SWAG: School, Work, And God (not exactly in that order)

As I’m nearing the end of the semester, I’m recognizing how fast this first year at Hope has flown by. Based on what others are telling me, they say each year goes by even faster – and I’m not entirely sure I’m ready for that.

Here in April, I think I’ve finally mastered the balance of finding out who I am, finding the path God has set apart for me, (and, um… finding my homework on my messy desk, which is still sometimes a struggle). I’m learning to be content with being patient and trusting in His plan for my life. Each positive experience is a blessing, and any missed opportunity will reveal itself in a different way if there is insight God desires for me understand.

That being said, I think that’s what the first year of college is really about – discovering you. Although being away from my hometown and family is really difficult sometimes, those empty spots have been filled in ways I never could have imagined. The Hope community is so special. If you’ve spent time around campus, you’ve probably heard that mentioned before – and it is so true. I have met amazing friends and been taught by amazing professors who uplift and support me every step of the way. Each time I feel discouraged, they’re willing to listen to my needs and help me fix them. When good things happen, they rejoice with me. I am forever grateful to be included in a community overflowing with so much love.

In comparison to high school, college is a lot more difficult. Based on my high school preparation, I will say that I was very unprepared for the work load I have experienced here at Hope. However, I have found strength through the stress. Last week, I prepared for an exam and two papers – one five-page and one ten-page – as well as read a whole novel in just about five days. Along with my classwork, I was balancing other activities and taking time to serve God and take occasional break (it’s not possible to get through a week like that without some classic coffee breaks 😉 ).

It’s also not possible to get through a week without praising God every step of the way.

The most influential part of my college year is how the spark in my heart for Christ has grown brighter into a flame – in greater reality, it is a giant and unquenchable fire. God has spoken to me in so many ways and I’ve been learning more about Him and His plans for me through the Chapel services, worship events, and relationships that I have built on campus. It has been a blessing for me to finally grasp His love for me. I’ve learned that prayer changes things. Not just a little, but a lot. And when He wants me to know something, He makes sure I know it, too. All I have to do is listen to hear His voice and welcome in His presence.

Also, as I continually fall more in love with Christ, I fall in love with the person I’m becoming through Him. This is what takes the work. I have to let go of some of the ways I used to live to adopt new habits that fulfill His plans for me. Throughout this year, I have been practicing becoming more patient in times of struggle, slow to anger in times of frustration, and gentle in times of need. These things take practice, but I’m psyched to see the person I am about to become.

This is why I say “SWAG: School, Work, and God, but not exactly in that order.” “Swag” is often defined as being something cool or awesome, and that’s exactly what my first year of college has been. But it’s also why I say it’s not exactly in that order. God is first, and everything else comes second. He’s the only one who gets me through the long nights to enter into bright days. He’s my purpose and my one and only truth.

As finals week is creeping closer, I’m excited to see the plans God has for me in the coming weeks. He is so good.

Keep up with me @hopesophie17 or send me an email at sophie.guetzko@hope.edu if you have any questions or comments. Take care!

Lessons in Trust

One thing that God has really been teaching me lately is what true trust in Him looks like. I’m sure that if you had asked me sometime throughout the past few years if I was trusting God in my daily life, I would have said something along the lines of, “Well, I’m not doing it perfectly, but I try every day.” That sentence definitely still rings true for me, but I think I understand a lot more what trust looks like now. I definitely believe that God knows exactly what we need and puts us in situations to learn and grow and become the person that he wants to shape us into. For me, that was learning not to rely on myself, but fully in Him.

Trust

I have definitely always been a person that tried to plan out as much as I possibly could. In a way, it was comforting for me to always know what I thought my next step was going to be, but I’m learning that God calls us to a radical faith in him. He wants us to step out and do whatever he is calling us to, even if that isn’t a part of our plan. I have definitely not always been the greatest at doing this. In general, I think I have pretty good plans and I want to follow them as much as possible. It’s easy to get caught up in this and think that I know exactly where my life is headed and exactly what I need to do to get there, but it’s so important to remember that God’s plans are always so much greater.

To be specific, God has not been shy about the way he is working in my life lately. To be honest, a couple of months ago, I had completely given up on dating anyone, and I was okay with it. Then God boldly and evidently stepped in and put a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time back into my life, and God made the plans that he has for us right now pretty evident. We don’t know what God’s plan holds in the future, but I do know that it is good. My boyfriend Jesse has done so much to encourage me in my relationship with Christ before my relationship with him, which is a huge blessing in itself. God has just worked in so many ways and has been so evident throughout everything with Jesse. God has made it clear to us that if we trust his plan and boldly step out in faith to do what He asks of us, He will work things out for our benefit and His glory. What could be better?

