2020 has been a year of interviews for me. I kicked January off with a healthy dose of four job interviews, and more recently have done two graduate school interviews in the past week. The process of interviewing (applying, practicing, dressing up, and then trying not to sweat through your clothes and stutter for 20 minutes) is quite the strange scenario to find yourself in.
The whole point of an interview is to prove yourself: to put forth your best qualities and experiences, communicating with clarity just how above-average you are. While you tell yourself “you’re enough!” and your friends say “anyone would be lucky to have you,” you know that the interviewer will have the final say. Are you actually unique and qualified, or did another applicant outshine you?
One interview experience particularly forced me into that comparison game: a group interview over Skype. Yes, that means that I, along with three other aspiring grad students, all got to answer questions and listen to each other’s answers.
I’m not sure if there’s anything more comparison-game-worthy than this: watching and listening to three composed, professional, and experienced young ladies, all the while stealing glances at your own face on the screen and wondering if your soft smile makes you look like Sid from Ice Age. Aaaaanyway, that’s just my experience.
I’ve also noticed that while preparing for interviews, I’ve boiled myself down into a few bullet points that I hope sound impressive. It seems that my past jobs, my degree, my carefully worded weakness, and my three strengths are who I am. And sometimes, sadly, they haven’t been enough.
Before this year, I’d never interviewed for something and not been accepted. That’s a formula for pride, so being rejected a few times has helped me see life in a more realistic way. It’s also tested my ability to put my identity and worth in things outside of myself and my success. These questions have risen to the surface:
Am I still valuable when I’m working a job that wasn’t my first choice?
Am I still loved when a few employers found candidates they liked better?
Am I still hopeful when I can’t accomplish something that I thought would be easy?
When it comes down to it, I don’t earn my value. I don't make myself lovable or worthy. My value is intrinsic because I, along with everyone, am made in God's image: not because I can accomplish big things. This is easier to accept when the lint roller, firm handshake, and perfect interview answers don’t earn me the position I really wanted.
I’m thankful for the reminder that only Jesus can give us unshakable certainty. He has redeemed us with his life, and given us unchanging value, love, and hope. He makes us more like himself in every circumstance: in success, failure, joy, and disappointment.
This steady foundation changes everything.
We don’t see life as our one shot to prove ourselves and earn our worth. Instead, we view life as a series of opportunities to love people and trust God more. It can be that simple. Jesus frees us to take chances and follow where he leads, without the pressure of perfection.
We may fail, but we’ll be okay. Our purpose and hope remain the same, no matter where we find ourselves.
Who gets overwhelmed by decisions? My hand is raised. Life is brimming with decisions right now: for me, Brian, and all my close friends. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re facing a sizable decision right now, too. Decisions seem to be the fabric that our earthly lives are made of.
I won’t write a novel about all that’s going on in my life right now, because I’m sure you have enough stress in your life to fill a page, too. Basically, I’m facing a lot of changes and decisions having to do with jobs, education, my wedding coming up, and the future in general.
My first response to a decision is to agonize through all the details: to flesh out every single option, the pros and cons, how the options would make me feel, and if I could picture my life with each option applied. There’s a lot of mental energy involved in the process, even when the decision is something dumb like table place cards for my wedding. Imagine what happens when the decision is a job change. If your brain doesn’t work like this, the good Lord has blessed you.
However, most people struggle with bigger decisions, because they alter your life so dramatically. Who should you date and potentially marry? Should you move to another city? What job would be the wisest option right now? I’m a young’un, so there are many life decisions coming along with age that I haven’t even considered!
Christians have the peace of knowing God and trusting his wisdom and will. But even then, seeking God’s will is a daunting task. This is something I have always struggled with, because there’s so much mystery surrounding the task. Should you look for a sign of some sort? What option do you feel peace about… and how do you even define the feeling of ‘peace?’ Are your underlying motives fear or selfishness? Will you read into a certain Bible verse, piece of advice, or coincidence too much, and end up making a fool of yourself?
What if you make the wrong decision?
That’s the biggest question for me. What if, after sorting through every single detail, praying for God’s will incessantly, asking for advice from wise people, trying to examine my motives, and submitting to the Bible’s teaching, I still make the wrong decision?
