2016: A Story in Three Parts

As another year comes to a close, it’s time to reflect.

By global standards, 2016 was pretty much a train wreck.  Personally, though, it was a beautiful journey that I will tell in three parts.

INTRODUCTION:

A year ago, I was an unemployed college graduate with no idea of what I wanted to do with myself.  You see, for the majority of my life, my intuition has been my guide.  Until this point, early every major life decision has been guided by instinct.  College?  My gut lead me to the right fit.  Major?  My heart found home in the English Department.  Work at camp in the summers?  It just felt right.

The future, however, holds infinite possibilities and the prospective paths had me absolutely paralyzed.  I had absolutely no idea of anything.  My intuition, the little tug that pulls me in the next direction, had failed.

So, at the beginning of 2016, I felt my heart tugging me back to Europe and, against all logic, I followed. Continue reading

The Days After the Election

I think it’s safe to say that, no matter where you lie on the political spectrum, this week has been crazy.

On the day after the presidential election, a progressive Christian magazine I enjoy put out a call for readers to share their stories.  Wednesday was pretty turbulent for me emotionally and putting things into words is usually helps me process things, so I took the time to write about how I felt.

Usually, I keep my head down on social media when it comes to divisive current events.  I try to keep away from politics and anything that will cause division, judgement, or criticism.  I broke that rule on Facebook a few times this fall in outrage over our now president-elect’s words about women.  In the days after the election, though, I found that there was just too much going on inside me and found the words pouring out.  If I were to put my piece in a category, I would call it a lament: an outpouring of emotion that captures the pain of a moment in time.

I submitted my piece and, to my surprise, Sojourners published it on their website.  Before you read this post any further, please take a moment to read the piece, which can be found here. Continue reading

Tis the Season: No Matter What Comes, Christmas is Still Christmas

Christmas Eve is usually my favorite day of the year, but we’re running a bit low on holiday cheer in my house.  Over the past few days, my family has been thrown one curveball after another–from our power going out to my grandpa ending up in the hospital.

Initially, I had something VERY different planned for today’s Tis the Season.  This wasn’t a post I expected, but it needed to be written.

I’ll start with Grandpa.  Early on Monday, he checked himself into the Emergency Room with pain in his abdomen.  He thought it was food poisoning.  It turned out to be much worse.  On Tuesday, he had emergency surgery.  Removing a gallbladder is usually a short procedure (or so I’ve been told), but Grandpa’s took hours.  The surgery didn’t go well at all–due to a poor diet, his gallbladder was completely dead.  Taking it out set off several complications.

The thing about Grandpa is that it’s very hard for him to give up control.  I love him very much, but he can be domineering at times.  He likes his independence.  When I visited him on Monday, he looked exhausted from the pain and irritable for not being able to do things on his own.  He doesn’t like to be a burden to others.  The fact that various extended family have driven hours to help care for him makes him feel guilty.  Of course, post-surgery, I don’t know how lucid he is.  Mom’s been there every day and says he looks awful.

Because of this, Christmas plans have been shuffled around quite a bit.  We haven’t watched our normal movies or made our holiday yum-yums.  Mom hasn’t even wrapped presents yet.

On to the power outage.  Yesterday brought a mix of rain, sleet, and snow, resulting in hazardous driving conditions.  As I headed home from work, I noticed a car in the ditch.  Its hood had been completely ripped off and little bits of mechanical parts littered the ditch.  It turns out, the car ran straight into an electrical pole, tearing the power line in several places.

So… no electricity, no running water, no wifi.

Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal.  However, my brother and I planned on catching up on holiday baking.  It’s hard to bake cookies without a working oven.  Also, I hadn’t eaten lunch and couldn’t open the refrigerator, lest I let all the cold out.

We solved the no-power problem by taking our supplies to Grandpa’s now-vacant house and using his kitchen under the supervision of our sassy Southern aunt.

Things aren’t all bad, though.  My family still made it to church last night and then went to see the new Star Wars.  The power is on again, so we’re able to watch Christmas movies and decorate all the cookies we baked.  We’re still having steak dinner, followed by opening gifts around the Christmas tree.

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns.  I often idealize the holiday season as a never-changing remnant of my childhood, but it’s so much more than that.  Traditions may fall by the wayside and plans may be changed last minute, but Christmas is still Christmas.  My family is still here and there are still a thousand reasons to be thankful.

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Tis the Season is an annual holiday-themed series on Keep Your Feet.  The goal is to bring the blogging community together to celebrate holiday memories and traditions.

Tis the Season Guest Post: “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”

Today’s Tis the Season post comes from another special guest!  Join me in welcoming Tori from Between the Notes as she shares about her family’s Christmas this year in light of financial challenges.  I really love her honesty and determination to enjoy the simplicity of Christmas.  Thank you so much, Tori, for contributing!


“Christmas will be a little smaller this year,” my mother said.

