This Feels Like Home

I arrived home on Friday; I’ll be here for a week and two days.

It feels different being home, even though most things have remained the same.

There’s one building on the downtown strip that’s been demolished and there’s different pillows on the chairs on my front porch.

There are many more things that have never changed, and probably won’t, in the rest of the time that I spend here.

But I have. I’ve changed. And I know a lot of people say that because the world is constantly in motion. People say that because they encounter experiences in their life that shape their worldview for a little bit but then they fall back into the same habits they had at the beginning when they’re placed back into the same situations and spend time with the same people.

This type of change is different, I think.

I’m running into people I’ve always known and I’m driving down the four main streets in my hometown. Everything is familiar, but everything is different. The view in my rearview mirror is different.

Instead of letting it be what it’s been to me, it became what I’ve always wanted it to be.

When I went to college as a freshman, I was looking for a fresh start. In a way, I “broke up” with my hometown like it was my ex-boyfriend and traveled a little over 405 miles to a new place with new opportunities.

And a new place with new opportunities is exactly I found when I came to Hope. I praise God for that every day, because when I walked in as a freshman, I would have never believed I would be in the place I am today – full of joy, patience, and new knowledge.

But my hometown and I had an awkward “breakup,” because there wasn’t really any resolution. Neither one of us really had an answer to some hard questions, and we left each other without really talking – falsely hoping the relationship would improve with us being further apart.

My assumption was that, by building a life somewhere else, I’d fix all the parts of me that were broken. I was incorrect.

There was a time that it didn’t get better; in fact, it probably got worse. But then, it did get better; and now, it’s the best it has ever been.

Porch Swing
So often, we swing close to the person we want ourselves to be, but when we’re working off our our own strength, we swing back to the person we were.

I’m writing from a couch in my living room, and I’m more than happy to say I have two homes.

One is Hope, and one is here. And as awesome as it would be to say that “making up” with my hometown was on me, with joy, I say it’s Jesus. He made the view in my rearview mirror clearer than it’s ever been before.

I never would have found Him without Hope.

The choices we make sometimes lead us to places where we can’t find peace. We know we messed up, but we can’t find the way out on our own. We can’t find a way to break our habits, adapt our character, and change our perspective permanently. As often as we try, we fail twice as much.

We often run away in attempt to find what we’re missing, and in effect, we gain more loss. And I wish I had a list of steps to take, a magic recipe to find that peace to keep us from running away, but I don’t. I only have one word.


I learned that instead of running from something, we have to run to something. And the only One who will stay constant enough for us to run to, the only thing that will still remain, is God. He’s permanent, He is never changing. He’s the only thing that was there before I was here and will be here long after I am gone.

For the first time in a long time, perhaps the first time in the history of ever, my house is home. And my hometown is home. And I’m at peace. I’m happier than I’ve ever been in a place that hasn’t changed, but feels brand new.

We love a God whose desire is peace, and He gives us peace because He loves us in return.

Glad I got over that breakup… thanks, Jesus.

Follow me @hopesophie17 on your social media outlets (I’m trying to get better with my Instagram, I’m really trying). If you have questions or comments about anything at all, I would love to talk. Please send them my way at

I Found You at 5,000 Feet

We explored the world from a mile high. We free climbed giant rocks, learned to love like Jesus, met a professional fighter, obtained a free t-shirt, slept on air mattresses that didn’t inflate, took partially cold showers, and ate a lot of PB&J. We swept sidewalks, talked a lot, and learned the truth behind what it means to be homeless. That’s how I spent my Spring Break.

I spent Spring Break in Denver, Colorado, at 5,280 feet above sea level. Ten of us, including myself, plus our leader, Professor Schoonveld, and his 8-year-old daughter, made a 5 AM trek via a three-hour flight to the Mile High city on Saturday the fourteenth. This Hope College Immersion Trip was one week that changed me from the inside out.

