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The Good Samaritan — Guest Post

Y’all are in for a treat today. My husband is one of the wisest, most articulate men I know and when he speaks, people stop and listen. I hope that you take a moment today, and listen not only to his words, but hear the heart of the Father in them. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Rocky Presley:

The Good Samaritan : Where Did You Go?

I don’t blog. My wife blogs. She is quite good at it. The way she weaves a story together is profound. Perhaps she should tell this story, but it is so heavy on my heart right now that I have to do it.

It’s a story we all know: the story of the Good Samaritan. I am going to tell it once again in this blog, because I am fairly certain that many believers have forgotten its meaning. I am going to change the story up a bit, however, just to make it clear of how we have erred.

There once was a child growing up in unimaginable conditions. Food was scarce. Starvation was a regular occurrence. There was seldom a night when this child couldn’t sleep for fear that the violence just beyond her window would break through and she would be its next victim. Conditions worsened to the point that her parents only had one option, to make the unimaginable decision to send her away to a better land.

Leaving her family was heartbreaking. Surely, someone of such a young age couldn’t process the why behind her loving parent’s decision. After a long and arduous journey (with the complete strangers to which her life had been entrusted) which was wrought with just as much fear and violence that she’d been sent away to escape, she arrived in the new land. She wasn’t alone; many others were there with her, more than she could count. But her hopes were high, because her parents had said that this land was good and just, and that she would be safe and provided for, something that her parents couldn’t offer.

But this land turned out not to be good and just. Rather than being greeted into the arms of the compassionate, she was hurried to an internment camp. No one knew what to do with this girl, or the many that accompanied her. So, they placed her in a room to wait. Conditions grew worse. The stench of being in such a confined space became nauseating. The hope that was there had now turned to despair. Truly, it would seem that this journey was all for nothing.

A rich man heard of this story. His heart raged with anger. How dare this little girl have the audacity to break the laws that he and his forefathers fought to preserve. This man had great influence in this land, and rather than having compassion and offering an open hand, he used this influence to incite anger in others. He raised his fist, and cried “Vermin! Send them home! They don’t belong here!” And he went about his business while the suffering became worse.

Another man heard of this story. This one was a religious man. He gave regularly to his religious activities and would on occasion give to those who were in need, both in his community and in lands far away. Upon hearing this story, his mind wandered to the salaries he must pay and the mouths he must feed. He too felt that these children did not belong in his land, and though rage did not rise in his heart, indignation ruled the day. So rather than having compassion and offering an open hand, he went about his religious duties while the suffering became worse.

Lastly, another man heard of this story. This man was not of means. He was not particularly religious, but when he heard the stories of children suffering, he was moved with compassion so much so that it grieved his heart. “How could we as this great land allow these children to suffer so?” he asked himself. “How could we who claim to know Christ and live by his creed not be moved with compassion and grace as surely Christ would be?” Anger did arise in this man’s heart, but not the same type of anger as the first man. This anger was one that saw injustice and would move heaven and hearth to see it remedied.

This is the story of America today as tens of thousands of refugee children pour across our borders. These are the needy that need us. These are the blessed children that Christ told us to emulate. The way that the Church and the politics of this land have responded have sickened me, but it is not too late to redeem ourselves. There is a work in our hearts that can be accomplished if we simply set aside our world view and political leanings and see these children as those created by the Creator, precious in his sight, and fully deserving of our welcoming hearts and our treasure. Please, I implore with the believers that I know. These men, one and two, these men are not us. This shames us. This completely undermines what we profess to believe. God, please do your greatest miracle, change our hearts. I ask that you would provide for these beloved children, and Holy Spirit, convict our hearts and reveal the darkness that has crept in. We need you Lord, more than these words can convey.

I’m a Survivor

Okay, maybe that title is a little dramatic . . . but then, my year has been pretty dramatic. It all started with the first day of school, sending my baby off to Kindergarten. Man that was a really hard day. I sucked it up though and learned to really cherish the time alone, maybe a little too much because nowadays, the hours between 3 pm and bedtime are often some of the most exhausting of my day!

But I’m not here to whine. I’m here to tell you that sending the last one off to school is a wonderful thing. We have made the sacrifices and have been blessed for me to be able to be a SAHM, so this year there was much time for ME. I remember the big question I had at the beginning of the year was, “Who am I now?” Well, I can’t tell you that I discovered the answer because things got twist-turned-upside-down (get that reference?) at the end of September and instead of discovering all the wonderful things there were to discover about Julie post babies-turned-toddlers phase, I discovered a lot of things that needed changing in her. But the good thing was that I had the time to process through those things.

