The Days After the Election

I think it’s safe to say that, no matter where you lie on the political spectrum, this week has been crazy.

On the day after the presidential election, a progressive Christian magazine I enjoy put out a call for readers to share their stories.  Wednesday was pretty turbulent for me emotionally and putting things into words is usually helps me process things, so I took the time to write about how I felt.

Usually, I keep my head down on social media when it comes to divisive current events.  I try to keep away from politics and anything that will cause division, judgement, or criticism.  I broke that rule on Facebook a few times this fall in outrage over our now president-elect’s words about women.  In the days after the election, though, I found that there was just too much going on inside me and found the words pouring out.  If I were to put my piece in a category, I would call it a lament: an outpouring of emotion that captures the pain of a moment in time.

I submitted my piece and, to my surprise, Sojourners published it on their website.  Before you read this post any further, please take a moment to read the piece, which can be found here. Continue reading

Writing into the Unknown

In general, I’m the kind of person that, once I know what I want, pursues it wholeheartedly.  I see my destination and nothing stands in my way.  Perfection is an impossibility and failure is inevitable–bearing this in mind, I push forward towards my goals.  This mindset has led to participating in the Minnesota State Speech tournament in high school, becoming part of Program Staff at camp, spending a semester studying abroad, and graduating college with top grades.  Once I know what I want, I form a strategy.  Step by step, I find a way.

But what happens when I don’t know what I want?

How do I push forward if I don’t know the direction?  People from all sides, from family members to strangers, are bombarding me with questions.  “Where are you going, Amelia?  How will you get there?”

To the world, I must look incredibly foolish.  Here I am, a twenty-something college grad living at home with no notion of where I actually want to go in life.  To cope with the unknown, I’ve resigned to taking things one step at a time.  I take the opportunities before me and hope that they lead me where I’m supposed to go.

A lot of my perspective on my future has to do with my faith.  I feel like God is deliberately keeping me in the dark.  I know that He has a plan for my life that is better than anything I can come up with on my own.  I want to pursue that.  When it comes down to it, I DO know what I want out of life.  I want my purpose and reason for living to be for God.  I have inklings of what I think He wants me to do.  I feel like God wants me to return to Europe–it’s always there, nagging at the back of my mind.  I also feel like God wants me to write.  But what does that look like?  Where in Europe should I go?  What should I do there?  How will I get there?  What should I write?

How do I pursue the unarticulated passions of my spirit and meet social expectations?  How do I balance blind faith with the pressures of stepping into full-fledged adulthood?  How do I move forward if I don’t know what I want?

I’m making this up one step at a time.  I’ve got two jobs right now.  Both will be done by Christmas.  Once Christmas has passed, I’m attending Urbana, the largest student missions conference in the world.  After that… Who knows?  Maybe, at the conference, my passions will finally be articulated and I’ll have a clear path.  Maybe I’ll find a missions organization to partner with and be on my way to wherever I’m supposed to go.  Maybe nothing will happen at all and I’ll find a full-time job and move to the cities.

I hate, hate, hate appearing foolish.  I hate the disapproval that comes from not having it figured out.  I hate that I know my extended family has conversations about what a hopeless floater I am behind my back.  The other day, my mom said something to me to the effect of, “Amelia, it’s really hard on us to see you like this.”  To which I responded, “It’s hard for you?  Try being stuck here.”

I know there will come a time when the pieces will align.  I know that I’ll end up somewhere.  Some days, I’m really positive and optimistic about the future.  Today isn’t really one of those days.  Moving forward is hard when I don’t know when I want to go.  For the time being, I suppose all I really can do is ignore the pressure and step blindly in a direction.

I’ve asked a lot of questions in this post that I don’t have answers to.  But they’re questions that need to be asked.  These things need to be articulated.  In an earlier paragraph, I stated that I feel like God wants me to write.  What does He want me to write about?  My answer: THIS.  I need to put my frustrations into words.  Maybe, as the unknowns solidify into nouns and verbs, I’ll find that my passions are finally articulated.  Maybe, through the act of writing, my destination will present itself.  I’ll continue to write until I find out.

Photo from Unsplash
Photo from Unsplash

Looking to the future and finally having some answers

About a month ago, I wrote a post where I posed the question: What brings you life?

