Monday, August 28, 2017

The Common Ground Between Me and Steve Gleason

 
Verbal communication is not one of my core strengths. I physically need time to think, analyze and process my feelings or thoughts.  As it happens I am very often at a loss for words when trying to verbalize or convey my thoughts around a certain subject.

Occasionally someone will explain something in a way I couldn’t and suddenly I have the words I’ve needed. This happened when my husband and I watched Gleason over the weekend.  This is a film about former NFL player Steve Gleason’s journey from a diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gherig’s Disease) to a life totally altered because of its debilitating affects. It is a tough watch. Very gritty and raw. It is also very poignant and reflective.

Throughout the film, Gleason makes video journals for his son, who is born just months after his ALS diagnosis.  Gleason routinely shares his heart often talking about the dynamics of a Father and Son relationship. In one of those videos, Gleason discusses his relationship with his dad and the difficult subject of Faith because the two do not see eye to eye.  

In one particular scene, Gleason pleads with his Dad through impeded speech as a result of the advancing ALS and says these words “Stop trying to understand with your mind, the relationship with my heart and God.”  Watch this:


It is a heart wrenching scene.  And yet it so adequately explains something I’ve grappled with for some time now.  I have always felt my relationship with God is almost an oddity. I happen to see connections to God in subtlest of circumstances.  But anytime I’ve tried to explain those experiences with others, my words fall flat. This happened most recently when I endeavored to share a story about a hummingbird that floated right beside my head for a few seconds before landing on a tree branch directly in front me.  I had intentionally walked outside, taking a break from my workday, just to spend a few moments being still before God.  Then this hummingbird showed up and sat still with me - for the longest time.  I marveled at this sight because I’ve only ever seen hummingbirds in flight.  I began to think of all the times Jesus used birds in his stories to teach people.  It was a profound moment but trying to explain that in person was like watching a fish out of water gasping on its side.

Whenever I fall short in this same situation over again, I am left feeling like an odd man out.  I chalk it up to my lackluster lingual skills.  I will re-read “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” and in that same chapter of Romans a verse below “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” I'll ponder that maybe God has rewired my mind in such a way that he has just given me a different measure of faith. It’s not more or less, right or wrong, it’s just different.  

When Steve Gleason said “Stop trying to understand with YOUR mind, the relationship with MY heart and GOD.”  That explained it.  How could I expect someone with their mind, slanted towards their own heart, thoughts and experiences possibly understand the relationship between my heart and God. How could I ever adequately describe with finite words a relationship between MY HEART and GOD? Impossible. It’s to great a task, to monumental.  I should expect that no one could fully understand and that words would fall short time and time again.  This totally makes sense.

I have often thought that Truth can be found anywhere, anytime, from any person because all Truth belongs to God especially because Jesus said "I AM the Truth".  Added to that, I’ve seen God dispense Truth through the most unlikely faces and places.  This time through a film about Steve Gleason. Though Gleason’s disease has robbed him of the physical life he once knew, his heart and mind are still, without question, very relevant. I have a deep gratitude to Steve Gleason for those simple words that cost him such an effort to utter. Thank you Steve,  I’ll be thinking about and praying for you and your family in the days to come.


For more information about Gleason or ALS:  

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sitting in a Different Camp on Mother's Day.



 "The journey of a Love Warrior is to rush towards her pain and allow her pain to become her power."  Glennon Doyle Melton

I am stopping on this Mother's Day to feel my feelings which are often worked out through writing some things down.

This morning, as I sipped my morning coffee, I scrolled Facebook and read one tribute after another to wonderful, loving moms.  One after another, until it hurt and I couldn't read any more.  This post is not for those people.

This post is for a group of people who sit in a very different camp.  This is for those who sit quietly observing the others from afar, painfully envious.  This post is for those who stand in front of the Mother's Day card display, lost or empty or angry because there isn't a card for us to give that tells the truth. This post is for those who wished they had sent a card so they could avoid making the obligatory phone call because that exchange with your mother will never be what you need it to be.  This post is for those who wear a phony smile and make up half truths because it's more comfortable for others than if you were totally honest.

Those are my own experiences and the reasons I sit in a different camp than others on Mother's Day.  I'm sitting in grief with a minority instead of celebration with the majority.  There were three primary messages that my mother imparted to me during the majority of my childhood.  Two of those messages saved me a seat at this table of grief and heartache. One of the messages carries the potential to change it all.

