The Little Things

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The Little Things

It’s 95 degrees and it’s October. The frustration that comes with intense heat during my favorite season is just as intense as the extremely hot rays of sun that are still beating down upon me while I’m monitoring lunch outside for the high school students. It’s kind of indicative to how I’ve been lately. Frustrated. Things just won’t go my way. I haven’t ever really considered myself a control freak or anything, but it would be nice if something could just for a moment could go my way. This week has been a tough one at work. It continues today to be a frustrating experience. It’s just small things that add up, really. For example, my phone in my classroom doesn’t work. For some reason or another I can’t get my printer to print from my desktop computer. The internet is extremely sketchy in my area of the building. The students I’ve been teaching have been experiencing major spiritual apathy and disinterest. To top it off, it’s 95 degrees outside. I’m over it.

So, in reading this back, I realize I sound whiny, ungrateful, and petulant. I realize that when I compare my situations with those of a lot of other people who are facing very real pain and discomfort, mine seems to fade into the silence overreaction. 

But then I remember, God cares about it anyway. My pain, regardless of where I place it on the scale relating it to others’ pain, God cares about it. 

 I’ve grown up Adventist, I haven’t ever really gone “down the wrong path,” I haven’t had a huge life changing moment- but there have been pockets of light that have shined down on me. I think what is special about my testimony is that it continues every single day. There are little reminders or moments of peace that God so cleverly places along my path. For example, the air conditioning works great in my car, my classroom, and my apartment, cool enough that I can pretend that it’s cool outside too. My apartment is in a great location, right near my job and any restaurant I’d like to eat at, random text messages from people reminding me that they love me, amazing parents who always check up on me, random strangers who show me kindness, and the list goes on and on. Just when I start to get extremely discouraged or annoyed, God will show up in unthinkable ways. Honestly, I need to shut my mouth, open my mind, my heart, and my eyes, and I will and be aware of a God who has and will move mountains for me, simply because He loves me.

So maybe your testimony isn’t clear, perhaps you’re reminded of it every day through the almost unnoticeable. Please notice the little things. I’ve realized that’s where God likes to hang out.  

Devin Anavitarte is one of the of the founding members of Enspire Productions and is currently the Campus Chaplain at Burton Adventist Academy.

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One of Those Life Changing Moments


One of Those Life Changing Moments

My Personal Testimony Part 1

Sometimes you can look back on something in your life and realize - it was that moment that everything changed. How you view the world will never be the same. One of those moments for me was in December of 2016. 

It was my first semester in graduate school at Andrews University in Michigan. In fact, it was the day before finals week was to begin, and I had a ton of projects I needed to complete. All three of my classes each had 20+ page research papers due around the same time, I was working three part time jobs, and it was snowing heavily outside. 

I had just gotten off of work from one of my jobs, and when I got home, I realized something felt off. I decided to take a nap and hope the weird feeling would go away. However, when I woke up, I felt even worse. My heart was racing, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and my stomach was tightened into a knot. 

My first thought was that I was having an allergic reaction to my new asthma medication since the symptoms were kind of similar to taking a puff of a strong inhaler. I called my husband, Jonny, in to help me try and figure out what was wrong. After a few hours without any sign of getting better, we called my mom who is a nurse. She said, “It sounds like you’re having a panic attack.” 

Hmm. This was something I had never considered, and honestly didn’t think were real. Nevertheless, I heeded her advice to breathe into a paper bag to try and slow my breathing and prevent hyperventilation. It helped a little, but I still felt terrible. 

An ER visit in the midst of a snowstorm and visits to my primary care doctor and a counselor later, and I had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, put on antidepressants, and advised to figure out what had caused such a nervous breakdown. 

But at the time, I was still in the midst of it. I became extremely depressed and anxious. I was afraid to sleep. I couldn’t eat anything because I constantly had a painful, sinking feeling in my stomach that made me sick at even the thought of food. Food tasted bland anyway. I would just lay on the couch all day, with no energy to do anything but stare out the window. I refused to leave the house. I’m an extrovert, but being around people made me miserable. Even showering took an enormous amount of energy and effort. 

I thought that I was staring at what the rest of my life would be like. I couldn’t imagine living in this miserable state forever. I didn’t care about anything, and was afraid of everything at the same time. 

I think the most difficult thing was that I couldn’t trust myself anymore. I’m the type of person that always likes to have a plan and be in control. Sure, I had experienced bad stuff before, but I could always rely on myself to figure things out. This was different. I no longer could trust my own emotions or thoughts. It was like I was trapped in my own mind. 

