Moments of Transition (Writing 101, Day 13)

As I stood in the crowded hallway clutching my trapper-keeper, the writhing in my belly felt less like butterflies and more like a jar of wriggling worms.  I huddled near the haven of my locker, cringing as the unfamiliar bell clanged, longing for the safety of Mrs. Klinke’s fifth grade class.  But the happy days of recess and snack time were gone.  Unfamiliar faces pressed in from all sides.  They all seemed to know each other.  I took a deep breath.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

“All right, girls, is everyone in their bunks?”  I watched as my ten-year-old charges clambered up under sheets.  An occasional fluffy stuffed animal could be seen, clutched tightly to the campers’ chests.  “Lights are going out in five… four… three… two… “ I flipped the switch to a chorus of giggles.  I groped for my flashlight, finding my way to the counselor’s bunk.  Wiggling into my slippery sleeping bag, I pulled out my journal and pen.  Eyelids heavy, I began to recount the day’s adventures, scribbling memories into the wee hours.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

The air felt stale, like plastic and greasy pizza.  The sun had sunk beyond the prairie horizon hours ago.  You couldn’t see them, but plastic packing boxes littered the floor of my new dorm room.  Clothing and books were piled on every free surface.  The endless stream of faces at the door had finally ceased.  Huddled in my lofted bed, I listened as the stranger who I now lived with snored noisily and tried not to think about the way my parents held hands as I watched them from my fourth floor window.  I blinked back tears.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

Pushing against the surge of people outside the Tube station, I stepped into the unexpected sunlight.  I thought it always rained here?  A tall clock tower gleamed ahead, proudly surveying the stately streets.  A pang of pleasure surged in my chest.  I would recognize this place anywhere.  After a lifetime of dreaming, I had finally crossed the pond.  My face broke into a silly grin as I stepped in with the crowd.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

Hunched slightly from an afternoon of packing apples and harvesting pumpkins, my fingers dart quickly across the laptop keys.  My eyelids feel sluggish, product of too many hours at work and too little sleep, but I continue to write.  In the next room, Dad’s voice orders everyone to be quiet so he can hear the weather report on the news.  Mom calls from the kitchen to make salads for dinner.  I’m about to respond when an unexpected softness brushes my calf and I look down to find my yellow cat, Paco, watching me expectantly.  With a sigh, I hit “save” in my document and reach down to give his head a scratch.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

Today’s assignment was to write a series of vignettes.  I chose to capture different times of transition throughout my life, starting with my first day of middle school and ending with the present day.  It’s been a long time since I did any kind of creative writing.  What do you think?

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This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

On the Shelf: Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Of my most recent library haul, this was my favorite.

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

Summary from GoodreadsDuring a semester in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sib expects the tough outdoor education program and the horrors of dorm life, but friendship drama and an unexpected romance with popular Ben Capaldi? That will take some navigating.  New girl Lou has zero interest in fitting in, or joining in. Still reeling from a loss that occurred almost a year ago, she just wants to be left alone. But as she witnesses a betrayal unfolding around Sib and her best friend Holly, Lou can’t help but be drawn back into the land of the living.

My Thoughts:

This was one of the most poigniant YA novels I’ve read in a while.  Wood beautifully captures the awkwardness, messiness, and pain of being a teenager without making me roll my eyes once.  So often, YA protagonists are either unrealistically shallow or unrealistically intelligent.  Wood’s are somewhere in the middle.

Wildlife is all about discovery.  In a way, it’s the story we all go through as teens.  It’s about finding a way through the messiness of life and figuring out who you are.  Her main characters are beautiful and complex individuals that captured my heart.  Their stories highlight different aspects of the teenage experience that felt authentic.

Until recently, Syb had never been popular and she was always okay with that.  But when her aunt scores her a modeling gig, her face plastered on a billboard becomes her ticket to the cool table.  Suddenly, the most popular boy in her grade likes her, she’s the center of attention, and her childhood best friend is right by her side, urging her to take advantage of the opportunity.  Deep down, she knows that popularity and the behavior surrounding it just isn’t her.  But, at the same time, she really likes the popular boy.  Stuck between two worlds, she has to decide what really matters–being with the cool kids or being true to herself.

