When I think back to my four years at CCHS, I am flooded with memories of exciting spirit weeks, rigorous academics, lively fan sections at sporting events, friendly faces while walking the halls, and the goofiness that comes with a building full of high schoolers. However, as I consider this time of my life, the thing that overshadows the rest is the example of a Christ-centered community. In this community, there were happy times celebrating various successes - driver's licenses, passing chemistry tests, state championships, and college acceptance letters. There was also an abundance of times that our community was deepened due to an array of losses - teachers sharing they had a miscarriage, the loss of life of a teacher or student’s parent, and scary health concerns. Working through these emotions and fears was challenging as a high schooler. The CCHS community was truly a gift as it equipped and taught me to lean on God through all of these things. I remember the morning I learned that one of our students was suddenly unable to walk while she was about to travel internationally. Our CCHS community was swift to organize a morning of prayer at the flagpole for this student. We also had a fundraiser as a volleyball team with the line “FEAR NOT 365” present on all of our items for sale. That phrase was chosen because the Bible says to “fear not” 365 times in the Bible - which ironically (or not…) correlates with the number of days in a year. I’ve carried this reminder of God’s instruction over the years and am continually comforted that He never leaves us.
Since learning of the strength that community could bring while at CCHS, I actively sought community during my time at Hope College. I participated in a variety of activities on campus, but my position as a resident assistant was my favorite. In this role, I welcomed conversations with my residents as we discussed conflicts and celebrations. I had a unique position to help initiate connections between my residents. It was a great joy to bring people together as I planned events, and I still witness how those nurtured friendships have continued since graduation.
After graduating from Hope College in 2018 with my nursing degree, I worked as a medical/surgical nurse caring for patients who had experienced a wide array of illnesses. In 2020, I also took on the role of being a COVID nurse - which in itself threatened isolation rather than community. My unit became the official “COVID unit” in a national hotspot, and I was often the nurse in charge. Not only was I young and somewhat inexperienced, but I also had no one who could tell me what to expect or how long this would go. Talk about anxiety! While these uncertain times brought new fear, I was reminded again of “FEAR NOT 365” and God’s presence both in my life and the life of my patients. I specifically remember one COVID patient, who was later placed on a ventilator, doing a devotional focused on the “breath of life” and God’s provision as he struggled for each breath. It was humbling and inspiring to witness his faith. I was later able to be part of a prayer with this patient and his doctor prior to his transfer to the ICU. These moments remind me of the amazing community we have as Christ-followers and my gratitude to have learned how to be an active participant.
While serving as a charge nurse at Blodgett Hospital, I was invited to become a clinical instructor for Grand Valley State University. This additional role allows me to walk alongside student nurses as they navigate the hospital setting and care for their first patients. I’ve found that I love to teach and encourage others while confirming they feel supported as they grow in their own knowledge and abilities. This responsibility led me to just recently leave the bedside to be a Nurse Educator, a role in which I will welcome new staff, promote a sense of unity with our team, and equip nurses as I ensure they have the knowledge and resources to do their job well. I strive to create community in my personal life as well. My husband, Tommy, and I are continually challenged with how to create a deeper community with those around us. It’s often easier said than done as time always seems fleeting and community can be messy, but we are determined that opening our doors and providing a meal or prayer is always worth it.