Tuesday, December 29, 2020

My Brokenness Runs Deep

 I read something today. 

“The more you are acquainted with your own brokenness, the greater your understanding will be of your belovedness.” (In Christ)

It’s a new way to move forward. A different perspective. A challenge to be looking up with hope. 

My brokenness runs deep. I imagine no one will ever know or would ever suspect what ragged, jagged pieces make up my story or what the depth of my shame and pain threatens to be. Today. And most every day. I think I hide it so well. 

But I also know that Christ’s love reaches even deeper. It’s unconditional and faithful and enormous. And the more I come face to face with my own need, the clearer it becomes that His love reaches this far. 

I. Am. Loved. 

So keep showing me, Lord. Show me how deep my deprivation. Run your hand along my jagged edges and feel my pain. Don’t let me hunker down and hide. Your love makes way for me to be broken and beloved in the same breath. 

Deeply broken. Fiercely loved.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

"I am a professional writer."

Those were the words spoken to me and my seventh grade classmates by the new, no-nonsense, English teacher sitting on a stool before us at the start of a brand new school year. Some of us rudely rolled our eyes and the rest chuckled audibly and with disdain at her introduction. She went on to reveal her extensive resume', past experiential roles, and her clear, over-qualification for the job. She also expressed the deep value she placed on reading and writing and said, "THIS English class is going to be unlike anything you've ever had before".

And it was.

The first thing she did was chuck the endless grammar lessons and diagramming of sentences out the third story window.
And we all cheered.
She arranged our desks in groups to encourage feedback on each others written work and she started treating us like real authors with un-mined potential. Her shelves were lined with dog-eared paperbacks and several chair cushions were stuffed in corners, ready to pull out for good, flop-on-the-floor reading time.

She read to us aloud almost every day from that lofty stool we once scorned. Back in my day this was akin to secret church meetings in the third-world underground and we loved her for it. She probed our minds and hearts for reactions and thoughts towards the characters and plot that came alive in her voice and we wrote and wrote and wrote. Willingly!
Those assigned book reports were no more. She took the suffocating rules and expectations off of reading and writing for us that year and we blossomed under her expertise and boldness to blaze a new trail.

This seventh and eighth grade teacher of mine went on to become an American educator who in 2015 became the first recipient of the Global Teacher Prize, a $1 million prize awarded by the Varkey Foundation to "one innovative and caring teacher who has made an inspirational impact on their students and community." She founded the nonprofit Center for Teaching and Learning and wrote nine books, selling more than half a million copies.

I've lost touch with her but she left her mark on me by teaching me that what I had to say through the written word was important and worthy, an encouraging idea for a shy but creative seventh-grader.
I started writing on my own, filling blank journals with poems, short stories and thoughts and continued as I journeyed through high school and college. 

As an adult, life as I knew it was turned upside down when my four-year-old son was diagnosed with an aggressive kidney cancer. Not only did a battle begin in the flesh and blood for my boy, but an all-out spiritual war and incredulous spiritual journey began for me.

Thus began my story. The one that I believe I am finally ready to share. God knows I'd rather take the easy way out and remain silent. He knows my writing confidence is at an all time low. But He also knows me, chapter by chapter, line by line, and that He will most assuredly be glorified through the honest telling of exactly what He's done for me and wants to do for you. 

I don't know exactly how this is going to unfold. Today is a day of going back to my roots in seventh-grade English class and agreeing with God that it's time to start writing again.

You can "follow me" by entering your email above. Then you will get a notification when I publish a new blog post. My greatest desire is to write honestly and vulnerably AND to point your heart towards the One who rescued mine. 

Julie Anne

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Dear Me

Dear Little Julie

I've been wanting to write this letter to you to set some things right and make them clear and easy to understand. I've wanted to lift your innocent face with my trembling hand and tell you you're ok.

I'm sorry I've held you responsible for our pain. You're just a little girl and little girls should not be bowed low under the sheer weight of it all. The most you should be carrying is a stuffed rabbit and a backpack loaded with sparkly crayons and a lunchbox.

I'm sorry no one listened or at least read between your lines. You lived in a day when awareness was at ground zero and no one was paying much attention.
You deserved to be seen.
I see you now.
And I'm listening.

I'm sorry I prolonged your captivity by forcing you to keep secrets. Those were far too big and scary for you and they've kept you in the dark.

Today is a new day.

