Tis the Season: A Thailand Christmas and a New Holiday Perspective

Today’s Tis the Season post comes from Britta of  It’s a Britta Bottle!


A Thailand Christmas and a New Holiday Perspective

One of my absolute favorite Christmas memories is a relatively recent one, in what some might see as a most unconventional location.

The Setting: A shopping mall, Bangkok, Thailand

The Event: Christmas Ice Skating

The Players: A group of Western English teachers

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A visual image of the scenario

Christmas in Thailand! Say what! Continue reading

Goodbye, 2015!

Another year has come and gone.

Looking back, 2015 was a year of waiting.  First, I was waiting to graduate.  Then, I was waiting for whatever came next. There were days when I would have given anything for time to move faster.  There were periods of loneliness and periods of frustration.

In other ways, though, it was a wonderful year.  I was able to spend nine months living at home, which, in a way, has been like a return to childhood.  I’ve loved spending time with my family.  I loved working at our strawberry patch and apple orchard.

I’ve learned a lot this year.  I finished my degree.  I spent my summer pulling weeds followed by a fall hauling around apples.  I experienced my first professional job.  I attended the Urbana missions conference.

I’m not sad to see 2015 go.  It’s been good, but better years lie ahead.

Check out some photo highlights from my year:

Weekend Coffee Share: It’s Almost Christmas!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you how excited I am for Christmas!  This time of year is always incredibly busy with holidays and family commitments, but I couldn’t be happier.  I’ve got a lot coming up over the next few weeks–Christmas, attending a conference in St. Louis, and getting ready to head to England.  To be honest, I’m having a hard time focusing because there are so many big events in a row.

If we were having coffee, you’d know that I’ve spent the majority of my day preparing for my annual holiday series here on the blog!  Tis the Season started last year and I had so much fun with it that I decided to give it another go.  The holidays are all about coming together, and what better way to come together than host guest bloggers and share traditions?  I have a couple of really wonderful guest posts lined up, as well as a few of my own.  Stop by each day this week for a new post starting TOMORROW!

If we were having coffee, you’d know that I only have three days left of my job!  I’ve been working as the Interim Executive Director of my local Chamber of Commerce since October.  Although I really don’t enjoy the job much, I’ve been trying to maintain a positive attitude.  It’s been a great learning experience for me.  We hired a new Executive Director a few weeks ago, but she isn’t starting full time until January 4.  I’m currently working on training her and setting things up for a smooth transition.  I absolutely can’t wait to be done working there, but I’m thankful to have been able to work right until Christmas.

If we were having coffee, I’d let you know that I am not seeing the new Star Wars until Wednesday.  So no spoilers!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that in exactly a week from now, I’ll be in a minivan bound for St. Louis, Missouri .  I will be attending Urbana, the largest student missions conference in the world.  I’m interested in pursuing Christian ministry/missions as a career, so this conference is a great opportunity to learn more about the field and network.  It only happens every three years, so I’m thankful to catch it.  There will be over 16,000 people attending!  It’s going to be a powerful week.  I know many people who have attended this conference in the past and have told me that it’s life-changing.

If we were having coffee, I’d inquire about your plans for the holidays.  Are you traveling?  Do you have any special family plans?  Is there anything big on your Christmas list this year?  Tell me all about it in the comments and stay tuned for Tis the Season posts throughout the week.

P.S. Enjoy this Christmassy photo I took with my cat, Paco, whom I love dearly.

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One Month

One month from now, I’ll be gone.  One month from now, I’ll be getting on an airplane bound for the UK, where I will be studying theology and living in a manor house in Southern England.  One month from now, I’ll be en route to Adventure.

What is coming is so enormous that it doesn’t even seem real.  There are days where I simply forget.  Going back to England is such a deep desire in my heart that I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that it’s actually happening.  I feel like my experiences over the next few months will be game-changers.  I have no idea what is coming, but I have this deep sense that my life is never going to be the same.

Meanwhile, time is going to fly.

