By Rebekah Muilenburg

One individual that has had the most profound impact on my life was someone I encountered while working as a live-in assistant at
L’Arche Chicago—a community of group homes where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together. This individual had a diagnosis of both Down syndrome and schizophrenia. She often heard voices that told her she was not good enough and that she was ugly. I distinctly remember crawling into bed, turning off the light exhausted and ready for sleep, when suddenly I heard the softest of knocks on the door. I got up to open it, and she would say the same line to me every time—”The voices are making me angry again.” The voices had a reputation for threatening her and preventing her from sleeping.  

Comforting her proved to be a challenge at times, but it helped me better understand mental illness and the tolls it can take on your life. I learned strategies to help with these episodes—often constantly reassuring her that the voices were not true; she was loved, she was valuable, she was beautiful. I said this to her an average of twice a day for the entire summer, yet she could not shake the lies of the voices inside her head. I tried my hardest but realized in the quiet moments of prayer with her that simply being an un-anxious presence and a shoulder to lean on was sometimes all I could do. 

Fast forward a few months later and my life changed drastically. I had just returned from studying abroad in Romania: reverse culture shock became an everpresent struggle, my relationship of three years ended abruptly, my future was staring me in the face, and I had no plans to counteract its punches. These circumstances went along with deteriorating thoughts such as “I am worthless” and “I am not good enough.” Day after day, I heard these voices—In short… the voices were making me angry. 

As the trusty psychology major I am, I turned to self-help books in my time of dire need. Humanity has an innate desire to be understood, and we all want to “find ourselves.” Personally, I attempted to accomplish this by taking countless personality tests. I figured out through this process that I am an INFJ, Type 9 on the Enneagram with a 1 wing, a Ravenclaw (#Ravenclawpride), and my spirit animal is a horse. Fun stuff… but ultimately pointless tests that don’t actually define me. One book in particular I picked up shortly after Christmas break talked about how we can find ourselves simply by blocking the lies we tell ourselves, in five easy steps. When I first read the steps, I was skeptical; if it was this simple, why wasn’t everyone living their best life and discovering themselves? Why was my life in complete chaos (and for this, the very reason I picked up this book)?? 

Through multiple conversations, I realized why this is. It’s because attempting to stop believing the lies we tell ourselves is incredibly difficult, maybe even one of the hardest things to do. This is true regardless of how many self-help books we read and counselors we see. We will continue to fall flat on our faces. After a few weeks, I decided to try again, but this time turning to the Bible for answers instead of one of the bazillion self-help books on my bookshelf. I am thrilled to say I got answers—answers so profound and so clear that I was ashamed I hadn’t realized it much, much earlier. 

The voices say, “Nobody loves me”; God says, “I love you” (John 3:16). The voices say, “I can’t go on”; God says, “My grace is sufficient” (II Corinthians 12:9). The voices say, “I feel alone”; God says, “I will never leave you” (Hebrews 13:5). The voices say, “I am worthless”; God says, “You are more valuable than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). 

Reading this came as a shock to me, but the kind of perfect shock at just the right moment in time to jerk me aggressively out of my funk. This is how God performs miracles; he used my broken circumstances to transform me into the person I am meant to be. I decided to start taking the advice I gave my friend at L’Arche. Over the course of only three months, I have drastically improved my attitude toward myself and others, have renewed my inner spirituality, been accepted to occupational therapy grad school, and remain more happy and hopeful than ever before—complete with booking a plane ticket back to L’Arche Chicago to visit my cherished friends over spring break. 

The voices don’t have the last word—grace does. 

By Hannah Lindsey

Last summer I had the opportunity to go on the Wilderness Leadership Expedition (WLE) with the Coldwater Foundation. Initially, I thought I could never do a trip like WLE – a 12-day canoe trip in the wilderness. Going into the trip I felt totally unprepared and it was this feeling, along with all of my insecurity and doubt, that followed me.  

From a storm that took my canoe out on the first day to struggling to carry an off-balance canoe amidst rocks, downed trees, and long stretches of mud, everything reminded me of my weakness and made me feel like a burden to the rest of my team. I decided that the best option was to try to hold in all of the negativity, the doubt, the shame, and the emotions. I didn’t want everyone else to know just how little I knew and just how out of place I was.  

Several days later however, my tired body could no longer hold in the pain. While unspoken, I felt as though I needed to be as good as everyone else and that there was no reason why I shouldn’t be able to breeze through a portage like it was a walk in the park. I was confronted with my weakness and was unable to reconcile it. God stopped me dead in my tracks that day when one of the leaders pulled me aside on the trail and provided a space for me to embrace my inability to go on, as I broke down and gave a voice to my struggle and pain. I can’t describe how good it felt to let it all go and to simply be vulnerable. It was at that moment that a weight was lifted (although I still had to carry the pack). 