I want you to be BRAVE. The kind of BRAVE that sets you free.
I want you to untie your hair and let it shake loose and fly everywhere. We'll worry about tangles later.
I want you to set the shame down and pick up some paint brushes instead and create with broad strokes till you're satisfied; filling the white space with vibrant, freeing color.
I want you to dance because you WANT to dance
I want you to see the magic in your one beating heart, waiting for the curtain to be pulled back to reveal its glory.
I want you to look in the mirror and see just a little girl. No other titles. No other names.
Did you know that God calls us Braveheart? You and I were born to do BRAVE things alongside Jesus and do them with a heart like no one else. So stand tall, little one. You've been chosen to do big and bold things for Christ and He's on the move. You can bring your stuffed rabbit with you.

And now listen. I want you to stop running and I want you to breathe. No more running, baby girl. Believe me when I say you are safe now. God is organizing an army of people He's chosen, to surround you, care for you, be playful with you, listen to you on bended knee, gently touch you and even hold you. It's coming. Just hold on.

I will remind you that it's ok to look up. Let your downcast, soulful eyes be seen.
I will whisper in your ear, "We do not deserve to keep hurting ourselves."
Even when you call yourself impossibly wretched names in the reflections you pass by, I will call you beautiful and adored.
I believe in you.
You are good.
And Jesus is pleased with you.
It's a lie that Jesus is disappointed with you. That you are too broken to belong to him .
Fight back.
I know you are tenacious so fight back.
There comes a time to stand up for your mighty self and declare a winner.
Do it.
I believe in you.

Look ahead with me. We've already changed the world in the ways God has asked us to. You are headed for greatness in Christ, which ultimately means smallness, but it's the best kind of small to be. So stay with us.
Let your heart run with the passion that is in there.

I'm going to tuck you in tonight if you'll let me. I long to take care of you. Nurture you. Walk you out into the light, hand in hand. And you know, out in the light is where it's warm. And that warmth is the kind that seeps down into little-girl brokenness and soaks and mends and heals.
It fades the dark circles from under your eyes and makes those gorgeous red highlights in your hair sparkle.

Once we are in the Light, we are going to stay there.

Keep breathing,

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Inside and Right Side Out

Everything changed when I set myself down on a cold hard floor in the darkness and refused to come out. Convinced of insidious, wormy lies that were crawling up my back and snaking their way into any brokenness they could find.

It's not the darkness that changed me.
It was Jesus, who knelt down beside me, made Himself comfortable, and stayed.

Like a friend? your very best friend.

I can sing about it with fervor, read the words in fancy print and even make marker posters to announce it.
What a Friend We Have in Jesus....

But until He came for me with those snaking lies crawling all over me and sat down in the grotesque mess I was in, they were only just empty words.

But the empty cross handed me one loyal, loving Savior.
And that Savior moved in beside me on the floor and rescued me.

Does Jesus sit on dirty bathroom floors?

Yeah.....He really does.

And because He sat there, I was changed inside and right side out.

I am not alone. Ever.

You know what that kind of truth does to the heart of the little girl inside me?
It brings her up off the floor, reaching with every bit of tallness she can muster to a kind of friend she never believed was FOR her.
She grasps the sides of His shoulders, buries her face in His mane and all at once falls in love and falls asleep.

And the way that truth gripped me from one end to the other, the truth that I am never alone and Jesus stays, it makes even the colors in this world look different. Brighter.
The rustling wind from the woods smells sweeter.

That truth is locked and loaded now.
Because of trauma I've had to learn new ways to replace my survival tricks and tactics.
It took an EXPERIENCE to rattle the lies off and cement the hand print of my heart into the truth that I will not ever sit alone in the dark or dance across the kitchen floor without Someone delighting in me.
Never Alone.
He Stays.
I am Held.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Let Him Stay

Sometimes.... there is a darker story lurking and churning behind what others can see from the outside.
This has been true of me.

I was born into a home brimming with love, security and endless laughter.
I've been a follower of Christ ever since I was even remotely able to understand what a follower of Christ was. He had my heart.
I was gloriously voted in as class clown in eighth grade. A high honor for someone who loves to make people laugh.
I went to college and majored in Christian Education and Missions.
I've been a pastor's wife for twenty-five years in a church that has been nothing but generous and good to me.
I co-founded a non-profit that rescues and empowers children and their families from the grip of extreme poverty and hopelessness in Uganda, Africa and have traveled there to love on those kids and be equally loved by them, six times.
I am surrounded by exceptional family and friends who invite me into joy and crazy kinds of fun, who will stop to listen to my heart and who are never as far away as a text or a phone call, lunch or a movie.
I've been in counseling for at least seven years with some of the best Christian therapists in the field and have experienced deep and lasting healing from childhood trauma.

