DTS: A Day in the Life

Now that I’ve experienced a full “typical week” here at Holmsted Manor, I can knowledgably explain what a “day in the life” looks like here:

The room I share with five other girls.

7:15 a.m.: My alarm goes off. My alarm clock isn’t in arm’s reach, so I hop out of bed and turn it off as quickly as I can to keep from waking up any roommates who are still asleep.

7:45: I make my way down to the dining room for a breakfast of cereal and/or toast. Corn Flakes are a great way to start the day.

Dining room at Holmsted
The dining room

8:00-8:45: This is the time set aside for us to spend time alone with God, though I usually don’t start until 8:05 or 8:10. The last two weeks has been a quest to find the perfect quiet place to do my devotions, and after a couple false starts, I think I’ve found that place. I would post a picture of it, but part of the reason it’s so perfect is because it’s a secret. 🙂

Classroom
Our classroom in the coach house. The flags represent the different countries we're from, and we made the paper lanterns you see hanging.

8:45-10:00: During this time, either the DTS students and staff meet together in the coach house (adjacent to the manor) for worship and/or intercession, or the entire base meets together for worship and/or intercession, depending on the day. Two days a week, one of us students shares a 5-10 minute devotional before worship starts. If I’m calculating correctly, my turn will be sometime in March.

10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.: After worship/intercession, we put down the chairs and the room is transformed into our classroom. This is our morning session, where we listen to teaching from that week’s speaker. It isn’t always straight-up lectures, though; sometimes it’s more interactive. We have a 15-20-minute break around 11:15, which is always characterized by tea and sometimes by donuts and other goodies. Then, we have announcements before turning the floor back over to the speaker.

Front area of Holmsted
The main area we congregate in before meals. These are a few of my friends on the first day taking pictures.

1:00: Lunchtime! The kitchen staff ring a bell when lunch is ready, and we gather in the main area outside the dining room to pray for the food. And then we go in. One day a week, I will be meeting with my one-on-one (one of the staff members) at one of the individual tables in the back of the dining room to talk about life together.

2:00-3:00: We do something different during this hour every day.

  • Mondays: We meet in small groups to practice intercession (hearing God’s voice – see my last blog for more on this)
  • Tuesdays: The schedule says “sports and exercise,” but we can use this hour as free time instead if we want.
  • Wednesdays: Free time
  • Thursdays: We meet in our coed small groups to process the lectures, memorize Bible verses, and do our book reports.
  • Fridays: We start work duties early. What are work duties? Well…
The leather room at Holmsted
The leather room, one of the places where we meet sometimes for small groups and other gatherings, or where we can just hang out by ourselves if we want.

3:15-5:00ish: Each DTS student is assigned a daily work duty, or chore. Some work alone, others are in groups. Some examples of work duties are as follows: vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms, waxing the floor, cleaning specific rooms, and helping in the kitchen. I work in the wash-up room with four others, and in addition to cleaning the breakfast and lunch dishes, we clean the dining room and set the table for dinner. Even though there are only about 40 people at each meal, the pots and plastic dishes that we have to wash by hand take time. However, we’ve settled into a good routine, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know better the others on wash-up crew.

The wash-up room at Holmsted
The wash-up room

5:30: Dinner/Tea (yes, here in England, dinner is often called “tea”). We go through the same routine for dinner as we did with lunch. Everyone takes turns washing the dinner dishes, so on Wednesdays I do wash-up twice. Whew! On Fridays, however, the schedule is slightly different. Instead of having a meal served to us, we make packed dinners and do various local outreaches (except for those whose local outreach is on Saturday). Mine is helping out at a church that serves meals to the poor in the community. We serve tea, coffee and plates of food; interact with the people; play with the kids; and wash dishes.

7:30: Just like the 2 o’clock hour, our evening schedule depends on the day:

  • Mondays: We have a China-focused night (this past week, we learned about Chinese New Year, learned a few Chinese characters, and did an activity).
  • Tuesdays: We meet in our all-girls or all-guys small groups. My small group will be studying women of the Bible (starting with Ruth), and just talking about life and connecting with each other. This will most likely be my favorite evening of the week; it’s great to have such a low-key interpersonal time in a very scheduled week.
  • Wednesdays: Free time
  • Thursdays: Flexible schedule (either free nights, an evening session with that week’s speaker, or something else)
  • Fridays: Local outreach (though typically we’re back by this time).

