Sunday, July 17, 2016

If It Doesn't Challenge You... doesn't change you. I find this saying to be applicable in nearly all of life, and particularly where I find myself now: camp ministry. I want to change. I want to grow. I want to follow where God leads, but challenges are hard! Especially when the challenge isn't being forced upon you; when you have to choose between doing something scary and staying where you're comfortable.

I am deathly afraid of heights. Standing on a ladder to change marquees at the movie theater I worked at involved consciously telling myself to take deep breaths. Last summer when the rest of the staff had zip-line training, I stayed behind to work on my program. I was relieved I wouldn't have to face the decision to climb the 40ft pole and zip down or not. I wanted to challenge myself, but also knew my comfort zone (on the ground) was safe.

Then there was the accident. During that same staff training that I was excused from, we were all reminded of the risk involved with the zip-line, and we shut it down for the summer. Fast forward nine months to the first meeting with my boss in my new position. You can imagine why I hesitantly said "I'll think about it..." when he asked if I'd be interested in being a back-up facilitator on the zip-line this summer. The victim of the accident had made a full recovery, our zip-line had been inspected and deemed safe, but it would still be a huge personal achievement if I simply climbed and rode the zip-line - how could I lead groups on it!?

I could have easily said "I'll think about it" and then told my boss no after a few days without actually thinking about it. That would have been safe, comfortable. But I did think about it. I prayed about it - a lot. I knew my fear, but also wanted to challenge myself. Something in me was saying I should do it, but how could I get over my fear!? Later that week I gave my answer: "I'll get trained to be a zip-line facilitator. I'll definitely be scared, but I feel this is something I need to do. I want to challenge myself."

When the first day of training came, I was more than a little nervous. My first time climbing the pole to the zip-line platform seemed to take an eternity. When I reached the top, the trainer called up from the ground, "okay, now walk back and forth on the platform." I swallowed hard, gripped the tethers of my lobster claws, and took baby steps to the other side, my body stiff, eyes not daring to look down. Later in the day the trainer asked if I wanted to be the first to zip. My attitude and response was "I'll have to do it sooner or later, might as well be now!" She hooked me up to the zip-line tether and asked how I was feeling. "Like I should have gone to the bathroom before..." I inched my body forward on the platform, took a big breath, gripped the tether connecting me to the zip-line wire, and leaned forward. I let out a scream, and then almost couldn't believe it as I zipped down the wire. This I had been so afraid, and now I was having fun?!

My fear didn't instantly dissolve in that moment. It didn't disappear at any point in training. But it did subside. As I repeatedly tied knots, set up the needed equipment, zipped others down, and rode the zip-line myself, I became more confident. The sense of accomplishment, along with the conviction to do my job to the best of my abilities and keep others safe became bigger than my fears.

I can climb the pole a bit faster now, and walk along the platform a little less stiff, but I maintain what I call a "healthy fear." I respect the height and equipment. I still prefer to hold onto a staple when I'm waiting for the climber to reach the top. But my fear doesn't stop me. My comfort zone has expanded, and I'm starting to see why this is in God's plan for me.

A group of 5-7th grade girls came to the zip-line. The first girl to climb the pole was so excited. When she reached me at the top, she admitted she was very nervous, but also really wanted to zip down. She sat down on the platform, and I connected her to the equipment. When it came time for her to leave the platform she couldn't make herself go. We let another girl go down the other side, while this one sat on the platform. After seeing her friend go down, she was so excited and couldn't wait for her turn. Again, when it came down to her leaning forward and leaving the platform she couldn't do it. Overall, she sat at the top for over an hour! I stayed right by her, encouraged her in every way I could think of, prayed with her, and sat with her. I told her many times that it was ok to feel scared, that I had been scared my first time, but that you feel so great after you've conquered your fear. When she finally was able to leave the platform and had a huge smile as she rode the wire, my first and only thought was "this is why we lead zip-line." To give campers the opportunity to face their fears. To see the joy and confidence they have after they do so. To facilitate the challenge that changes them.

What incredible things can we do if we are willing to accept the challenge?!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Sweet Side of Things

For the past few months, discovering His world, and discovering myself has looked like living with my cousin's family in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, working two part-time jobs, and babysitting my cousin's kids.

