The evening of our arrival we established our class spirit immediately. At dinner we reminisced about outstanding memories of EXCEL 31 and nearly lost a few amused members to hyperventilation. It was a hilarious meal; for my own part, I laughed so profusely I cried.
The following morning Mr. Bell welcomed us, exhorting us to enjoy ourselves, and to preserve a mature manner (at least when the EXCEL girls are watching). This we have endeavored to carry out. Ask the leadership for results.
Our mornings are early. Several minutes before 6 am, we gather in the DMC basement or back entry, bleary-eyed and bereft of makeup, ready to run, walk, or stretch ourselves into alertness. At breakfast we again appear, unrecognizably beautified, ready for morning sessions. After lunch, we have daily dates with God, afternoon sessions, and study time. Our evenings are relaxing and enjoyable. Studying and homework are banned. We read Hind’s Feet on High Places, discuss the day, and work on handwork projects. Personally, I have used up an astonishing quantity of yarn on my crocheted afghan.
Tuesday and Wednesday we received our first writing and public speaking assignments. Thursday and Friday, Mrs. Speed shared with us about lies, fears, and “openness and brokenness.” Saturday, Mr. Ballmann spoke on personal finances, we visited a local coffee shop, and all of us fixed dinner for the training center (burgers and fries).
Sunday evening we had a time of sharing what God had done that week. As every one of us told what God is doing in our lives, the struggles we are experiencing and the victories He is giving, we were struck by how perfectly God had orchestrated the week to touch each of us.
Today in particular (Monday, Feb. 9), we had our second public speaking class. We learned about audiences and gave impromptu speeches to the rest of the class. Grace Gallagher outdid herself coming up with subjects—from cups to dollar bills, to holidays (my own subject J), to handles! We stumbled, laughed, and clapped through the morning. During one of the breaks, we took pictures in our spiffy suits (in speech class we are graded on appearance) in the gazebo.
Over lunch we discussed the importance and value of St. Patrick’s Day. I had, in my impromptu speech, advocated abolishing such an unnecessary holiday, thereby unintentionally broadsiding the approximately eight people of Irish descent in the room, including Grace, my evaluator. (I haven’t gotten my grade back yet. . .) In all fairness, Grace very magnanimously conceded that I had challenged her to reconsider her presuppositions.
After our dates with God, Chrissy Sanborn taught our second writing class. (Lauren made our afternoon by interrupting with coffee, chai tea, and hot chocolate!) Then we descended to the basement and engaged in an hour-longer-than-expected conversation on our identity in Christ. We had to break off for dinner, but it’s a conversation we’ll continue. Dinner, by the way, was magnificent, and the best part, “in my humble but correct opinion” (as Chrissy says), was that we ate outside in the parking lot.
And now here we are in the basement during team time, reading Hind’s Feet and having “light bulb moments” left and right. Every time we back up a paragraph and start reading again, we have to stop and share new thoughts from the same passage we just read. I (the only one with pen and paper) have already filled up almost a whole page of newly-minted quotes for us to remember.
God is doing great things among us, above what we could ask or think! He has freed us from fears, broken lies, and opened our eyes with “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” Pray that we continue to be sensitive to His voice and obedient to His will.
God bless you all!
Emily Nicholson, for Advanced EXCEL