Saturday, March 31, 2012

Gifts: Seen and Unseen

Linking up with The Gypsy Mama for Five Minute Friday (a little late ... ). Join the others to catch up on the fun!

GO:

I don't think I ever quite knew just how much of a sensory person I am:

No matter how old the song willl get, I will still love to blare me some Robbie Seay Band "Song of Hope",

Smell lilacs in the spring,

Taste dark chocolate any time of the year,

Hold babies and read stories to little kids,

Watch boats go by and the waves go in and out on sandy beaches.

But despite all these gifts, I think what is most true is the unseen. I long for that which I have small picture for now but what I can't quite see in full yet.

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12

STOP

Monday, March 26, 2012

Suitcases Redux

I lived out of suitcases once.  I'm sure people do it all the time when they go abroad, but since I only have my experience to compare it to, all I can say is that it is helpful to know that the amount of luggage you take with you is generally all you can bring back. Except for cramming in postcards, train passes, a few pounds of chocolate, and such things that are required to bring home when you spend any length of time in Switzerland. Except for that.

I give anyone credit for living abroad who hasn't done it before, no matter where you go. It's definitely a new and revealing experience in so many ways. It's an up close and personal way to get to know either a) the native people of the country you go to, or b) co-workers (classmates if you are studying) in the country you are going to, and/or c) the people you go with to the country (translation on c: you don't go anywhere without your roommates, and if you do, you might get locked IN a school building. True story).

I remember thinking how it was not going to be so hard for me to keep re-wearing the same clothes over and over again while I was over there, because I just naturally don't care that much for shopping or clothes. BUT, I realized while I was there, that I grew really tired of seeing the same clothes. The same few outfits worn slightly different ways. And the Swiss systems for washing clothes (I still love Swiss culture, don't get me wrong:) ). At least, we learned the hard way in our flat. We sublet an apartment from a lady who was originally from Peru and so we didn't know anyone there, and we didn't pay attention to the fact that there was order and apparently a schedule where you could only do laundry every two weeks or something (silly Americans). So, that limited us even more in regards to what we could wear.

We wore out our clothes. By the time we got home I wanted to throw my clothes out they were so worn in, especially due to all the times stuffing them in backpacks and the lovely hostels and trains and everywhere we stayed and slept. But, I think it showed me, or rather, I learned, and often un-learn and have to reapply for myself, that I don't need that much to get by. Being an outsider creates that for you, it creates the ability to see more of life than you could before.


Fast forward from living in Switzerland back in 2005 to moving to North Carolina in 2006, starting out, again, with mainly a few suitcases to my name. At that moment, I have very little, but it serves it's purpose in that time. As I grew into what I was doing here, I accumulated a lot. More stuff than I need included. But, as I think on my time here, like Switzerland, it's not the stuff that's created the life, but it's the people and the places I've been. That's fullness to me.

I write this because it helps me to learn and re-learn this, even daily, as our world and even my life has so much stuff in it. Sometimes I need to remember the suitcases and what causes me to see more.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Roads

* "Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating" * -Anne Lamott

If I'm honest with you, dear friends, there's a part of me who thinks I'm going to miss my life. Which is odd, because I've had to be aware of life on many levels.
Dealing with chronic pain, different kinds of health issues, and life adjustments of sorts has enabled me to embrace the life-doesn't-sit-still type of mentality. Yet, I often declare I'm in need again of reminders so I don't forget to soak up gratitude, even when life at times does move slightly more slowly.


There are ebbs and flows to life, and I'm beginning to be drawn to those seasons for the purposes they serve. While it would be great if everything were somewhere in the middle all the time, teachable moments would probably not be as frequent if that were the case.

So, I sit thinking about the slower pace tonight, thankful for it right now, aware that my life is happening even as I write this post, as I hear the washing machine go off (at 10:15 pm), and as I think about checking if there are any basketball highlights on at this late hour.

I once read a book called Don't Miss Your Life! (aren't there like 3 out by this name??) Don't Miss Your Life! An Uncommon Guide to Living With Freedom, Laughter, and Grace is by a woman named Charlene Ann Baumbich. It was definitely a fun, different kind of read than a lot of books of this style, and it allowed me to continue to soak in seeing the joy at what a moment to moment life can bring.

Always the dreamer, I had a conversation with my dad today. He is nice to listen to me chat on, being visionary Julie and loving to have so many ideas and big-picture thoughts and plans. I ended the conversation saying that I still didn't know where my long-term dreams will end up. God will use these dreams as He sees fit, I'm sure.

