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.

IMG_4674

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.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

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!