We're down to the final month of school. For some that brings feelings of excitement and relief as they have been counting down the days since August. For others it brings nerves and feelings of unknown as they are trying to figure out what to do for the summer or are looking for a job for after college. For me, I have a mixed bag of emotions. I am looking forward to being done with writing 3 papers a week and stressing out about big assignments. But, I am also nervous about the summer as I am traveling 1,300 miles away from home to work for 3 months.
So, what should we do with the month left of school? How can we cram in all of the fun things we want to do with the limited amount of weeks we have left? How do we find time to still develop friendships and have meaningful conversations in the midst of being stressed and crunched on deadlines? How do we maintain a positive attitude when winter just will not go away and there seems to be no hope for summer?
I pray that we can be a supportive community going through these feelings of the last month of school together. I pray that we try not to fill our conversations with complaints, but with encouraging words. I pray that we invest in the time we have left together before we part for the summer. I pray that we can find the balance of relaxing and enjoying the time we have left while still being diligent in doing our best in our school work. Colossians 3:15 says, "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful." May we be filled with peace as we enter a time of projects, presentations, papers, and finals, and may we never forget to be thankful for them!
(P.S. And don't forget the inspiration from High School Musical:
"We're all in this together
Once we know, that we are
We're all stars
And we see that
We're all in this together")
“He will not withhold any good thing from you.”
My Dad texted me the words after I told him about a job application that closed before I could complete it. It was second time that had happened, and I was incredibly frustrated that I had spent hours answering questions and editing my résumé only to have it go to waste. But his text reminded me that if those jobs were going to be the best thing for me, God would not have kept them from me.
These are sometimes hard words to swallow—they can seem hollow and cliché—but they are true. God is good. He is wise. He loves us. And he will not withhold any good thing. That’s not the prosperity gospel: the Bible doesn’t tell us that God will not withhold riches or health or an easy life. But he will not keep from us anything that will carry out his will in us or through us.
As I look back on my college career, I think these words would have been valuable to me. There are so many things to do during college. There are friends to make, classes to take, positions to hold, weekends to travel, work-studies, internships, clubs, conferences, choirs, bands, intramurals, sports. All the time you feel pulled in different directions: this experience will look good on your résumé, this opportunity will end after college, you need to focus on your academics, you need to invest in the people around you.
At times you feel that you have so much on your plate that you can never get it all done and that you’ve invested in too much.
And then there are the times you feel that you haven’t done enough, that each semester is flying by and with it missed opportunities that you’ll never get a chance at again. You wonder how you’ve spent the past few years because it feels like you haven’t accomplished anything.
My advice? Remember what we are told: "The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right” (Psalm 84:11b).
There are many many great things to do in college, academic and otherwise. But our primary goal isn’t to have a good time or even to learn all the skills needed to go into the workforce—it’s to grow in our obedience and service to the Lord as he carries out his will on earth. When faced with decisions about how to spend our time, it sometimes feels like no matter what we do we are going to miss out on something. But here’s the good news: if we continually seek the Lord, he will never withhold any good thing from us! In some ways, we don’t even have to worry about it! In fact, even when we are unfaithful, God is faithful and uses events and people to bring us back to himself.
So, be encouraged! We can rest in these words and know that when we are seeking to follow the Lord, he won’t let an opportunity go by that we should have taken.
There are currently a number of Dordt students studying abroad this semester in Spain! One of them is my friend Sarah Van Hulzen, a fellow education major that I've had the privilege of getting to know a bit over this past year and a half! I contacted Sarah recently and asked her to compose a blog for me to use for The Dordt Life. Graciously, she accepted and wrote up this beautiful piece. Please take a read!
Sevilla, Spain. Where do I even start? I’ve thought about sharing all of the highlights of my semester so far. Really wow you. Make you think I am living this grand life full of nonstop adventure. But while I have had some incredible adventures, the majority of my time here has been day to day living. Some good days, and some bad. I was reminded by a friend that study abroad is ‘wonderful and transformative, but it’s also normal living’. And I’ve found a beauty and a freedom in accepting each day as a miracle, whether I’m traversing through Europe, staying in sketchy hostels and hiking mountains, or sleeping in, eating too much Nutella, and lounging in my pajamas until supper time. So without further ado, I’ve decided to take you through two typical days here in Sevilla.
