Remain in the vineyard until it’s yours

Do you ever just want to be someone you’re not? I’m not talking about the general discontent that is experienced in our lives (or am I the only one that has days where I’m just not very likeable?), but rather the angst to have more than what you’ve got in the realm of talent and abilities. I look at those artists that can create amazing and fun art and I just long to be able to do the same. They make it seem so effortless! But, we all know that it requires lots of time and dedication and effort to make it happen. There are the singers, also, and I marvel at the lung capacity many of them have, the endurance, in addition to their natural ability to bring words to life in song. But, once again, dedication and time spent is required. Practice and seeking out to make things better, to improve on what they can do.

I can relate in the respect of creation in my writing. While I assume that anyone can put pen to paper and create a written piece with little effort, it isn’t necessarily true. I recalled, just now, one of the times my mom and I were queued up in the D23 Expo line and a couple sitting behind us were talking with us while I watched the man draw an amazing Boba Fett. He told me that he was self-taught. Essentially, he found a character and drew the same character over and over again until he perfected it. Work and effort and time. Yeah, that’s where my failing definitely is.

I want to do it right the first time and this leads to the “good enough” mentality of my mind. I think the only thing that I’ve constantly worked at and improved is my crochet hat, and that was only because I make them and sell them or give them away, so the practice is essentially working on the products and getting better through necessity, rather than through desire to improve upon myself and my work.

What does this mean? Well, considering the fact that God has told me many times of late that I need to stop seeking things that I am not called to do and rather do what He’s called me to (teaching, leading, preaching, speaking, writing, and photography). This means that I need to let go of the dreams I have of being a worship leader. I still desire it, truth be told, but I find that the lack of availability makes it easier to move on…or maybe I should say it SHOULD make it easier to move on.

In our discontent, we can find ourselves filled with angst and jealousy and bitterness. I am thinking about how people become offended and leave based on a myriad of reasons. What causes offense in our lives? Well, the Bible tells us.

James 4:1-12 (MSG) says, Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.

You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.

You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.”

So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.

Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?

I can see this so clearly. Whenever I feel discontented, it is usually because I want something someone else has, like an amazing singing voice and the ability to just burst out in song like a Disney Princess. Truly, though, I’d trade the voice if I had birds and bunnies drawn to me. Moving on.

Offenses come because we want what we want and when we are corrected, we become offended. Sometimes, a person can speak out of turn and say something ungodly and that can lead to an offense, but I find that this is moreso resolved by the other person rebuking the statement, discarding the statement for the madness it is, or by a godly person stepping in and remedying the lie with truth and correction. Then, maybe the instigator becomes offended and leaves.

But, the point is that people do leave. The offense is taken, not given, and the person decides that no relationship and no person is worth dealing with whatever inner-battle they wage, and they leave. This, of course, leads to stagnation and death. You can’t grow if you’re not willing to be stretched and corrected and, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. The immaturity that one holds onto when being offended and leaving is not healthy, even if it is easy.

Or, is it easy? That is difficult to say, as well, because how, exactly, do you intend to be a better person if you constantly get irritated and offended and leave situations that are uncomfortable? There can be no growth or maturity there and the race is harder. There can be no real or lasting friendships there and the life is lonelier.

There have been times when I’ve asked God for things that were not mine to have and He hasn’t given them to me. There are times when I’ve asked God for things that were mine to have and He hasn’t given them to me. There are times when correction has come through Holy Spirit and times when it’s come through others. I have taken offense at things and these have been things that God and I have had to work through.

Something very powerful was spoken to me years ago in the form of a sermon on Ruth. The sermon’s main message was to stay in the vineyard you’re in until God gives it to you. When you consider that Ruth worked as a widow in Boaz’s vineyards, gleaning the corners, picking up the leavings of the paid workers, only to marry Boaz and own the vineyard. When we choose to leave due to being offended, it is then that we lose out on the blessing.