There is still so much to do before I depart.  I need to tie up loose ends with my Chamber of Commerce job.  The Annual Meeting & Gala needs to be planned and the new director needs to be trained.  I need to schedule a dentist appointment, get a credit card, and buy Christmas presents for my family.  I need to write and assemble end-of-the-year posts, including those for my Tis the Season holiday series.  (If you’re interested in writing a holiday-themed guest post for me, let me know!  I’m still in need of participants!)  I need to purchase a ticket to see a production of As You Like It at the National Theatre while in London.  I need to treasure every night in my childhood bedroom, soak up the presence of my family, and delight in the home-ness of home.

Of course, adventure is coming before I even head to Europe.  After Christmas is over, I’m traveling from Minnesota to St. Louis for Urbana, the largest student missions conference in the world.  It only happens every three years.  I’ve been thinking and praying about going for years and am so excited to finally be going!

My life has been so still for so long.  It’s as if my life has been on hold.  I’ve stayed occupied, but it’s as if I’ve been biding my time, waiting for this moment.  After months and months of stillness and comfort, it’s strange to imagine how quickly things are changing.

But I’m ready.

Work, friends, Christmas, family, Urbana, England.

I’m in for one heck of a month.

 

Thoughts From a Cold Boulder

My coat wasn’t quite warm enough, but I hardly cared.  Perched on my rock, it was not the bite of the wind that took my breath, but the blue of the water stretching for miles before my feet.

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Panorama of my view from my iPhone.

Duluth, Minnesota is an old industrial town.  Perched on the Westernmost tip of Lake Superior, it’s an important harbor and port for ships bringing goods and services across the Great Lakes.  Before settling to soak in the view, I had the pleasure of watching one of the enormous freight ships slip into the harbor, skirting gracefully under the iconic lift bridge.  Strolling along the boardwalk, old manufacturing warehouses and mills (now hotels, shops, and restaurants) on one side and, on the other, the endless lake.  I’ve been coming to this city since I was a little girl.  The boardwalk, the worn brick buildings, the lake–they’re all part of me.

My nose was beginning to run, but I perched along the shore anyways.  In that moment, soaking in the beauty of the sunlight glistening on the waves, a deep peace settled over my spirit.

The past few weeks have been a torrent of upheaval–from persisting unhappiness to my job to arranging to leave the country in January to terrorist attacks and political strife.

It felt so good to get away, to sleep in a bed twice the size of my own, to eat pizza in front of a hotel TV as my brother gushed about Star Wars.  It felt good to look out my window and see city, not forest or fields.  It felt good o walk along the boardwalk, to sit on the rocks, to watch the ships come into harbor.

It blows me away how crazy this world is.  Things are always changing and I am no exception.  I don’t know what the adventures ahead have in store.  I don’t know how my experiences will shape me and who I will become.  This both terrifying and liberating.

I can’t help but think of the quote from which this blog is named:

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien

Moments like these ones, silently dwelling in the places that have known me for so long, give me the courage to take that leap.  The peace that dwells in my innermost being gives me the strength to see what’s out in the world and discover who I’m going to be next.

I’m Crossing the Pond

I have big news.

I’ve been holding on to this post for a while, unsure when to actually make my plans public. But this morning I woke up and thought, “Screw it. I’m putting it on the blog.”

I’m going back to England in January.

If you had told me a month ago that my next adventure is right around the corner, I don’t think I would have believed you.  It’s been a whirlwind few weeks, watching my dreams solidify into something tangible.

A few weeks ago, I published a particularly depressing post  where I vented about feeling directionless.   I shared it on Facebook and, a few hours later, got a text from my aunt recommending a ministry called L’Abri.

What is L’Abri?  It’s a ministry that integrates intellectual study with everyday life.  Half of the time is spent studying theology and discussing hard questions in Christianity.  The other half is spent contributing to everyday life in the form of everyday, practical tasks.  It’s an open door for anyone wanting to stay.  All you have to do is let them know you’re coming.  There is a cost, but it’s not high.

I did some research and tucked L’Abri in the corner of my mind.  Within the next week, it seemed to crop up everywhere… which made me stop in my tracks and begin to hope.  As I curled up in bed at night, I imagined myself there, living in an old manor house, engaging intellectually with the faith that is the center point of my life.  Once the idea took root, there was no stopping back.