This accusing question has been quieted through one realization:
God uses everything in our lives to 1) bring himself glory, and 2) make us more like Jesus.
If you step back, away from the details that are in-your-face, and look at the main purpose for your life, this is it: God’s glory and your sanctification. These purposes can be accomplished through everything: even decisions that you would later consider ‘wrong.’
Yes, we seek to be wise, but even when things go wrong, God will use it. He uses every relationship, job, day, and minute to make us look more like Jesus. I just want to know him more and accomplish his purposes! May every piece of my life bind me closer to him: the carefree beachy days, the days weighed down by details and hard work, the days of deepest grief and sorrow, and the days of the mundane.
Will we take wrong turns, have disappointments, and struggle in this life? Most definitely. It’s to be expected. But even when we are getting overwhelmed by decisions, our Father is not bound by time. He sees all that we will be throughout eternity, and he has a reason for it.
This simplifies life, doesn’t it?
I have been especially encouraged by this passage in Ecclesiastes:
A Time for Everything
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
. . . 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 12-14
I first read this passage when I was seriously trying to seek God’s will on a certain large life issue. And I laughed out loud. “Well, there’s a time for everything. That is not helpful in deciding what thing it’s time for.”
But where I had been searching for a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer from God, he brought me back to a peaceful remembering of my life’s overarching purpose. Yes, everything he does will endure forever. He will use everything.
So, is it the right time for fill-in-the-blank? God won’t always give you the clear answer you crave. I have come to believe that our job is to do our best to make wise decisions, then move on in confidence and trust.
Step back for a moment, beloved child of the King. He will use everything for his purposes. It will all be okay in the end.
I am prone to guilt: to being consumed by the things I’ve done wrong, the things that I am not, and by the knowledge that I am not perfect. Yes, sometimes I do brush away my sin far too flippantly, or ignore it, or live contentedly in it: this I am not proud of either. But the main vein of my response to sin or mistakes is guilt.
Here’s a prime example:
Last weekend, Brian (my fiancé) and I were in Sioux Falls, attending a marriage conference. We had a lunch break, so we drove downtown to find a restaurant we’d heard of. This restaurant turned out to be in a quite rundown area of town, and as we parked (right next to a homeless shelter), we realized it was permanently closed. No pizza for us.
As we sat in my car googling another place to eat, a stocky Native American man made his way to my window. He wore shabby clothes and had a wide face dotted with moles and blemishes. He ambled along slowly, but I couldn’t deny he was approaching us. I hesitantly rolled my window down, knowing exactly what he would ask.
“Hello. I know you are both hardworking people, is that right?” Brian and I nodded and smiled haltingly at the man while he made his request. Loose change, he asked for. Anything would help. I dug in the center console of my car and found approximately $2.50 in coins. It looked pathetic, but the amount was something for him and giving it away was nothing for me. He thanked us and said something about unity, then something else in his native language, raised a large hand in a wave, and left.
I rolled up my window, feeling mostly satisfied. “He was nice,” I commented to Brian. Although I had withheld a fresh $20 bill from the man, and it still nestled discreetly in my wallet, I mostly felt good about myself. I had done good.
As we made the short drive to our second-choice restaurant, though, guilt assailed me. Why hadn’t I said anything about Jesus? I had seen the chance. Then it had slipped away as I dropped the coins into the man’s open hand and drove away. What could I have said that would mean anything for his salvation? Why did I always miss opportunities?
We pulled into a parking spot across the street from the next restaurant, a bar that would have greasy, tasty food. It was in the same questionable area of town, and I felt an urge to get inside this place as fast as possible. As I got out and took a few clambering steps towards the restaurant, there was a group of three men behind me.
As I walked, one called out to me: “Hey sistah. Do you have ‘awogmbwmfo’?” The words jumbled as I turned towards them briefly and uncertainly called out “No—thanks—” then scurried across the road. What in the world did they want from me?
As I rejoined Brian and swung open the bar’s door, it clicked in my head.
Jumper cables. They had asked me if I had jumper cables.