Now, Ruth was not offended, but we all know that she was a Moabitess in the land of the Israelites and this would definitely lead to stress and strife. Why? Namely, because God’s Word says, “No Ammonite or Moabite is to enter the congregation of God, even to the tenth generation, nor any of his children, ever. Those nations didn’t treat you with hospitality on your travels out of Egypt, and on top of that they also hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Mesopotamia to curse you. God, your God, refused to listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing—how God, your God, loves you! Don’t even try to get along with them or do anything for them, ever.” (Deuteronomy 23:3-6, MSG)

So, the Hebrews would be fully aware of this mandate and here was Ruth, a widowed Moabite in their midst, taking grain from the edges that they would have for themselves. I hypothesize, then, that she faced some opposition and probably was called some names and treated poorly, though the Bible doesn’t specifically tell us this. Yet, Ruth continued to live with her mourning mother-in-law, supporting her as best she could in a strange land with strange customs, building up a pure and lovely reputation (I wish I had as beautiful a reputation as Ruth had*) and capturing the heart of Boaz, a loyal, honest, hard-working man. Through all this, Ruth finds herself in the lineage of Jesus Christ. Wow.

What if Ruth had been offended and decided to leave and return to Moab and marry a man of her nation? What if Ruth had become offended when Naomi ignored her when Ruth refused to leave her? Where would her blessing be then? There would be no amazing history to tell if Ruth had taken her offense and left.

I feel that God has us on the cusp of growth and, in the process, there will be offense. It is our natural biases and filters that generate the offense and, in so doing, these responses that have worked all our lives are kicked into action and we do what is easiest: we leave. The challenge here is to no longer leave, but rather, to remain steadfast in your walk and to remain in the vineyard where God has placed you until He gives it to you.

Because there is no blessing in fleeing offense, but there is surely blessing in forgiveness.

*[Ruth] dropped to her knees, then bowed her face to the ground. “How does this happen that you should pick me out and treat me so kindly—me, a foreigner?”

Boaz answered her, “I’ve heard all about you—heard about the way you treated your mother-in-law after the death of her husband, and how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and have come to live among a bunch of total strangers. God reward you well for what you’ve done—and with a generous bonus besides from God, to whom you’ve come seeking protection under his wings.” (Ruth 2:10-12, MSG)


As long as I learn something

There are a lot of things I think about in regards to my life. There are regrets, of course, but I’ve learned to move beyond them…mostly. I do wonder if things would be different today if I had remained Ben’s friend until the Lord called him home and if I had fought for the foster children like God told me to. But, I can’t change either of those things and that is what it is. Life is full of the consequences, both good and bad, of our choices.

I think mostly, though, about loneliness, and not in the realm of dating and marriage and love and the like, which many struggle with when they think about it, but for me it’s that life-long friendship that withstands everything, the loyal friend that can only be separated by death and even then, not really, when we consider salvation and eternity.

I don’t have that. I never have. And that is something that, as hungry as I am for it, just seems a vapid loss in my life that I can never, ever come to terms with, because we are all lonely.

The way that many of us choose to fix this loneliness is through marriage, so we find an eagerness to tie ourselves up without someone else in the romantic way, so much so that we move in together before marriage, desperate for that connection, and yet, even then, there are marriages that are far lonelier than I am. That is the way of life, truly. Loneliness.

So, then, what is the answer? I don’t know. I really don’t. That I could be brought to tears watching something so trivial just because it makes me think of how I’d be lucky to have one woman stand with me if I should ever marry as my maid of honor and no bridesmaids and just hoping that my future husband has enough sisters that I don’t make a pathetic show of it all…well, yeah, it’s a struggle.

Why is marriage even in this? Because I watched a t.v. episode with a wedding in it. That fills the brain. Friendship, though, is a remarkable gift that the Lord desires for us to engage in. But, as you get older, it gets far more difficult to do so. I had a really close friend in junior high, but since we were bullied together, when high school came and the opportunity presented itself to move on, she did.

I had a close friend in high school, but after graduation we just sort of stopped communicating. How close were we really? Do I represent a bad time in lives of people that they would be better off forgetting? Is this why life passes me by and relationships end in my life, because I am some sort of dark reminder of days past that are better tossed off the cliff of remembrance into the sea of forgetfulness?


So, I was at a loss in my world, struggling to find myself, friendless, and then I had friends and it was wonderful and then it imploded in such a violent way that, well, let’s just say it hurt and do they think of me or even now, eight years later, try to connect with me? No.

And the loss of friendships continues, even those that I thought were more than just trivial acquaintances, and the memories belie the truth of the matter: I have no friends.

