I grew up on a farm, a mile away from a town of 76 people. My childhood and teenage years were the definition of ‘rural.’ School was 20 miles away; the nearest movie theater 50, and the nearest mall 80. My dad and grandpa farmed together, and still do: growing wheat, soybeans, and corn. The weather was a constant conversation topic. I grew up knowing that it determined how well the crops grew, which determined how much money we would make that year, and ultimately how many Christmas presents I might receive.
My family also taught me about Jesus. We prayed for sick family members, for help with situations at school, and for rain (either for more or less of it. It seemed there was never a ‘perfect’ amount of rain for our crops). I grew up trusting that God had things under his control, and that he cared about what we needed.
After graduating high school, I packed up and headed to a city of 200,000+ people for college. I’ve been here for three years now and have grown accustomed to the type of life I lead in a city. In a typical day, I have plans to go to class, work, meet up with friends, and do things for a ministry I’m involved in. If I focus and work hard, the result of my day will likely be positive: good grades, strong relationships, and the size of paycheck I’m counting on. Most of my productivity and the day’s outcomes are up to me.
Farming, however, has a large stock in the weather and other uncontrollable factors. I heard someone say that “there is no better demonstration of faith than a man planting seed in his field.” My dad could work his tail off all year long and make the most careful plans, and still his crop could fail! Yes, he uses high-technology equipment, sprays fertilizers and chemicals, buys crop insurance, and makes educated decisions. But at the end of the day, the results are not up to him. Growing massive amounts of produce under the open sky requires a strong, daily-bread type of faith and persistent prayer.
When your tiny soybean plants are drowning in muddy fields and rain clouds are gathering yet again: you pray. When the summer days are slipping away into fall and your crops are not nearly mature: you pray. When gusting wind lays all your corn flat on the ground: you pray.
Every time I go back home, I appreciate the farming-faith a little more.
Ultimately though, even if you’ve never seen a corn field, we all need faith for our daily lives and jobs. Faith is simply believing that God will do what he says, that he will provide, and that he is in control. It ain’t just for the farmin’ folk.
And when I stop to think of it, I realize how very dependent I am on God. My heart is beating right now, and I am breathing. Can we grasp how much of an unearned blessing even those two facts are? We rely on the Lord for everything: both the simplest needs of life and the loftiest pursuits. Every one of us needs daily, humble faith: whether we’re doctors, cooks, secretaries, parents, teachers, or farmers.
We can all use the reminder that the air in our lungs, the food on our plates, and the length of our days reflect God’s faithful provision.
** Photo credits to my brother, Nathan Koeppe
If I had one word to describe this summer, I would say ‘breezy.’ I’m talking ice cream cones, sandals that have grown dirty from outdoor adventures, and countless hours reading good books. The best of the best.
Throughout most of the season, my relationship with God has also felt breezy: very simple, gentle, and foundational. I studied the book of Colossians with a small group, which emphasizes the gospel. Much of my time in prayer and reading was spent marveling over the most foundational truths of the Bible: that Jesus is the reason for everything, that his life and death have freed me, and that I am brought to fullness in him. Just like the easy rhythms of summer, I was reminded daily of the sweet, sweet truths that make life possible.
Lately, though, the breezes have gained a certain chill to them. The season is changing, no matter how us Midwesterners pout and protest: and much is changing in my little life too. I am now finished with my job at the YMCA summer program, and soon will be starting my last undergraduate semester at college, resuming my beloved tutoring job, diving back into leadership with Cru, and planning whatever the heck will happen beyond December (as well as the wedding!). I’m excited for these changes, and the people and change of pace they’ll bring back to my life.
My Bible reading has also switched from Colossians to Numbers, which describes the Israelites’ wanderings in the desert. After God frees his people from slavery in Egypt, he leads them through wilderness towards a good land he has prepared for them. The journey is tough, though, and God’s people prove to be imperfect: whining about the food they’re given, choosing fearfulness instead of faith, rebelling against leadership, and even (multiple times) talking about how much better it was to be slaves in Egypt!
However, God continues leading these people through the wilderness, towards his promise. They have a good destination, and it’s God’s faithfulness that’s getting them through. Their feeble minds think that turning back is a good option, but God has something so much better for them.
