Friday, July 21, 2017

Today has been a heavy day.

I've been crying on and off throughout it. Waking up and reading the news of Chester Bennington kinda hit hard. The first time I ever listened to Linkin Park was on a drive to Denny's with a friend of mine. I was 20 years old. I remember being squeezed in a truck while she belted out the words during Crawling. I knew then that I loved that song. That band. That voice.

I remember being in love and listening to the words to In The End, and playing the song for the one who broke my heart.

It's rare for a celebrity death to affect me to the point of crying. And I've been crying today. Because for a man to sing songs that speak things I have felt at times to take his own life, it hits hard.

We can't possibly know what was going through his head when he decided to do what he did. It may have been impulse, it may have been thought out. But I do know that when you reach that point of despair, it can be hard to break out of. There are a lot of people out there who brush it off. They don't understand the struggle.They don't understand the science of how the brain operates in those moments. And because of that, suicide is something that people get angry at or disregard because they don't get it.

Some days, it does try to take over my thoughts. There are times when it's easy to push it away, and other days I fight like hell. Yes, it is that possible to reach that point of absolute hopelessness. But if you don't get it, you probably shouldn't say anything about it. It's fine if you don't understand it. Just don't brush it off.

Again, we don't have the answer as to why he did it. I believe it's okay to feel angry, or hurt, or confused. But the truth is, there are people around us who still struggle. People who feel hopeless and lost and don't know what to do. We have the capacity to be that safe place. To encourage them to seek help. To love them like crazy and show them they matter. There have been many people I've met that aren't used to someone reaching out to them. They're not used to someone valuing them in incredible ways. They're not used to having people fight for them. And we have the ability to do all of these things for them.

Yes, it's hard at times. Yes, it takes work. Yes, sometimes you have to reach down and remember that you value them. Because of everything that exists in this world, people are not replaceable. There is only one you. There is nobody else in the world that is exactly like you. Of the billions upon billions of people that have ever existed, you are one of a kind. Your neighbor, your friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, mom, dad, brother, sister, son, daughter, and stranger are all one of a kind. Nobody has ever been exactly like you. And nobody else ever will be.

If you ever forget that you have purpose, let me just tell you that we need you. Others need you. And in that, it is our duty to show others the same; that we need them. You, and them, matter. We all matter. We are all important to someone. And there might be that one person that needs you in order for them to pull through.

Learn to listen. Learn to see. Learn to act. Do what it takes. Jobs, homes, things...... they can all be replaced. But you, or anyone else on this earth. never can.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Story Never Ends There

A few years ago, I was in a really dark place. I was lost in a sin that felt overpowering and uncontrollable. Night after night I begged and screamed prayers in a drunken haze. Sometimes those prayers were for death. I knew God was listening, but I was getting tired of my own repetition because I kept going back to that sin. I knew I needed out, and He was the one to make it happen.

Present day, I am no longer in that place and I am ever so grateful. I may have felt like there was no way out at the time, but God was always there and put into motion a way out.

Looking back, I see where God was at work. I felt so helpless and didn't get the answer I had hoped for. But He didn't leave me there; He loved me too much.

I had the chance to read an advance copy of a book called Made Well by Jenny Simmons. This book reveals the many ways healing happens even when the cure we're begging for doesn't. While reading, I was reminded of how I felt in this dark place, but I can look at it now and see where God was working His healing. But it wasn't as if she was offering for me to look at it; she spoke exactly what I was dealing with.

"Not seeing a way forward or knowing how to deal with feelings that fester just below the surface of an unwell heart, a sick person will go to great lengths to numb the pain. But when a person pleads for escape routes, what they are often pleading for is a catalyst toward healing. A way forward. We want to be well; we just don't always know how to get there"

That was me. And until I read that part, I never thought anyone could explain it the way I did. Nobody ever expressed the exact hell I was in so perfectly.