I have also been thinking a lot about what I am going to do after college. I had always thought that God was calling me to be a music teacher, but as I have been praying and pursuing His will and learning how to step out in faith, I have realized that I think I’ve always been listening to my own plans. I am still praying about what His plans are, but whatever they might be, I know that they will be so, so good!

I have gotten the privilege recently to talk to several people who boldly, faithfully, and fearlessly trust in God. It is so awesome to see people who truly believe in and rely on the promises that God has shown them in the Bible or in other ways in their lives. I am so blessed to get to witness the incredible things that God does for these people who endeavor to trust Him so fully! It is such an awesome and inspiring thing, and it makes me want to learn to be even more trusting in God! His blessings are abundant!

What is God doing in your life right now? Leave a comment, send me an email, or tweet @hopekathryn17!

Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.

-Psalm 9:10

Songs Against Slavery

Last Thursday night, Songs Against Slavery hosted a concert with Judah & the Lion and Andrew Ripp! It was so cool and such a blessing to experience the whole evening. In between the two musical acts, they had a woman who is a survivor of sex trafficking share her story. It was super powerful and definitely made me want to do something to make a change! It was a super awesome event and I’m so glad I got to go! Songs Against Slavery is a really awesome ministry and one of its founders is a Hope student! Hope is so blessed to have awesome students putting on events like this that aren’t only for other students to enjoy, but also for such greater reasons like this one. This is definitely one way I have truly seen people live out the love of Jesus!

Here are some pictures from the event! It was such a blessing!

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Make sure to check out Songs Against Slavery’s website and follow them on Twitter at @sas_endslavery! You can also follow me at @hopekathryn17, leave a comment, or send me an email at kathryn.krieger@hope.edu! I’d love to hear from you!


“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

—Matthew 25:40

Writing Workshop: Finding God’s Voice

Have you ever taken time to reflect back on your life and see how God brought you through some of the most difficult parts? Are you curious to see how the Holy Spirit is working through your life right now to shape you into the person God sees you to become?

I sure am.

When I heard about a writing workshop early last week hosted by Campus Ministries, I became super excited. And little did I know, those questions (and many more!) were explained and answered throughout the day of this workshop.

We started off the day yesterday morning by reading Psalm 139 and finding the verse that stood out most to each one of us (see Psalm 139 here).

Psalm 139:14
Verse 14 stood out most to me from Psalm 139.
“I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

We then did a meditation in which we reflected on how Jesus has traveled with us throughout our life, and how he has supported us during some of the happiest and most difficult times. I was amazed to find His glory and mercy throughout all of my life.

Plus, we had lunch from Phelps Catering (Phelps is the dining hall on campus), and it was a delicious salad with chicken, apples, and pecans. It inspired me to be more creative with the salads I make in the dining center!

Later in the day, we reflected on stories of women in the Bible to see how their interactions with Jesus and the will of God can shape us to become people who share and experience God’s love with the people surrounding us.

Some of the things we found:

1. God’s love knows no boundaries. There is also nothing that can separate us from God (John 4:1-42, Romans 8:38-39).

2. When we become desperate for God’s presence, he will not reject us. Also, having strong, abiding faith creates a gateway for us to see God’s miracles in our life (Luke 5:25-34).

3. God blesses us through our works of selflessness and is steadfast to us in our times of need (2 Kings 4:1-34).

It was neat to review these stories as as a college student and understand them with a different perspective. It was also inspiring to find strength and courage through women who were faithful to God.

And the one of the best parts about this workshop? Over the next six weeks, we’ll be breaking into small groups to engage in greater discussion about God’s plan in our lives. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes!

In the meantime, keep up with me @hopesophie17! If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below or email me at sophie.guetzko@hope.edu.

New Year, New Me: Choosing my word of the year

I’ve never quite mastered the concept of a New Year’s resolution. For some reason, it’s never really appealed to me — maybe because it’s hard to keep up with, or because I feel bored after a while.

My sophomore year of high school, my mom introduced me to a new way to start off the new year. From then on, it’s made for a new and amazing way to kick off the celebration of another year of our lives.

We choose a word each year instead of a specific resolution. This way, there’s no pressure — there’s just a general focus. It’s been amazing to see how my life attracts specific situations that apply with the word I chose each year. Not only that, but it also changes the way I react to the situations I face in my life.

At the start of each year, my mom and I make vision boards that support our word. We often write it in the center of the board and then add magazine clippings that go along with it. It’s super easy and super fun — all you need is some poster board, glue, and some old magazines.

