Questions.

I get asked a lot of questions throughout my days. From, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like…” to “You weren’t kidding when you said you’re terrible at driving, huh?” Both of these make me giggle because I rarely resemble the person I’m compared to and well,  it  just can’t be denied… I am in the running for the absolute worst driver in Tennessee. Maybe even the whole Mid-South.

There is another repetitive question than can be added to that list, though. “How do you have your life so put together and figured out?” HA!  This is probably the funniest of them all. Let me clear something up – I am 100 % human. I wake up grumpy, spill any and everything all over myself and say the wrong things far too often. Difficult days happen, too. Loved ones pass away, friends hurt,  doubts and feelings of unworthiness arise and I’m left begging God to step in and take over.

I frequently question the significance of how I spend my days. Do these strivings, tears, blood and sweat invested in making the world a better place really matter? Will it even make a difference if I just stop and live an average North American lifestyle wrapped all around myself instead? Why can’t I just quietly get by with just making a good income, marrying a decent guy and living in a pleasant neighborhood made complete with a perfectly manicured lawn?

I’m instantly reminded that we were created for so much more than a safe and comfortable lifestyle. All throughout scripture we see how the Lord uses individuals to impact the world. What if young David, the scrawny little shepherd boy,  had never obeyed and stood up to Goliath? Consider Moses,  letting out the loud cry of “Let my people go!”  against the wishes of others and with his speech impediments to boot.  Oh, and let us not forget Mary – bent low at Jesus’ feet,  anointing him with oil and wiping it away with the very hairs of her head. A beautiful picture of God’s strength displayed in our weaknesses would have never been painted if each of them had never said the simple “yes” to God’s calling on their lives – despite doubts, fears and the judgement of others.

There will be moments when the things the Lord is preparing us to will seem absurd, far-fetched and impossible. We will want to retreat and give up, but we can’t dismiss ourselves that easily when He calls and others depend on us. He has a different way of doing things. He sees beyond our imperfections and the present moment and somehow, in His own above my own way of thinking,  decides that He is going to use silly little people like you and me to rock the world- or at least someone’s world.

I don’t think the key to living a significant is to “have it all together”, but rather to trust in the One who does and just say “yes” to whatever He calls us to do. Nevermind our feelings, we can and must obey in spite of them. Once we fully surrender our own wills and let them be blended in with His, we find those thoughts to be insignificant in comparison to the glory of the Lord set on display. We don’t have to figure it all out – we just have to trust that the One who calls us already has the map, and our job is to simply hop in and join Him on the adventure.

Jules

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Keep Going.

Ahhh. There is just something special about turning off my phone and going for a walk outside after a long day. The whole world seems to grows quiet, and I get to have uninterrupted time to do nothing but feel the wind, look at the sky and think about life. I totally picture myself as Snow White adventuring through the woods, until a car almost hits me and I realize that I’m in suburbia and am not exactly surrounded by talking animals or seven cute dwarfs who live in a cottage.

I was almost home when the sweetest little old lady approached me. “Hello there!” she said excitedly. I responded with a quick, “hello!” She continued to stand there staring at me. I felt obligated to talk to her longer, but kept walking instead. I was tired and just didn’t feel like it. It wasn’t on my schedule. I was almost home when it hit me, “Julie, what in the world are you doing? This lady is obviously super lonely. Keep going. Spend some time with her.” I turned around and began running towards her, slowing down as I got closer, though.  I didn’t want to freak her out or anything.

“Do you think it’s going to rain?” I shouted loudly to break the ice. We began by talking about the weather and quickly shifted our focus onto deeper things. I asked her some questions about herself, and her response broke my heart. “Well, I’m 76 years old. My husband died two years ago of cancer and I live by myself. I have kids…but you know how that goes. They are busy. Time moves on and so do they. I’m okay with it.” My stomach dropped as I compared what she was saying to the deep pain that was bursting through her eyes. So much hurt was expressed in that one glance.