DSC_0040-3The other amazing thing that happened this year was that we got to watch our little man burst into more of who he really is. Listening to him sound out words in a much different way than his older brother and learn to understand this ridiculously hard English language (can I get an Amen? You just don’t realize how stupid hard this language is until you try to teach a kid to read, geez! And then we move to a town called Pflugerville. For real. Someone should ask me about how we can make this language more humane for kids.) have been really fun experiences. Discovering what he is capable of, and where I have underestimated him has been a sweet, sweet surprise. The kid blows me away.

During the first half of the year he had some difficulties and because our Kinder team in Fort Worth knew that a big change was coming for him, they were very proactive in getting him the support he needed to master some of those more difficult skill sets, and now he is leaps and bounds from that point. I could not be more proud of the effort he puts into his work, and how he really strives to understand all of what’s going on on paper and in the world around him.

Another plus? Having peers influencing him on a daily basis. Now, of course, this can be a negative, but we’ve tried really hard to use the bad examples as teaching moments, explaining how to love people even when they’re not nice to us, discussing how to behave in ways that tell our friends and teachers that we respect them . . . before you start judging me, let me tell you we aren’t always on top of this, and there have been times with both of the boys this year that I wanted to race up to school and smack certain children upside the head. On our best days though, we had great conversations about situations like that. But on the other side of that equation, Josiah saw good things in his friends that he wanted to emulate, and that pushed him to work harder on a lot of things, including tying his shoes, which we finally (Praise be to Jesus and velcro) mastered a few weeks ago thanks to the big brother and maybe a little bit of bribery.

It all boils down to the fact that this kid is now empowered in ways he wasn’t before, and it has been a gift to watch his little mind open up to all of these new thoughts and ideas. I am so thankful that he has had two awesome teachers — I mean, what a lucky kid to get two Kindergarten teachers in one year — and that the trauma that our move invoked in me was not transferred down to him. It’s true: kids are super resilient.

And now, we head into summer and try to forget that there is a fourth and first grader in our house. There will be more snot and tears to come . . . But for now, CHEERS! WE DID IT! IT’S SUMMEEEEEEEEEER!

via google images, pretty sure it is property of Disney :)

 

 

Just Keep Climbing

Well, I finally did it. I finally opened up the Nor Forsake file and was able to read through it without complete disdain and without the hindrances that I’ve had since October. Last fall I set a goal to take a certain step in March. So it’s May now, almost June and I finally took that step last week. The last 7 months have been pretty brutal — we’ve covered that though, right?

You know what’s crazy? In the manuscripts I’ve been editing (yes, I even opened another one after I finished up with Nor Forsake), I’ve been finding all kinds of encouragement that completely meets me in the space I’ve been in. Everything that I’ve needed to absorb into my heart, my head already knew, years ago. Countless times as I’ve read through these pages, I’ve shaken my head and said, “See, Julie? You know this.” I think that knowing and knowing are two different things. Knowing in the head verses knowing in the heart.

Some of the things I’ve needed to know in my heart I’ve already spoken out loud to people in my life, encouraging them with my head knowledge. “Jesus loves you, He has grace for all, He is with you . . .” etc. It’s a heck of a lot easier to see His mercies pour out on others rather than receive them for myself.

I guess today I’m just feeling thankful that I’m not just living out of head knowledge anymore. The revelation in my heart is ongoing, and I’m still trudging up this mountain, waiting to reach the summit, and I’m still sitting down a lot, needing to catch my breath, needing to hear the encouragement of my coach, “You can do it. Come on. Keep going.” And there are definitely moments when I want to give up and just start building my house on the side of this treacherous climb.

The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednago is what has really stuck out to me this week. How many times have we heard that story told by Sunday school teachers? How many times have we actually read it from the Bible though? There are some pretty amazing truths about our Father in there, and about three men who had unrelenting faith in Him. (Daniel 3: 16-18, emphasis on 18) Of course the most beautiful point in the story is that God was with those three in the furnace, telling us that “when you walk through the fire, the flames will not consume you” (paraphrase, Isaiah 43:2b). He was with them in the fire. That is the nature of our God. He is with us in the fire. And then, because of their unwavering faith, the three boys were promoted in the kingdom of Babylon. Just like Job receiving back what was stolen from him. There is nothing but goodness in the Father’s promises, even when it feels like we have to move heaven and earth to receive them.

I anticipate a better perspective of the valley once I am through this journey. I expect to see that in the moments that I have been the most frail, the Father has indeed been my strength, and that when I thought that I couldn’t be further from Him, He was closer than ever. I can’t anticipate anything different, because if His mercies are new every morning, and I receive the promise of His grace, then I also have to receive all of His other promises. I can’t pick and choose what I believe about my Father. I have to believe that He is who He says He is. That He has a plan, and that He is carrying me, sometimes dragging me up this mountain.

