The Last Full Day

Tomorrow, I’m getting on a flight to England.

In many ways, preparing for a journey is simple.  Make a list of all the things that need to be done, line up the details, and cross them off one by one.  Pack my bags, print out flight details, and marathon the final season Downton Abbey.  (I can’t go to the UK without knowing how it ends!)

However, there are things you can’t put on a list and cross off… like emotions.

In many ways, I’m really excited to finally be on my way.  For months, I’ve been dreaming, waiting, and hoping for this journey.  It boggles my mind to think that, one week from now, I will be at L’Abri living a completely different life.

But… excitement isn’t all I’m feeling.

I’m also nervous.  Nervous about travel plans, nervous about logistics, nervous about details.  In my head, I know everything will be just fine.  The last time I flew overseas, I missed my flight and they lost my luggage, causing me to hyperventilate in the middle of the Air Canada Customer Service line.  Even if the worst happens, I know I can handle it.  But that doesn’t stop the fluttering in my stomach.

More than anything, I’m sad.  I love my family and home so much.  I’ve loved living here for the past nine months.  I’ve cherished every moment.  There are a thousand of things I’m going to miss: family dinners, sleeping in my own bed, cuddling with my cats, going for walks in the orchard…  As thrilling as change is, it’s also really hard.  Whether I come home in four months as planned or in a year, things will never go back to the way they are now.  This time at home has been, in many ways, a return to childhood.  But I’m twenty three.  I can’t be a child forever.  It’s time to grow up and move on.

I’m thirsty for adventure, but adventure comes at a cost.  Striking out solo, getting on an airplane for the other side of the world, chasing the horizon is thrilling.  But it comes with the pain of being separated from people and places I deeply love.

Ultimately, I need to go.  I feel it deep within my very being.  If I don’t take this chance, I’ll always wonder.

I’ll end this post with a quote from the book Love Does by Bob Goff.

“Every day God invites us on the same kind of adventure. It’s not a trip where He sends us a rigid itinerary, He simply invites us. God asks what it is He’s made us to love, what it is that captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribable need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made. And then, leaning over us, He whispers, ‘Let’s go do that together.'”

This trip is me responding to this invitation.  Whatever happens from here will be bigger and more beautiful than anything I can imagine.

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.

 

November in Review

Because I was a bad blogger and skipped out on October… here is my November Month in Review!

Month in Review blog heading

I. Blogging

November has been a good month.  Although I haven’t been writing like a maniac like my NaNoWriMo and NaNoBloPoMo friends, I definitely have been hanging out with my words.  The past few weeks have been filled with meaningful posts that I’m really proud of.  Be sure to read my comparison between apple farming and writing, my frustration at American responses to the refugee crisis, and musings from the shore of Lake Superior.  I also posted a poem that’s been sitting in my archives for over two years.  Be sure to check it out and let me know if I should put on my poet hat more often.

Looking ahead, I have an exciting December planned!  I hope to start posting book reviews again.  I also have a fun holiday-themed series coming up that I am going to need your help for!  Stay tuned for more details.

II. Books

This month, I was a literary fiend, tearing through books at an alarming rate.  I keep track of how many books I read each year on Goodreads.  In the past week, my count has exceeded 100–a personal record!

I’ve spent a LOT of time over the past two weeks binge-reading fluffy YA novels.  Rainbow Rowell is SO GOOD.  Marissa Meyer’s conclusion to her Lunar Chronicles series was incredibly satisfying (review coming soon!).  And, despite my love/hate relationship with Stephanie Perkins, I managed to eat up one of her novels in less than 24 hours.  (Oh, the beauty of Thanksgiving Break.)

Here’s a list of some of my reads:

  • Symphony of Ages trilogy by Elizabeth Haydon
  • Fangirl/Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • Seven Words of Power by James Maxwell
  • Winter by Marissa Meyer
  • Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
  • Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
  • Forgotten God by Francis Chan
  • Yes Please by Amy Pohler

III. Life

November was filled with unexpected twists and turns.

Things at work went from awful to not-so-bad.  Of course, once I finally get a firm grip on the job, it’s time to hand it off to someone else.  We managed to find a stellar candidate for the Executive Director position.  The hiring decision isn’t official yet, but will be in a week or so.  This means that my brief stint into Chamber of Commerce life is nearly over.  No tears are being shed over this.

