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

on September 11, 2015 in Israel with 8 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.)

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8 Comments and Responses

What I Learned in August.

on August 31, 2015 in Ze Bloggy Goodness with 14 comments by

What I Learned In August 2015

At the end of each month, my good friend and favorite author Emily P. Freeman gives her reader friends a chance to write about all the things they learned that month. I figured this was a great month for me to play along because I’ve been so MIA in August, just holed up writing a book, and meanwhile there are some things I learned. (Also. Read to the end to see when I’m coming back to the internet and why. :) )

Here are five things I learned in August (and one announcement):


1. Matthew Morrison is so beyond genius in Finding Neverland on Broadway.

This is why I cannot live in New York. My budget won’t support it. I would spend money to see a Broadway show every day. Or see Matthew Morrison every day.

I spent a week in New York this month to work on the book I’m writing and I got to see Finding Neverland with my friend Jonathan.

Y’all. Matthew Morrison, formerly known as Mr. Schuester from Glee, is so good. The whole cast is, but he REALLY is. (I tried to find a video for you, but none that are posted really do justice to his vocal and acting skills.)

And if you’ve seen the Finding Neverland movie, then you know how it ends, so you can understand why Jonathan and I were just an absolute puddle of tears (like. seriously. REALLY CRYING.) for the last 30 minutes of the show.

2. While eating or drinking a frosty treat, if you press your thumb to the roof of your mouth, it will get rid of brain freeze.

You’re welcome. It works. I’ve had a few coke icees this summer and so I got to test the theory myself. Success.

3. Mystery Show is the best new podcast and I love it.

You can start with the first one if you want to get an idea of what it’s all about, but #5 is my very favorite so far.

4.fashionABLE has a new bag. And a new wallet.

I just like to make sure you know these things.

fashionABLE crossbody bag fashionABLE wallet

RIGHT? Are you drooling or what? I know. If you need a new perfectly sized cross-body bag or an adorable wallet, and you want to partner with a company that is helping women across the globe, you can get 10% off if you use this link.

5. I’m a better Annie when I’m on the internet less.

As you probably know from earlier this month, I haven’t been on social media much at all this month. There have been a few updates, but mostly I’ve stayed away. In fact, I haven’t had twitter, Facebook, or instagram on my phone for weeks now.

And I feel like a different person. No kidding.

I may know less about what is going on in my friends’ lives, but I’m reading more and praying more and sleeping more and definitely writing more. Meanwhile, I’m comparing myself to others less, I’m obsessively scrolling less, I’m wasting less time, and I’m just all around a better version of me.

Don’t worry. I’m not quitting the world of social media. Because I love the friendships I have thanks to the internet. And I will bring it back to my life, but not yet. At least, not fully. The book I am writing is due on October 1, so until it is finished, my phone will remain social media free and I will remain a bit quieter than what you’ve grown to know.


Starting tomorrow? I’m be back in action for the first week of September because….



I’m getting to travel with The Israel Collective to see the Holy Land and hear from people involved in the peace making and I am about to jump out of my skin I am so excited.

If you want to keep up with the trip, make sure you are following me…




You can keep up with all the posts from the folks I’m traveling with by following the #israelcollective hashtag.

What’s something you’ve learned this month?

Tell me about it! Leave a comment below or leave a link to your blog post where you shared your list of things you learned!

14 Comments and Responses

When What You Want Brings Joy and Sadness

on August 24, 2015 in (in)courage, Single Stuff with 5 comments by

Annie F Downs August (in)courage post

The older I get, the more I realize I can’t often just categorize experiences as GOOD or BAD, painful or happy. It seems that events and moments tend to mix together like a casserole.

I had an experience like this recently, and wrote about it over at (in)courage.

It’s important to me to be honest with you about what this single life feels like- the parts that are a joy and the parts that are hard and the time when it is both.

And so that’s what I tried to do here. Hope you like it. <3

. . . . .

Are you new around these parts? Well welcome!

Hi. I’m Annie.

I love my job and I think it’s awesome.

I get to write books and speak to groups around the country.

(In fact, you can download two free chapters of my most recently released book here!)

You can read more about me here.

. . . . .

I love connecting with new friends, so find me all over the internet:






. . . . .

5 Comments and Responses

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