120319-07By Lauren Johnson

Flashback to last fall
, when I was mildly irritated with God. I was beginning my sophomore year at Northwestern, and I, quite frankly, was freaking out. My music major was not fulfilling me the way I thought it should, and I was beginning to consider teaching music as a career, something I swore I would never do when I began my journey here. Why was I freaking out? This was not in “the plan”. I did not color code this in my planner. I did not envision this in the timeline of my life. I was thinking, why me? Why do I not just know my calling to a career like everyone else seems to?  

I discussed with professors why they thought I should consider teaching and asked them questions. I asked friends how they just knew what they wanted. I talked to family members, and even made a mental pro and con list. And man, did I pray. I prayed and prayed and prayed. To be honest, this became my most repetitive and sought after prayer. I just wanted an answer!! I wanted a big sign, a huge divine something that told me yes or no. Could I not just have a big moment where the music swells, the conflict is solved, and I live happily ever after? Yet, I seemed to receive no answer. Weeks went by, and I still felt nothing and did not come to a decision. I began to be annoyed at God. I wanted to plan my life out. But here’s the thing: I wanted it to be my plan, and not God’s plan.  

One day when I was feeling particularly frustrated at God, I opened my bible and turned to Habakkuk to focus on a new book, and was amazed at what I found. In Habakkuk 1, Habukkuk complains (that’s literally the title of the chapter) and the Lord answers. The whole chapter is astounding, but these verses stuck out to me: “Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5).  

Wow. I felt amazed and a little reprimanded by God. To me, this was a direct answer from him, and he was telling me that even if he gave me an answer, I would not believe him because his plans are so amazing for me. In the words of Michael Scott, boom. Roasted. Except he did not “roast” me. He boom loved me. And he still does. He made me realize that my journey is not just about me. It’s about him too, and he should be at the center of my journey. 

A good friend once told me that it does not matter what you do, as long as you are doing it for God. Wow, that is convicting, yet so true. Through this experience, I realized that I do not need music to swell and a gigantic sign to blink an answer. I am going to be a music teacher because that’s how I feel I am best going to serve God. There are some days I feel that this career was definitely not my choice. Then I am reminded that it was not my choice, it was God’s. How cool is that?

111919-07

By Abigail Moody  

I’m sure every one of us has been around a three-year-old at one point or another who is going through the “Why?” phase. “Why?” is their response to every question, statement, and well, basically anything that comes out of your mouth. 

Sometimes, I find myself feeling like the three-year-old, while God is the ever-patient parent. 

I’m a planner. I have all of these ideas in mind of how my life is going to go. More general than specific, but still. 

Then God throws a curveball. And in the moment, I don’t understand why. I find myself asking that oh-too-familiar question. “Why?” “Why can’t it be the way I want?” 

At the beginning of last year, I experienced one of the hardest seasons of my life in the form of a broken relationship. But it reminded me that God is in charge of my life. Not me. He knew how my life was going to turn out long before I was even a thought. This relationship was eventually mended, but it took time, and realizing that God was in control. He had a plan, and He was with me through every painful and confusing step. God isn’t asking for my instructions and my plans. He’s asking for my cooperation. 

The journey of life is going to happen no matter what. The clock keeps moving, the months go by and the seasons change whether we like it or not. This year God has shown me that life keeps going, and I can either trail along, grumbling, complaining, and wishing I was somewhere else; or I can dance through life being present, and looking for the joy in the everyday moments. All while holding the hand of my Heavenly Father, because He is walking through it with me every step of the way. 

Sometimes my life isn’t going to look the way I expected. And that’s okay. It’s like putting a puzzle together. If you are holding one puzzle piece, there is no way you can get an idea of what the finished picture will look like. But eventually, it fits with another piece, and another. There is a master plan. It’s on the puzzle box. But only God has the puzzle box.  

Sometimes God gives me glimpses of the finished product, showing me hard and confusing pieces of my life that fit together into something beautiful and it all makes sense. Other things won’t make sense until I’m looking at it through the lens of eternity. And that’s okay. God doesn’t promise that everything is going to make sense. He promises that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that all things work together for good for those who love Him. 

