Today is my golden birthday.
At 7.19pm EST I will officially be twenty-seven on 27 January 2012.
I thought it would be fun to look back at twenty-six memories from my life. My memory is not sharp enough to remember the exact chronology, but I will begin with the older things and work my way forward... There may be photos if you are diligent to read to the end. :)
1) Family vacation to Colorado (Estes Park, Mesa Verde), Four Corners, and the Grand Canyon. I lost my blanket on that trip, which was pretty sad, but the trip itself was good (minus the cantaloupe).
2) I was maybe 3 when I remember playing and singing on our front deck and asking Jesus to "come into my heart and never come out".
3) Hannibal, Missouri - Samuel Clemens home -and- Herman, Missouri - winery visit. I mostly remember this from a family photo, but I do remember the winery, it was cool to see the wine barrels, and the playground "dirt" was made of shaved corks.
4) I was a sheep in the Christmas play at one of the many churches we attended when I was young. Yeah, sheep don't get lines. (And I doubt that sheep are redheaded, either.)
5) When I was 7 I learned how to ride a two wheel bicycle (thanks to my older sister, Megan). I also met our new neighbours that day... Brittany and Jessica were my best friends growing up! We played settlers, office, sailors, clowns, detectives, and every other imaginable game we could think of. We also washed cars, sold vegetables, sold whatever Jessica had to sell for her choir group, etc. Yay for enterprise and pocket cash! (Okay, mine went to the bank... So I could pay my taxes. Yes, I thought that way when I was a kid.)
6) AWANA - I liked Sparks the best as an attendee, but Jr. High the most when I was a leader-in-training. Probably because my dad was the teacher and we talked about real stuff.
7) Summer Bible School at Walnut Grove Chapel. Two weeks every summer of memorising chapters of Scripture, catechisms, and daily verses. Plus songs, games, and new friends. How could you go wrong there?
8) Art lessons from a variety of teachers, though Mrs. Oberting and Mrs. Adams were my favourites.
9) Waking up on Christmas morning to a BLUE bicycle! I don't even know if I got other presents that year, but I didn't care. And for some reason, I really remember that Sarah got an Acapella tape that same Christmas.
10) This one is in bold because it is perhaps the highlight of my entire childhood, and even now is one of my favourite things: Reading stories with Dad. My earliest memory of reading with Dad is of him reading the Bible to us after dinner each night. Dad would also read bed-time stories to me and my sisters most nights. I remember reading all of the Narnia books, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ivanhoe, Puddinhead Wilson, The Prince and the Pauper, Penrod, Penrod and Sam, Seventeen, several Louis L'Amour westerns, Waking the Dead, Farmer Boy, Fairy tales, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Tidings of Comfort and Joy (which Dad and I re-read this past Christmas when I was home). I know we read other books, and we re-read Narnia all the time. Plus, Dad is the best story-teller for Jack and the Beanstalk bar none.
11) Not to be left out, I did also read with my Mom for school. We read the Little House on the Prairie books, Otto of the Silver Hand, and other fiction books that went with what we were studying. But mostly, I am thankful for my Mom reading a Psalm or Proverb with me and my sisters every morning and praying with us. This has to be a big part of helping to establish a daily quiet time in my life.
12) Working to clean Redbrush Camp and turn it into InPursuit, a SpringHill camp (I never officially worked for SpringHill, however). Taught me a lot about how much I complain, and was the place where I began to desire to make my faith my own, not just my parents' beliefs.
13) Spanish and art class with a bunch of homeschool friends... I actually do not remember much about either class - what I gained most from those semesters were my two best friends in high school: Britt and Beka. Britt is still my best friend to this day and I am so thankful for her continued friendship, even though I am not always good about keeping up with her. We have gone from talking about bands and boys and God, to talking about school, work, heartache, God's faithfulness and goodness in spite of our circumstances, and life habits. Similar topics, but there is much more depth now!
14) Homeschool National Conventions: These experiences from 2001-2007 gave me the chance to travel, make lots of awesome friends, helped me to begin to think and reason more, and inspired me to learn about new things (like photography, debate, government, etc.)
15) TeenPact: I learned a whole lot about state government, living with other people, leading other people, how to present myself better, and ultimate frisbee. I began to gain more confidence after becoming filed staff for two Indiana classes in 2005. Oh, and TeenPact GA is where I first drove on the Interstate - unbeknownst to anyone who was in the car with me. I grew up a lot because of my time around TeenPact events and people.