A typical day in the life…
I wake up at 7:15 to Elevation Worship and the sun shining through the white curtains. My roommate is reading her Bible. I walk to the bathroom, passing through the kitchen. The smell of coffee stirs me awake little by little. I’m greeted by Maria, the gem of a woman who helps around the house. “Buenos días, hija” she chimes. Three simple words and I’m reminded that I am in Spain. Shoot dang, I feel blessed. I get ready for the day, drinking a cup of coffee and eating a bowl of cereal while reading the Word before heading out of the apartment with my roommate, Bailey. Our walk to school takes a half hour, but when the sun is shining and the streets are full of people walking their pups, the walk is an absolute delight. We smile at the same man we see each morning who stands on the street corner selling tissues, we pass Mr. Pizza, our favorite spot to get giant slices of pizza for 2 euros, and we arrive at Plaza de Cuba. Crossing the bridge that takes us to the center of town, I look out over the river and see the morning sun glistening on the slow moving water. It’s 8:40 and several people are already out rowing on the river. The rest of the walk to school is down the main street of Sevilla. The city is awake a bustling. Horse and carriages are parked out front the towering cathedral, waiting for their next customers. Restaurants and bars are opening their doors and setting out tables in chairs. Baily and I leave the bustle of downtown and turn onto a side street that leads to the school.
Upon arriving at school, Ana greets us at the front desk. The school is full of students from several different universities. Although there are 14 colleges represented in the program, everyone chats with one another. Even with 40 students that didn’t know each other 3 months before, the atmosphere of the school is warm and welcoming. At 9, class starts. My lovely teacher, Carolina smiles as she walks in to find all 7 of her students ready for the day. “Hola clase! Cómo estáis?” The next three and a half hours are spent with some of my favorite people as we try to grasp new grammar concepts and speak Spanish with one another. I can honestly say that my class here is one of my favorite classes I’ve ever had in my life. We talk in the best Spanish we can muster, we are all patient with one another, Carolina makes class fun, we laugh until our abs hurt, and we learn applicable Spanish that we get to use in and out of the classroom. During our 20 minute break, we go to either a coffee shop or a pastry shop, justifying our eating habits with the fact that we walk at least 20 minutes to and from school every day.
After class is over, I head to the roof of the school to start homework and play guitar. The warm sun and gentle breeze makes my soul happy. I’m often joined by other students, some chatting, some reading, some drawing. An hour on the roof looking out over the city makes one never want to leave Sevilla. I walk home for lunch at 2. The walk home is just as interesting as the walk to school. The streets are full of people performing, singers, dancers, and artists. I pass George, a singer from Romania who sings covers of Ed Sheeran, Hozier, and Ben Howard. When I have time, I pick out a tune while he takes a break.
Once I get home, I sit down with my host mom, host sister, and Bailey. We eat a typical meal of croquetas, lentil soup, and bread. We have pleasant conversation and laugh about the day while we sit on comfy couches with the table cloth pulled over our legs and a space heater on under the table. After a dessert of either yogurt or fruit, we sobremesa (time after a meal to talk) for at least an hour. With a full stomach and a tired brain from a morning of Spanish, my bed is calling my name. Siesta time has finally arrived, and man it is oh so sweet. An hour of sleep in the middle of the day has become a guilty pleasure.
After siesta, I make my way back downtown to meet with a friend I met at church. We go out for ice cream and chat in Spanish about our week. We mosey through town, bopping in and out of stores laughing as we hold up ridiculous clothes we’d never wear, or comforting each other when we want that sweater but we don’t have any money (a consequence of too many ice cream dates). After bidding my friend ‘adios’, I spend the last bits of sunlight by the river. I’m found once again with guitar in hand and Bible beside me feeling overwhelmed by this crazy awesome life and my crazy awesome God.
I return home for supper at 9. A wonderful meal leads to an hour of homework. From there I crawl back into my bed, unmade from my siesta yet comfy as ever. My roommate and I write something on our gratitude list from the day and I go to sleep with a smile on my face.