I told her she didn’t have to cover up her feelings and that it’s normal to experience pain in circumstances of loss. She smiled and said, “You’re somethin’ else. You know that? It’s true. I am lonely at times…more recently than ever. Giving back to others helps me, though. I heard about these young missionary folk who go out and love on kids all over the world. I can’t travel, so I decided to just go ahead and love on children around here. I work as a lunch lady at the middle school down the street every day. I want to connect with these kids and well…they’ve gotta eat, right? It’s a daily encounter and I figure I can at least be a smiling face for them. Sometimes I even sneak the good kids an extra cookie or two. Did you know that some children don’t even get a simple hello all day? I just can’t stand it. My purpose now is to get over my empty feelings by helping others become full of love. It’s crazy how that works. When you give you just become less empty.”

Tears immediately started rolling down her face and mine. I knew exactly what she meant and was overwhelmed by the whole moment. Why does the Lord allow us to experience this kind of goodness? Such pain. Such joy. Such reality.  We lost track of time and after almost two hours of walking, talking and sharing our hopes and dreams, she couldn’t go on any longer. Her little legs were about to give out. I expressed what a pleasure it was to meet her and we giggled at ourselves for crying so much on that walk. She jokingly gave us the title of “A couple of crazy ol’ gals” and I just couldn’t disagree with that label.

Walking back home I had to cry out to the Lord in thankfulness. What a marvelous night – what a beautiful God. It blows me away that He in His infinite wisdom, knew that on that night at the exact moment, I needed to be stretched beyond myself and that sweet Ms. Bonnie just needed someone to listen to her ramblings. It was the perfect match. Age didn’t matter, differences didn’t matter and time didn’t even matter. It was a divine encounter and I’m so very thankful for my sweet walking buddy. Next time you feel like giving up, I urge you to remember that lonely people, like Ms. Bonnie are everywhere. Open your eyes to see beyond yourself and keep going – You never know what (or who) is waiting around the corner.

 

Jules

The Sweetest Gift.

Ever get one of those messages or phone calls that make your stomach drop? I do. Usually it has to do with a friend or relative who is going through a difficult time, sickness or is just plain lonely. My first thought is to send a gift or let them know I’m praying for them. Those are great things, and I definitely encourage both of them, but something crossed my mind yesterday as I received a similar message.

Sometimes people need you to be present more than they need a present. They need a hand to hold, shoulder to cry on and a friend to simply be there. A lot of times I miss this. I think, “I don’t know what to tell them to make this better” or, “I’ve never experienced anything like that. How can I help them through it?”  I make lots of excuses because it’s uncomfortable and isn’t as convenient as sending mail order flowers with a bible verse.

Maybe people don’t need us to be able to relate to their particular situation as much as they need us to walk through it with them. What if instead of telling them that God is love, we show them His love that transcends all circumstances? Rather than them spending another day feeling all alone, we offer a true friendship that surpasses feelings and proves that someone cares. Life can be extremely bitter. Let’s be the ones to combat that by giving the sweet gift of doing life together–the ups, downs and in-betweens.

Jules

The Sky Isn’t The Limit.

I’d like to know what was going through Neil Armstrong’s mind when he decided that taking a stroll on the moon seemed like less of a fairytale than a cow jumping over it. The only type of moon-walking that I’ve ever attempted is Michael Jackson’s famous dance move. That never really worked out for me. I would just trip, giggle and repeat. It was a thriller of a performance for sure. By that I mean it would probably frighten you and cause questions to arise of whether or not you truly wanted to associate with me.

With the news of Neil’s passing yesterday, I started to think about what would have happened if people like him had never gone for the unknown. What if he never went past the stage of just dreaming about what it would be like up there among the stars? Don’t get me wrong, I do a lot of dreaming myself. It’s fun to make a “bucket list” with all of the things I would love to do if only (fill in the blank) didn’t stand in the way. The only problem with dreaming is that a lot of people never actually wake up. Instead of going after the longings the Lord places in their hearts to change and better the world, they just give up with the excuse of it being nothing more than a nice, but ultimately inconvenient and far-fetched idea.