16) Homeschool state conferences helped me take responsibility and learn to converse well with adults (well, to converse more with them - I have always enjoyed talking with 'grown-ups' who were cool).
17) Summer 2003: I graduated high school, read Lord of the Rings for the first time, my grandfather passed away, and my parents drove me out to Colorado to attend a two-week worldview class called Summit. This was indeed a life-changing year.
18) Working at Summit on Summer staff 2005-2010: I learned a lot about acting my age, leading a small group, Creation, Fall, Redemption, family/marriage, loving people - even when they are hard to love, books, various theological topics, taking responsibility, trying new things, and much more. I specifically remember 'The Upstairs Girls' (Lexy, Savannah, and Jessi) from 2007 who restored the idea of being friends with girls in my head and heart. I am forever grateful to God for that summer and fall.
Furthermore, I have made my closest friends at Summit (ahem - Sarah Beth Vosburg! Reese! Chels! Kasey! Andréa! Noelle! And many, many more of you wonderful folks - so many I shouldn't even try to list you!) and have been challenged, encouraged, strengthened, and loved in a way I didn't know was possible.
19) Summit Semester 2006 and 2007: I learned a lot in class in 2006, but the 2007 S2 class will always be my family. Even though I was on staff I learned much in and out of class, made a lot of mistakes, was given a lot of grace, deepened my understanding of a good life, love, death, and more through poetry, stories, and real life community.
20) In 2009 I worked two jobs at once (a first for me), one of which was at a public school, the other was a cleaning job. I learned a LOT about loving other people where they are, speaking the truth when it was hard, and loving kiddos.
21) 2009 was a big year: My grandmother passed away in January, and I moved to Colorado that autumn. I cannot express how glorious it is to have my own home!
22) November 2010 will always be memorable for me. The week of awesomeness started with finding a lovely hardcover set of Lord of the Rings for $9 at the the Thrift Store. It progressed to a good conversation with Kevin Bywater about Summit Oxford, and then the unbelievable happened: I was offered a chance to go to Oxford by an anonymous donor (my eternal thanks to you, friend!). Within 4 days I had gone from normal life to receiving funding, applying, getting my lack of college credit waived, getting references from two Semester professors, and getting an acceptance e-mail. Soli Deo Gloria!
23) Everything about Oxford: walking to tutorials - and the library, Tesco, church, evensong, the open market, through historic passageways and up bell towers - and really anywhere else I need to go. Riding the bus to Kevin's and class there. My flatmates, hallmates, and the Summit gals downstairs. My friends at the kebab stand. The C. S. Lewis Society and walks home with Jake.
Tea and Cranford with Kasey. Watching films, wearing scarves (on one's head), working out, and ridiculous antics with Andréa, Kasey, and sometimes even Jacqueline. Group dinners. Chelsea visiting over my birthday. Trips to London and Cambridge with the OSAP group. My favourite trip: Portsmouth and Master and Commander afterwards. Walking around Magdalen College and Addison's Walk. The New College Cloisters.
Hours spent researching and writing in the library. The book exposition in the spring. Visit to the Kilns (Lewis's home) when my sister came to England. My parents visiting! Walks through Port Meadow and around Oxford at night with the Summit girls.
24) Baptism, Confirmation, and first Anglican Communion: 10 April, 2012 - St. Mary Magdalene's Church, Oxford, England.
25) Getting my writing published on the Summit Blog; getting good marks from my tutors; and learning a lot about Islam that I never knew before (both from reading, and first hand from my Muslim friends).
26) My birthday morning in Oxford last year: sleeping in and a surprise breakfast with all of the Summit girls. They made crepes with fresh fruit (blueberries, strawberries, pomegranate, and bananas), and even had Nutella, and of course, a bunch of tea. They also gave me my Eynsham mug, which I drink from almost every day.
The afternoon was also wonderful, with tea at The Rose on High Street. Everyone came and Rose and Jordan even paid for my tea and scones. It was a wonderful day!
Those are my 26 memories - if I had been extremely clever I would have started each with a successive letter of the alphabet. But I am not extremely clever. I am just an ordinary girl who has been blessed with extra-ordinary blessings all of my life. I am thankful for God's goodness in all things, and His magnificent kindness to me.
Truly, 'The LORD has done GREAT things for us, and we are filled with JOY!'
Post Script: I would be remiss if I didn't say that my sister Sarah's wedding and the birth of my Nephew (JJ) were also life altering events. :)