Still sleep deprived after my busiest week of the semester, I was home for Thanksgiving and my mother and I were in the car running errands. It was my last visit home as a college student. Since I had started college a few years earlier, my family had made sacrifices and cut back on expenses to ensure that my tuition was covered. By this point, I was accustomed to doing things on a smaller scale.

However, things are different for my family this year.

In 2015, we have had more expenses than usual, many of them unexpected. My grandfather’s health has been declining since the spring, and there have been bills for doctor’s visits, medication, and home care nurses. This summer, there were car problems that took several weeks and several hundred dollars to repair. Last month, our heat stopped working and our washing machine leaked all over the den – on the same day.

With an expensive year nearly behind us, we are quite literally having ourselves a merry “little” Christmas, and that’s okay.

Having a scaled-back Christmas means that we aren’t hosting any big events or buying lots of gifts. The few gifts we give will be inexpensive, or “little tokens,” as my grandmother calls them. In fact, our Christmas is so small this year that we still haven’t put up our tree, although that’s mainly because the den is still a mess. When we’ve finished wrapping our little tokens, they may have to go in a pile under my measly Charlie Brown Christmas tree, which may be the only tree that goes up this year.

All my life, I’ve heard that the holiday season isn’t about material things. It’s the time of year to celebrate the birth of Christ, give back, give thanks, and enjoy time with loved ones. This year, I’m fully experiencing what that means. I’m in a position in which I can’t focus on material things, which has allowed me to focus on the things that do matter. This is my first Christmas as a college graduate and I am thankful for God’s faithfulness and provision through that season of my life, which was not the easiest. I am cherishing the time with my family, especially my grandfather, because I don’t know how many more Christmases I’ll have with him. I have found joy in making things for friends and family, as most of the gifts I’m giving this year are homemade. I am also making an effort to help others and give to those in need. In turn, I’ve realized how much I don’t need. And though my mother’s words were initially hard to accept, I am so grateful for my family’s little Christmas.

So have yourself a merry little Christmas. My family and I will – even if we have to spend Christmas morning beside a Charlie Brown tree.

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Tis the Season is an annual holiday-themed series on Keep Your Feet.  The goal is to bring the blogging community together to celebrate holiday memories and traditions.

Twenty Three Years and Counting

Twenty three years ago, I entered the world.

I’m torn between feeling very old and very young.  On the one hand, I’m not a student anymore, which means adulthood is here to stay.  On the other, I frequently get mistaken for a high schooler when out in public.  Which is both annoying and flattering.

But hey, twenty three!  Two years past being able to legally drink, two years until I can rent a car.

My brothers were home the other night to celebrate.  We had family dinner, opened gifts, ate cake, and watched Inside Out.  I got a new sweater and scarf, two free passes to my local ski hill, and Howl’s Moving Castle on DVD.

As far as birthdays go, this year isn’t exactly dramatic or exciting.  I mean, last year there was a blizzard.  Two years ago, I was in England.  Today, I’ve got a board meeting and a long slog of office hours.  When work is done, Mom and I are heading to the cities to do something fun, which will keep me going through the bore of work .

I’m excited to not be twenty-two.  It was definitely a tough year, filled with rocky friendship moments, endings, and transitons.  I’m looking forward to a year that is bigger, brighter, and filled with possibilities.

Twenty three years and counting, here I come!

Adjustments

I’ve been reading a lot lately… as in I just read a fantasy trilogy that is 2,000+ pages in just over a week.  (Yes, I’m insane.)  It’s easy to get lost in a world that exists only in your head.  You just turn the page and turn the page and turn the page until… well, until there are no more pages.

Books have been very important to me as I’ve adjusted to my new job.  They’ve given me the chance to step out of my position and into someone else’s shoes.  You see, I’m so tired of feeling physical stress coursing through my body.  I’m tired of not knowing what my duties are because I’m only half trained and have no supervisor.  I’m tired of dreading Monday.  I’m tired of being pessimistic and crabby.  These things aren’t ME.

Adjusting to changes takes time.  I’m on my way, but not quite there yet.  Hey–at least I’m no longer bursting into tears over my breakfast cereal.

One of the best pieces of career advice I’ve ever received was from one of my professors while studying abroad.  She was a quirky little Irish lady with spring-like brown curls and I adored her class.  One day, while in her office getting help on a paper, she said: “It’s okay to not know what you want to do.  The important thing is finding out what you DON’T want to do and go from there.”  (For her, the number one thing to avoid were jobs that required hair nets.)

With this in mind, my new job is very illuminating.  In addition to all the professional skills I’m developing, I’m learning a lot about what I don’t want in a job.  I don’t want to be in an office alone–I need a job where other people are involved.  I don’t want to work in a Chamber of Commerce.  I don’t want to own a business.  I don’t want to do anything that involves finances.  I want a job where I report to a boss, receive proper training, and am given clear expectations.  I want a job with structure–with a checklist of tasks and responsibilities, with a set start and end time.