Then, there’s Lou.  Dear, dear Lou.  Devastated by the death of her boyfriend, Lou is still in deep mourning when we meet her at the beginning of the novel.  She has no desire to engage with the world.  She attends therapy, but puts on a show to make them think she’s getting better.  She’s empty inside.  All her thoughts go to the one she lost.  When all her friends go spend a term in Paris, she decides to transfer schools just in time for their wilderness survival term.  Lou steps up to the challenge, finding solace in grueling hikes and beautiful scenery.  Forced to live in close-quarters with a handful of girls, she can’t help but become slowly involved in their lives.

Wildlife isn’t the most gripping novel out there, but what strikes me most is its honesty.  Wood poses questions and gives realistic, truthful answers.  Is popularity worth it?  When is it right to start having sex?  What is it like to lose a loved one?  What does friendship look like?

The best part?  It’s all set at camp!

Sample Quote:

“The trouble is that keeping [memory] alive, giving it all that energy, will, determination, stops me being alive in the present.  I’m not stupid.  I don’t need Esthers and Merills to tell me that is not a brilliant way for a sixteen-year-old to live.  I know what you would say.  You’d say, get on with it, Lou m’Lou.  There’s a lot more to do than thinking about me.  Don’t hang out somewhere that isn’t anymore.  Don’t haunt the landlost past, you’d say… I’ve written you a hundred unsent letters.  Maybe if I keep writing and sealing them, they can sit somewhere safely.  Our story is a one-sided correspondence–I know that’s oxymoronic–and I can allow that to be it.  I can put a lid… I can just go there sometimes… I can know it’s there, safely; we are there.”

You Will Like This Book If: You enjoy Young Adult fiction, wilderness, camp life, and coming of age stories.

Kidnapping the Austrians

Over the past year, I’ve been in a position where almost all my close friends live far away.  For the most part, this absolutely sucks.  I’m the type of person that doesn’t need to be surrounded by people all the time.  Give me a few solid souls to lean on and I am set.  It’s been incredibly difficult without the people I love most in the world by my side.  No amount of reading and Netflix can compensate for deep talks and belly laughter.

The one good thing, though, is that it makes the time I have with my dear ones so much more precious.

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Right to left: Anna, Emma, Anna-Laura, and me. Taken while waiting for the hometown parade to start.

This past weekend, I was able to spend time with some of my favorite people in the world, who happen to live in Austria.  We met at Camp Shamineau, where I spent the past three summers working, but our friendship has gone far beyond camp life.  When I studied abroad in Europe, I visited their home in the Alps.  This weekend, I brought them to see my home.

I don’t really know what to say about my time with the Austrians.  I dragged them through several charming small towns, to a local parade, a waterfall, and (of course) Target.  We laid around, ate good food, and soaked in each other’s company.

Being around people you care about brings out the best in you.

During the past few months at home, certain pieces of myself have gone dormant.  I’ve forgotten what a joy it is to serve others, to put their needs before my own, and what it feels like to be surrounded by my Christian brothers and sisters.  My faith does best when I am on my own, independent of my parents, and although this summer hasn’t been BAD, it hasn’t been productive.  I’ve lost sight of what it means to GROW in my faith.  I’ve settled for getting by.

The two days spent with my Austrian friends reminded me of these things.  Just by being in their presence, listening to them talk, I felt God’s Spirit flare up in my heart.

Anna and I by the waterfall near where I live
Anna and I by the waterfall near where I live

I felt a desire to grow, to serve, to love.  I wanted to spend time investing in my faith instead of hobbies and activities.

Saying goodbye to Anna, Emma, and Anna-Laura today was incredibly sad.  They’re some of the dearest people in my heart and, since we live on other sides of the world, I don’t know when I’m going to see them next.  But being with them helped remind me of so many things that I had let slip by, giving me badly needed encouragement regarding my future plans.  I am so thankful for that.

However, I do know that these girls and I are friends for life.  I never imagined I would come to be tied so deeply to a bunch of people from Austria–of all places, why there?  I cling to the knowledge that we will meet again.  Friends like them don’t come along every day–and when they do, they stick.  I don’t know how much time will pass between today and our next meeting, but I earnestly look forward to it.