I’ve been thinking about the future a lot lately.  I mean, with only a few months left of college, it’s to be expected.  People keep asking me what’s next.  I keep telling them I don’t know.  Just now, though, I realized that I DO know.

I want to do something that brings me life.  I don’t want a job to pay the bills.   I want my work to be my passion.  I want to feel a sense of fulfillment at the end of a week.  I want to do something I love so much that I can’t imagine doing anything else.

I got lucky with college.  During my final years of high school, I knew exactly what I wanted to major in.  People ask me why I chose to be an English major and I answer them, “I’ve been an English major my entire life.  I just didn’t know that is what it’s called until I got to college.”  I didn’t chose English for the career track.  I became an English major because it’s the only major I imagined myself pursuing.  And, although there have been rough patches (I’m looking at you, Virginia Woolf class), my studies have spurred my passions and brought incredible life.  But it’s not what I want to do forever.

I now stand at the brink of another crossroads.  Where do I go after graduation?  What should I do?  The answer is clear: I need to find what brings me the most life and I need to do that every day until I die.

At this point, I have a good sense of what that is.

Above all else, my time here in Morris has taught me that, although English is something I love, it’s not something I want to do with my life.  When I look back what stands out the most is spiritual growth and involvement in ministry.  Over the past four years, God turned a quiet girl with her identity in a box into a confident, passionate leader.  Being involved in IVCF, prayer ministry, Bible studies, and (of course) working at camp has done more for my career than any professor in any classroom.  He’s given me a taste for service that leaves me longing for more.  All I want to do is serve God with my life.  I can’t imagine doing anything else.

I’ve realized lately that I feel the most fulfillment when I’m pouring into people.  It’s my favorite thing.  There’s nothing that brings me more joy than praying for others or meeting one-on-one and giving encouragement.  I love taking the lessons I’ve learned and the things God has spoken to me and passing them on.  It’s such an amazing experience, helping others draw closer to Him.

That, friends, is what I want to do every day for the rest of my life.

Now I just have to find someone willing to pay me to do it.

 

Versatile/Liebster Awards

It’s always an honor when a fellow blogger nominates you and features your blog.  The thing is… I’m terrible with awards.  On the one hand, I think they’re fabulous and are a wonderful way to connect the WordPress community.  On the other, they feel a bit like chain mail.

Recently, I’ve been nominated for a number of awards.  So, instead of putting them off, I thought I’d respond to them in one big post.  The thing is, though, I’m not going to pass the awards on.  I know that it defeats the purpose, but the part of me that resists anything that feels like chain mail is simply too strong.  (I mean, I even avoided doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge last spring, despite numerous nominations.)

Versatile:

A few months ago, Britta of It’s a Britta Bottle! nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  Part of the award involves sharing seven facts about yourself.  Here goes:

1. I believe in the Loch Ness Monster.

2. During my junior year of high school, I held a lead role in a production of Disney’s High School Musical.  (In case you were wondering, I played Taylor McKessie.  Second to the left.)

3. I have read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban over fifteen times.  (Yes, I kept track and have since lost count.)

4. This past summer, I was in charge of the children’s programming for an international Ethiopian Church Conference in Minneapolis.

Me withs some of the girls

5. I have seen The Phantom of the Opera on the Broadway and West End stages, as well as a traveling production.

6. In high school, I wrote a novel length Harry Potter fan fic.

7. I spent my 21st birthday in Oxford and had my first drink at the Eagle in Child pub, where my literary heroes J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and friends (also known as the Inklings) used to have their weekly writing group.

OxfordBirthdayEaglenChild

Liebster:

Yesterday, Akanksha of The World Past Me nominated me for the Liebster Award.  Part of this award includes answering a number of given questions.  Here are my answers toAkanksha’s fantastic questions:

1. What do you want from life?

I want a simple life doing something meaningful.  I want to work in full-time ministry serving and building the Kingdom of God.  I want to travel the world.  Someday, I want to settle down with a husband that I love and raise a family.

2. What’s your secret fantasy?

To eat all the Nutella in the world and not gain weight.

3. What is your favorite color and why?

Green.  Because it’s pretty.

