A Skate on the Ice.

<!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Arial; panose-1:2 11 6 4 2 2 2 2 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536859905 -1073711037 9 0 511 0;} @font-face {font-family:Times; panose-1:2 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} @font-face {font-family:"MS 明朝"; panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:128; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:fixed; mso-font-signature:1 134676480 16 0 131072 0;} @font-face {font-family:"MS 明朝"; panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:128; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:fixed; mso-font-signature:1 134676480 16 0 131072 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} p {mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-margin-top-alt:auto; margin-right:0in; mso-margin-bottom-alt:auto; margin-left:0in; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:Times; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";} span.text {mso-style-name:text; mso-style-unhide:no;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} Laced-up skates. Smooth ice. Laughter…and a fall or two.  

Last Friday, my floor—Walther 2nd North—went ice skating at Mediacom Ice Park. Because it was Open Skate Night, we only had to pay $3. With fun Christmas music playing in the background, we flew round and round the rink. Holding hands to help keep each other balanced, we attempted to keep our feet on the ground. Some girls were more advanced, able to skate backward and do some spins; others of us did our best to skate forward. Regardless of our level, we helped each other have the best skating experience possible.

I truly enjoy floor events. And I love the girls on my floor. We have had many bonding experiences so far:  a weekend retreat, dinner at IHOP, frozen custard at Andy’s, weekly devos, Christmas decorating, “Secret Sisters,” hide-and-seek in the dark, pranks, and other fun activities. We’ve laughed, cried, and had deep discussions about how God is moving in our lives. We’re able to be open with each other–a sisterhood of support.

When I first came to Evangel, and I entered Walther Hall with my “small” load of belongings, I wondered if I could think of my floor as a home. As I shared my life with the girls on my floor—and they shared theirs with me—we have created a special connection. We live together, share our joys and disappointments, and we ask each other for advice. We wake up to each other, pray for each other, and offer encouragement for the day. 

Now, three months after first arriving on campus, I love the space I call my “home away from home.” I know that at the end of each day, I have the privilege of sharing my life with the girls of W2N. I look forward to the months ahead of bonding even more with my “sisters.” 

Our relationships are very much like our ice skating experience last Friday. We each have different struggles and various perspectives on life. With what we’ve learned, and what God has brought us through, we have the opportunity to lift each other up. We hold each other up so that we don’t fall. We encourage each other to keep walking with the Lord, and to share the song that is our testimony.

Proverbs 27:17 says, As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” What a beautiful result of the relationships God places in our lives.

Growth.

<!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Times; panose-1:2 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} @font-face {font-family:"MS 明朝"; panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:128; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:fixed; mso-font-signature:1 134676480 16 0 131072 0;} @font-face {font-family:"Cambria Math"; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1107305727 0 0 415 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} p {mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-margin-top-alt:auto; margin-right:0in; mso-margin-bottom-alt:auto; margin-left:0in; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:Times; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} I was blessed to go home for Thanksgiving break last week. I can’t describe the emotions I felt as, at the end of an eight-hour-long car ride journey, I started to spot familiar street signs and places. Sentimentality filled my heart, and I began to reflect on simple memories that have built me to who I am now. As I was lost in my ponderings, we finally pulled up to my pumpkin-colored home in the suburbs of Chicago. Normalcy. The life I’ve known for so long. As I trudged with my luggage into the front door, I could hardly contain my joy. I drank in the scent of my home. Home. As I gave my mom, dad, and brother big hugs, I felt wonderful.

After thirteen weeks of being away at school, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to adjust to being back at home for a short weekend. Would I long to stay at home? Would my mind be filled with thoughts of school? Would I be fully present as I caught up with family and friends? My worries melted away as I asked the Lord to help me live “one day at a time,” to fully experience and enjoy my time at home. To enjoy the presence of those who I don’t see everyday at this season in my life. It was a fulfilling break filled with Starbucks chats, breakfasts, and laughs–and of course a Thanksgiving dinner!

One night, as I was laying down in my bed, my mom sat down next to me. With much wisdom, she had me ponder this statement: “Think about everything you’ve experienced and how much you have grown since the last time you slept in this room before college started.” This thought made me reflect upon all the different opportunities I’ve been blessed to be a part of since being at Evangel. I have met many new friends who have similar passions and a love for Christ. I have expanded my mind by having the opportunity to be in classes from different disciplines. I have learned–although sometimes clumsily–to be more independent and make more of my own choices. I have been challenged to seek God with my whole heart as I surrender to Him my life. I have encountered God in a whole new way, realizing that He is my one constant.

