Friday, July 19, 2013

Checking things off the List!

    Next week I will be returning to the States...but, that is not what this post is about.  Since my time is coming to an end I am attempting to wrack up as many English "experiences" as possible; this weekend I added a day in Stratford Upon-Avon, black pudding, and a proper afternoon tea to the list.  I would like to start out by saying that I have some truly wonderful people in my life who are willing to humor me in this endeavor!
    Last Friday I traveled to Stratford with a friend, Millie, to enjoy this beautiful heat wave (highs of 78 degrees) as well as a performance of Hamlet at the Royal Shakespeare Theater.  We arrived about halfway through the afternoon and were greeted by throngs of uniformed children walking home from school as well as some of the most beautiful hanging baskets.  After perusing the local market, Millie was keen to hit up one of her favorite shops.  In an unintentionally cruel act she took me to a very quaint shop that housed a great collection of summer sun dresses.  You are probably wondering the cruelty of this tour...I am 98.7643% sure that I will not be able to fit everything that I already own let alone any last minute purchases.  Luckily, one of the most important lessons I have learned this year is the difference between want and need.  
     After shopping we strolled along the canal, enjoyed an ice cream and took in a serene afternoon landscape.  We then found ourselves inside the theater where there was an exhibition costumes from past performances.  There were a great number of displays that had everything from shoes, wigs, armor, to the clothes the actors wore.  The best part of the exhibit, however, was the section where you were afforded the opportunity to try on some of the pieces.  Needless to say Millie and I spent a great deal of time trying on practically all of the costumes (men's pieces included)!

    We had dinner alongside the canal and then it was time for the show.  Now, I like Shakespeare, however, given the chance I would much rather see a musical because Shakespeare tends to be a little heavy.  Yet, the cast of Hamlet found a way to make such a dark drama funny.
    On Sunday I was able to cross off two more English "experiences" with a lunch consisting of lamb and black pudding and afternoon tea.   For those of you who do not know, black pudding is essentially a disk shaped "puck" of congealed pig's blood.  While this does not sound like the most delicious of English indulgences, if you add lamb, potatoes, and red cabbage it turns out to be quite a meal.

    I then spent the afternoon baking with my good friend, Emily.  We readied for afternoon tea by preparing scones, crumbly banana bread, and small cakes with cream and strawberries.  Our efforts paid off, the weather held up, and we had an absolutely gorgeous afternoon.  

Like I said before, I am am very fortunate to be surrounded by people who are willing and eager to provide some color, laughter and new experiences into my life!!!!! God is Good, and So is Life!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

77 years...NO MORE!


This was a status I posted a couple of days on Facebook as I watched the semi-final match of Djokovic vs. Del Porto; it was an incredible match.  My love of this coveted championship is not new, it began when my dad brought me back a green and purple hat many years ago.  Since then, I have always been content to wake up before the crack of dawn at the end of June to watch people in clean white outfits duke it out on beautifully kept courts.

On June 24 the 2013 tournament began and needless to say that I was ecstatic for the matches!  The country was a buzz with excitement which was contagious.  Throughout the week a number of people dropped out due to injuries and there were upsets that shocked the tennis world.  The men's semi-final matches were on Friday and on my day off I found my face glued to my computer screen watching the BBC iPlayer.  I am sure that the neighbors were amused by the crazy American cheering very loudly at the matches.  Djokovic was able to eek past Del Porto in the first match and Andy Murray, Britain's pride and glory, managed a very talented up and comer in Janowicz.  The stage was set, and everyone was pushing through Saturday to make it to Sunday afternoon.  And a glorious Sunday afternoon it was!  With the sun shining, Andy Murray took on the overwhelming challenge of trying to break Britain's 77 year drought without a men's singles champion.

So, on the seventh day of the seventh month the curse over men's tennis in Britain was broken.  I felt very English as I sipped my Pimm's and cheered on Murray as if he was "my boy."  I was lucky enough to be able to enjoy the match in the living room of a friend; instead of watching on my little computer screen I was able to watch on a regular television (for a girl who usually has to stream them over the was a big deal).  Sprawled out on the floor, there was yelling, screaming, cheering, and some covering of the eyes...IT. WAS. GREAT!

It was also a privilege to watch someone who has worked so hard over the last year to win the one title that means the most, his "home" tournament.

This post really has nothing to do with my faith, save for the fact that God provided a beautiful afternoon spent with wonderful people.  I am constantly in awe of the situations I find myself in...and today sitting around, watching tennis I considered myself blessed.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Running Realization

     I had a profound epiphany this evening...I have legs!