But the story doesn't end there. That's what I love about Jenny's words. She connects so well to the heart of people who read her words, that it feels like you're sitting and talking over coffee. Actually, it feels more like you're having the coffee while Jenny pours into you. At least that's how it feels for me.

Made Well shares stories of pain and heartbreak from her own personal life, the lives of family, and of friends with just enough room to see where healing has leaked in. It would be hard to read this book without walking away knowing you are loved by a God who cares about the broken areas in our lives. It would be hard to read this book without feeling like you're catching up with an old friend through laughter and tears. It would be hard to read this book without wanting to show up for others when they are hurting. That is exactly what this book gives.

I'm highly recommending this book because my goal in life is to love others well. That's exactly what I feel in reading Jenny's words; that she loves me well. I've no doubt that anyone reading will feel the same.

This book releases October 4th, but you can pre-order a copy at www.madewellbook.com
When you pre-order, you have the chance to sign up for some freebies as well as having a chance to win other cool stuff. But if you ask me, the book itself is a wonderful prize by itself.

Anyone who knows me knows that when I love something, I'm going to talk about it. I love Jenny. I love Jenny's words. I love Jenny's heart. And most of all, I love the same healing God that Jenny talks about. Give the book a read. I dare you.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Dear Perry,

I've never attended your church in my life. In fact, I live on the opposite side of the country from where your church is that. I did see you once, though. I was living in Las Vegas at the time and I saw you tweet about being in town. I was a bit excited hoping you'd let us all know where you were at or what you were doing. Then you mentioned speaking at a church in town I'd never heard of. So naturally, I looked it up and planned on attending.

You see, I loved listening to your podcasts. In fact, it was your teaching on anxiety that made the second biggest impact in my life. You were beat by Plumb by about ten years. It was that teaching I learned to trust that God is good. No matter what is going on or falling apart, I've held on to that knowledge with every thread of my being. I always want to. I hope I always do.

I've never attended your church but I've listened to just about every teaching of yours available through podcast. You were my favorite pastor to listen to. You still are. It is for this reason that I want to say I'm still on your side. I'm praying that you give yourself enough grace to overcome the disappointment you feel toward yourself.

Not long ago, I went through a period where I depended on alcohol to fill the void of loneliness I was feeling. That went on for a while, and there was only one person who was really on my side through it all. She waited for me to win the race.

I've no doubt there are tons of people who love you and still are waiting for you to win the race. I've no doubt there are tons of people on your side. For that, I know that my voice is a small one. But even as a small voice, I'm still going to use it to tell you that I love you. I'm praying for you and your family. I'm sad to see you no longer be the senior pastor of your church. It's weird, but even though I'm not a member, I still feel the effect of it. But I still love you. God has never been short on His grace toward me, and believe me, I've definitely needed it. So there is no way on earth I can't withhold it from someone else.

You've made a huge difference in my life with your teachings. When you talk about God's love and grace and Jesus, I seriously feel the passion in your voice. There's only been one pastor before you that I've listened to that left that impression on me. It's the kind where if you tell me God loves me, I can't help but fully believe it. It is in listening to you where I've learned to look at Jesus more and what He has to say on everything. I've learned to listen to Him more.

I'm sure in the coming days, I'm going to cry at times. As I've mentioned, I feel the loss too. But every gift from God is a good and perfect one, even in the ending of a season. And He takes even the stupid things we do and uses it for good for us that believe. I believe these things. Not only in my life, but for your life too. I'm sad to see you go, but everything does have it's time.

I'm praying for you though. Because believe it or not, you've made quite the difference. I'm with all those other people who are on your side. We're waiting for you to win the race.


Love always,
Julia from Phoenix, Arizona

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I've been meaning to write, but my heart and head have been all over the place. When word broke that a coworker passed away onsite last night, I felt it was finally time.

Love.