I've been told now that I'm 24, I really need to start looking for a full-time, long-term job because as I get older people won't want to hire me for the types of part-time and seasonal positions I've had since graduating. The first time I heard this it stung me fairly hard and I spent the next portion of the day questioning what I was doing, and what I should be doing with my life. A phone call to Mom later, I was reminded that as long as I can pay my bills, I'm doing just fine. I don't need to follow the rules of what a person my age is "supposed" to do.

Yes, I'd love a full-time position, doing what I enjoy, but until that happens I'm going to enjoy life and pay my bills by working part-time and seasonal jobs that are actually pretty sweet (both literally and figuratively).

One of my current part-time jobs is at the Fun Factory Sweet Shoppe. We sell old fashioned, and novelty candies, gifts (cards, mugs, etc), fudge, and homemade flavored popcorn. Our real business, however, is in the chocolates that are hand made and dipped right in our store by our chocolatier.

On my first day, the manger informed me that eating the merchandise is a part of my job - literally. When a customer asks what something tastes like, actually being able to tell them is better than "I don't know." I continue to have a chocolate or two of my favorites each time I work, but my first few weeks were full of sampling what we have to offer:

Day 1
Caramel Apple Popcorn
Cherry Peppermint Popcorn
Sour Cream & Chives Popcorn
Milk Chocolate Divinity
Milk Chocolate Raspberry Cream

Day 2
Beer Cheese Popcorn
Milk Chocolate dipped Orange Peel
Mint Meltaway
Cream Cheese Graham

Day 3
Milk Chocolate covered pretzel
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup
Sour Heart gummies
Milk Chocolate Maple Meltaway
Peppermint Cookie Bark

Day 4
Caramel Marshmallow
Lemon Cream
Non- Pareils
Milk Chocolate Cream
White Raspberry Cheesecake
Spicy Buffalo Popcorn

Day 5
Blackberry & Raspberry gummies
Milk Chocolate Dark Raspberry Meltaway
Chocolate Covered Raisins
Confetti Popcorn

Day 6
Peanut Butter Ball

Day 7
Sugar Free Peanut Butter Meltaway
Amaretto Truffle
Sea Salt Caramel
Black Forest Truffle

Day 8
Peanut Butter Sherbert
Dark Chocolate Divinity

Day 9
Rum Meltaway

Day 10
Dark Chocolate dipped Lemon Peel
White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle
Chocolate Cheesecake Fudge
Chocolate Raspberry Fudge

This is by no means all we have to offer, or what I have sampled here and there since I stopped keeping track. Even so, I've made some conclusions... 1) Sugar free candy is gross! Many people would probably say, "Well, duh, Hannah!" but I wanted to try some for myself and draw my own conclusion. I took one bite, and could barely swallow it. That was the only piece of chocolate that I have thrown away after one bite. 2) I normally do not care for dark chocolate, but I've found there are certain times when it is actually better than milk. Sea Salt Caramels, Divinity, fresh strawberries, and marshmallow are by far better dipped in dark chocolate! 3) My favorites continue to be Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel, Dark Chocolate Divinity, Milk Chocolate Dark Raspberry Meltaway, and any peanut butter/chocolate combination.

I do more at work than just eat though! It wasn't long before I was helping our chocolatier, first dipping the nougaty center of our Divinity in chocolate, and spreading caramel on almonds for turtles, then dipping strawberries for Valentine's Day. I've helped make caramel apples as well, dipping them in the caramel and drizzling them with chocolate. As Easter approached, I spent two weeks decorating chocolate eggs, and have most recently made our solid chocolate bunnies. Putting the molds together, filling them with chocolate, tapping the air bubbles out, then shaving the excess off the finished product - I've done it all. 

Maybe I should be searching for a long-term, full-time job. Maybe my career clock is ticking, and soon I won't get hired for the kinds of part-time and seasonal jobs I've held in the last two years. Maybe. But soon I'll be leaving this sweet job and returning to Camp Luther for another seasonal position, one where I feel fulfilled, and know I am making a difference. And that is more important to me than following the "rules" of what a 24 year old is supposed to do. So for now, I'll continue to pay my bills, learn new skills, and eat some chocolate.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

If I were to send a Christmas letter...