     Ok, ok, so that was merely the first thought of a great realization.  Here is how it all went down.

     Fun fact: Wolverhampton has the longitude and latitude coordinates of 52.5900° N, 2.1500° W.  As such, today, June 17th, the sun rose at 4:44 a.m. and set at 9:37 p.m.; while sunshine is one of the top ten loves of my life, I do not appreciate it making an appearance before five o'clock in the morning.  On the bright side (haha, get it?), this late departure of the sun has provided me with a wonderful setting for night runs.  
     This year, running has been a wonderful outlet for me; however, that has not always been the case.  My entire childhood was predicated around the fact that if I was doing a lot of running it was probably because I did something wrong.  The words, "On the line" will be forever strike into my very core.  Gone are the days of running from end line to end line and surprisingly enough I have taken to the streets.  Last summer, somewhat begrudgingly and at the insistence of one, Lindley Bell, I took up running in road races.  There started my love-hate relationship with running; but, if I am going to be is mostly hate.  
     There have been times, on more than one occasion, when I have used a very feeble excuse as to why I should not go on a run: it is too cold, it is raining (those two were pretty common), I'm tired from work, etc.  After a lifetime of being given workouts, schedules, and being told where to run and for how long, it has been a relief to dictate my workouts.  At this point you are probably wondering where this monumental epiphany comes into play. 
     I have recently decided that I do not have any valid excuses why I should not be running on a daily basis.  The days have gotten longer and the weather has gotten "nicer."  So this evening I set off literally into the sunset and began my run.  It started off all well and good (because it was all downhill) until I was on my way back and had to climb the long incline I had so joyously scampered down at the beginning.  So I put my head down and with the mental encouragement from Sarah Jurewicz, "Drive your knees up, Up, UP!!!" I eventually made it to the top of the hill and thought, "Huh, well that was not so bad."  
    With a quarter of a mile left in my run, that is when it hit me, "How dare you curse that hill!  You have two strong legs (thanks to WWB), how dare you not take on the challenge of that hill every day!" At this point I was feeling slightly ashamed of myself, which is an incredibly odd feeling at the end of a workout; yet, there I was sitting in my disgust on my front porch.  I was not so much mad at myself that  the run was difficult, or that I am slightly out of shape, but that there are so many people who would give anything to run.  All over the world there are those who because of injury, debilitation, persecution, poverty cannot do something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other and running.  
    Running is an amazing thing: it is therapeutic, good for the body, and good for the soul.  I am grateful that God has blessed me with the ability to run; I am not the fastest and on occasion look like Phoebe running through Central Park.  I only hope that this feeling of gratitude will continue to permeate into other areas of my life.  I pray that when I am unknowingly unappreciative I will be reminded of just how lucky I am.  
    It's actually a pretty simple concept: Run for you. Run for God. Run for those who can't.  
   As always...and as he continues to prove...Life is Good, and so is God!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Publication Drought is OVER!!!!!!

So, it has been about three months...and yes, I realize that it is completely my fault.
I would however like to point out that these last three months have been incredibly busy and have thus given me a slight excuse for my lack of publications.
Now, on this lovely Sunday afternoon I have found a few spare hours and it seems only appropriate I attempt to catch everyone up on the last three months.  Here we go...

Roughly six weeks ago the serving YAGMs were sent an email from the Program Director of YAGM, Heidi. I like to think that if we were all spies, which of course we are not (per the contract that we signed), she would be one of our handlers.  Anyway, the email was updating us on the fact that the previous week YAGM had officially offered placements to 64 new young people to serve all over the world in the name of God.  It is the largest group of volunteers that YAGM has ever had; while a new group means that our time is quickly drawing to a close, I am excited for all those who are about to embark on this life changing experience.  Heidi, and all of our "handlers" are sending us a whole slew of information and then leaving us with something uplifting.  I would also like to point out that they always seem to include just what we need to hear... it is like they know us or something.

O Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going,
I do not see the road ahead of me,
I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself,
And that fact that I think
I am following Your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe
That the desire to please You
Does in fact please You.
And I hope I have that desire
In all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything
Apart from that desire to please You.
And I know that if I do this
You will lead me by the right road,
Though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust You always
Though I may seem to be lost
And in the shadow of death.
I will not fear,
For You are ever with me,
And You will never leave me
To make my journey alone.

(Thomas Merton, Pax Christi, Benet Press, Erie, PA.)

