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By Celeste Ryan, Resident Director of Stegenga Hall

Not enough. Words I hear often, tell myself almost every day. Not funny enough, not cool enough, not good enough, not outgoing enough. Celeste, you are not enough.

I spent most of last year listening to Satan as he sought to fill my mind with lies about who I am and my inadequacies, and I allowed those words to shape and define me and my work. And it sucked. It made me second-guess every interaction, over-analyze and over-think each moment, and generally feel like a failure in every aspect. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, my insecurities were what kept me from doing the work I love, kept me from thriving, kept me from building relationships I deeply desired.

This summer, I committed to giving these words to the Lord. I cognitively knew that my identity was found in Christ, and not in other people’s opinions or my own perceived successes or failures, but I didn’t feel it or believe it. So I prayed that God would help this head knowledge become true heart knowledge. I prayed that He would help me see that I am enough.

As I prayed and sought the Lord in this, He slowly revealed and gently whispered this truth to me: Celeste, you are not enough. And that’s ok. Because I am. You were created to live in communion with me and rest from striving and measuring up. You were never made to live this life on your own. You were made to need me and rely on me.

What sweet, sweet freedom and rest is found in acknowledging that I am not enough. This truth has soothed my soul in ways I never thought possible. In almost every aspect of my life – wife, mother, RD, friend, sister, daughter – I have found freedom from trying to prove myself and be enough.

The truth I’ve found is this – when we faithfully seek the Lord, spending daily time in His word and in prayer, He is faithful to fill us up. Out of this fullness comes kindness and gentleness and grace and patience and every good thing. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that I’m perfect (those that know me well know this). I still unintentionally say the wrong thing, or forget to do things I said I would, or struggle with selfishness. But I also now have a greater understanding of grace and know that there is understanding and forgiveness for those things too.

We serve the God of abundance, who is waiting to give us everything we need, and yet we operate in this mindset of scarcity. We are not enough because He is more than enough. Rest in that today.

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By Michael Simmelink, Resident Director of Hospers Hall

A portion of the 2013 Wilderness Leadership Expedition (WLE) trip was spent paddling canoes through the wilderness of Canada. To this day, I have no idea where we were. We had driven a van an hour and a half past Thunder Bay into the middle of God-knows-where-Ontario and dipped our canoes into blue lakes that had ice on them only a week before. There was more than one joke about the water temperature on this Coldwater Foundation trip.

We put in our canoes that evening, and paddled a measly five minutes before we shored on a peninsula to set up camp for the night. Tomorrow would be the first full day of paddling.

The start of my career as a paddler was the antithesis of ideal. My friend Zack entered the canoe and then stabilized it for me to join him. Carefully, he positioned himself away from the rocky shore so our canoe didn’t get beat up, but still tried to keep it reasonably close for me to throw a leg in. I do not recall what led to me being in the water up to my armpits, but I remember it being stupid cold. I was in two feet of water and couldn’t move my limbs to doggy-paddle. My breath left me; my lungs felt like they had shrunk to the size of two earbuds. Apparently I had slipped on the rock, and after an excoriating seven (eight? nine? eleven?) seconds I was shaking water out of my boots in 40 degree weather on shore. Thirty-five minutes after waking up I had successfully made myself ridiculously uncomfortable and cold. I succeeded on my second attempt entering the canoe, and we paddled to catch up to the group. We still had a full day’s travel ahead of us.

The sun moved behind clouds and across the sky, and we came to a portage near the end of our day, and I acknowledged that I was numb from my abdomen down. I was a little nervous about that, but I knew if I worked my legs hard, I could raise my body temperature. I loaded up two Duluth packs on my back, snatched the team’s equipment bag, and ran the 300 yard trail with close to 120 extra pounds.

I rumbled to the end and dropped the gear. Panting and hopeful, I slapped my thighs to see if the mission was accomplished. Hardly. My anxiety level rose. When the rest of the group caught up, I told our leader what I was feeling (or lack thereof). He reassured me that we’d camp on the next lake, and the best thing I could do is go to the bathroom so my body doesn’t waste energy maintaining temperature of waste.

I trounced through the bush and found a birch tree with a smaller fallen jack pine leaning against it, recently dead. As I stood at this urinal, tears began to form and fall. A lot hit me at that moment.

