New Blog

Dear readers,

If you’ve visited this space for a considerable amount of time, you’ve probably noticed it’s been unavailable. I apologize for the inconvenience. This space has been near and dear to me for about 8+ years. The amount of support I’ve received is unmatched. It’s time though for me to have my own voice.

My new writing home will be here:

https://julieleighann.blogspot.com/

Thank you everyone for your continued support.

35

Couple of days ago, I turned 35 years old. The reality of this is starting to sink in.  Though thankful I’ve lived to see another year, I can’t help but feel slight disappointment.  Some parts of my life are different now but the bulk of it is the same.

Last week I presented at the conference. The presentation went well, better than expected. It was a day I was reminded throughout of how present God is in every detail. He gave me the words to speak. I wouldn’t have been able to pull any of it off without the Holy Spirit’s guidance directing every movement and moment last Friday. I felt an extraordinary amount of peace and calm sweep over me before, during, and after. It was a great way to close out 34.

I’ll never forget October 5th, 2018.

I know there are things in my life I wish were different and I know the only way for those things to change is if I change them. Like most things in my life over the past year, I’ve had to confront some very difficult things.

Over time though, I’ve learned not to look at them as difficulties but as small victories. I’m becoming a better person because of them and will not live defeated.

The people in my life a year ago aren’t the same people in my life now.  As we grow and change, the people in our life will too. There are a few people though in my life that regardless of circumstance have stuck by me. These are people who accept me without condition and some I don’t have to see or speak to often for us to be okay with each other. We don’t have to question whether we’re okay because we just are.  

No matter where life takes us, our foundation is strong.

I’m beginning to unearth things about myself that I know have always been there, but over time it has been put in clearer focus. Mostly with the fact I’ve been a bit more introverted and quiet the past several months. However, when God started to engineer specific circumstances in my life to send me out, I didn’t question it, in my gut I already knew.

When fear tells you to go in the opposite direction, stop and turn around.

I’m learning to put boundaries on my desires. Since our feelings dictate how we live, our desires and affections should lead us on the right path. I’m learning to reign my desires so I don’t get distracted or sidetracked.  Which is easy to do because once desire is activated, we want satisfaction, not advice on how to control it.

Making sure all areas of my life are open to wisdom is my ultimate goal this year.

34 was an incredible year, most of it was life changing. I’m thankful for all the hard moments of the past year I experienced with family and friends… past and present. I learned who my real friends were and why boundaries are important.  

I’m learning so much about myself lately. Things I like, things I don’t, things I used to like and now don’t. I don’t talk about my faith much any more on social media, I prefer one on one conversations with people. I’ve seen God take some very private conversations with people and use them in incredible ways.

Those are the moments my heart beats for, social media won’t do it.

I’m hopeful 35 will be even better. I don’t plan to do more, but I am planning to change things in my life so I can start thinking towards the future. I’m in good hands. I know God is always with me through the good, the bad, and ugly. I feel Him with me everywhere. It’s a knowing. I don’t fear the future, I anticipate it.  I don’t fret or dwell.

Thank you to everyone who wished me a Happy Birthday or who made 34 my best year. And thank you to everyone who still visits this space. It’s because of you I still write.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

Better Now

If I could sum up the past few months for me, it would be these words:

Better Now

I’m about a week away from presenting at the conference and at this point I’m not so much as nervous as wanting to get it over with. All this preparation has led to this moment and I’m thankful. 

These past few months have moved at the speed of light. So much has happened in my life over the past year, it’s hard to fathom it all without being in amusement and awe. I’m amused because there have been little moments here and there that have collected themselves over the past few months. You don’t really know how those moments will materialize, let alone understand them until you’re in the thick of them. You learn to either reject or respond.I’m learning not everything that happens to us deserves a reaction, but there are some things that deserve a response. The response doesn’t always have to be verbal, but it does often for me, deserve processing. I can’t explain things that have been said or done to me out of the blue. God and I have had many conversations about these things in private. Not that I ever expect an immediate response from Him, but He does respond. Boy, does He respond.

Things have to happen to gauge where we are with certain people from our past and how those things make us feel in the present. Honestly, when those things happen I laugh. Not because it’s funny, but because I’m the kind of woman now who laughs instead of gets sad.

I’m better now.

Being better means being honest with ourselves. It’s taking an honest look inside our minds and hearts and ripping apart any negative dialogue about who we are and what we’ve been through in the hands of others. It’s the refusal to blame and shame ourselves for it. It’s stopping the “Should haves” and “Could haves” and simply learning to rest in truth instead of resist it.