As I keep adjusting to college life, I know I still have a lot of growing to do. I’m trusting, day-by-day, that God will continue teaching me as I ask Him to guide me.

His Promises are Pure.

<!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Times; panose-1:2 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} @font-face {font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-font-charset:78; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1791491579 18 0 131231 0;} @font-face {font-family:"Cambria Math"; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1107305727 0 0 415 0;} @font-face {font-family:Gabriola; panose-1:4 4 6 5 5 16 2 2 13 2; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536870161 1342185547 0 0 159 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} p {mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-margin-top-alt:auto; margin-right:0in; mso-margin-bottom-alt:auto; margin-left:0in; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:Times; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;}

“The LORD’s promises are pure, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times over.” ~Psalm 12:6

A Sweet Family Visit.

When I came to Evangel this past August as a freshman, I realized that I would be met with new opportunities: pursuing my passion of psychology, meeting peers with similar passions, growing in Christ, and gaining an independence to make my own decisions from choosing where to go for dinner to finding a new church home. When I said good-bye to my family in the South Side parking lot, I recognized that these new opportunities would also be faced with a few challenges, including not seeing my family for several weeks at a time.

I’ve attempted to cope with this distance in several ways–from texts, to Skype sessions, to Facebook, to phone calls. I’m thankful for how technology has sometimes made 500 miles almost non-existent. However, these modern conveniences could not begin to account for the warm hugs from my family and the feeling of being in their company.

That’s why I was overjoyed when my family traveled the eight hours from Chicago to come visit this new corner of the world that I now call my “home away from home.” When I saw them standing in the South Side parking lot, I ran to embrace them. Time seemed to melt away, and I felt at home in their arms. Over the course of the weekend, I had the privilege of spending time in Branson with them, as well as showing them around the Springfield area. We shared laughs, stories, and insights of what is happening at this time in our lives.

It was wonderful to be with them again. While I initially thought spending time with them would make me miss home more, it actually made me feel more adjusted here. As my family was able to visualize my new life here, I became assured anew that I’m truly building a new life here. I saw with a fresh perspective the opportunities I have to grow here as I shared with them all that God has taught me and is providing for me. I may not be able to have my family with me all the time, but I can learn to value the different forms of communication I do have. As we talk on the phone and I share about my day–and they share about theirs–we can remain close. With that reassurance, I can continue to pursue my studies here–becoming fully present where God has me for this season.  

  
We’re all so photogenic. 😉
Hey, give us a break! It was a sunny day!

Three Who Have Impacted Me.

This morning, as I was reading out of the Psalms, the Lord reminded me of His unending faithfulness. In reflecting on His faithfulness through all seasons of life, I began to dwell on some of the individuals He placed in my life over the years who have spoken words of encouragement, wisdom, and passion into me. Because of these women of God, I have been FOREVER changed.

1. Mrs. Christine Darnell


Mrs. Darnell was not only my 6th grade teacher, but she was one of the most honorable, humble, and loving women I have ever met. Her heart constantly meditated on Scripture, and she spoke those Scriptures over me throughout my life. Out of the joy in her heart, her actions reflected her love for the Lord. I knew that if I ever needed prayer for myself or for my family, Mrs. Darnell would always be there to intercede and truly seek God’s face for my needs. She was a woman of faith. In my 6th grade class, we prayed everyday for needs my classmates had. Mrs. Darnell always made sure to offer God praise for the answered prayers He provided–whether those answers were opened or shut doors. She introduced me to many of the old hymns, and we sang them everyday in class. In singing these simple refrains, I was reminded of how God longs to have an intimate relationship with me, how He is alive, how He lives within my heart, and how I will see Him again in glory. Little did I know that the summer right after 6th grade, that Mrs. Darnell would be in glory with her Heavenly Father. After an aggressive few months of cancer, she was taken Home. I remember singing “Give Me Jesus” with other classmates at her funeral. It seemed so appropriate to sing the words in that song because Mrs. Darnell truly wanted Jesus with all her heart–no matter the season of life, whatever the prognosis, and no matter what trials came her way. She wanted Jesus, and she taught me that I can have such an intimate relationship with Him as I surrender my life to Him. “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back.” I’m thankful for the example Mrs. Darnell set in my life for the 12 years of my life I was blessed to look up to her, to learn from her, and to observe the relentless passion she had for her Savior.