Hear me say this.
My life is GOOD.
My faith is STRONG.
My family is BEAUTIFUL.
But on June 28th at six o'clock in the morning, I tried to shut down my one beating heart by cutting off my air supply with the ties and material of two hospital gowns.

I'm not looking for pity. And I'm not wallowing in shame or regret.
Instead, I am asking for awareness and understanding.
And at the same time, I'm offering Hope.

I was in great anguish and despair on that early morning in June because I somehow believed I was all alone. Alone in the sense that Jesus had given up on me and walked away. And if I wasn't fit for my beloved relationship with Him, then there was no reason that made any sense to keep me tethered to this life.

How did I get to this place?

A few people have shamed me and turned away in disgust because I fell for and believed a lie. Because I chose to be utterly selfish in trying to end my life and leave everyone I love, hurting and broken.
But I'm joining the ranks of believers who don't carelessly judge someone who attempts or commits suicide. The ones who have been there or understand the reality and torment of mental illness.
One can have a beautiful life and have their medications cease doing their job. Add to that chronic pain with no relief, a serious and prolonged sleep deficit, added financial strain because you cant work your regular job, stressors that are beyond your control and anxiety that pulls you into the need to hide which ultimately keeps you from the very people who you need to reach out to for help. That tormented feeling like you are permanently alone and then circumstances that utterly convince you that your God has also abandoned you for good.

That last one broke me. It broke my heart and it broke my mind.

"I found out that Jesus didn't want to be alone, either. In a garden in Gethsemane, He asked, "Is there any other way?"
Jesus could have chosen to pray by himself and hide this inner struggle. Jesus often prayed alone. Yet on the worst night of his life, Jesus tells us he needed someone to hold on to the hard moment with him.
Jesus needed someone to stay.
And you know what? The hardness of the journey doesn't mean you are on the wrong path." ~Bonnie Gray ~ Whispers of Rest.

Jesus knelt quietly beside me as I pulled those ties tighter and tighter around my desperately pulsating neck, tying knots as I went.
 And He whispered, "I'm here with you. And I'm going to stay. Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I call you by name. You are mine."
The Holy Spirit seemed to engulf me and loosen my grip.
He came in three, swirling colors that I recognized as the Trinity.
And I gave in to Love.

I put words to this incredibly personal and painful experience because we all need people who are real. And to help you understand that this does indeed happen to people of faith.
Don't look down on them. Look up to Jesus. The One who rescued me from my own destructive mind and helped me to uncurl my fingers and let go.

He's just as much for you as He is for me.
Let him stay with you.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I Am in Love

I am a certified list-maker.
Some of my lists are practical, others are fueled by my imagination and others, like this one, are God-led.

It's a list of ten people in my life who have had a remarkable impact on this heart of mine. It was easy to do and I could have added more friends, but I kept it at the nice, even number of ten. From there, I started writing down the details on how these incredible people bring out the best in me.The deepest ways in which they reach me.
 It is the end result that I want to tell you about, so stay with me.

Melissa ~ endlessly patient with me, loves and values my words, thoughts and ideas, sees beyond and through my fears and guarded heart.

Vickie ~ not afraid of my pain. Her very presence speaks safety to me. When she is with me she's fully present and her touch is indescribably healing. I could stay with her for hours.

Karisa ~ is careful with me and hears me in the deepest ways. She is extraordinarily wise and is the rawest real with me than anyone I know. When I am with her, I am certain that I am being heard.

Elaine ~ can wrap me up in her arms and love me with a love that is as close to Jesus as I have ever found. She looks me in the eye, assures me I am ok. And she stays. When all hell breaks loose in my life, she stays and has even gone to great lengths to adopt me. Permanently.

Amy ~ has the ability to make me laugh. Really laugh.With her there is no judgement and no expectations, which leaves me room to be fully and gloriously myself. Which also means she is brave.

Margaret ~ is a powerful mediator and intercessor, She believes in me, fights for me and always tells me the truth wrapped up in unmitigated, impressive love. 