I wanted to be at the summit three months ago. I want to be done with the struggle, I want oxygen for my soul. But there are still unseen miles ahead and while a water break may be in order, there is no other way to get to the top than to keep climbing. Just keep climbing. I’ll be a lot stronger once I get there, and I know that I will finally be able to be proud of my journey.

What does your head know that your heart needs to know today?

Oceans

Oh, Peter, Peter, Peter. You’ve really made a mess of things for me lately. I’m really having a hard time dealing with you and your issues.

Let me explain.

So you go all tough guy, all “I can do anything through Him who gives me strength,” and say, “Jesus! Call me out on the water! Test my faith!” Mmhmm, show off for the rest of the disciples, huh? You can *totally* walk on water (eye roll.). Okay, so, maybe you can. Big whoop. It’s all going great until you take your eyes off Jesus for one second and start sinking. Ha. That’ll teach you to act all high and mighty. Bye Peter, nice knowing you. Jesus is so gonna laugh at you. But does he? Nooooo. He grabs your hand and pulls you out. He saves you. You! You of little faith! He totally rescues you. What the heck? He doesn’t even yell at you for it.

(Godbricks.blogspot.com via google images)

 

Next up? That whole rooster thing. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Jesus is on His way to the cross. To the cross! and some girl says, “Hey, aren’t you one of his friends?” You could have at least said, “Oh, well, we hung out a few times,” but no. You flat out reject Jesus. Cue the rooster. And then a group of guys asks you the same thing . . . “Never met the guy.” That rooster gets louder. Then there’s the servant who is so certain he saw you in the garden, and you’re all, “Dude, no way.” Dang that rooster is so annoying!

This would have been the perfect moment for Jesus to finally walk away from you. I mean, you swore you wouldn’t betray him. You swore to love Him forever and ever Amen, and You. Failed. Epically. Who wants to deal with a guy who’s all talk? Who loses it the minute things get tough? If I were Jesus, I would have given up on you. For sure. “Come on John, James, everyone. Peter’s totally lost it. You’ve been disqualified, Pete. See ya.”

 

At this point in reading your story, I’m totally confused. Even though Jesus could have totally turned the tables on you then, He could have just wiped you out for your betrayal, He didn’t. He still went to the cross for you, and that means that He forgave you. That means that even though you totally failed Him, He still loved you. Remember when He said you were the rock He’d build His church on? He made that promise knowing you would deny Him. But He kept that promise You are one of the founding father’s of the Church. You even have three books named after you in the Bible. It makes absolutely no sense at all.

So why is all of this making my life difficult right now?

Because I take my eyes of Jesus for a few seconds every day; I drown every day. Because I have turned my back on Him time and time again, because I fail epically, every day, and all I want is what I deserve. What you deserved. To be disqualified. To be rejected for someone who hasn’t failed. To be left behind. But you weren’t disqualified. The opposite happened in fact! And if Jesus forgave you for not having faith, and for turning your back on him, even after he warned you that you would, then that means . . . sigh . . . that means He forgives me too. That means that He loves me too. That means that the cross was as much for me as it was for you, and that means that His promises to me are still mine for the taking. That He has qualified me in spite of my failures. That’s not what I deserve. That’s not what anyone deserves. This grace thing is a hard pill to swallow. I guess it keeps us humble, right? Something like that . . .

So you see why I’m a little irritated by you right now, Peter? You of all people should have been an example of the wrath of God, justifying how I feel about my own sin and failures. Instead, you are a blazing example of His grace and mercy, for everyone. So now every time I feel like I deserve to be punished for something, you come to mind. You and all your failures, and Jesus and all of His grace and love for you. I guess that’s the truth about me now too. I guess I’m a blazing example of the grace of God. I guess we all are.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1m_sWJQm2fs
(Oceans by Hillsong United. It’s supposed to be an embedded video, but for whatever reason, it won’t embed.)

He is Risen! Now what?

The eggs have been found and gorged on (are the Mini Eggs gone yet? Is it safe to go to Target again?), the bunny has disappeared back to wherever it is that he lives, and people who only ever darken the doors of a fellowship at Easter and Christmas are off the hook for another 8 months. Jesus is risen, it is finished. So now what?

Every year, Easter has been a holiday that brings a ton of grief to my soul. The sensational images of huge spikes being pounded into wrists make me cringe year after year, and I spend the entire weekend crying, and wishing that Jesus hadn’t had to go through all of that to save us. My heart breaks over His sacrifice, and then I go home and eat the last of my stash of Mini Eggs (okay, I open the last King-sized bag I’ve been saving, and drown my sorrows in the most delicious candy in the world.), wake up the next day with a milk-chocolate hangover and go on about my business. He is risen indeed!

