Weekend Coffee Share: Rainy Days

If we were having coffee, we’d be huddled indoors with our noses pressed against the windows, which are rain splattered.  I’d be drinking a strong cup of tea. What would you be drinking?

It’s our first rainy day in a long time and I’m grateful.  We’ve been battling near-drought conditions on my family’s farm, which has been stressful.  Irrigating eats up time we need to spend doing other work.  We have needed a solid soaking for weeks and it’s finally here!  So far, we have gotten over an inch and a half and I expect more will boil up this evening. Continue reading

Weekend Coffee Share: It’s Not All Rainbows and Sunshine

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that it hasn’t been the best of weeks.  Nothing horrible has happened… things could definitely be worse.  But they certainly could be better.

If we were having coffee, you would know that two out of the past five days have been rainy.  I love, love, love rainy days… there are few better things than curling up in a lumpy sweater and reading a good book.  When you work on a farm, though, rain gets in the way.  We were sent home early twice this week because it was simply too wet to do any of the field work that badly needs to get done. Although the extra free time gave me the chance to catch up on much needed around-the-house tasks, I need the pay. Continue reading

Reverse Culture Shock & Moving Forward

Everyone always says that the hardest part about going abroad is coming home.

Slowly, I’ve been getting used to being back in America.  At first, it was WEIRD.  It’s the little things about your own culture that are the oddest, the things you only notice when you’ve been away for a long time.  Used to everyone speaking different languages and a wide variety of accents, I found myself wondering why everyone sounded the same.  American accents are so bland!  Also, accustomed to the reserve of most Europeans, I found the open friendliness of Americans strange.  “Why are all of these people being so nice?” I wondered.  “I don’t even know them!” Continue reading

The Final Stretch

After being on the road for a month, living out of a suitcase and staying in hostels, the thought of going home is strange.
It’s bliss to imagine all the comforts of home: Understanding the language, sleeping in the same bed for more than a few nights, not having strangers coming in and out at odd hours while I sleep, actually eating regular meals… The list goes on. Continue reading

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.

Gondolas & North Shore Connections

The North Shore of Minnesota is a feast for the spirit.  When I look out on the thick pine forests, rugged cliffs, and never ending water, all is well within me.  In a way, the beauty reminds me of who I am.

When I published my post “Thoughts From a Cold Boulder” last month, I thought that was my last time I’d get to see the place that is so dear to me.  Thankfully, I have a mom with connections.  She’s a lobbyist by trade and she represents several communities around the state.  Her job is to use the legislative process to get money to help benefit the well being of her clients.  Often times, this involves boosting tourism.

One of Mom’s biggest clients is Lutsen Mountains, the largest ski hill in the state.  Because of her connections, we were able to take a free two-day ski trip during my Spring Break last March.  Which was AWESOME.

Over the past year, Lutsen has put a lot of money into installing a new gondola.  This investment will (hopefully) bring in more people.  As the largest business in the county, this benefits the entire community.

Yesterday morning, there was a big opening ceremony for the event.  Mom decided to attend and, like the little mooch that I am, I tagged along.

We arrived Thursday night.  Mom was invited to dinner with the owners and the local senator (who is also the Senate Minority Leader and the third most powerful politician in the state).  I ate separately and enjoyed a relaxing evening watching Sleepless in Seattle in our room while she rubbed shoulders with the powerful, influential people of Cook County.

My original goal for tagging along was to go skiing.  I mean, what’s the point of going to the largest ski hill in Minnesota without hitting the slopes?  Sadly, due to an unnaturally warm December, most of Lutsen’s runs were closed.  They were making snow like crazy to be fully open by the weekend… but not in time for us.  No skiing for me.  😦

When the time for the ceremony came yesterday morning, Mom and I made our way to the shiny new gondola platform.  We were stopped and informed that it didn’t open for the general public for half an hour.  Mom quirked her head and goes, “Did Charles and Tom go up already?  We’re with them?”  That’s my mom–name dropping like a pro.