I’m better now.

Many comments have been made lately about my appearance.

“You’ve lost a lot of weight. I’ve been noticing you. You keep going and come October you’ll have guys falling all over you. You’re beautiful. You look great.”

“You’re a hot Asian. Who wouldn’t want you?”

“Julie, you’re a smart, beautiful woman. Be proud of all you.”

I had lunch with a friend not long ago and I was telling them how I didn’t really like looking at myself in the mirror naked. Their immediate response was “Why?!” “Julie, you’re beautiful! Be proud of every inch and curve.” While all these comments are flattering and encouraging, I don’t really need them anymore to be okay with myself. I’m learning to be okay with myself without affirmation from others. This has taken a lot of time. I think when you’ve spent a majority of your life overweight which I still am, you learn to be okay in your own skin … naked AND clothed.

I’m better now.

Being better is learning the power of “No.” I learned this earlier in the year. Boundaries are a difficult thing to bear for others who live life without fences. I’m learning the closer I am with people, the greater the expectation is of me to bend. The more you bend, the more you’ll eventually break. True friends respect our “No” and don’t take it personal. I got tired of agreeing to do things I didn’t really want to do out of obligation. This eventually leads to manipulation and resentment. We should only say “Yes” to things that produce good fruit in us. If you don’t know what good fruit is, ask yourself how you feel when people request things from you. Are you agreeing because of pride, pressure, or priority?

In the end, the kind of person we decide to be and what we do will affect every area of our life. Always check your heart because everything we do flows from it.

Being better is being bold as a lion in the face of fear and criticism. I’ve had to do things this year that the very idea in the beginning  scared the hell out of me but once it was over, I realized I didn’t have anything to be afraid of.

True courage is doing things afraid regardless of what other people think.

I used to carry around resentment and the silent treatment was my preferred abuse of choice. I didn’t know how to navigate certain aspects of my life so I avoided them. But lately something inside me shifted. I’ve stopped making excuses for hurtful behavior. Maybe it’s all the time I’ve spent in the Word to know God doesn’t want us at conflict with each other. We allow emotions to drive our decisions. This isn’t love and it grieves Him.

Being better is being selfless when your inner dialogue tries to convince you people who hurt you don’t deserve it. It’s removing the negative filter.

What this has meant for me is stopping to see people for who they really are instead of as the enemy. It’s learning to forgive and love because they both go hand in hand. It’s pushing someone who has been hurt by you, not knowing how or why, in a wheelchair in 99 degree weather because it’s right and the kind thing to do. It’s giving a gift when they’ve been silent towards you. It means apologizing even if you didn’t do anything wrong.

It’s more than mere words, it’s love in action.

Life has been weird lately. It’s been a culmination of good and bad, mostly good. Depends which lens you choose to view it. I choose to view it sunny side up. I’m learning not to worry  what everyone is doing and focusing instead of on my own quality of life. I will always be proud of how far I’ve come with my body and with a past that’s both broken and bruised.

But I’m not broken anymore, I’m better.

This is not to say I have all this figured out, I don’t.  I’m still learning. It gets easier with practice, patience, and time. I’ve started writing down three things everyday that have brought me joy. When I focus on those things, all the not so good things fade in the background.

Being better is a choice.

How will you choose?

In Jesus and in love,

Julie

 

Lessons on Living a Quiet Life

I’ve been a bit quiet for several months now. I haven’t wanted to say much publicly. Privately though .. well, that’s a different story. Back in April, I told myself I’d commit to at least posting once a week but then “life happened” and I’ve been spending more time reading, reflecting, and recharging.

The verse of 2018 for me has been the one about living a quiet life. And then my Pastor posted the verse again a few days ago and it got me thinking how much of my life in 2018 has been quiet. Behind the scenes, this year has been a year of emotional and physical growth for me.

For several years now, this space has been a sounding board for my pain. Whether it was dealing with a hurtful breakup, rejection, or insecurity, this has been my outlet to bleed. It was a good one until it wasn’t. Some things are better dealt with in private between me, God, and a few trusted friends. Instead of getting on here and bleeding out before you, I’ve been spending more time in deep prayer, deepening the relationships in my life, and in deep reflection of what the last year has taught me.

