Weekend Coffee Share: New Jobs and College Visits

If we were having coffee, we’d be bundled up in sweaters sitting outside.  The world is a painting of reds, golds, and browns–the leaves are just past the peak of color and are starting to fall.  I’d suggest taking a walk to enjoy the crisp air and crunch of leaves under our feet.  If your hands are cold, bring your cup with you.  It will keep you warm!

If we were having coffee, I’d let you know that I HAVE A NEW JOB!  You are now looking at (or rather, reading the words of) the new Interim Director of my community’s Chamber of Commerce.  Of course, the job isn’t permanent.  It’s only for a couple of months while the Chamber looks for a new Executive Director.  I’m just there to fill in and give the board of directors time to find a good fit for the position.

The frustrating thing, though, is I hope to start tomorrow and still have no idea what the job looks like.  I know I’ll be addressing the emails, phone messages, and mail that have come in over the past few weeks.  I know there are meetings I’ll have to attend–mostly to take notes.  I know that I now have keys to the building and a desk in the old Historical Society building.  But I don’t know what my days will actually look like.

My goal is to meet with the former Executive Director sometime in the next couple of days in order to learn the job.  The problem is, she’s not a very competent communicator and doesn’t really understand what I want from her.  She keeps texting my mom (who is the Vice President of the board) about it.  Mom passed her my contact information so she and I can figure it out… but clearly she’s stressed and confused because she hasn’t actually contacted ME yet.

It will all come together.  Hopefully we will be able to meet.  If not, I’m pretty good at figuring things out.  If all else fails, I’ll go to the office tomorrow (after all, I DO have the key), poke around for a few hours, and hope the info I need is lurking in a desk drawer or computer file.

If we were having coffee, you would know that I visited my college town for the first time as an alumni!  I didn’t think I’d be making the trip to Morris any time soon, but my old Bible study co-leader organized a retreat for the group and asked if I would be able to come as a guest speaker.  My old roommate, Alli, and I founded this Bible study four years ago and it was one of my favorite parts of college.

Selfie with everyone at Pomme de Terre Park, featuring the signature Morris wind turbines that provide energy to campus.

The retreat took place at someone’s house.  I was delighted to find that almost everyone in attendance were original members of the group.  We had art night on Friday–which was a fun exploration of acrylic paint and Canadian rom-coms.  On Saturday, we ate meals together, went on a prayer walk in Pomme de Terre Park, and watched Friends on Netflix.  Alli and I gave our talks, which both went well.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that my trip to Morris has me feeling incredibly blessed.  As an introvert, I find that the best kind of people are the ones I can be with for hours without feeling drained.  Hanging out with these girls was like that.  I’m not close friends with anyone in the group, but that really didn’t matter.  We’ve spent so much time throughout the years laughing, making memories, and discussing faith that friendship comes naturally.  Being together again felt just like old times.  I can’t remember the last time I laughed as hard as I did.

My faith hasn’t been flourishing since leaving Morris in May.  It hasn’t been growing, but it hasn’t been receding.  I know that there are lots of important things going on that I can’t see right now.  This weekend was a wonderful reminder that God has big things ahead and I’m right where I need to be.

Now the time has come to turn things over to you.  How has your week been?  What would you share over coffee?

This post is part of a link-up at Part Time Monster

In Review: August 2015

In order to help me reflect as a blogger, I’ve been thinking a lot about adopting monthly reviews.  I’ve seen other bloggers pull off the feature effectively.  I feel like it’s a good step towards regularity–it’s a way to look back on my blogging habits and find ways of improving.  It’s also a good way to help me position myself in life.  By reflecting on where I’ve been, I can figure out where I’m going.  Which is one of my primary reasons for blogging.

Each month, I plan on discussing three primary subjects: Blogging, Books, and Life.  At the end of each post, I hope to make some kind of goal for the next month.  So, here we go…

Month in Review blog heading

I. Blogging

Regarding posting, August was a decent month.  My registration for Writing 101 must not have processed, because I never recieved any emails.  Instead of making inquiries, I shrugged it off and went on with life.  I’ve registered for the class this next month instead.  Hopefully, September will bring a new wave of inspiration.