I have tons of acquaintances, do not fret. I have those that will give me the cursory times of their lives and I have to admit that I do the same. Why seek out friendships when they all end so badly? Because I need them? Ah, yes, I do, but who cares? Surely, I will not die from lack of friends. Why, then, do I even care enough to write this today?

Well, partly it’s because I’m an emotional wreck today and writing helps. Partly, it’s because of a stupid t.v. episode about a wedding that triggered some kind of deep, emotional response within me. Partly, it’s because I can just feel the vapid waste of space in my life that friends occupy and then vacate, never to return. And, partly, it’s because my soul is wounded and life still goes on.

We discussed wounded souls last night and I pressed that it must be processed and healed. Yet, how does one find the source of the wound and address it? I mean, we can speculate all day long and never really find the source. Consider that I am mere weeks away from graduating with my BSW and I am officially unconcerned about being a social worker anymore. It is ironic, isn’t it, how quickly I change my mind? Or, not ironic. Just life.

So, I have no idea what I am doing with my life. That’s fine, really. I will live for God and realign myself with Him and His soul and spirit so that I can be His completely. My happiness was complete when I was His. This painful past that keeps me distant from Him is slowly being demolished and healed. I wish it were quicker, truly. It isn’t, though.

I just garnered that advice to another in the midst of healing. Don’t rush God or yourself. Healing always takes time. I must trust the process. And so should you, any of you that are healing in some way. We are so eager to reach the end, but there is only more to do at that point. The true end comes when we are free of our mortal shells and worshiping Christ in heaven. So, why rush to the end? Enjoy the process.

Even if you’re alone…

And, so it is, that while I can sit here and pen out the pain of my heart in a poetic and flowery way (or not, I guess, it depends who you ask), that isn’t going to gain me friendships and it isn’t going to speed up my healing, not really, because I still do not know the source of the wound and, therefore, the source of friendlessness that haunts my life and always has, making it easy for friends to walk away and never look back.

But, this does explain one of the reasons that I do not want to marry. So, that’s something, I guess.

It’s a call to change me

I am in a season of pruning and any Christian can attest to how painful such a season can be. Of course, they can also attest to how amazing the new growth is after the pruning is complete. I look forward to the growth season.

But, I’m in the pruning season.

And I am lonely.

I don’t really think about it much, truly, but it is something that comes and makes itself apparent as time passes and dead and dying branches in my life are cut away and burned up. Loneliness is a part of life, because sometimes we just find ourselves in a place where God has called us to be alone with Him in order to weed our gardens and prepare for the new season coming our way.

Jesus has called me to finally be free from the spirit of rejection that has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. In so doing, I have become acutely aware of how damaging things are to my emotions and heart and how I need to be able to breathe through it, release it, and change, not the way I am treated or spoken to, but rather how I respond and react to these things.

This morning, as I cried out to Jesus, He held me and said, “Breathe. Just breathe.” I had to stand there, with tears mingling with the shower water and breathe and chose to face things without the burden of pain that was being placed on me. Of course, I am still facing it. Why? Because I am just entering into the freedom from something that has held me captive long enough to become normal. In other words, while the prison doors are open and the chains are gone, I am still “feeling” them and seeing the door closed and I have to change and be aware in order to step out and be free.

I think that the loneliness comes because there are others who have those in their life that aren’t adding to the rejection, but rather are pulling from it. I am learning to do the same for myself and to know that those that add to the rejection are doing so out of a place of pain or ignorance and I have to be able to respond in a way that prevents my being wounded and burdened.

So, if you know me in person, please be patient with me. Please pray for me, whether you know me in person or not. Because, as God showed me, once I desire the change for the better, which I do desire, the warfare begins. I have entered the battle. Time to go to war.

The Valley of No…Again

The Valley of No haunts me. As I walk through it, again, I find myself overwhelmed and emotional. I am so tired of walking through this place. I see so many different things and I think of all the different ways I want to respond. Quitting is the most appealing, but other valleys have eliminated that option for me.

I walked through the Valley of No at the start of this semester, where I had to decide if I was going to push onward for my degree or give up. I chose to push on and left the valley. Now, midway through the semester, facing the promise of my final semester in the BSW program, I’ve entered the Valley of No again. Firstly, there is something that was supposed to happen and now isn’t. I asked God over and over again to let it happen, but He hasn’t. Of course, it would require the changing of another person’s mind, so we know that God doesn’t force us to do something, right? It isn’t God that isn’t allowing it to happen and it isn’t a bad thing that it isn’t happening, it’s just a painful thing.