What can one person actually do to make a difference in the world, anyways? The answer is something. I can do something and you can do something and when a group of committed people come together with one vision, the world can and will be changed. Neil walked on the moon, but he didn’t do it alone. He was a part of a team- a puzzle piece in a picture much bigger than himself. He had an idea and joined up with others who shared it. The world is waiting for us to reveal the joy and peace that dwells within us through Christ. There are injustices to fight, chains to unbind and forgotten people to love. Maybe instead of thinking, “what can I do?” we can take the approach Neil did, and simply play our part by taking that ”One small step for man…” and watching the Lord transform it into “One giant step for mankind.”

Jules

Thank You, Thank You Very Much.

Memphis has been home to me my whole life. I like the blues and bbq. I think Sun Studios is magical and I’ve walked with my feet ten feet off of Beale. One thing I haven’t quite obtained is an obsessive admiration for Elvis. Don’t get me wrong, I think he is so fantastic and talented. I enjoy his music, love visiting Graceland and am pretty sure his sparkly wardrobe was created from the brightest stars and a pinch of leftover pixie-dust straight from Neverland. Still, I’ve never been the kind to go to Elvis Week and mourn his death. No appeal there whatsoever.

Recently one of my closest friends turned 20. She ADORES Elvis and her celebration wish was to go to the candlelight vigil at Graceland. I love her and think it’s a lot of fun to experience new things, so I threw on a hat and said “let’s go!” We ran through streamers and ate cheesecake first, though. It just seemed like the right thing to do. It took about an hour to get a parking space, but once we did it was pretty easy to maneuver around and browse all of the tributes people made.

We looked around for a while, and then went on the hunt for a restroom that didn’t have a mile-long line. I was waiting in the lobby and met a young girl from the Nashville area. She was dressed in full out Elvis garb and asked me if i was a “hardcore super fan” of him. I giggled at the phrasing, explained why I was there and asked her the same question. Her answer caught me off guard.

“Well…my dad died last week. He was a huge Elvis fan and we used to come to this together every year. It was kinda our special trip. One of the last things he told me was to make sure I was here to experience this whether he was able to make it or not. I couldn’t let him down.” Tears filled her eyes and she continued, “It is so difficult to be here. I feel lonely and it’s just not the same. I’ll be strong, though. I’ve gotta be for my mama. Do you think I’ll ever be okay? You know…like will I ever be able to move past this?”

My mind stopped and the whole entire world stood still. It was like she was the only person in the room at that moment, even though we were surrounded by hundreds of people. I tried to get my heart out of my throat and whispered to the Lord, “Please, give me ears to truly listen and the words to speak. You know what she needs to hear.” I don’t remember exactly what was said, but I remember that moment. I remember her face. I remember the peace we both felt as hugs, tears and smiles were exchanged. I remember realizing that there are needs to be met everywhere-even on a random Tuesday night at Graceland, because people with hurts are everywhere.

I think this is what Jesus meant when He said to make disciples “As you go” (Matthew 28:19) Maybe He wasn’t trying to get us to attend more services or pass out extra event flyers over the weekend. Maybe He knew that even in the most ordinary, mundane and seemingly insignificant moments of our lives we would encounter people with real hurts looking for lasting healing. May we never substitute giving away a  piece of paper with the promise of free food or giveaways in exchange for a touch, a smile or even simpler, a listening ear. I have no words to accurately express my gratitude to the Lord for allowing such moments in this life. When I revisit that night in my mind the best I can come up with is  a simple “Thank You, thank You very much.”

Jules

Head Full of Hot Air…Balloons.

Full of Hot Air: Fig. full of nonsense; talking nonsense.