Denver Fam
Here’s my Denver family and the 15-passenger van we named Joyce, aka JOY(ce), because we’re a pretty joyful group. The selfie stick was the perfect addition to our photo taking capacity.

And while I was there, I found something that changed everything.

I’m doing my best at living life without putting boundaries on God (but I still fail often, it’s part of being a human). His ways are always higher than mine, and His ways are not my ways.

There are times I struggle to remember it, but when I forget, He never ceases to remind me. He’s so good to us.

Beyond the boundaries, I discovered something greater. I discovered the complexity of God. Obvious, maybe. But by being in Denver, I realized that somewhere along my journey I had lost my awe of the kingdom He has built here on the earth.

As we sat at the Red Rocks Amphitheater the first day, a thought occurred to me: God, you know every hair on my head, You know every crack and crevice in these rocks, and You know every space in this city. And still, You want my heart. You created a tree, but not just a tree. A tree with branches, big and small, with needles. And You didn’t stop there. You created leaves. Leaves big and small, different shapes, sizes, and colors. A thousand trees is just a glimpse of Your glory.

Through this, I tackled another realization: Who I am in Christ and who I am on my own are two separate identities. Too often, I try to hold on and raise my broken self up to be who God wants me to be. I fail miserably, trying to figure out why my past mistakes and bad habits are holding me back as I’m pursuing a relationship with God. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me” (That’s a verse in Matthew 16).

I’ve spent so much time making this so complex, but it’s more simple than I could have imagined. I was in shackles to my past and mistakes, but Jesus set me free from all of that. He set me free, and the chains are lying on the ground.

But over and over again, I find myself picking the unlocked chains back up and dragging them with me everywhere I go. I forget that my identity in Christ has set me free. It’s like I’m carrying 50 pound dumbbells the instant I wake up until the time I go to sleep at night.

Could you imagine doing that in real life? Not only would we look pretty dumb, but it would also be exhausting. So, here’s the question: why do we do it all the time? Bitterness, anger, frustration, regret, guilt, grudges; they all build up and weigh us down, causing us to drag around burdens that have already been lifted.

It’s more complex to carry it around than it is to lay it at His feet.

God is complex, but His complexity allows for Him to meet us where we’re at, because He’s the only one who sees us as who we are: children adopted into His family by the blood of Jesus. And He is so amazing, so good, and so worthy of all of the glory.

Thank You, Jesus, for opening my eyes. For teaching me to love people in the way You first loved me. For giving me Your eyes to see the brokenness and the heart of Your Father to love people relentlessly. And allowing me to remember that You meet us where we’re at. You love us for who we are, not who we have been.

I did a poor job of documenting my trip via social media because I was having too much fun, but you can still follow me @hopesophie17 to keep up with my on-campus extravaganzas. Want to hear more, or have questions or comments? Send me an email at Have a great week!

It’s Past 1 AM, and I’m Overwhelmed – But Not in a Bad Way

It’s past 1 AM and I have an unfinished Research Synthesis paper due tomorrow at 11 AM. I’m sipping on half of a cup of cold coffee and have a Patagonia sweatshirt tied around my neck like a cape.

I’m sitting in the sunroom of my cottage, which can hardly be called a sunroom at 1 AM, because the only light shining in the window is that of a streetlight on 13th Street.

But all of that information is pretty much irrelevant to what I have to say next.

I can’t stop thinking about it. The concept of grace has been overwhelming me lately. I remember sitting by the lake in late April or early May of last year, not understanding what the dictionary definition of “unmerited favor” looks like as it plays out in real life. It was a concept I didn’t consciously understand, but I was living in it every day.

I understand now.

Grace looks like the lake. Grace looks like the sand. And it looks like every snowflake, every blade of grass, as many stars there are in the sky. We could never count its presence. There’s too much of it everywhere. We just live by it every day.

