Sunday, October 5, 2008

harlaxton manor ... grantham castle

This morning in Sunday school we were talking about desert times and what you do when you come to a season of spiritual dryness or nothingness, where God seems far off. One sojourner said you look back and see all the ways He has met your needs in the past. This really is a great anecdote for desert times. Sometimes when you're walking in a fog of boredom or pain or unmet expectations you can't see Him at work. Hindsight is 20/20 truly! Look for His hand - it is everywhere!

Now that I've come to a spot in book 3 where my characters won't budge past page 82, I have a little more time to remember the ways He's delighted me. Thinking of past green pastures and still waters is good for the soul. Maybe because it reminds you He'll bring them about again:)

I attended a small private school in Ohio called Denison during college. Ohio is such a beautiful place - all that farmland and Amish influence. But at the time I couldn't see it. Being a Kentucky girl I had a decided prejudice against those people over the river. Silly, I know. Denison is a great school if you're really smart or well-to-do. I was neither. I transferred to the University of Kentucky and did a stint at Berea College studying Kentucky authors the next year. And then, I transferred back to Denison!! I was the only student in the school's history to do this!

Did my time in college get better? No. I still studied 8-10 hours a day, never had a date, and spent my free time eating brownie fudge delights in downtown Granville at a little cafe. I had a preacher's daughter from Pennsylvania for a roommate (Heather, are you reading this?) and she was a gift to me then and now. She was also as miserable as I was (only Heather was lots smarter).

This was not what college life was all about! I wanted to play and be popular and study when I felt like it. But now I see it was just where He wanted me to be. Being at Denison was a lesson in sheer endurance. And I think it was a lesson I needed to learn early if I was to keep writing. I remember having a meltdown at the start of my junior year. I was tired and wanted to quit. I wanted to transfer to Western Kentucky University (my mom's alma mater) and marry a farmer.

This is where THE BIG GREEN PASTURE APPEARED. I got to quit the desert my junior year and fly to England and live in a castle. Yep. I still can't believe it either. How does a Kentucky girl get to live in a castle? Granted, my room was on the third floor in the servant's quarters and I got deathly ill on a tainted pastry only hours after setting foot on British soil. But it got lots better!

My room had a wonderful windowseat that overlooked stone lions and a fountain. I got to wander through this castle at all hours - all those shadowed halls and secret passageways and the grand cedar staircase with the incredible mural of Father Time and the heavens on the ceiling high above. I could go on and on. It was His gift to me. It is still my favorite memory. Only He could have done that.

And then I went back to the desert - I mean Denison! And I actually graduated 2 years later. No, it didn't get any better. But my time at Grantham Castle (aka Harlaxton Manor) kept me going. I thought then, and now, that I'd like to write a book about a castle. Maybe I will.


  1. Wow--and to think of the difficulty required to actually get into Dennison! What I remember most from your England days were cologne-bathed Arab princes and a big bar of Toblerone you brought home!

  2. LOL! That powerful cologne - detected at great distances - always made for a great way of escape! You don't remember the 20 plus pounds of Cadbury I was too poor to mail home so ate:) I'm still trying to work that off!

  3. Wow Laura, you are full of surprises. I want to hear the story of how you ended up living in a castle, one of these days. I long to visit the British Isles. There are a very few spots in England I'd like to see (Shrewsbury, for literary reasons, and the Lake District), but mostly I'm interested in the Celtic fringes. Wales and Scotland most of all.

  4. Seems like a dream when I look back. They are doing alumni tours of Harlaxton now and I'd love to go over again. Yes, the Celtic fringes!! Divine... Bless you for reading. That gladdens my heart:)