I was only alive because God wanted me to be. The wilderness could not care less if I live or die; it was completely agnostic towards my fears and feelings. I was alive because the Creator of the universe felt that wasn’t such a bad idea, and He was sustaining me as He always had. It wasn’t just God’s sufficiency in that moment of near-hypothermia; it was His sustenance for me day after day after day after day after day. Ongoing and never-ceasing.

I received the challenge I sought from this trip, but I always expected to come out of it feeling stronger, individualized, empowered. That was true to an extent, but it was overshadowed by feelings of affirmation, claimed, cared for, protected. Christ had always been guiding me to the warmness of a campfire and change of clothes, metaphorically speaking. On that day, it just happened to be literal. I peed on some trees while soaking wet and freezing cold, and I garnered a deeper sense of God’s providence.

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By Emily Sorensen


I’ve been running on empty. I’ve actually been running on empty for over a year, maybe closer to two years. It comes and goes, and for the past year I have told myself it was because I had yet to find my “close” friend circle at college. I have many friends on the track team, on my wing, from random classes, and anywhere else you make friends at college. But when it comes to finding my specific friend group with whom to post all my Instagram pictures with and eat every meal with I don’t have a “group.” And for the past year or so, I have told myself that this is why I feel empty. If I could only find a group of people to do things with all the time THEN I wouldn’t feel like this anymore.

What a lie.

The thing about it is, there have been plenty of sermons, devotions, and songs about finding my identity in Christ – not in the things or people around me. And I have heard and read these, but I guess they just flew over my head.

It wasn’t until I was talking to my mom that I verbalized that I haven’t found time made time to read the Bible. And that maybe if I would do that I would find more joy in my days, instead of feeling void. And she echoed my thoughts saying, “It makes a difference. When I catch myself being grumpy, I think about why I am grumpy and it almost always comes down to I have yet to read the Bible that day – so I drop what I am doing and pick up my Bible.” Then we got off topic, but it was enough.

Monday morning my alarm went off, I got ready for the day, picked up my Bible and headed to breakfast. I read about Saul’s conversion in Acts. Approximately one hour later the story was mentioned in my philosophy class. Okay, God, I see You. After starting my morning in the Word, God momentarily interrupted my philosophy class to remind me of Himself.

All I know is that God is faithful. And, although I have neglected Him for the past long time, He hasn’t left me. I wish I could tell you that my life is great since realizing my emptiness was from my lack of effort in my relationship with God and not from lacking “Instagram perfect friendships” but that wouldn’t be the truth. Sometimes it’s even a struggle to even believe this truth. However, I do believe that building my relationship with Him will fill my days with more joy and less loneliness because God is alive and real and wants to be an active part of my life. It is up to me to put Him back on the throne while I sit at His feet instead of vice versa. It’s time for me to start believing the quote from SoulScripts that I wrote on our whiteboard recently, “Life is confusing and hard and lonely sometimes and all I really know is the answer is Jesus.”

Yes, I have felt alone and have been running on empty. But the answer is Jesus.

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By Caley Vink

During the summer of 2017, I was working in the local county tax assessor’s department as an intern. I’m not typically a fan of working with numbers, but as it was my first real “grown up job”, I was excited about it. At this government job there was a woman, we’ll call her… Amanda, who was a secretary in the office. One day at work I overheard her talking to someone about some severe discomfort she’s had in her foot for over a year. The scientific name was plantar fasciitis. It was a sharp pain in her foot that made it so that she only found comfort by walking in a certain pair of wedges that took the pressure off her heel. But the moment she took the shoes off, terrible pain made it difficult for her to walk and sometimes sleep at night. I could hear in her voice how weary she was of dealing with it.

When she had finished explaining it to the other woman, I relaxed into my creaky swivel chair, contemplating her words. I thought, “It’s a little risky to ask to pray for people at a government office.” Most government offices are not typically places that are very hospitable to the expression of one’s faith in the way that I was planning to express it. But, I knew my boss was a Christian and I felt that he wouldn’t have a problem with me offering to pray for her healing. And so, compelled by the truth that I know how my Father loves and cares for me, and how he desires for me to be well mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually; I also knew that those same truths applied to Amanda. So, with that in mind, I decided to step out in faith. Which, for the record, is something that I have had to grow into.