You know, I look at social media posts and comments all the time, and it occured to me that we still have no idea what love really is. I like to think I show it. I like to think I'm known for it. I've traveled across the country just to show that I care. I've traveled to the next cities over to show one person that I appreciate them. I've spent countless hours and dollars just to reach out. I also have to fight the pride that comes with that when things don't work out. But no matter how much I have done, or will do, I still have no idea what love is in its purest and perfect form. It's a subject I write about a lot, but I'm still learning it. And judging from said posts and comments, it's clear that a lot of us don't. And I hate to call that out, but it's true.

We talk about what the perfect guy, or girl, is like all the time. But all that's really doing is saying we want these qualities and it doesn't matter who it comes from. We value the actions more than the person. We think that what the "right person" offers is more valuable than who they are. Better yet, we are more concerned with having a partner than we are deepening our friendships.

And then we read about a tragedy and fall apart. We talk about how great that person was or how much of a difference they made. But I've noticed that it's only that time when we talk about the difference being made. It's only in tragedy when those people are mentioned or recognized. We talk about how awesome that person was AFTER they've passed away and never when they were alive.

I get that's not always the case, but from what I see it's mostly what happens. I admit, I'm guilty of it, too.

Tragedies suck.

When I read the news about Christina Grimmie, I cried for like an hour. And I would tear up thinking about it for the past week. I knew nothing of the girl. I've only seen a few covers she did, but I knew I loved them. There were countless other people who actually followed her and knew what she was up to.

Again, tragedies suck. They're painful. They're hard. We have a really hard time dealing with them because they're unexpected. We're much more at peace when we know it's coming...... but when we don't, it's much harder to deal with. They leave us asking why. They leave us sad and angry. They leave us fallen apart and broken. And they're inevitable. Anything can happen at any day at any time. And there is so much we take for granted because of how unexpected they are.

And here is where love also kicks in. Has your heart ever grieved upon reading tragic news about a stranger? I will tell you now that if your answer is no, you haven't truly loved. We have all painted this picture of love in a beautiful setting, but that is only one face of it. Expecting love wrapped up in a perfect bow is a horrible way of viewing it. It's messy and chaotic and sacrifical and hard.

Love is hard. We think it's easy and in some settings it comes naturally, like with parents and children. Sure, it's easy to make time and invest in those areas. But if we're not doing it for strangers, people who've hurt us, or people who disagree with us, then we're really just keeping love in a box. It exceeds beyond just that wrapped up box.

Love is sacrificial. It means that you have to stop just looking at yourself and see the people in front of you. It means meeting needs instead of your wants. If someone is hungry, do you feed them? If someone is thirsty, do you give them a drink? If someone is hurting, do you wash their wounds? If someone is cold, do you offer them your coat?

Love casts out fear. It makes me sick to think that our nation's leaders want to shut out the land of the free to those who have been misplaced. Those who have lost their families to terrorists or war. Those who have nothing but the clothes on their backs. They get shut out because of a few bad apples. Guess what? You will always have that no matter what community you are a part of. Christians, LGBT's, Muslims, African Americans, and so on and so forth. It doesn't matter. There's always going to be someone out there that gives the wrong impression of everyone else in these. And yet, we cower in fear when those bad apples pop up.

I believe Jesus is the answer. In Him only do we find perfect peace, perfect rest, and perfect life. He guaranteed there will be trouble in this world. Why? Because sin exists. But it's only through Him that we can continue on, because He is the one who puts us back together when we fall apart. His heart breaks with ours. His heart hurts with ours. He didn't promise to provide an exit plan for all the crap we face. He promised Himself. And before we ask why He just doesn't prevent the crap, let's think about what we really want through it all......

We all want someone to be there for us. To be there when it all hits the fan. To stick around when we mess up. We all want someone to never leave us. That's what He offers to be.

So when you're sitting there thinking you have it all together and understand love. I'm going to tell you that maybe you should take a good long hard look at what love really is.

