By Lizzy Johnston

It’s hard to leave me speechless. I have words for every occasion and witty comebacks are my forte. I recall only a couple incidents I’ve been speechless in my life, one being this past summer while visiting my sweet friend, who I’ve known for nearly all 19 years of my life. We were casually walking through the Scheels parking lot when she said, “Oh, I wanted to tell you—I’m pansexual.” Tripping over my words, I brilliantly said, “Oh. Uh huh. No prob.”

Driving back after that weekend I had a whole two hours alone with my thoughts (and tight jams), confused why this was rattling me. I have other friends in the LGBTQ community, all wonderful people. I concluded this particular ‘coming out’ situation was overwhelming me because of how close my friend was to me, and now the pressure I felt to respond in the right way to one of my best friends.

For my whole life, most Christians have told me this is one of the worst sins to commit— in my experience, I have seen condemnation for LGBTQ people come quickly, with little room for forgiveness and grace. I even will say I have been taught that it’s okay to judge and dislike those who identify as LGBTQ.

How was I supposed to treat this? With support and pride for her even though Christians tell me I would be approving of something extremely sinful? Slowly cut her out of my life to avoid dealing with it? What do I do when she begins sinful relationships? She abandoned her faith long ago, which made this even more complicated. How was I supposed to show Jesus and his love to someone who has rejected him? I was totally lost.

This October—after months of struggling with how to approach this—I realized Jesus was telling me to study a book of the Gospels, so I listened (I should definitely try that more often). I’ve been going through Luke, trying to comprehend the radical way Jesus loved while on Earth. One thing about Jesus: he is a colossal rule breaker. He sought out the men and women that the “righteous” people in society rejected or labeled as untouchable and that no one wanted to love, and he loved them. He went to the outcasts of society, the despised and the abandoned—sound like LGBTQ people?

As the issue of sexuality literally rips society and the Church apart, Jesus reminds me to simply love everyone. Not judge or hate or condemn. Just love. And not just love with my imperfect human love, but to allow him to pour his own love into others through me. My friend will have enough people judging her. What she needs is a friend; someone who loves her fiercely. This doesn’t mean ignoring the truth of God’s design for our sexuality and blindly excusing something that Scripture calls out as sinful (including the many sins I’m entangled in). It means spending a lot of time talking to Jesus about my friend—this person we both love—and praying for His clarity and guidance in walking through this as a Christian in a broken world. What I am confident of is that Jesus is telling me to be there for her, to show up for her and to care about her. Her identity is significantly more complex than her sexuality; she is lovingly and meticulously created by God and deserves to be loved as such. I completely trust that if I begin by simply loving others, especially the outcasts, Jesus will handle the rest. He will show me how he wants me to handle the entire issue of sexuality, holding to both grace and truth as he did. It all begins with the love of Jesus—his sweet and pure love that I’m praying my friend receives through me.

By Armani Johnson

Northwestern is my home

The place where I found my self

Friends and family

We all are one

NWC, where I found my faith

Where I found my God

Telling me that he is not done

He has more in store

NWC, where my professors care

Not just looking to get paid

Those that my peers admire

Those with great personality

The staff encourage

And help

They pray along

My journey

NWC, where snow hits the ground

To stay

And shows the pure

Elegance that I haven’t seen at home

The thick white bluff shows the cleanse

God has put in me

Months ago I hated NWC

Ignore my signs, I was lost

But now I’m found, NWC is where I want to be

NWC is mine, I am Northwestern.

Coming to a 4-year college was something no one in my family has never done. So, this fall I was to first to achieve this milestone. 12 hours away from my doorstep in Iowa. I didn’t even know Iowa was a state until this fall! But, I found myself far away from home and things not going as I planned, so I began to feel like a failure and I wanted to transfer. But as time has passed, Northwestern continued to welcome me more and more each day. It’s like a big family here and since I’m more than 1000 miles away from my own family, I need family anywhere I can get it – who doesn’t, right?

As I started to believe more in God and reread Jeremiah 29:11 every day, I began to love Northwestern. It became my home and now that I’m here I don’t ever want to leave. NWC has grown my faith in God through the Christian atmosphere; events like chapel, Ngage, and NED talks have strengthened my knowledge about God and shown me that He has a lot in store for me and for this world. While I was writing this poem, the words reminded me of everything I love about Northwestern. Whether it was God showing up in my life, my professor investing in me, my peers being so nice and genuine, the NWC staff who only encourages you to go beyond your comfort zones, or even the snow that everyone hates.