Ultimately, what this time away has taught me is we all process our hurt in different ways and for a long time this space allowed me to air it all out without filter. Now though, I’m a lot more careful with stuff I share. I decide what and how I tell you. In almost every past post, I played the role of victim well. Times when I felt  betrayed, rejected, insecure, and afraid, you heard about it.

But, I’m not a victim anymore.

Those close to me will tell you I’ve grown. I have come a long way. Things have changed, faces have changed and things I once considered setbacks were only stepping stones to God’s perfect plan. I’m learning He can’t move us forward if we aren’t willing to get uncomfortable and let ourselves grow.

If someone would have told me a year ago, I’d be presenting at a conference in October, I would have looked at them funny. But after praying consistently for a year and a half for God to get me out of my comfort zone and waiting for His opportunity, it happened. I saw the preparation early on but dismissed it. When I was asked to present in April then again in July, I knew this was God’s answered prayer unfolding before me. When I presented in July, those words weren’t my words. I’ve been told I’m a natural speaker.  I never thought I had a gift for speaking, I kind of preferred hanging out in the background, behind the scenes. But God apparently has other plans for me and I’m both excited and nervous for what this will lead to in the future. And if it doesn’t lead anywhere, I’m fine with that too. 

Life for me isn’t about the things I do or accomplish but more of my ability to show up when God says it’s time to act.

For the first time in my life, I feel beautiful, healthy, and strong. I decided a few months ago it was time for me to take care of myself- all of me, not just parts of me. I’m not sure how much weight I’ve lost, but being able to wear a pair of jeans I couldn’t slide on past my thighs for the past few years is a testament hard work does pay off. I used to think the reason I’m still single is because no man wants a woman who is fat or out of shape. I felt this way for a really long time.  This isn’t true for me anymore. With God’s truth of His unconditional love, acceptance, and protection carrying me, I don’t need anyone in my life to make me feel I’m enough.

I’m enough as I already am. I was enough before losing weight. I’ve always been enough.

Relationships for me are treated very differently now. Used to, I’d want relationships for the attention. For me now, relationships are less about attention but about acceptance.I used to think I was a hard person to love and immalleable. Time though has taught me differently. Love for me isn’t about romance and butterflies, it’s knowing this person genuinely likes and accepts me. You can love people but not like them.

Relationships as a whole for me don’t get mentioned publicly. There’s no mention of it on Facebook, on Twitter, or Instagram. I do share personal things, but in moderation. This is why most of my emotional life is now kept private. To be frank, it’s no one’s business. I don’t have an appetite for attention or sympathy and while it’s good for me to express my hurts, I know God is the only perfect person who can carry and ultimately heal them. I share what I feel should be shared, but I use discernment with everything else. Everything we do in life is motivated by something and I want my motives to be pure and honest.

I will share this though: I’m still single. I have reasons, but those reasons will remain private.

The Bible and Save the Cowboy have both been a huge source of wisdom in my life. I wouldn’t have been able to bounce back from a few things this year without their truth guiding my thought life and ultimately, helping me guard my heart.

I have gained more this year than I’ve lost, but the losses I’ve experienced have been big. There is always a break in the familiar when God needs to do something big in our life. God has a weird sense of humor and things happening this year that used to set me back for days, months, and even years only reminded me with the help of a close friend, those moments are reference points and are no longer part of His larger story for me. 

I’m learning other people’s decisions have nothing to do with me. This truth has carried me through some pretty difficult situations and realizations this year. I no longer lament over those situations, I thank God for them.

Living a quiet life isn’t for shiny folks … people who need the spotlight to thrive. Those who don’t take the necessary time to be sharpened. Most of my growth this year has happened behind closed doors with close friends and with my head in my Bible and voice in prayer.

I’m sharper than I used to be.

I do experience moments of set back. I do fail and fall. I do sometimes think in the flesh. I’m not perfect by any stretch, but I’m more gentle and patient with myself. Not only with myself but with people who have hurt me this year and in my past.

Mistakes will change you for the better if you let them.

In closing, I apologize for being away so long. My goal with this space moving forward is to write more but what I write about will vary.

Thank you to my loyal readers and for those who have stood by my side and believed in me. Your love and support mean the absolute world to me.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

Weekly Rewind: Less is More, Egg Shell Relationships, & Pretty Views

This week was a bit better than last. I got rid of a lot of crap and walked into a new work week with a different mindset. It’s still a work in progress though. There’s a lot going on but I’m working through it, one day at a time. With that aside, this week has been chalk full of valuable lessons and sometimes those lessons come through in unlikely places.