Vision Board
Here are my vision boards for this year– I just hung them in my dorm today! The top one is a reminder to abide in the Lord, and the bottom one is to remind myself to live with abandon.

Here’s how to make your own vision board:

1. choose a word that you like (or something you think will apply to you throughout this year).

2. flip through your magazines, and if you see something you like, cut it out — regardless of what it is. Even if you feel just a LITTLE bit like “I like that,” cut it out. You can always recycle it later.

3. collect your clippings into a pile and paste them onto your posterboard.

4. you’re finished! (Typically I Mod Podge or laminate them to keep the board nicer, but it’s good to go no matter what.)

Last year, 2013, I knew I would be facing a lot of change in my life: making my final college decision, saying goodbye to my friends, and beginning a new chapter in my life. I chose the word embrace in hopes that I would keep in mind that these changes are natural and are a part of growing up.

This year, I have chosen the word abide. I crave to dig deeper in my faith and grow deeper in my roots with Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Have you chosen your word yet? I’d love to hear from you if you have (and I’d love to hear from you even if you haven’t!). If you have questions or comments about anything at all, please send me an email at sophie.guetzko@hope.edu or tweet at me @hopesophie17.

Happy, happy, happy New Year!

Ekballo Project: Be the Answer

When God calls you, would you say yes?

A few weeks ago, my Bible Study leader invited me to an event on Facebook called “The Ekballo Project: A Night of Testimony + Worship + Prayer. At first I thought, “Oh, that’s cool! Maybe I’ll check it out.”

Then today, since all my finals were done, I realized I should totally go check it out. My friend and I headed over to Graves Hall for the event, and it was absolutely amazing. Tyler Connell from the Ekballo Project shared his testimony of the mission work he has done in Nepal, India. He told us unbelievable stories about healing the blind and encouraged us to find our calling in Christ, whether it is across the world or in our own community.

Want more information about this amazing organization? Check out http://ekballoproject.com/.

What do you see as God’s calling for you? Whatever it is, embrace it. He’ll be faithful to you in your journey.

Keep up with me @hopesophie17. If you have questions or comments, feel free to drop me a note at sophie.guetzko@hope.edu.

House of Life

House Picture
House Picture

My wonderful housemate Lydia described beautifully our house this semester. She describes our house much better than I ever could. I am thankful for the journey our has has been through this semester, and I’m thankful I will get one more with these amazing girls.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
– Proverbs 27:17

This year has been an unpredicted blessing.

I live with 6 other girls, totaling 7, in a house that seems to be a never-ending rectangle. It’s unattractive from the outside and many times humorous when you’re inside because of the awkward outlets and random space; but the treasures that live within in it could never be exchanged.

God knew their hearts, and He knew how much I needed them.

Words will never be able to express all that they have taught me and continue to teach me every single day. I have stepped into a house full of life, full of love, and full of friends that speak truth and compassion to each other every open opportunity.  Every chance they have to build one another up, they take it.

What I also love… they aren’t afraid to feel. They aren’t afraid to let their guards down around each other, and if they are having a bad day they are unafraid to confront it. They are real. They are honest. They have taught me to live, to be vulnerable, to seek, to search, to enter into grace, to be patient, and most importantly they have taught me about Jesus and why He gave us friends to help us through the victories and pains of this life.

They have sharpened me.

I pray that each and every one of you will encounter friends that I have been blessed to gain. A friend that calls you out when they know that you were made for more, a friend that laughs with you through life’s hilarious encounters, and cries with you through the trenches. A friend that listens – that plays with your hair as you speak out words that are scattered and don’t make sense. A friend that lets you ask questions and doesn’t always have to give you the answers. A friend that always points you back to Jesus, even when you thought the distance seemed too far.

I pray that each of you will have a friend like these friends.
We all need them.

Now, I must share a brief story about tonight. Tonight is the night before Finals Week, a week when heads are spinning and delirious mindsets seem to override all sanity.  Our house wanted to have one more dinner all together to celebrate the end of the year, and our first semester with each other. We wanted to be together one last time before Christmas break came and one of our dear sisters and housemates moved to Chicago for the following semester. As we were sitting around El Rancho (a delicious Mexican restaurant around here) we decided to go around and say one word that we thought described each person. Cheesy? Maybe. Necessary? Always. After we went around we “up-ed” the encouragement factor and went around again to state what we have learned from each person this semester.

Speechless. The table felt like a golden banquet. Kind word after kind word swept across the room and grin upon grin swept across every face. There were laughs, there were tears, and there were accidental noises in between. It was beautiful. It was memorable. It was awesome.

