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?

Time for some Real Talk.

Hey there.  Amelia here.

At the camp I used to work at, Real Talk is what we call deep, heart-to-heart conversations about things that matter.  This post has been churning around in my head for a long time.  The words have finally formed into coherent sentences.  So let’s just dive on in.

I seem to be in a bit of a slump.  The dog days of summer render me lazy, unproductive, and a bit disheartened.  I’ve lost touch with so many things–my faith, my goals, and even my blog.  I find myself going for days without opening my computer to avoid facing the inevitability of adulthood.

These days, I spend a great deal of time in my head.  My job entails endless hours of field labor, so when I’m not marathoning the Harry Potter series via audiobook (for the tenth time), I find myself asking questions.  Mainly…

What next?

Where?

When?

You see, during the past year, I finally figured out what I want to do with my life.  I feel called to pursue a life of Christian ministry in Europe.  Although I didn’t attend a Christian school, I’ve got plenty of experience under my belt due to three summers working at a Bible camp and heavy involvement with campus ministry.  I spent a semester abroad in Europe a few years back and, ever since, feel a tugging in my heart to go back to serve.  My English degree has made me a good writer and grammarian, has given me a sharp analytical eye, and has shown me that most of the world’s problems can be solved through learning to see things through the eyes of others.  (Or, as Atticus Finch says, walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.)

But I’m still left with questions.

What next?

Where?

When?

Doing ministry in Europe can mean a LOT of things.  Really, it could mean anything.  Teaching.  Translating.  Secretary work.  Counseling.  I’d add more to the list, but the possibilities are so endless that I don’t even know what to write.  Poking around the internet for potential jobs only makes me more frustrated.

I don’t know where to look, but I feel it.  I feel the call to go.  And it’s maddening not knowing where I’ll be going.

What irks me most about the whole situation is that I’m afraid of looking like a failure.  I’m afraid people will look at me and see the stereotypical college grad who lives at home and isn’t going anywhere.  When people ask me what I plan on doing with my life now that school is over, I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can be honest with them.  I say, “I want to do ministry in Europe.  What that means and where that will be, I don’t yet know.”  But the responses… I hate the responses.  Most people are polite.  They smile, nod, and wish me the best.  But behind their smiles, I can see the doubt.  “Good luck with that,” their eyes seem to say condescendingly.  “That’s the type of thing people dream about, but never actually do.  You’re not going anywhere.”  It’s downright disheartening.

I’m definitely in a slump… But I’m trying.

I have a job.  Yes, it’s working for my parents.  Yes, it’s below my education level.  But work is work and every bit counts in the face of student loans.

I read.  In addition to marathoning Harry Potter on audiobook, pounding through a 700 page long fantasy novel on my Kindle, and slowly creeping through the copy of The Silmarilion I received for Christmas, I’m currently reading the book Get Wise by Bobb Merrit, pastor of the church I attend with my family.  Based on the book of Proverbs in the Bible, Merrit discusses how to make wise choices.  When I finish, I plan on picking up The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now by Meg Jay.  My older brother read it when he graduated college and gifted me a copy for Christmas.  Talk about relevant books for a season of transition!

I blog.  In fact, to get me out of the WordPress aspect of my current slump, I signed up for Blogging 201 to help give me tasks to work on.  At this point, any kind of goal feels like a valuable one.

I do other things–I pray a lot.  I spend time with family and friends.  I recently saw one of my favorite bands (Rend Collective) live and have tickets to another concert (Brandi Carlile and Iron & Wine) in a few weeks.  I saw an outdoor, in-the-park production of Hamlet the other day.  I go to movies.  I make art.  I try to get enough sleep each night.

My biggest step in the Europe plan has been registering for Urbana, one of the largest Christian student missions conferences in the world.  Taking place every three years in St. Louis, Missouri, it’s a gathering of over 16,000 young people who are interested in missions.  It’s a five-day event spanning from Christmas to New Years, filled with speakers, seminars, worship, and fellowship.  Hundreds of missions organizations come and set up tables.  For a girl interested in dedicating her life to missions in Europe, it’s the perfect place to go.