The first and most striking message that my mom imparted to me was that she didn't want to be alive for the most part of my childhood.  Life was just to great a burden to carry and she would just as soon die than live.  When I was 4 years old, she tried to kill herself twice. The first time, she jumped out of a speeding car and then was institutionalized in the California State Hospital.   The second time she overdosed on a bottle of pills and fell down a flight of stairs. At that time, she was institutionalized in the Wisconsin State Hospital. When I was 6, my mom overdosed on pills again. After finding her and getting help, I watched as paramedics tried to revive her and listened as they pumped her stomach.  She was institutionalized in the Texas State Hospital.   I was 8, when she attempted suicide again and again was back in the Texas State Hospital.  I spent more than enough time in those hospitals; waiting alone in lobbies or sitting with her while Drs diagnosed her with Schizophrenia and Manic Depression.  For the majority of my childhood, my mother did not value her life.  Therefore, she simply was not capable of valuing mine.  Which leads me to the second most predominant message she imparted to me.

To many times to count, my mother would angrily tell me she felt 'tied down'.  She made it clear that I was a responsibility and burden that greatly hindered her sense of freedom.   To cure her entrapment, she would often run off to seek out her freedom.  To date, she enjoys talking about her time in New York during the height of disco and how she loved dancing.  I was 3 years old at the time.  I'm in my forties now and it still stings when she regales me with her stories because she is seemingly unaware of who her audience is.  She traveled as far as Germany once and lived there for a while but it must not have been as fun because she doesn't talk about it as much.  As years progressed, she would tell me that she couldn't wait until I got married because she felt she would no longer be responsible for raising me.  It seemed so strange to me that she felf this way because I never felt like she alone raised me.  The truth is there was cast of characters who raised me because I lived with a lot of different people at some point or another.  While many mothers were suffocating their kids with their overbearing affection and attention, my mom couldn't wait until I was no longer her cross to carry.

With these two dominating messages as the foundation to the relationship with my mom, it stands to reason my experiences with her were far from the picture of a mother and daughter lovingly smiling at each other. My mom was never really an affectionate or warm person.  She did not hold or hug or embrace me that I can remember. She was just always troubled so her disposition was always erratic or eccentric at best. I learned to stay alert; watchful, monitoring the mood and adapting to it.  Nor was my mom a source of comfort or safety to me, rather she was a source of fear.  There was a time in my life that I slept with a switchblade under my pillow for good, solid reasons.  When I became a teenager and a little mouthy, I cussed in front of her while we were in the car, she became so enraged, I was scared and felt the need to get out of the car at a stoplight.  I'll never forget running for my life, literally, as she tried to run me over with the car.  Of course, these crazed times lessened the older I became simply because I spent less time with my mom but they never fully came to a stop.  After marriage, she instructed me to hide a painting, that was hanging in my house under the bed.  She was convinced the painting would result in a divorce.  After having my baby, she went back and forth a full year over giving me a baby blanket, that I did not ask for, but she was convinced it had a bad spirit attached to it.  I have been blessed at times with sweet seasons with my mom where things are easier and more manageable, precious moments that I hold dear to my heart.  Inevitably though, they are followed by a season of suspicion, distrust, anger or jealousy.  I grow weary of the mental and emotional energy it takes to carefully measure my words or actions so they don't become part of some twisted plot in my mom's mind.  I cannot be forthright or transparent, it becomes a liability.  It is a roller coaster relationship filled with ups and downs.  Sometimes its enjoyable but a lot of times my stomach drops when we take an unexpected turn.  My mom and I are not in one of our sweet seasons right now.  We are in a season where I have allowed my weariness to drive the car of our relationship, going on a couple of years now.  That's what I'm forced to sit in today; the relationship with my mom is not fixed, its still broken and it still hurts my heart.  Which leads me to third and last message that she imparted to me.


Despite my mom's mental or emotional challenges; she took me to church, bought me a bible and she talked about God.  All of my life. This came to me as a mixed bag of conflicting messages sandwiched between her despair and her anger but it's okay, God has been faithful in helping me sort out the mixed up beliefs I had taken from that.  Because God is close to the broken-hearted and crushed in spirit, I have always had a seat at his table and this relationship with my mom is what I continue to bring up during the conversation; help me sort this relationship out, heal the hurt, direct me with healthy boundaries, give me compassion and sympathy and understanding and acceptance.  Pour into me the love I need for my mother. 