It was only a few months ago that I wanted to transfer because I thought I was out of my element and that I didn’t belong. I used to be ashamed to affiliate myself with NWC, but now I love it! I felt lost, but now I’m found. This is where I want to spend my 4 years. This is my home, this place we call Northwestern.

By Bethany Muyskens

As I walked onto the plane, I was dreading the next 12 hours of travel and the ensuing six weeks that I would be stuck in Mexico. I signed up for a Summer of Service 6 months earlier when I thought God was urging me to do so, but at this moment, I was convinced I had heard Him wrong. I passed up great opportunities at home because I had committed to serving in Jalapa, Mexico, home of the Jalapeño, where food poisoning is abundant and air conditioning is not.

The first two weeks I spent there were exceptionally hard. I neglected the beautiful culture I was surrounded by because I selfishly wanted to be back in Iowa. I listened to my prideful thoughts that said the American way of life was far superior to the Mexican lifestyle. I let my fear of falling in love with the place and then having to leave hinder me from fulfilling the reasons I felt the Spirit had called me to go there in the first place. Not to mention I was adjusting to new food, a new family, and speaking in a completely different language.

I found myself with a lot of free time and only my Bible and a book by Francis Chan, The Forgotten God, to entertain myself. I began to read the book along with the story of Acts, and I saw all the Spirit was responsible for. Almost every time the Spirit was referenced, He was accompanied by an action verb. I began to realize that the Spirit isn’t just a wispy ghost that occasionally visits and gives us goose bumps when we sing worship songs, or that we pray to for guidance when we decide which grad school to attend or who to date. The Spirit does things— He refines and teaches us. Most importantly, the Spirit is living and active in us, and when we choose to follow His leading, we become more like Christ.

The call to follow the Spirit isn’t for the faint of heart. Chan explains:

“The truth is that the Spirit of the living God is guaranteed to ask you to go somewhere or do something you wouldn’t normally want or choose to do. The Spirit will lead you to the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be. The Holy Spirit of God will mold you into the person you were made to be. This often incredibly painful process strips you of selfishness, pride, and fear.”

The Spirit of the living God led Saul to give up his cushy life as a Pharisee to become a fugitive frequently imprisoned and fleeing for his life. The Spirit of the living God led my host dad to give up a job he loved practicing medicine in a well-respected emergency room to open a small clinic for the poor citizens of Jalapa. The moment I read that quote, I knew it was the Spirit that had called me to Mexico. Although it wasn’t something I necessarily wanted to do as I was boarding the plane, the Spirit led, refined, and taught me throughout my time there.

He transformed my selfish attitude into an attitude of service. Instead of longing to be back in Iowa, I longed to return to the mission each day to spend more time teaching the children about math and serving soya and fruit juice for lunch. He tore down my pride, and, instead of thinking American life was superior, I began to see what it was lacking and tried to implement aspects of the Mexican way of life into my daily routine. Finally, once He helped me realize I was letting the knowledge of leaving restrict the way I loved people, I began to love on everyone as much as possible despite knowing I was leaving in a few short weeks. Throughout this refining process, the Holy Spirit taught me how to listen for his call in my everyday life. I would feel an urge to speak to a patient, and soon we were talking about the Gospel. I felt like I should

eat lunch one day with a kid that had never been very friendly, and I listened as he told me about his shattered home life. I began to pray for the Spirit’s leading in the little decisions. Now, I receive daily reminders from the Spirit. Sometimes they take the form of thoughts that randomly pop into my head, other times the messages come through conversation with friends, or a scripture passage, but they never fail to challenge me to live like Christ.

I wish I could say that I always listen when the Spirit calls, but, despite my shortcomings, He continues to carve away at my selfishness, pride, and fear to shape me more into the person God made me to be. I just have to keep listening.


By Olivia Vander Ploeg

“And you say that I don’t answer

Just because you have not heard

But you don’t know yet how to listen

Or to understand my word.”

~Shasta’s Complaint, Sarah Sparks

I finished high school feeling completely exhausted spiritually and I found myself in a spiritual desert. Still, during my freshman year of college, outside of my relationship with God, life was great! I adjusted well to living in a new place, I enjoyed all my classes, and I was making a lot of amazing friends. But something was still missing. The biggest growths in my spiritual life had been in the hard times, so I was completely unsure what it looked like to grow when life was good. There seemed to be nothing to compel me to read my Bible, so I rarely did. I would pray about my lack of spiritual motivation and ask God to help me, but He was utterly silent. I began to get angry with God. I read verses like, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” and “Ask and it will be given to you” with complete bitterness and confusion. I wanted to be close to God again, but I couldn’t get myself to do anything about it, and He was not helping in the slightest.