Less is more

Earlier this week I went through 20+ years of stuff and either tossed it or threw it in a bag to donate. You don’t realize how much stuff you’ve accumulated over the years until it’s in 6+ bags on your bedroom floor. This process of going through stuff and deciding what needed to be kept, donated, or thrown out was both cathartic and nostalgic. There’s something comforting about starting over, but starting over with less stuff. Most of the stuff I’ve collected over the years were things I never needed to begin with.

All the stuff I’ve collected over the years was taking up unnecessary space. Much like the baggage we carry that takes up unnecessary space in our hearts. If we’re not careful, it will pile up. There are still some things I need to sort through and decide whether to toss it, donate it, or keep it. I’m going to use better judgement with future purchases and other aspects of my life moving forward.

Egg shell relationships

I’ve noticed the stronger my boundaries, the greater the conflict. I’m not really sure where the discord happened, but it’s there and it’s palpable. My pastor recently posted a series of posts that said exactly what I’ve been thinking for the past month. I love him because he shoots the truth to you straight. He doesn’t beat around the bush or walk on egg shells. I’m this way and I’m learning this part of myself isn’t accepted, let alone respected.

I think it’s important to figure out the health of our relationships daily. Where are these people at in their life? It’s important to ask the hard stuff but also not put up with their crap. If the relationships in our life can’t handle the hard stuff, hard truths, hard conversations, then give them a season of space to figure stuff out and get those areas right again. I’m learning to just give people space to be with themselves.

Egg shell relationships are okay in the beginning but as we grow and change, we need thicker skin. Thicker skin to handle the hard parts about allowing someone else into our space. Being transparent and vulnerable about our weaknesses as we continue to keep each other in our life.  We need to know unnecessary drama or conflict won’t divide us.

It takes thick skin to have a soft heart.

Do you have someone in your life you always have to walk on egg shells with? 

Song of the Week: “Next to Me” by Imagine Dragons

I’ve been a fan of Imagine Dragons for a couple of years. They’re hit or miss with me. But I was listening to their newest album recently and came across this song and it’s stuck with me. Mostly because it says exactly what I’ve been feeling for over a year now. I think we all want that someone who can love us despite the messiest parts of ourselves. Someone who can see past all the crap and see the pretty view despite a shattered past. They really see us and still want and love us. 

For those in my life who still love me despite the ugly parts of me, thank you for taking a chance on me.

 

Oh, I always let you down
You’re shattered on the ground
But still I find you there
Next to me
And oh, stupid things I do
I’m far from good, it’s true
But still I find you
Next to me (next to me)
There’s something about the way that you always see the pretty view
Overlook the blooded mess, always lookin’ effortless
And still you, still you want me
I got no innocence, faith ain’t no privilege
I am a deck of cards, vice or a game of hearts
And still you, still you want me
Until next week.
In Jesus and with love,
Julie

Weekly Rewind: AMERICA, A Quiet Place, and Wounds As Deep As the Sea

I haven’t written anything of substance in a while. It’s been a very busy month. I gave a presentation two weeks ago in front of people, something I haven’t done since college. There was a lot of preparation leading up to that moment and I found out last week, I’ll be doing it again sometime this summer. I’ve been asking God for the past year to get me out of my comfort zone, He’s definitely answered my prayer in this area. Looking forward to more opportunities to grow and learn.

All that aside, I decided to do something a little different with this space of mine and recap my week. I’m trying to get back into the habit of blogging again. I write everyday, but I haven’t really posted in a while. I’ve been trying to stay off screens and get out more. Every Sunday for the past two months, I’ve taken a social media Sabbath. I don’t login to social media at all. It’s been a refreshing break and it’s been a good way to reset before starting a new work week.

Not going to lie, this week has been terrible. It seems every year around this time, things start falling apart and blowing itself out of proportion. Mostly in my interpersonal relationships. One relationship has remained constant though and for that I’m thankful. Without this person’s friendship, I’d probably be buried somewhere. Whatever I’m going through, whatever I’m feeling or however I’m being, they’re always there.  Thank you, you know who you are.

There were a few highlights though over the past week, here’s a recap:

Song of the Week: Great Wide Open by Thirty Seconds to Mars

I’ve followed Thirty Seconds to Mars for about 16 years. Hard to believe they’ve been around this long, but I’ve been a long time fan.  They recently released their newest album, AMERICA. it’s not like their others. Most of the songs on the album are good, but Great Wide Open hits close to home for me.