This weekend was, by far, the highlight of my summer thus far.

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.

 

Friday Favorites 9

Time for another edition of Friday Favorites…

A cup of tea on a chilly afternoon

Temperatures, in true Minnesota fashion, have dipped into the fifties this week and it feels like Fall for the first time!  After a summer of athletic shorts and grubby t-shirts, I’ve finally brought out my cardigans, scarves, leggings, and boots.  After a full morning of classes and time at the gym, I settled into a flannel and leggings to read Dickens.  What better way to complete the afternoon by brewing a cup of tea?

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My Shakespeare mug only makes things that much better.

This article:

What Steven Moffat Doesn’t Understand About Grief, and Why It’s Killing Doctor Who

Yes, it was written almost a year ago.  But the writer perfectly articulates my frustrations with the recent seasons of Doctor Who.  I picked up the show back in high school when David Tennant still reigned supreme under the guidance of Russell T. Davies.  Since then, the fandom has swollen and it’s become part of nerdy pop culture.  Which, honestly, I’m fine with because it’s a great show.  But the past few seasons have left a bitter taste in my mouth, and I haven’t been sure why.  This article hits the nail on the head.  If you’re a Doctor Who fan, I definitely encourage you to check it out!

Nothing Much to Do

I’m a big fan of literary web shows.  In fact, I just did an informative speech on them in class today!  Shortly after giving said speech, a friend texted me saying “You are to use this weekend to actually watch Nothing Much to Do.  This is your new homework.”  I had picked up this fun adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing last year, watched a few episodes, and never went further.  But, as my friend commanded, I resumed watching again and have really enjoyed it!  The acting is decent, production of a good quality, and you gotta love those New Zealand accents!

This Canoe Trip:

This summer, as part of our extended Program staff training at camp, we were treated two what I affectionately call the Canoe Trip from Hell.  The trip included being woken up at three in the morning and two full days on the Brule River with essentially no food.  I wrote a short post about it a few months ago with more details.

Here we all are at the end of our trip, triumphant on the shore of Lake Superior.  Good grief, I miss these people.

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That is all for this week’s edition of Friday Favorites!  With that, I’m going to settle in for a quiet, relaxing weekend in Morris.

Got any exciting plans this weekend?  Feel free to tell me about them in the comments!

 

You know you’ve been at camp too long when…

You feel like a rebel for wearing shoes.

No matter how many times you wash it, your raincoat permanently smells like the Brule.

Your first urge while walking into church is to break out dancing and wonder why no one else is.

You believe deep down that a lake shower is equivalent to a real shower.

You shout “TTO” everywhere you go and people stare at you like you’re some kind of weirdo.

You’ve convinced so many campers that cooties are real that you half believe in them yourself.

You can quote the all the Rejected Sports videos line by line.

You start chanting “USA” everywhere you go.

On Wednesdays, you cook all your food over a fire.

You find yourself putting random Bible verses to songs and singing them to everyone you see on the street and are confused why they don’t give you cabin points.

You feel sick at the smell of standard shaving cream from Day Camp water day.

You start listening to the “Church Clap” for fun.

You’re shocked when you see people in two-piece swimsuits that aren’t modest tankinis.

You’re convinced that the dirt layer on your feet is a tan.

You start jumping into the nearest body of water with your clothes on purely out of habit.

“Can we blow that up?” is a serious question.

You ask small children in public where their counselor is.

You start wearing your staff shirt every Sunday and Friday purely out of habit.

Every time you make a decision, you ask yourself, “Is this something that Jeff would fire me for?”

You have legitimate nightmares about having to choose between canoeing down the Brule or running Day Camp.

You have more merchandise from your camp than from your college.

You get campsick instead of homesick.

(Most of these are from fellow staff members, a couple are original.)

Return to School

This morning, I packed up everything I own into my little blue Honda civic and away I went.  Three and a half hours and one Caribou Cooler later, I was finally back in Morris, MN.

How do I feel about being back?

