Living in a small town you only see yourselves as others see you, but the minute you leave you are exposed to a whole new side of yourself. Every other year my family and I go to Africa. By traveling there every other year, I have really found a passion and love for new places. Africa is a place where my heart can find true happiness and joy, and, because of my experience there, traveling is something this will forever and always be in my life.

Today I am going to use the suitcase as my visual aid. A suitcase is used to carry all your items that you need/want on your journey. This is the only reason I could travel to Africa, or other places around the world. It was because everything I needed was in one bag. On your journey you can’t pack too little, and you can’t pack too much. Traveling is only temporary because the suitcase can only carry so much. So when you leave something comfortable and head into the world of the unknown, its scary. Today I am going to show you how the suitcase demonstrates my life through my high school years.

I can’t say that I have loved every minute of high school, but I can say I have loved what it is has taught me. Coming in as a freshman I can say that I was nervous, but not scared. My first memory of walking into this school was of my dad, he was video-ing me walking down the hallway of this school. I was uncomfortable at the time, but now I look back at it and smile. Mrs. Kroontje was one of the first teachers that taught me about myself. She gave us a test called strength finders, which everyone here is required to take. The point of this test is to tell you how God has wired you. My strengths are Adaptability, Woo, Includer, Positivity, and Developer. As you can see, all these strengths have to do with people and actions. None have to do with a paper and pen. As my sophomore year began, classes started becoming hard for me. One subject in particular was Math. Math is that one subject that my brain just would not comprehend.

As some of you may know, I struggle a lot in school. Not with people, but with subjects like math, science. Some may never have known this because I don’t like showing that I am weak, or I am different from anyone else. I have a learning disability called Dyslexia. Now, this disability doesn’t limit my speed or speech; it limits me on how I retain information. For example, you may say the number 48, and hearing that number my head will automatically reverse it. I don’t know why this happens, but its something that God purposely gave me, and I have to accept it. I don’t like calling dyslexia a disability; I like to call it a different way of learning. Being in a school where it seems that everyone is smart and talented, it’s hard to fit in when you can’t figure school out. Some teachers don’t get when kids don’t understand the subject the teaching. They think it’s their fault for teaching them badly, but its not. In order to be a good teacher you have to understand why a child doesn’t get what you are teaching. You can’t just assume that they are slacking you have to read between the lines.

Mr. Tjoelker, my 8th grade Bible teacher, was truly the only teacher to read between the lines for me. I remember taking a test for him. One that I had studied so hard for and I got a D — a D! This is what frustrated me most about school. No matter how hard I studied or worked I would somehow look like a loser on paper. Now, most teachers would see that letter and say, “You’v got to study more” or “You need to understand the material.” Or “Here, let me give you a retake.” But it didn’t matter how many times I took that test. The letter on the paper wouldn’t change because that is just how my brain works. Some teachers didn’t understand that I did study, and I do work hard but a pen and paper is not going to show the abilities I have. When I received that test back, there was a note on the upper right hand corner right next to the grade saying, “ I know your not D student.” This changed how I saw myself. Seeing this note made me see how Mr. Tjoelker was not going to give up on me. He saw me for my strengths not my weaknesses. He made me believe I am not as dumb as the paper says I am. After seeing what Mr. Tjolker wrote, I started excepting my weakness and putting them in my suitcase.

My weaknesses are who I am, and I am not ashamed of that. Because God blessed me with people skills, I am able to turn my weaknesses into a testimony. I am able to understand other kids who struggle because I know what it feels like. Now, I will never be able to tutor someone unless they’re under the age of 10-years old, but that is ok. God knows that, too, and that is why he has been watching over me. He took my suitcase and me to teach Sunday school at First Reformed church. Every Sunday since the beginning of school I have been teaching first grade girls about him. The girls don’t care about what grades I get or how I learn, all they care about is what kind of person I am. They want a teacher who is kind and listens to them, and I am able to give them that. By God giving me a little taste of what its like to be a teacher, I want to continue on that path and have a career as an elementary education major. I want to be that light to those kids who struggle and show them that they are smart no matter what the paper states. I want to stop kids from feeling like they’re dumb, because that feeling can break a person. And once one is broken they can never go back. LC made me work hard and pushed me to be the best I can be, and for that I am thankful. They did not make the path of high school an easy one. But they taught me how to be a fighter. So both my strengths and weaknesses are being packed into my suitcase, and walk into the airport to see where God leads me next.

As you walk into the airport you walk into a world of possibilities. You see everyone going in his or her different directions and you don’t know to where. This is what life after high school brings. Everyone that you once knew and loved all begin their own journey. As I walk into the world alone I know I want to pursue music. Not teaching it, but singing anywhere and everywhere I can. Before you head on your journey you need to buy a ticket. In high school I bought the ticket of rejection. Thorough out my whole life I have been told I was good at singing. God gave me this gift so all the credit goes to him. But in high school I never got to share or use my gift as God planned it. He had other plans for me, and how my music would affect others. Just like in traveling, some times you need to take a connecting stop before you get to your destination.

When I was a freshman I tried out for the chamber choir. An elite choir here at LC and I didn’t make it. As a freshman I didn’t expect to make it, but it was something that I wanted to try. But as it turns out I was cut all 3 years of my high school career. I decided not to try out my senior year because as a senior you cannot be cut. I didn’t want to be put on a team because I had to; I wanted to be put on because I was good enough. This was something I struggled with. I had the constant questions of “Am I not good enough?” People keep telling me I was, but if I was a good singer, how come I can’t even make an elite choir at LC?

As my journey continued, God led me to a lady by the name of Jamie Templeton. She was someone that I admired and learned so much. She taught me to always fight for what I love, and if I do no one can stand in my way! That may sound cliché but she is now living out her dream in New York City doing what she loves and she is truly happy. She truly inspired me to be the musician I am today. Summer of 2015 came and I tried out for Lynden’s Got Talent. When I won the competition, this gave me hope for the future. Even though LC may not think I am good enough, someone out in the world does. During this process of trying to find myself as a singer, First Reformed Church, the church I attend, came knocking on my door. I began singing for my church every month. This is something that I truly loved to do.

Using our gifts is something that God asks of us. It says in 1st Peter 4:10, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” This is exactly what I was doing. It doesn’t matter what gift I am blessed with or how good I am. The only thing that matters is what I do with that gift and how I use it. I truly believe if I didn’t use my gift for God, I wouldn’t have such a strong in powerful voice. Because no matter how many lessons I take or how many vocal strength exercises I do I wouldn’t be as good if I didn’t have God.

So as my journey continues in my suitcase I have my strengths, weaknesses, and God’s gift. I believe is all you need on your journey. As I land into my final destination, I will be walking into my new home at William Jessup University of the Fall 2016 to study Elementary Education. This will be my first stop of my journey, and I know God will lead me where he wants me on this new campus. But, as life continues on, I know I will be making much more stops. I am very grateful for all the LC has taught me, and I will never forget the friends and families that I have met here. They will forever be part of me. But for now all I need to do is walk through those doors to my new future with my suitcase and ticket. And all there is left for me to do is unpack and see where God leads me next.