Another very typical day in Sevilla…
I crawl out of my bed at 8:15. I’m supposed to leave the apartment at 8:30. It’s another rainy day. I throw on a flannel and grab a piece of fruit on my way out the door. I speed walk to school and plop down in my chair as class is starting. I pull out my half-finished homework and struggle to grasp what my teacher is saying. I can barely stammer out a sentence in Spanish. During our break, I realize I forgot money for coffee. After class is over, I walk out into the streets and am met by a downpour of rain. I forgot my umbrella so I walk home getting drenched. At home, my host mom has to repeat everything she says at least 3 times for me to understand what she is saying. After lunch I crawl to my bed and end up sleeping an hour longer than I wanted to. I try to do homework, but can’t seem to focus. The rain has let up, so I go for a run. 10 minutes later, I realize I need to stop making so many stops to Mr. Pizza and a pastry a day might be good for the soul, but it is bad for my heart. I shower, watch a show on Netflix, eat supper, and head to bed. I spent the day just trying to survive. I miss home and wonder what I’m doing in this foreign land and if I’ll ever actually learn the language.
These are two typical days in Spain. While one is obviously better than the other, I have come to appreciate both. Each day is different, some hard, some easier. Some wonderful, some quite difficult. I find myself struggling to control my emotions. Some days I stay positive and go through the day with gratitude and other days I feel overwhelming sad and lonely. But on both days, God remains the same. God reminds me that even though I’m human, and unstable, and emotional, He is always the same. He is my rock. He is constant. So whether I am speaking perfect Spanish, or struggling to order a smoothie, whether I am in love with Sevilla or hopelessly missing home, God reminds me that He is my home and He is guiding me through it all. On my good days and on my bad, He is molding me and He is shaping me. And for this I am so so thankful. So to any of you considering study abroad, I won’t sugar coat it. It is difficult sometimes, but it is worth it. It is transformative. From the good days to the bad, the wild adventures to the daily schedules, God will use it all to reveal Himself and help you grow in faith and wisdom.
As you can probably tell by her words, Sarah is such a neat gal. I so admire her honesty, and the way she finds God and can see him working in all situations. On the right are a collection of her photos she shared with me! Hope you enjoyed. :)
In one of my education methods classes, we are focusing on citizenship. Social studies is citizenship education, so my professor asked us today if any of us saw examples of good citizenship over spring break! To be honest, I did not think about it during spring break, but looking back on it now, I can see there were actually a lot of examples of people who demonstrated citizenship to my fellow choir members and I during tour!
1) Our bus driver dealt with 51 college students without a complaint and allowed to us watch loud movies, sing, play some pretty rowdy games, fill up the bus's bathroom a couple times (yuck,) and even drove us through snow storms, always getting us safely to our destinations, 11 days straight. I would never be able to do that, but he did it all and interacted with us, always having a basket of candy (which he refilled at least 3 times during the trip) at the front of the bus for us. What a guy. :)
2) Our host families--they were willing to pick us up late after our concerts (many even came to our concerts!) ;), give us beds to sleep in, bathrooms to use, tons of food to eat (can you spot the lunch bag in the photo on the right?,) :) and many woke up before dawn to bring us back to our bus for the next day. They were amazing, to say the least.
3) One of our road trip lunches consisted of Panda Express. My tour buddy and I happened to be talking to the guy and his wife behind us and he offered to pay for our meals. What a treat!
4) Our free afternoon was scheduled to be visiting Yosemite National Park, buuuut it was forecasted to be 23 degrees and snowing 8-25 inches in the park. Needless to say, when we packed for the Southwest, we didn't exactly bring our snow clothes along... :) So all week we had been trying to come up with other options. One of the people who attended a concert of ours the night before our free day heard our plight, and offered to pay for all of us to go see the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was absolutely gorgeous and such a generous gift.
5) Once we stayed in a hotel since we did not have a concert and host families to stay with that night. We had to be loading the bus and leaving by 6:00am the next morning, but the hotel breakfast was not scheduled to be open until 6:00. Our director asked if they would be able to open it just 10-15 minutes early for us to grab something on our way out. They willingly did. In fact, one of my choir members who had been doing homework earlier that morning said the breakfast lady had opened it already at 5:20am for us! Wow, now that is being a servant. What an incredible, selfless display of citizenship.