4. If you could change  into an animal anytime, what would it be and why?

I would become a beluga whale because every time I see one in real life, I become so full of joy that I nearly start hyperventilating.  (Yes, I’m a weirdo.)  I want my presence to bring joy to the lives of others.  Also, beluga whales are adorable.


5. Do you believe in love at first sight? Why/why not?

There are lots of kinds of love out there, each very complex and distinct.  In a romantic sense, however, I do not believe in love at first sight.  I think you can see someone and be incredibly attracted to them.  But the kind of love that lifelong marriages are built upon takes time and commitment to foster.  It can’t be captured in an instant.

6. What do you believe is humans’ greatest strength?

I think that one of our biggest strengths is our ability to create.  There’s something about art, literature, and music that transcends words.  Crafting beauty that moves and inspires is something that only we human beings are able to do.  It’s absolutely incredible.

7. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind every morning when you wake up?

Usually, I think about Jesus.  He’s my best friend.  (I also do my daily devotions first thing, so He is naturally the first thing on my mind.)

8. A trip with your best friend or a brunch with good friends?

This is a tough one.  I’m going to go with brunch with good friends.  Why?  As much as I love travel and as much as I love my best friend, we’d kill each other if we were in each other’s company for too long.

9. What’s your favorite book?

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.  The first time I read it unabridged, I didn’t know what to do with myself for a week.  I felt like I had lost a very dear friend.  Hugo has crafted a novel that captures the essence of the human existence.  It never fails to move me.

10. If you could date one celebrity, who would it be and why?

Andrew Garfield.  Because LOOK AT THIS MAN.  (Although, in real life, I don’t think I’d ever want to date a celebrity.  Too much publicity.)

So… that concludes my awards acceptance post!  Thanks so much Britta and Akanksha for the nominations!

P.S. I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award in the past, so do check out my previous answers!

Letting go of Me

When I was younger, I was incredibly ambitious.

It drove me insane when girls I knew got married straight out of college, had babies, and settled down to be stay-at-home moms who homeschooled their kids.  I vowed never to become that woman.

I was determined to go to a academically prominant college, earn a degree, and begin an illustrious career.  I wanted to do things with my life–I wanted to go places, to meet people, to gain prestige and success.

Although I’ve always maintained high academic standards, my freshman year of college is when everything began to change.  That year, I found myself pursuing my Christian faith more than anything else in my life.  As the years have gone by, my eyes have gradually shifted from my ambitions to the sheer joy of knowing Christ.

My relationship with Jesus Christ has taken over my life.  Every part of who I am has been affected.  My friendships, relationships, on-campus involvement, grades, and even what i want to do with my life has changed dramatically from freshman to senior year.  Everything else in life is meaningless compared to knowing and being known by Him.  His love is incredible.

When I came into this school year, I dreaded everything.  I wrote several posts (Looking ahead and Return to School) expressing my dissatisfaction.  I think the reason I was so apprehensive was because last year was incredibly challenging.  I spent half the year across the world from everyone I loved and the other half learning that, because of my time abroad, I no longer fit with the people I loved in the same way.  It was a year of learning, a year of lonliness, a year of great frustration.  Part of me was scared that this year would be the same.

But the thing is, God is good.  He sees me and knows me.  He understands where I was at and knew exactly how to provide for me.  No, He didn’t bring me close friends to replace the ones I have lost.  But He gave me more of Himself.  People cannot fill the needs of my soul, but He can.  Not only does He fill me, love me, and provide for me, but He wants to be known by me.  He desires intimacy with me, deep closeness.  And, as I’ve responded to that over the past few months, I find myself falling more and more in love with Him.  There’s a line in a Christmas song that goes, “Hearts unfurl like flowers before Thee / opening to the sun above”.  That’s me.  And oh, it’s so beautiful.

Not only has God been providing for me personally, He brought me to an incredible Bible study where I am challenged like I haven’t been in years.  There are times when I feel like I know everything there is to know about God, faith, and the Bible.  But through this Bible study, God has been teaching me to let go of everything I think I know and know Him.  Every week, I walk away with a new insight on His goodness and am left breathless.  It’s been so, so wonderful and my entire faith mindset has shifted dramatically.