I'm guilty. I'm still learning about it. And crazy enough, I even learn about what it looks like when tragedy hits.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

I absolutely love to give gifts. I love that I know what simple gifts to pick out, but I really love spending time and thought on giving the perfect gift. I'd like to say I don't know why, but that isn't true. Actually, I realized the exact reason why very recently.

I believe good gift giving is an act of loving well.

One of the best gifts I've ever been given was a cd. I was probably 18 at the time, and it was a Christmas gift from my best friend at the time. I remember using a gift certificate I was given to get her an address book. I could ave gotten her something different, but I remembe her saying she needed one. So, I regifted a gift to get her gift. She, on the other hand, was only given a certain amount to spend. I opened up the wrapping to the only cd by my favorite group that I didn't have. She knew I loved them. She knew I didn't have all their cd's. She took a guess and hoped that was the one I didn't have. And she was right. I remember that I couldn't believe it. I was so blown away that she spent a good chunk of her Christmas spendings on the one thing I really wanted. I would have loved it still even if it was a cd I already had. I would have loved it because she knew I loved the group.

I have seen a lot of posts that ask ladies the question if they would accept a marriage proposal if the ring was given out of different scenarios. I actually like to see what people say about it, and the majority say yes because the ring shouldn't matter. For me, it does matter. I happen to not like yellow gold. If a man wants to convince me to spend my life with him, I would hope that he wouldn't ask me with a yellow gold ring. Having a ring doesn't matter, but the actual ring does. I'm not a gold digger, but my man better know me enough, and pay attention enough, to know what I like and don't like.

I believe a requirement for good gift giving is loving well... and in order to do that, you have to pay attention. You can know I like a million things... which I practically do. But I know you pay attention when you know the things that really matter, and you respect it. You don't have to understand why I love it, you just have to respect it. I don't have to understand why you love something... I just have to respect it. There are gifts I've given that I would never get for myself. I'm sure the same rings for you and gifts you've given. But what matters is that attention has been paid.

You listen, you watch, and you remember. You get to know the person by doing these three things. Almost every detail matters because it all blends together. I never really understood that details matter until I started following a specific artist/author who is all about details. I started paying attention to how much the God of the universe paid attention to the matters of my heart. The gifts He's given me are the ridiculous ones I've asked for. Just by observing that, I learned more of just how much He loves me, how much the things that matter to me matter to Him, and how much He's not so farfetched that you can't ask for something ridiculous.

Listening matters. Paying attention to small details matters. Getting to know a person matters.

So if you want to get the perfect gift for them, stop worrying about what they might like and see them for who they really are. It makes all the difference in the world.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

I used to think the greatest story ever told was that Jesus died for my sins. And well, it was. My sins were many, and when I learned about sin itself, it was the greatest story. But the thing about that, is that it was a closed story. If the story of salvation ended with Jesus' death, we would have to earn our way to eternity with Him from the moment we chose to follow Him.

But thankfully, He knew well that we are unable to do so. We are still fallen and live in a sinful nature. We are prone to it. So the story continues.

The greatest story ever told was that He died, but rose again conquering all that death represents.... which is sin.

Jesus was given all authority in Heaven and earth, and with that He chose to wash feet and go to the cross. He chose to lower Himself when He came to earth. He chose to go even lower and die a sinners death. Having all authority, He could have claimed His throne when He was brought before the chief priests and scribes and Pilate. At any moment during His beatings and mockings being spit on, He could have taken His rightful place that He stepped out of. But He chose to go to the cross.

We are all living in places where we think we know what love is all about. But we haven't a clue. We don't like to be told what to do so we challenge authority all the time. But here is Jesus taking on all that we deserve, and He's taking it on obedience and love. Two of the things we don't like to be challenged with.

