never.

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.

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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 Nicaragua 2013 1039with 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.

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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 onphoto1
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.

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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

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I Won’t Stop.

Everyone else might’ve forgotten you. But I haven’t. I can’t. It might have been their 3rd, 4th or even 38th mission trip, all of which produced many friends. But this was only my first. And I still want to be with you. I wish I could tell you how my heart aches some days when I see you in my mind’s eye only as a snapshot. I want you to be in front of me, alive, active, and free as you were when we played together. Everyone else might’ve forgotten. But I haven’t. Not yet.

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I wish I could tell you that I want to be there. I wish I could’ve told you how much I didn’t want to leave. I hope you realized this in my tears the day we had to say goodbye. I hope you know I haven’t left you totally abandoned. . . Everyday, I pray for each of you as your face comes to the forefront of my mind. I want you to know that God loves you so terribly much. That is the only thing that matters, and that is the only thing worth holding onto. I’m learning this too.

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I wish I could come back. I wish I could return and find myself surrounded by all of your smiling faces, and maybe get some hugs. But I can’t. I can’t even tell you how much I still care. But you know what? It’s going to be okay. I pray that we will see each other in heaven someday. I wish, more than anything else, that I could have confidence in this.  But since I can’t, I won’t stop praying for you. Never.

-CJ

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Call to me and I will answer you and

tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.

-Jeremiah 33:3

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us,

to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think [or do ourselves].

-Ephesians 3:20

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Never stop praying.

-1 Thessalonians 4:17

I Will Remember.

Nicaragua 2013 889On the first day of work in Nicaragua, we set up a clinic in a little place off the main road called Villa Quince. It was a rough day for me. I found it hard to get in a groove, or even know what to do. Later that night, I complained to God about my experience and how it didn’t feel like home. He gave me some precious words and wise reminders about my purpose and his hand in my life. So, I trudged on the next day. It was better, though not quite what I was looking for or had been expecting. I felt Nicaragua 2013 717better, and knew it would be okay.

Then I met Rancheria.

Her face you will never find in a picture, or even in my words. She is found in the heart. I can see her in every picture I review of my trip, though. In every smiling face and every particle of dirt I look over, I remember. She’s still sticking to my shoes and is found in the imprint on my silicon bracelet. I love her very much and miss her too.

Nicaragua 2013 927 We set up a new clinic on the ground of her school. I met her children, a few of which were Andrae, Alen, Fransisco, Lisseth, Mario, Guanalupae and Ariel. I felt her pain as I helped with fluoride treatments on her loved ones. I saw her joy in the eyes of ones whose hurting might be healed. I encountered her love in every little body I held close to my heart when I left. And I will never forget. 

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I pray for you everyday, precious Rancheria, just as I did on the day that we parted. Don’t forget the love of God you found in the 3 days we were together. Hold tight to him, for he will never leave you. Remember what I told you? He wants you and doesn’t like the separation that exists between you and him because of sin. He cares about every little detail of your

Nicaragua 2013 709seemingly forgotten life and he wants to help you make it better. Open up the door of your heart. Let him in so he can mend what is broken and really heal that which is sick. We could do so little for you, and I hate that. But he can do so much more. Reach out, and he will meet you there.

Don’t forget each other. When the bad times come, hold one another up. Don’t forsake meeting together at church.

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Trust God. Everything will be okay and you will be able to smile like you never have before. I pray he puts joy in your heart, protection over your life, and love in every movement you make. Never forget. I won’t.

will remember.

~Cristiana

You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas. You formed the mountains by your power and armed yourself with mighty strength. You quieted the raging oceans, with their pounding waves and silenced the shouting of the nations. Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of you wonders. From where the sun rises to the place where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy.

-Psalm 65:5-8

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What We Accomplish, Together.

ImageDear God,

As I look back on all that you did while I was away, I am thankful. Moreover, my heart gushes with gratitude. I am so abundantly thankful that you brought me to Nicaragua this year, that you put me on the team that you did, with the leaders we had, serving the people that we saw. I couldn’t have picked a better experience than this.

ImageAlthough most people would come home from a mission trip with one person in mind that really changed them, I do not. It was everyone. And it was you. I felt you working on the inside of me like you never have before and I know without one doubt that you created me to do this work. And I’m thrilled, overjoyed, at this thought. I have a purpose, I’m wanted, and I am Cristiana, the one you have perfectly hand-picked to declare your goodness.  I’m content in every possible way with the girl you have placed inside me,

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and I’m so glad you put her there.

Thank you for aligning my steps as you did. Every piece went together so perfectly, for even some of the verses I read and things I learned there have encouraged me back home, like Psalm 37:24, 25. I quoted this verse in my station at the clinic, but now that I’m back in ‘Estados Unidos,’ the words I shared with them return to my heart and encourage me as well. Or Psalm 46:10. I’m learning to be still in my hectic, American life and learn more about you than I ever have before.

Thank you for showing my your greatness, beauty, and creativity. ImageI’m so glad I serve the God I do, that I can be sure of your strength and helping hand as I sift through my troubles at home. Keeping showing me yourself, in my memories of Rancheria, or Villa Quince, or of my team. Remind me everyday of your wonders and your work in my life.

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Don’t let the people we touched forget so easily about your love, either. Bring to their minds all that they saw, heard, and felt while in our care. And when they reflect on these things, let it be your touch that moves their hearts again. If need be, let them forget us so they can feel you and be changed by

Imageyou once more. Don’t leave them, God, as we had to, but keep moving, for me and my friends. You can do so much more than we ever could, and I trust you to accomplish your heart for these people.

Remember Alen, Andrae, Lisseth, Ariel, Fransisco, Rebecca, Carlos, Javier, Scarlet, David, and Jose. Also, don’t forget everyone else who partnered with us to make this Imagehappen, like Kaiti, Mrs. D, Elizabeth, Ciara, Tammy, Kaylee, and Sheila. Thank them all in your own special way for me, and let them know of my great gratitude.

Thank you, God. You are so amazing, and I am so excited to keep walking with you. I’ll never quit, I promise. I can’t wait to see what we will accomplish together.

I love you.

~Cristiana

“Take delight in the Lord, and

He will give you your heart’s desires.”

-Psalm 37:4

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Rest of My Life

travel-girlI stand on the fringe of something new and fantastic. It marks the start of the rest of my life. I’m so ready to step into this next stage of living – of purpose. Since I know this is what you’ve called me to do, Father, I’m thrilled to discover what there is to uncover in your blueprints for my life.

I’m desperate tonight to see what it is that I have been working for so diligently.

Dreams are good, but real life is better and defines so much more. I’m excited to see some of my biggest dreams being realized in these next two weeks. You have and are setting the stage, God. I’m positive of this. I know your hand has been in every stage of this trip, from calling me to be a nurse after signing up to go on this medical mission, to putting people around me for encouragement when I need it most because of this trip. I’m ready to see what it really is you’re calling me to do.

You’re amazing, God, and I can’t wait to find you in the dirt of the third world. I want to know the depths of your character like I never have before and carry this on into the rest of my life.

Thank you.