Friday, October 10, 2014

UALR: Freshman Year 2001-02

(If you're just joining us, the beginning of the series starts here. Thanks for reading!)

Before I talk about school starting, let me back up just a bit. Over the summer between senior year and freshman year of college, a few big things happened. One was that I felt like I had spent my teenage years having spiritual "highs" during camp, but quickly losing that momentum when school started. I longed for that togetherness I felt with the Lord to continue outside of a spiritual setting. I remember at camp that year, pleading with the Lord that He would change me and something happened. I felt like something broke in me and I found a new level of understanding the Holy Spirit. I can't adequately put that into words, but I knew that the Lord was moving in me.

Also, my Dad had found out about a ministry called "New Creation" that was a drug rehabilitation ranch for men trying to walk out of that lifestyle. Dad had felt compelled to give to this ministry and one weekend he went there for what the ministry leader called a "meeting." My family had spent our entire lives in a Southern Baptist Church. Doctrinally, the SBC believes that the gifts of the Spirit spoken of in the book of Acts, ceased to happen after the New Testament was being written. I had never wrestled through these things. I also thought when people talked about "gifts of the Spirit" that they meant one of two things.1) In Baptist terminology that was what your role in the church was: teacher, preacher, elder, deacon, hospitality, bereavement, etc. 2) the only other gift I thought people meant was speaking in tongues. And honestly that scared me.

So Dad went to this meeting and he came back changed. He couldn't even adequately express what happened, but he wanted us to come. Something pricked my heart and I decided I wanted to go too. So the next meeting they had I went. My heart was so open to receive whatever the Lord wanted to give me and I had zero expectations. None. I just wanted to see God move. Well after some time of ministering to several others, the leader came to me and took my hand and led me to the front (as he had done the others). He began to pray over me and my heart began to fill. I believe the Lord healed me that night of my endometriosis, but I also know the Lord spoke prophetically through Bro.Dennis and I have never forgotten what God said through him. So my whole paradigm of who God was, got shattered that night in a good way. I realized then that God is not a God who can be boxed in. He can move and do exactly what He wants, whenever He wants. And I didn't want to box Him in anymore.

I knew I was in a whole new world at UALR when my first day of classes had fraternity boys walking around in "toga" bed sheets. And that's all. And no one gave them detention for that or sent them home. I remember I felt like I was doing something illegal when I was using my phone on campus, or when I needed to go to the bathroom during class and just left class and went, and not hearing bells ring to indicate the changing of classes.

But I liked it. I felt mature and different and in my element. Ironically D and a few other people from NPHS and even MUSH were also at UALR. In some ways I was thankful and in other ways, I really was ready to live life apart from my past. I was desiring something new and different. An adventure. Little did I know...

My dad brought me to freshman orientation before school started and I wanted to check out one of the Christian organizations on campus: Metro Student Ministries. They had their own house and I knew that was some place I wanted to get involved. When we walked in the door we were greeted immediately by Mark Bridges. I felt welcome and thought this sounded like a good place to get plugged in. They had worship nights on Sundays called "Connections" and I knew I would start going.

My classes were okay. I only took 13 hours that semester: College Algebra, Honors Composition, Speech Communication, and History of Civ 1. I also had a 1 hour class that was a requirement for my scholarship. College Algebra felt like Pre-Cal all over again, which was good because I didn't really get much of it the first time. I had a good prof who really wanted to help us. I went early for tutoring and tried my hardest. Honors Comp was amazing. I definitely felt in my element. Speech was nerve wracking because standing in front of people and talking was not my favorite. History of Civ was interesting for two reasons: 1) I could never nail the prof down on what he wanted. I would write papers and respond to questions using the lectures he gave us and having read the chapters, but I still got my answers wrong. 2) He was my first prof who tried to indoctrinate us with macro-evolution, set age of the Earth and other scientific "facts" that I was taught a long time ago, by some of the same people who questioned my beliefs, to question. I don't mind wrestling with my beliefs, but that means I'm going to also wrestle with someone else's too. Question everything, right? I figured that was going to happen so I tried not to let it get to me too much.

I woke up the morning of September 11 and randomly decided to flip on the news. What I saw was a picture of the first twin tower smoking and the news people were trying to figure out what happened. In my mind I thought that maybe some crazy accident had happened and a pilot fell asleep or got misdirected somehow. And then while I was watching the live feed a second plane flew into the second tower. I knew then that something was very wrong. I called my dad at work and asked if I should go to school or stay home. He thought I should go. History was my first class that day and we literally just sat watching the tv the entire time. I figured this would be the case for my other classes, so I came home. There was definitely a collective shock across campus. I remember then feeling very small and very grieved that we were being attacked in that way.