Is this life?
That we’re living
Say the prayers of a thousand tongues
Is this love?
Some new beginning
Or a night in our wildest dreams
Into the great wide open
Across a land of blood and dreams
I will save your heart from breaking
Won’t you stop, please
Set me free
I swear to god
I’m the devil
Raise your hands to the sky and praise
I’m a thief
You’re a liar
But we live in our wildest dreams
Movie of the Week: A Quiet Place
I’m a big horror movie fan and A Quiet Place was a very different movie for the horror movie genre. Mostly because of how little dialogue happens in it which is what makes it truly brilliant. I went into it with mixed feelings, but it didn’t disappoint. I cried. It currently has a 95% score on Rotten Tomatoes and I would agree its score is accurate.
 Your father will protect you. Your father will always protect you.
 Scripture of the Week: Lamentations 2
 
Lamentations 2 has been a pretty significant scripture for me over the past year. Specifically, verse 13. Verse 13 reads, “Your wound is as deep as the sea. Who can heal you?” I saw this scripture a lot in October-November 2017. For some reason God kept circling me back to this scripture repeatedly. It was actually annoying because I didn’t understand why. I kept asking God to reveal it, I reached out to biblical minded friends for their input, but nothing. Eventually God left it alone. But then in December 2017, I had a dream about this scripture before God lead me there on my own a few days later. In the dream someone from my past actually said, “Your wounds are deep Julie, let God heal you.” Needless to say, it freaked me the hell out. I haven’t seen it since then, but this week, I was lead to this scripture twice.
 
Why is this scripture significant? 
From experience, I can tell you any wounds from our past that aren’t confronted or dealt with can spread like wildfire and those closest to us will get burned.
I’m in the fire now because someone in my life hasn’t dealt with their past pain. For what it’s worth, I’ve been there and know what it feels like to have those closest to you, people you love hurt and disappoint you. However, I choose everyday not to remain stuck in past hurts. Nothing from our past can hurt our present unless we allow it.
Pay attention to what’s going on inside you and resolve those wounds from your past because things not confronted will project themselves onto other people.
Some of the greatest lessons of my life came from my deepest wounds and hurts. 
 He’s healing mine, let Him heal yours.
Until next week.
In Jesus and with love,
Julie

Party of One by Joy Beth Smith [Book Review]

Over the past year, I’ve avoided books on singleness, but Party of One by Joy Beth Smith was a breath of fresh air. Party of One touched on topics that aren’t always discussed within the Church or Christian circles. Unfulfilled desires, sexuality, masturbation, and porn are just a few of the topics Joy Beth discusses in her book. This book wasn’t polluted with Christian cliches’ and nonsense. One thing I enjoyed most about this book is how honest and humorous Joy is about this topic.

Singleness is serious but can be fun too.  

Everyone’s experience with being single is different and unique. I think what separates this book from the rest is it’s a fresh voice. A voice that’s willing to address the difficult and messy parts about singleness. I used to think singleness was meant to prepare us for marriage, but I’m realizing this isn’t always true.

Joy reminds us that our life and significance doesn’t begin on our wedding day.

Marriage is a big deal but so is singleness. We shouldn’t spend our single life preparing for marriage, we should be letting God prepare our hearts to be more Christlike.

I resonated a lot with this book mainly because of my experience with singleness. I recommend this book to any single person who is currently trying to navigate this area of their life with a voice out there reminding us, “Hey, I understand. You’re not alone.”

 I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

The Lesson of Making Friends Slowly

I was watching an episode of The Rifleman. Yeah, I’m that chick who watches old black and white westerns. Don’t judge me.  Anyways, there was an episode where McCain tells his son Mark,

“You act in haste son, you repent in leisure. It’s best to make friends slowly.”

I’ve learned recently the importance of allowing the friendships in my life to happen slowly. This is actually true for all of my relationships, romantic too.  If we do things in a hurry or act impulsively without thinking of the consequences, we’ll regret it.

One of the fruits of the Spirit is patience. God wants this fruit cultivated in us, not only in our character but in our relationships. 

In my own life, I’ve been so appreciative of the people who have been patient with me. The ones who have stuck by me when I wasn’t so loving. They’ve taken the time to get to know me and have helped me out of several pits I’ve found myself in this past year. Whether it was a phone call, a chocolate cake delivered to my front door, a card telling me how awesome I am, a card just letting me know they were thinking of me or something simple like a hug, I’m reminded occasionally I am so loved. There’s something special about these friendships that sets them apart.