My year of service is rapidly coming to a close.  I have moments of anticipation to be back in Springfield, sadness to leave my new home in Penn Fields, and an overwhelming nervousness concerning the fact that I do not have concrete plans for my return.  And then I receive emails like this with words that remind me to have a little patience and a strong faith that my future has been just has not been relayed to me yet. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

And We're Back...

The time has come to end the blogging hiatus; so, today I will record my first blog in almost three months.  I have to admit that I probably won’t be apologizing for this longer than usual break.  Life decided that there were more important things to do and see.  So, now that I have some time as I am kicking back to watch the Ohio State v. Wisconsin Big Ten Championship game I can regale you with some of the wonderful things that have happened since Christmas. 

January flew by.  It was almost as if I was ringing in the New Year in Scotland, blinked, and it was February.  One thing to note from January is that the English have a very different idea of what “a lot” of snow is.  About half way through January I was told that a winter storm was coming.  Naturally, I became very excited because the most snow I had seen previously would have made Ohio weather scoff.  When I looked out my window I saw a respectable four inches; I was actually impressed.  And then the phone calls started coming in.  Everything seemed to be cancelled, and I mean everything. School, work, and practically all of the activities at the church.  I was incredibly confused, I thought the most I would have to alter my daily routine was deciding whether or not to cuff my jeans on the way to work.  As the week dragged on I began to notice why the English are so weary of the snow.  What happens to snow when you don’t shovel it and people walk all over, ice is what happens.  After about a week and a half to shuffling like an uncoordinated penguin to work everyday the snow and ice finally melted and the winter “storm” was over. 

At the beginning of February Lea Road was ecstatic, thrilled (and about a million other adjectives) to welcome and induct our new minister Reverend Susan Walker.  Our little church was filled with members of the Lea Road community, the surrounding URC synod, as well as visiting family and friends.  It was one of the longest days of work that I have had in a long time; however, I consider myself lucky to have been able to participate and support the congregation as they started a new chapter together as a church. 

Following a day of recovering from the induction festivities I began to make my next set of preparations...Packing for Paris!  After what had seemed like months of planning and waiting “The” Lisa Watson was about to make her way across the pond for a week of mother-daughter fun in Paris.  Our reunion in the train station could have been something from a movie...we made a scene (haha, get it?!)  There were tears and a lot of starring; I could have cared less.  There is something about a hug from one of your parents that can set your world at ease and after nearly six months I could have stayed in the hug for hours.  We tried to do as much as possible, or at least as much as our bodies would allow.  Mom came sick, I got sick (after having the immune system of a Super hero for the previous five months) but in true Wittenberg fashion, we “Tigered Up” and had a truly wonderful experience.  One of my favorite things we did was visit The Louvre, twice, and only made it through 1/12 of the whole museum.  We did get to see the good ol’ Mona Lisa, and to be honest, she is much smaller in person.  It was a wonderful week full of lots of love, laughter, smile, hugs, and a true reminder that I will never be too old for some Momma Watty lovin’.
Oh, I also never met a macaroon or a croissant that I didn’t like and probably never will!

With February being a short month it seemed like I blinked again and it was my birthday.  To be honest I had no real intention of making a big deal out of the day for a couple of reasons: one, twenty-three is not a significant birthday and two I really hadn’t had a chance to even think about it that much.  At work that morning I was surprised with two beautiful bunches of red tulips...a fantastic start to the day.  Add a bunch of cards, an afternoon out at lunch, and a bunch of people singing to me at dinner made for an unforgettable day.  I mean seriously, this girl is feeling incredibly loved...I honestly need to get a bigger mantel to display all of my cards.  On top of that, I received birthday wishes from all over the world.  From Malaysia to Madagascar, Mexico to back home in’s a pretty cool feeling knowing that people have taken a moment to think of you on your birthday. 

So, that’s all I have for you now...give me an hour and I will have a bit to tell you about the TFGs trip to Derbyshire for a residential week at Cliff College! Until then, I need to go make some popcorn and mentally prepare for the second half of this game and then the selection show afterwards! Here’s to a fantastic couple of weeks of March Madness and getting to April 8th so that my sleep schedule can go back to normal!

Life is Good...and as always, so is God!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Crazy Busy Christmas Season

Fun Fact: Christmas time in a church is crazy busy!

So after four very busy, but oh so fun weeks, I am back and ready to update you all on my life!  Strap in, put your antlers/Christmas stocking on and get ready for a very long blog entry.