Well.  Let’s just say I’m pretty sure I already have Senior-itis and classes haven’t even started yet.  Symptoms include dread, dizziness, lack of excitement at being reunited with friends, occasional collapsing on the floor, and general apathy.  It’s been a struggle keeping a positive attitude.

The thing, though, about school starting is that it makes me look back on the past few months of my life.  And, DANG, I had a fantastic summer.  From planting two fields of strawberry plants by hand in the rain to a week in Boston with my beloved roommate to a wonderful summer of ministry at camp… Talk about great memories!

There are no words for how dearly I miss the people in that last photo.  Campsickness hit HARD last night as it finally sunk in that I won’t be going back.

The one thing keeping me going, though, is the knowledge that I’m just here for one more year.  Two more semesters, and I can finally go out into the world and serve God.  And, in the meantime, my goal is to impact the lives of as many people as I can during the next nine.  Because, frankly, my reputation isn’t really at stake.  I only have one year left.

Time to hit the books and get me a degree!

Friday Favorites

I’ve been trying to get myself back in the blogging habit since camp is over… what better way than with another edition of Friday Favorites?

So… the Friday Favorites are…

1. PR 6

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During the last week of camp, there were no churches in need of Shamineau Day Camp.  What were two Day Camp directors to do?  Easy.  Become counsellors!  It was like returning to my roots.  I was reminded how much I love counseling, but at the same time, why I don’t do it anymore.  It’s exhausting!  But oh, so rewarding.  We had ten campers.  They were wonderful–silly, creative, and fun, and loved learning more about God.  I had some of the best one-on-ones that I’ve ever had.  And, at the end, we won Cabin of the Week!

2. Juliet Marillier

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I first discovered Marillier’s greatness in her Young Adult novel, Wildwood Dancing.  I loved it so much I read it about five times in a row.  Since then, she’s become one of my favorite fantasy writers.  It’s to the point where I will read anything she writes.  (Yes, that includes grocery lists.)  Her novels usually feature a smart, independent heroine with deep connections to family who gets swept away on some kind of adventure.  They’re heavily steeped in folklore, which I adore.

In the past week, I’ve read two of her novels–the final two of her Sevenwaters series.  They were so good I read them in a day each, staying up well past midnight to read the final chapters.  Best feeling in the world right there.

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3. This Song

After my early summer Cloud Cult obsession faded, it was replaced by a deep love for Rend Collective.  They’re a folksy Christian band with a passion for authentic, joyful worship.  Normally, I’m not one to listen to Christian music, but I make an exception here.  They capture the heart of what it means to worship–the rawness, the joy of coming before God.  They recorded their first album around a campfire, which is pretty awesome.  And they’re Irish!

And… that’s all for today!  Stay tuned for more posts!  I’m hoping to be writing more frequently now that I actually have consistent computer access.

Goodbye, Shamineau

Saying goodbye to places that shaped you into who you are is hard.

But, ultimately, a place is just a place.  And you can always go back and visit.  No, things won’t be the same.  The faces will be different.  People may no longer know your name.  But that’s okay.  In years to come, retrace the old routes and watch the ghosts of the best summers of your life play out.  People get thrown in the lake, cups are popped in the dining hall, and kids continue to draw closer to Jesus.

The past three years, being on staff at Camp Shamineau has completely altered who I am.  I went in year one as a counselor, scared to death, no idea what I was doing, and didn’t know a soul.  Summer after summer, God taught me lessons of His imesurable love, strength, and faithfulness.  I entered a shy, quiet girl who had her identity in a narrow little box.  And now I leave a confident leader, ready to go out into the world and serve God with my life.

Shamineau, you will always have a place in my heart.  The memories I have at camp are ones I will carry dearly for the rest of my life.  The friendships I’ve forged on staff are some of the most meaningful I have ever known.  My fellow staff members have always accepted me as I am, flaws and oddities in all, and I’m forever grateful.  What a joy it is to serve the Lord alongside such passionate, loving people!  What an honor to call them my brothers and sisters!  What a blessing to know that, even though our paths may not cross again, we will be united again with Christ in just a short time.