So today, this post is for the people whose reality on Mother's Day is one of conflict instead of reassurance.  This post is for those who always feel an unfulfilled gap in their heart because the relationship with their mother is a source of anxiety not comfort. This post is for those who feel like Mother's Day is the never-ending funeral simply because it’s a grief that revisits you every year.  This post is for you sitting in a different camp than everyone else.  I just wanted you to know, I'm sitting there with you and you are not alone.     


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Dear 45.



Dear 45,
In just a short week, we will meet face to face.  I was hoping we could have a heart to heart before then.  Until now, I feel like I've been in a cafĂ© stealing glances at you wondering if we are going to get along when we finally meet.  Here's the thing; I want to get along with you, honestly I do.

When I look back at other birthday milestones, I see a lot of toil and strife.  This year, I am hoping to take a deep breath and relax.  I also want to team up with you and I have a proposal.  I'll be good to you - and you be good to me.  If you go easy on me with all the classic insecurities that crop up with aging, I'll do my part to make it a good year.  I'll eat right and exercise, I'll get at least 6 1/2 hours of sleep.  Maybe 7 hours if good fortune shines upon my pillow.  I won't complain about aging - as much.  I will embrace the process.

When we meet, I don't want to suddenly be plagued by self-doubt or crippling self-consciousness.  I don't want to chase down the best anti-aging-wrinkle-fighting creams or get sucked into infomercial products that will fight or erase signs of aging.  I don't want to continue coloring my grays every 4 weeks, perhaps you could extend this cycle by a week?  If you could you work with me on little things like that, I feel like we'll be a great team and accomplish good things in the year to come.

While we are talking about positive change.  Can we talk about a special monthly time?  I mean, the last 5 years have been; R O U G H.  I mean if you could just lighten up.  Literally, lighten up, for the Love of.  Which leads me to the menopause symptoms. I understand this is the natural order of an aging woman, I accept that. All I'm asking for is a hot-flash-flip from night to day.  That's it.  The night cycle wakes me up out of a dead sleep and keeps me awake for at least an hour.  This interruption in a 6 1/2 hr sleep cycle costs me much during the day.  Just a little flip. Night to day.  Is that really a lot to ask?

What I am hoping you bring to the table is prolonging growing comfortable in my own skin.  Even if it is wrinkled with age spots. I want to sustain owning who I am and apologizing less for who I am not. I want to continue the practice of more grace and less judgement towards myself with the ability to recognize I'm doing my very best.   I want to really uphold being okay with making mistakes and not being ashamed when I inevitably do.  I want to face the days with much less fear and so much more courage.  I forge ahead growing and learning all the things that are important in this short life.  And I'm cautiously looking at you to usher that in for the upcoming year.

45, let's work together this year.  Let's make some great memories.  Let's have some fantastic laughs.  Let's do fun and spontaneous things-before 9:00 p.m. Let's pursue matters of the heart and love fiercely.  Let's focus on things that matter, like people and less on things that don't, like debates.   Let's practice self-care that encompasses mind, body and spirit.  Let's take care of each other and be friends, okay?

BFF,
Julia









Monday, January 16, 2017

Two Faces of Racism & I've been One of Them.


 "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." As I listened to this recording of Martin Luther King Jr. this morning, I was saddened because we are still not there yet 54 years later. 

I've seen two faces of racism that I'm hesitant to talk about for reasons that will become clear.   I'm doing it anyway though because I can't talk about the subject of Racism without being honest about the two faces of Racism that I've seen.  At one time, that face was my parent but later, that face was my own. 

In 1982, I lived in rural Elgin, Texas .  Elgin was a small agriculture town so there were  a lot of homes on acreage lots including ours.  We lived in an area where there were neighbors spread out around us occupying their own acreage but there were no other kids in the area.  In fact, when I walked down the dirt road to the school bus stop, I was the only kid the bus was stopping to pick up.  I was pretty isolated  but I passed time outside doing what country kids do and or inside reading.