2. Mrs. Edna Sorenson


Mrs. Sorenson was my ACSI Spelling Bee coach at Stone Church Christian Academy. Ever since I started Spelling Bees with my friend Zanette in 1st grade, until I transferred to Landmark in 7th grade, Mrs. Sorenson was always coaching us from words as simple as “couch” to more complex ones as “otorhinolaryngologist” and “lepidopterology.” She came to Stone every day out of the passion in her heart to reach out to us students. We were her passion, and it was so clear that she loved seeing the “lightbulb turn on” when we had insight on new understanding. Mrs. Sorenson made sure that each time we met in her little office, we recited Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Every time, without fail. And then, we would pray together. Even though I thought at that time in my life that I was only there to practice my spelling words to prepare for the next Bee, I can now look back and see how God put Mrs. Sorenson in my life to show me what a truly faithful, devoted Christian looks like. I suppose I didn’t mention, Mrs. Sorenson was in her 90s–Yes, her 90s! And she shared her testimony with us multiple times. How God spoke so sweetly to her soul, and how He transformed her life. She showed us the first Bible she had when she first became a Christian. The Bible’s binding was completely worn, and the pages were filled with underlinings–marks Mrs. Sorenson made of the promises God had given her. Her favorite verse, her “life verse” was Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Mrs. Sorenson went to be with Jesus when I was 14, but her impact on my life has continued to grow as time has passed. Now, Romans 8:28 is a verse I meditate on very regularly. As seasons of life have come and gone–some more difficult, and some filled with immense joy–God has always made ALL things work together for my good. Sure, not everything has been “good,” but God has NEVER ceased to work everything together for my good. Mrs. Sorenson taught me that God’s goodness is never ending, never failing. The testimony He has given each of us is our greatest form of ministry to others–and as we show others the endless ways He has been good and provided for us, we can give others hope that He will do the same for them.


3. Chaplain Peg Schneider


I met Peg when my mom enrolled me in “Heart Connection” (a grief support group for children) at Little Company of Mary Hospital six months after my sister Katie passed away. It was definitely a confusing, dark, and cloudy time for me. However, Peg always offered an encouraging word week-by-week, and she let me know that she was there to understand and to help me through my grieving process. As years went by, and God helped me through that time of grief, Peg gave me the opportunity to come back to the “Heart Connection” grief groups and speak to a group of about 6 children about my experience of grief–what activities helped me to cope, how I keep my sister’s memory in my heart, and how God has been my comfort through that time. What I thought would be a one-time event sharing with other children blossomed into many different opportunities across the past few years to minister to different groups of children dealing with loss. There was a distinct moment after I spoke to one of the groups when I felt the most incredible peace I have ever experienced. I felt purpose, incredible purpose. The kind of purpose that speaks. I felt the call, the call to keep ministering to grieving children and adults. Now, this is my career aspiration; I want to become a grief counselor and continue sharing the hope and purpose that can be discovered during a time of intense grief. In my heart, I can feel a stirring for being a chaplain in the future. I would count it such a privilege to be able to comfort people who are suffering with the comfort only God can give through me. I’m thankful that God placed Peg in my life to not only comfort me in my time of need, but also to activate and cultivate my passion for helping others through their grief. Peg continues to touch lives everyday as a chaplain at Little Company, and her compassionate heart inspires me to never stop investing in other people.


I am convinced that you will never truly know the impact that your life has on those around you. I look at these three amazing women and others who have touched my life and see that when they touched me, they were living in God’s perfect purpose for them. They lived out their passions, and in turn, they impacted me. I encourage you to find your passion. What grieves your heart, causes you to feel inspired, and spurs you to action? In this field of your passion, God will work so powerfully. When we are obedient to serving in the area that God has gifted us to be in, we receive the greatest joy and fulfillment. With our passions, we impact those around us and encourage them to pursue their passions.

Concert Choir.

 Photo by Woodie Moore.