My dad said he knew were I'd be in a few years, next year even. WHAT?? Did God help him see something, and I wasn't in on it?

He told me that he knew I'd still be on the journey. That it might look slightly different, enhanced maybe, but that we'd still be having this conversation again and again.

That made sense in a lot of ways. Not sure if that should have alarmed me that I might continue with endless dreams for years and years and years (or so my dad thinks:) ). But, I think what he was saying was that things will change even if dreams do take shape, but that we will continue to be on these roads, these journeys. 


I love the song "Many Roads" by Andrew Peterson. It's on an album I love, not only because it's called Counting Stars, but it has so many great songs on it. If you haven't checked out his work before, it's worth it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Not Attempting to Be, Already Am

Happy Friday! Linking up with The Gypsy Mama for five minutes of writing bliss:). Join in to write without worrying, over-thinking, or having to get it right. Today's prompt: LOUD

GO:
I like loud. I can remember being a child and doing all sorts of things I considered "loud." Singing all the time, telling lots of stories, putting on skits, performing magic tricks, etc.

As you grow up though, you either begin forming new aspects of who you are or your identity takes on shape in new ways, and perhaps you're not as keen to let those inner-child moments come out. I can remember thinking that it may be best to quiet myself some as I got older, as maybe I didn't need to be "that loud," listening more to the voices around me than my own, or more than that, God's. Of course, there still were some of the more outspoken, more outgoing parts in me, and they surely came out, but I thought it best not to let them come out at certain times, wondering what the feedback from others would be, instead of just being totally myself.


There's a balance for sure. I like times of quiet. I like listening to others. There are very major times for that in my life.

But, God made me to have a love for life and to live it loudly in many different ways, and not to shrink back from that. I think there are certain things He has called me to that I haven't even fully made room enough for yet because I'm still working my way into it, or maybe fully out of a place of reserving myself as more "quiet."

STOP



                                   http://pinterest.com/pin/215680269624584592/

What does loud and quiet look like in your life? Do you let yourself embrace what God created you to be in these areas?

Do you prefer one or the other and so quench something He might be doing with an area of your life that is quiet or loud?


*I love what Dara Maclean said on a K-Love interview yesterday about her song

"Free" (love this song!). She says, in Christ, she's not "attempting to be something..

I already am something." Whether you like the quiet, the loud, or anything in

between, whatever kind of person God calls you to be and however your passions

collide with His plans, what freedom and purpose there is in knowing we already are

someones.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I Like Ideas

Hello, my name is Julie and I like ideas.



I get lost in ideas. I also like to run with them. I like to see where a new idea might take me, kinda like a kite on a really windy day. There's no telling!




I've realized this overtime but I wasn't sure if this was a strength or a weakness, however, I know I am passionate about what I can do with ideas. Passions are good and it's nice to know what gets you moving and allows you to be more of who you were created to be.

Check out Donald Miller's post to see what I mean on this topic.

*He asks questions that I sometimes I myself, and wonder what to do with, like: how do you lose track of time (and I don't mean washing the dishes), what catches your attention, what do you "daydream about?" 

I wonder, Friends, what are you concerned about, like a good concern, not a worry. What do you care about? What do you like, love? How do the things you're involved in and the things you spend your time doing go together in a way that you can align your passions toward things you never thought possible?

Today I'm linking up with Tracey at Winsome Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On Writing I Love, and Exodus

Last night, I stayed up until the late hours of the night, re-reading parts of a favorite book called Cold Tangerines. There continues to be something a little sweet (no pun intended) to me when I read it, because the writer often takes words and thoughts right out from under me, those hard and yet even the soft places inside of me that all function together to make what I know is a special kind of whole. She talks about the extraordinary, and finding it in life, in places you might not think, just in everyday life. I don’t want to duplicate her writing,  but one thing I desire is for people to be able to pick up or start reading my words at any point and feel that they can gather up the whole of what I’m about. That’s how I feel when I read the parts of Cold Tangerines, because I only read them in parts, yet I can still gather up the whole of what she’s talking about and what she's about, the whole of the experience of this extraordinary life. 
 
I read her chapter “Exodus” last night, and it really made me want to go get my hands in some bread and maybe walk around a little, but it was midnight and so I really didn’t feel up to doing either. It also made me want to read Exodus, really read it, but my eyelids won that battle.

I love how with the Bible we can see things that are both very spiritual and then also very human at the same time. We can often find ourselves connected to the stories at a core level; we can see the humanity and the frailty of the people involved and the need for a great, big God being even more involved with those people.