A verse that started showing up prominently in my life earlier this year is Ephesians 3:20. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It hadn’t ever stood out to me before, but I read it in a book, and then it started appearing everywhere around me. It’s the verse I cling to when I don’t understand God’s plans, when I want to ask why. 

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory…” – Ephesians 3:20-21a 

So next time you feel like a three-year old holding single puzzle piece, remember that God is able to do immeasurably more than you can imagine. And it’s all for His glory. 

 

111219-08By Amy Tuttle 

When I was little, and I couldn’t sleep, I would often find myself chatting with God. Sometimes it went like this: 

Hey, GodI know you know that I’m thinking about you. And I know you know I know you know I’m thinking about you. And I know you know I know you know I know… 

It went on and on. Other times I’d ask questions like, 

Jesus, when you were a baby did you think about baby things or did you think about God things? 

Once in a while, I would just lay there, trying (and failing) to wrap my little mind around eternity, and the thought of spending forever (forever!!!)  in heaven. 

I wonder when that child-like wonder of God began to fade from my heart. I think it happened so gradually that I didn’t really notice until I found myself in a pretty dark place, full of anxiety and apathy.  

There were bright moments, too. Moments when God’s beautiful, relentless, and patient grace broke through my hardened heart and ignited a passion for Christ again. Then the enthusiasm would dim as I turned away again, caught up in busyness and worry.  

But God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He didn’t give up on me.  

Earlier this semester I found myself at Trinity for Centerpoint. I had the privilege of worshipping with others who were praising God with heartfelt abandon. The Holy Spirit began stripping away my indifference towards God.  

In the coming weeks, I felt newfound excitement for engaging difficult texts in the Bible. I experienced the indescribable comfort of being completely known, understood, and loved by God. My heart broke in a new way for those who are living without the hope that comes through Christ. I rededicated myself to pursuing the counter-cultural lifestyle that Christians are called to. 

Don’t get me wrong, I do not have this all figured out. Actually, most days I feel pretty confused, and I’m more aware than ever that I have a lot to learn. I’m realizing that my sinful heart is even more twisted than I ever imagined. 

At the same time, though, I’m so in awe of our perfect God. God is indescribably glorious and wonderful. Psalm 145:5-7  states this far more eloquently than I ever could: 

5 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty  
and I will meditate on your wonderful works. 
 6 They tell of the power of your awesome works 
 and I will proclaim your great deeds. 
7 They celebrate your abundant goodness  
and joyfully sing of your righteousness. 

I don’t have a pretty ending to this story yet. But I’ve decided that my difficult experiences don’t have to be resolved before I share them with others. For now, I want to invite others into the messiness and pray for a child-like heart that marvels openly at God’s goodness. 

 

111219-07By April De Haan 

I’ve never been one to jump outside of my comfort zone very quickly. I like to stay where things are “safe” and where I don’t have to take much of a risk. I prefer to stay in familiar places, be with people I know well, and eat food that I know I like. This summer I realized that my spiritual life and relationship with Christ were also stuck in the safety of my comfort zone.  

Up until this point, my life goal was to become a music teacher, teach somewhere in the Midwest (which is my home), and hopefully start a family. Not that any of these things are bad, but where was Christ in it? I started to ask myself this, and then I read a book titled “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper. The entire book was incredible, but the chapter that stood out to me the most was titled Risk is Right–Better to Lose Your Life than to Waste It. Wow. Even that title was convicting.  

As I read through, I learned that scripture had this message woven into it all over the place. Think about the story of the spies going into Canaan from Numbers 13-14. Twelve spies went into the land and ten of them came back saying, “It’s too risky,” even when God had clearly called them to go into that land. Piper describes that the result of these ten spies’ decision was hundreds of wasted lives. I’ve always read this story and thought that they were crazy to not follow God’s will and trust him in the risk, but how many times have I said that to God?  