It’s scary, letting go of yourself and trusting something you do not see.  But, oh my goodness, it’s beautiful.  There’s nothing like it in the world.  The greatest pleasures in life pale in comparison to the goodness of knowing God.

In the book of Philippians, Paul has similar words:

“But whatever gain I had, I counted it as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that comes by faith.” Philippians 3:7-9

I’m not quite to the level of Paul yet.  I haven’t dropped every material thing, nor have I experienced any great suffering.  But the spirit behind the verses, the same deep longing and affection for Christ resonates in my heart.

I realize this is a bit different from my usual posts, but the need to express these things in words have been bubbling up in my heart for quite a while.  Here they finally are.

 

Influential albums I

Trending on Facebook recently have been lists of things that influenced you.  The premise is simple.  You make up a list of books, movies, songs, etc. that have impacted your life, tag a few friends, and there you go.  I’ve been nominated for a couple of these things and, instead of bogging down my Facebook feed, thought I’d make some blog posts out of it!

My friend Kassandra nominated me to share some albums that have influenced me.  So, without further ado, here are the first five!  (In no particular order.)

1. Flogging Molly, Drunken Lullabies (2002)

After I escaped from my country music phase in middle school, this was one of the first albums I got hooked on.  In many ways, it was the introduction to much of the folksy music I listen to now.  I fell in love with Flogging Molly in eighth grade, under the influence of my older brother, and it’s a love that has sustained me through the years.  Choosing a track to feature was incredibly difficult, but I ended up going with “If I Ever Leave this World Alive”, as it’s one of my favorite songs of all time.

2. Classic Disney Vol I & II

In second grade, I purchased this sketchy yellow portable cassette player from a girl at the annual TF Elementary rummage sale.  This enabled me to listen to my Disney tapes anywhere and everywhere I wanted.  And, oh goodness, those songs became imprinted on my childhood.

3. Ministry of Magic, Goodbye Privet Drive (2008)

I will admit, this was a weirder phase of my music listening career.  In high school, I developed a taste for “Wizard Rock”–an underground movement of indie bands themed around (what else?) Harry Potter.  I’ve got hundreds of Potter inspired songs on my iPod to this day.  At the time, I thought they were fantastic.  Looking back, I can see how musically sub par and poorly written most of the songs are.  But, hey, they sure are fun!  Here’s their song “Sonorous Love”.  (Please ignore the poorly made fan video.)

4. Relient K, Mmhmm (2004)

Like Flogging Molly, Relient K was one of the first bands I ever fell in love with.  My older brother (once again) brought them into my life after coming home from camp one year.  He couldn’t stop singing “Sadie Hawkins Dance”, and soon, neither could I.  Relient K was one of my staples in high school, and Mmhmm saw me through all my teenage drama.

5. Top Gun Soundtrack (1999)

Okay, so this one is a bit strange.  I’ve never actually seen the movie Top Gun.  But back in the 1990’s my mom would play this on repeat in the car.  We’d get to the end of the cassette tape, rewind it (’cause that’s what you had to do back in the day) and listen through it again.  So, even though I’ve never seen the actual film, I know the soundtrack by heart.

Stay tuned for the other half of my list!

A bit of honesty

Sometimes, I take myself too seriously.  And, boy, is that exhausting.

Seriously… trying to be impressive kind of sucks.  I mean, I’ve got high standards for myself, but there’s a point where it just gets to be too much.  All semester, it’s been one high-stress task after another.  Given that I’m a junior in all upper-level classes, it makes perfect sense, but it’s to the point where I’m in a bit over my depth.  So… here’s me coming clean.

Lately, I’ve been pushing myself to become a better blogger.  Why?  Because I’m sick of looking back at things I wrote six months ago and cringing.  I know some fantastic writers out there who produce high quality blogs, and I wanted to be like them.  But, recently, I’ve realized that trying to blog for an audience isn’t that fun.  With that has come a lot of doubts–doubt in my abilities, in my drive, in my desire to string words into sentences.  I’ve found that I post less and am less happy with what does make it past the little blue “Publish” button.  Perhaps I should stop trying to be something I’m not and go back to why I originally wanted to blog–because I simply love to write.

Here’s to dropping attempted pretentiousness and giving writing a fresh approach.  From here on out, I’m going to write because it makes me happy.  Feel free to come along!