Grace feels like forgiving for forever, not just for today. It feels like anticipating the weird numb pain that comes from hitting your funny bone on the arm of a chair, but the pain never comes. We become too good at expecting to feel something – pain, anger, bitterness, suffering – but with grace, these emotions never come. Because grace enters every space with the capacity not to conceal it, but instead to heal it.

And that’s what’s crazy to me.

You know that kid in your group project who won’t do anything? Give him grace. Not because he “might be dealing with something drastically difficult in his life,” but instead because we’re given grace that we don’t deserve by a God who is more than willing and more than able. Grace doesn’t have a reason, it has a cause – and that cause is to heal brokenness in a way that our human minds cannot fathom.

Remember that ex-relationship you had in 10th grade? Give it grace. Break-ups are never easy. But, if you’re a college student, it’s probably over – way over – and there’s someone out there who’s waiting for you to fall in love with them. Maybe it’s a person, and maybe it’s Jesus (you have to decide that one).

Here’s the real deal. I’ve probably said this before, but even if I have, I’ll say it again: Grace is given, not earned. There is nothing we do and nothing that we don’t do that diminishes the grace that has been bestowed upon us. That’s why I’m so overwhelmed. Because every time I get mad at the way things turn out or if I become indifferent when things turn out for the best, God sees me in that. When I stop and say, “I’m sorry,” He sees me through that.

All about that Grace
My church at home knows what’s up 😉

I want to promise you something. Nothing that you have done or haven’t done changes the amount of grace available to you. It finds you exactly where you’re at. You don’t have to “get your act together” or “change your ways” prior to walking into its fullness. All you need is honesty in the places where you messed up and a willingness to let it go.

There is immeasurably more available than we could ever consume. That’s the beauty of it to me – all we have to do is be honest and say we messed up in return for a healing that changes us from the inside out.

Even with this Patagonia tied around my neck, I’m reminding myself I can’t be my own superhero. I can’t save myself from falling into the depths of being angry and bitter. That’s the power of grace. It comes from God’s love, which surpasses all understanding. We don’t have to understand it to live in it. And that’s a pretty awesome thing to think about.

Keep up with me @hopesophie17. Questions? Comments? Send me an email at P.S. try to go to sleep earlier than me.

7.5 things to focus on for the first half of ’15

I was so ready for the new year that I took my assignment notebook on December 31 and tore out all of the pages leading up to January 1.

“New year, new schedule,” I told myself. Along with a new schedule, I created new truths for the upcoming year. Due to future circumstances that make it nearly impossible to find out where this year might lead, I’ve created a list to apply for the first six months.

7.5 ways to make 2015 great
I don’t know where this year will lead, but I sure am ready to find out. I also don’t post pictures of myself very often, so here’s a snapshot of me, too.

I’m planning to be different by the time summer rolls around, so here’s some tips to focus on for now:

1. Take the tags off of clothes as soon as you buy them. Why? That way, on the first day of class, you won’t have a cute guy telling you that you forgot to take the medium sticker off of the back of your leggings.

2. Embrace each moment as if you would have chosen it. Unpredictable things happen. But when we embrace circumstances that seem uncontrollable, we can move through them gracefully and level-headed.

3. Love people. When we hold onto hurt, we lash it out onto others. One thing I learned in these first six days of 2015: It’s not worth it. No matter how mean, or frustrating, or annoying someone can be, when we choose to love, we find greater joy than anything else could bring.

4. Eat healthy. Last semester, I was eating approximately four meals per day because I was hungry all the time. I wasn’t eating enough protein or taking sufficient vitamins. But once I realized that taking care of myself by eating healthier is a key to my success as a student, I’m totally down for the challenge. It’s easier now that I moved into a cottage this semester, too, because I can make some of my own meals with two accessible kitchens.

5. Grow in at least one way. Whether it’s growing a couple of extra inches taller, buying a shoe size up, or kicking a habit that no longer serves you, do it. Dye your hair red (again) like me. Ask someone you want to get to know better out to lunch or coffee. Say I’m sorry, if that’s something you avoid. It’s amazing how a little growth in one area can change everything.

