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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:

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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.

At The foot of the Cross (part 2)

I’ve been walking through a lot with the Father the past few weeks (still am), and everything that has been coming up in my life lately, be it a sermon, songs, or a revelation, has come back to the cross. In part 1, I revealed the warped image that the enemy had planted in my head about all of the ‘crap at the cross,’ and then how the Father showed me what it’s really like there — a fresh slate every time. Because He loves us, He doesn’t hold on to our sin and remind us about it every time we come to him.

Once I got a clearer picture of the cross, I realized that even though I’ve said it probably a thousand times in my life, if not more, I have really struggled with the idea that Jesus died for me. I’m not worth that price, you see. I am a sinner, and I have failed, I am failing, and I will fail. I am weak and gross, and my heart is covered in this nasty funk that Jesus doesn’t need to be around. I am not valuable enough to be the recipient of such a sacrifice. No way. Why would He do that when He knew I would just disappoint Him?

It’s amazing to me how easily Satan twists the truth into a very attractive lie. Did you see it? “I would just disappoint Him.” Because sin disappoints God, right? God can’t be where sin is, and we are full of sin. We sin every day. We are sinners. As I allowed those statements to seep into my heart, I accepted, with tears and thankfulness that even though Jesus knew I was going to disappoint Him, He still loves me, He still died for me. Even though I would fail, He decided to take pity on me, and give me something that I didn’t deserve. That makes you feel good doesn’t it (that’s sarcasm by the way)?

This morning, as we walked through some past experiences, the Father gave me a more truthful interpretation of what I have been seeing about Jesus’ sacrifice.

More than the truth that you would make mistakes, I knew the truth that you would make Me proud. More than the knowledge that you would fall short, I knew that you would overcome. More than pitying you, I showed mercy and gave you the chance to choose Me, the chance to please Me, and by the power of the Holy Spirit which is alive in you, you have pleased Me. You have overcome.

(read it again if you have to.)

I now see that my triumphs weigh more than my failures do. I would love to say that I triumph more than I fail, but honestly I don’t want to try and gauge that. The point is that the Father does not hold on to our sin. He sees our struggle and he rejoices in our victories, more than He despairs over our failures. It’s as if I have been believing that every time I fail Him, He says, “See? That’s why I had to give up my only Son. Because of that right there.” But my picture is flipped now and instead, I see myself overcoming and I hear Him saying, “See? That’s why I gave my only Son! Because of that right there! Without His sacrifice, you could never have triumphed over that!”

What a joy!!!!!!!! Because of the cross, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are overcomers! I don’t know why it’s taken me almost 33 years to really start to get it, and I know, because I know myself, that there is still a long road ahead, and that I will make unnecessary detours and I’ll trip and stumble, but I will get up. I will continue to please my Father because I will continue to overcome.

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. – Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

Romans 8 is an amazing chapter, and if any of this has hit home for you like it has me, I strongly urge you to spend some time there, but if, for whatever reason, you can’t, just look at everything that you feel is pulling you from the Father, everything you feel like you are under right now and then read this verse:

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. – Romans 8:37 NIV

Like I said, this is still something I’m in the middle of journeying through and even as I read through this again, it is difficult to really believe it. By no means do I have everything figured out — but if you’ve spent any amount of time on this blog, I think you know that *wink wink*. I share out of the depth of my heart because for so long I believed that I was alone in what I was feeling in many different areas of my life and now that I know that’s not true, I want to be a support to anyone else who struggles with the things I do. I love it when I get responses from you that say “EXACTLY” because I know that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. If this post, or any post here really hits the nail on the head in your life, I would really love it if you shared it. It’s not about exposure, while that’s awesome, it’s really about making a difference in people’s lives. That’s why I write everything that I write.

 

At the Foot of the Cross (part 1)

I think I can honestly say that my absolute favorite part of this new house (which I promise to tell the story of someday) is that it has a fireplace. If you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen the pictures of our iFire or digital flames back in December (because we didn’t have a fireplace then) when it was so cold in DFW. It was a prerequisite that I refused to live without this time around.

With the fireplace comes the fireplace tools, something we have never had before, and is a source of entertainment for our 5 year old. I’ve told him countless times not to touch them or play with them (like I have about a hundred other things too). On Sunday morning as we were getting ready to visit a fellowship here, I walked out into the living room and saw Josiah holding the poker, upside down in his hands, trying to put it back on the rack. I was upset because he was disobeying me again. He had gotten soot all over his hand and was about to ruin his shirt. I walked around  the furniture to take it from him, and that is when I noticed the dark lines in the very very cream colored carpet (who in the world invented cream colored carpet?). Not only had he disobeyed, but he had made a mess that I was going to have to clean up. I scolded him and told him that because it was a repeat offense, he was now grounded for two days. After washing his hands, he went into his room and began to wail. I waited a few minutes before calling him into my room and pulling him into my lap. He wouldn’t talk to me, just cried alligator tears, with an occasional real one slipping out. When he was finally willing to listen to me, I said, “Okay, buddy. That’s enough crying. I know you’re upset about the fact that you are grounded, but that is the consequence to disobeying Mommy. We’re not going to let it ruin our entire day, though. I am not mad at you anymore, it’s over. No more crying.” It took some convincing before he finally wiped his tears and acted like himself again. He left my room, but I sat there, alone, having a bit of a revelation.