And I can understand when author Shauna Niequist says “there is still this nagging part of me that knows on some deep level that the things we see and touch and hear and taste are spiritual, too. The dichotomy between spiritual and physical doesn’t make sense to me now, because so much of God’s work in my life has been the repairing and stiching together of the two.”

She states that in Exodus, the writers made sure to illustrate that “the olives and the wine and the ideas and the stones and mountain and the soul all matter deeply and signify something important.”

And so today, as I study Exodus and I eat some spinach and beets and walnuts and goat cheese, and I even ate some bread that at one point was fresh, although  it was a little stale today, I think about how so many things in life help me stay connected to God, a God who has redeemed me, who has delivered me in my own life, and been the source of light for my freedom path.  
*Today, I'm linking up with Write it, girl for Tuesdays in March. Head over there to see what others are up to!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bravery in School

Today, like most Fridays, I'm linking up with The Gypsy Mama. Join her for her Five Minute Friday prompts, where ladies from all over write without over thinking it, we write because we want to, not out of a worry if it's write. :)

Today's prompt: BRAVE

Go. I think being in high school is brave.

Last night, I had a dream that I was in high school again and I was on the computer instead of being in a class, which in my dream all I knew was it was called T.E. By the way I don't think that is even a real class. I guess it was the first day of classes or something so I didn't quite understand my schedule yet and I thought the course meant study hall or free period (how nice) so I was able to do work on the computer, but all of a sudden I found out the class meant I was supposed to do tasks for the principal or the faculty (maybe T.E. stands for Task Education??) and I missed the cue on that one, so all of a sudden a guy comes up to me and says, "Julie, you have flunked out."

I really dislike the word flunked. All I remember is it was eight minutes after the bell rang and I wasn't where I was supposed to be. I'm pretty sure I was on twitter or something, I think I had hoped somehow this linked up to something pertaining to school (help??). This dream or nightmare rather was very vivid. Sigh.

Stop.

I did not fail or quit high school in real life. But many kids do. I have worked with teens or adults who have. Even if my dream was a little outlandish, it makes me think of the real and raw steps, and feelings to get to that point somtimes.

I can remember in my own high school, one memory that I still wonder about. For the life of me, there was one point in my high school career that I had trouble remembering my locker combination (probably more than one, if I stop and think about it). I was taking a math class then where you definitely needed your book if you wanted to do really well. But my math book was in my locker! I was stubborn. It was a big school, and it got away from me to go ask for the combination. I think I probably eventually did, but I know there were times I was unprepared. That could have been avoided.


                                                        Photo: http://pinterest.com/pin/132645151494392819/
Sometimes, I think some of that happens with other kids in high school. One suggestion I have from what I've seen is to see if there are places they struggle in asking for help and attempt to encourage them there. Also, remember that they do have strengths and may be putting in efforts other places, but remember to highlight those areas where they are trying to go it completely alone or hesitate to ask for assistance.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

It Won't Be Perfect

The other day, I was walking with a history-kind of friend of mine. She knows a lot of places I've been. She's been there for a lot of hard stuff. She's one of those friends that people sometimes say looks like a sister. I smile when they say that cause I think that goes deeper than our outsides.

I learn a lot about friendship when I let those real and true friendships I've gained through the years become part of who I am. It's like soul-food, to know that people can love me no matter what happens and through the mess of life. I read a post by The Gypsy Mama today about messy stories and how sometimes in the past, I felt like it wasn't worth it to really let people know me deep. I wondered if it was because I didn't want to get hurt, or if I didn't want to hurt them. I think sometimes I still fear one or both or those, but overtime, those fears have disolved a lot because I know now that relationships are not going to be perfect. We are not perfect, so they can't be.

Have you read the book, Relationships, A Mess Worth Making? The title drew me in instantly. It helped me think more and connect with God's love in how He works at restoring all kinds of relationships as well as how to better understand some of the deeper issues involved with relationships conflicts. It's a good read or re-read at different parts of life and various journeys, I would say.

One thing I have come to believe in is that I need my friends. It's worth it to get invested and to be invested in. The friendships we have may look different at different points in our lives, depending on different factors, but despite this, I have needed the friends in my life for the sources of light, the truth-tellers they are, and for their fellowship and just pure joy they carry with them. I feel like all friends bring a little something different to life, but they clearly serve such a remarkable purpose.

Here are a couple questions to consider in light of YOUR special friends:

-How has your life been different because of your friends?

-Do those light bringing, joy infusing friends know how much they have impacted your life?

-Are you mostly being poured into or are you pouring into others as well?