Why is it that affirming others, and receiving those affirmations seems to be so distant, uncomfortable, and foreign to us? We all need to encourage people more. Share with them that one word that could pierce their heart and that one lesson that they never knew they were teaching. What if we made this the norm? Not in a way that cheapened the meaning or made it something that we expected, but something that was just… easy, easy to slip from our lips and easy for our hearts to receive.

This house of unexpected friends has comforted my darkest hours and celebrated my greatest victories. Let us, as one body, be this house to each other.

Tonight was beautiful. Tonight I realized that although the craziness of finals and life seems to be so present, that this is what we are truly going to carry with us through our lives – the people that sharpen us, the relationships that hold us, and the memories that shape us.

I pray that your friends become your iron sharpeners, and I dare you to do what we did around the table tonight. You would be surprised the freedom and life one word and/or lesson learned can bring.

College is not only about the learning in the classroom, but it also encompasses building lasting relationships and memories. I have learned more about myself during these past four years from the people who surround me. My advice for all of you incoming freshman, be prepared to be humbled. Always keep an open mind and heart. It is easy to become annoyed with people who you live with 24/7, but keep in mind the bigger picture. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Focus on the good in people and learn from them.

Words cannot describe my thankfulness for such wonderful housemates and the Hope community.

God Bless,

Colleen

SO Thankful!

As we are creeping up on Thanksgiving, the homework is piling up, the Christmas decorations are coming out, the stress levels are rising, and I’m both happy and anxious at the same time. I find myself overwhelmed daily by how incredibly blessed I’ve been this year. That isn’t to say that there haven’t been difficulties, but I have found that God has just provided so abundantly. He is SO good.

I am so, so thankful for my family. I have been truly blessed by them each and every day, from vulnerable talks about real life, to group messages about Aaron Carter, 50 million inside jokes, and everything in between, I can truly call this group of people my best friends. Even better, I gained another sister this year, and if that isn’t something to be thankful for, I’m not sure what is!

My family at my brother's 8th grade graduation.
All of us at my oldest brother’s 8th grade graduation. Check out the sweet guitar tie he borrowed from my dad! 🙂
My family at my brother's wedding
All of us at my brother’s wedding in October! My oldest brother Matthew and his wife Maggie are on the left, the bride and groom, Ethan and Trina, in the middle, then me, and my parents on the right!
My grandparents and I
My grandparents and I on my birthday last year!

I have also been blessed by so many incredible friends coming into my life this year. They are all just crazy wonderful. I love all the time I get to spend with the ones who are at Hope, and I truly cherish the time I get with the people who are in other places!

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As you can probably tell from the pictures above, I have been able to build some really awesome friendships while at Hope and I’m so thankful for those. One of the things I am most thankful for this year is being here at Hope. I love love love the music program, I love the intentional Christian community that is cultivated and encouraged here, I love the people, I love the campus, I love the town, I love my classes, and I could go on and on. I’ve known I wanted to come to Hope for a long time, but sometimes it’s just still so surreal. I wasn’t always sure whether it would work out or not for me to come here, but it’s so clear to me that God made this all work out for a reason and that’s definitely something to be thankful for.

I am also so thankful to be a student blogger. It’s truly been awesome and something I had hoped to do for a long time! Kind of a mini-“dream-come-true.” 🙂 I also recently got a job at Pizza Hut (I start next week! Come visit me!) and that’s definitely something to be thankful for, too. Not only is it a way to pay for school, but I just truly enjoy having a job and I’m excited to start working there!

I am also just so thankful for all things that God is doing in my life. I know I talked about this in a different blog post, but a post about things I’m thankful for wouldn’t feel complete if I left it out! In the past few months, God has really been showing me that I need to let him make me new. Trying to give up the control over my life that I’ve always held onto so tightly has not always been easy, but I’ve just experienced so many great changes. My attitude is so much better. I am so much happier. I am way more easygoing and far less stressed. I even feel physically better (except the part where I was sick for like a month and a half… Doesn’t count.). I am also hopefully going to get placed in a school as a Young Life leader for next semester and I’m so excited about that and all the things that God is doing through that ministry in Holland and throughout the world. I can’t wait to see the things he uses it for throughout the next four years! I am also just so thankful that, like one of my favorite songs says, God’s love is strong and always penetrates our lives even though we can get so caught up and focused on other things. His plans are so good and his love is so pure and that’s definitely something to be thankful for.

What are you thankful for? Leave me a comment, email me at kathryn.krieger@hope.edu, or tweet @hopekathryn17! I’d love to hear from you! Thanks for reading and have a fantastic Thanksgiving!