This year has been different though. This year, the Easter season began a lot earlier for me. The cross became my focus months ago, and as you know, I’ve been camped out there for most of this year, sometimes fighting to get as far away from it as possible, other times clinging to it like it were my own heart, the very muscle that keeps me alive.

cross sunrise

The thing about a risen Savior is that the gift of salvation, the freedom from sin and the grace that He gave us deserves so much more than one weekend of celebration. The sacrifice of His life needs so much more than Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday services. We need to see that sacrifice and celebrate it every single day.

Recently the Father showed me an interesting picture of the way that I have perceived His gift of grace. I wish I could draw it out for you, but even my stick men suck, so, I’ll describe it the best that I can:

I am standing in front of a wall, carrying a bucket. On the wall is a big water spout and red button that says, “GRACE.” I put my bucket under the spout, push the button and watch as water begins to pour into the bucket, and eventually stops. I pick up the bucket, which is much heavier now, and walk away from the wall.

There is something so very wrong with that picture. It says that grace is not eternal, it is temporal, and that it can be measured. If I lie, I only need to fill my bucket about halfway, because, come on, it’s just a lie. I didn’t kill anyone. If I stole something, well, okay, I should probably fill my bucket up all the way, right? Because taking something that belongs to someone else is like, way worse than lying. And yeah, I brought two buckets this time, because I totally ripped into my kids today and made them both cry. Okay, but what about that really awful thing I did? The thing I can’t even forgive myself for? Well, I only have two hands to carry two buckets, and um, crap, the faucet turns off when the bucket is full, and um . . . I guess there isn’t enough grace for this one. I’m in big trouble here.

The other aspect of receiving grace this way is that there is a level of shame involved because there is only one place to receive grace – we all get it from the same spout. So, I’m standing here with my buckets, and you’re standing there with yours and well, look at both of us, needing grace again, dang it. Let’s just not make eye contact okay? Please don’t look at how full my bucket is!

Year after year, I’ve brought my bucket to the grace spout and carried that heavy bucket around with me until it got used up and I needed to make the journey back to the spout to get it filled up again. And when I’ve seen you at the spout, I’ve judged you and your buckets. “I only had to bring one bucket today, and look, it’s not even full. And that guy? He’s got two buckets and they’re almost overflowing! See? I’m not a bad person! Jesus really shouldn’t have had to die because of this little lie. This little malicious thought . . .”

Thankfully, the Lord didn’t let that image of grace end there. He gave me a new picture, and this time, there was no wall, there was no button and there were no buckets. There was a spout though, it was hanging out over my head, and it was gushing. All. Of. The. Time. There was no way to turn it on or off.

I believe that this is where the whole “all sin is equal” thing comes from. This is a hard concept for us to grasp, that a lie is as bad as fornication, that murder is equally as bad as gossiping. I think the bigger picture at hand is that every single sin requires a constant outpouring of grace. That even on our best days, we are no better than the murderer down the street because that person needs grace just as much as we do. So, yes, Jesus died because I lied, cheated, stole, killed, gossiped, etc. etc. etc. And His grace covers all of it. Always.

Being in need of grace and receiving it are two different things. Remember how heavy I said my bucket was once it was full? Grace is a hard thing to receive when you’re trying to measure how much you’re going to need. I think if we stopped and looked in the bottom of the bucket before we hit that big red button, we’d see that there’s already something in it that weighs it down even more. Our sin; whatever it is we are trying to be redeemed of. We’re not meant to carry that around with us, though. In fact, technically, we can’t. By way of the cross, we can now enter in to the Holy of Holies, and stand in the Father’s presence, receive His Holy Spirit, and become adopted into His kingdom. But that bucket doesn’t get to come into the Holy of Holies with us. That nasty thing gets left at the cross, and guess what? When we pass by the cross on our way out, that bucket is gone. If you look for it, you won’t find it. If you ask Jesus what happened to it, He’ll look at you funny and say, “What bucket?”

He is risen! Now? Now we get to see grace as a way of life rather than a destination. Now we get to walk under His outpouring of grace All. Of. The. Time. That’s why He gave His life. Just as it’s true that we are loved by the Father as much now as we will ever be, we are also on the receiving end of as much grace now as we will ever be. It isn’t measured, it isn’t allotted, it is given freely, constantly.It is past, present and future, omnipresent because it is part of the nature of God to be forgiving. Even in those moments when you feel like you are rocking your relationship with the Father, and seeing all kinds of fruit from how awesomely spiritual you are, you are in desperate need of grace — the same grace that your neighbor is in need of while navigating a painful, bitter divorce, or worse. We all need grace, All. Of. The. Time.