The month of December has brought some very cold weather and what I have deemed to be “fake” snow.  This is the phenomenon of very white frost in the morning.  On numerous occasions I have awoken to white grass; my excitement is quickly dulled when upon walking outside I find slippery sidewalks sans snow.  I will admit to singing “White Christmas” very loudly in  the hopes that my vocals would coax the weather I am dearly missing.

On the first of the month I was lucky enough to travel north to Manchester to meet up with a couple of other YAGMs and explore the German Christmas Markets.  The day brought lots of laughs, great stories, and the joy of spending time with some wonderful people.  I will continue to say it, I am very blessed to be a part of the YAGM program and have had the opportunity to know and serve with these amazing people. 

Enjoying the German Markets with Claire, Rachel and Caitlyn. 

At the beginning of the month I got to do one of my favorite things...decorate Christmas trees!  And this year it was not just one, two, three...but FIVE trees! The church sanctuary is home to an eight foot beauty decked in red and gold.  We did have a small curfuffle when it came to the lights...we didn’t have any that worked.  So, in order to determine just how many lights we would need, I went to ask a very wise source...Google.  According to Google, you are to have 100 lights for every foot of tree.  As I pondered this, I realized I would not be able to justify buying 800 lights for the tree.  I settled for 600, of which 400 were placed on the tree. 

After putting up the four trees in the church there was still a boxed tree left in storage.  Oddly enough it was the perfect size for my room.  I was a sight to be seen toting my Christmas tree up the road to the house from the church.  Two hours of “some assembly required” late, my tree was up and ready to be decorated.  The theme you ask?...The Ornament Grave Yard. That's right folks, all of the ornaments hanging were deemed unfit for service to hang on the Lea Road Sanctuary Tree found refuge on my tree. Our motto: No Ornament Left Behind!!!!!  I love real Christmas trees; but, I will admit, this is probably one of my favorite trees I have decorated.  It is amazingly beautiful in all of its “Charlie Brown Christmas tree” pitifulness. 
My "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree!

Then finally a much anticipated day had arrived.  December 10th to be exact.  The day of the Mumford and Sons concert.  Again, I ventured north again to Hazel Grove, a small city just south of Manchester to meet up with Caitlyn, a fellow YAGM and Mumford fanatic.  As excited as I was about the concert, I enjoyed the earlier parts of the day getting to see where Caitlyn is serving and what she does on a daily basis.  We went to Caitlyn’s home to have a bite to eat and get ready.  I was suddenly overwhelmed by her host families generosity.  It was amazing to me that even having never met me, they would graciously open their home to me.  After eating a delicious dinner, we happily made our way to Manchester and saw one of the best concerts I have ever been to.  If you have not listened to/heard of Mumford and Sons, I suggest that after you finish this delightful entry, you go and have a listen.  They have a fantastic sound, and are one of those bands that look like they are having so much fun while performing.  It was an amazing I will not soon forget!
Caitlyn and me, eagerly anticipating an awesome Mumford and Sons concert!

The rest of the month brought about all necessary preparations for Christmas...decorating the church, listening to the Christmas stories (both classic and biblical), decorating/baking cookies, building the nativity, and lots of Christmas carols. 

Ok, so now I need to do a bit of bragging...I have the BEST home congregation at First Lutheran Church in Springfield! Becky Christian, our pastor’s wife, organized a wonderful treat for me! She had practically everyone from the congregation write me a Christmas card and she divided them up so that I would receive them throughout the month.  If love was measured in Christmas cards, I feel like one of the most loved people in the world.  It was a joy to come home from work everyday to one, two sometimes four cards waiting for me! I cannot thank all of those enough who participated because it absolutely made my Christmas season!

So this is where I will leave you...The next post will include Christmas Day and New Years festivities!!!!! I hope everyone has had a very wonderful and blessed Christmas!

And it couldn't be more evident that Life is Great and so is God!

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."    John 3:16

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Very Lea Road Thanksgiving

     I love Thanksgiving. It is my second favorite holiday, coming in a very close second to Christmas.  I love the idea of dedicating an entire day on the blessings of your life. Plus, the non-stop football, basketball, and baking just add to the "fantasticness" of the day.
     So, when the members of Lea Road found out how much I adore this particular holiday, they were quick to inform me that it was a tradition (of one year) for the American volunteer to host a Thanksgiving dinner! In blind enthusiasm I immediately accepted the challenge.  What I did not realize at that time was it was a dinner for 30-40 people.  Now, I know my way around the kitchen, and have been known to dabble in the "fixins" of Thanksgiving; however, I have never undertaken cooking an ENTIRE Thanksgiving by myself.  Add in the fact that the number ended up being about 35, and well it made for an interesting couple of days!

