What I didn’t expect… [some thoughts on Israel]

on September 11, 2015 in Israel with 9 comments by

What I didn't expect...

I can still feel dirt trapped in the corners of the shoes I’m wearing today.

I didn’t expect to come home with dirt in my shoes. I also didn’t expect it to make me cry this morning, when I slid my feet into them, because I miss Jerusalem and my Israel Collective family.

Since returning from Israel (all of two days ago), people keep asking me if it was what I expected.

“Did you cry as much as you expected?”

“Did you see as much as you expected?”

“Did it feel the way you expected it to?”

“Was it as cool as you expected?”

I don’t know what I expected.

But I didn’t expect to feel this. This is cliche, and I’m aware, and forgive me, but this trip and these people and that land was nothing I expected and everything more than I could have expected.

I didn’t expect for the Garden of Gethsemane to be across the street from the city of Jerusalem. I always thought of it as a long distance from the city, maybe from movies I’ve seen or pictures I made up in my mind. But when I was standing there, overlooking the garden, with the city of Jerusalem just beside me, I realized Jesus was a city boy who loved the little moment of nature, like Bryant Park in New York City or Radnor Lake in Nashville.

I didn’t expect to fall apart there, realizing that I was standing right where Jesus decided I was worth the sacrifice. I have a lump in my throat just typing it again today and seeing it in my mind.

I didn’t expect to feel the bottom of the Sea of Galilee, with all it’s painful rocks and slimy mud. I didn’t expect to cry the next morning when I read John 21 and thought of how I now know how Peter’s feet hurt as he swam and ran to the shore, but he didn’t care, because Jesus was there.

I didn’t expect to learn so much about the geo-political situation that is, and there is no other way to describe it, devastating. I didn’t expect to come home and become a news junkie, with a wiser eye when it comes to how we are fed the news in the USA. I didn’t expect to care and want to be a part of bringing peace to Israel.

But above all of that, by far the biggest surprise, I didn’t expect to find family, to feel like I have new brothers (and sisters), best friends that I want to hang on to for the rest of my life.


But I did. And even though we’re texting and mostly live in the same time zone, I miss them today like I’m afraid they are a popsicle that will melt away. I miss them in a way I don’t know how to explain without sounding weird because it was summer camp feelings on top of eight days without much outside communication plus ISRAEL and JESUS. And something else. Something that doesn’t have words. Something the Holy Spirit did to connect us in a way that is new to me. I am tears-down-my-cheeks grateful for the musicians and pastors and models and activists (and a cowboy) that now fully reside in the middle east corner of my heart.

I didn’t expect any of this.

There is dirt in my shoes and tears in my eyes because Israel has become that much a part of me.

So have these people. So has Israel Collective.

And in some way, so has Jesus. He is more a part of me than ever before.

I know Him better, this Man I’ve loved for 30 years, because I saw His home.

And that’s what I didn’t expect.

(Thanks to my hero/brother/friend Grant Skeldon for the awesome pictures. And thanks to the folks at Israel Collective for changing my life.)

. . . . .


  1. Lindsay
    posted on Sep 11, 2015 at 1:47 PM  |  reply

    Oh, Annie! I love this. When I came home from Brazil, I missed my teammates – my people – more than anything. I missed eating, drinking, sleeping, showering, and basically all the “living” we did alongside each other. I came home to my quiet, single girl house, and it felt too big, too empty, too lonely. I don’t know the solution. It’s weird being 35 and single and living alone when my heart beats for true, deep community. But I do “get” how you feel about your newfound friends. Mine, by and large, have slow, slow, slowly melted away like a popsicle over the past 3 years. We had a reunion this summer, and the memories are still so intact, but lives have changed, people move forward in different directions. I will, however, treasure them and our time together forever. God marked that trip, as He marked yours. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Ryan
    posted on Sep 11, 2015 at 5:36 PM  |  reply

    “Middle East corner of my heart.” Well played.

    Thanks for loving me well & believing in me. I find such deep joy in reminiscing & remembering you’re my friend. Jesus really is the Giver of good gifts. I treasure you, Annie D!

  3. posted on Sep 12, 2015 at 8:23 AM  |  reply

    […] What I Didn’t Expect by Annie F. Downs // Because she went to Israel for the first time and her simple words about it have left a lump in my own throat and I wasn’t even there. […]

  4. Pam
    posted on Sep 12, 2015 at 2:07 PM  |  reply

    Your thoughts about your Israel trip are so beautifully shared in this post. My oldest son traveled to Israel this past summer with a group of college students from around the US. It was a life-changing experience for him as well. So glad you had the opportunity!

  5. posted on Sep 12, 2015 at 8:51 PM  |  reply

    Beautiful. Tears down my cheeks beautiful.

  6. Tracey
    posted on Sep 13, 2015 at 11:46 AM  |  reply

    Oh girl, you are a rich woman. I hope you pour that dirt in a bottle and keep it like a stone of remembrance.

  7. posted on Sep 19, 2015 at 6:48 AM  |  reply

    […] never tire of hearing about the trips to Israel which others experience. In this post, we read about a trip to Israel that “was nothing I expected and everything more than I could […]

  8. Anna
    posted on Sep 24, 2015 at 10:34 AM  |  reply

    Thank you Annie, I am in tears..how beautiful to experience Jesus like that..God Bless

  9. Debs
    posted on Oct 26, 2015 at 8:30 PM  |  reply

    I loved reading this…I love how you expand our hearts with your life experiences, love for Jesus and anointed words. You are so loved!

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get a sneak peek of Annie’s latest book! Click the link to download two free chapters of Let’s All Be Brave.