fullsizeoutput_1089
By Kayli Christensen

It’s amazing how in one moment you can feel like you have everything together and the next you are wondering how you ended up where you are. That has happened in my life more than once, but one specific occasion has had an incredible impact on my view of God’s love.  

One mid-July summer day started out just like any other, I babysat four of the most adorable kids. Everyone was playing nicely together outside as I was sitting on the driveway enjoying their laughter and smiles. After a while, I took the youngest inside to change his diaper. After being in the house for only about two minutes I heard a cry from the front door, “KAYLI, GAGE IS RUNNING AWAY!” As a nanny, those words weren’t exactly music to my ears. I quickly strapped a diaper on the baby, threw him on my hip and took off out the door. When I got outside I could see a blonde little head off in the middle of the neighboring cornfield. I took off running, without shoes on, and with a baby wearing only a diaper in my arms. As I ran through this cornfield, my earlier thoughts of ‘wow, what a great day!’ were quickly vanishing. I eventually caught up with little Gage, as my heart was pounding, my arms were aching, and my feet were caked in soil. As I reached for his hand to head home, he looked at me with his cute little face and said, “Kaywee your feets durty…” and we both walked back to the house with a sense of confusion. I was very relieved to have his little hand back in mine and he was concerned about the amount of dirt caked to my feet.  

To this day I have no idea why 4-year old little Gage decided to take a walk through a cornfield, but in some ways, I am very thankful he did because through that experience God opened my heart to His reckless love. I began to put myself in the shoes of the father of the prodigal son. Luke 15:20 says, “…And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” The father loved his son so much that he took off running even when all he had was a glimpse of his lost boy. 

I learned that day that the very nature of God’s love is to pursue me and to meet me right where I am. He doesn’t just stand at the gates of heaven yelling for me to come home; God’s love runs toward me in the midst of my mess. Even when what I am doing makes no sense, and I sometimes look at God and say something to the effect of “Kaywee your feets durty…” He still is in never ending pursuit of my life. God knew I was going to get lost in life but being lost doesn’t take me away from His love. Romans 8:38 is a great reminder that there is nothing I can do that will ever separate me from the love of God. Not. One. Thing. could be covered in mud, in the middle of a southwest Iowa cornfield and His love is there. I could be living lost, in a life of sin, and His love would still seek me out. I could never out run the love of God, because He will never give up on me. 

fullsizeoutput_1085
By Carter Behler

I came to Northwestern as a freshman in fall of 2015. I had chosen Northwestern because it was the only college that worked with me so that I could pursue a theatre major, while also participating on the NWC wrestling team. But as soon as school began I immediately fell behind. I missed classes, practices, assignments you name it. Because of this, my grades began to slip.  This didn’t change when the spring semester began.  

By the end of the school year, I couldn’t wait to leave. I felt like my heart wasn’t in it anymore, not to mention that I had a lot of personal things going on in my life that caused me to become depressed. Over the course of that summer, I was dreading returning to what I viewed as the ‘hell’ waiting for me.  Because I felt like I was not prepared for the stress of school again, because of a wrestling injury, and because of being on both academic as well as a chapel probation, just a few weeks before the start of fall 2016 I decided tnot return to Northwestern College.  Instead, I decided to stay home where I worked and went to class part time at a nearby community college. 

I felt lost. I felt like I had taken a wrong turn somewhere, like I turned down the wrong path in life and needed to back-track and get myself back on track.  But with hindsight being 20/20, now looking back I realize that the path I chose was exactly where I needed to be, I just had some twists and turns obscuring my view and perception.  That same fall, the fall of 2016, our nation’s last presidential election took place. I happen to be taking a political science class, and so I started paying more attention.  Needless to say, the election was so crazyconfusion, question-inspiring, and frankly just sometimes hard to keep up with. I was also taking a history class, and it clicked in my head how much I enjoyed learning history, especially U.S. History. I started getting more motivated to learn, to study the topics, to keep up with the current events. And the funny thing is, I had only chosen to take these classes because I needed general education courses and they fit the bill. But now, I find myself genuinely enjoying learning about these topics!  