I was going to Connections at Metro every Sunday night, but every Sunday I would sit alone and no one would really talk to me. I tried to talk to people but it seemed like everyone already had friends and knew each other. I remember meeting this girl Carrie in the hallway in the speech building on campus and I recognized her as one of the worship leaders from Sunday nights.

I began to get very lonely. I actually started contemplating switching colleges in the hope that living on campus would help me make some friends. I was trying to make friends, but it just wasn't going very well. There was a guy in my speech class that I thought was cute and I tried to drop hints (probably with too much effectiveness, in retrospect) that I liked him, but nothing came of that. I actually started hanging out with BC some again and that did not go well. He was still in the throes of high school and gossip and immaturity and I was way over that. I also felt like he was wanting a little payback for me breaking his heart so he led me on by flirting with me and we went out a couple of times, but he enjoyed doing that with lots of girls at the same time, and I obviously wasn't okay with that.

As Christmas break approached, I finally got invited to a New Year's Eve party at a guy James' house that was part of Metro. I was super excited to be invited and meet some people, and I was super excited that a guy had taken notice of me.

I went to the New Year's party and made fast friends with everyone there. There was even a girl named Diana who was my age that I became friends with. And James asked me out on a date that night which made me excited. He and I began dating and my friend Diana began dating a guy named Matt. Matt lived at the Metro house with another guy named Randy. James and I hung out a lot and got fairly serious. I decided I wanted to go on the Spring Break mission trip with Metro because many of my new friends were going and I hadn't ever been on a real mission trip before.

Before we went though, my relationship with James fizzled. I decided we were not compatible and he still had some growing up to do, so we ended things. But he was still going on the mission trip and I knew that was going to be hard.

We drove to Georgia and I really began to bond with the girls. I had also volunteered to cook meals for us while we were away, which was a big responsibility, but since I had been cooking meals for a while for my family, because of my mom's health, I felt up to the task.

Since I'm being transparent I will share one of the hilarious moments from the trip. To give a little back story, my Dad's nickname for me growing up was "Pooter Scooter." Apparently there is some Ivey gene that causes us to produce enormous and loud amounts of gas. My dad actually swore to me at some point that I would never get married because I had such bodacious farting skills. Well...I guess  I decided I had reached an adequate comfort level with these new friends, because one night in the girls room, we were all trying to go to sleep and I let out a fart that was about a 10 on the scale. Everyone in the girls' room starting dying laughing and one of the boys next door busted in and was like, "WHO was THAT?!" and I owned it. If I'm not with "polite" company, I can absolutely roll with the boys in that department. I have zero shame, ya'll. God made it so that our bodies need to do that, and produce that noise when we do it, which says to me that God has a freaking awesome sense of humor. But I digress.

We served in several capacities in Georgia that week. One was helping cook and serve a meal at a soup kitchen.

serving at the soup kitchen

We also did some fun things. We got to see a real lighthouse. And we also got to climb Stone Mountain.

Me on top of Stone Mountain. Climbing that sucker is NO JOKE.

I could tell on the trip that Matt and Diana were really falling in love with each other. I was super jealous. They began to talk about their future and marriage and I realized that that is really what I was longing for. I wanted to find the right person. It wasn't that I wanted to get married right away, but I really wanted to find my life partner.

Matt and Diana

As I went over a mental list in my mind of the guys I knew who I might be compatible with, one kept coming to mind. I had never lost touch with my friend Ricky. I actually went to visit him several times at UCA and we hung out when he came home to visit his family. I never got the impression from him that we were any more than friends, but at the same time we had so much in common. It was easy spending time with him and I felt like we were compatible. One night when he was leaving my parents house, I walked him to the front porch. As I was hugging him bye, suddenly he was kissing me. I was floored. I had no idea where that came from. I was super confused but I definitely didn't push him away. After he left, my mind began to run away with me. I was super desperate for a relationship and I thought that I must have turned the corner with him. He called me the next day and actually apologized. I told him there was nothing to be sorry for, but he said he shouldn't have done that. I think in his mind it was an experiment to see how that felt to him. He didn't want to date me. I was pretty deflated because I thought maybe I was a bad kisser or something. It was all so confusing. But we didn't stop being friends.

Ricky was going to be gone all summer with his college ministry to Colorado. I had also come across a mission trip to Ecuador with Focus On the Family's magazine called Brio. I sensed this was from the Lord right away because I was drawn to Ecuador since that was where our exchange student Xavier was from. I knew it wasn't a coincidence. I applied to go on the trip with hundreds of girls across the country and got accepted. I had to raise my own funds to participate though and it was incredible to watch God provide. I told my parents that I did not want them to help me, because I knew if God wanted me to go, He would use other people to provide. God provided every dime I needed to go.