These friendships have taken months and years of intentional face to face time and weren’t deepened hastily.

Recently, I’ve had to have hard conversations with the people in my life. The uncomfortable but needed kind.  Had these conversations happened without us deepening our relationship with each other over several years, the conversation would have gone differently. There were tears. Not from hurt, but from knowing deep down it was truth spoken in love. I also have friends in my life who we haven’t quite gotten to this point in our friendship, so it’s going to take more time. I tried but quickly learned it wasn’t the right time. Our hearts have to be prepared first.

God is never in a hurry with anything. Amazing how often we hurry through life making decisions or saying things without going to Him first. Allowing Him to work in our hearts and deepen the roots of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in us. 

Things done in haste often lead to unnecessary hurt. Which isn’t really worth it in the end. I have a hard time trusting people who do things without thinking of the consequences first. I know I was this person for most of my life until God did some hard work (He still is) in my heart. It’s none of my business though what people do with their life, dealing with myself is hard enough. But there are people in my life who I love and care about deeply, the ones who I’m willing to die for and you know what?  They deserve my patience. Patience with my words, my actions, my everything.

The important things in our life take time. Let those things happen slowly without haste. Your life will be better for it, mine definitely is.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

 

 

Laying Your Life Down for Your Friends

About a month ago, our office had to evacuate because the motor in the staff elevator burned and almost caught on fire. Thankfully, no one was hurt and everyone evacuated safely until the smoke cleared. When the fire alarm went off, the only thing I thought about was to grab my friend and get out of the building. I left all my stuff (cell phone, purse, etc) behind.

This got me thinking about the value in friendship and how important the people are to me in my life. So important, I was willing to risk my own life to save theirs.

I’m not saying all this for a pat on the back. I don’t need that kind of validation. I’m not even saying this to brag. In that moment, it really put in perspective for me how important people are to me more than possessions.

When we are willing to give up all we have for others, there is no greater love than this. 

We can spend a great deal of time chasing things that don’t really matter in the long-run or slowing down enough to focus on things that do. What this really means is putting God and others first before ourselves. Now, don’t get this twisted and think self-care at times isn’t important. It so is. Taking care of ourselves is important, but always looking out for number one will eventually leave us lonely.

Real love means doing hard things but as I’m growing in the knowledge and understanding of God’s love for me, loving other people gets easier.

Laying our life down for each other is the most selfless thing we can ever do.

Will you lay your life down too?

Why I Deleted My Social Media Apps

Earlier this week I deleted Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram apps from my phone. Not going to lie, I’m actually at peace without them. Social media has been a thorn in my side for a while and recently it’s been bothering me being connected all the time. I still login throughout the day, but in the evening, I put my phone away. Out of sight, out of mind.

Why now?

There are a few reasons, mostly personal. The short version, I need a healthier distraction. I think social media is okay in moderation but should never be used as our only source for connection. I’m grateful for the people I’m connected to. Our friendships were birthed through social media and I know we’ll remain long-term friends.

Connection isn’t the problem though, it’s compulsion.

One thing I’m learning is to be better with my time and use my time in ways that matter. Resisting the urge to login to Facebook, scroll through Twitter and Instagram and actually pay attention to the things that are going on inside me is becoming more important.  Healthy habits is a goal of mine this year. This started with making minor adjustments in my daily life and they’ve slowly become habits. Particularly for me it’s in a few key areas, but social media was definitely at the top.

One of the healthiest things we can do is pay attention to how our minds respond to things we see on social media.

To be completely honest, I want to live a more quiet life. I said this in my last post and it’s still true two months later. Not every area of our life needs an audience. There are many things going on in my life right now that have no business or place on social media. We have a right to privacy, and sometimes social media violates this.

2018 is becoming a year of process for me. Things being stripped from me one at a time. It’s also a year of reflection and deep repentance. There have been key moments this year already that have reshaped my thinking. I’m laughing and in awe right now at how God uses the people He does to do this. The amount of closed door conversations I’ve had with people this year helping them deal with their personal pain is in turn helping me deal with mine.

It’s a process.

The people in our life deserve our full time and attention. I learned this over a year ago, but definitely, more so this year. Everyone I sit down to eat with or talk to, I never check my phone and they don’t either. We value the connection and presence of each other, not our screens. What would the relationships in your life look like if you learned to do the same? They would probably be healthier, stronger, and would thrive.