Orchard season also came to a close.  We’ve been going strong since August, but finally reached the end.  It was a season for the record books–biggest crowds, biggest crops, biggest sales.  It was an exhausting, rewarding ride and I am happy to be done.  I do miss the physical work.  Hauling around 40 lb crates of fruit helped me stay in shape and I liked the monotony.  Still, having actual weekends is an absolute dream!

This month, I celebrated my twenty third birthday by enjoying a shopping spree with my mom at the Mall of America.  I spent WAY too much money, but have worn my purchases (a sweater, new pants, some scarves) enough times to make it more than worthwhile.

I hung out with friends quite a bit.  My high school buddies and I had a movie night, where they introduced me to The Sandlot.  Now whenever my mom exasperates me, I can knowingly retort, “You’re killin’ me, Smalls!”  My friend, Kassandra, and I had a delightful brunch at a cafe in St. Paul a few weeks back and I was reunited with my long-time friend, Holly, who made the trip from Washington D.C. to spend Thanksgiving with her family.  My study abroad friend, Maddie, came up from her now-home Minneapolis and we spent a memorable afternoon closing up the orchard, wandering around Taylors Falls, and discussing music, politics, and spirituality.

I managed to escape home for a night by accompanying my mom and brother to Duluth, where they had work meetings.  While there, I had some quality me-time strolling along the lakeshore.  That afternoon, we went to a press conference and I got to shake hands with a U.S. Congressman, which was pretty cool.

Finally, the most unexpected thing of all happened in the form of an opening to live and study at a ministry in England.  If you had told me a month ago that I’d be returning to the U.K., I would have laughed in your face.  It’s amazing what a few short weeks can do!  I’m not really sure what to expect from this adventure, but I’m having a lot of fun dreaming about it.  Who knows if I’ll ever come home?

That wraps up my Month in Review!  As always, thanks for reading.

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.  

To Love London

There are days when I long for London.

I grew up (and attended college) in the country, but man… London has wedged its way into my heart.  When I left, its loss was searing.  I couldn’t go a day without longing to be back.  The longer I’ve been away, though, the more life conceals my love of England’s capital.  It’s like a piece of gold buried in my heart that is buried more every day.  Out of sight, out of mind–as they say.

But then, suddenly, it all comes back.

I remember the feel of my feet on the pavement.  The splatter of rain on my umbrella.  The sound of people of every age and color jostling for a place to stand on the Tube.  The twitters of excitement as the curtain draws at the start of a West End show.  The laughter of kids on field trips in art galleries.  Dogs barking in Hyde Park.  Red double-decker busses lumbering through the city.  Eager shoppers flocking on Oxford Street.  The warm laughter coming from pubs.  The musty scent of books haphazardly stacked floor to ceiling in the stores on Charing Cross Road.  The clang of Big Ben.  The elegant statues of Whitehall.

As the memories flood back, I’m overcome with longing.

Virginia Woolf states it best in Mrs. Dalloway:

“One feels even in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense before Big Ben strikes. There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. Such fools we are, she thought, crossing Victoria Street. For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; can’t be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason: they love life. In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment in June.”

To love London is to love life.

Will I ever be back?

What do these things have in common?

Here’s a question for you.

What do Ryan from the office

http://lifeintheoffice.com/wp-content/images/characters/Ryan.png

Maps of England

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My older brother

and Beowulf have in common?

http://gentlyhewstone.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/beowulf1.jpg

They all showed up in my dream last night.  You know your English major is getting to you when you recite Old English to fictional characters and family while unconscious.

On the Shelf

I come bearing another edition of On the Shelf, a feature where I talk about the books I’m currently reading or have recently finished.

Let’s start with academics.

Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

This Victorian bestseller, along with Braddon’s other famous novel, Aurora Floyd, established her as the main rival of the master of the sensational novel, Wilkie Collins. A protest against the passive, insipid 19th-century heroine, Lady Audley was described by one critic of the time as “high-strung, full of passion, purpose, and movement.” Her crime (the secret of the title) is shown to threaten the apparently respectable middle-class world of Victorian England. (summary via Goodreads)

We finished discussing Braddon’s popular novel in my Victorian Lit class this week.  The story is thrilling, filled with masked identities, bigamy, and hidden crime.  It’s a fast-paced story for its time and has some fantastic characters–the energetic Alicia, passionate Clara, and lazy Robert.  The title character is a gorgeous mastermind who will stop at nothing in her pursuit of a better life.  Braddon presents a complex argument regarding law, crime, and gender.  Is it a feminist novel?  It easily could be.  You’ll have to read it for yourself to find out!