So, let's start from the beginning...

The Menu: turkey (duh!), honey glazed ham, country herb stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn casserole, peas, green beans, and gravy.  With dessert including pumpkin pies and buckeyes. 

   I was lucky enough that Steph, one of the elders, offered to take me to the grocery. So off we went in search of all of the necessary ingredients.  Our first kerfuffle came way of trying to find a turkey.  Fresh turkeys this time of year are very rare because apparently, they are still alive and getting fat for Christmas.  We eventually found a turkey crown.  For those of you not hip to the turkey lingo, a crown is a boneless, legless, wingless hunk of turkey breast.  When I first laid eyes on "Herbert" (Steph named him), I was appalled... What kind of bird doesn't have arms or legs? I didn't want to cook a fake turkey! But alas, it came to pass that "Herbert" made a fine bird and turned out to be very delicious.
     The second issue came about whist trying to find the ingredients for the corn casserole.  In order to make this delicious side dish, one requires "Jiffy" corn bread mix.  Well, the English don't really have corn bread.  They do, however, have Qoran (pronounced just like corn), a tofu type meat substitute. So after asking a manager in Waitrose where I could find the corn bread mix, he marched to a package of Qoran fritters (aka breaded hunks of tofu).  In the end, I had to Google a new recipe.
    After unloading all of the groceries, I began to take on the task of the six pumpkins pies that needed to be baked.  I got into an argument with the even which I ended up losing with a very burnt right arm to show for it. But, have not fear, for I lost that battle, but I won the war.  So, two days, about 20 hours of cooking later and with the help of some really special people, a beautiful meal was served.  
     First, of course, the grace was said and I was able to tell the story of the Legend of the Five Kernels:

     It was very cold for the Pilgrims that first winter.  Food was in short supply.  Some days, they had only five kernels of corn.  When spring came, the Pilgrims planted the remaining corn.  The sun and rain helped the seed to grow and much food was harvested in the fall.  Every Thanksgiving thereafter, the Pilgrims placed five kernels of corn beside each plate to remind them of their blessings:

The first kernel reminded them of the autumn beauty.

The second reminded them of their love for each other.

The third reminded them of their family's love.

The fourth reminded them of their friends...especially their Indian brothers.

The fifth kernel reminded them of their freedom.

     I love this idea because it is five simple things that have such a big impact on everyone's lives. 

   So, throughout the week, a number of people had asked me how I was dealing with being away from home for the holidays.  And, in all honesty I thought it was going to be incredibly difficult.   Enter in the wonders of Skype.  Skype is definitely one of the things I am especially thankful for this year!  I brought my computer into the kitchen with me and was able to Skype with my mom on a number of occasions.  This was particularly helpful when, on a number of occasions, I had to hold the computer over the stove and say, "Is this what this is supposed to look like?" She was incredibly patient with me and at times it was like we were in the same kitchen, preparing the same meal.  I find it to be incredibly tragic that in the absence of something is when you find you appreciate it the most. 
    After preparing such a large meal, I must make a promise to my mother...I promise to always be in the kitchen helping you with Thanksgiving (and for that matter Christmas) dinner from this year forward! Anyone that takes on these kinds of dinners deserve all sorts of awards...I had the compliments on the pies and turkey were enough for me!

To conclude this festive post, it seems appropriate to tell you all some of the things I am most thankful for.

So here it goes...The Top 10 (kind of like Sportscenters Top 10 plays) things Sarah Watson is most thankful for: (in no particular order)

1) The people in my community willing to take part in foreign traditions
2) Running...and an efficient way to explore a new city
3) Skype
4) My growing relationship with God
5) Fresh fruit
6)Wonderful friends who have the ability to make me laugh on difficult days
7) My YAGM, YAGM UK, and TFG families
8) Lea Road Community Church and all of the wonderful people who have made me feel welcome in my new home
9) I can keep up with THE Ohio State Buckeyes and the Duke Blue Devils
and finally...
10) An incredibly supportive family (i.e. parents who know exactly what you need when you need it, and a brother whose sarcastic comments can make your sides hurt from laughter.)

I hope that you all had an amazing Thanksgiving full of laughter, lots of delicious food, and even a little prayer.  May God bless the food before us, the one beside us, and the love between us!

God is GREAT! And today especially, so is Life!!!