I often wonder about people who are always connected at all hours of the day. What in their life do they need a distraction from? Social media is a distraction and can be an unhealthy one. This isn’t about other people though, it’s about me.

Now that social media is off my phone, I feel better without it. The temptation to check my e-mail or social media in the middle of the night or early in the morning is gone. When we focus on things that really matter, things that used to matter don’t.

My challenge for you this year is to put your phone down. Pay attention to what’s going on inside you and around you. Those things deserve our time and attention, not social media and their audiences.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

2017: A Year in Review

To say 2017 was a year for the books would be an understatement. I’ve been wanting to write this post for the past few months, but it seemed fitting to close out the year and write it now instead. It’s been a very busy few months and it feels good to sit down and finally catch my breath.

Three words have defined and redefined 2017 for me: Re-routed, Renewed, and Reconciled.

Re-routed:

A few posts back I wrote about how being in a car accident made me reevaluate some things in my life. Mostly, that it was time to slow down and rest. About two months later, I was in another car accident two weeks after my birthday (Neither accident were my fault by the way, in case you were wondering). Needless to say, God got my attention and things changed immediately afterward. I’m not sure why those two accidents happened, but something told me it was time to take a different route. I don’t drive the same way to work any more and for the past two months I’ve been getting up earlier to spend more dedicated time with God, like 4 AM early and getting to work earlier, like 15-20 minutes earlier to avoid most traffic. Something I should have been doing before my accidents, but I think this is the kind of thing God does in our life to get our focus and affections back where they belong.  Now, the road I travel every morning is narrow. Doesn’t scripture say the narrow ways leads to life? Then again those accidents could have happened completely out of random without God’s involvement, but I know better. Everything that happens in our life has already passed through His hands with His permission. When we go down a path in life that’s familiar and safe, God will sometimes intervene to show us a different way. He reroutes us. As I sit here two months later, I can see the reason behind being rerouted. I’ve had a change in heart about things I had been wrestling with and I pay more attention. Because life is so uncertain and every day could be our last, let God do what He needs to with you. Let Him reroute you, He may be protecting you from the unseen.

Renewed:

Some of the greatest lessons I learned this year came from defining moments and a renewed mind. Earlier in the year, our family experienced a loss that set the bar for how the rest of the year would play itself out. My family took a few hits this year, but we’re stronger and better towards each other because of it. And I’m grateful. Which brings me to my point. Having a renewed mindset about unforseen circumstances is the only way to deal with them in a Christ-like manner. There’s a difference between being a Christian and being Christ-like. One is a label, the other is a way of life.  The only way we can be Christ-like moment to moment is with a renewed mind. Only when the Holy Spirit renews and changes our mind are we truly transformed. A lot of things happened this year that tested my faith and were an important part to my journey of healing. In late July, I got really depressed and experienced an anxiety attack. Thankfully, it didn’t last long and I’ve been okay since. There are days when I get bummed out, but not depressed.This is victory for me. There is victory on the other side of a renewed mind and life.  We can’t live life based on how we feel, this is very dangerous. Our thoughts our powerful and when they’re not controlled they can destroy us.  Pay attention to what you think about. The best way to live with a renewed mind is to ask, “What is truth?” and “What does God’s Word say about this?When our minds are really renewed it will be proved by our outward actions which are directed by the wisdom of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. Last year, I made a decision that changed my life forever. Though a large part of that decision was based on how I felt, it was also confirmed in scripture three times. I was relieved, set free. The choices we make have consequences, but when those decisions are guided by the Holy Spirit, they don’t need an explanation and we don’t need to feel guilty.  We may know what God’s will is, but we can’t prove it in our life apart from the transforming work of the Holy Spirit and with a renewed mind. Test everything to scripture and surround yourself with wise counselors who have the gift of discernment. When our minds are exposed to godly advice and wisdom, God will begin to break areas of pride in us; the areas in us that won’t accept wisdom because it’s not what we want to hear. A truly renewed person stays humble.