I approached Amanda privately and asked if I could pray for her healing. She welcomed it, and as she sat in a chair I got down on my knees and placed my hands on her feet. I reached out to God and asked Him to heal her. I spoke of how pain does not belong to us and that we know this to be true because of what Jesus did on the cross. I rebuked the pain and commanded it to leave Amanda in the name of Jesus. I told her feet to line up with the Word of God, and I welcomed the healing that comes from the Lord to make the nerves, muscles, tissues, and bones of her feet like new again.

Our shared time of prayer lasted about a minute. Afterward she thanked me, and although she couldn’t test her foot for healing right then, she promised to check for it when she went home that evening. The next morning Amanda approached me, her face was alit with joy and tears were in her eyes. She proceeded to tell me that when she went home the night before and removed her shoes, the pain she was so accustomed to was totally gone. Filled with gratitude she told her husband what had happened, and the two of them continued to praise God throughout the night. They were so excited about it that they could hardly sleep!

When she finished telling me this, a few tears slipped over my cheeks as I hugged her and thanked God with her. God had healed her, and for the rest of the summer I rejoiced inwardly each time I saw her wearing new shoes around the office.

Every time I see God work in these ways I am left grasping for words to describe it. Please be sure not to look at me as some expert who has it all together. I am constantly having to learn and to grow in the ways the Spirit leads me. I am just an ‘ordinary-Joe’ with an extraordinary heavenly father. But even in our ordinary lives, we are called to do as Jesus did and engage in the fight to crush injustice everywhere we go – even if it means doing so in a place, at a time, or with people that are out of our own comfort zone.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetby Stephanie Brethouwer

I spent my summer living in Amsterdam, and working with Shelter Youth Hostel Ministries. Going into my SOS trip this summer, I had heard a lot of different things from people who had been to Amsterdam working with this ministry. Everyone I talked with could only rave about the staff, the ministry opportunities, and the palpable presence of the Holy Spirit, but the first thing they would always mention was the amazing community and love that exists between the staff member and is shown to the guests. Going into the shelter, with the knowledge of the beauty of this community, still did not prepare me for what I was going to experience.

After hearing and experiencing the community at Northwestern, I couldn’t imagine a place that could be better at community living, but my first day in the community house I was floored. I entered a loving and committed community where no gossiping took place, there was no judgement, and everyone felt comfortable being completely open and vulnerable about their struggles. I was in absolute shock that such a community could exist, and let me tell you, I can’t think of any other time or place in my life that I have felt so loved, cared about, and respected. It was in this community that I experienced the Holy Spirit moving freely and convicting people’s hearts. I experienced what it was like to be justly called out in sin, and what it meant to lovingly call out brothers and sisters. The passage in Matthew 7:5 “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (NKJV), begun to actually make sense and I got to watch this type of love and care happen right before my very eyes.

Toward the end of my trip, I began to think and pray about what I would experience coming back to Northwestern and honestly, I was terrified. In this community in Amsterdam, I was challenged to break old habits of gossiping and judging others. I began reflecting on my previous three years and was crushed to relive all the times that I had acted on these frivolous and unnecessary sins. The idea of returning to NW where these temptations seemed to be running rampant around me, made me truly worried that I would not be able to abstain from these old habits. I remembered that this type of community I had experienced in Amsterdam was not going to be what I was entering back into at NWC – and that left me heartbroken and not entirely wanting to return.

After returning to campus, I am still left trying to reconcile these thoughts and feelings. I know that God is here and is present, but what will it take for the Holy Spirit to truly move freely in the midst of this community? I wonder if it’s through the little things – like being vulnerable with someone, asking someone how they are truly doing, praying for people hurting in the moment, abstaining from gossip, keeping judgmental thoughts at bay, and sharing with others how I am seeing God work in my life and others around me. What if I was willing to stop speaking hurtful and slanderous talk, what if we were committed to uplift and encourage one another (even if it means calling each other out in love), what if we replace anger and wrath with grace and forgiveness, what if NWC became known for its genuine kindness and love towards each other? I know that craving the type of community I experienced in Amsterdam will be something that I

will always be searching for, but I am confident that God is working in mighty ways to bring this type of community to all places – even Northwestern. This type of transformation will take a personal and communal effort to really make a change. I have been challenging myself to be this change, to start making personal adjustments, in hopes that others would notice and start walking alongside me.