For most of my life, I have celebrated Christmas in one part of the world. My Minnesotan Christmas was always something I looked forward to. I loved getting involved with the church on Christmas day, having snow, and the quirky traditions that my family developed over the years.
To the people of my generation (Generation Z), this age seems like a bit of a hopeless one. The political situation of the United States is, well, embarrassing, to say the least. Climate change has started to show its effects, and they aren't pretty — this year's hurricane season was nothing short of a nightmare. There is famine in Yemen, a corrupt election in Kenya, a horrible economic crisis in Venezuela and a totalitarian state in North Korea. In our personal lives, things go wrong, as well. We mess up, others let us down and things never work out as expected.
When I got the chance to go on Eurotour with the other Rotary exchange students in Denmark, we had all looked forward to Italy, but there was one other destination that we couldn't get out of our mind: Paris, the city that we have all heard about since we were children. They say it's the city of love, and I can't lie—it does have that feel to it.
There are a million different worldly desires on my mind at any given point in the day. Throughout my life, I have struggled a bit with making sense of things. One thing that I have had to work on a lot is deciding if things are worth working on unrelentlessly or letting go.
I lived in Minnesota for sixteen years of my life; however, I confess that I never visited Duluth. I had gotten glimpses from pictures on my friends' instagrams and always been a little bit embarrassed that the only memory I have of Lake Superior was collecting stones from the shore at a lake cabin with my family when I was seven. I didn't have much time in Minnesota, but I was determined to change that, and jumped up on the opportunity when my friend Dorothy asked me if I wanted to go camping in the Duluth area for a weekend.
It was less than two months ago that I boarded a plane headed to the Minneapolis airport. To say that I was reluctant about going back to Minnesota might have been an understatement. Sure, I was excited to see my parents again and meet the new dog, but I had built up an entire life in Denmark. I was going to have to go through reverse culture shock and adapt to my old home life, which has been much more of a challenge then one might assume. Despite the fact that Minnesota is heavily influenced by Scandinavia, Denmark and Minnesota are quite different.
I was recently on a trip around Europe with 47 other exchange students who have spent some time in Denmark. I would like to tell you all about it, but I'll start out with Venice, Italy. Venice has a reputation as a tourist spot. It's a bit more expensive because it is considered a "floating city," and I was curious to know if it was actually worth it.
Back in my camp days, my camp friends could sort of see I was bit wound up, a bit of a perfectionist. Several of them struggled with that too, but they were much better at dealing it with than I was. Their favorite bible verse was, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me," from 2 Corinthians 12:9.
We all know what it is like to be in a place that feels temporary, a place that feels like an alternative reality. These are places that you are not meant to stay in for long and are places of waiting and transition, like rest stops on highways and airports. Reality feels a bit altered and your brain doesn't know how to take it all in.