(Friends and readers, here are some words I churned out as I took an honest look at what I am feeling during this time of MAJOR life transition. It's a little heart-spilling, so please read with love.)
I'm finished with IHOPU.
Two years ago, I was a fresh outta high school, heartbroken, soul-broken, never-been-without-her-parents 18-year-old. When I moved to Kansas City in the heat of August, I had to learn the skyline of a brand new city, learn the rhythms of a whole new culture, learn how to eat, shop, manage finances, drive to new locations, and make friends out of strangers all on my own. I thought I knew myself. I thought I was confident, bold, extroverted, independent, and assertive. Turns out I wasn’t completely right.
These past two years have been some of the hardest of my life. I had to be 500 miles from my cancer-patient mother, my newly jobless father, my busy bee sisters, my growing and learning nephews (one of whom was newly adopted and often had health issues), my home, and my sense of self. I had to sit still in the middle of the country, steaming in the humid heat, and listen to preacher after teacher after preacher talk to me about a God who, at times, I wasn't even sure was real. I had to watch as my bank account dwindled down to dollars even as I was working as much as I could. I had to watch as many of my friendships from back home faded. I had to let go of so, so much. I had to let go of everything- who I thought I was, who I wanted to be, what my future was, who my husband was going to be, who my real friends were, what my family meant to me, what I liked, what I disliked, my money, my house, my security, my privacy, my politics, my ideals, my religion. Hosea 2 became my reality: “Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her to the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.”
God emptied me and God filled me up. He put His identity in me. He gave me friendships with people who could withstand my selfish, hurting antics. He surrounded me with wise, caring leadership. He somehow even managed to phenomenally strengthen my relationships with my family, despite the distance. He healed my mother and my nephew. He gave my dad a great new job. He directed me into a bright, exciting future. And He spoke to me about who I am to Him, to others, and to myself. I learned that I'm really and truly an introvert with crippling trust issues who has trouble being honest with anyone. I learned that Truth is my core passion and that my whole life is one epic Google search for it. I learned that singing is not who I am, but it's what I do, and what I can do despite the circumstances I find myself in (I don't need to be the next American Idol to sing my heart songs). I learned that I am worth fighting for. Jesus Himself, my Bridegroom Judge, fights for me, intercedes on my behalf, every second. He thinks I am worth it, so I must be. I learned truths about myself such as I am useful, I am intelligent, I am desirable as a friend, daughter, and wife, and that I matter deeply to God. I learned that I have an obsessive nature (tattoos and rabbits are just two of the things I lost my mind over). I learned that I am loyal, emotional, passionate, vulnerable, and, at my center, a fighter. God used my time at IHOPU, while I was surrounded by such a wonderful community of believers who would listen to, encourage, and counsel me, to teach me about heart issues like love, truth, abiding in the Vine, humility, and transparency.
I got to go on a mission’s trip to Southern California with hundreds of other students where I made wonderful friends and saw God move hearts. I got to explore some of the coolest historical sites in and around Kansas City and learn about the Wild West. I made friends with some of the most Christ-like people I’ve ever met. I daily encountered shining examples of godly, honorable men seeking to love and bless their sisters in Christ (and can I just say how healing and provoking it is to be so often reminded that men who look and behave like Jesus did can and do exist?). I was able to sing with 3 different worship teams and learn not only how to sing skillfully but to sing prophetically. I learned under some of the greatest theologians and prophetic musicians of our age. I met people from not just all over the country (IHOPU represents 50 states!) but all over the world who love Jesus! I lived with a few amazing young women who challenged me, encouraged me, prayed for me, comforted me, and loved me so well. I started liking yogurt! I never thought that would happen in a million years! I learned the value of singing the Word everyday. I wrote several songs ON THE PIANO. I mean, come on. I have loved living here. I have loved being an IHOPU student.
As I prepare to move home for good in two weeks, I’ve been seriously reflecting on why I came here and what I’m taking away from my nearly two years in KC. I think the most valuable lessons I learned while here were not about theology, 24/7 houses of prayer, or even living independently. The most valuable lessons I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life were about the simple things that make me who I am. I’ve only just begun learning about some of these aspects, but God willing, I hope to never stop being amazed at how uniquely and wonderfully made I am. And how who I am, specifically, is just how God wants and needs me to be for His glory and the furthering of His Kingdom. And how the deep, deep desires and longings of my heart were put there by a passionate, emotional, jealous God who desires those things for me as well. How amazing is that?
So to anyone who might be wondering, no, IHOPU was not a waste of time. Not in any sense of the word. I learned so much about people, culture, identity, love, truth, the Word, the Trinity, prophecy, friendships, independence, trust, and myself these past two years. I wouldn’t change a thing. I feel as though I am now finally ready to be that bold, confident, wise woman I thought I was two years ago.
And yes, I am ready to come home. While a large piece of my heart will always be here in Kansas City in the front row of the Prayer Room and in the hands of the friends I leave behind, I’m looking forward with eager eyes. I’m ready to close this wonderful, enlightening chapter of my life and start the next, exciting, unexplored one. Because ultimately, my life is just a really great novel that God is writing, and only He knows the ending.