Before that occurred and was finalized today, I came to the horrific realization that I have led myself into a deep pit of financial stupidity where I have no safe escape. I am seeking out part-time jobs on top of my full-time job, my full-time classes, my church commitments, and my internship. Needless to say, I had a job interview and received word today about being hired. Since you can see the valley I’m in, you don’t need to guess the answer, really, so more applications sent in today. Applied for some short-term loans, even secured ones, but the same answer for those from them or from myself, as most have payments too high to be beneficial.

Then, today, I find out that I may have to take two electives this last semester on top of five other classes. Seven classes total. Not too horrid. I can make it happen and succeed. However, it is crazy to consider where I’m finding myself, again, on the cusp of my not graduating May 2018.

And all I can think is why? Why, God? I really am trying. Now, with the finances, that was all me and I blame no one else. However, I am now trying desperately to be responsible, to not spend when I don’t have, to find ways to pay it all back, to survive until February without dragging my mom into the madness with me, and the answer around me is no. Why?

So, I don’t blame God. I don’t blame Him for being an afterthought in the staff at church. I don’t blame Him for the way people act or respond. I don’t blame Him for my debt or the struggles at my university. I don’t blame Him for missing out on something I really, really want to do. I don’t blame Him for the job not coming through.

All I want, Lord, is to know where to put my feet next. I’ve thought of so many different things, including quitting so many different things, and I don’t feel Him telling me to do so. All I’ve heard Him say is to pay my car payment in full, because I can’t afford to and I was considering sending in a small payment only. But, He said to pay it in full, and so I will, as I stare at the ruins in my hands and think, “Where am I supposed to go and what am I supposed to do?”

All I hear in response is, “Trust.”

Dreaming in Reverse

When I was a little girl, Sesame Street came to our town. My mom said that one of the actresses kept putting the microphone in front of me to sing into and I would suddenly sing very, very quiet. While I don’t believe this was a moment that would have launched me into stardom, I often consider it to be one of those moments when my life could have gone a completely different way.

And I’m so very glad it didn’t.

Many of us have dreams and when they don’t pan out, we immediately consider ourselves robbed. Sometimes, when the dream really matters, we get angry at others that we feel stood in the way of our dreams coming true…parents, siblings, friends, spouses, and even God. We find that we become the kinds of people that dream in reverse, which is really just bemoaning lost opportunities in the past, and wishing that our lives were different.

When I dream in reverse, I see the trajectory that life in the spotlight would have brought to me, a complex woman with major issues in the realm of self-esteem and self-compassion and a desire to be seen for who I really am, loved and accepted and valued. Should that spotlight have been placed on me, my life would be completely different.

And not for the better.

It’s rather funny, in fact, because I make flippant comments like, “Well, when I marry Chris Pine, this and this will happen,” and “Well, when I’m famous, then this and this will happen,” fully aware that I have no desire whatsoever for either scenario to play out. Okay, well, maybe the first one. I mean, it’s Chris Pine!

But, seriously, would I have been a Christian if I were famous? Would I have ever turned to God or would I have become angry and bitter and would I have never cherished the treasures in my life? I think, okay I know, that I would have given away my very soul to maintain the fame that is so fickle and fleeting. My Twitter and Facebook would be filled with selfish and pompous declarations of how great I believed myself to be, exhibiting my foolishness by expressing my opinions as fact and having my fans follow mindlessly along. My Instagram feed would have been filled with selfies upon selfies and I would definitely have an eating disorder. I know that I would have tried drugs and consumed a great deal of alcohol and my career would eventually die out because people would hate to work with such a prideful and mean woman whose acting would be subpar at best. I would be so lonely, even with the promiscuity I would have engaged in, and I would die in a horrid way, because it’d either be drug/alcohol related or suicide.

And this is what I know and can honestly reveal without any flinching, because I know who I could very possibly be without Christ.

And you know who you’d be, too. We try to deny it, to pretend that we would still be who we are, regardless, but the truth of the matter is that we would be completely different people. I consider myself blessed to never have achieved fame.

