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