The problem is… Urbana is in December.  It is currently July.  Which means… I’m stuck where I’m at for five months.  I don’t want to get a full-time real-adult job if I’m going to be gone for such a big period of time.  Plus, I don’t want to lay down too deep of roots.  This means getting my own place, buying a car, etc. are out of the question.  You see, when the opportunity comes to go, I want to be as free as possible.

So I’m living at home.  I’m guaranteed a job through November.  I read, I blog, I pray, I do things.  I wait.  I wonder.  I spend time in my head.

Despite everything, I know that I’ll get there.  If missions in Europe is something I’m called to do and I’m willing to go, there is no way God won’t provide the chance.  But being in the slump, the in-between, the transition is absolutely maddening.

So there you go.  That’s what’s going on in my life at the moment.  Thanks for listening.

Next stop, Blogging 201.

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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Sketchbook Corner: End-of-College Edition

When I was ten, I decided that I would teach myself to draw.  Eleven years later, I’m still pushing myself to get better with my pencils.  At the beginning of this school year, I decided that I would teach myself to paint.  I’ve never been particularly good with the medium.  They’ve always felt like foreign territory.  I’ve never known what to do with all the colors.  But I’ve stuck to my goal and this post is a testament to how far I’ve come.

Because finals have been fairly low-key for me this semester, I’ve taken to my painting with a vengeance.  Lots of nights have been spent working and plowing through Game of Thrones.  (I’ve watched a season and a half in less than a week.  Yay college.)

First, I’ve been experimenting with variations of water and trees.  This image has been in my mind for a LONG time.  While driving home from the North Shore over Spring Break, I remember looking out on Lake Superior.  The lake was pure gold, reflecting the sunlight, and was framed by an assortment of purple-looking birch trees.  The gorgeous image stuck with me.

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My other paintings have been primarily of people.  As you can see, I’ve been really interested in pretty women in flowing dresses–particularly those of ancient Greek/Roman style.  Be sure to click on all the images in the gallery to see my comments on each of them.  Aside from the first, I used stock images as references for these from the wonderful Faestock on Deviantart.

This final painting found its origins in a sketch from my Shakespeare class.  We were discussing A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the time and I found myself drawing fairies all over my notes.  Although I actually picture her a lot differently, here is my exploration of Titania.  She’s not quite finished–I want to revisit the background and give it more depth.  But I’m rather pleased!

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Now I’d like to know… which is your favorite and why?

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.

To Bobby

Why is the measure of love loss?

The opening lines of Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body have been ringing in my head.  They don’t particularly fit the situation at hand, but still they persist.  I walk across the sunlit campus, under the apple blossoms, across the grassy mall, and the words continue to resonate.

Why is the measure of love loss?

A boy from my neighborhood died this weekend.  He had been out drinking with friends and simply disappeared.  His body was found yesterday in a river.

He was in the grade below me.  His family has a farm a mile from my own.  I graduated with his sister.  My little brother played baseball with his little brother.  My best friend’s family is close with his–they call each other brother and sister.

I didn’t know him well.  In fact, I barely knew him at all.  But twenty year old kids aren’t supposed to die.

Just last week, his sister posted a photo on Instagram of him in front of a poster.  It was captioned: “Pretty proud of my brother today!!  He developed an ice cream at UWRF for part of the URSCA that substitutes cream with dried buttermilk!  Make sure you save me some!  #proudsister

That was five days ago.  Now he’s gone.

I can’t help but think–what if it was MY little brother?  What if it was me?

This is the time of year when everything is growing and the sun is shining and the future is ours to grasp.

It’s not supposed to end in mourning.

Four Years of English Classes: Best and Worst Reads

Being an English Major, I’ve done a LOT of reading over the past four years.  From novels to plays to poetry, it’s been wonderful experiencing all the different texts.  There have been many works I’ve absolutely loved, and several that I couldn’t stand.

Although I’m looking forward to pleasure-reading for the rest of my life, I thought I’d take a moment to look back at the best and worst reads of my undergraduate career.  Below are my lists and in parenthesis are the classes I read them for.