Christmas is traditionally the time when mailboxes fill up with Christmas cards from loved ones, old friends, and neighbors. Where I come from, some simply send a card with a handwritten “Merry Christmas”, or a photo card showing how their family has grown, but many send a letter giving highlights of their year. It may be from the friend you haven’t seen in 20 years, or the extended family member you maybe see once a year, but you can get the low-down on vacations taken, family sicknesses, and children’s accomplishments in this once-a-year letter tradition. I won’t be sending one of these letters this Christmas because 1) Mom still gives me a paragraph in her annual letter, 2) I don’t want to cause drama by sending one to so-and-so, and leaving out what’s-their-face, 3) Postage is expensive. If I were to send one though, it would probably look like this…

Merry Christmas! A year ago, I would have never imagined I would be where I am today. At the time, I had three jobs. I lived the first four months of 2015 in Eau Claire during the week where I worked full time as a Seasonal Tour Consultant at Holiday Vacations, and back home on the weekends working part time at the New Richmond 8 Theatre and Hair Company Salon and Day Spa in New Richmond. In February, I became a Supervisor at the movie theater, and in March I worked my last shift at the Hair Company. Big changes started in April, when I saw that Camp Luther, the camp I attended as a kid, the camp that had a huge impact on my faith, was looking for Summer Staff. I was hired as the Congregational Day Camp Program Coordinator, and less than a month later, I was unpacking for the summer at camp.
My summer consisted of leading a team of three other counselors to a different church each week and putting on a Vacation Bible School, or Day Camp for them. We planned and led games, challenge course, and arts and crafts each day. We also led singing and Christian Growth; we got to tell kids that Jesus knows them and loves them. It was incredible. There was joy, frustration, love, and learning. After summer, I continued working at Camp Luther as the Fall Program Assistant. Nearly every weekend in September and October, a group came to camp, such as Confirmands, women, or families, and I led them in activities, served them meals, and generally helped out however I could. In November and December I continued serving in whatever way I was needed. I do not know what the new year will bring career-wise, but I’m taking it one day at time, and working on being ok with that.
Christmas Eve 2014, I became a Godmother for the first time to Locke William, my cousin’s son. I was humbled and honored a second time to become a Godmother again in April to Myles Timothy, another cousin’s son. In September, my sister welcomed my first nephew into the world, Elam Zachary. I call them my “little men” and I could not love them more! When I’m lucky enough to see them, I smother them in kisses, and when miles separate us, I think of them and miss them daily.
If I see you at a Christmas party (or any place else, for that matter) this season, I would love to chat and catch up. I realize though, that if we only see each other a couple times a year, making small talk can be awkward, so I’ve created a list of conversation topics to help get the ball rolling (as well as topics it’d be best to avoid):
·         How about them Packers?
·         Ask me how my car is doing. If you really want an earful or have time to kill, ask me for “the whole story” with my car.
·         I was in a friend’s wedding this summer. Ask me about it, or just ask about my bridesmaid’s dress (spoilers: I loved it!)
·         Anything related to Camp or my summer is a gold-mine of conversation! Ask about my job specifics, the churches and towns I visited, the kids, how much ice cream I ate…
·         Let’s talk about my godsons and nephew!
·         What is my five year plan? I don’t know. What will I be doing a year from now? I don’t know. Where will I be two months from now? I don’t know. However you frame the question, the answer’s the same, so why bother.
·         Save your breath and both of our time, any questions about my relationship status or guys will be met with the same boring reply: there is nothing to report.
·         Let’s talk about you! Kids? Grandkids? Remodeling your house? Loving work, or not so much? Hobbies?
I hope your year was filled with joy, love, and learning, and that 2016 brings even more of each!

Me and my little men, Elam, Locke, and Myles

Why is she putting this on her travel blog, you ask. Because I’ve come to realize that traveling can be just as much an internal journey, as an external one. “Discovering His World” means leaving the comfort of my home and experiencing new towns, states, and countries, but it also means leaving my comfort zone, partaking in new experiences, and discovering my place in the world. I believe you are always learning new things about yourself, but this year jump started a new journey of self-discovery. One that, for whatever reason, I felt compelled to share with you.

Monday, May 14, 2012

When One Door Closes...