Beyond the learningI also started praying more – I found myself talking to God often and asking him where he is leading me and what he aspires me to do in life By this time, the injury I had suffered from wrestling at NWC had been fully healed, and I started feeling the drive to compete again. It was in that moment of realizing this, that it clicked in my head what God was doing in my learning, my prayer life, my body, and my future. I immediately texted my wrestling coach, Richard Dahl, and I had a plan set up to return here to Northwestern College in fall of 2017.  

Fast-forward to today, I am off academic probation and currently working on a double major in history and secondary education with a minor in political science. My grades are improved, I am competing again in both in track and wrestling, and it’s amazing to see God’s purposes for my life becoming more clear.    

I felt like I had lost my footing in the world. The path I was walking felt too beaten and winding to feel like it was mine. But now, reflecting on the past two years of my life reminds me of the story of the man who walked in the sand with Jesus. When the man looked back at the times that were hard for him, he only saw one set of prints in the sand, he turned to Jesus and asked “Why did you leave me in my times of despair? And Jesus replied, “I never left you, it was in those times of difficulty that I carried you.” I can look back now and see how God aided the steps and guided me through the times of despair even when it felt like he wasn’t present. He guided me back to Northwestern and I am so happy to be back; but this time, I’m fueled with a sense of purpose and belonging as I know whose walks with me.   

2
What attribute of God has been the most evident in your time at NWC?
 

Throughout my time at Northwestern, God has revealed Himself to me in a variety of ways; however, the attribute that has probably been the most evident in my journey over the last four years is His omniscience. God is omniscient, meaning He knows everything. He is present everywhere at the same time, and He is aware of every moment of every day. As I reflect on the past four years, I am thankful for all the ways in which God has shaped my college experience. In no way have these four years been what I planned or expected, but God has proven Himself faithful time and time again. At Northwestern, I have faced some of my hardest days, I have questioned why and been challenged beyond what I could imagine; however, as I look back, God’s greater plan was truly better than mine. God knows each situation we go throughwhether it be good or bad. He knows exactly how much we can handle and the perfect timing for everything. He knows each day and how it fits into our story. I’ve learned the importance of relying on God and putting my own plans and expectations aside because, as I look back, God has truly given me more than I could have ever imagined during these four years. I can say with full confidence that college has shaped me and been some of the best days of my life. I am thankful for each piece of the journey both the joys and the challenges, because in the end, God is the writer of our story, and it is, indeed, perfect even when it is hard for us to see. 

In what ways is God challenging you to grow now? 

As I prepare to leave college, I feel that God is challenging me to be faithful and obedient. I find myself anxious about what’s to come. I fear the uncertain, and right now, my life feels like a bunch of “unknowns.” As graduation gets closer, I am sad about leaving this place that has become my home, and people that I have grown to love. However, God is calling me to be uncomfortable again. With new experiences comes new opportunities to grow. I pray that I not fear what’s to come but trust that God will continue to be faithful, and ultimately that I’ll be obedient wherever He leads me. As newness is on the horizon, God is challenging me to surrender my own plans, and instead walk patiently and faithfully as He leads the way. 

What has tested your faith during your time at NWC? 

As I reflect on my past four years at Northwestern, something that has challenged my walk with God has been finding balance in life. As a student and an athlete, I have struggled to find balance between school, sports, relationships, and my walk with Christ. I have experienced high and low points in my faith journey, and God has challenged and tested me tremendously during my time at NWC. Much of my time in college I have placed my identity in chasing after success. Specifically, I have poured much of my time and energy into running and competition. Although God has gifted me with the opportunity to run, I have experienced the brokenness and emptiness that comes when I let the things of this world consume me. Aside from running, I have placed relationships, selfish desires, school, and so much more ahead of God. When I become wrapped up in my own schedule, own plans, own dreams, I begin to miss out on the beauty that God has in store for my life. I become self-reliant and seek to find happiness in life’s circumstances. But, if there is one thing that I have learned as I near the end of college, it’s that true joy cannot be found in the things of this world, and if we put the gifts above the Giver, in the end, it will lead to destruction. God is faithful, and even when we drift away, He is still waiting with open arms for us to come running back to Him. Life is so much more than achievements, accolades, or what our world defines as success, and God is continually showing me that He, indeed, is enough.

 3

img_4366-min
Describe a time at NWC when God’s presence was obvious to you.