I knew I should talk to someone about how I was struggling in my faith and beginning to doubt, but I was too ashamed. Finally, I worked up the nerve to talk to my youth pastor. I called him often, crying, to talk about how far I felt from God. He offered a lot of wisdom, but things didn’t get any better. I was so angry that God would do nothing to help me in this desert.

One night in January was the worst of it. A friend from back home had stopped talking to me and wouldn’t tell me why. I was feeling so worthless. It felt like I had been rejected yet again, and I didn’t even know why. I was completely weighed down by all the possible things I could have done wrong, the ways I could have made this friend ignore me. I was weighed down by the guilt. The shame. The loneliness. The failure. The rejection. The brokenness.

My roommate was gone that night, so I felt the freedom to cry about it. I laid in my bed for hours, in the dark, crying because I felt so unloved. I felt like I had been rejected too many times. I felt completely alone in the world and that I had no one to turn to, so I prayed. I begged God to let me feel close to Him. I pleaded with Him to show me that I was loved.

There was no response.

I was so angry. Shouldn’t God want me to feel valuable? To feel loved? So why did He not answer my prayer? I felt like now I hadn’t just been rejected by many of my closest friends, but also by God.

The rest of the year and into the summer were the same. I felt the same spiritual hopelessness and lack of growth. But, as I began this school year, things slowly began to change. I looked back in my past year and realized all the times God had been there. I had been waiting for God to show me His presence in some big, obvious way, so I hadn’t noticed how He had been showing me His presence in everyday things, like a friend’s smile. God was there in tandem biking adventures with friends. God was there in the late-night conversations. God was there in friends lying on the golf course, staring up at the beautiful stars. God was there in the laughter at the supper table. God was there in my youth pastor – always willing to talk when I needed to. God was there in my youth pastor’s wife traveling four hours to be with me. God was there in professors’ little comments of encouragement. God was there in the books that I was reading. God was present. I had been focusing on all the wrong things and it was only in looking back, in remembering, that I saw what was really important. I realized that God had answered my prayer on that January night. He showed me I was loved, just not in the way I expected. God showed me I was loved by being present when I wasn’t looking for Him.

I have been focusing on all the wrong things and it was only in looking back, in remembering, that I saw what was really important. I realized that God had answered my prayer on that January night. He showed me I was loved, just not in the way I expected. God showed me I was loved by being present when I wasn’t looking for Him.

I still struggle. I still doubt. I still have days here and there when I forget to read my Bible. But God is teaching me how to listen, how to understand His word, and how to see His presence in daily life.

By Jimmy Tidmore

I have been a “Christian” since I was in fifth or sixth grade, but my faith was never truly genuine until my graduation from high school. I used to think that my hardest trials would be before I became a Christian, but I honestly believe that some of the most difficult trials happened after I really came to faith in Christ.

I had always thought that truly giving my whole life to Jesus would make everything better, that God would wipe me clean of my sin and make me new in a moment – BOOM. Suddenly, I’d have it all together. Boy, I could not have been more wrong. In the first few months after beginning to learn the depths of God’s holiness, He made me aware of the reality of my brokenness in ways I never expected.

For years I struggled with lust and falling into the temptation to look at pornography. It began to affect my whole life and it made me feel disgusting and separated from God. On top of that I supplemented my habit of smoking pot with cigarettes, thinking that “at least it’s not an illegal drug.”

In the months after Christ became the head of my life, He began to show me how destructive and disgusting cigarettes are, and quitting was one of the most miserable experiences of my life. Jesus was so faithful in those dark and miserable moments though, continually giving me the strength to overcome.

The next big area He began to work on was my struggle with purity and holiness, an addiction to pornography. It took almost two years before I fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit and opened up to others about this struggle. I was so filled with shame at first, fearing being open about it, even to God. What would people think? How could I ever be looked at as a leader with such a dark and disgusting sin? But praise be to God that He gave me strength to open up and be accountable to some brothers in Christ! Through this openness, and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, God has given me so much freedom! He gave me brothers in Christ that would ask me how I was doing, allowing me to keep my phone in their rooms if I was feeling tempted, or praying with me when I would fall.

The biggest way God worked through this was by continually replacing the lies of the enemy with the truth of His Word. Slowly but surely, through encouragement and transparency, God has given me victory after victory in reclaiming the purity and holiness that God calls us to. I still have to fight every day for this gift that God has given me, but it has gotten easier as time goes on.

God has been so faithful to transform me in many ways over the last few years, and although I still struggle and fall short in so many ways, He is always at work in me. Because of this, I truly have come to believe this verse in my life:

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:6