The Father and I have been on a bit of a self-discovery journey this past week. He has opened up my eyes to some things in my heart that were in need of both of our attention, and I feel as though I have been stripped down to the core as I see all of the things that I have exalted in my life against who I know Jesus to be. I have been facing some heart issues that I’d already gained victory over in the past, repeat offenses, if you will, and I have been spending a lot of time at the foot of the cross, trying to make sense of what is going on.

A few days ago when I was in a really low place, I had an image of the foot of the cross pop into my head, and it wasn’t pretty. I thought to myself, “Man there is a lot of crap here at the cross, and I’m just sitting in it. I do not want to be here anymore.” I knew, as soon as the thought crossed my mind, that it was in complete opposition to the way the cross is to be viewed, but for the life of me, I couldn’t get past it. It was a picture of actual excrement surrounding that precious cross and I felt gross about being in the middle of it. That’s exactly how the enemy wants me to feel about the sin in my life. Gross. Guilty. Shameful. Crappy.  I stayed sitting in that spiritual pile of excrement for a few days before I felt like the Father started to get through to me.

As I sat in my room on Sunday having my conversation with Josiah, I heard the Father speak my words back to me, almost verbatim.

Okay, Julie. That’s enough crying. I know you’re upset about the mess and what it means for your heart, but we’re not going to let it ruin our day. I’m not mad at you, it’s over. You’re forgiven. No more crying.

I have been playing that over in my head repeatedly, and trying to reconcile it with the image of the cross that’s been screening in my head. The enemy wanted me to believe that the cross was simply a dumping ground, and it wasn’t just my crap there, but everyone else’s too. If I stayed there long enough, I would have seen every single thing I’d ever brought to the cross, and my guilt and shame would have grown to the point of utter despair and would have isolated me, which is exactly what the devil wants. But the truth is that Jesus’ death on the cross was for the freedom of sin. Sin no longer has power over us. Sin no longer isolates us from the Father. It sounds so Sunday School and cliche, but I’m thirty-two years old and the stupid devil is still trying to warp my take on it. When we bring our sin to the cross, Jesus’ blood washes it away. Washes the residue off our fingers, the stench off of our bodies, and then it is gone.

Josiah made a mess in the living room, but I cleaned it up. I got carpet cleaner, which cost me something, and I cleaned it up. It still needs some scrubbing, but it’s getting there. I made a mess of my heart by forgetting some things I know to be true, and allowing the enemy to start lying to me in that crafty way he does where he sounds like he’s telling the truth. It cost Jesus His life to clean up my mess, but He paid that price for me because he loves me, and he doesn’t want me to relive my mistakes every time I come to him. He doesn’t hang on to them so that I remember them every time I come. He doesn’t hold my sin over me to control me with guilt. That’s what the enemy does. No, when I come to the cross, the ground is bare, the slate is clean. I am invited to lay my burdens down and the minute I do, they’re gone. It’s a daily battle, I have to be vigilant to take thoughts captive and remind myself that I have been redeemed and washed clean, that I am forgiven, and that I am so much more than the enemy wants me to believe that I am. I tell you what though, it feels so much better to sit under a loving Father than it does to sit in a pile of crap.

What is the enemy holding over your head today? Can you hear the Father’s voice?

We’re not going to let it ruin our day. No more crying. You’re forgiven.

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Video

We’re Not That Different

I just wanted to share this song today because I believe it is the cry of everyone’s, yes everyone’s heart to know God. Today, this song is singing along side of that cry. Just another step toward the Father finishing what He has started in us.

Rend Collective “Desert Soul”

Simplify

I grew up as a pastor’s kid, a worship leader’s kid, a speaker’s kid. To say we were involved in the local fellowship is an understatement. My dad pastored when I was very little, my mom lead worship and taught often at the place we attended when I was older, and eventually became a pastor herself of a Foursquare church plant in the city next to ours in B.C. I have set up chairs, stacked them, locked the doors, taught Sunday School, led worship, ran the nursery, I’ve even preached (terribly!). In my youth and adulthood I’ve carried on the mantle as a youth leader, a worship leader and a nursery baby holder. I’ve entered the stage at the exact right moment and been on stage with lights flashing as we lead, a click track in my ears, a voice directing the song over top of us singing it, cameras with their red lights blinking so we know where to look. I have seen what it takes to make a service happen on the micro, as well as the macro, and on both sides of the spectrum, there is nothing simple about any of it.