The last week of the program was just as filled as the rest of the semester. Tuesday night a group of us went to a Ceilidh dance at the University of Edinburgh's Bongo Club. Several of the dances were familiar from our first Ceilidh at the beginning of the semester and quite a few were new to me. It was a lot of fun and I'm glad I got to participate in a "real" Ceilidh during my time in Scotland.

On Wednesday I got my final dose of Edinburgh as Gabby and I spent the afternoon shopping. Thursday was spent cleaning the Palace. Everyone helped clean the kitchen areas, servery, and dining hall, then we split into our house jobs, so I helped clean the ballroom. After lunch we had the opportunity to see the attic of the Palace. It's very run down and we had to watch where we stepped, but it was cool to see the graffiti left by Polish WWII POW's on the walls. It was then onto cleaning our rooms and checking out. That night we had an end of semester/program party. We had a BBQ, took lots of pictures, and sat around visiting and laughing.

Friday morning saw 14 of us (and our luggage) packed into a van headed to the airport. As we drove through Dalkeith we waved to a lady in the "old folks home" who had been waiting for us to drive by so she could wave goodbye. At the airport it was time for the final goodbyes.

Our flights went safely. We were delayed for our first two take-offs, but they didn't effect our connecting flights. Because I was sick all week, the changing air pressure was not a friend. I made it home safely, however, and am so thankful for the experience I had. My semester really was life changing and I learned more than I thought I ever would. I gained knowledge, friends, and an appreciation and love for other cultures and countries. Now that this time abroad has come to end, the question becomes: Where will God take me next?

The Making of an Unforgettable Weekend

May 4-6, my last weekend in Europe. We made sure we made the most of our time and went out with a bang!

Friday, May 4 had been eagerly anticipated for a majority of the semester. This was the day Gabby, Courtney, Kathy, and I went to Watford, England to tour the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studios!! We flew into Luton, England and took a bus to Watford. After lunch we still had quite some time before our tour time, but we couldn't wait any longer and got on the shuttle bus early. 

Our shuttle bus to/from the Studios
After perusing the very extensive gift shop we got in line for the tour. We began the self-guided tour a little after 2pm and came to the end a little before 5:30pm. During the nearly 3.5 hours, we walked through the actual studios where the Harry Potter movies were filmed. We walked through the Great Hall and saw the sets for the Gryffindor Common Room and Boys Dormitory, Dumbledore's Office, the Weasley's kitchen, Diagon Alley, and so many more! The wigs and costumes used for various characters throughout the films were also on display. The magic behind visual and special effects was revealed as well as the extraordinarily creative efforts of the artists and designers. The tour culminated with a walk around the model of Hogwarts, used for wide exterior shots of the castle. We topped off our incredible day with an overnight stay in a hotel, not a youth hostel!

Saturday morning we took the train to Bath. Gabby, Courtney, and I first stopped at the Jane Austen Centre where we learned more about the famous author. We also saw some costumes used in the film adaptations of her novels. That afternoon we took a tour to Stonehenge and Lacock Village. The village of Lacock has been featured in several movies, namely Jane Austen adaptations and Harry Potter! After arriving back in Bath we took another train to Bristol where we stayed in a Bed and Breakfast.

Sunday was spent in the Bristol airport before flying back to Edinburgh. The weekend was filled with Harry Potter, Jane Austen, movies, and magic and I wouldn't have had my final weekend abroad any other way.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"My Heart is in the Highlands"

For our second and last extended travel weekend we took a house trip to the Highlands of Scotland. The Highlands are what most people think of when they think of Scotland: mountains, rugged, not very populated. After traveling this area for four days I know why Robert Burns wrote a poem confessing that his heart is in the highlands.

Gabby, Hannah M., and I at Glencoe

Our trip started with a short stop in Stirling to pick up our Scotland: Society and Globalization professor, who would be our "tour guide" for the weekend. It was then off to Doune Castle (where parts of Monty Python and the Holy Grail were filmed) before heading into the Highlands. We stopped in the beautiful Glencoe and had an opportunity to take a wee hike before we headed to our hostel. Our youth hostel was at the foot of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the British Isles. We explored the river at the base of the mountain before watching the sunset and calling it a night.