Shaminknights, if you’re reading this…  Thank you.  Thank you for your service.  Thank you for your love.  Thank you for your passion.  Thank you for continually inspiring me to seek Christ first.  I love you all so dearly.  You are incredible, and I cannot wait to see where God takes you!

Every summer, God does something significant in my life.  This year was no exception.  He surprised me constantly–closing doors I thought were wide open–and giving me incredible peace throughout the process.  I learned that, no matter what, He is more than enough to sustain all my needs.  In addition, I grew into a leader.  I learned how to manage people, how to make things happen when need be, and how to do so while leaning on God.  I learned not to drive suburbans, that craft rooms stress me out, and that it is possible to become Queen of bouncy castles.  I learned that leaders are often isolated, and that people often don’t notice all that they accomplish.  And God showed me that the only recognition I needed was from Him.

I’ll conclude with the theme verse of the summer, which is one I have been meditating on these past three months.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2

As much as I’d like to return, God has made it pretty clear to me that my time at Shamineau has come to an end.  There will be no next summer.  And, although it breaks my heart to say goodbye, I’m ready for what is next.  God used these summers to prepare me for greater things.  As I return to my final year of college, I eagerly await the plans He has in store for me.  So, with my eyes fixed on Him, it’s time to run that race.

Not the most elegant of pictures, but taken my last night at camp.
Not the most elegant of pictures, but taken my last night at camp.  And, oh, how I’ve always loved those Shamineau sunsets!

Looking ahead

Where do the days go?

I looked at my calendar this morning and was shocked to find that July is almost gone.  In mere weeks, summer will be over and I will be back in school.

Since I’m going into my final year of college, I’ve been paying a lot of thought to where I want to go in life.  What will I do when I graduate?  Where will I go?  Who will I meet?

One of my biggest fears is that, a year from now, I will get sucked right into life in the real world.  I’ll get bogged down with a job, college bills, car payments, etc.  I will work just to get by, settle down, and the most adventure I will have is the occasional weekend excursion to the North Shore.  (Not that the North Shore is bad… but I want to go farther than three hours away.)

I want to live a life that is extraordinary.  I want to travel and explore the corners of this world.  I want to do something worthwhile.  I want to make a difference, to touch the lives of people I encounter.

More than anything, I want to live a life that is not my own.  I can make all the plans I want for myself, but ultimately, the life God has planned for me is a million times better than anything I can conceive.  The more I taste of the world, the more I realize how empty and unsatisfying it is.  I want my life to be a living sacrifice, a la Romans 12.  I want to be a city on a hill.  I want to spend my years planting seeds and reaping fruit for the Kingdom.  God has planted heaven in my heart, and I want to spend my life sharing that with others.

During the parent program at my day camp this past week (which was in Rogers, MN), I had one of those “How did I get here?” moments.  I was standing in front of a sanctuary of kids and their parents, sharing about Camp Shamineau and what our mission is.  Briefly, I found myself explaining, “At camp, we have lots of amazing facilities that help create fun, exciting memories.  But as great as fun is, that’s now what we are about.  Our main mission is to take campers away from the distractions of the world and place them in an environment where they have a real, personal encounter with Jesus Christ.”

Later, when summarizing the lessons of the week, I noted that we told the story about how “Jesus died on the cross for our sins so we could spend eternity with Him.  He did this not because we deserved it, but because He loved us.”

Standing on that stage, it hit me.  So many people my age hem and haw and fret about what they are doing with life.  But here I am, at a mere twenty one years old, living the life God has called me to.  Already, I’m living out the dreams God has placed within me.  Through the opportunity to work at camp, specifically being on Program staff, I am learning to lead others and sow seeds.  All the things I long to do, I am already doing.

As my final year of school draws nearer, words cannot express how much I loathe going back.  I’m dreading it, actually.  A life spent sitting in classrooms, reading books, and writing essays is enjoyable, but definitely not satisfying.

But just because I am in school does not mean God cannot use me to further His kingdom.  He has plans for me this year, and lessons He needs to lead me through.  I eagerly anticipate the day when my life becomes less about getting my own name on a diploma and more about bringing glory to the King.