Identity

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 botany/horticulture. My dad was a professor at K State and got his Doctorate in Turf grass sciences. My mother has run greenhouses out of the University of Kansas since before I was born, and has such a vast working knowledge of horticulture and the Kansan ecosystem that throughout my years in Girl Scouts, one need only point to a plant and she could tell you just about everything you’d need to know about it (scientific names, uses, connotations, etc).

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 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

Apart from the relationships I have with family and many outdoor adventures, God explicitly used plants to get my attention from an early age. As a child who had various supernatural experiences, I frequently spoke with the Lord about various family challenges and needs. I felt a ministry calling on my life in a way that never needed explaining, but struggled earnestly to understand how Jesus fit into it. Right before entering into a period of depression that would last throughout middle and high school, the Lord responded to my longing to feel valued by giving me an unexpected talent at finding four leaf clovers. I would cry out for God to remind me that he loved me, and end up coming upon patches of them in the elementary school field near our home.

From Fields to the Nations

At my elementary school I had various friends from other cultures, many whose parents immigrated from Mexico or Latin America for work, or who attended the University of Kansas as International students. In late elementary school, God also used the pure love of friends from Mexico and South Korea who saw me as I was, outside of my family’s brokenness and outside the shadow of my twin sister. With another friend whose family is from the Phillipines and Netherlands, I conducted my first funeral service for a robin in her backyard. Out of love for the first friend who ever saw me clearly, I studied Spanish as a way to celebrate her and her family.

After elementary school, these friends parted and my family’s dysfunction loomed larger and 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 many doubts. I began to wonder if God would eventually turn my life into something worth living, and 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 of Kansas, was desperately in search of the God who had made it possible.

In searching for God, I was angry that so few people around me expected him to move powerfully, the way I had seen him deliver me from Suicide and Death and the way I sensed him speaking to me when alone. While depressed, my mother had forced us to go to youth group at a local church but I had only become more angry that no one there seemed to have power to heal me from depression or deliver me from my family’s dysfunction. As I entering college, I began to lose weight and find freedom from depression, but 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. While I had expected study abroad to be full of meaningless drinking and sex, I ended up falling in with the Chilean and US church kids and got saved on March 26, 2014.

In returning to the United States, I resumed my job at the KU Office of International Student Services. As I prayed for God to reveal his purpose for my life, I was hired as an America Reads Tutor at the same elementary school I attended, which was just as diverse as before. In the same fields where God had begun to show me my value, I taught children to look for clovers and make clover crowns at Recess and sensed a commissioning from the Lord. As I prepared to graduate college, I applied for an alternate teaching certification program that unexpectedly brought me to Washington, DC. Since coming here, I’ve been able to use my fluent Spanish in the classroom and in communicating with families, many who have come from Central America.

I believe that 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 plants as a sign to speak to me, I’ve learned to hear his voice in scripture and in so many different ways since then.

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