-How did you meet your good friends; do you consider that God was involved somehow?

-What are you doing today to meet others who you might become friends with in the future?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Paul's Secret

We all want peace, right? But where does it come from?
I love Philippians talks about rejoicing. Knowing God is above our circumstances and we can be, too.

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Phil 4:7, NIV)

I love the word guard there, because I often think of guard as a bad thing, or something to be alerted to. I have to guard my heart, make sure I'm not getting to vulnerable with just anyone. Sometimes, we want to see that we're not too guarded, for being on the defense can keep some from opening up to friendships.

But here, it talks about God guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. This means he is in control. It can't come merely out of our changed positive thinking, glass half full attitude and smiling faces. Life is not always cheery. But God knows what is best and He has a plan. This brings a different kind of peace that surpasses understanding and it can only come from Him. It is one that He talks about when He says "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14: 27).

For a long time I read Philippians 4 and I wanted to know, like know-know Paul's secret that he talked about when he said he had learned how to be content in every situation. Whether he was in want or whether he was well fed. He does name it; he says, "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." (v13). I think if you're not careful you can read that a couple of different ways, starting and closely stopping with the "I" in the sentence, which I think I did for some years.

"I can do everything..."  = where I stopped. With my actions, my strength.

So now I focus on the: "through Him who gives me strength."

This changes things. God is the one behind it. He provides. He is the lifesource.

Does how you see this verse have any implications for your life?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday Tunes...and Then Some.

So, today, I came up with a tentative list (in my head) about things that make me really excited to write about. I thought maybe I would spell them out a bit more on here. And it just so happens that I found the awesome link up, Write it, girl!, which was an encouragement to me about just this topic. I thought I'd share a few of these with you:

Since it's Tuesday, and that makes it even better.

In no particular order:

1. Music: I love everything about music. Tuesday and Tunes had gotten lost for awhile in my blog life, but not in my real life. Still, it's important to place on here what's new or what's upcoming, and today, what's been playing in the background during my writing and work endeavors. Here are a few notes that have been playing, some even today, as I write:

"Sufficient"- by Adie
"Let That Be Enough"- Switchfoot & other various songs by Switchfoot
"Hold Me Near" - Enter the Worship Circle
"Your Hands"- JJ Heller
 "Beautiful, Scandalous Night" -Robbie Seay Band
 "What a Savior" -Laura Story

*Let me give a word about JJ Heller..She and Audrey Assad are doing many spring tour dates together for their Deeper Heart Tour. Both of their music has been such a blessing to me.  Check our their dates and music if you get the chance and see if they will be coming anywhere near you!

2. Adolescents/youth:  Youth can be a big age span. I love families, and really any age of kids as they are developing, but pre-teen/adolescents are my favorite ages to work with. I've been around them in a variety of settings: as an educator, mentor, and now as a counselor. They keep me laughing for sure. I'm also reminded when working with this age group is that struggles they go through are not easy. 
My desire is to help teens in the midst of trials or suffering and also walk alongside those growing in developing an identity in Christ.

3. Writing: This may be redundant, to want to write about writing, but it really is one of the things that brings me most joy in life, a gift from God. I think whatever that is for someone, when it causes you to pause and listen more, it's a good thing. Writing helps me to drink life up a little bit more each day, to consider it more sweetly, to relish in the small things. And then, there's always the practical stuff..:) But for all of that, I am grateful.

There is more, but those are a few passions God's placed on my heart; thanks, Write it, girl! for your Tuesday Link Up and the opportunity to consider a few things that are important that I keep writing about as I blog.
  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Empty

I love Fridays. I love writing with The Gypsy Mama and crew for five minutes...and sometimes longer because it makes my heart happy. Thanks for joining me and coming along for the journey!!

All life weaves with God's story. And through it, lies the tales of those He loves.

I once thought empty was a sign of weakness. To me, empty, even subtle release, seemed to lack courage, movement, resilience.

I don't think of empty as a bad thing anymore- like a hole inside you, but rather, a letting out or letting go and giving space so God can make you full.

If you use words enough, they get tired. The full life. Wanting abundance. Emptying yourself out so God can fill you up. What does it all mean? Only until I realized that I fought the act of letting go did I start to want to open up, not in a verbal sense, but a butterfly-transformed sense.

What I mean is, think of your friend the caterpillar. I know it's an age-old analogy, but it's really quite amazing. It's a picture of something that becomes what it was meant to be all along.

And, as the caterpillar becomes the butterfly, there is a shedding off period, an 'emptying' of the old skin, as changes are made.  