Worst Reads:

  • Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown (Survey of American Lit I)
  • The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right (Courtly Love)
  • The Waves by Virginia Woolf (Woolf Lit)
  • The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (Victorian Lit)
  • The Art of Courtly Love by Andreas Cappellanus (Courtly Love)
  • The Romance of the Rose (Courtly Love)
  • Antony & Cleopatra by William Shakespeare (Shakespeare)
  • Moses, Man of the Mountain by Zora Neale Hurston (Senior Seminar)

Fun Fact: I hated Wieland so much that I literally threw it at a wall.  That book brought forth so much rage in my sophomore heart.

Best:

  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (Survey of Brit Lit II, Woolf Lit)
  • Dracula by Brahm Stoker (Victorian Lit)
  • Coming Up for Air by George Orwell (Unhomely Homes)
  • The Faerie Queene (Book I) by Sir Edmund Spenser (Survey of Brit Lit I)
  • The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff (Senior Seminar)
  • Idyls of the King by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (Courtly Love)

These are texts I would recommend in a heartbeat–they left a deep impact in my heart and I know I will revisit them in the future.

Now that I’m done with literature classes, I’m really excited to start tackling classics for fun again.  Bleak House has been on the back-burner for FAR too long.

Almost there

Present my senior seminar?  CHECK

Attend my last class ever?  CHECK

All that’s left is to finish two papers, take an easy final, and I’m done with college!

I know that over the next week I’m going to go through a slew of emotions ranging from excitement to sadness to joy to terror and so on.  (Britta articulates the roller coaster particularly well, so check that out.)  For the moment, though, all I feel is relief.  It’s been an exhausting semester and the end is in sight.

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This is my post-senior seminar face. Can you sense my joy?

This post isn’t very substantial, but stay tuned!  Once all my papers are done, I’ve got a week with little to no obligations.  I’ve got a list of posts I want to write and will hopefully get to them.  I’m looking forward to getting back into blogging regularly.  I’ve missed this!

Senior Sem Eve

Tomorrow is senior sem day.

I’ll put on a fancy outfit, stand in front of my peers, and present the work I’ve spent the entire semester crafting.  It’s been a long haul–weekends in the library, getting more interlibrary loans than I know what to do with, hours tucked away in the cozy corners of campus reading.

It’s all been building up to this moment.  And, tomorrow, it will all be over.  (Well.  Not entirely.  My paper isn’t due until Monday and it still needs polishing.)

For the most part, I feel great.  I’ve been pushing myself hard and the work is definitely paying off.  My points are all gathered, the words are there, all that is left is the delivery.  I am ready.

Despite overall feelings of confidence, last night I kept having weird dreams.  I’d be standing in front of all my professors and classmates, about to begin my presentation, and something would go wrong.  In the first dream, I looked down at my script and found that I had accidentally printed it on transparent overhead sheets.  The words blended together on the see-through background and I couldn’t present.  In the second, I was on a desert island that had something to do with Egypt.  I had to sit through all my classmates’ presentations and then, right when I was about to go, one of my professors got up and decided that it was time to present HIS work.  So I was shoved to the side and forced to find my way home.  Things got weird from there.  I remember standing on the beach trying to find a boat and this little girl came up to me.  She wanted my shoes.  But then, I looked down, and found I was barefoot.  My shoes were also lost.  Then, a random lady came up to me, grabbed me by the arm, and started speaking to me vigorously in Spanish.  I did the best I could with the little of the language I remember from high school, but it kept getting it mixed up with French.  It was strange, to say the least.

It’s amazing how the subconscious latches to big events in our lives, even when we feel prepared for them.

Still.  Today is dedicated to practicing and tomorrow, my senior seminar will be almost over.  I’ll march proudly forth from the Humanities Lounge, get myself a treat from Higbees, and soak in the last classes of my education career.  And it will be WONDERFUL.

P.S. I creeped on one of my classmates in the library this afternoon and learned that they haven’t even started their presentation.  Which makes me feel even more confident!