I don’t think there was a single day where I didn’t face my own weakness on WLE, and it is because of this that my trip was characterized by the word brokenness. While this word typically has a negative connotation, it has come to symbolize hope and new life. I had been living an independent and self-reliant life for way too long, which was characterized by shying away from vulnerability and honesty, rejecting community and relationship, and hiding in shame, weakness, and inability. The “easy” life I was living – characterized by closing off my heart to avoid the pain of saying goodbye, or experiencing the hurt of separation and pretending like I have it all together so I don’t have to feel failure – was broken down. Instead of making my life easier, I had created unrealistic expectations and was living in a life that was fake, restrictive, and unfulfilling. 

I had been broken. Brokenness on WLE meant bringing me to my knees in a giant mud hole while double packing, forcing me to do nothing but wait for a teammate to come pull me out. Brokenness meant building shelters for the fifth day in a row, battling dark and mosquitos when it would be easier to let other people deal with the hassle. Brokenness meant admitting and owning my weakness, relinquishing one of my packs to a teammate when I couldn’t take another step. Brokenness meant becoming humble and taking the help offered by others, instead of trying to prove how well I could do a task. Brokenness meant waking up every day and crying out to God for strength. Brokenness meant sharing the most intimate parts of my story and allowing the walls I had built to come crashing down. Brokenness meant coming to terms with the me that has been hidden away, longing to come out and not only to know people but to be known by people. 

It took me going on a trip on which everything was stripped away from me to understand that God wants to know me and wants to be known by me, so much so that He is willing to leave all else in pursuit of me. When I speak of brokenness, I can rest in the fact that that which was broken was my physical self – the self that felt the need to measure up, the self that had something to prove, the self that needed to get things in order before coming before God. What I was left with was the raw self – the self that was weak, the self that was filled with emotion and longed to be known, the self that leaned in instead of trying to carry it all. God may have broken me, but He didn’t leave me broken. God revealed that the person I was trying to be was not who He created me to be. When I was trying so hard to hide the flaws and the ugliness I saw, I was actually hiding the beauty and joy He had placed in my life that flourishes in relationship and connection, both with God and with those around me.


Becca Jackson

It was one of my final Sunday nights at camp, a night full of God, worship, and friends. I was beginning to have an anxiety attack, so I decided to go outside. It took me a little while to settle down, but as I started calming down, I decided to go inside and begin worshipping with my fellow counselors and staff members. 

As we were worshipping, I noticed the lyrics to our camp song of the summer, “Who You Say I Am” by Hillsong Worship. I sat down in the back and just listened. My whole body was still shaking as I listened to this song, but two verses got me. They were, 

“Who the Son sets free 

Oh is free indeed 

I’m a child of God 

Yes I am 

In my Father’s house 

There’s a place for me 

I’m a child of God 

Yes I am.” 

These specific verses caught my attention and I began to depict them in my head. I thought about what they meant, about being set free because of Jesus. I began to stop shaking when I thought about there being a place for me in “my Father’s house”. This was the root of my anxiety that day. I wanted to feel like I belonged somewhere and when I truly realized that I did belong somewhere I started to cry. Everyone else was still worshipping and I just sat there and cried a good long cry because a lot of feelings were being released. 

My anxiety still existed after this moment, but God was able to calm me down better and I felt an overwhelming sense of peace sweep over me in an incredible way. My breath slowed down to an easy pace, my heart beat returned to normal and my thoughts became still. All I felt in that moment was peace. It’s a freeing experience to know that I am loved and accepted by God and to know that Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sins. 

This is when I realized I wanted to accept God’s love and acceptance and fully embrace it instead of running from it. If I never truly believe in God’s love for me, I will never be free. I will never be able to fully pour into others either if I don’t receive His love first.  

I was glad to have slowed down enough to truly listen to the truths in the song “Who You Say I Am”. The truths of Him being there to accept me into His house and know that I am His child. The truth of knowing that I am free through Christ alone. 

I know that I’ve grown in my ability to pour into others in the same way I’ve been poured into. I know that I’m always loved by God and will always be welcomed into his house. Most importantly, I learned that His love is something I don’t want to live without again.


By Christian Korver

When many people hear the name “Korver,” they either think of basketball or church, and for good reason. I have three uncles and two cousins who are pastors, as well as a cousin in the NBA and a dad who coaches in college. I often feel pressure to live up to “the Korver name.” Living into who God created me to be rather than trying to live up to false expectations is an ongoing battle. 