Thinking back to these models of hospitality, selflessness, and pure goodness inspires me to want to be a better citizen, too. I'm going to work on that more intentionally the remainder this week. :)
So, in case you haven’t noticed from our last few blogs, Dordt just had it’s Spring Break. And we weren’t excited at all. Nope.
Actually, the breaks we get in college are some of the best parts of college—not just because we have off school, believe it or not, but because they provide chances for us to spend extra time with people in a different context than the school context. For me, breaks have been times when I’ve created deeper relationships with some of my best friends because we’ve experienced new things together. I know...I cheeesey. But true.
Generally, I’ve gone home to Colorado for my Thanksgiving and Spring Breaks and brought some friends with me each time. But occasionally I’ve visited my friends’ homes, and this break I went somewhere entirely new with a lot of people I’d never met beforehand. There were 8 of us: myself, my roommate, my roommate’s boyfriend, several of his friends, and one of his friend’s wife. We were an eclectic group, to say the least, and at first I had a lot of moments of wondering how I got myself into a 15-pasenger van, driving 18 hours (most of them through the night), to a place I’d never been before (Whitefish, Montana), with people I barely knew.
The experience actually reminded me a lot of the emotions I felt during my semester in the Netherlands—mixed emotions of anxiety but also excitement. By the end of the week, on our way back, I still wondered how I had gotten myself into this van with this bunch of people. But by then I was SO glad to have been spent the week with them, learning about both the people I probably never would have spent time with otherwise and the people I already had relationships with.
Here is a small dabbling of what we bonded over (pictured below): biking in short sleeves, ski-lift rides, skiing with views, driving with views, hiking around the hot springs and other trails in Yellowstone, basically petting wild buffalo, and snowball fights. Not pictured, but worth noting: FOOD. So much food (s/o to the Schusslers for feeding us all week).
So, as you can see, we had some fun this break. And I was constantly thankful for the opportunity to see the beauty and complexity of what God has made--not the least, the people right beside me.
Hey all! It's been a long time since I've posted. I'm sorry about that! Today was our first day of classes post-spring break. For 51 students, this also means it was our first day back from choir tour! I have had the incredible blessing of being part of concert choir this year and over spring break we went on our tour! We had the privilege of singing in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Califorina, and are looking forward to our homecoming concert on campus this Friday. :) As I reflect on this trip, there are a number of notions that occurred to me. I'll give you just a few.
1. Growing up in NW Iowa, in the same town I attend college in, I never understood how students from other states and countries heard of Dordt College. I mean honestly, a town with a population about 7,000, in the middle of Iowa's cornfields? How does one come to know about it? Well going on this tour opened my eyes to the incredible amount of people who knew of and even have connections to Dordt. Every single host family my tour buddy and I stayed with had some knowledge of and/or connection to Dordt College-and we stayed with nine different families in four different states! That is quite incredible. I learned this week that Dordt has 19,000 alumni! The legacy Dordt College is leaving is amazing.
2. I am so incredibly thankful to be attending a college where we can sing praises to our Savior in our choir songs. Some of my favorite pieces we sing are anthems of praise to our amazing Lord. Each school and church that hosted us welcomed us with incredible hospitality and showed us their dedication to their faith and their church body and it was so neat to have conversations about faith with them that we otherwise likely could not have had. Honestly, our favorite places to sing on tour were some of the old churches-their acoustics were beautiful! Being able to do devotions on the bus with the choir each morning, as well as before each concert every night entirely puts my mind and heart in the right space. I cannot imagine being in a choir where we would not have that freedom.
3. Guys, the people I go to school with are so cool. :) I've always felt that choir is one of the most diverse groups of people on campus, encompassing friend groups and personalities all over the spectrum. And it is so incredibly neat to spend 250+ hours with them straight because I learned so much about each individual that made me gain a deeper appreciation for who they are, as well as for the Creator for making us so unique. I'm so thankful to sing in a choir where we can celebrate our uniqueness and yet all come together to make a joyful noise (Psalm 98.)