After years and years of being involved in the controlled chaos that goes on behind the scenes, last year I had to step back. There were far too many distractions for me to be able to focus. I needed to simplify, strip my worship down to the bare bones and get alone with the Father and hear what He was saying without having to strain to get the message.

This was about the time when I started really making my morning quiet times a priority, and they became the source of my growth. I would turn on a live worship album and just sit in His presence singing, listening, reading, writing, whatever struck me to do in those moments, I would do and the Lord was always right there with me, speaking freely to my heart. These quiet morning moments have become an absolute necessity in my life. That doesn’t mean I haven’t neglected them at times, and when I do, I feel the lack in my spirit, but then when I come back and meet with Him, my heart fills up so quickly that I begin to crave my time with Him again.

I think for a long time I was just putting too much pressure on the local fellowship. I was expecting it to meet my all of my spiritual needs — not that I wasn’t spending time with the Lord before, but I was going about it in a drive-thru type method. I wasn’t lingering, I was pretty much just presenting my needs and then walking away. I had a void in my heart and I was expecting it to be filled by an experience, an hour long gathering with a room full of people that I didn’t know and that the Father had never intended to be the fix. It makes sense now that it fell so short in my eyes — it was never what I was supposed to be seeking. When I turned my eyes inward, when I got fed up with the complications and distractions and truly simplified, everything changed and I began to experience a richness in the Spirit that I haven’t had in a long time, and all I was doing was sitting in His presence. My focus became about what I could get from Him rather than from a 4-song worship set. What did He have to say to me, verses what was the speaker saying to a room full of 1000 other people? Of course there are those times when He is speaking through those mediums, but as His children, because of Jesus’ sacrifice and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we get the privilege of hearing directly from Him as well.

For some, I know this is a strange concept, this idea of waiting on God and sitting in His presence quietly. There is a skewed belief out there that we aren’t good enough to hear from Him directly. Or that a pastor or leader is the only one who can be enlightened by the Father. But that is simply not the case. He is a loving Father and is readily available to us; there is no more middle man! While it takes time to learn how to hear His voice, He does speak to us! Sometimes all it takes is simplifying what we’re doing, pulling away from the crowd and inviting Him to come, and then quieting our hearts in order to be able to hear Him. It is definitely a discipline, and not something that always comes easily, for the enemy is all about distracting us, but the longer you put it into practice, the easier it gets to tune out the rest of the world and focus on hearing the Father.

I want to encourage you to give it a try, if you never have. Even if you feel weird, sitting quietly, waiting, the Father is pleased by the simple fact that you are waiting on Him, and He will meet you there, one way or another. The most important thing is that we are looking to Him to fill our needs, and not a service, a song, a sermon, or even a person. In Him is all that we need.


For Your Heart

The transition of the last few months and all that has come with it has left my spirit extremely weary. While I didn’t throw any tantrums about our move, I definitely let the pain of it personify me at times. I don’t know that that was wrong, I am very much a believer in feeling what you are feeling and not putting things off. I was brutally honest with myself and with the Father about how I felt, and I spent a lot of time in tears at His feet. Maybe I missed some of what He wanted to do because I was so caught up in my emotions. Maybe I could have handled this move with more grace and more faith. I’ve spent some time feeling badly about that, and then I remembered this morning that even when I do things the wrong way, my Jesus still loves me as much as when I do them right.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes my heart just needs a reminder that God is still who He says He is. That He is still concerned with me, that He is still paying attention and directing my life, and that His love for me doesn’t depend on my actions, reactions, or level of faith. He just loves me. He has been helping me remember these truths lately, and has been reminding me where I need to be rooted.

Here are just a few verses for our hearts to soak in today. I pray His presence surrounds you as you read them.

Psalm 118:8 “It is better to trust the Lord than to put confidence men. It is better to take refuge in Him than the mightiest king.”

Isaiah 43: 1 “But now the Lord who created you, O Israel, says, ‘Don’t be afraid, for I have ransomed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.’ “

Psalm 139: 17-18 “How precious it is, Lord, to realize that you are thinking about me constantly! I can’t even count how many times a day your thoughts turn towards me. And when I waken in the morning, you are still thinking of me!”

Isaiah 42: 3 “He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the dimly burning flame. He will encourage the fainthearted, those tempted to despair. He will see full justice given to all who have been wronged.”

What is (are) your go-to verse(s) when you need your spirits lifted?

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