Now someone please go buy all the Mini Eggs that are on clearance before I get to the store!

Thirty-Three

I want to start this post by saying thank you for still being here. My commitment to writing is always to be as honest and open, transparent as is appropriate, and the last six or so months have been very dark for me. I have been battling through things with the Father and felt like I was underneath so much that I may not ever see the light of day again. I can’t even give words to how hard this season has been for my heart. Everything about our physical world was turned upside down when we decided to move, everything we knew to be normal was suddenly gone and we found ourselves very surprised by our new reality. Thank you for allowing me to be honest about that, and for sticking with me! I am beyond thankful to tell you that the clouds are starting to part, and the tone is changing. Read on and find out why.

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve struggled with my birthday — I think I’ve talked about that before. I’ve really struggled with disappointment, and with expecting to be disappointed.  I don’t like surprises because I hate getting my hopes up thinking it’s going to be one thing and then being disappointed when it’s something else. I’d rather just be completely surprised — don’t even tell me it’s coming.

Well, it was my birthday this week, and one of those surprising realities we’ve had to face is that Rocky travels a lot now. I knew a few months ago that he was going to miss my birthday. I swallowed all of the feelings that tried to surface, and I told myself, “Just deal with it. It’s fine. It’s just another day.” I told myself that I would be okay, and that I would do something nice for myself and then not even give my birthday another thought. But the closer it got, the harder I knew it was going to be. With everything that has been going on behind the scenes of my life, I knew that being alone on my birthday was going to be the absolute worst thing for me. I just didn’t care enough about myself to do anything about it. I was too tired. When you’re worn down and believing lies, it’s so much easier to just lay down and take the beating that the enemy has for you than to struggle under the weight to stand up and fight. I expected April 8th, the beginning of my 33rd year to get swallowed up in tears and frustration, wine, chocolate, and back to back episodes of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. I’d pick up the fight again on the 9th. Yeah, that was the plan.

My husband, however, had different plans, and he loves surprises — or well, he loves to surprise. He’s really good at them too. He is superb at knowing exactly what I need. He told me last week that my birthday present was being delivered on Monday morning between 9 and 12, that it wasn’t a regular delivery service, and they’d need to come into the house for a few minutes. So, on Monday morning I got dressed, straightened up the house and tried really hard not to get my hopes up about what I thought my present was (a bunny. I want a bunny so bad. Like, so so so bad. Too bad our dog would go insane.), and distracted myself with Netflix.

When I answered the door around 10 am, I received not only an immense outpouring of love from my husband, but from my Father, who is the inspiration behind every good gift. I got a message from the God who chose me as His own that said, “You. Are. Loved.” I opened the door and burst into tears. Relief washed over me. I mean, like a tidal wave. RELIEF. “Thank God” in the most sincere tone you can imagine. Answer the Door Safely Step 1.jpg

Rocky had managed to fly out my pastor from Colorado to spend the next 24 hours with me, not only to have fun and celebrate a new year (which we did!), but to spend time praying through all of the junk that’s been plaguing me this year. That was the best gift he could have given me. We spent Tuesday morning asking the Holy Spirit to bring answers, and boy, did He ever show up. It’s all very deeply personal and fresh, and someday I will write about it, but here is what I really want to share right now: The Holy Spirit showed me a specific instance in my life where I received some very significant lies about myself. Lies that I have worn like heavy coats in the winter, for years and years. The most important directive that Robin gave me on Tuesday morning was this: “Ask Jesus where He was in that moment, and when He shows you, worship Him there.”

He showed me exactly where He was, and I knew exactly how to worship Him in that moment. As I was obedient to do it, the answers came rushing in. The lies had to leave because the presence of the truth was so completely overwhelming, there was no room for anything else.  The Father answered the need I’ve had since I was a child, He put my heart back together, and He’s still holding it together. When the enemy comes to taunt me now, it’s like there is a foggy window between us and it gets foggier every day, and where I’ve been begging for the authority to shut him down, now I have it. Now he has to flee. Yes, he still tries, he still throws whatever he has at me, but when he does, I go back to that moment with Jesus, and I worship Him the way He showed me to, and the truth rises up again and again and again. It is one of the most amazing feelings in the world.

Wednesday morning I woke up and saw something that really surprised me, but at the same time, made complete sense. Remember my peace lily plant? The one that all of the sudden started flowering last year and then the Father spoke words of hope over me? That plant has had a really hard time adjusting to it’s new surroundings, aside from the fact that my son knocked it over and it had to be re-potted, it has been droopy ever since we moved. It’s still kind of droopy right now. But this is also happening:

download

Two flowers! Two new beacons of hope for me! I love that the Father is speaking through His creation, and that His promises are always true.

