For a long time, I struggled with my identity. I thought I knew who I was — and I didn’t like her. I didn’t like being different. I didn’t like sitting apart and alone. I didn’t like those things in me I thought everyone else found inferior. I didn’t like me.
This was a secret I kept inside, a secret I hidden from everyone, including myself. I didn’t realize the truth in and the depth of my struggle until I realized who I was.
And that began one year ago today.
It was July 18, 2013, and I was walking into my biggest dream. This dream was so big in me and had manifested itself to me in so many thoughts that I didn’t bother to put it on my bucketlist; I just knew I would go. And I did on this day a year ago. I left. I went. I traveled. With my heavenly Father, my earthly mother, and a family called Beam, I went on my first mission trip to Nicaragua, C.A. — Central America. I departed from the United States for the very first time. Words cannot describe the feelings I felt on and because of this day. My first words in my first travel journal went like this:
My heart is burning and I have all these strange butterflies dancing in my stomach.
My dream is coming true.
Let me see your face, God. Let’s grow together. Oh, I love you.
We did grow so much… in Nicaragua… after Nicaragua… because of Nicaragua. The things I experienced with him on this trip are too deep to fully explain. But I can tell you how they changed me, because they did, in deep, deep ways.
In Nicaragua, I played with kids who grew to be my friends in only three days. I communicated with others in Spanish for the first time. Ultimately, I realized who I was. Because when we went, a big awkward group of twenty-one Americans, there weren’t many names of ours that the Nicaraguans could say. They could call us. They could use our names. But they couldn’t say our names — all except for one.
And that name was Christianna.
They could say Christianna. They could say Christianna better than Americans, because they said so many more things than just my name when they called me. They were whispering sweet things from God, things like, “I love you. I know who you are. I see you. I made you for this — can you see that? I made you Cristiana for a purpose, for a reason. I made you, with all your mistakes, in all your loneliness, through all your different parts. I made you, just as you are, because I have even bigger dreams for you to realize; we are going to do big things. I have big things for you because of who you are. You are mine, Cristiana. I made you for me. Don’t you know I’m smiling over you, Cristiana?“ And I felt him smile. When I played, and when I spoke, and as I was filled with joy, I knew he was smiling. Therefore, I felt alive.
In my journal, I wrote these things halfway through my week:
This is where I am, hu, God? I’m not inferior or extra-spiritual. I just am. That’s more than a great feeling. It’s an accomplishment. And it makes me want to cry.
I am Cristiana. I am happy with who you’ve made me to be; rather, I take much delight in me.
It all sounds awful selfish, but I don’t feel that way. I’m just yours. There’s nothing else to it.
I’m beautiful. I feel and know that here. Not one time have I looked in a Nicaraguan mirror and been one bit dissatisified, besides the length of my hair.
This makes me love you even more too in some odd way.
So I returned. I came back to the United States. I didn’t want to return, but I did. And I’ve been on
two other trips to Peru and El Salvador now as well. But Nicaragua began it all.
Here I am, one year later. I am not lonely; I have many friends. I do not see myself as different in a pitiful and unwanted way. I am not sorry for who I am, whether people like me or not. I know Who does love me because of who I am, and I know he is enough. I know who I am and why I was made, because I know Who made me.
There’s a lot more to my story; there’s a lot more to this past year. But it all began in Nicaragua. Without realizing what I did there, I wouldn’t be who I am a year later. I wouldn’t be fearlessly walking into public school. I wouldn’t be surrounded by friends whom I love and whom love me. I wouldn’t be satisfied with the dreams God has laid before me. But I am. I am brave. I am blessed. And I am the Lord’s, heart, body, mind, soul, and being.
I was able to leave Nicaragua and know, deep down in parts of me,
This is my calling after all and I’m never looking back.
And I never am.
It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.
Ephesians 1:11-12 MSG