11:15: In order to get eight hours of sleep, I need to fall asleep by 11:15. I’ve generally been successful at getting enough sleep.

Free Time/Weekends: There’s nothing mandatory on Saturday or Sunday, though we’re encouraged to go to church (there a couple local churches that provide transportation), and sometimes various students organize trips to nearby towns … or not-so-nearby cities (London). I spend quite a bit of my free time on the computer, though I also enjoy hanging out with people here at Holmsted, or walking to the pub and having a soda, or playing piano.

Chinese New Year parade
We went to London yesterday for Chinese New Year and other sightseeing. This picture was taken during the parade in Chinatown.

DTS: Hearing God’s Voice

I came to England with several hopes for these six months. One of them was to experience God in undeniable ways. That desire grew during our first week, as “hearing the voice of God” became a major topic of conversation and practical application.

In an upcoming blog, I will describe in detail a “day in the life” here at Holmsted. For now, however, all you need to know is that we spend a significant amount of time in intercession, and in sharing things that the Lord reveals to us. What does intercession look like here? Well, sometimes we’re in a large group all praying and listening for a word from God on a certain issue, and those who get a picture, a word, or a verse from God share them. Other times, we’re in smaller groups doing essentially the same thing.

And just how do we hear so directly from God? We received some teaching on that very subject during orientation week, the crux of which is a multi-step process of preparing one’s heart to hear from God. The steps are as follows: coming to God with a clean heart, inviting the Holy Spirit in, submitting our thoughts to God, silencing the enemy, thanking God for what He’s about to do, and then, finally, waiting and listening.

So far, it hasn’t really worked for me. And you know what? I’m okay with that.

At first, though, I felt a bit pressured to “hear something.” I don’t doubt that God can and does speak to people directly. When I hear stories of how God told someone something at just the right time, or how He woke someone else up in the middle of the night to pray for a specific person, I don’t disbelieve them. However, God doesn’t speak to everyone in the same way … right?

It’s one thing to come together for a prayer meeting and be open to hearing and following God’s leading regarding what or who to pray for. It seems like quite another, however, to follow a series of steps during a practice session with the expectation that at least some of us will hear something from God. Is this a good way to practice listening for God’s voice, or does it teach us that we should be able to hear from God whenever we want?

For everyone who genuinely hears something from God, I feel like there inevitably will be someone who didn’t hear anything, someone who just heard his or her own thoughts, and someone who just doesn’t know. Our God is not a God of confusion. Hearing God’s voice isn’t a game we play, where some are winners and others … well, they’ll get better with practice.

Then again, I don’t come from a charismatic background, and it’s only week two. Maybe my concerns are for naught, and eventually we all will hear from God, and we will realize that He does want to speak to us in this way, and that we just needed to know how to listen for His voice.

But back to the present. While I haven’t heard from God during these small groups, I’m learning that hearing from God at different times and in different ways is okay. In fact, it’s beautiful.

Five days ago, I had a dream that I’m sure was from God. I dreamed that I was talking to a friend of mine whom I haven’t spoke with or thought of in a long time. In my dream, she was telling me about some things she was struggling with. When I woke up, I knew that the dream was from God, and I immediately began praying for her. I don’t know if all the “facts” of the dream were correct, but the prayer points fit with what I know of her.

During these times of practicing intercession, I will continue working on setting aside what distracts me and focusing on God. I will listen, all the while praying for discernment and believing that He may very well speak to me in this setting. However, I don’t want to “make things up” or share when I’m not sure. I’d rather God spoke to me in His timing, not mine. And if His timing is 2 o’clock on Mondays, I’m all for it.

DTS: Meeting Holmsted

Yesterday, I arrived at Holmsted Manor, my home for the next three months. It is an old house, but large and stately and beautiful. And cold. Thankfully, though, I’m used to living in a cold house. This house is pictured above, but here it is again in a photograph taken by my very own camera:

As some of you know, I was diagnosed with pneumonia just two days before leaving home. At that point, I wasn’t sure if I would have to delay my travel because of it, but, thanks to strong antibiotics, I was able to leave on Thursday as planned. That certainly isn’t the beginning I would have chosen, but I’m glad that the doctors were able to figure out what was wrong with me quickly, and that they knew what to do.