Yet, the dream of that fame power still comes sometimes, like when I’m at Disneyland and it’s overly crowded and I’m a face in that madness and I think, for one day, how awesome it would be to be a VIP in the Park for one solid day. I don’t need much more than that, truthfully. Just one day of elite treatment. The truth is, of course, that I would want more, because the magic of that day and the addiction to that feeling would be strong and would ruin the rest of my “normal” times at the Park.

Sometimes, I say, “I just need 500 thousand dollars. That’s it. I’m not greedy.” But, we all know that once we get to a certain place, we desire more and more and more and more, and satisfaction is fleeting. So, would I be satisfied with even 10 thousand dollars or 50 thousand? Would satisfaction ever come? Considering that many that win the lottery end up worse off than they started and quicker than one would imagine and that the suicide rate is high, well, let’s just say that money and that dream is definitely not for me, either.

Now, the one that most dream of: beauty and attractiveness. Ah, that fleeting head turning power and ability to take photos without filters and angles and just be beautiful. I immediately think of Catherine Zeta-Jones when I think of that kind of beauty. You may have someone else in mind. But, I can pretty much promise that someone came to mind when you read the word. It could even be someone in your immediate circle. Now, being a woman, I feel that I kind of leave the men out of my blogs. I’m not even sure that men read my blogs, truthfully. But I do know that some men struggle with this area, as well. They can see the handsome or toned man in their mind that they believe women desire and they, in some small or large way, wish they could be the man that women desired. So, I think about things like my weight and my health and the fact that my forehead is large and I don’t exactly have grace when I walk and move, and I imagine what life would be like without the burden of “ugliness” upon me. But, in this regard, I thankfully love food a little too much to deny myself in a dangerous way, which is good and bad, of course, and I would not do the surgeries because I have this horrid habit of looking into things and once I know things, like what actually happens in a facelift procedure, well, you can’t unlearn that sort of thing. And, with all of that, the desire of beauty if fleeting, just as beauty itself is, and I can shrug my shoulders and move on from there.

So, you may be wondering, what in the world is the point? I wish I knew! Just kidding. The point is, of course, that we need to stop dreaming in reverse. We need to stop being angry at God because we can’t see the full tapestry yet. We can’t see His design clearly yet. The things that we longed for could very well have been our undoing, our death, and our turning away from Him forever.

And, while some of you reading this may be thinking, “I’ve already turned away from Him because He didn’t give me my dreams,” I am here to tell you that He loves you so much. His love is beyond the comprehension and words of this writer. And, the dreams denied are not due to Him not caring. In truth, I’d say they’re denied because He cares more than anyone else ever will…including you! That sounds so foreign, I know, because we believe that our concern for our own success and well-being would trump everyone presumably caring for us, but it’s not true. So the opposite with Jesus.

While fame, money, and beauty were all things that I held firmly in my little dream box, they just weren’t something that would have created the Julie before you, the one that writes blogs that are painfully transparent and honest at times, the Julie that is in her Senior Year for her BSW at ENMU as I type this, the Julie that is a part of a church and is a member of the Pastoral Staff and is healed after 7 years of hurt, a Julie that desires to help people and not use them for my own means. That Julie would not exist if even one of those dreams above had come true.

There have been storms in my life and I have three major regrets that I just can’t shake. I’ve lived through abuse and betrayal and bondage and I’ve lost so much in the journey, but I’ve gained Jesus Christ and all that He has for me. I’ve gained life eternal, you see, outside of the temporal. I’ve gained peace that surpasses understanding, joy that flows like a wellspring from somewhere deep inside, wisdom to face the things of this world with confidence, and trust that no matter what happens, Jesus Christ is at my side and He is never, ever caught by surprise.

Each morning, I don my armor. I put on the helmet of salvation and pray that my mind is guarded against the distracting and dark thoughts of the world, that my thoughts will focus on the godly things, not the worldly things, and that I’d have the wisdom to know the difference. I put on the breastplate of righteousness and pray that my heart, as it is being made flesh again, would be protected from the poison of this world, that its purity would be maintained and renewed each day, that my entire being would be aligned under the Spirit of God, in order to be a conduit through which He flows through me and into the people around me, His anointing and love and peace and grace and, yes, correction. I put on the belt of truth and pray that I will know His truth over the lies of the world and that I would speak His truth in love and that I would never use His truth to harm another, that I would be sensitive to His timing and that His words are the ones spoken, not my own for my own selfish reasons and agenda.