Elgin, Texas
While at home one sweltering Summer day, I looked out the window to see a black boy walking down the dirt path passing my house.  I was so excited to see another kid my age, I ran outside to meet him.  He was 10 years old like me and we talked outside for about 20 minutes or so.  I was disappointed when he had to leave and get back to his Aunt's house.  When I walked back inside my house, I was completely taken by surprise and immediately assaulted by my parent.  I was picked up off the ground by the throat and while my head was repeatedly beat into the wall behind me, I received the message why this was happening.  It was because I had been outside talking to a black boy.  It wasn't the first time I looked into the face of Racism, it was just the first time I felt the consequences of it.  It's a memory from my childhood that I can't erase but here's the good thing that came out of  it.  At the tender age of 10, I knew in the deepest corner of my heart that Racism was WRONG.  I knew it was wrong and I promised myself to never discredit, disqualify, or dismiss someone because of skin color. Still, seeds were planted, the soil was fertile and the heart is more malleable than we know.

Me in 1982
Fast forward 19 years when  I lived in Dallas, Texas and worked at Sun Microsystems. It was Tuesday. September 11th, 2001 and the plane that was headed for the Pentagon just crashed in a field.   I remember standing in an elevator and feeling fear crawl up my spine; seeds planted long ago suddenly sprouted in the fertile soil of Racism . I spent the next decade with an intense dislike and distrust for people from the Middle East.  I stereotyped and I judged all Middle Easterners.  I gave myself permission and license to be uncaring, unkind and unloving.  Yet,  God always knows the condition of man's heart and while I didn't see it then, I can see now that God wasn't going to allow my heart to remain this way without shedding some light on my ignorance first. 

There were 3 key events that changed my heart & mind.  First, was when my husband and I relocated from Arizona  to Texas.  We found a house on-line, saw it in person once and bought it knowing very little about the area or neighborhood.  Only later, did we discover,  the majority of our neighbors were Middle Eastern.  In that brief time,  I was friendly with a neighbor who often invited me over for tea.   We would sit on floor cushions drinking tea made with spices from her home country.  We talked about the challenges of raising our babies.  We talked about our Faith, the differences between Islam and Christianity.  We shared humor and laughed together.  It was a good, good thing.  As I would come and go, I would notice the Muslim and Sikh families on my street.  The kids ran and played outside.  The mothers scolded or smiled at their children. Grandparents almost always lived with the family and the fathers worked day in/day out supporting the whole family unit.  Not that different...from us.  Very much the same...as us.

House in Murphy, Texas 2006
We moved back to Arizona after a year and a half and faithfully God kept working in my heart.  As the years progressed, I would often feel very convicted for my lack of love toward people from the Middle East which finally led to the second thing that happened.  There was no catalytic event exactly.  The only way to describe it is to use lying as an example. Similar to that 'feeling' you get immediately after you tell someone a lie.  It's a very simple feeling; you lied, it was wrong.  I think I'd been carrying that feeling  for some time and I was just ready to unload it.  In October of 2012, I wrote in my journal
 "I confess my prejudice, my hardened heart, my lack of mercy towards Middle Eastern people...While I have known about this sin in my heart I have allowed it to grow, I've joked about it but I've done nothing to change it.  I've accepted it as something that is ok before you.  But it's not. I pray I would love my neighbor from the Middle East.  I pray to treat them with kindness and respect.  I pray that I would have no issue embracing them.  Lord, I have been wrong and I've dishonored you, your message of love and forgiveness.   Please forgive me Father, I've been wrong, I'm so sorry. " 
That's all that happened.  I just came clean with God and admitted I was wrong for harboring hate towards people he created.  I don't think the final event would have happened if I had not repented of my racism.  The very next entry in my journal after coming clean with God is a moment that I still remember in detail.  I was sitting at an intersection watching traffic pass when my eyes rested on a small car with 3 Middle Eastern women dressed in their religious clothing and head coverings.  As I watched them take a turn in front of me, it was like time slowed down.  A sudden wave of understanding  came together through words and emotions.  'It takes greater strength for these women to continue their practices faithfully in a culture that does not understand or accept or welcome their differences.'  I instantly felt genuine compassion flood my heart.  I realized the courage it takes to live in a hostile culture, to learn and understand all that you need to survive in a foreign society, to adapt in ways that are surprising and unexpected, to remain true to your beliefs no matter the opposition you face.  An understanding of everything these women had to endure burst my heart wide open with sorrow and sympathy.  I've never felt the same towards people from the Middle East since that moment, it was completely overwhelming in a very good and tender way.