My dad flew with me to Los Angeles and saw me off from there. My flight from LA to London was largely uneventful, though I did enjoy my Air New Zealand flight; it certainly didn’t seem as long as it was. Each seat had its own touch-screen TV with lots of entertainment options, and watched a BBC miniseries about the birth of Christ (called, appropriately enough, The Nativity). It was mostly biblically accurate, except that it took Joseph a lot longer to believe that Jesus was who Mary said He was. A bit bothersome, but it didn’t ruin it. What I appreciated the most was that I had an empty seat on one side of me, and an aisle on the other. Because of that, I was able to sleep a few hours. However, since I hadn’t slept much the night before I left, exhaustion quickly caught up with me after I landed.

I flew into Heathrow, then took a bus to Gatwick Airport where I was picked up by people from Holmsted.

I was one of the earliest arrivals. There are 23 people in my DTS, most of whom have now arrived. The majority so far are Americans, with two or so each from the Netherlands, Finland, Switzerland, England, and Canada. Everything starts this evening. Other than sleeping about 12 hours, I’ve taken pictures of the grounds and spent time with others playing cards, drinking tea, and talking over meals. The people here seem very caring and have great senses of humor.

Here we go!

 

She and I

All pronoun shifts are purely intentional.

She clings to the side, so far down that day and night carry the same grayness. Darkness seems to reign above and below.

She’s not getting any closer to the top. Her hands are dry and cracked, her fingernails choked brown. It’s everything she can do to hold onto the roots jutting out from the dirt. She’s not sure if she could let go even if she wanted to.

But she doesn’t want to. They’re her only hope, but strength is ebbing fast. But she can do it. She can do anything. I can’t do this. I can’t do this on my own, I think.

And then, a movement of the air, a fluttering and a rustling. I turn slightly and see it.

A rope and … a shadow.

“Hello?” I croak.

“Hello,” replies a pleasant-sounding voice. The shadow is a person!

“Who are you?”

“I’m here to rescue you.”

My fingers twitch.

“How did you get down here so fast?”

“I’ve been here the whole time, but you didn’t notice me until now.”

She doesn’t understand, but lets it go for now. “Can you tell whoever’s holding the rope to move it closer to the side? I can’t reach it from here.”

The rope and its mysterious passenger are in the dead center of the hole. It would be impossible to reach it … unless I let go with both hands and jumped.

And that’s lunacy, she thinks, silencing the thought.

“I know you’re afraid. You don’t need to be,” he says. “My father is holding the rope; it can’t be any more secure than it is. All you have to do is let go and reach out to me. We’ll do the rest.”

“But how can I know that for sure?” she asks. “I can barely see you. And the rope looks old and worn.”

“That’s because it has been used to pull many out of this hole – some even more trapped than you. Some scratched out a space for themselves in the wall and didn’t even want out at first.” He pauses, and, even though I can’t see his face, not really, I can feel his gaze on me, gentle but piercing. It’s uncomfortable. She looks away and digs her toes in a little deeper.

“I can’t promise it will be easy,” he continues. “It’s a long way up. Sometimes you won’t be able to see anything – not even the rope. Not even me. Sometimes you’ll forget what you’ve been saved from and may almost forget to hold on. But if you keep listening for my voice even when you can’t see me, you will neither forget nor grow weak.”

“But what if I do fall?”

“Then I will come down and find you.”

She clings to the rope even tighter, unwilling to break her inertia, but my fingers twitch again and I steal a glance at the rope, at the stranger, at the distance between him and me.

“You’re not even there, are you?” she says bitterly. “If you were real, and if you really cared, you wouldn’t make me jump.”

“If I jump, you will catch me, won’t you? I’m so weak right now.” I’m starting to trust him.

“I can’t pull you from the wall. I can’t force you to be rescued if you don’t want to be. But if you jump, I will catch you.”

She recoils. I tremble.

And then I jump.

You catch me just like You promised, and she is gone.