The end of the beginning…

sorry for the break in notes but i’m back so here is the end of my testimony

So where did I leave off?
I believe I was trapped at a Christian BBQ where all these weirdos were standing around singing about Jesus.
So very NOT a comfotable moment!

I made it through that night and was ready to write the bible-thumpers off but I kept getting phone calls to go do something. Join us for disney….let’s go boating…we’re having a birthday party…
They were attacking me with kindness and friendship from all sides. I was a goner ;)

I had spent the first couple of weeks at school looking into all of “my” kinds of groups. Signing up for the Femimist majority group here… checking out Volunteer UCF over there…setting everything in motion in order to live life exactly as I had planned it. But suddenly I had someplace to be where people wanted me and noticed when I was gone. I needed that so much and if it meant looking over their religious shortcomings in order to hold onto it I would. I never missed a Wesley service after that first one and immediately signed up for the Freshman small group. They’d sucked me in!

I had no intention of exploring the Christian faith or following Jesus. I went to freshman group because I had friends (such as the fabulous Melody king ;D) there and nothing beyond that. If you were ever to sit down with one of my freshman leaders they’d be able to tell you how difficult I really was (sorry Mersinger). I questioned everything and did it in a very vocal manner. Every faith-based statement was a chance for debate. I was going to show my new friends the foolishness behind their faith.

The first time God ever touched my heart at Wesley was through worship. I remember spending months at Wesley where everything in me wanted to stand up and sing and to dance. I felt like a hypocrite. I was compelled to join people in worshipping a God that I didn’t believe in. Then mission trip time came.

I had always planned on working overseas; at least for a time. I assumed I would set aside two or three years for the peace corps. I truly believe that we have giftings the Lord places in us the moment he creates us. It is a permanent part of our identity and when we are in relationship with God these gifts can be fully realized and accessed for the kingdom. But they do not neccessarily lay dormant while God waits for us to see him. There are many incredible people in this world who don’t know the Lord but are compelled to do things after his own heart because of what he has placed in him. They are nurses…teachers…mothers… God has created me to go to the nations. I have a passion for justice and for service that is constantly growing but at that time, at eighteen and with no relationship with God, I had such a limited understanding of what I was created to do.

That December I signed up to go on a mission trip. I didn’t actually know what a mission trip was (in it’s religious context). All I knew was that Wesley was telling me I could go overseas and work with people. I was made for this!!
I signed up for Brazil and was soon informed that I would be going with a team to Haiti. damn! Haiti wasn’t my 5th choice let alone my 1st and I was not a happy camper. little did I know..

I was a Christian for less than four months when I stepped foot on Haitian soil. I fell in love with Haiti. It is an incredible place that is still close to my heart. I have been twice now and would jump at more opportunities to visit. By the end of my second trip to Haiti I was a sophomore in college and my priorities had all been turned upside down. My perfect plans were becoming a wonderful mess. I had realized a call to missions and given up my plans for law school. Not because giving up my plans would have been right for everyone in my situation but because I am a stubborn control freak and I needed to start giving up control; beginning with my plans. I grew up a type-A, honor role, overachiever. Partly because I enjoyed school and academic success but also because my mother demanded it of us and even after I was free from her I couldn’t let go of the idea that my worth and my being deserving of love was directly linked to my achievements. I still struggle to this day with not allowing myself to believe people will take back their affections if I don’t work daily to earn them. I may have gone a little overboard with letting go of the inner overachiever. I took so many classes in so many areas (there are so many cool topics out there waiting to be explored) that I was slowly racking up the credits for 3 minors but was nowhere near graduating. If something was happening with Wesley it trumped anything for school. That is not always a wise choice. I have still been blessed and God has opened doors for me but I should have been a better steward of my time at school. This is why i’m walking around with over 3/4 of school done and no degree. Some day….

People in Wesley ministered to me in so many ways those first years. I was so shut down emotionally. Between my mother and the homes I had been in I had purposely worked to eliminate any vulnerability or cracks in my armor. I didn’t cry, I didn’t share, and I didn’t let ANYONE close enough to hurt me. My friends at Wesley spent so much time working to show me it was okay to lean on someone and that my tears were not something to me ashamed of. There is still work that the Lord has to do in me but I am so changed from who I used to be. Healing like that happens when you have people fervently praying for you all year. I had no idea about that at the time and it meant so much to me the first time someone told me. To think that there were people who cared enough to spend their time together praying for me and my salvation and my life.

Since that first trip to Haiti I have had chances to go to so many phenomenal places. God is all over this world doing some outrageous things. Go and explore! I spent the last few years thinking I had to narrow down where I was called too. I thought that a person gets a call to missions followed with a call to a specific place and that God never deviated from that system. I always felt so bad telling people I had no idea where I was going, that I loved every place I had been and just wanted to keep seeing more. I have a heart for the nations just not any one particular nation. I thought I was missing half the vision for my life before Gina Castle prayed for me and gave me such a comforting word. I was called to the nations and my feet would constantly be moving. I simply needed to be obedient and move from place to place as the Lord called me there and for as long as he needed me there. This resonated with me. It felt right.

I have now been interning for the past year. what a year!! Wesley has been my home. I think maybe after reading this testimony that makes a little more sense. I don’t mean I like it a lot or I fit in. This IS my family. This is the most time I have spent somewhere in my entire life. It is where I met Jesus, where I feel loved and protected, it is where I found healing and friendship. Wesley is home. I spent five years being poured into here and I hope I have been able to give even a taste of that back as an intern because I owe so much to this ministry. I stood on the side during closing worship Tuesday night and watched all of you. A couple of you have been here with me since the beginning and some of you are just starting your time here. It was overwhelming to look at the room and see each of you, holding each other, praying, worshipping God, giving yourselves over to him. It made me want so much for each of you. I hope you find want I found here.

I am leaving soon and it hurts to much to think about but I know it is a good thing. I am leaving for a job that will allow me to fight for the justice I want so badly for so many people and that’s a great thing. I just hate to leave my family. Mason was right that Wesley is not what made these changes in me but it is where I encountered God for the first time and where people have given of themselves and shown me Jesus. You have all been great but there have been some of you over the past years who left a permanent mark on my life. Each of you in very different ways. Some of you showed me what it was just be strong in discipline, some taught me vulnerability, joyfulness, forgiveness, there are those of you who simply sat and listened when I needed it and some who are so wonderfully absurd that I felt comfortable enough to be absurd with you.


One thought on “The end of the beginning…

  1. ana, just wanted to comment. Because I can.

    And so that you know that I go to your blog. Thanks for being so open and vulnerable. And transparent. And for liking me even though I am awkward. I am glad we are friends!!!!!!

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