“And so we should not be like cringing, fearful slaves, but we should behave like God’s very own children, adopted into the bosom of his family, and calling to him, “Father, Father.” For His Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts, and tells us that we really are God’s children.” Romans 8:15,16 (TLB)

Without trying to sound like I’ve got it all figured out (I’m very much like that plant up there. Recovering.), I want to encourage you to ask Jesus where He was during your own painful moments, the ones that have stuck with you and shaped the way you think about yourself and others. When He reveals His presence in those moments, worship Him there, in the best way that you can, and then keep going to Him in that way. Hear his truth and break the agreements that you’ve made with the lies. It will absolutely change your life, and you will experience a level of relief that words can not describe. I also want to encourage your heart with the truth that the Father knows exactly what we need. His plans are to prosper us, to rescue us. He rescued me this week, in a big way. He knew that if left to my own devices, I would only harm myself. When you give Him the authority in your life, He will not let you go. We are His.

 

 

 

Simpler Days

Any time things get exceedingly difficult in my grown up life, it’s inevitable that I start to long for simpler days. I think that’s probably just a general truth for mankind, right? Because when you look back at your youth and see the kinds of things you were worried about back then, don’t you just want to laugh and tell that kid to chill out?

For me, my ‘simpler days’ are always at camp. I have blogged enough about camp that you know it was one of the best parts of my teenage years, if not the best. I made my best friends there, my very best friend to this day in fact. I learned, I served, and wow did I ever have fun. Working at camp was also exhausting, and there were plenty of bad days, but when I look back and think about those bad days that involved certain other coworkers driving me crazy, or a camper who just wouldn’t co-operate, the fact that maybe I had to go home for a weekend instead of partying it up with my fellow staff members (which meant, blowing our honorarium at the 7-11 in town on all the soda, Oreos and spray cheese our measley $30 would get us, taking it back to camp with a movie and passing out in our sleeping bags in the game room.), maybe it was that the cutest guy who wasn’t already taken wasn’t into me, or maybe it was that my best friend and I had had a fight . . . there was the one time my parents had to put our dog down and I didn’t get to say goodbye . . . none of those bad days even come close to comparing to some of the places I’ve been since then. Watching the bills rise and the bank account plummet, dealing with cancer scares in myself and my loved ones, physical, life-threatening heart conditions and the potential for them, my parents divorce, the death of childhood friends, even camp friends, broken hearts all around me, being so far away from the people that I love. . . basically being slapped in the face by the reality of adulthood. None of us are immune.

It’s not that I want to give up anything Icampupsidedown have today. My husband and my children are the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given besides Jesus. But somedays I just wish I could go back and live that simple life again, just for a minute. I wish that my biggest problem was that someone was pissing me off. I wish that it was just a matter of saying “sorry I’m so sensitive” to my best friend. I wish it was just that someone took some of my precious Oreos without asking (and let me tell you, I was MAD about that one.).  Just for a second,  I’d like to live in that bliss, and then I’d slap that girl upside the head and say, “You fool! Life has never been better! Stop freaking out about these trivial things! This is nothing compared to what being an adult, a parent and a wife is like. You are wasting your energy worrying about this stuff. Save it, because there are so many bigger things going on in the world that you have no clue about. Also, stop wasting your money on Oreos and save it! For the love of all that is holy, save your money!”

Aaaaah, yes, that’s exactly what I would say to her. But then I would give her a hug and say, “Even as hard as things may get in the future, you are going to be okay. There will always be a sliver of hope, sometimes it will be blinding, other times you will have to search for it. But God’s promises are true. You think you know that now, but You. Have. No. Idea.” Naive little girl. I don’t want to go back that. I’d just like to go back and appreciate things for what they were, instead of reacting so dramatically to things that really played a very small role in my life. Yep, I’d give that girl a chill pill, and another bag of Oreos because I *certainly* know better than to eat them now.

What about you? If you could go back to a simpler time, what time would you choose? What would you tell your younger self in preparation for your future, knowing what you know now?

 

 

Date Night

I mentioned in my last (very dreary) post that our oldest son has had a harder time adjusting than we expected he would. That isn’t to say that he’s shaved half of his head and wearing black and chains — no, his tender heart just gets a little sensitive sometimes, and he misses his pals. It is our job as his parents to be aware of these moments, and to do what we can to bring comfort and security, and it is also our joy to get to treat him to some of life’s pleasures in the midst of this difficult time.

A few months ago I got word that my all-time favorite band was coming to Austin. I immediately asked Rocky if we could go, since I missed them the last time they were in Texas. He loves me, and he knows how much I love Switchfoot, so he gave the nod and I bought the tickets, only to find out an hour later that he would be out of town that night. I was a little devastated because I for sure wasn’t going to go to a show alone, especially not somewhere I wasn’t familiar with. “I’ll just have to make a friend by then,” I said with a grin.