Glenfinnan Viaduct
 The next morning we were off to Glenfinnan to see the Glenfinnan Viaduct. The rail bridge is most known as the bridge that the Hogwarts Express travels on in the Harry Potter movies, especially the second one. Our next stop was Loch Ness! We took a cruise on the Loch and some students even took a dip in the freezing water! A quick stop at the Corrimony Chambered Cairn (an ancient Celtic burial site) was next. It was then time to explore Urquhart Castle in the snow and sleet. Urquhart Castle used to be quite an impressive castle on the banks of Loch Ness, but the owners blew it up so it wouldn't fall into the Jacobite's hands during the Jacobite Risings. Needless to the say, the castle is now in ruins. Our final stop for the day was our hostel in Inverness.
Wading in Loch Ness
Saturday morning saw us at Culloden Battlefield for a visit and tour. Culloden was the last battle fought on British soil and it was a kind of civil war. This blog is too short to go into the details behind the battle, but it was basically fought between the Jacobites and the British government. It was a rather horrific massacre with the Jacobites losing 1,500 lives and the British losing 50. After the battlefield we headed back into Inverness and had the afternoon to explore the "capital of the highlands." A group of us students took a walking tour of the city, then walked along the River Ness.  We ended our day listening to a live band in a traditional Scottish pub.

Sunday, our final day in the highlands. Fort George was our first stop. We walked around the fort, looked for dolphins in the Moray Firth, and I got seagull poop on my sleeve. I got ice cream at our next stop, Pitlochry, for a pick-me-up. Gabby and I tried our first taste of whisky after our tour of the Aberfeldy Distillery.


The Hermitage

Our final stop (and in my opinion, the most impressive stop of the day) was the Hermitage nature area. We walked through a forest of tall pine trees, along a river, until we came to spectacular waterfalls. We all enjoyed exploring and climbing on the rocks in the water. We only spent an hour there, but I could have easily stayed all day.

We then got stuck in construction traffic for roughly one hour before making it back home to Dalkeith House.

Visit from Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad came to visit me April 19-25. It was their first time overseas and Mom's first time flying. I enjoyed showing them around Dalkeith and Edinburgh and we had some fun adventures!

I met them at the airport just after noon on Thursday 19 April and we took the bus back to Dalkeith. That night was Host Family Quiz Night, so they got to meet my host parents and our team took second place! After a day of flying and being jet-lagged it was then off to bed for them.

Chelsea, Virgina, Steve, Mom, and Dad
Friday, we joined the rest of the house on a trip to Bowhill and Melrose. Bowhill Estate is the seat of the Buccleuch Family (if you remember, the Duke of Buccleuch owns Dalkeith House). A lot of the original furniture from Dalkeith House is now in Bowhill. After touring the Duke's Estate, we stopped at Melrose Abbey and explored the ruins. Our final stop was Scott's View, where we could see for miles and adore the Scottish landscape.

Scott's View

On Saturday we took a day tour to Loch Ness! We stopped in Dunkeld and drove into the Highlands before reaching Fort Augustus where we took a cruise on Loch Ness. We learned about the Loch itself and about good 'ole Nessie. We made a quick stop at Inverlochy Castle before driving through Glencoe, a beautiful mountainous region. It was such a beautiful day that we stopped in Glencoe to admire the scenery. We even got a picture with our tour guide, Duncan. We made another stop to see Hamish, the Highland Hairy Coo, and then a quick photo stop at Doune Castle before getting back to Edinburgh that night.

On Sunday, I unfortunately had to finish some homework, so Mom and Dad explored the 800 acres of Estate surrounding the Palace.

Monday was a full day in Edinburgh! Dad and I climbed to the top of the Scott Monument (287 steps) and got a 360 view of the city. The three of us then shopped our way to Edinburgh Castle. After exploring the Castle, it was off the Zoo! We of course saw lots of animals at the zoo, my favorites being zebras, a koala, and pandas! Edinburgh zoo just got two pandas in February and they are so popular we had to book a time slot to see them at least a day in advance.

I had to go to classes on Tuesday, so Mom and Dad went on their own into Edinburgh. They took a bus tour of some of the city highlights and visited the Royal Botanical Gardens. After supper, however, I met them at Mayson's, a traditional Scottish pub in Dalkeith.

Wednesday morning I went with them to the airport for their flight back home. The time they were here went by fast and it was sad to say goodbye, but in just a couple weeks I too will be leaving Scotland and meeting them in an airport again.