The whole thing has reminded me that I have a destination: Heaven, the greatest land ever promised. No matter how breezy and full of little novelties my life is, I’m supposed to live with a purpose and a goal. Though I might feel like a whiny, aimless Israelite at times, the worst possible thing I could do is turn around and pursue the things of the world. We are called by God to seek the things that are above, to set our hearts and minds on them!
The message that has been reinforced in my mind through sermons and my own times with the Lord, is “keep on going.” That’s what I want to do as I step into this fall season: keep on going, with a destination in sight. The Lord has beautiful, wonderful things in store for us.
We can all agree this summer is going too fast. I’m trying to fully appreciate the long, warm days and all the time I don’t have to spend on homework. It’s been a beautiful season, and for the most part life has felt simple and joyful.
When I look at my relationship with God over the past month, it also feels simple and joyful. Rather than teaching me new, tough lessons, I feel that he’s been reminding me of foundational truths about himself. The main thing I’ve been learning is my dependence on the gospel: how all-sufficient Christ is for all areas of my life. This theme keeps showing up. No matter how high or low I am, God reminds me that I need all of him all the time. Here are a few examples from what I’ve been up to lately:
I’m still working at the Y, and it’s still testing and growing my patience (working with kids will do that to ya). The best parts of the job are when we bring the kids swimming or on field trips, and the moments when I teach them something new or laugh like crazy with them. The worst parts of the job are when all 40 of them are cooped up in the school all day because of rain. Or when we use an attention getter (where a leader yells “YM!” and the kids are supposed to say “CA!” then pay attention) four times and they’re all still talking and goofing off with each other.
I’ve felt my need for God’s purposes and his love during many workdays. He has helped me see how each child is made in his image, no matter how much they get on my nerves. He’s been reminding me that there is a true, good purpose for this job: to show these kids radical love and to take care of them. He’s also been showing me that the gospel should dramatically affect how I act at work and how I treat my coworkers. One morning I finished praying and suddenly realized how crazy it is that I can talk to Jesus every single day. Then I thought, ‘if I get to start my day with prayer, there should be a difference in how I work and speak and act. Am I different?’
I need Jesus for my workdays.
Another thing I’ve done recently is studying for and taking the GRE. This is a huge standardized test for admission into my graduate program, and the scores matter quite a bit. I admittedly procrastinated studying for it, which is out of character for me. Then, the week before test day, I stressed out and studied hard and cried a lot. I do not recommend my method.
During that week of doubts and stresses, I felt close to God in a different way. My relationship with him felt very simple: I needed him obviously and unashamedly, and he met me each morning with the hope of the gospel. I questioned my abilities and future plans, and he reminded me that it would be okay no matter what: he had a plan. The test scores would not define me.
I ended up doing well on the test (which is super fancy and gives you scores right away), and I know it’s a huge blessing. It feels wonderful to not have to do a retake, and I’m relieved. But the moment I saw my scores, something shifted in my thinking. I felt a little more sufficient, like I had proved myself. Pride crept in. The raw, desperate need for Jesus I had felt just earlier that morning seemed to fade: and I hate it! The truth is that I need Jesus, even in the area of academic plans and achievement.
I need Jesus for my future plans.
I could keep writing about scenarios where I’ve felt my need for Jesus and have seen his beauty. But this post has already gotten quite long, and I’m impressed if you’re still scrolling through it :) I just want this to be an encouragement for you: the truth of the gospel is sufficient for all situations and emotions. We always, always need Jesus, and the good news is, he is always there.
It’s his grace to us that he reminds us of himself. Whether it’s something hard like a rough day at work, a stressful decision, or confusing emotions, or something positive like a gorgeous sunset or good news, he is constantly drawing us to himself. Can you see evidences of it?
My family’s front porch is my definition of summer. Fitted with well-used patio furniture, it’s the perfect place to enjoy the view of a lush yard, rolling fields, and beautiful hills in the distance. There is much life there: the giant lilac bush, the small but steadily growing oak tree, and the ocean of pasture grass. There is much movement, too: the fresh breeze, our golden retrievers walking about, and the rustle of birds in the trees.
It’s a scene of abundance.
A week ago, I sat on that porch and read Colossians 1:9-14. Here, Paul is writing an encouraging letter to a group of believers:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14
Paul is praying that these people would have abundant spiritual lives: overflowing with growth. Think about someone who lives like this. They’re receptive to God’s will, so they do good works, know God closely, are blessed with his strength, and live in thankfulness. They remember what Jesus has done for them and live in direct response to that! The thought reminds me of the lush view from my porch. It’s undeniably alive, bursting with newness.