My mind has been bursting with ideas lately. Dreams of seeing Memphis transformed, spinning with visions of my homeless pals living in safe places, overcoming addictions and learning that life is still worth the fight. I see ladies recognizing their worth. Realizing that they are each uniquely beautiful, despite the lies they are continually fed day after day.

I imagine single, struggling and teenage moms in a thriving environment learning how to cook, organize, work and be the women the Lord created them to be. I picture little kids who go to bed with empty bellies and even emptier hearts feeling full, loved and taken care of. I wonder what it would be like if the people in the “safe” and “unsafe” parts of town got over insignificant differences and actually came together to help each other out. What would happen if the richest of the rich felt that they were of more value than their income? If they knew joy is real, even though they have never been able to purchase it?

I know this all sounds silly, maybe even too good to be true. That’s the beauty of life with Jesus, though. I’m learning that He really likes silly and while most would consider these thoughts as “hot air” and good intentions, He sees them as something more. I imagine that He would picture them as hot air balloons–dreams that are just foolish enough to actually take off. I invite you to jump in the basket and come along for the ride. Why stay on the ground and just look at the clouds when we can live among them? The Lord has BIG plans that start with ordinary people like you and me simply saying “yes” to the invite to spread His love, hope and joy to the world.

Ready to adventure?

Jules

Slow down.

Let me begin with a heads-up: I’m really bad at grammar. I’ve never been an A+ student in writing class.  My teacher did offer to let me take her hamster home for having the most creative paper once though. That was way cool and somehow made up for my lack of skills in the English department. That being said, God is extremely gracious and allows me to go through this crazy life with Him. I’d hate to let something as silly as my inability to place a comma in the correct place to keep from sharing the beautiful adventure He allows me to join Him on. Here is one page from that journey:

I really try to “carpe diem” (seize the day) and make every moment count. That can be an enemy for me at times. There has got to be wiggle room in this packed schedule. A few days ago the Lord reminded me of who He is by interrupting my plans in the most beautiful way possible.

I was heading to meet with one of my best friends for our weekly “catch up” date. I really adore Leagan and after 3 years of sushi eating we have almost mastered the art of using chopsticks. The interstate was hectic like always. Cars were racing as quickly as possible to reach their destinations. I was in a totally different world, though. My heart had been heavy all afternoon. I was talking to the Lord and asked Him at that moment to open my eyes to see differently, to see as He does. My exit was approaching and I began to depart from the interstate. I noticed a small car broken down in front of me. I instantly pulled over and started walking on the side of the interstate to check on whoever had broken down. It was an outer body experience and i could hear my dad saying, “you did WHAT!?” I went regardless.

I approached a young lady named Delilah. We hugged and she introduced herself–a 20 year old mama to the most precious one year old, Madison. They were headed to the hospital to visit her aunt when they ran out of gas. She didn’t have any money to put in the tank. It was 100 degrees outside and they were both just sitting in the car. This clearly wasn’t okay. I assured her that I’m not crazy and would love to help out if she would allow me to. She burst into joy and gladly accepted the offer.

We moved Madison into my car (her little face lit up when she felt the air conditioning) and drove to the nearest church to borrow a gas can. Delilah kept repeating, “God is so good. He is so real. He is so good.” I agreed. What a terrific reminder. We went to the gas station, filled her car up and got some cash for snacks (Little Madison was hungry and would be waiting at the hospital for a while). I was about to leave when Delilah asked, “Would you come to the hospital with me? I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go. I’m trying not to breakdown over all of this.” I hugged her neck and said, “Absolutely. Let’s go, friend.”

We went to the hospital where I had the privilege of becoming a part of her family. Many tears, stories and laughs were shared. The sun had set and it was time for me to go. Goodbyes were said and I found myself crying out shouts of praise to our Father. God’s goodness and opportunities to love are all around. I think the trick is to slow down, embrace unexpected interruptions and notice them.

Jules