I grew up blessed with a strong Christian family spilling into me and my faith development. Healthy and holy habits were formed at a young age, such as going to church every Sunday, memorizing scripture before bed, and reading some form of devotional as a family every night after dinner. I was equipped with all sorts of knowledge, but it remained in my head for the longest time. Rather than living into the identity that God tailor-made for me, I instead was just trying to live “a good life,” living up to what I believed to be the expectations of others. 

With a cousin in the NBA and a dad who coaches college basketball, I always felt the need to prove my worth on the basketball court. Pressure and jealousy weighed on me as I compare myself to the next guy. Rather than making basketball a game, enjoying it and then putting it away, my identity became associated with performance in the sport. A bad game – or even practice…. I mean come on, I’m talking ‘bout practice 😉 – could send me in a downward spiral for much longer than the duration of the competition. Although I loved the Lord, I was in the midst of an identity crisis.  I knew that identity is to be found in Christ, but that was (and still is) a struggle as I tend to find value in performance and the opinions of others. Not only was I trying to prove myself as a basketball player, but I was trying to prove that I was worth something off the court through my on-court accolades. 

“Identity determines destiny” is a line that my dad often used when I was younger. It was seared into my brain at a young age, but not until recently has it clicked. Many discussions with my dad but also a couple of my uncles really advanced my understanding of identity. God created each of His children in His image, in a unique and beautiful way, and if we search for our identity elsewhere, our world will be shaken. Recently John 8:36 hit me pretty hard, stating “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (NIV) While in California this summer, my grandpa challenged me to, thirty times each day, thank God for creating me exactly the way in which He created me.  God does not create mistakes, and each of His children were created in a unique manner for a unique purpose.  Celebrating the gifts that God gave each of us provides freedom to play our part in His salvation story with a joyful and peaceful spirit.  

Although it remains a struggle today, I do recognize that I am not defined by my status as a college student, basketball player, my last name, or being a relative of an NBA player. And so rather than striving for the worldly definition of identity, I am invited to live into the gifts that God has given to me, embracing the unique person He created me to be. 

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By Kaylee Henn

It was the very last night of summer before moving to college freshman
year; I was laying in my bed and even over the sound of my fan I could hear the drone of the cicadas and the chirping of the crickets. As I laid there, my mind started doing that thing minds do when all you want is a little sleep. 

I thought about how, over the past few years, I had battled the paralyzing sensation of trying to achieve perfection in every aspect of life, the sheer terror of starting conversations with new people, and hopelessness of waking up in the morning with no motivation to continue the façade of having it all together. I thought about the many comforts of being in a place I could call home, and the elements of familiarity and consistency which were an essential component in my identity: my family, my church, my house, my close friends. 

And as I tossed and turned, the thought of this being the last night I would ever sleep in my bed before beginning a completely new chapter made my stomach do somersaults. 

“I can’t do this.” 

I walked out into the living room and started sobbing harder than I had in long while. 

“I can’t do this. I can’t go. Don’t make me go. Please. I don’t want to.” 

My mom sat down next to me on the couch and listened as I poured out the waves of bottled up anxiety and fear. 

Suddenly I remembered the simple sentence in 1 John 4:18: “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear.” 

The verse echoed in my mind as I sat on the couch, tearfully dreading the move to Northwestern the next day. 

Now fast forward…surprise…I came to school. And I stayed, but not by my strength or ability. Being out of my comfort zone pushed me closer and caused me to rely on God in new ways. But there were still many moments when I felt completely out of control, anxious, and fearful. And it wasn’t the kind of fear you feel when you curl under a blanket during a scary movie, but the paralyzing fear that controls emotion and thought, that comes from placing little pieces of your identity in others and their opinions, and the kind of fear that holds you captive with that tight, constrictive feeling in your core.  

But I came. And I stayed. Was it because of the campus community? The relationships I’ve built? The experiences I’ve had? The education I’ve received? The new comfort I’ve created? 

And the answer to that is no, not entirely. Those things are good, great even. But over the course of the last couple years God has been continually revealing the beauty of his salvation, teaching me about the dangers of sin and the miracle of forgiveness in love. Through time spent alone in scripture and prayer, conversations with dear friends, and advice and encouragement from mentors, I’ve felt God move and grow me closer to himself. But that overwhelming fear which consumes me whenever I am holding too tightly to comfort is not overcome by substituting old comforts for new ones. Rather, it’s the gradual stripping of my solaces and replacing them with a meditation on the vast love of Christ.

I am not defined by my situations: past, present or future. Fear, while real and scary and powerful, is not the identity given to me by Christ and I don’t have to live in it. Through Jesus I can live in LOVE, a love that doesn’t settle for comfortable or normal and steady, but a love that breaks the bonds of fear and sets me free to embrace the unfamiliarity of His beauty and purposes, wherever he calls me to go.