So both Ricky and I were going to be gone all summer. We sort of tabled our relationship discussion for when we got back. We prayed for each other and wrote some letters over the summer with no real direction about where we would go from there.

I still don't feel like I can really explain the depths of my heart about Ecuador. I met with 500 teenage girls (I was one of only two 19 year olds on the whole trip) in Florida to train for a week before we left for Ecuador for two weeks in July. Our primary focus was to divide into smaller teams and learn how to perform a play that would be our conduit for ministry. Our teams would go all over the capital city, Quito, performing our plays and using that as an avenue to minister Christ's name. I was way out of my element with face make up and costumes and other things. We were placed with roommates. I did not know a single other person on this trip. Not one. Out of the country. Out of all familiarity. It was nuts.

And Ecuador was beautiful. I had never been out of the US. I had never flown that far. I had never seen snow capped mountains. I had never been submersed in the culture that spoke that language I took three years of in high school.

This was at an orphanage where we helped do some intense landscaping and loved on the children that lived there

Girls from our trip trying out the see-saws. Notice that the ground is all dirt. We were in Ecuador during the dry season. It was hot during the day and very cold at night but the ground was all dirt and dust. There wasn't any grass anywhere.

One of the workers at the orphanage. I got to love on some babies that day and that was good.

Doing the landscaping. I think we were trying to dig a ditch for them. After the first day working here and coming back to the hotel with dirt and dust in my ears, nose, and eyes, I decided to wear a mask while digging.

This was at a another orphanage. My heart ached that there were so many children without parents. In Ecuador there is no middle class. You are either rich or poor and the majority of the country is in poverty. We have no idea how good we have it. No. Idea. A very real part of me would move to Ecuador to love on those people and share Jesus with them in a heartbeat.

Me in my makeup. I was essentially a mime for the performance. We also were human props for certain aspects of the story. I wanted to bring home every single one of those kids.

Some friends I made who were on my team. The girl on the far right was the only other 19 year old on the whole trip. I was wearing an authentic Ecuadorian shirt that night.
The cool thing about our trip is that it was similar to MFuge in that we served during the day and had sort of a camp environment at night with worship and prayer. I was a little star struck because over the course of those three weeks we got to rub elbows with members of the Newsboys and another popular Christian girl band (their name escapes me, but I loved that they actually served with us during the trip).

One of the last nights of the trip, the message really spoke to me. We were talking about letting God have all of us and the question was posed: "what are you holding back?" I started praying and I got a very real, almost audible response from the Lord: "Relationships. You are striving and trying to find your way. You are determined to find your husband instead of asking Me or letting Me. Why won't you give it over?"

I wrestled through it. I didn't trust Him. I was afraid if I gave over the area of relationships that I would end up being single forever. As I began to pray through this and tell the Lord I was sorry for not trusting Him and asking Him to help me, I heard: "Shana if you will trust me and stop trying to make things happen for yourself, within the year I will bring you your husband."

A year? Wow. My heart pounded. You can't make this stuff up. I knew I could wait patiently and trust for a year and I committed my heart to it.

We came home and I was not the same. I was frustrated that people didn't understand what I had been through. That there was a big world out there with hurting, dying, people in poverty while we ate our fast food and sat in front of the tv. I had a hard time with reentry.

The other thing that was hanging over my head was Ricky. He came back too and we needed to talk. He told me there was a lot that he wanted to share with me and there was a moment of me thinking: "Is he the one Lord?" but I was determined to wait and trust. When we finally got together he told me he had met someone and he thought she might be the one. I was sad, partially because I had wondered if that person was me; but mostly because I knew that my relationship with him was going to change forever. I couldn't be a third wheel if he had found the one his heart desired. So I quietly pulled back, knowing the Lord still had good plans for me. And I was truly thankful as I watched Ricky interact with who would be his future wife. I could see why they were perfect for each other.

Before school started, I made a list. It was my "It" list. I remember a girlfriend telling me that she had a list of all the qualities she knew she wanted and needed in her future husband. She made the list outside of being in a relationship and she used it as her guide to help her figure out "Is he the one?" or not. My list was not complicated and had little to do with looks and lots to do with personality. He needed to be strong and an excellent leader. He needed to make me laugh because I knew I gravitated towards serious...and I really liked to laugh. He needed to be someone I could meet minds with. Someone who liked to think about things and talk about them deeply. He needed to love music, and truly I imagined myself with someone who could play an instrument. I never played, but music has always been a huge part of my soul. It's a language all it's own.

So I made my list. I put it away. I was determined to trust.

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