In the fall of my junior year, I started to have strange health problems, things I had never experienced before in my relatively healthy life. I randomly started have blood sugar drops accompanied with dizziness, cold sweats, and disorientation. My energy levels were strangely low; sometimes I would be too weak to do much of anything. The worst of it happened in December, when I ended up in the ER with a blood sugar of 9. The doctors straight up told me that I should have gone into a coma or died. When all of these things started happening to me, the NWC community surrounded me and I felt God’s presence in a way I never had before. I was covered in prayer, people visited me when I was in the hospital, I was shown kindness and patience when I wasn’t feeling like my usual self. Although I’ve gone through multiple tests and have seen many specialists, they still haven’t figured out what is wrong with me. However, I’ve been showered with prayer for healing over the past year and a half, and many of my symptoms have disappeared, praise God. I’ve experienced God’s peace through all of this and I truly believe that I’m through the worst of it. I continue to pray and trust in God for my full healing and am so thankful for the people who have surrounded me and loved me during this tough time in my life.

What advice would you give to underclassmen regarding their personal faith walk while here at NWC?

It’s so important to have a teachable spirit and be willing to change your mind about things. I grew up in a Christian household and was an active participant in youth group and church throughout high school, so coming to Northwestern I was pretty sure that I had my faith pretty figured out and that I had all the answers to the tough questions…boy, was I wrong! Classes, conversations, conferences, Bible studies, and daily life during my time at NWC have made me question some of my beliefs, and honestly, some of my experiences have totally wrecked me and have made me start over from the ground up. However, because of that, I’ve learned to make my faith my own– knowing why I believe what I believe. So keep your mind open and be willing to learn from people who are different from you- you may be surprised at how much you can change over the course of 4 years!

In what ways is God challenging you to grow now?

I was so sure that right after graduating I’d go off into the big world and find some a great full-time job as a Spanish interpreter at a hospital. However, God has had other plans for me! My job search didn’t go quite as well as I thought it would, so I’ll be staying in Orange City working at my current jobs for the summer. I’m realizing more and more every day that God’s plans are not my plans, and that my timing is not His timing. Now I’m looking forward to building relationships with my friends in Orange City, having time to work on spiritual disciplines. This summer has also presented a perfect time for me to study for my interpreter certification exam and hopefully get certified. I am constantly reminded of

Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” I look forward to whatever plans God has for me in the future and will be doing my best to be obedient to His calling.

michelle-signature

img_1049-min
What has tested your faith during your time at NWC?
 

The biggest test of my faith at Northwestern has been a tendency towards complacency. Don’t get me wrong, the faith-centered education I have received and the loving Christian environment of NWC has helped me grow in ways that couldn’t have happened anywhere else, but sometimes living out my faith on campus seemed too easy. In a place where it was assumed that I was a Christian, I didn’t have to defend my beliefs. In a time when I didn’t have to pay monthly bills or take care of a family, I began to feel self-sufficient. Those patterns continued to slowly progress to a point where God became something that made me feel warm inside rather than the purpose and reason for my existence. 

Since I also graduated from a Christian high school, this has been a long-time struggle for me, and the best antidote I can offer is to simply just spend more time with the Lord. If we (even partially) grasp the immensity of God’s love for us, that love will drive us to action. Despite my ups and downs, letting the Spirit lead me in a life of radical submission is so much greater than my own controlled life of dullness. 

In what ways is God challenging you to grow now? 

Expanding upon my answer above, God has been challenging me to spend more intentional time with just Him. I heard a sermon once by Francis Chan that pointed out the tendency for American Christians to be content with hearing other people’s experiences with God or attending a church service in order to gain direction rather than spending one-on-one time with God. He used the analogy of Moses (like religious leaders of today) going up the Mount Sinai to speak with God and then coming back down to tell the Israelites (us) what God had said.  

Boy, have I seen this in my life! The crazy thing is that I have the capability of meeting with God himself. I can literally go up the (figurative) mountain and speak with God! So many times I rely on chapel, a friend, or even class to get my “Jesus fill” for the day and I neglect to spend time alone with God. It seems ridiculous that I can talk with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, at any time, and yet I am too busy (or complacent). Now, as a senior, while I’m constantly seeking guidance for the future, fighting fear of the unknown, and doubting that my time at Northwestern made a difference, God is calling me up the mountain. He is always waiting. I just have to take a step. 

picture1