I put on the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace and pray that I will be prepared to go where He sends me and to do what He calls me to do, with boldness and sincerity, that I would not waiver from the path He’s set before me, and that I am prepared to go and share the Good News with all that I encounter and that I would run to wage battle beside others and never leave them to fight the battles alone. I put on the shield of faith and pray that I cling to the true character of Jesus Christ, that I trust in who I know Him to be, that I trust in who His Word says He is, and that I use that trust to thwart the fiery darts of the enemy, darts of fear and annoyance and bitterness and doubt and anger. I take up the sword of the Spirit and pray that God’s Word would be made real to me and that I would wield the sword with precision and grace, that I would never use it to harm others, but only to defend and to bring divine separation of truth and lies and allow the Lord to bring the correction and the healing that is needed, that I never wield it to further my own plans in my life or the lives of others.

While our dreams may never be realized, what we must realize is that God has better dreams. I always think of the Casting Crowns song that portrays God asking His children to let Him dream for them, because His dreams for us are far better than the dreams we have for ourselves.

I am not encouraging you to stop dreaming, but rather, to place your dreams in the hands of a loving Father and let Him mold and shape those dreams for the very best that He has for you and, when the dream is returned to you altered from that which you believed you wanted and needed, thank Him for His amazing attention to detail and to His devotion to who you really are and who He wants you to be and take those dreams and run full tilt toward them with Jesus by your side.

And stop dreaming in reverse.

Noise Level

I turned off my heater. It provides me heat every single day of the year and a gentle ambient noise to remove the external sounds of the office. I turned it off today because I was actually feeling quite warm. I don’t think the air conditioner is running today. As I walked down the hall, I noticed my badge wasn’t as noisy as it normally is, so I quickly checked it to see if anything was missing. Everything was there, but it reminded me of something spiritual.

Noise matters.

If you’re suddenly finding that your Christian walk is too easy or too difficult, check your noise level. If your walk is too difficult, the noise of God is turned off. That doesn’t mean that He has stopped speaking, but rather that you have stopped listening or stopped seeking. Take some time to seek His face and pray and worship Him and determine what He wants to tell you. He could very well be calling you in from battle to rest at His feet, be fed at His feast, and find yourself refreshed at the wellspring of Living Water. Instead, you are constantly putting on your armor and wielding your sword and ignoring the rest. Or, it could be that you are drowning Him out with other noise, like reading tons of theological books (or worldly books) and leaving the Bible to gather dust on your shelf or that you’re too busy with entertainment to spend time daily in His presence. The noise (and lack thereof) in a difficult Christian walk is a tell-tale sign that you must realign your mind and ensure that your ears are open to recognize and receive the voice of God.

If your life is too easy, that means that you no longer hear the call to arms, no longer have the enemy yelling in your ear, because you’ve removed your armor and settled down under a tree and fallen asleep. It means that the enemy doesn’t engage you in battle because you are no longer a threat to him, no longer an active warrior in the army of God. Rather, you are a sleeping soldier that he is able to misalign with simple words and phrases, leading you ever deeper into sleep and ever further away from the call of God in your life. This is a lack of noise, in most cases, where you are lying on a sleepy hillside under a large tree and only the sound of nature fills your ears. It is a place of compliance and solitude and, if it were in the presence of God and was the rest He called you to, would be a perfect place to be, but it isn’t His rest. It is a relaxation, a complacency, where things are good enough and you’ve slipped into coast mode. While the devil may not outright attack you, he hasn’t completely forgotten about you, either. So, he knows that he must continue to distract and lead you astray, but that he must keep the attacks against you at bay, because once he raises his bow to shoot his fiery darts at you, you will startle to wakefulness and call upon God again.

Check the noise level in your life. The Christian life is not a cakewalk and it is not a drudgery. Those are two warning signs that the noise in your life is not right. It is a warning sign that you should take account of your footing and ensure that you are doing what Jesus Christ is telling you to do, that you are putting on your armor each day and finding the time to rest in God’s presence, to be refreshed for the battle ahead, that you are taking time to invest in your life with God’s word, worship, and prayer, and that you are investing in others as a voice of loving truth and spiritual understanding.

