A plain dress and a big heart
by Marissa Hochstetler – Horizon Guest Writer
The first things you notice when you meet Linda Miller are her plain dress and big smile. What’s obvious when you talk to her is her passion for learning, her passion for people, and her passion for service.
Aimee Stein, a disaster management student at Hesston, met Miller at student orientation in January. She had a hard time finding the exact words to use to describe what it is that draws people to Miller’s joyful personality.
“She just has this happy look to her,” Stein said with a grin.
Nursing faculty Bonnie Sowers and Marilyn Unruh Flaming agreed Miller’s “playful and joyful spirit make it a real pleasure to interact with her.”
Instructors describe Miller as dedicated, as someone who follows assignment instructions meticulously. Unlike most college students, she’ll start assignments days, even weeks in advance.
As Stein puts it, Miller is a woman of purpose, which she learned one afternoon when Miller asked her to take a walk.
“To no surprise, she walked much faster than I do,” said Stein. “She wants to walk and she has this much time and she wants to get as far as she can.”
Besides her work ethic, Miller’s strong faith and values shine through in her relationships, her integrity, and the time she puts in what matters most.
“One of the things I like about her,” said Stein of Miller’s strong faith “is that she makes no apologies for it.”
Miller also writes a blog, “Whispers of Reflections,” in which she creatively shares her faith and philosophy of life through writing. On March 2, Miller posted these thoughts in an entry called “Sufficiency vs. Lack”:
“God pours out immeasurable blessings on our lives. It is up to us to focus on His sufficiency as He is more than enough. I’m grateful to God for His sufficiency and goodness in ways too numerous to count on here. Can I actively focus on God’s sufficiency today? It is from His abundance that I have received one blessing after another. How have you seen God provide for you?”
Miller grew up as a part of the Amish community in Hutchinson, Kan. Her family and her church could be described as Old-order or New-order Amish, depending on who you’re talking to. They had electricity and phones but didn’t own their own vehicles, even though men were allowed to drive those owned by their employers.
Growing up, Miller remembers driving to church with horse and buggy and singing. There was a lot of singing. On long rides, while having family devotions in the evening and around the table singing “Gott ist die Liebe,” or “God is Love,” and “How Great Thou Art.”
“I can still see Grandpa Troyer leaning back in his chair a bit and singing from the depth of his heart,” said Miller.
In other ways, Miller’s childhood was not the Amish upbringing many would expect. Miller described how her home congregation intermingled with the other Amish and Mennonite churches that were around, something not all Amish churches do.
“It wasn’t just that I was isolated to Amish,” said Miller. “Plus my folks were not Amish-only.”
Miller was taught to think beyond the box. Because they hadn’t yet joined the church, some of the Amish youth were not held to traditional Christian standards. But Miller’s parents taught her that she should always live her life in a way that speaks to her faith and beliefs.
“As a youth person it was pretty lonely because we were taught that we should be living for Christ – the whole time – not like some of [the other Amish youth] do,” said Miller. “[In the Amish church] you can be in your youth years and pretty much do whatever you want. My parents don’t believe that.”
After graduating from eighth grade, Miller started working full time at Glenn’s Bulk Food Shoppe Inc. and the Gospel Book Store, side-by-side businesses owned by her parents.
“It was very difficult for me,” Miller said, “because many of my peers went on to high school and went on with their lives and I went into the workforce at a young age.”
Again Miller found herself feeling alone. Her Christian friends went to a private high school. Her church peers frequented the party scene. Miller didn’t fit with either group.
“Those were times when I spent more time reading and spent more time with family,” Miller said. “I made that priority.”
In 2011 Miller sensed it was time to make a change. She went to Hutchinson Community College (HCC) to take GED classes to get back into the groove of school and to do more than just pass the test. After getting her GED, Miller moved to Virginia to volunteer for a year as a CNA with the intention of going through the nursing program there. But that program wasn’t the right fit for her. Instead, she decided to move back to Kansas in June 2012 and started taking classes at HCC in the fall. After doing three semesters at HCC, Miller transferred to Hesston to start in the Nursing program.
Besides going on to get her bachelors degree after Hesston, Miller is toying with the idea of becoming a nurse practitioner. Miller dreams of working stateside before going on short-term, international trips to work at medical mission camps.
“It is a way to take the gospel to those who are hurting while physically meeting their needs,” said Miller. “I desire to show God’s love and compassion as he is using my life and hands to help minister healing.”
Note: Miller is quoted saying, “[In the Amish church] you can be in your youth years and pretty much do whatever you want.” In the time since Miller was young, many Amish churches, including the one Miller attended growing up have moved away from this belief.