The one downside of this novel is that Braddon isn’t particularly skilled at writing prose.  She tends to use the same words over and over again, which gets dull.  However, my favorite sentence in the book is probably this one:

The windows winked and the flight of stone steps glared in the sunlight, the prim garden walks were so freshly gravelled that they gave a sandy, gingery aspect to the place, reminding one unpleasantly of read hair.

Sorry, redheads.  Braddon doesn’t seem to like you very much.

The Evermen Saga by James Maxwell

Remember the other day when I gushed about the pain of a wonderful first read?  I was talking about this series.  (The cover is pretty awful, isn’t it?  I’m thankful I read the books on my Kindle to avoid staring at the photoshopped monstrosity.)

In my last installment of this feature, I was in the middle of the first novel of the series.  This past week, I finished the fourth. You’re probably thinking, “Woah, Amelia.  You’re in your senior year of college and managed to finish four 500 page fantasy novels within a few short weeks?  Are you insane?”

Answer: Kind of.

I’d label it weakness, not insanity.  When I enter a well-crafted world and become attached to its inhabitants, there’s no stopping me.  I become a rabid book breather and do not stop until I hit the end.

The thing about Maxwell’s series is that, like many fantasy novels, they aren’t literary.  The characters aren’t super original and there are gaping plot holes.  Too many convenient things happen for it to be completely believable.  But the series is FUN!  As far as pleasure reads go, it’s top-notch.  The world was so compelling that all its faults are forgotten.  I ‘d go so far as saying I adore the book’s universe.  The Tingarian Empire is diverse, historic, and well-planned.  The magic in the series, based on runic lore fueled by a deadly magical liquid called essence, is compelling and fantastic.

What I loved about the series is that there is never a dull moment.  The pacing is quick, bringing us from one battle to the next.  Yes, the characters aren’t super original, but they won my heart.  I found myself rooting for them as they faced incredible odds.  Each book was more dynamic than the next, and the finale in the fourth book was splendid.

A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon

In this epic new work, the award-winning Kenyon creates an alternate 19th century with two warring continents on an alternate earth: the scientific Anglica (England) and magical Bharata (India). Emboldened by her grandfather’s final whispered secret of a magical lotus, Tori Harding, a young Victorian woman and aspiring botanist, must journey to Bharata, with its magics, intrigues and ghosts, to claim her fate. There she will face a choice between two suitors and two irreconcilable realms.

In a magic-infused world of silver tigers, demon birds and enduring gods, as a great native mutiny sweeps up the continent, Tori will find the thing she most desires, less perfect than she had hoped and stranger than she could have dreamed.  (Summary via Goodreads)

I found this book via Kindle’s Daily Deal option.  It’s my gym read and, so far, has succeeded in taking my mind of the pain of the elliptical machine.  I’m not overly invested in the characters yet and still don’t know how I feel about the story.  But the world is intriguing.  I love the idea of an alternate Victorian period where England represents cold, hard science and India embodies magic and mystery.   I’m excited to see where it goes!

What’s next?

Starting this weekend, I’ll be delving into the massive Victorian chunker, The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope.  I’m also hoping to start The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler.

What have you been reading lately?

Anniversaries and adventures

Yesterday marked the anniversary of my departure for London, England.

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I can’t believe it’s been a year already.  It feels like yesterday that I stepped on that airplane.

The thing about adventures is that they change people.  It happens in books all the time.  In The Hobbit, Bilbo returned to the Shire a very different person who left.  No matter what he did, or how much time passed, he could not go back to the simple life he had before.

My adventure changed me.  I became aware of how much I can accomplish; confident in my ability to follow through; and incredibly independent.  I learned to see the world beyond my limited American perspective.  I learned to be globally minded, and gained a deep appreciation for people and cultures apart from my own.  I got to see amazing things–the Alps, Stonehenge, the Eiffel Tower, the Cliffs of Moher, the Scottish Highlands, to name a few.  I met wonderful friends that are still dear to my heart, people who understand parts of me that no one else can.  I experienced how dark this world is, but also gained appreciation for the light that does exist.

Like Bilbo, I returned home a different person.  And adjusting back into normal life was a challenge.  People who had been dear friends no longer knew how to relate to me, and I to them.  I tried, for a while, to make up for ground that I had lost while away, but eventually gave up.  Connections were lost, and I decided to move on.