Basically, this week was awesome. :) Minus a little snow trouble one day, everything went so well, and I had an incredible time. If you're interested in hearing us, I strongly encourage you to join us this Friday night, March 23, and 7:30pm in the BJH! If that's not possible, but you would like to hear just bits and pieces of our concert, I have included a link from one of our tour stops this past week-Ripon, CA. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/113640025 I hope you enjoy. :)
If you're curious about the facial expression and such going on in some of the photos I chose, I'll just say we have some very fun warm-ups. :) Thanks to Mary VW for the photos!
On Thursday night I walked down the stairs of the Campus Center to be greeted by the sound of chatter, music, and the smell of pizza. My friends and I made the spontaneous trip to find ourselves some hot food and a place to chat about our days. It's a trek that we make at least once or twice every week. Our destination? The Grille.
The Grille is a-buzz with activity and deliciousness, making it one of my favorite places on campus. When my friends and I do have the time to sit down at the Grille, the food is always worth it. Pizza, onion rings, fried cheese curds—they're all absolutely delicious, especially late at night when you're writing long papers. But, if you ask me, the best food at the Grille is their pepperoni pizza. Plus, if you happen to go the Grille between 1:30-3:30 p.m. or 8-10 p.m., you can get it on meal exchange, which means you get a side and a drink, or, if you're like me, forgo a side and get two slices.
However, the Grille's pepperoni pizza is more than just a spicy, cheesy slice of goodness. Pepperoni pizza means community, between myself and my friends and our group and the other groups who meet in the Grille. It means laughter between bites and trading stories from our classes. It means the kind of comfort and satisfaction that you can only get from a good slice of pizza.
So, before I begin, let me just comment on the date: February 26. Holy smokes! Already almost two months into the semester, and less than three months to go. And it’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog! I thought that I would just tell you a little bit about my semester…which just so happens to be my last semester.
As this is my last semester, I have been tempted to fill my days with exclamations of, “This is the last time I’ll do….” –you name it. There’s this feeling that I have to make everything count or else I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.
Well, that may be overstating it, but some advice that I’ve heard from several people is to not go through the semester thinking of everything as a “last.” Instead, I’m trying to appreciate just being here at Dordt. For readers who may be looking at coming to Dordt, here are some of the things that have become my life here:
Drinking cups of coffee with my roommates. If you’re a coffee drinker, you know that coffee is better with someone else. I was #blessed to have roommates who enjoyed coffee with me all four years of college. This semester, one of my roommates and I share a French-press-full of coffee together every morning, often while having our devotions together.
Sitting in groups of random people. Maybe you’re at the Grille and you see a friend at a table. So you go sit with her/him. Then your friend’s other friends come over and sit with you and then other people you’ve never met come to sit with them. Soon, you’re at a table with a seemingly random group of people, talking about who loves snow and who drinks what kinds of tea. The cool thing is that this kind of incident is pretty normal—only this semester it occurred to me, “where else do you just sit and chat with a group of strangers?”
The joyous feeling of walking back after your last class. Now, this semester, I do look forward to the majority of my classes. And I enjoy the time between classes where I can get homework done or grab lunch or talk with people I run into (or maybe some of each). But there is this wonderful feeling I get when I’m walking back to my apartment after my last class—part of it is getting to be outside after mostly having been inside all day, and part of it is knowing that the rest of the day is mine (to take a nap? To make another cup of coffee? Who knows?).
Falling asleep during Friday night movies. As freshman, we could stay up as long as we wanted no problem. But as seniors, we keep having weekend nights where we go to the Fruited Plain, play some games, and then start a movie at like 11:00. And I don’t know why we do that because half of the group ends up falling asleep anyway, and it just means that we all have to wake up and then go to bed and then re-fall asleep. But we keep doing it, and, honestly, I’m going to miss it.
