deeper than my feet could ever wander.

It’s been two weeks since I arrived on campus. I’m convinced that it’s actually been eternity…or perhaps just a couple of seconds.

I don’t know why I am here.  I don’t know why this is the school, or these are the people, or these are the classes. I don’t know why this is the call.

I do know that I have been overwhelmed. I do know that there have been moments that I have wished that I was somewhere else. I do know that I’ve asked “God, WHAT are you doing?” a couple hundred times.

Speaking of things I say to God. Here are a couple of other phrases:

“I want more, Jesus.”

“Let me pursue you with everything I am.”

“Draw me nearer.”

“Take me deeper.”

Here’s the thing about God. You ask, He gives.

I go to an incredible school, but I look around and, just like everywhere else, I see such great need for revival. A lot of revival. I see men and women with broken images of themselves, having placed their identities in each other, in worldly success, in their pasts, in their futures.

Part of me wants to take them all and hug them and give them chocolate chip cookies. I want to look into their eyes and tell them, “You. Are. Good.” I want to hear their stories, I want them to know that they are perfectly allowed to feel the things that they feel. I want to tell them that they are loved unconditionally. I want to show them what that means.

Part of me wants to go hide under my bed and never talk to any of them. I know that people are messy. Sometimes I don’t know what to do when hearts are handed to me. I get caught up in the chaos of emotion. Things are so much bigger than me.

Take me deeper.

Deeper than my feet could ever wander.

I am currently so out of my comfort zone, out here in the deep. My heart longs for somewhere else besides this campus…and yet, here I am.

And here God is.

All those times that I have cried out to Him…sometimes consumed by love, sometimes consumed by myself, sometimes consumed by peace, and sometimes consumed by frustration…He heard me.

He is taking me deeper.

I look around and I am overwhelmed. I walk the streets of this campus. I see the scars, I hear the hurt.

He has cast me out into the deep. Just where I asked to be.

I didn’t know any of this was possible. The mission that He has presented me with– to share truth in love– is not something my feet would have wandered into. But, here I am. God has led me here and given me the grace to follow.

But He is so good and He allows me to turn around, if I want to.

Sometimes I want to. It’s exhausting when you’re trying to save the world and you feel like you need to take on everyone’s burdens. Only, that’s not what God is asking of me.

He’s telling me that He is already victorious. He’s telling me that He has already saved the world. He’s telling me that He carries burdens. He’s inviting me to lay down my exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed heart…and He’s inviting me to simply dance with Him on the battlefield.

The battlefield. To me, it’s actually on the water, in the midst of a horrific, violent storm. But Jesus just keeps telling me…”Fix your eyes on me, only me.” Just by doing that, just by being captivated by His gaze, captivated by His presence I will accomplish His will.

I look around and the waves are enormous and I cannot even see the shore. I have been following God and He’s been leading…and here we are. Deeper than my feet could ever wander.

I am in the deep. Yet, I am not alone…here He is with me. Take me even deeper, Jesus! There is no place that I would rather be. I am not turning around.

This is the place for miracles. This is the time for wonders. Let’s do this.

all things new.

I have been struggling with words for the last two weeks.

How could my words describe this summer? How could my little words convey the victory that was claimed in the lives of over 1200 teenagers? How could my words accurately present the intense love of a mission focused, Jesus centered community?  How could my words capture the complete freedom that I have experienced, that I have stepped into?

When I think of talking about this summer, passion strikes my heart. What happened this summer at Damascus is not meant to stay at Damascus. My heart is convicted that I have been commissioned to share what went down this summer. Words, however, are so frustrating and intimidating.

This summer, I served as a missionary at Catholic Youth Summer Camp, which is located at Damascus Catholic Mission Campus. CYSC is a high adventure camp for middle and high schoolers that strives to equip kids to “live the adventure” of a relationship with Jesus in their daily lives. This is done through a variety of high adventure activities, men’s/women’s sessions, mass, Eucharistic adoration, praise and worship, and more. I was on Program Staff, so I was basically a facilitator/leader of a lot of these things.

There were so many times this summer when I would be so overcome with emotion. Oftentimes, I would run to a fellow staff member and just be like, “AHHHH! All of the things are going on and I don’t have the words!” She, however, being the rock star that she is, wouldn’t let me off the hook. She told me that I did have the words, and to just speak.