The whole structure of the caterpillar reforms at the stage when the caterpillar is called the pupa, or chrysalis,: it builds two wings, a long tongue (to drink and suck nectar), two antennae, and then the full body of a butterfly. Processes which are not fully understood are responsible for this stage of transformation (askville.amazon.com). How cool is that...I really don't stop and think about stuff like that too much. And it's really an image that relates to what I feel God has done with me.

I know I was meant to open up to the world and be free and even to empty out all the places that didn't belong. But if I only did this because I had to, it wouldn't work. I think, like the caterpillar, I had to need to do this, like breathing, or just fully operating like I was meant to.. 

Sometimes, I get the feeling that we operate under a lot of ways that don't work because we don't know there is something more out there. Something that is better, something that does explain how we were meant to live and were created to be.


I was meant to be who God created me to be. Nothing else. Who I am in Him.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

First the Book

I want to take it in slowly, I thought.

Like a warm cup of coffee? Funny, I don't drink coffee.

Blue Like Jazz - The Book- re-dux.
I guess my big thing right now is starting over with a lot of things. I'm not quite sure why.

So, I wanted to revisit my original inclinations about what I thought Blue Like Jazz was about and maybe even what I still thought it was about since the first time I read it (if I really even read it clearly the first time): rebelling against church, jazz music, having strong political viewpoints, lots of stuff that happens to people on a college campus. I think deep down, I liked this book, or I like to tell myself I must have, because I sure love Donald Miller's work.

What wasn't involved in any of my thoughts on this book was any deep reaction to the words about Jesus and what He is doing in the world, in and through people, and the response people can have to His love. 

But, this time around, I read it differently. I wanted to read it slowly, but I read it so fast. Within a day or two. I couldn't put it down. Except for the end. I wanted to save just a little, so some pages would be left over.

You see, these days, I feel that a lot of books are the same. Or maybe they are not the same, and they are even technically pretty good, but they are the kind you can skim, or you don't have to read in the appropriate order. Maybe that isn't very nice, but take it from someone who has acquired a sense of Reading ADD. I can't read a book straight through anymore. I'm not sure exactly why. I'm working on it:). But, with Blue Like Jazz, I didn't want to skip any parts. I wanted to hold onto them for what they were, a portrayal of an honest, admittedly strange at times, and yet hopeful journey. I think I can relate.


**Come back soon for more posts on the upcoming movie!!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ache

When I was younger, I loved poetry. If I'm not mistaken, I actually think I got my start with writing there. I really liked Shel Silverstein. I didn't realize it at the time, but I think he expanded my imagination while his funny writing and pictures helped with some of the places I couldn't understand certain parts of my story growing up.

I liked memorizing some of my favorite poems. I can remember one that particularly stuck out to me.  It was called "Sick." You might know it. It's about a little girl who goes on and on and she happens to have all these problems and conditions until she realizes that it's Saturday, and she is going to leave them all behind and go play. The poem is an exaggeration of what I felt dealing with pain or any other yucks in my day, but it was funny to me and for some reason, it was a poem I liked performing for my own entertainment.
Here is a little fun for your Friday to show you how far we have come with technology.

*Inspired by Five Minute Friday by The Gypsy Mama

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Who We Are

This morning, I woke up with the words discouragement, defeat, and  despair on my heart. Not because they are actively at work in my life now, (although I have been at some raw places in the past, so if you are there I get it), but because God has brought to my attention to write about some areas of (en)couragement and where we have victory in Christ.

I read the devotional Jesus calling this morning and here is what it said for yesterday:

"You are on the right path. Listen more to Me, and less to your doubts. I am leading you along the way I designed just for you. Therefore, it is a lonely way, humanly speaking. But I go before you as well as alongside you, so you are never alone...

I am revealing to you the path of Life day by day, and moment by moment. As I said to My disciple Peter, so I repeat to you: Follow Me."  -Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

John 10:4

I love the illustration of Jesus calling His sheep by name in John 10 and the fact that he leads us and we follow him when He is not a stranger to us. In that, if He was a stranger, we would run away because we would not recognize a stranger's voice. 

There's such a sharp contrast given in John 10 between all the others who claim or claimed to bring life and the life Jesus brings.

 He says "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves or robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate, whoever enters through it will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (v 7-10).

I love Kari Jobe's song "We Are" as it does remind me of who I am (and who I'm not), and perhaps reminds us collectively of who we are, living loved under the fullness of a big God. 

Not the secrets, shames, or pains.

Not trapped in the darkness of fears.

"Children of the day."

Not alone.

Called by name


More than conquerors.