This kind of life is possible for you and me. I hope you read the verses over again and let God speak to you through them, because I’m sure something will stick out to you. Opening ourselves to the Lord’s direction in our hearts and leading in our lives is the first step in personal growth.
I’ve read these verses every day for the past week, and it’s powerful. I find myself being encouraged and convicted in different ways each time. I’ve especially been struck by the phrase about God giving us patience and endurance through his power. I certainly need that during a typical work day, and the reminder that it doesn’t come from myself!
I hope these verses encourage you to seek the Lord and seek growth. A soul that is bursting with life will be noticeable to your coworkers, friends, and classmates. Christ has rescued us and brought us into the kingdom of light. Are we living evidence of it?
I started a new job with the YMCA three weeks ago, working for their summer program. When I first accepted the job, I thought “this will be an easy-going, simple thing to do with my summer. Working with kids! I’ve totally got this.” I was really quite proud.
However, I didn’t consider the reality of caring for, keeping track of, and entertaining a crowd of grade schoolers for hours. It is no small task, and the struggle of it has taught me a lot.
I spent the first two weeks of the job doing training and working some. Since school was still in session, we only provided after-school care for the kids. This consisted of free play, outside play, a daily lesson, and snack time. It was a whirlwind as I tried to learn 40+ new names, internalize all the rules and procedures, and command the attention of so many energetic little humans at once. You get it, it was a lot: just like any new job is.
And I didn’t handle it so well.
After my second day, I felt overwhelmed with how not easy it was. I was constantly having to ask questions, guessing names wrong, and feeling like I was failing. Honestly, I felt like more of a burden to my coworkers than a help. My friends reminded me that new jobs are always hard, but still I wanted to give up. I was quite anxious during those first weeks, obsessing over future days and worrying about every detail. Overall, it was just not pretty.
This past week, our summer program officially started. This means we care for the kids all day: from 6:30 am-6 pm. Wowza. We try to keep them busy, content, and behaved, which requires loads of creativity and patience. I’ve spent the time in various ways: coloring with the kids, running around all sweaty in the gym, providing endless icepacks for small injuries, serving lunch and snacks, and teaching games. I hate yelling at kids, but there’s honestly been a lot of that, too.
The days go by fast, and now I’m so glad I didn’t quit. It took a while for me to get to that point, but it’s true. I would have missed out on a lot of joy if I’d avoided the awkwardness and hardship of the first few weeks. Even though I have so much more to learn, and many hard days ahead, I’m glad I stuck with it.
Here are a few things God has taught me lately:
1. Don’t give up on a hard thing, especially in the beginning. For the past three summers, I have seriously considered quitting my summer job. I’m not lying. Beginnings and transitions are just plain hard. But, for all three jobs, I’m incredibly glad I kept with it!
2. Humility. Of course. I approached this job thinking it would be easy for me and that I’d be a blessing to my team. However, being the newbie has reminded me that I don’t know everything. Here’s a quote from my journal: “I usually just try at something, and it goes well for me. But this is going to be maybe harder than I realized.” It’s been a reminder that I always have room to learn and grow.
3. I can ask God for patience and love for the kids. At the heart of this job, I want to love and care for the kids. I want them to become more confident and smarter and see Jesus’ love through me. But obviously that beautiful mission isn’t constantly in my mind. Often, I’m angry and fed up with the kids being disrespectful, or I’m just wrapped up in my own frustration with the day. But praying for patience and love is a reminder that 1) there’s a greater purpose at stake, and 2) I am not alone in my struggle.
4. My skills are from God, and I can use them for his glory. I was reading in Exodus 35 recently, where God explained the layout of the temple and then gave a few people the extraordinary skills to complete the work. It reminded me that all the skills, knowledge, and energy I have are from Him, not myself. It points my thankfulness and mission towards the Lord. I receive everything from him, so that I can work towards his glory. What a beautiful thing to remember in the heat of a trying work day!
I’m looking forward to a summer full of more fun and tricky moments with the kids, relying on God’s strength, and learning more lessons through it all. I hope your summer has been going well, and that we can all look for the Lord’s purposes and love every day.
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!