Weeelllll. THAT is scary. Mostly because I don’t know what is going to come out of my mouth and I hate not being in control. But, because I know this amazing woman loves me, I let the words come out. Again and again.

That’s the thing about words. Speaking isn’t just a one time deal…you kind of have to keep doing it.

But here’s the other thing: I’m not in control anyway, so I might as well surrender my illusion of control.

There was one night when I was walking with one of our camp directors and we had been talking about the difference of having self-driven spirituality and Spirit-driven spirituality. Camp is the best because you don’t have the time for intense one-on-ones so you literally have them on the go. For example, we were headed to start set-up for our Freedom Fire when BAM, my life changed. Also, life change at camp is an hourly occurrence. But it’s just super awesome because God isn’t constricted to working an hour on Sundays, or during praise and worship, or during a talk. He worked in my life as I was exhausted and carrying tiki torches and walking the treacherous, rocky roads of Damascus.

Anyway, as we were talking, I mentioned that I was a control freak. His response? “You’re not a control freak, Annie. You are a daughter of God who maybe has tried to control things, but you are not a control freak.”

You are a daughter of God. The truth of his statement slammed my heart, hard, shattering lies that had been spoken and believed.

Next, he asked if I had surrendered control. Begrudgingly, I said: “I surrender my control.”

Tears filled my eyes and he said, “I just felt a whole lot of chains hit the ground.”

That night, I stopped trying to find words for what was going on, because it was so out of control. I felt like I was grasping in a dark hole, reaching for anything. I gave up control of myself…including my words. So often we use our words to paint a nice little picture of having it all together. We string together our words in order to create masks of the illusion of perfection. This was who I was before camp. A daughter of God who used her words to hide, to claim control.

When I surrendered control of my words, I realized that I had nothing. Which should have been one-hundred-and-twelve percent terrifying, but it wasn’t. Because I was no longer desperately trying to come up with words, there was room for God to speak to me.

And here is what He said:

I have made you new. I make all things new. The old has passed away…keep letting it go.

I want to use your voice. You don’t have to doubt what comes from your mouth because it comes from me. You ask why I use your voice…because your voice, my daughter, is priceless. Your voice is worthy of being used by the King of the Universe. You are a worthy vessel.

In me, your voice has authority. Your voice has the power to shatter darkness and cast out fear. Your voice has the ability to dispel demons and raise the dead to life.

Not only did Jesus speak these things to me…but He showed me them. He used my voice this summer to break chains.

How many times did I stand at the top of the zip line tower and have to spend a solid fifteen minutes convincing a camper that he actually did have the ability to step off? God hard core gave me words to encourage because there is no way mine without Him would have been sufficient. So often this summer I declared the words: “You are capable. You are capable. YOU ARE CAPABLE, regardless of whether or not you choose to step off. You are capable and you are worthy of the courage that God is filling your heart with, right at this moment. Receive it!” This not only applied to the camper trusting Jesus when it came to the zip, but also to every other area of his life. Pretty powerful!

So many other examples for so many other posts…but here’s the bottom line: this summer, I received the truth that Jesus has made me new.  This truth infiltrated every part of my life and has changed everything.

He has given me new words and has called me by a new name. Jesus is the perfect gentleman and He won’t take what isn’t given. When I gave Him my control, I also gave Him so much room in my heart, which gave Him even more room to work wonders. The wonders that He worked this summer…absolutely overwhelming. Stay tuned.

Y’all, your words have authority in Jesus. You can allow yourself to fall apart because He will hold you together. He will make you new. Actually…look at a cross. He already has.

I have authority in Christ Jesus. I am a worthy vessel. I am a daughter of God. My words matter, and I have something to say…God has something to say. And He has chosen to say things through me. Because I am a worthy vessel.

I don’t care where you have been or what you have done…nothing changes the truth that you are a worthy vessel. God wants to use you to speak life in the face of death in your family, school, community…He will give you new words. He wants to use you to bring truth to those destroyed by lies. Every day, I have to renew that surrender of control…join me.

I surrender control in the name of Jesus…Lord, you have everything that I need, more than I could possibly want. Do whatever you want to. Use me.

One last note– He like really wants to use you. And when Jesus really wants something…y’all had better WATCH OUT! He’s coming for you!

More to come. What a time to be alive.