In my past, I had always turned to God whenever anything difficult had appeared because that’s just what good Christians do! I read the Bible with my head without taking anything to heart. I didn’t really need him since I had everything under control. I was talking to God out of obligation. 

But this experience changed my perspective because I wasn’t in control of my thoughts or emotions anymore. Every day during that spring semester I would stare at myself in the bathroom mirror and try to convince myself to take a shower, get dressed, and go to class. Psalm 73:26 became my mantra. “Though my flesh and my heart may fail, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” 

I don’t know what life changing moments you’ve experienced. I can’t even begin to guess what you have lived through or are still living through. But let me tell you one thing. You are strong. You are a warrior fighting a battle. But, you will not win by yourself. 

Let me leave you with three points. 

  1. It’s ok to not be ok. You can’t see what other people are going through when they put on a happy face. But I guarantee if they haven’t gone through something in the past, they are right now or they will in the future. God loves you just the way you are. Look at the people in the Bible. They were a mess and God met them where they were. 

  2. You may be in the midst of despair and it feels like there is no way out. It will pass. It may take a day, it may take a year, it may take a lifetime of therapy but that cloud will lift and you will see the sun. Don’t give up at night when morning is coming. You just have to wait for it. 

  3. It may not be easy.There is no easy button for depression, anxiety, grief, anger, etc. I’m still on antidepressants and maybe I will be for the rest of my life. And even so, I still have bad days. But I’ve learned not to depend on myself. I learned to place my trust in someone unchanging. There is Someone who will help you fight your battles. There is Someone who will hold you when you’re too broken to fight at all. 

So my plea to you more than anything else is don’t give up. Don’t give up on yourself. And don’t give up on him. 

Stephanie Wilczynski has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2009. She is a teacher at Burton Adventist Academy.


Nature and Spirituality


Nature and Spirituality

Nature has taught me…Part 4

One of America’s most consequential naturalists and authors once said “Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”

Spirituality, nature, and human nature are irrevocably intertwined. A perceptive person will know that one cannot fully experience nature without a willingness to watch and listen for the larger lessons that may not be as obvious as a physical tree, stream, or stone. Nature has much to teach us and this is, in effect, its spirit. Consider how humbling it must be for a human to know that even after taking into account her own profound capabilities of cognition, reason, and intellect, she could wonder into the woods for a day and find that the smallest of animals has a profound lesson to teach. Plants, ferns, mosses, lichens and such also render their wisdom freely, but only to the person who’s spirit is willing to receive. It is impossible to venture into the wilderness without being completely overwhelmed with humility. The sheer scale, age, and power of the forces at work in nature will cause any ego to become better-calibrated. The natural human condition works well in this setting.

Job 12:7-9 tells us to “ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish… inform you.”

Humans naturally tend toward larger questions of life, such as “who am I,” “why am I here,” “where did I come from,” and “when was the first day without a yesterday?” Thankfully, nature has built the grandest cathedrals in which answers and evidence for these questions may be found. These cathedrals may be of a scale to immediately bring tears, such as Yosemite Valley. These cathedrals may require a microscope, such as the everyday business happening inside every cell of your body. Sometimes a telescope is required. In the end, everything a scientist can study happens in the natural world and is driven by natural forces. Of course, not everything of profound human consequence can be measured by instruments which is why a healthy mix of philosophy and science is required before one can arrive at clarity.

Knowing all of this is good, but experiencing it is immeasurably better. “Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature's darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature's sources never fail.” - John Muir

I have arrived at these conclusions not by conjecture, reading, or other impersonal mode, but by experience. Collectively, I’ve lived for more than a year in a tent. I have walked hundreds of miles through pristine wilderness, sometimes more than 200 in a single summer. I’ve slept on all surfaces from pine needles to permafrost, and I can tell you that there is no greater professor or source of wisdom and harmony than nature.

Take the opportunity to explore nature and find in it a hint of your own spirituality. This may happen immediately if you’re so inclined, and it may take weeks, but you will find it. This is not a one-time event, it is a lifelong practice that forever yields dividends. Do not miss this opportunity, for if you do, you may discover too late that you have not yet lived.

“in all things of nature there is something of the marvelous” - Aristotle

Heston Williams is nature enthusiast who enjoys time in forests and mountains as well as his Fort Worth home.