6. Forget everything you think you know and trade it in for the stuff you do know. Find out the facts, leave behind the rumors.

7 1/2. Choose a word for the year. I call this “seven and a half” because it will be one that will begin now, but take place the whole year. Choose a word based on an area you want to focus on – perhaps discovery, love, adventure, acceptance, or joy – and write it on your mirror, your notebooks, anywhere that reminds you what this year will mean to you. My word is restoration. What’s yours?

What’s your word of the year? Tweet it at me @hopesophie17. Questions or comments can be sent to Happy “Spring” Semester 2015 (It’s snowing like crazy here.)

Live in Light, Walk in Love.

“If you trip, do not cause another person to fall.”

I look back at the first day of my freshman year of high school – while walking up the stairs to my second class, Science Interactions, someone stepped on the back of my flip-flop. I fell up the stairs, dropped all of my books… and as I stood up, I lost my balance and fell back down the stairs, knocking over a couple other students in the process. We all tumbled into the hallway and landed in a giant pile at the bottom of the lunch line.

Looking back now, it’s funny. Hilarious, really. “Typical first day of high school.” No one was hurt in the process. In fact, as I shared the story with some of my high school classmates over the summer, many of the people involved forgot that it happened at all.

But not every experience ends up the same way. There are times that when we trip and cause others to fall, they end up getting hurt. And in our Christian faith, it is part of our duty to refrain from causing others to stumble.

Let’s break this down for a second in “Science Interaction terms”: “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Most, if not all of us, are familiar with this concept. When my flip flop was stepped on, I tripped, which caused others to also fall in the process. In life, every action we take part in is related to a reaction.

A few verses I heard last year during The Gathering have been echoing in my heart. They come from the book of Romans, Chapter 14:

“Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another… If your brother or sister is injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love… Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” – Romans 14: 13, 15, 19

Too often, we forget that each person we encounter is living a life that is as complex, vivid, and as emotionally fueled as our own. When we forget this, we can place a stumbling block in the way of others.

[Stairs near the VanderPlex]
[Stairs near VanderWerf]

When we ignore someone, we can create disappointment. Jealousy.

When we push people, we can create guilt. Regret.

When we pass judgment, we refrain from recognizing our own faults, creating tension. Frustration.

If we do not remain cognizant of the effects influenced by our causes, we create a trial in which our brothers and sisters stumble over the things for which our Savior went to the cross. We must consider taking the initiative to live in God’s light-driven Word and walk in love to create opportunities for our fellow brothers and sisters to grow, not sink.

As we move throughout our day, it is important for us to remember that our actions can have a direct effect with the spread of God’s kingdom. If we walk with humility, show mercy, and do justice, we can live a life closer to being worthy of the calling from the Lord.

Lately, God has been placing on my heart my attitude of being quick-to-judge. Too often, I let the enemy create walls in my heart that are fueled by disappointment, fear, and frustration, which causes a distraction in which my mental focus is internalized rather than externally focused. It is critical for me to keep in mind that when I accept this attitude, I create a false belief that my actions will not influence a reaction.

This is something I will continue to pray about and maintain conscious awareness for, because I know that God knows my heart. It is part of my calling as a Christ follower to look at my heart and understand that this is not the attitude He is wishing for me to have. I also know that there will be times in which I fail to meet this call. However, at those times, I will fix on eyes on my one true King, the Voice of Truth, who will remind me of the life He has invited me to attend. We are all caught in the battle between light and dark, but when the light shines in the darkness, the darkness will not overcome (John 1:5).

Perhaps today is the day to ask God what He is asking you to change in your heart to cease the creation of a stumbling block for your fellow brothers and sisters. If you don’t feel the call today, consider keeping in your prayers that an opportunity that this realization will present itself.

Twitter: @hopesophie17

Questions or Comments? Comment below or send me an email at

Live in light, walk in love.