My mom is starting to ride me about figuring out what to do next.  Which doesn’t do much for my stress load.  I genuinely want to move on.  But I feel like I’m not free to do that until we find a new Executive Director… which could take some time.

So I lose myself in the pages of books.  I spend my evenings in someone else’s mind.  I breathe in, breathe out, and wait for the day I’m adjusted enough that I no longer need to escape.

I’ll get there someday.

Whimsy & Climbing Mountains

Some days, the future feels like a looming, messy mountain that I don’t know how to climb.  I’ve been in a period of transition for the past six months–suspended between one area of life and another.  There are so many roads, so many possibilities, and the constant pressure to know my route.  “What are you doing now that you’ve graduated college, Amelia?”  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  “When are you going to have things figured out?”  I do my best to push aside the uncertainties, but some days it just eats at me.

Today, though, the future feels whimsical.  I don’t know where life will lead me.  I’m not planning it out.  My strategy is to take things one step at a time, starting with this day.   If I can figure out the now, I can cross the next bridge when I come to it.

This evening, my mom and I had some quality Mother/Daughter time.  We went shopping, saw a movie in theaters, and had dinner at a restaurant.  It was so much fun to get away from work and just soak in life.  The drive home brought deep conversations about life, faith, and the future.  Our talk got the gears turning in my mind, which lead me to writing this post.

Recently, I came across the following quote:

“Whimsy doesn’t care if you are the driver or the passenger; all that matters is that you are on your way.” Bob Goff, Love Does

There are a lot of great things happening in my life right now.  Tomorrow, I attend a board meeting that will solidify my first big girl/real adult job.  It’s not a full-time position, nor is it permanent.  It’s a a door that has opened unexpectedly–I didn’t apply for it…  It just sort of happened. But it’s perfect opportunity to gain professional skills and get me from one place to the next.

The future is still there and it is still very much unknown.  But right now, the mountain doesn’t seem so daunting.  From where I’m standing, the mountain is beautiful and I’m starting to see the path.  I can’t wait to lace up my boots and start climbing.

There are so many things I’m unsure of.  But I know one thing: I’m on my way.

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I’m normally not a taker of selfies, but yesterday was so sunny and lovely I couldn’t help myself. (Also, it was a good hair day, which is rare.)

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.

Sketchbook Corner (Watercolor Edition)

Or shall I say… Watercolor Corner?

One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year was a set of new watercolors from my little brother.  For the past few months, I’ve been scraping by on an eight-tint Crayola set that is five years old.  Yuck.  The new set has a massive array of colors and when I combine it with the big set of brushes I got for my birthday, I’m capable of achieving so much more with my paint.

I’ve been exploring some different techniques/subjects, which has been a blast.  Since this is a watercolor-only edition of SK and I’ve put a lot of thought and time into all these works, let’s take things one by one…

(Please excuse the crappy image quality)

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These mountains were the first thing I painted upon receiving my new paint.  I gave this one to my best friend as a belated Christmas gift.

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I had a blast painting this sunflower on Christmas day.  I gave it to my summer partner, Eva, (who loves yellow).

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This is my amateur attempt at capturing The Lonely Mountain from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.  It took forever to paint–so many layers!  I rewatched one of the films while I painted, staying up WAY too late to finish.  But, gosh, am I pleased with the result!  I loved it so much I sent it home with my older brother, who shares my love of Tolkien.

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Okay, so the picture quality is REALLY crappy here.  It looks much better in person.  This was my first real attempt at painting people since getting the new brushes and paint.  I originally started out doing lots of people (see previous Sketchbook Corners for examples), but it was difficult with only one brush to work with.  I started this one on a whim–the basic sketch took only a couple minute.  I finished her up at a sleepover, which was actually pretty challenging as I had to balance the paints on my friend’s couch while avoiding her over-excited pomeranians.

Did this one last night as well.  I wanted to experiment more with painting people, and I'm quite pleased with the result!  I've been reading several YA fairytale retellings, so I imagine she's either Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, or has a story of her own.

I painted this last night while watching the premiere of Marvel’s Agent Carter with my mother. I wanted to experiment more with painting people, and I’m quite pleased with the result! I’ve been reading several YA fairytale retellings, so I imagine she’s either Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, or has a story of her own.

Finally…

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This took FOREVER.  I did the background and sketches of the trees before New Years and didn’t pick it back up until last night.  The details on the trees took what felt like hours.  And yes… it’s inspired by a Taylor Swift song.  (My favorite on her 1989 album).  Painting all the black got annoying and adding words with white felt like a risk, but I’m definitely pleased with the result!

That’s all for this edition of Sketchbook Corner!  Check by in a few weeks to see what else my hands come up with.  If you haven’t seen them, do look at my previous SK posts and see how I’ve improved!

Also, because I’m curious… What painting is your favorite?  Let me know in the comments!