I decided to send an email.  It’s amazing how a single message can change your course.  I inquired about their openings for their Spring term, never expecting them to say yes.

A week and a half later, here I am, L’Abri confirmation letter in one hand and a one-way ticket to Europe in the other.  I’ll be crossing the pond a few days before my program begins to give myself time to recover from jet lag and wander the streets of London, my favorite city in the world.  I’m going to buy my return ticket later, as I hope to do some traveling when my program is done.  I’ve got a friend studying abroad in Berlin that I might visit and I don’t want to pass by an opportunity to visit my Austrian friends.

It’s hard to believe that this is my life.

There is so much to accomplish in the next month and a half, but for the first time in ages, I have direction.  It’s a scary step, uprooting myself and moving across the globe all on my own.  But it feels right. I’m torn between terror and wild excitement and couldn’t be more content.

I’ll end this with a fitting quote from my hero, J.K. Rowling.  

On blogging and change

It’s time for a haphazard conversation about blogging, life, and change.  I’m not feeling particularly eloquent at the moment, but that’s no reason to not talk with you all.

You know that posting schedule I made at the beginning of the summer?  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I haven’t followed it for the past month.  My promised features have completely fallen flat.  Every once in a while, I put out a book review.  But those Thursday posts about my job at an apple orchard?  Those were abandoned by the wayside and I never looked back.

To be fair, I’ve started drafting a couple of book reviews that will hopefully keep me consistent over the next few weeks.  I’ve also been painting a lot lately, which means a new Sketchbook Corner is coming!  Keep an eye out for those over the coming weeks!

You may also remember that, a couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I signed up for Blogging 201.  About that… half of the assignment emails remain unread in my inbox.  They just didn’t feel pertinent with my blogging goals.  (Which are relatively nonexistent, despite the fact that the first assignment was to set blogging goals.  But that’s beside the point.)

Still, I’m determined to take advantage of the Blogging University classes and have registered for the BRAND NEW Writing 101.  It starts next week and, from the looks of it, is aimed at helping with posting consistently.  I’m excited to start getting the assignments and engaging more in the WordPress community.  (Which I’ve been pretty dismal at lately.)

I have, however, been tweaking my site’s theme.  I’ve rearranged the widgets–check out the footer at the bottom of the page for some site navigational tools and a glimpse into my Goodreads page.  I also designed a new header, which I’m kind of in love with.  It conveys what I hope this blog is/will become much better than the old one.  It’s easy on the eyes, simple, and hints of possibilities and adventure.

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On a personal note, I’ve started seriously thinking about what adventure to pursue once my orchard job ends in December.  I’m not exactly sure what I want to do (does anyone?), but poking around job listings have started giving me ideas.  I had a conversation with my mom yesterday about a potential local opportunity that got me excited just thinking about.  I’ve also started fantasizing about furniture arrangements and having a kitchen of my own.  I take these as signs that, when the time comes to move out on my own, I’ll be more than ready.

So far, my post-grad life hasn’t been the daring adventure I hoped it would be.  But I’m definitely enjoying the fact that, in a few weeks, I won’t be going back to school for the first time in my life.  And, although my current job isn’t the most thrilling thing in the world, I actually enjoy it a great deal.  When the time comes to do something different, I’m excited to see what adventures crop up–small or big scale.

What changes are going on in your corner of the universe?  (This can be blog or life related.)

Remember the Prairie

It’s strange being a college graduate.  I’ve worked so hard for so long and it’s odd to think I won’t be going back to Morris in the fall.  Still, the school sure does know how to send us off.  The ceremony was everything a graduation should be and I loved soaking in every minute of it.

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Having the event outside in the heart of campus, surrounded by all our class buildings, felt incredibly intimate.  The mall was absolutely packed and, the whole time, it felt like the university was wrapping its arms around me–giving me a long, sweet farewell.  The speeches and performances were on-point, and although the band sounded a bit off-key, marching forward to “Pomp and Circumstance” still made me tear up.

Our student body president and my fellow classmate gave a traditional speech reliving all our shared experiences.  When she came to the end, though, she shied away from the cheesy/vague encouragement that normally infiltrates graduation speeches.  Instead, she told us one simple thing: Remember the prairie.