I have seen two faces of Racism and neither was good.  Racism is ugly and detestable no matter which side you are looking from.  Racism is never right.  It's never noble.  It's never loving.  It's never admirable.  It is not good or praiseworthy.  Racism is always wrong.  Racism will always be wrong.  Now, what I hate more - is hate.  I see hate everywhere and it saddens me how rampant it is.  Even so, I am unapologetic and unwavering in my view regarding Racism simply because of my own personal experiences. Racism is not a subject I will debate over, my position is firm.  If you want to engage in this conversation with me, please expect a short dialog because it's not one I'll debate.  Racism is Hate. Hate is wrong.  I will not participate.  

As a country we are not there yet, Dr. King.  As individuals though, some of us are making progress.




Sunday, October 30, 2016

From Struggle to Surrender



Every aspect of Unify Phx, was intentional to draw women to a place of surrender.  Kristin Pattison, incredibly passionate, spoke about the race we run and how we often get on the circular track that leads no where.  "The track is great...until it isn't".  However, there is a path that has been paved just for us by God.  We need to be on that path and then she said words I needed to hear, "Live Carefree".  I'd fallen back into a familiar pattern; don't make a mistake, don't be embarrassing, don't be so emotional.  When Kristin spoke those words, clarity and conviction washed over me. I know what walking in Freedom looks and feels like, how did I fall back into caring so much about what others might think or say of me? Walking in freedom is like being in a recovery program, you gotta work the steps or you'll relapse. And I had relapsed.

Later we were afforded an opportunity to write something we wanted to surrender.  I wrote "My pride.  So I can I walk in absolute Freedom."  I stepped forward and hung that on the cross with a fresh resolve to walk in Freedom.   Getting back on the path paved for me.

The next morning as I dressed and prepared for the conference. I wore a tie die shirt with leopard print shoes telling myself ' I am not going to care that this does not match. These shoes are comfortable and these are the shoes I want to wear today.'  At the conference, I sang out every song during the worship set, not caring if my voice was off pitch.  I was back on the path of freedom paved just for me.

 

That morning, Cherie Wagner, a truly gifted teacher nailed home points about divisions in the body of the church.  She shared how important and critical unity is among this body of people.  Her message resonated deeply and stirred a fire in me to break down barriers, to be united, to stand as one with others.  I was inspired to be part of bringing people together in Unity. 

As the conference came to a close, we once again sang a beautiful song, Unify, by worship leader and songwriter Dianne Michelle who crafted this amazing song for this conference.  As we sang the first verse, I was inspired to move towards the front row of women and grab the ladies hands on each side of the aisle and stand together, united as one.  But Pride taunted "What will they think?  What if no one follows you?  It'll be awkward.  Don't do it."  I stayed where I was, glued to the ground as we began to sing the chorus.


The next verse came and I wanted to break down barriers,  be united, stand as one with the women around me but the pride of fear stopped me.  I looked behind me, quickly scanning for a familiar face. Maybe if we made eye contact, they would follow my cue.  No one I knew was behind me.  We started the last chorus and a gentle whisper came, "Pride was hung on the cross Friday night."  I was quietly reminded of my actions on Friday night.  I was standing in a tie die shirt with leopard print shoes and singing about unity in a roomful of women spiritually united but physically divided.

I abruptly grabbed the ladies hand on my left, she was surprised but I didn't let that stop me. Like a train I pulled her with me to the other side of the aisle and grabbed the hand of another surprised lady and I stood in the middle of the aisle.  No barriers, united, standing as one, we raised our hands and I sang that last chorus like I meant it.  If anyone had looked closely they would have seen my legs trembling.  When the song ended, I hugged both those ladies for standing with me but I could tell, they felt the unity too, just like I did and they hugged me back.  The lady from across the aisle whispered in my ear "Thank you." 


Days later,  I saw this picture and I cried over it.  I had no idea the row behind me joined hands and stood together too.  I thought I was alone in that aisle standing for unity but I wasn't.  That's what makes me cry whenever I see this picture. Poignantly captured in this picture is a moment that represents the absence of pride and the presence of Freedom through Unity.  So when the next Unify Phx takes place, let's go together, as One.

From Struggle to Surrender,
Julia

Saturday, October 29, 2016

From Fear to Faith



"There's a women's conference in October, would you pray about being a part of it?"