So, what is the noise level in your life? What warnings have you set up to tell you when the noise is different? How do you know when the rest if from God or when it’s the lull of complacency?

Jeremiah 33:3

Isaiah 30:21

John 10

Hebrews 2:1; 4:12

Journal: Born Anew

On Friday, August 4, 2017, 12 ladies from People’s Church of Santa Fe left to go to El Paso. They were Esther, Yvonne, Michelle, Tam, Linda, Angie, Marilyn, Sheila, Catalina, Brittany, Peggy, and myself.

To start out, we had three vehicles with a driver and three passengers each. Our first stop was Taco Cabana in Albuquerque for dinner, after meeting in the church parking lot after work. We all had a great dinner and then the car passengers switched up and headed into different cars. We stopped in T or C at McDonald’s and the switch happened again.

There were many things that happened and great conversations all that night. I want to preface this with minor details, because the last year and a half can be easily recalled in order to give weight and powerful glory to God over what happened this past weekend, but the minute details of the weekend can be lost if I spend too much time on the past, so suffice it to say that I spent the last year and a half in bondage of severe anxiety and chest pains. I truly had few nights where I didn’t lay down to bed and feel like death was coming for me that night. I had very few nights without chest pains adding to that lie. In this year, those chest pains led me to the ER twice. Once, it was truly the hand of God to establish that I had reached a dangerous place in my anemia. That resolved, this time it was to show me that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me or my heart physically and that there must truly be something else at work.

Thursday night, August 3, 2017, I told my mom that I would need to sleep in her room because the anxiety was one of the worst bouts I ever had. I blogged about this on Friday morning, so I won’t give more information here, but needless to say, it was bad.

The third leg of the journey to El Paso was short and pivotal because in the car I was driving sat the passenger, Tam. As we lightly talked and I kept my walls engaged, I found myself speaking about previous pains and tearing up, as I normally do, and while Tam spoke many profound things to me, the one that resignated in my soul was her telling me that there was hurt I never let go of and that this hurt was what was causing me anxiety. She spoke about disappointment and discouragement and revealed how “dis” means “no” and if you look at those words in that context, you can see clearly that my appointment in God was stuck and stifled because of my disappointment in my hurt and that my anxiety came for overwhelming fear in my lack of courage due to my discouragement. She also talked of how it is very likely that illnesses that have no cause in the external can be linked to something internal, if that makes sense, so surely the heart and chest pains were linked to the very hurt that she spoke of.

I wanted, then and there, to ask her to pray with me, but I felt that would be doing a disservice to the power needed to be delivered and set free. How could I fully invest if I was having to focus on the road and the safety of myself and the passengers? So, I didn’t ask but I acknowledged that what she said made much sense, albeit with the cold distance that I had learned how to address everyone in my life these days. We arrived at the hotel, checked in, and went to our respective rooms.

As I lay there, I recalled how she had talked about the hurt needing to be pulled out of me and that it would happen with some form of physical manifestation, such as a cough, hiccup, burb, etc. I lay there and I prayed three separate times about the hurt in my soul and I felt a nauseous feeling across my chest. It was then that it was entirely clear to me that there was a deep hurt (a spirit?) that didn’t want to come out. But, the time had come. The light had been brought into the darkness and the truth had flared a fire and the hurt inside was dislodged and shaken loose and there were only two options for me: keep trying to heal alone or be vulnerable again and ask for help.

The next morning, I talked to Tam and I asked her if we could find some time that day (Saturday) to pray for the hurt to be released. She readily agreed and I explained what had happened the night before. She asked if I wanted to do it then but I thought later would work and so Tam agreed and assured me that it would happen, it would not be forgotten. As I went upstairs to get my things for the day, God spoke to me and He told me that I had to be open and vulnerable when they prayed for me, that I had to not hold back and that no matter what happened, I had to not fight it.

We headed to the salon where the ladies enjoyed a morning of their preferred choice of pampering. Sheila, Linda, and my mom got amazing haircuts. A lot of the women had pedicures, manicures, and facials. Yvonne had her lashes done. The joy and the confidence was amazing to behold.

From there, we all went out to do our preferred day of fun. My mom, Brittany, Catalina, and I headed to Barnes and Noble, Ulta, and Dollar Tree before heading back to the hotel to spend some time in the pool and sun. We were ultimately joined by some of the other ladies. It was a great day and my mom and I headed upstairs to get ready for the devotional that night.