One thing I’m still terrible at is engaging with other bloggers.  I follow many sites that I really enjoy, but only comment on a few of them.  I’ve always been a fairly reserved person in the company of strangers and acquaintances–if I don’t have something to say that contributes something substantial, I usually opt for silence.  This inclination doesn’t do me many favors regarding getting to know the WordPress community.  Hopefully, this month’s Blogging University class will help push me in a more chatty direction.

Something I’m incredibly proud of is that I managed to publish regular On the Shelf reviews!  Over the past few weeks, I covered Fairest by Marissa Meyer, The Silmarillion by Tolkien, and Wildlife by Fiona Wood.  I worked hard to pour thought and substance into these posts–something I hope to continue into next month.

I also started participating in the weekly #WeekedCoffeeShare feature sponsored by Part Time Monster.  These are fun ways to chat about life and generate conversation.  I posted one yesterday about my trip to the Minnesota State Fair and a wedding I attended this past weekend, so definitely check that out.

Slowly, I’m becoming a more organized blogger.  Instead of relying purely on inspired, spur-of-the-moment posts, I’ve been planning ahead, drafting, and keeping a notebook.  I’m reworking my posting schedule for the next few months, which will help me produce the content I want at a pace that will work well with my schedule.  But more on that tomorrow!

II. Books

Some things never change… like my reading habits.  Here are some of the titles I’ve delved into over the past month:

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Sense & Sensibility, Emma, and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, The Silmarilion by J.R.R. Tolkien, Fairest by Marissa Meyer, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, and the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson.  Several of these, such as the Austen novels, were consumed via audiobook.  The rest I read in physical copies.

III. Life

A lot of good things happened this month.  I attended the Global Leadership Summit, a two day conference where some of the world’s best leaders share their wisdom, with my family.  Unexpectedly, I got to see my Austrian friends again before they flew back to Europe.  My older brother and I saw Brandi Carlile live in Minneapolis, which I posted about.  My mom and I took a short vacation on the North Shore of Lake Superior.  We spent some relaxing days wandering the town of Grand Marais and hiking to waterfalls.

I also started attending a Bible study for twenty-somethings in my community.  It’s been a challenging summer for my faith.  For the first time in years, I’m not surrounded by a group of Christians to grow and learn with.  It’s still a bit awkward attending The Calling (that’s the name of the Bible study) since I don’t know anyone well, but with time, I hope to forge friendships.

For the first time in sixteen years, I didn’t go back to school.  I thought this was going to be weird.  I thought I’d get sad and miss it.  My heart still flutters when I pass the school supply section at Target, but I think that’s just because I have a deep love of office products.  I know that in time, I’ll miss classroom learning, assigned reading, and paper writing because I’m a nerd like that.  I’ll definitely miss the thrill of academia and being surrounded by intelligent people who think critically about the world.  Right now, though, I’m still glorying in the freedom of reading whatever I want.  I really enjoy working during the day and not having to deal with assignments and deadlines.

September blogging goals:

  • Stick to my revamped posting schedule
  • Participate in Blogging University’s Writing 101 challenge
  • Follow at least five new blogs
  • Comment on at least three new blogs

How was your August?

Life and Times of a Small Group Leader: a Conclusion

Three years ago, I turned to my roommate Alli and announced that I felt like God wanted me to start a Bible study.  The only problem was I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

Alli looked over at me with a sly smile.  “Here’s what we’re doing.  You and I are going to lead a Bible study together, we are going to target it towards single girls, and we are going to talk through our problems.”  (At the time, the both of us were struggling a lot with being single.  When you’re interested in dating good, Christian guys, Morris is not the place to be.)

That, friends, is how I became a small group leader.

That first year, we were known as the Single Ladies Bible Study.  We read the book When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy.  Although we had some good conversations, I really don’t recommend the book.  A lot of the content is really simplistic and cheesy.

Every year, the Bible study has changed significantly.  After year one, we dropped the “Single”, lost Alli to graduation, and our numbers dropped significantly.  I was abroad for half the year and, when I came back, the once bustling group was down to three or four core members.  We had lots of great talks, though, and really got to know each other.

This year, I co-lead with my friend Jourdan and the group changed entirely.  Last fall, when we met to discuss what the study would look like, we had no idea how many people would actually show up.  The core group returned and, to our surprise, so did a boatload of new faces.  It really was a wonderful year.  For the first time, it really felt like a community.  The variety of the group still amazes me–we had freshman to seniors, newspaper lit nerds to athletes, biology to Spanish majors.  Everyone was so different!  But we all got along and learned so much from each other.