Being an English major, my three and a half months abroad changed the way I read.  In my Victorian Literature class, not a day passes when my experiences fail to enhance my experience.  Just today, someone put a map of the city up while discussing a historical detail and my heart gave a tinge because I know those streets.

The other thing about adventure is that once you have a taste, it never lets go.  You’re hooked for life.  Already, I feel the desire to see lands unknown rising up in me.  I long for city streets to explore, train rides through countries that are new, and conversations with people from far away places.

Thank goodness I’ve only got one year of school left.  Because adventure is out there, and I am going to chase it.  Who knows where I’ll be a year from now?

Back to the books

Much to our chagrin, classes have resumed at UMM!

Before delving into academic talk… I got new glasses!  It was about time.  The old ones called my face home for almost four years and were falling apart.

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All right, enough selfies.  Now to business.

Here’s what I’ve got lined up this semester:

Intro to Public Speaking:  Although I have extensive experience in the area (four years on the Speech team, competing at the state tournament, and giving chapel talks all summer), my communication minor requires I take Public Speaking.  Thankfully, I enjoy the subject and it’s only for the first half of the semester!

Visual Journalism: Again, this is for my communication minor.  In this class, we will be learning about communicating messages visually.  The first half of the semester will be focused on still images and photography, the second through video.  I have little to no experience in media production, so this class should be enlightening and will give me some useful skills.

Grammar and Language: This is the ultimate English major class where our natural inclination to correct people’s grammar becomes refined and sharpened.  The first half of the course focuses on grammar–sentence diagramming and understanding not only how the English language is constructed, but how it changes.  The second focuses more on history.  We will be learning the complete history of our language, which includes giving recitations in Old, Middle, and Early Modern English.  Basically, come December, we will all be fully inducted members of the Grammar Police.

Victorian Literature and Culture: Ever since I set foot on this campus four years ago, I have been dying to take this class.  I don’t need it for any requirements, but am taking it purely for fun.  We will be reading a handful of novels from England’s Victorian period of literature and learning about the culture of the people.  This semester, the professor is teaching the course from the angle of criminology and punishment.  We’ll be looking at how the rapidly changing world that the Victorians inhabited shaped what crime is and how it was punished.

Most of these are upper-level courses, so they’ll be challenging, but definitely intellectually stimulating.  I can’t wait for all the things I get to learn!

 

Friday Favorites Innagural

I’ve been meaning to do a “Friday Favorites” section for AGES.  But life, like it always does, keeps preventing it from happening.  On a Thursday afternoon, I’ll remind myself to come up with something… only to forget.  Or, I’ll think of it on Monday… which is not very helpful.  Now, though.  Now I’m going to make it happen.

Without further ado, here are my Friday Favorites!

This drink:

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Photo from http://th05.deviantart.net/fs71/PRE/i/2012/200/f/f/peace_tea__by_ifollowrivers66-d57vzmb.jpg

For only 99¢, Peace tea is a worthwhile investment.  It’s basically what I survived on sophomore year.  (Dining dollars well spent?  I think, yes.)  I managed to wean myself off of them after a while, but still pick one up every once in a while when I’m out grocery shopping.  My favorite is the Razzleberry, but I recently discovered the blue Sno Berry flavor, which is also fabulous.

 

This book:

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I just finished reading Mrs. Dalloway for the second time this week.  It is a breathtaking portrait of a day in London after World War I.  Having spent time in the city, I felt like I was right there–standing in a crowd outside Buckingham Palace, cruising up the Strand atop a bus, crossing Victoria Street… “What a lark!  What a plunge!”  How Woolf manages to capture all the beauties and complexities of a single day astounds me.  I could ramble on and on about all the aspects of the book that I love, but I’ll let you discover those for yourself.  Still…  I could read this novel once a year for the rest of my life and still not fully comprehend all of its elements.

This city:

Bath, England.  They just don’t make cities like these in America.  The lovely Georgian architecture, stunning cathedrals, old bridges, and ancient Roman bath houses… it’s like walking backwards into history.  Because it’s a World Heritage site, it looks pretty much the same now as it did in the 1700’s.  Plus, Jane Austen lived here… which is pretty much fabulous.

This song:

I want to do is hop in my car with all my friends and sing at the top of my lungs.  It’s all I’ve been listening to for the past week.