To which I had responded: “No thanks!” and ran away.
Once Brian and I were seated, I was so overwhelmed by everything that had just happened that I came close to tears. I thought I looked like the biggest jerk ever. We were nicely dressed for the conference. We had been entering a restaurant, where we had plenty of money to fill our stomachs. We were so privileged. And I blew off someone asking for jumper cables.
On top of that I felt vulnerable and confused, and I also feared that I looked racist: all the men had been Native American. We ended up switching tables so we could keep an eye on my car, because I was convinced that they would break into my car or destroy it or something.
Looking back on it, I see that guilt assailed me when it had no right to. Those men didn’t have to yell out at me: they could have approached Brian and asked for jumper cables. In that moment, I had done what felt right and safe.
As we were driving away from the bar, we actually witnessed someone break into the car that had been parked next to us. Now I’m glad that we didn’t stop to chat, or even help them. My conscience is clear, and it saddens me that I felt so guilty right away.
I’ve been studying through 1 John with a friend, and a certain passage really stuck out to me when thinking through this experience and guilt:
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:19-20
When we feel overwhelmed with guilt and condemnation, we know that God is greater than our feelings. He knows everything: he knows the stories and futures of those men who called out to me, he knows their true motives (whether innocent or ill-willed), and he knows my heart and my motives (whether innocent or ill-willed). Above self-condemnation, we have confidence and obedience in the Trinity. God has also given us the Spirit to remind us that we belong permanently to the truth, and he can lead us in uncertain and tricky situations.
Our hearts are not always right when they condemn us.
When our consciences are right
But honestly, sometimes they are right. An active conscience is a good gift. We are not perfect, and often give into selfishness, pride, sinful worry, lust, the need for control, and other sins. These sins need to be identified and killed. Often when my heart condemns me, it has every right to do so!
So how do we know if our hearts’ condemnation is right or wrong? I have a few questions we can ask ourselves when dealing with guilt:
The 4 Questions:
1. First, ask “did I sin?” If we have committed a sin (something that God says is wrong) then our conscience is right to make us feel uneasy. It is a good thing to recognize our own sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8
On the other hand, if you’re feeling guilty about something that isn’t a result of your sin, you may need to recognize your guilt as faulty and overreactive. Either way, acknowledge the guilt, identify its source, and then move on to the next step.
2. Next, ask “Is this feeling of guilt making me feel paralyzed, dirty, and hopeless?” Satan loves to paralyze us in our shortcomings. He knows that everyone sins, and he wants to make us sad, ineffective, and stunted in growth because of that.
When God brings a sin to our minds, though, he does so to let us to move on in forgiveness, positive change, and victory over sin. There’s a difference here. If satan is trying to paralyze you in hopeless guilt, it’s time to ask Jesus for the power to let go and move on.
3. Next, ask “Have I trusted Jesus to forgive my sin?” If you have accepted Jesus’ work on the cross, you are now made holy in God’s eyes. You have Jesus’ spotless record given to you. You have a Savior who overcomes every sin, and you have received perfect forgiveness. Confess the sin to him and trust his power to forgive. You are made righteous!
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
4. The final question is “How will I move forward in Jesus’ power to kill this sin?” This part is important. If we don’t move forward in killing our sin, it will continue to enslave us. Kill your sin, or it will kill you. Jesus gives us amazing grace and forgiveness, but lingering sin can still harm us and the people around us. The Bible uses strong language when it talks about killing sin. It’s something we’re commanded to do:
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Colossians 3:5-8, emphasis added
It’s also incredibly helpful to have people around us who will help us in this process. Do you have someone you’re comfortable being honest with, someone who will lovingly bring your sin to light? We don’t need to confess our sins to others to be forgiven, but it can help us feel free and live free from these things. As followers of Christ, we want to live like him, and we should be helping each other do that!
So in the end, guilt is a tricky emotion. I hope that with these steps, you can trust God to help you move past guilt and deal with the things you need to. Ultimately, we have no condemnation because of our Savior Jesus. Thank him for this today!