Reconciled:

2017 was definitely the year of relationships and reconciliation. Earlier in the year, a friend and I had a brief falling out. Neither one of us knew how to navigate our offenses towards each other so we avoided each other. We both realized the relationship was worth saving and we reconciled. We’re closer than we’ve ever been before. This relationship is cultivated with Jesus as the foundation. If you want proof of a healthy relationship, pay attention to how the other person reacts when they’re offended or are being challenged. Most people don’t like to be challenged or sharpened. However, both are equally important to our spiritual growth. If you’re in friendships or relationships with people who never challenge you, maybe it’s time to rethink the relationship. Being with people who agree with or go along with everything you do and never question you are probably in a relationship with you for the wrong reason. God chooses our friends for us, it’s our responsibility though to cultivate and deepen those friendships through a deep relationship with Jesus first. Relationships are very important to me and I’m thankful for the times they have sharpened and challenged me to be a better follower of Jesus. This is what our relationships with other people ultimately teach us. Real relationships help us to stand firm in our convictions and speak truth in love. There is great strength in real relationships. Towards the end of this month, I reconciled with someone from my past who I haven’t talked to in 12 years. We were friends throughout my childhood to high school and we recently reconnected. I’m not sure the direction this relationship will go, but we’re both doing our part to stay in touch. If there are relationships in your life that can be restored, restore them. Rebuild burned bridges from your past.  Leave a legacy that matters, not one filled with regret. 

Despite some mostly bad moments, there were so many more good moments of 2017. I saw places I’ve never been to. That’s something I’m planning to carry with me into the new year. I made a list of the places I wanted to see and went there. I’m thankful to have shared those experiences with one of my closest friends and look forward to going on more adventures together in 2018.

To be honest, I’m thankful to be alive. Coming out of two car accidents without a scratch is a miracle.Those two accidents redefined my year. Though they happened towards the end of 2017, they’ve drastically changed my life for the better. Odd number years haven’t been favorites of mine, so I’m looking forward to 2018.

I’ve been a little adamant about writing the past several months, not because I don’t have a desire to write, it’s because I have more of a desire to live a quiet life.  Social media is becoming a huge distraction for me and has for the past several months. If we’re not careful, it can for most of us. I don’t think our entire life needs to be aired out for the world. Most people we’re connected to are spectators anyway. People who genuinely are a part of our life don’t need to keep up with it on Facebook. If Facebook is the foundation of any of our relationships, we’re doing relationships wrong.

 My only goal for 2018 is to be so close to God that I’m able to discern the difference between a divine encounter and a distraction. Both are similar, but only one is from God.

I’m not really sure what God is going to do tomorrow, next year, or even in the next few minutes, only He knows. But what I do know is I want to live a life that’s pleasing to Him. I know I can’t do any of that apart from Him. There still some work He has to do in me, stuff I still need to take to Him in prayer. Stuff from my past I still struggle with despite a better mindset and holding every thought captive. The difference between who I was last year to this year is I don’t carry unnecessary baggage anymore. Thankfully, I have people in my life who have helped me unpack most of it.

I don’t know what 2017 has looked like for you and don’t know what you’re going through now, but there’s hope.  There’s hope on the other side of a heart break. With the encouragement, conviction, and wisdom of scripture and healthy relationships, I’ve seen the hand of God in everything that’s happened this year.

It’s my hope you will too.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

What is the Spider in Your Life?

Kill the Spider by Carlos Whittaker was a good book to end 2017 with. Though the book wasn’t long, it took me a while to chew through it.  To identify the spider in our life, we first have to acknowledge the cobwebs. Carlos explains the cobwebs in our life can be any of the following things: Gossip, Alcohol, Body Image, Approval Addiction, etc. Just to name a few. Each of these cobwebs have a spider, in other words, all our issues have roots.

Throughout the book, I could identify a few spiders in my own life, but thankfully, I’ve been able to walk away from them with a healthier mindset.  Not all struggles are bad, it’s when they become strongholds and we’re enslaved to them is the real issue and point to Kill the Spider. Recognizing them and changing our life moving forward is key.

Carlos describes his journey at OnSite to knock out deep-rooted habits that were hiting his relationships with others (primarily his wife and children) and with God. This journey included deep vulnerability and confession with complete strangers.

Questions to consider:

Who is a part of your journey you may be overlooking who can help you work through the rough spots?

What is holding you back from taking the risk to open up to other people?

What secrets are you keeping?

What spiders are masquerading as good things in your life? They’re there, trust me.

These are just some things Carlos helps you discover page to page. True healing though comes from confession and repentance. 

I highly recommend this book if there are habits or mindsets in your life that are holding you back from experiencing truth.

Are you willing to show up broken and ready?

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.