“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!

His faithful love endures forever.”

Psalm 118:1.

 

 

Review of “Modern Vampires of the City”!

Hi Everyone! For my post, I’m going to review a recently released album by one of my favorite bands, Vampire Weekend.

vw
Modern Vampires of the City Album Cover

Vampire Weekend formed in the mid-2000s when the four members met at Columbia University. Their earlier albums, Vampire Weekend and Contra, have a distinguishable up-beat, afro-pop sound coupled with witty, intelligent lyrics. They keep their lyrical charm on their newest album Modern Vampires of the City while moving towards a more philosophical, dark sound.

The band’s main lyricist, lead singer Ezra Koenig, does not talk often about his private life but based on his lyrics, it is evident that he has been thinking about religion, aging, and death. One of the album’s more upbeat songs, “Unbelievers”, chronicles Ezra’s inner conflict with God’s imminent punishment through lyrics such as “the fire awaits unbelievers/ all of the sinners the same” and “Is this the fate that half of the world has planned for me?” One of the album’s crowning jewels, “Ya Hey” attempts to wrestle with questions that have Ezra, and many others, stumped: Why is God shrouded in anonymity? Why should God continue to love a country like America that is gradually moving away from Christianity? The chorus of “Ya Hey” draws heavily from Isaiah 43:2-3:

When you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flames shall not consume you, for I am Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior

Here is the chorus:

Through the fire and through the flames

You won’t even say your name

Through the fire and through the flames

You won’t even say your name

Only “I Am that I Am”

But who could ever live that way?

The eery, mysterious “Hudson Bay” recounts the death of “Hudson”, while “Everlasting Arms” expresses doubt in God and the human desire to live forever; in this sense, in Heaven. Several others song like “Step” and “Worship You” continue the conversation on these topics.

I would pick a few songs to recommend from this album, but honestly I can’t pick just a few! Modern Vampires is most beautiful and lyrical as a cohesive whole, so I recommend that you listen to the album in it’s entirety.

Do you listen to Vampire Weekend? What do you think of Modern Vampires of the City? Let me know in a comment or on Twitter!

-Rachael

Christianity at Hope College

Hey Everyone!

Hope you have had a great week. I thought for my blog today I would share some about the spiritual side of Hope College. I grew up in the public school system so coming to a small, private Christian school was a bit of an adjustment for me. I had never heard people speak so openly about their faith. During my first semester at Hope, I hung out with people who had not been raised in the church. I learned a lot from them and appreciated learning about different people’s beliefs. I value that Hope accepts people from all different backgrounds with all different beliefs. I also am so thankful that this has been a place where I could grow in my faith.

However, in all honesty, there have been times where it has been hard not to compare myself with the several Christians surrounding me. Hope College is not like the real world because Christianity is highly accepted here and many students desire to grow in their relationship with God. I’m thankful for the people who I have met here that have challenged me to grow in my relationship with Christ. I also am glad that this is a place where Christianity is not shoved down your throat. Hope College does a good job of trying to seek a balance. Hope does not make their students attend chapel, but it is always packed with people. So wherever you stand in your faith, all people are welcome here.

I recently read this blog titled sexy “Christianity” It challenged me to think about why I choose Christianity for myself among a strong Christian school. Here is just the end of his blog that I believe is some good food for thought:

“I wonder, after being a “Radical Christian” goes out of style, how many radically committed Christians will remain in our high schools, colleges, and work places? And right after American culture moves on from Africa, humanitarian aid, human rights, and issues like the AIDS epidemic and human trafficking crisis, as I promise it will soon, what will our radical faith look like? When being a “sold-out follower of Jesus” and “living simply so that others might simply live” loses its cultural lackluster, what will be next? What happens when stones start being thrown at people who identify themselves with the dead man? I have no doubt that there will be a faithful remnant, but I also acknowledge that they might just be hated and persecuted just like Jesus promised. Who will remain and what will it take to stick with Jesus until the end?

I believe A.W. Tozer has said it far better concerning his generation than I may be able to concerning mine. But regardless, I find his observation to be curiously relevant:”

“I do not recall another period when ‘faith’ was as popular as it is today. ‘If only we believe hard enough we’ll make it somehow.’ So goes the popular chant. What you believe is not important. Only believe… What is overlooked in all this is that faith is good only when it engages truth; when it is made to rest upon falsehood it can and often does lead to eternal tragedy. For it is not enough that we believe; we must believe the right thing about the right One.”

 

enjoy this sunset from Lake Macatawa
enjoy this sunset from Lake Macatawa