So He gave His life. And He rose again. He defeated death so we don't have to face it. He defeated sin so we don't have to be bound by it. And though we continue to do it, and though we continue to be prone to it in this world, it does not have victory over us. Jesus let Himself be covered will all of our sin, and He broke free from it breaking the chains. HIs resurrection broke the shackles off of our hands and feet. The empty tomb is proof that we can put those sins to death every single waking day. The empty tomb shows that His forgiveness stands faithful and just. And it covers us.

The empty tomb is the greatest story of all.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

I've been watching a lot of Once Upon A Time lately. I've seen all of season one and part of season two when they first showed... but didn't really watch after that. I don't usually pick back up watching a show after I pretty much give up on it... so I don't know how it happened that I wanted to see it again. But I did, and now I am. And I love it just as much as I did when I first started watching.

But this isn't about that show. I'm laying in bed watching it on netflix and drinking tea when I read a fact about how being good at flirting is more effective than being good looking. Interesting. It reminded me of how I once told a friend I would challenge her to a duel of who can more numbers in a bar. I've no doubt I would win. She argued it and really tried to press the duel to happen.. but I declined. While it sounds like fun, it's not something I'd really engage in. I'm not out there trying to break hearts or be heartbroken. I'm not out there trying to deceive anyone on account of winning a contest. But it still remains that I've no doubt that I'd win.

That's not me being arrogant... that's me being honest. While my friend has the flirt factor in her favor, I like to say I have natural charm in mine. I don't need to pretend or spit game to get somewhere... I'm just myself really. And I've gotten a lot of what I want from just doing that. You see, I know how to work people. I know what to say to them, how to be with them, how to put myself in their life. And I'm good at it. Why? because I'm a manipulator.

No, that doesn't mean I'm that way with people... I'm saying I know how to be that way with people. I love people. I love because Jesus loves them... and because He loves me. So my love for others isn't a fake or seducing one. If it was, you'd probably end up feeling quite taken advantage of after a while.

I've been able to get what I want from a lot of different people a lot of times. I know how to seduce people into giving me what I want. It's happened more times than I'm wanting to admit... which, one is just that. You'd be surprised, but then again... you might not be if you knew me long enough. Again, I'm not proud of it.

So why am I telling you all this? Because I was posting to instagram when I typed out how I loved myself. I don't think I've ever plainly said that before.... actually, I don't think I've ever actually said that before. But it's true. It's weird to say it because I always thought it sounded arrogant and ridiculous to say it.

I love myself.

It's actually not as hard to swallow as I thought it would be. If I saw someone being the manipulator that I can be, I probably wouldn't like them much. But I'm commanded to love others.

The point I'm trying to make here is that, I love myself even though I can be awful. Here I am letting you in on this secret sin of mine that I've put into play many, many times. I'm forgiven of it.. and I'm still loved in spite of it. And I want to love the way God loves.... and that includes even loving myself.

For a big part of my life, I hated myself. I hated what I did... and I hated myself for doing things... and because I hated myself for doing them, I did those things even more... which resulted in bigger hate. It goes on and on. I hated the way I lived my life. Hating myself made me hate a lot of things around me. It's easy to not be happy with everything else when you let yourself be unappy with one thing. And I know a lot of people who still live this way. When you live in this state, you wonder how anyone could ever love you... or how you could ever love yourself. It's exhausting really.

But, I love Jesus.. and the main reason I love Him is because He loved me first. I love because He did. If I'm to love the things He loves, I have to include myself in that. He commanded that we love Him with everything... and then for us to love others as ourselves. I used to think that was a way of saying that we have to think of others the way we think of ourselves. But the verse doesn't say to think of others as ourselves, it says to love others as ourselves.. If we're going to love others as ourselves, we have to love ourselves. God wants the very best for each one of us because that's how He loves us.

The relationship you have with others comes second to the relationship you have with God. Love Him with everything. Why? Because He loved us first. That relationship establishes that you are loved first.. So you love back. And then you love others the way that He has loved you.


All I'm trying to say here is that it's okay to love yourself. So give it a try.