one of the most important items on my bucket list: a venture to Canada. Because my family knew how much I wanted to go see my cousin, they surprised me with a trip to Canada for my high school graduation.

I hurriedly hopped into my car and waited for my parents to follow. When my family and I arrived at the airport, I had butterflies in my stomach. I was ecstatic and zoomed through the lines at security. After 6 hours in the airplane, I sluggishly walked through the airport waiting for our luggage to arrive. Although I was exhausted, I heard an announcement over the intercom that immediately piqued my interest. A pleasant, calming voice welcomed all travelers to the Canadian airport. At that moment, I realized that I had finally arrived. I had finally achieved a goal that I had patiently waited for so long. My energy was revived, and I quickly walked throughout the airport with a grin across my entire face.

When I walked outside, the clean, crisp, Canadian air hit my face. I slowly took a breath and swiveled my head around to take in the scenery. I was not used to the view that encompassed me. The golden and pink sunset drew attention to the jagged mountains in the distance. The aroma of baby’s breath flowers filled the air. This was it. I had made it. I was not in Kansas anymore.

My family and I hopped into the rental car and took off to the hotel. On the way, I glanced to my left and saw a beautiful lake that quenched my fatigue. My mouth dropped in amazement at the beauty that surrounded me. After a good night’s rest, my family journeyed to my cousin’s house where I got to see her two children, who had grown tremendously since I had seen them last. I went out to eat with my family and took my little cousins to a park nearby. After a few hours of running around, I went back to the hotel where I anticipated the final day.

The last day was probably the most exciting for me because I participated in the celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary. In the morning, my mother and I rented a paddle-boat and journeyed out onto the lake. While I was paddling, I became completely aware of a creative God who spoke all of this beauty into existence with a breath. With the help of the wind, my mother and I landed on the shore again and walked to the room to prepare for the town parade in which my cousin was participating. Afterwards, my family journeyed to her house where her husband fired up the grill and prepared a mouth-watering feast. The family sat on their balcony talking until the sun slowly faded. Then, over the still waters of the lake, I saw a glimmer of light shoot into the air, followed by a burst of beautiful colors. What a lovely night! I was filled with awe as well as sadness. The trip I had anticipated throughout my life was finished; however, the memories are ever present. When life gets stressful, I simply think back to the crisp air, jagged mountains, and calm lake. In those moments, the chaos ceases, and I feel at peace.

Written by Trisha