Saturday mornings writing papers. Now, this may seem a little odd, and I know that many college students do not have this experience because Saturday mornings mean sleeping in. But since I played sports, free Saturdays are a luxury. So, Saturday mornings (and afternoons) can be my most productive times. I go to the library or a coffee shop (with a cup of coffee, no matter where I am) and crank out a paper or some reading or another assignment—although, let’s be real: English majors pretty much only read and write papers—and although I’d often rather be doing something fun, I do enjoy the satisfaction of getting work done. And there’s something about Saturday mornings that makes the getting work done feel relaxed.
Before college, it was hard to picture what my life at Dordt would be like. Now that I’m on the other end of things, it’s hard to imagine my college years going any other way. And while there are many things that I am ready to be done with—hello senioritis—I’ve loved my time here at Dordt and am thankful for what God has given me here.
Last night at a worship event on campus called LIFE, we reflected and meditated on Hebrews 3:1-6. The passage says:
“Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.”
The first fascinating thing about this time of meditation and reflection was that I had never read this passage or heard these verses before. I got to encounter a part of God’s Word for the first time. God’s character and wisdom is endless and last night I got to dip my toes into another part of who He is.
As I was reading, I was struck by the image of God being the builder of everything and His people (us) being His house. As I continued to sit with this passage, I started to think about what a builder is and does and what a house is and does.
A builder has a blueprint—a unique layout of his creation. The builder is dedicated to his building project and the process from the pouring of the foundation to the finishing touches. The builder does not change—he is faithful and constant. If something breaks inside the house or starts to fall apart, the builder refines and mends the many parts. He restores the brokenness. The builder knows the house inside and out—the nooks and crannies, the hidden spaces. The builder adds a unique touch to each of his houses—people can tell who built the house.
A house has a door. That door lets people in. A house has many rooms, many purposes, gifts, and desires. A house has a table where people eat and fellowship and converse together. A house is a community holding families and friends. A house lives in community with its next-door neighbors and people around the block. A house has a foundation—rooted in cement and poured by the builder. A house goes through wear and tear—experiencing the hot sun of the summer, the wind of the fall, the snow in the winter, and the rain in the spring. A house goes through ups and downs—holds good memories and bad memories. A house endures and supports and protects.
God is the builder of everything. We are His house. God has a unique layout for each of us, for each of our hearts. Our houses each have different gifts, purposes, and desires. We the church are His house—a community inviting others in, feasting at the table together, experiencing life together, living in His glory. We, the houses, go through triumph and grief. We are constantly being refined by our helper, our builder. Through it all, the builder returns again and again and never abandons his creation.
God is our builder and if we hold firmly to the foundation that He so graciously gives us, then we are His house.
The first week of classes is over. The Spring 2018 semester has commenced with little fanfare. Yet somehow, everything feels different.
Getting back into school after any break can be difficult. Just going to classes on Monday after the weekend feels like it takes extra effort. After a month of naps, gifts, and no homework, going back to classes every day feels like a daunting task. Yet, the stress I often felt during first semester is gone. I see familiar faces in classes and on sidewalks. I find time to socialize, sleep, eat, and do homework. My 17-credit schedule doesn't seem nearly as challenging as I thought it would.
It's different than my first semester of college. At times, freshman orientation was draining for me. Meeting new people sometimes got exhausting, trying to find friends wasn’t always easy, and getting the hang of homework loads and professorial expectations was often a nightmare. But, I learned a lot and made it through.
So, I was a little surprised when the start of this second semester of my freshman year seemed similarly draining as my first one.
On Monday, I moved in. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I already had lists of homework to accomplish. Apparently, "syllabus day" was more like a "syllabus glance-over plus actual class day." It was a shock. What happened to the leisurely academic start I had experienced first semester? How could I have four different reading assignments plus a one-page paper and an analysis to write already? It felt overwhelming. Instead of getting to dip my toes in first, it was like I had been tossed headlong into the water.
Even though I found the first week of classes to be draining, I know that, this time, things will be easier.
I know now how quickly time passes in college, and I know how to manage that time. It helps that I enjoy the massive amounts of reading and writing that my English major demands from me. I have more confidence in myself now because the first semester taught me that I can handle just about any chaos that gets thrown at me. As the stress of the first week fades away, I am already excited about what I can learn from my professors.
The first week of classes is over, but the fun has just begun.