The ride from the platform to top of Moose Mountain was stunning.  They’ve been hard at work making snow and the trees were all coated in a thick layer of white.  The gondola cars have wide windows and we could see for miles and miles.  We were riding through the sky above the winter wonderland all the Christmas songs talk about.

The ceremony itself went very well.  Speeches were made, the ribbon was cut, and everyone moved inside to the chalet for coffee and cookies.  I met Lutsen’s owner and his wife invited us to come up and ski with them.  (Too bad I’m leaving the country in a few weeks…)  I met the important senator.  His wife, Laura, was VERY sweet and spent a long time talking with me.  I also met many of my mom’s Grand Marais work contacts–various business owners and such.

I’ve been attending these kind of events–press releases, grand openings, legislative hearings, etc.–since I was a kid.  I’ve learned to be a fly on the wall, following two steps behind Mom while she talks and makes connections.  I speak if spoken to, but usually stay pretty quiet.

After everything was done, we rode the gondola back down the mountain and headed to Grand Marais for lunch.  We had soup at the town’s coffee shop, then stopped by the home of one of Mom’s friends.  He’s the director of the Cook County Chamber of Commerce and his wife is from England!  We stayed for a long time.  The adults talked while I made friends with one of their huskies–a retired sled dog from Scotland.

It was a long four-hours home, but the drive along Lake Superior was beautiful as always.  We went to Gooseberry Falls State Park to see if the waterfalls were still running (they were!) and made a stop in Duluth for coffee.

I love the North Shore.  When I visit, I’m reminded of who I am.  It’s almost like coming home.  From a young age, the beauty has put roots in my heart and become part of me.  I’m thankful to have had so many opportunities to visit throughout my life.  I don’t know when I’ll be back, which makes me really sad.  But no matter where I go, no matter how much life changes, it’s always there waiting to remind me of where I’m from.

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.

 

10 Things I Like About Living With My Parents (Writing 101, Day 2)

At the moment, I’m living out the stereotype of the college graduate who moves back in with their parents.  It’s a temporary situation.  I’ve got a job at my family’s apple orchard through November and when that is over, I will find something else.

Living under the roof of my mom and dad has its challenges, but for the most part, it’s pretty rad.  Let me tell you why.

1)  I get to sleep in my childhood bedroom.

My childhood bedroom is awesome. Please excuse the mess. 

2)  Our family’s resident indoor cat, Paco, is available for daily snuggles.

3)  All my books are here

It was torture deciding which books came to college with me.  Studying abroad was even worse because my personal library was abandoned completely in favor of a more travel-friendly Kindle.  Now that my books and I are residing under the same roof, we’re always together.  Even though I can only read one or two or three at a time, it’s comforting, having them near.

4) There are lots of cozy couches and armchairs to read in

Living on my own, I had to go to the library for comfy reading chairs.  Now they’re accessible 24/7!

5)  Most of my meals are homemade and unpaid for

I’m not the world’s worst cook, but I’m also not as good as my mom.

6)  I don’t have to pay rent

Which means that all my income goes towards paying off my student loans!

7) Work is a minute away, so no commute

8) There’s a TV here so I can actually watch movies on something other than my small computer screen

My mom recently purchased all five seasons of Downton Abbey.  I feel a marathon coming on…

9) My parents watch the news daily, so it’s easy to stay on top of current events.

Staying on top of what’s going on in the world is hard.  There is always so much going on from the local to global scale that, if you don’t actively pursue information on, you’re left behind.  Slowly, I’m developing a newspaper reading habit, which makes me feel more on top of things.

10)  I love my home.

Home has always been a special, sacred place.  In high school, staying in on a Friday night while everyone else was out was never irksome.  In college, home was a refuge where I could escape the stress of my classes.  My parents and I have always had great, healthy relationships.  I have loved spending extended quality time with my family over the past few months.

As I said before, I don’t want to live here forever.  The desire to spread my wings is budding.  But this season is special.  Life isn’t always going to be like this.  I’m growing up and things are changing.  Someday, I will look back and home as I now know it will be nothing more than a memory.  I am determined to soak it in and enjoy it while it lasts.

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

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.