I adore this piece of advice because it’s something tangible.  She didn’t tell us to pursue our dreams, reach for the stars, follow our path, etc.  (It’s funny, ’cause I draw from the path metaphor for inspiration on this blog.)  She told us to look back at the place we came from and remember the way it shaped us.  It’s a call to never forget where we have come from.

Since the ceremony last Saturday, I’ve moved home and am now one of the stereotypical unemployed English majors living with their parents.  Mind you, this isn’t a permanent situation.  My job hunt is going to be a non-traditional one, but it is already underway.  In a few months, I’ll hopefully be on my way to setting out on my own.

To conclude this post… I came to the prairie four years ago to study what I’m passionate about.  I cannot express how thankful I am for all the people I’ve met, lessons learned, and memories made.  It’s been fun blogging my way through college.  Although it’s time to embark on the next adventure, I will always have a special place in my heart for Morris.  I will always remember the prairie.

Endings

Yesterday, college ended.  I took my last exam, met with my senior seminar professor about my performance, and dragged out my packing boxes.

As my four years in Morris draw to a close, I can’t help but reminisce about how far I’ve come.  If I could go back in time and tell pre-college Amelia who she would become, she would have laughed in my face.

Become a camp counselor?  Travel the world?  Become even more book-obsessed?  HA.  Very funny, future Amelia.

Typical Morris.
Typical Morris.

In many ways, college has surprised me.  I came in extremely ambitious–not exactly sure what I wanted to do, but eager to work hard and achieve material success.  Who’d have thought that attending a tiny and extremely liberal school on the prairie would end in being called to full-time ministry.

I distinctly remember move-in day freshman year.  The bundle of nerves constricting my stomach, numbly hugging my parents goodbye, blindly being hearded from event to event, a constant stream of faces and people.  I remember calling home on day two of classes, sobbing to my mom that I couldn’t do it.  Months of homesickness, of unhappiness, of adjustment.

It took time for me to find my bearings here.  It took ages to find my true friends.

Once I found my place, I’d like to say that things were wonderful from there.  That life was easy.  That I plugged through four years of reading lists, essays, finals, and meetings with happy bliss, surrounded by a wonderful group of friends.  To an extent, those things are all true.  I certainly did all those things and I will forever be thankful for all the wonderful people I’ve met at Morris.

Academics aside, college is HARD.  There’s never been a year that hasn’t been a struggle in some way.  I spent three out of my four years in some kind of isolation–be it physical, spiritual, emotional, etc.  Sophomore year was my favorite–I had a spectacular roommate, loved my classes, had my best friends by my side, and got to be in leadership for our local campus ministry.  But even then, things were never fully sunshine.

But then again–that’s life.  It’s never going to be all you want it to be.

Some people always say that high school is the best time of your life.  Others claim that your college years take the cake.  Honestly, I hope both camps are wrong.  I’ve loved college, but I’m not going to let myself cling to these days when I know there are better ones to come.

I wouldn’t trade my college experience for anything.  I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve grown a lot.  I’ve made memories that I will always cherish.  I got to study literature, language, and art.  I travelled the world and lived out my dreams.  I discovered that there is so much more to me than I ever thought possible.  I’m incredibly proud of how much I’ve accomplished.

I came to Morris to study what I’m passionate about and it was wonderful.  Now it’s time to chase the next passion.  I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now, but I’m excited to see where my path leads.

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Changes

 

I’m the new resident of Spooner 315.

Things have been changing around here.  These past few days have been an absolute whirlwind.  It’s been physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting and I’m still reeling from how quickly everything has happened.

The facts and reasons behind my sudden move across campus really aren’t important.  What IS important thing is that, from here on out, things are looking up.  It’s been weird picking up my life in the middle of the semester and starting afresh in a super single, especially since I’ve been out of the dorms since freshman year.  It’s definitely an adjustment.  But it’s a good adjustment.

I’m hoping life calms down from here.  Yes, I’m still overwhelmed with homework.  But I’m going to find a new routine, a new normal, and look forward to finishing strong.

Also, isn’t my new view great?

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