<!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-font-charset:78; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:1 134676480 16 0 131072 0;} @font-face {font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-font-charset:78; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:1 134676480 16 0 131072 0;} @font-face {font-family:"Trebuchet MS"; panose-1:2 11 6 3 2 2 2 2 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:647 0 0 0 159 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;}

           I just got back from Concert Choir’s Fall Tour across Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska—and let me say, I had such a blessed experience touring with my fellow 40 choir members. As a “newbie” to the choir, I did not know what to expect as I loaded the tour bus for a five-day-long, adventurous trek across the Midwest. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that my trip would be one of bonding with my Concert Choir family through laughs, meals, hugs, stories, and our ministry of singing together.
During our time on the road, we visited four different churches and a high school. Traveling to and singing at these places broadened my perspective to how God is powerfully working throughout the United States. Before singing on each occasion, our choir had a time of prayer and intercession for our hearts to be open and for those in the audience to be ministered to by our worship to God.
When the time came to take the stage, we sang lively pieces such as the Nigerian carol “Betelehemu” and “Psalm 23,” as well as heart-stirring hymns such as “It is Well” and “Jesus, My Lord, My Life, My All.” It’s amazing how music can deeply touch your soul—how God gives us the opportunity to cry from the deepest places of our heart to nestle closer to His. There were moments when the choir sang about God’s faithfulness and peace, and I just stood in awe. Tears filled my eyes as I reflected on God’s provision in my life throughout the years; never has He failed me, always has He made things work together for my good. To have the opportunity to share this message of God’s splendor through song with the audience was truly a privilege.
         I’m reminded of Colossians 3:14, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” Since being in Evangel’s Concert Choir, I have realized something truly remarkable: there’s nothing like being unified—in one heart and mind—with those you’re ministering with. Not only do we sing in harmony throughout the songs, but ultimately, we are seeking the harmony of God’s love to bind us together with cords that cannot be broken. I have found a family in Concert Choir, and my heart is filled with complete thankfulness that I have the opportunity to love, sing with, and minister with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Step by Step.

In “Praise and Worship” Chapel last week, the worship team sang the chorus from the song “Sometimes By Step.” This song is a declarative creed from us to the Lord that He is our God, and we will ever praise Him and follow Him as long as we live.

Hearing the lyrics to this song while I worshiped in Chapel brought back to me a memory I had many years ago when I was five years old.

My memory of going to church on Sundays and Wednesday nights with my family is so clear. I remember sitting in the back seat of my family’s minivan, listening to a Rich Mullins’ cassette tape. “Sometimes By Step” was my favorite song because it was the song when I could do something very special when the chorus came around. When “And step by step, You’ll lead me” started to play, my sister Katie (who sat in the front seat) and I would sing the line out loud and stomp our feet on the floor of the car. Although, because I was too short to reach the floor at that time, I sometimes just had to wiggle my feet. It struck me even at that young age, that to follow God, it took taking one step after another.

However, little did I know at five years old that I would truly learn that concept of stepping out in faith.

A little over six years ago, the same sister that had joyfully sung “step by step” with me was tragically killed in a car accident at the age of nineteen. I was twelve at the time, and all I could think of was why something such as this had to happen. With her passion to become a missionary, I wondered why she was taken from this earth.

Dealing with her loss was such a difficult time of grief, suffering, and deep pain. All I could muster in my heart was that I would follow God “step by step.” That’s all I could do at the time. At times I had little trust in His plan, but choosing to walk “step by step” made me more aware that God was working in the midst of my pain.

He created purpose through a circumstance that I never would have thought could have purpose. Over the years, He has given me opportunities to be comforted and now to comfort others. By taking the “step” of coming to Evangel, He has given me a wonderful opportunity to pursue a Psychology major and begin studying to become a counselor so that in my calling I can effectively help others who are hurting and grieving.

Hearing the song “Sometimes By Step” in Chapel not only overwhelmed me with emotion thinking about God’s faithfulness throughout the past six years (and all of life), but it also gave me a good dose of perspective. Reflecting on everything God has done–even giving us the strength to simply walk “step by step” when we could barely even stand–is necessary. His faithfulness in our lives is our testimony, our reason to live, breathe, and sing.

So may our earnest prayer from the bottom of our hearts be, “O, God, You are my God. And I will ever praise You. I will seek You in the morning. And I will learn to walk in Your ways. And step by step, You’ll lead me, and I will follow You all of my days.”