Mom ~ is genuinely interested in what I have to say. She puts me first, lets me dream big and then stands behind me as I go after making those dreams a reality. She is generous.

Beth ~ leaves her door open for me. Accepts me and loves me without a single condition. She takes me in and sets me free all at once. She does not look away.
Mary ~ sees in me what I cannot or will not see for all the best ways. She forgives me and her friendship is permanent.

PT ~ likes to be with me, needs me to show up and delights in the attention I give her. She leads the way.

This list makes me smile. It has become my way of tapping into the very nature of Someone who I have known for years but am just now getting to know. 
I've decided to cease all apologies for being the deep person that I am. I can't deny any longer my great need for depth and connection.
The only relationship where I still find myself hiding is with the threesome; God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And His intention behind this list that I made was about so much more than looking at the people who He has surrounded me with out of pure goodness. Because I was unexpectedly faced with remarkable insight into the very heart of my Creator.....

He is endlessly patient with me, loves and values my words, thoughts and ideas and sees beyond and through my fears and guarded heart.

Jesus is not afraid of my pain. His very presence speaks safety to me. When He is with me He's fully present and His touch is indescribably healing.

He is careful with me and hears me in the deepest ways. He is extraordinarily wise and is the rawest real with me than anyone I know.

Jesus can wrap me up in his arms and love me with a love that is as close to perfect as I have ever found. He looks me in the eye, assures me I am ok. And He stays. When all hell breaks loose in my life, He stays and has even gone to great lengths to adopt me. Permanently.

Jesus has the ability to make me laugh. Really laugh.With Him there is no judgement and no expectations, which leaves me room to fully be myself. Which also means He is brave.

He is a powerful mediator and intercessor, He believes in me, fights for me and always tells me the truth wrapped up in some pretty impressive love. 

He is genuinely interested in what I have to say. He puts me first, lets me dream big and then stands behind me as I go after making those dreams a reality. He is generous.

Jesus leaves His door open for me. Accepts me and loves me without a single condition. He takes me in and sets me free all at once. He does not look away.

He sees in me what I cannot or will not see for all the best ways. He forgives me and His friendship is permanent.

Jesus likes to be with me, needs me to show up and delights in the attention I give Him. 
He leads the way.

I had no clue that I was being set up. That He was about to reveal Himself to me in a way that He knew would set my feet to dancing. 
This is my God. 
This is who has been in relentless pursuit of my heart for so long.
This is who sits with me when I'm so lost and unsure of my next breath. 
And this is who holds me when I think no one should ever want to hold me again.

Let me suggest that you try this. Make a list of ten people in your life who you like to be with. People who like to be with you. And who have made a deep, lasting impact on you and spent themselves for your good. Add the details of exactly how they love you or inspire you or see you.
Then....go back and rewrite your list but use your Creator's name in place of your friends.
This is how He wants you to know Him. 

As for me, I will never see Him the same way again. 
I do believe I am in love. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

"You never have to overcome your      brokenness to claim God's love.
  His love has already overcome your  brokenness and claimed you." 

My shoulders lower three inches upon reading these words penned by Ann Voskamp in "The Broken Way".
My jaw loosens and those eyes of mine shimmer with unreleased tears.

For I am broken.

"No one could tell me how to get the dark, the ache, the fear, the hell out of me. No one could tell me how to find the place where you always felt safe and secure and held."

It was like a thunderclap of my soul from the inside-out.
I am broken.
The pieces are scattered across the floor and I am bent over them, kneeling into the gritty shards of my sin and darkness. The busted up pieces of loss and shame and the gravelly crumbs of innocence lost that look impossible to gather up. Much less put back together.
I needed safe.
I wanted held.

"How can it be? When we're naked and ashamed and alone in our brokenness, Christ envelopes us with His intimate grace. When we're rejected and abandoned and feel beyond wanting, Jesus cups our face. 'Come close, my Beloved.' When we're dirty and tear-stained and despairing, Jesus Christ is attracted to us and proposes undying love. 'All that you're carrying I take....and all that I am is yours.'"

Hope rises.
Jesus is attracted by brokenness.
By my brokenness.
It's why He came.

"You're guilty, but not condemned.
You're busted up, but believed in.
You're broken, but beloved."

I can do this.
I can be broken and beloved in a single space in time.
The two can link arms and walk straight and strong.

"Heart-shattered lives ready for love don't for a moment escape God's notice." Psalms 51:17 The Message