Michelle brought an amazing message from Beth Moore about the provision of Christ and our faith in light of who He is and what He does and can do. It was a powerful time of sharing and revelation and a message that was relevant and meaningful. Michelle then had us draw a name and say something encouraging to the woman whose name we’d drawn, about how we see them, how God sees them. It was an amazing time of joining together to hear the Word of God and to bond as sisters in Christ.

After this, we were to head to dinner and a few ladies headed out but Tam called those there to gather and pray for me. The moment of truth had come. I had the devil whispering doubts in my ear during the day that I quickly rebuked and more rapidly during the devotional, namely that it wouldn’t work, that nothing would happen, and I would remain trapped in hurt forever. But, I declared that Jesus had shown me the open prison door and freedom was mine and I was going to get it that night, regardless of the cost. It wasn’t that eloquent, in truth, but I like to wax poetic. I truly just said, “No, I will be free tonight,” or something as simple as that.

Tam said that she would pray over me and then I was to pray for what I wanted God to do. Words will never, ever be able to capture that moment. Never. I am so tempted, in fact, to pass it by with simple words, but I feel that that is even more wrong than not doing it justice with my meager words. So, here goes…

As I prayed, and no, I can’t recall what I was speaking, it felt kind of hollow and false, like a great deal of my prayers had felt, but I pressed on and when I got to the word “hurt”, there it was, like a dark evil inside me, rising up suddenly and choking off my words. But, you see, it wasn’t the hurt in retaliation that was choking off my words with deep, deep sobs. Rather, it was Holy Spirit purging it from my soul, pulling out from its seven year depths, and wrenching it from my forever. Two deep, painful sobs emerged and the third remained, lodged somewhere unknown to me, as hurt and Holy Spirit battled in my flesh and in my soul and I couldn’t breathe while that sob remained there, lodged as it was, but there was no panic or fear. It was like being frozen in time for a moment, a moment that stretched far longer than it truly was, and in that moment, before the hurt was fully pulled from my body forever, I believe Jesus did some things there, set some things right, aligned some things that were askew and, yes, finally fully removed the wall I’d built with the broken pieces of my heart and then, when He was through with the foundations of my new life, the final sob emerged.

I was free! I felt lighter and different…though I couldn’t put my finger on it. We went on to dinner and there was much going on in me as I sat there. I think my body, soul, and spirit needed some time to rest and align and survey the new landscape they now faced. I can’t believe that I held onto so much pain and hurt for seven years. It’s truly remarkable.

Later that night, as some of us headed out for dessert, I told Esther and Brittany that I was truly full of joy for the first time in seven years. Real joy! It was amazing!

Sunday morning, I had multiple opportunities to talk with Tam and Michelle and address the petty jealousy and anger that had tainted our relationships from the start due to that hurt I felt. I was able to tell them the truth that I no longer felt that at all, that there was no need to compete or fight or challenge. That we were free to live and serve God together. It was very freeing to admit something and to be able to be accepted and move forward without fear or shame.

I brought the devotional Sunday morning and the move of God was powerful. There was passion and joy and excitement in me that has been absent for so very long. I am looking forward to this new life.

The devil worked overtime to destroy me before this trip and he nearly succeeded. If I still didn’t have Jesus speaking sound wisdom to me, I would have given into my flesh and not have gone on the trip. Ah, the freedom I was given from this trip is beyond expression and the words “thank You” that I send to God is not enough, but I know that matters not to Him, because He can clearly see my heart and He knows just how truly grateful and amazed I am.

I prayed this morning and praised and I put on my armor and while I’m still struggling to break some old habits, it isn’t as it was. In fact, as I drove to work this morning, God revealed to me my pettiness in holding on to a certain parking space and He showed me that one of my first acts of being free from hurt, which was leading me to spiteful acts and isolation, was to park in another space next to my preferred space and to let the other person have the space they, too, preferred. Little things, you see, such as that and attending the potlucks in the future, well, these will be how my co-workers, who have only known me three years or so, see the Julie that used to be, the one that existed before the hurt came and enslaved her to coldness and anger and pride, and the people in my church family will see the new Julie, too, and I can hardly wait for the worship to become the passionate praise I once lived…only better!