Identity

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About My Name

Names carry meaning. My first name is Haley (Hay-lee), which comes from the Northwestern Connacht Region of Ireland. It comes from the Old English/Gaelic words “heg” (hay) and “leah” (clearing or meadow). Haley therefore means “meadow or clearing of Hay”. My mother’s Irish relatives immigrated from the Munster or Connacht areas to the United States around the mid-late 1880s due to the Irish Potato Famines.

Nus comes the German words Nußbaum or Nusbaum which means “one who dwells near the trees” (specifically referring to hazelnut or walnut trees). My 3rd great grandfather Hugo Nus came to the United States from Remptondorf Germany in the mid-1800s, and upon immigrating shortened his name to “Nus”. From my perspective, it’s likely that Hugo wanted to avoid anti-semitism, as the name Nussbaum was associated with Jewish individuals. To this day, I am not sure whether this branch of my family was actually Jewish and got homogenized into Protestantism through marriage or conversion, or whether they were Protestant pre-immigration.

Farming and planting is both historically and immediately relevant to my family. My parents met at Kansas State University, an agricultural school. They are both professionally and personally interested in horticulture. My dad was a professor and got his Doctorate in Turf grass sciences. My mother has run university greenhouses since before I was born. She has such a vast working knowledge of horticulture that throughout my years in Girl Scouts, she could identify outdoor plants’ names, properties, and related anecdotes at will.

While my parents did not intentionally name my sister and I botanically-relevant names, these were the names that they and my two half brothers chose when they voted. My parents also didn’t mean to select a name that is geographically relevant to one of the exact regions of Ireland my mother’s family is from, but here we are.

Since I was very young, knowledge of botany and gardening was so much integrated into our family culture that I’ve absorbed much through osmosis. In my parents minds, gardening has to do with a working class identity that has changed little since my relatives came to America, despite anyone’s actual financial status. As both my parents are from the Great Plains Midwest (Ohio and Iowa respectively), these various ancestral roots have taken on Midwestern values related work-ethic, friendliness, and honesty.

Using Plants to Reveal Identity

xplicitly used plants and animals to get my attention from an early age. Indeed, the majority of the supernatural experiences I had as a child started with encountering God in the beauty of nature. As a child, I frequently spoke with the Lord about various family challenges and needs. Eventually, I went through a turbulent time in the 6th grade where I’d frequently find myself lonely at recess. I’d pray, saying, “Lord if you love me, please help me find a four leaf clover.” As I cried out for God’s love and a reminder of my value, I would frequently encounter patches of them in the elementary school field near our home.

From Fields to the Nations

My elementary school was my first international community. As our districts’ designated ESL school in a university town, our K-5th grade had students from over 100 different nations. I also developed friendships with students many whose parents immigrated from Mexico or Latin America for work. In late elementary school, God used the pure love of a friend from Mexico to challenge me about the negative attributes I had previously been using to define my identity. Her sincerity changed the course of my life. Out of love and in order to stay emotionally close to what I had learned from her, I began to study Spanish.

After elementary school, my friend group was dispersed and my family’s dysfunction loomed larger. I went into a period of depression from ages 13-19 that left me emotionally dead to the world. As I grappled with the spiritual warfare related to suicide and death, the Holy Spirit gave me a sense of joy and divine doubt for my doubts. I began to wonder if God would eventually turn my life into something worth living. Strengthened by hope, began to live day by day until I was 18. I didn’t expect to live that long, but after deciding to attend the university, I was desperately in search of the God who had made it possible.

In searching for God, I was angry that so few people expected him to move powerfully. I had seen him deliver me from suicide and death, and still sensed him speaking to me when alone. This feeling only intensified when my family forced us to attend a local youth group and I discovered that they were unable to help with my depression or deliver me from my family dysfunction. Something in me intuitively sensed that faith in Christ should include power for healing and miracles, and I was angry to see others settle for so little.

As I gained independence at university, I began to lose weight and find freedom from depression. However, I was still longing for deeper wholeness in God. As I searched for Jesus in campus ministries, a Catholic friend invited me to a public event that showed me that God was indeed powerful. At the same time, I had grown so greatly in my Spanish that I needed to study abroad in order to finesse it. I followed my gut in choosing to study abroad in Valparaiso, Chile, and unexpectedly encountered the love of God on the plane. I had expected study abroad to be full of meaningless drinking. To my surprise, I ended up befriending the Chilean and North American church kids. From a deepening hunger for God, I gave my life to Christ on March 26, 2014.

In returning to the United States, I resumed my student job working with International students. As I prayed for God to reveal his purpose for my life, I was hired as a tutor at the same elementary school I had attended. Over a decade later, the school was just as diverse as before. I found myself re-walking the same fields where God had begun to show me my value. As I taught children to look for clovers and make clover crowns at recess, I sensed a commissioning from the Lord. As I prepared to graduate university, I applied for an alternate teaching certification program that unexpectedly brought me to Washington, DC. Since coming to D.C., I’ve been able to use my fluent Spanish in the classroom and in communicating with families, many who have come from Central America.

Based on these many experiences with nature,

God has called me to be a fertile field for the planting of the new things he wants to do in the Spirit, declaring his Kingdom Purposes in the field of Education and Educational Ministry. I dream of planting and developing schools across many nations so that children will seek God with their entire hearts, minds, and spirits and see God move in power to shape their communities. Thus far, I’ve found clovers and sought the Lord in Asia, Latin America, Europe, North America. While God still uses nature to reveal himself to me, I have since learned a variety of ways to discern his voice and developed maturity in obedience.

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