Lifting hearts to God in thanks and praise.

Surprised by Oxford

She was my neighbor for a year, one of those women I meet and think, either she’s too beautiful, talented, joy-filled, or she’d make a really great friend! We kept wanting to get together for tea but never quite had the time we wished for. She was busy teaching English at the college and taking care of her sweet daughter and twin toddler boys! The whole family often passed my house on their way to and from the park. She had a book coming out soon, she started a literary society on campus even though she was part time and here for only a year…and she told me she wanted to have tea and learn from me! (?)

I think we did have tea once, but we really need to do it more! I want to invite you in to the tea times, at least to listen to Carolyn’s story:

This past week I was busy with a VBS camp at the nearby church, napping in the afternoons, writing skits for the Bible story most nights, dropping into bed exhausted and then reaching for Surprised by Oxford and reading far longer than I thought I would, but being so encouraged by it that I didn’t feel the lack of sleep! The friend who was with me in these pages, her voice, so true to life, her adventure and the joy of sharing it encouraged me.

Sometimes you will find a book about an adventure that you know you will never have. You read it for that reason: to get a glimpse into a forbidden world. How many of us will be doing graduate work at Oxford, really? Carolyn takes the wonder of her scholarship and hands it to you to wonder at also, to experience together. She had an amazing wonderful first year there, and she “brings out of [her] storeroom new treasures as well as old.” After reading the first chapter (the prologue really, since it doesn’t take place during that Oxford year), I knew I wanted to read the book.

It’s an adventure story of a brilliant woman who writes a little self-deprecatingly and very lovingly.

It’s a surprising love story, not just “finding God at Oxford” which the title suggests and not just boy-girl romance, but also by her stories of wisdom and grace received from brilliant and wise teachers she shows how her heart was opened to love the world. If you’re the kind who reads a story and is there with the writer, your heart just may be opened that way too. I hope so.

It’s full of great literature, some old friends of mine, some new thoughts.

It’s place and food and brilliant rooms with formal etiquette and living smart people, hearing “No caps in my classroom,” the professor repeated, adding, “Men and women have died for your education.” (Instead of being disgruntled, the student nodded thoughtfully as he removed his hat and joined us.) (p54)

It’s got so many gems (I’m glad she was smart and journaled as this was happening!) but the one I love most is where her feminism and pain meet a young gentleman’s desire to do right. All he wants to do is walk on the traffic side of the sidewalk so that if something happened “I would take the blow. But more important than that is that you can rest in the fact that I want to take the blow.” She blew up at him! They talk it out, she actually hammering on his chest and he listens, holds her hands from further pummeling, and after hearing her out he responds so magically that I think it must have been grace! I’ll keep the book forever to reread that encounter.

I learned so much, enjoyably. I didn’t know how it was for my friend, I didn’t know how her family could be so joyous these days (now to be fair, other people have asked me, and I don’t myself think I’m consistently joyful, so that must be grace as well: they see God’s joy covering me). I love her story, love that there are harsh realities, love that she loves all her people both wacky and weird and offers the story to us wholeheartedly.

She has received many great moments, and they are worth sharing. She’s brilliant but approachable. I bet she’d love to hear your great moments too.

Good news: after finishing the book and wanting to hear more, you can see what she’s up to today by reading her blog, Leap with Faith and keep having tea!

Thanking God:
Carolyn my friend
Surprised by Oxford, to reread!
Noah’s VBS club
Bible skits, and actors
cookies, there
horseback riding for Bible memory
food and gatherings
naps when needed


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