When God puts an opportunity or challenge in front of me, I am like a deer staring into bright headlights.  I freeze and wait because I'm quietly afraid of what is going to happen next.

I am not a Joshua charging for battle.
I am a Gideon, hiding and threshing wheat, in a winepress.
God, I'm from a weak family and I'm to weak a person to do this task.  Can you confirm that you really want me,  show me a sign maybe?
Phone rings. "We thought you would be a good fit to facilitate the panel at Unify Phx but we'd like you to actually be a part of the panel."
God, I'm not a public speaker.  I shake, I get nervous, I get emotional.  Then I'm embarrassed.  I wish I could erase those embarrassing moments.  Are you sure God?
Phone rings.  Hello daughter, it's your Dad.  Unbeknownst to either of us, we are gonna to have a conversation where I am going to reverse the message of shame I planted in you so many years ago.  I'm going to tell you that your soft heart is a good thing and don't ever change it.  You'll hang up the phone sobbing and then marvel that this call occurred exactly THREE days before you sit on stage at the conference.
God, I barely know any of the people running this conference, who am I to stand among them?
Email received.  Can you come to a meeting for the lead team?  You'll meet everyone running this conference.  You'll  find you are among women who are like-minded and as sensitive as you.  You won't feel like a stranger in a strange land.  
Okay God.  Messages received.  Help me to do what I'm afraid of doing.
On Saturday at Unify Phx, Christina Lang said "When God knows you are ready, he entrusts you with the next part of the story."

I didn't feel ready but everything that happened Friday at the conference prepared me not to just sit as part of the panel but to also stand in Unity as One.

From Fear to Faith,
Julia

Friday, October 28, 2016

From a Shirt to a Stage.

This weekend I participated in Unify Phx; a conference that brought together women from over 40 different churches across Phoenix. The theme of the conference was to reflect Unity among the people of Christ; the Church. This conference was not for a religious organization or a set denomination or a certain culture or any of those types of variables. It was for 2 groups of people; those who follow Christ and those who don't and both were present.

My friend Christin, called me out of the azure-blue and asked if I would be willing to participate. Christin and I met through Mending the Soul and she suggested my name to the lead team for this conference. A different gal, Erica, supported the idea because she was also in one of my Mending the Soul classes. That's how I got involved; 2 nearly new friends, from 2 different churches connected through 2 different MTS classes. Different people, different backgrounds, coming together to share what we have in common. Pretty much the premise of the conference.


Shirt By: Radiance on Fire


The conference began on a Friday night and as I moved about the building, helping to set up before the doors opened, I kept passing a vendor table that had this shirt on display. I walked by this table at least 20 times. Each time I passed that shirt and read the message, my eyes filled with tears and I would almost lose it. Somehow, I kept myself in check but literally every single time I'd walk by, my eyes were drawn to that shirt and message.

Worthless. For so many years, Worthless is exactly who I was. It was my name and my label. I was Worthless to my family, worthless in school, worthless in every job and worthless in every relationship. I was worthless in every interaction, every encounter, every meeting. Worthless permeated my every thought, every emotion, every action. I couldn't get away from being Worthless.

Then Jesus happened. Jesus drew a line through Worthless and wrote Priceless. Over time, I began to understand He changed my name and my label long before I was ever aware of it. He convinced me Worthless was never who I was to begin with. My testimony was on a shirt and I could barely handle it.

The following day, I sat on the stage, with nerves like spaghetti. I wished I had the shirt I had just walked by again. I would have worn it on stage, pointed to the message and said "This is it, this is my story. Love you, mean it, peace out." Drop the mic.



Brene Brown wrote in Daring Greatly, "Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up." I didn't feel brave, I felt shaky and sweaty but I showed up alongside 4 other women and together, we owned our stories. Together, we allowed ourselves to be seen and known. Together, we showed courage through vulnerability. Together we stood as One. I don't think I could have done it any other way. One thing for certain, the deep bond the 5 of us experienced will be remembered for a lifetime.



There's this myth that life becomes stagnant and stifling when you commit to Christ. I have found nothing to be further from the truth. What I did last weekend was the equivalent to riding white water rapids down a roaring river. It was crazy and scary and intense. It was also fulfilling and satisfying to allow God to take my ashes and use them for a good purpose.

That said, I'm ready for a paddle board and maybe a lazy river, ya know? There is another story to tell from this conference but I'll share another day.

From a shirt to a stage,
Julia