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:17-18, emphasis added
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2, emphasis added
I've recently tried out bread-making as a hobby, and I love it! It's so cozy, affordable, and very functional. It's fun to make bread with your own hands, have one less thing to buy at the grocery store, and enjoy the homemade goodness all week long!
Today I'm sharing my favorite bread recipe, which is a simple and healthy honey wheat bread. It works great for sandwiches, toast, or just enjoying a slice straight out of the oven! It's a very soft loaf, which is great because homemade bread can sometimes turn out crumbly. The honey also adds a nice complementary flavor level to the dense whole grain taste.
(Disclaimer: I ended up using white flour when I made the bread this time, but either whole wheat or white work very well! You can even opt for a half and half mixture.)
A smaller, printable version of this recipe can be found at the bottom of this post. If you want to see detailed step-by-step instructions with photos though, read through the post first. Let's get started!
First, gather all the ingredients:
The first step is to combine the water, yeast, and 2 cups of the flour in a large mixing bowl. Stir it to combine well. It's okay if there are some lumps.
Let the mixture sit for 15-20 minutes, until it rises and becomes quite bubbly. This process is called sponging!
Here is what my mixture looked like after 20 minutes.
Now it's time to add the rest of the ingredients. I set my bowl in the KitchenAid mixer, then added the honey, oil, salt, and remaining 4 cups of flour.
Next, mix it all up! The flour might try to jump out right away, so start on a low speed setting.
Once all the elements are nicely combined, it's time to knead the dough!
Did you know you can actually use a KitchenAid mixer for kneading? If you choose to do it this way, switch to a dough blade. You'll stir the dough for 6-7 minutes, adding flour a small amount at a time if it starts sticking to the sides of the bowl.
If you opt for kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.
After kneading for 6 1/2 minutes with the mixer, I noticed my dough was still too sticky and soft. So, I turned the dough out onto the counter and added some flour, then kneaded it in with my hands.
Once your dough is kneaded, split it into two sections.
Now it's time to get the loaves shaped! This is the part where you could go two ways. The simpler way is to use your hands to form the dough into loaves, then set them in the pans. You can skip straight to the rising process if you do this.
If you want to try something new, you can try this method I just learned! I've found that this helps the bread turn out beautifully tall and fluffy. Use a rolling pin to roll each piece of dough into a rectangle shape. The rectangle should be just as wide as your loaf pan is long. To measure this, I set my loaf pan at the end of the dough as I roll it.
Your dough should be about half an inch to an inch thick when you're done rolling it out. Then, starting at one end, start rolling the dough in a spiral shape. After each turn of the roll, press down firmly on top of the roll. This is important to ensure there won't be gaps on the inside of the loaf.
When you're done rolling, turn each end under itself, and set the dough in a greased loaf pan.
Do this for each loaf, then cover with a thin cloth and allow to rise for about 60 minutes. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, you may need to rise for 15 minutes longer. The dough should be risen to about 1 1/2 inches above the edge of the pan.
The rising process is so amazing! I love seeing how the dough changes in such a short amount of time.
One reason I love this recipe is that it only requires one rise (other than the 20 minute rise in the beginning). This makes the entire process much faster than other bread recipes.
About 10 minutes before the loaf is fully risen, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Then it's time to bake the bread!
Bake for 30 minutes. You can switch the loaves halfway through baking if you're worried about getting an even bake, but I've never had a problem with that. I just leave them alone for 30 minutes, and they turn out beautifully!
Immediately after removing the pans from the oven, run a butter knife along the edges to loosen the loaf. Turn the pans upside down to release the bread onto a cooling rack (or a cutting board, if you don't happen to own a cooling rack).
The original recipe said to let the bread cool completely before cutting, but who are we kidding? That is not necessary.
You can see the swirly pattern in the bread from the rolling technique! So neat!
Also, the bread is heavenly on its own, but add butter? Yessss please.
And that's it! Like I said, this post was for a class project, but I really enjoyed making it. I would consider sharing some other favorite recipes in the future, since I love cooking. I hope you love this bread if you decide to try it out!
The original recipe for this bread was found at https://anoregoncottage.com/whole-wheat-sandwich-bread-101/2/
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
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!