Family-style photo of this year's group at Jourdan's house.
Family-style photo of this year’s group at Jourdan’s house.

As leaders, Jourdan and I were pushed and stretched in ways we hadn’t expected.  Before we knew it, we were each meeting one-on-one with several of the girls, mentoring and encouraging them.  We planned Girls Nights once a month and came up with our own lessons every week.  Planning lessons was a big challenge, but also an incredible opportunity.

Last week was our final meeting.  The girls all surprised me with a party celebrating my graduation.  Everyone brought treats, one girl made chicken tacos, and Jourdan made a cake.  Their parting gift to me was a little plastic box covered in quotes.  Inside, each girl had written out encouragement notes and shared their favorite Bible verses.  It’s something for me to take with as I move into the future.  Although I was pretty brain-dead the whole time (on account of the library staff party and English major picnic being the same night), their thoughtfulness really means the world to me.

Although it will continue to meet next year, I’m really sad to see it go.  Being a small group leader has been one of my favorite parts of college.  I’ve learned so much about myself and what it means to be a leader and have gotten to know so many wonderful people.  Serving and loving people is hard, but it’s one of the greatest blessings life has to offer.

The life and times of a college Bible study leader

This past Tuesday was my final Bible study  meeting of the semester.  I’ve been leading the same group of girls for the past three years.  It’s been really fun getting to know everyone, forming friendships, and watching them grow in their faith.

At the beginning, I didn’t know much about leading Bible studies.  I took on the role as mediator.  I would read the text at hand, be it part of the Bible, a devotional, or supplementary book, ask questions, and make sure conversation happened.  It was fun because I was in on the action, learning with everyone else, but also managing some of the behind the scenes details.

This year, though, Bible study has taken a fun turn.  My co-leader, Jourdan, and I decided to plunge headlong into the New Testament book of Hebrews.  I’ve read through it in my personal devotions several times and knew it was a theologically challenging book.  There’s a lot of confusing stuff!  We covered a chapter a week and I was in charge of the first discussion.  I ran it like I usually do, asking questions and trying to get people talking.  It was awkward.  I came away a bit disheartened.  How was I supposed to mediate a conversation about this?

As a result, though, I’ve had the opportunity to step into more of a teaching role.  Every week, I’d spend a couple hours digging through the text, figuring out what was there, what it meant, and why it was important.  I’d consult different translations of the Bible, assemble quotes from footnotes, and scour devotionals for inspiration.  Then, after pages of scribbling notes, I’d tie it together into more of a lesson plan.  At Bible study, we would read through the chapter as a group, then I’d dive into my notes, explaining theological concepts, arguments, asking questions, and trying to apply it all to life.

The thing with teaching is that it’s a LOT of work.  I’ve been pushed and stretched this semester, but it’s also been incredibly rewarding!  I now understand theological concepts so much better and have an increased appreciation for how the Bible functions as a whole text.

What got me thinking about all of these things was an message I received from one of the girls in the group.

Hi Amelia!

I just wanted to thank you so very much for a great semester of Bible Study! You are so energetic, positive and encouraging and I really enjoyed getting to know you better these past 14 weeks! Wishing you the best of luck with all of your papers and finals.  I hope you have an incredible and relaxing break– can’t wait until next semester!

I don’t know the sender of this email very well, but getting this email brightened my entire day.  What a sweetheart!  Although I’m not in it for the praise, it’s always encouraging to receive thanks for something you have poured a lot of time and effort into.

Here’s the scoop (on a non-sucky weekend in Morris)

So… if you keep yourself occupied enough and plan in advance, weekends in Morris don’t suck as much as they normally do.

My Bible study girls night on Friday was a success!  Thanks for all the encouragement, dear readers!  We had a good turnout, great fellowship, and our toenails are sporting all kinds of flashy colors.  (Mine are golden.)  We also watched Napoleon Dynamite, which was like a massive flashback to middle school.  (Vote for Pedro, anyone?)  My hostessing, in case you were wondering, was certainly as awkward as it always is, but everyone was pretty good-natured about it.  Thank goodness!