The next day we were all in the car, singing along to Switchfoot’s latest album “Fading West,” and Rocky had the brilliant idea for Salem to be my +1 to the concert. It would be his first rock concert ever and he loves Switchfoot too. I was immediately on board, and crazy excited to get to be the one to take Salem on such a memorable date. I was also thrilled that he is still young enough to want to be seen with me at a rock concert. I can’t say I was as gracious with my dad when he took me to one as a kid (although I think he was quite happy to sit  far away from a row of screaming girls . . .)

So last Wednesday night we went out on a mommy/son date that I hope he’ll never forget. It was an incredible night for both of us, a break in the clouds for me, and an experience that renewed his love for music and drumming, as he stared adoringly at the drummers for each band that played.

The first band (Penny and Sparrow) was great. Beautiful harmonies and lyrics, but a little low-key for a Switchfoot show, and Salem looked at me like, “Um, why are we here?”  Then Kopecky Family Band took the stage and my little 9 year old’s eyes grew wide as saucers. He turned around and looked up at me with stars in his eyes and said, “This. Is. Awesome.”

Here’s a little photo documentation (all iphone 5 quality) of our night out.

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Leaving for the show, both ridiculously excited.

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Penny and Sparrow belting out amazing harmonies.

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Kopecky Family Band. “Dance!”

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“This. Is. Awesome! I’m so glad I came!”

Enter Switchfoot:

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We were right up front!

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The Foreman brothers

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My happy place :)

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Jon Foreman singing the song I sang at our wedding.

Aside from the fact that music is one of my favorite means of expression, and it hits me so deep in my soul that I never want it to stop, getting to share a live experience like that with my son was so amazing. He got super tired about halfway through Switchfoot’s set — it was a really late night and he still had school the next day — but we managed to make it through part of the encore, when they finally played Salem’s favorite song. I’m so glad I convinced him to stick around, and so thankful that we were able to let go of everything else going on outside of those walls, and let amazing music captivate us for a few hours. The excitement lingered the next day, when I saw that some members of the Kopecky Family band had ‘liked’ some of our pictures from the concert on Instagram. Salem was particularly excited that the drummer was one of the ‘likers.’ He was completely mesmerized by that guy’s rockstar status!

And now? My inner rockstar is crying out to be seen and heard. Oh, dear. What will I do with her?

This is Now.

In my rose-colored glasses (that are often tinted very grey), March was the goal. If I could just make it to spring, things would be good. Surely by March I would have made tons of friends. Surely by March I would have kicked the writer’s-block and been well on my way toward getting Nor Forsake off my hard drive and into your hands. By March we would have committed to a local fellowship, and our life in the Austin area would generally be classified as “underway.”

So it’s March and none of those things has happened yet. It’s March and I feel as though I have nothing to show for it. Okay, not nothing. I have a heart that has received much healing and is still in position to receive much more. I have spent hours with the Father exploring the cracks and crevices that have been in my soul for years. I have overcome so much in the past two months. I also have three friends here, and I started out with zero. Two of them even offer to help me with my kids when I need it! That’s huge.

It is the enemy’s plan to diminish all of that though, and show me the landscape of weeds that need clearing and rocky mountains that I still have to summit. It is very hard to fight the hopelessness that he throws at me almost every day. When I was finally healthy enough to get out of bed in January and seek the Father, the word He spoke over this time was ‘Patience.’ That has never been something I excel at, and I have to remind myself every day that it is the word for now.

I want the answer to my biggest question . . . “Why?” In some ways, I can see part of it. Had I been back in Fort Worth, surrounded by everything I held dear, I never would have seen the issues in my heart. And without these long days of solitude, I wouldn’t have taken the time to spend working with the Father through all of these things. I am thankful for this time because of that reason alone.

But I’m still not sure what this whole move has been about. Surely it wasn’t just for me — there has to be more. I’m thankful that I have friends who’ve been down this road and who’ve reminded me to cut myself some slack. It’s been 2 months. We are still Austin-infants.

Patience.

I’d like to find hope in that word.  It means that there is a reason. It means that the Father is up to something. Instead of this hopelessness that I am fighting, I know He wants me to anticipate what He is doing. Sometimes it’s harder than others to remember that, though.

The kids are adjusting well for the most part. It’s funny, I really thought Josiah would have the hardest time, but it has been my super-social-most-popular-yet-tender-hearted Salem who I have found at various moments crying in bed, or in his closet, missing his friends. It breaks my heart, and I grieve alongside of him as I promised I would when we announced that we were moving. I wonder what the Father is working on for him? For Josiah? For Rocky?