How could God possibly be asking me to do this with my career or start a conversation with that person or change my major to that? It’s much too risky. But that is the opposite of what God calls us to do. His will for our lives is surely going to include risk, because taking risks is how we make much of his name, and shouldn’t that be our goal as Christians? That being said, taking risks is still terrifying.  

Something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is potentially teaching in a big city outside the Midwest instead of teaching near home when I graduate college. Would that be a risk? Absolutely. I would be far away from home and family, with people and places and situations I’m very unfamiliar with…but if going to a big city is what God is wanting me to do in order to make His name known, then taking that risk would be right. And while God does not promise success or safety or comfort when we take risks, he does promise that his love will triumph in the end.

Piper states that “on the far side of every risk—even if it results in death—the love of God triumphs. This is the faith that frees us to risk for the cause of God. It is not heroism, or lust for adventure, or courageous self-reliance, or efforts to earn God’s favor. It is childlike faith in the triumph of God’s love—that on the other side of all our risks, for the sake of righteousness, God will still be holding us. We will be eternally satisfied in him. Nothing will have been wasted.”  

110519-08By Dawson Jacobsma 

While trying to work on this ncourage and find God’s inspiration, I settled to look at my phone, something our generation is great at doing. I immediately went to social media and began my search for meaningless information. I began with clicking on an unknown stranger then moving on, each time I saw something I wanted to fill my life with. Whether they were exploring the world, getting a tattoo, or had a meaningless photo I wanted to put myself in their situation. I first realized that I wanted to be somebody else, looking at my life in a negative way.  

It is often hard to recognize what God wants for each of us personally without getting down about where we are at in life. Paul helps us recognize what to fix our minds on in Philippians 4:8 by saying, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything, worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” This passage is interesting because Paul does not tell us to dwell on the past, previous criticisms, or what is going wrong in our lives, but he encourages us to fill our minds with good, true, and hope-filled things. This inspires me to be satisfied with where God has placed me at the very moment. 

As a Christian, I have found it very difficult to have a positive focus and be satisfied with where I am with God. Whether I am struggling with school, sports, or the relationships around me, I try to search for God, but He does not always appear when I want Him or where I want Him. The beginning of my struggle to find him really begins my junior year of high school. After an injury to my leg keeping me out of the track season and the sudden death of my grandma, I went searching for answers. I began to fall into a depression and found it easier to shut out the people around me rather than to have them try to support me or build me up. My life became unbalanced and I was no longer searching for the beauty of life that God created in all of us.  

Repeating the voice of God became the only way to look forward to what God had in store for me. I found myself meditating and repeating Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” This reminded me that God’s grace has covered my failures and negative actions towards him and others. God’s unconditional love, a love that cannot be earned, was way more than I deserved and covered every hopeless or gloomy outlook that took over my heart. If God was able to extend grace to me when I did not want to pursue him, then his grace was more than enough when I was ready to seek out his confident, hopeful, and assured love.

I start off the day feeding myself positive thoughts; the best way to nurture positive thoughts is to do the following: breathe, sit with your feelings, and be present with others. 1 Corinthians 2:16 gives a powerful idea of our mind by saying, “For who has known the mind the Lord, that he will instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” It is hard to have the mindset and embrace the reality that we have the mind of Christ. We must train our thoughts, so our reactions to impossible or overwhelming situations are approached with the mindset of Christ. We must believe the best about ourselves and focus on what we want to improve in our lives. Belief will lead to positive thoughts, which will lead to actions that show that we are enough. Even when we have times we will fail or have struggles, we are more than enough because of Christ. 

Proverbs 4:23 reminds us to guard our heart by saying, “Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.” God’s words are only positive, truthful, and hopeful, so placing them in my heart and meditating on them strengthened the desire of God’s will in my life. The brain craves what you feed it, when you feed it positive words from God, the brain will be prepared for what the future contains, attacking whatever God gives to you. One of my favorite runners, Jim Walmsley, could have not said it any simpler, “Ignore the negatives and embrace the positives.”