On Saturday afternoon, the International Student Association organized a celebration called the Festival of Colors.  The event was to celebrate the Hindu holiday of Holi, which celebrates springtime, good triumphing over evil, and community.  The problem is that Holi is a springtime holiday, so celebrating it now is like suddenly moving Christmas to August or Easter to October.  Personally, I think the oversight in the original event planning shows a lack of cultural awareness.  But they later remedied it and marketed it just as a color festival.

My roommate Katie and I attended and, boy, what a fun half an hour!  It was a free for all of water balloon tossing, bucket dumping, and (of course) throwing colorful powder!  We got covered in all kinds of colors!

Katie and I after the Festival of Colors.
Katie and I after the Festival of Colors.

For some reason, even though it’s now officially Autumn, the ghost of Summer has come back with a vengeance.  The weather the past few days has been absolutely glorious!  To celebrate (and get out of the apartment), I organized the few friends that didn’t go home for the weekend and we walked to Dairy Queen for ice cream!  We then went to a friends’ house for pizza and movies.  (And, being the oh-so-mature college students that we are, we went for Disney’s Mulan.)

This morning, I was all geared up for attending early church.  I got up at eight, did my daily hang out with Jesus, showered, dressed up and then… then I see the note from Katie (who was out late at a video game party) asking if we can go to the later service.  Normally, I’d get annoyed by the sudden change of plans, but not today!  I briefly considered using the two hours I now had to do homework or finish my painting project.  But instead I decided to curl back up and enjoy an extra hour of sleep.

Also, there’s something about being one of the last people to leave church that is extremely gratifying.  I’ve been attending my church here in Morris for four years and always felt like a passer-through.  But I’ve been doing a Bible study with adults from the community on Monday nights, so I’ve actually had the chance to get to know people of my congregation.  Thus, I actually had people aside from my college friends (who like to duck out as fast as they can) to talk with!  I was so deep in conversation with one lady that Katie (who drove with me) ditched me and rode home with our friends.  I didn’t mind–it just meant I could talk longer without feeling guilty!

This evening, in light of the final hurrah of Summer, my friend Neala and I walked to the wind turbines.  You see, that is what we do in Morris.  We have movie marathons and we walk to the two wind turbines that fuel campus.  It’s a long walk–takes about twenty minutes to get to the overlook and a full half hour to get to the turbines.  We didn’t make it all the way, but settled in an arbor in the community gardens to talk and get out of the heat.  We wandered about the gardens, talking about post graduation plans, Neala’s upcoming eleven-month missions trip, what books we’re currently reading, and how much we hate the recent seasons of Doctor Who.  (It’s always refreshing to find someone who loathes Moffat’s story writing as much as I do!)  We then grabbed dinner and parted ways!

It’s been a surprisingly good weekend!

Did you do anything interesting or exciting?

P.S. My friend Neala is fantastic at taking photos…

Photo by my friend, Neala!
Photo by my friend, Neala!

Hostessing struggles

Let’s just say I’m not well reputed for my hostess skills.  Mind you, it’s not from lack of effort.  I do my very best to make guests feel comfortable and at home.  I vacuum the floors, dust the counters, scrub the bathroom, make sure all the dishes are cleaned and put away, and top it all off with a pan of brownies.

Despite my best intentions, though, gatherings put on by yours truly always seem to fall a bit flat.  Brownies get burned.  I accidentally email the directions to the wrong apartment.  I don’t know how to get conversations flowing.  I don’t know what kind of music people actually listen to.

For my Bible study, we are trying to have a Girl’s Night once a month.  I was so relieved when my co-leader, Jourdan, offered to host it at her off-campus house.  Yes!  I thought.  No baking, no cleaning!  Just show up and have a great time!

Well… yesterday evening, I got a call from Jourdan.  Her Chilean boyfriend was stranded at the airport and couldn’t get a flight home (to Chile) until Sunday.  He had no money and very limited English.  Naturally, she had to go to his aid…

… Leaving me to suddenly pull together Girl’s Night.

Despite past hostess failures, I have high hopes for this one.  The apartment has been cleaned, brownies baked, nail polish brought forth.  We’ve got a stack of movies to last all night.  And, if all else fails, there’s an on-campus Improv show that we can go to!

Here’s to another shot of hostessing.

Wish me luck!