Patience.

But for how long, Lord? I see myself having to re-learn things I had forgotten as I settled into my routine in DFW. Life is happening right now. There is no waiting to be — we are here, this is now. Embrace the now, Julie, I tell myself. Life is underway.  I find myself longing to return home to Canada, simply because it feels safe from here. That’s a very skewed outlook, because I remember how hard it was at times to be there this past summer. But it is a place that I know, it is a haven, I suppose.

I’m struggling to hit ‘publish’ on this. Is it too real? My commitment to this blog and to my writing is to be real, and this is my reality right now. This is hard. If not for the Father’s promises, I would not have chosen this path for my family. But His promises were there, they are here, even if I have to hang on to them with sweaty palms, feeling like I’m dangling over a cliff. His promises are my only hope.  So here I go.

This is My Broken Heart

As much as I love the cold and wintertime, it was a really nice change to have the sun out this weekend in Texas. Yes, it does get cold in Texas, and it’s been really dreary here; the sun has been behind clouds for awhile, and not just physically.

Obviously the past few months have been full of emotional dreariness for me, that’s no secret. I have gone from one extreme to another and back again emotionally and spiritually. Every week holds a new revelation for me, and they’re not always fun to process through, but the Father has been faithful to be close to me, even when I was pushing Him away.

He opened my eyes to something pretty huge last week, something that I’m sure was more obvious to anyone looking in than it was to me. The bulk of my emotional journey over the past few months has been about one thing: when the Father called us out of Fort Worth, without realizing it I put up a barrier between us and sunk down against it, completely disappointed in Him.

Fort Worth had become my home, it was a place where I felt valued and where I could bring value. There was room for me there, and if you have been reading this blog long enough, you’ll know that something I have struggled with for much of my life is knowing where my place is (Check out “This is Me“). Well, Fort Worth answered that question for me and despite the normal daily struggles and all that we experienced there, my spiritual and social life thrived like never before. I had real friends, people who pursued me, and the Father and I became good friends too. We spent a lot of time together, He and I.

But then that phone call came and it was like He changed the channel on my life and guided us out of Fort Worth to where we are now. The process was brutal and yet because we had gone along with it, we had chosen to move, I didn’t feel like I could be honest with the Father about how I felt about the whole thing. I didn’t want to go kicking and screaming, so I just resigned myself to the facts. There was never any excitement or joy involved.

Enter the disappointment. I was upset because I knew moving was the right choice. I knew it beyond a shadow of a doubt. But why would He tease me with ‘a place’ and ask me to plant roots there when the plan was never that we would stay? Clearly He wasn’t very trustworthy anymore. I felt as though He had broken my heart when He showed us what the right choice was. A friend isn’t supposed to do that, right? Just in writing that, it hit me like a ton of bricks: My heart was broken.

Not only that, but the events that surrounded us leaving Fort Worth and the way I had planned to make the transition . . . boy oh boy were my expectations completely destroyed. I’ll spare you the details, but you know that verse that talks about how a Father wouldn’t give his son a stone when he asked for bread? I definitely felt like my Father was giving me stones instead of bread. I will never forget Dec. 20th, 2013. It was awful, and the next two weeks were awful. And then the next three weeks were awful, and everything was just plain awful. Then last week the Father showed me how I had responded to Him months prior, how I had let go of the friendship I’d had with Him because He didn’t meet my expectations, because He took away everything that I had found value in over the past two years. Because once again I was looking for my place in the world, having forgotten that my place has never changed, and has always been in Him. I’d been looking to so many other things to find out where I belonged. I forgot that my Father is the one who brings life to my veins, and that He is the one who defines me, and speaks value into my being.

It was an amazing and saddening revelation, and it is still a daily battle. I want for the things that I know will tell me who I am right now and will make me feel good right now. But it’s all temporary, and none of it will ever satisfy me. Only He will. Oh but those things are shiny and bright right now, so can’t I just play with them a little longer? No. Because what I really want can’t be found in any of the places I have been searching. My place is in Him. My value is in Him. My head knows it, and it’s screaming it at my heart all day long. I will be so thankful when my heart perks up and listens and stops trying to shove everything it can find into the hole that has been around for much longer than the past few months. For now I am still on the journey, practicing being in charge of my thoughts and emotions, reengaging in friendship with my Creator, I’m seeking out the root of why that hole seems so big, and why I have believed that He can’t fill it, and trying to allow Him to bring healing to the places where I am broken. I say trying because some days are harder than others, and there are times when my heart starts throwing tantrums and gets fed up with the process. I am so thankful for a grace-full Jesus. He knows I’m going to rise above all of this, and He knows that our friendship will heal, and I know that He is my only hope.

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