Thursday, January 16, 2014

This is going to be a "working through it" post.

I'm feeling stuck lately. One of those hitting a wall kind of things. Lost. Stagnant. Unmotivated. 

Which sounds a lot like a typical January to me. Nothing is really wrong, there is no big fight with the hubby happening, no major crisis of emotion or life....just a general blahness.

It feels incredibly selfish for me to be whining about this, so I'm not sure I'll actually post this, but I do feel the need to write it out and see if something comes to light.

Some of the problem stems from my not-so-reluctant break from schooling. For the first time since the fall of 2011, I am not in school. On the one hand, this break should be good for me. It should give me time to work on getting the house in order before the baby comes, gives me the opportunity to sit around in sweatpants instead of investing in maternity work clothes, gives me the chance to take it easy during this pregnancy. On the other other hand, I feel like I am throwing away 2 years of hard work. I am only two classes away from graduating with my master's degree. All I need is my practicum and then my internship, and I graduate. That's it. All "real" coursework is done. I am finally at the point where I can put all of my learning into action. And I am having to take a break now. I say not-so-reluctant because I like the positive reasons I listed above for taking a break, but I am not taking a break because I want to. Financial issues, having to do with the ex-husband, are forcing my *hopefully* temporary break. 

So all of this time away from school leaves me with nothing forcing me to do any kind of work. Don't get me wrong, there are a million things to do around the house, but there is no deadline, no looming bad grade if I don't get it done, nothing making me get off my booty and do it. I am feeling lazy. Which in turn makes me feel bad. Which means I am glum. Which equates to why I am feeling lost, stagnant, unmotivated.

I know what I can do to start feeling better about it all....get working on my list of things that need to be done. I just don't wanna. Why is that?

This baby is due to arrive in May. That really is not that far away. I don't really have all the time in the world to get stuff done in the house. So why am I sitting here, typing away on a keyboard, instead of scratching something off of that list? Especially since I know that scratching something off the list will be a step closer to solving my blahness?

Stuff to think about. What is really going on here?

Monday, April 8, 2013


Two years ago this month, I sat on a hilltop, overlooking part of Pittsburgh, discussing the possibility of going back to school. I couldn't see how I would ever be able to manage it...
Would my brain still work? How could I go to school and raise my kids and work? How could I afford it? Was I too old, too long out of school, too....whatever? Those questions echoed through my mind.

There was a time in my life when I was told that, were it not for that certain other person, I would have amounted to nothing. I was told that I was lazy. I was told that even my Dad would kick me out after awhile, once he saw what I was really like. And I allowed the words from that person to infiltrate my mind. Those words still echo sometimes. I am absolutely aware that they are not true. That the person who said those words was wounded and broken himself. But they still echo.


I am a mom to 6 wonderful children. I am a good mom. I have to tell myself that sometimes, over and over again, because the guilt that a mother feels is never far away. The guilt that a mother who has been through a divorce feels is certainly never far away. If only I had, if only I could, if only....if only....the doubts, the fears, the worries, the concern over how I am shaping these children who have been brought into my life....they all echo.


My friend, Keyla, said something to me January of 2011 that echoes through my mind now and then. She told me, when I questioned how I could ever go back to school, "solo tienes que meterse en el agua" (you just have to get into the water). She was insistent that, in order to swim, I would just have to get into the water and everything else would work itself out. "Solo tienes que meterse en el agua"....echoes.

I will never leave you nor forsake you.
I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.
He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They shall soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not get weary; they will walk and not grow faint.
The Lord is my strength and my song.
Verses, songs, promises from God, things I've heard Him whisper to me, times I've seen His works in my life....these echo too.


I can choose to listen to those things that echo darkness into my life. Tears can fall, again. I can listen to the voice of the ones who would hurt me, hold me down, enhance my fears, and cause me to sit in the dark, trembling. I can give in to the fears, allowing them to hold me still. I can be defined by those who think they know me, who wound because of their own wounds, who run from the Light and Truth.


I can listen to those things which reinforce hope. Hope. I can listen to the voice of those who build with their love and acceptance. I can listen to the whispers of Truth. I can choose to be defined by my Maker. I can choose to allow love to flood every area of my heart. I can choose to take one step forward. And another. And another. Brushing the echoes away. Pushing the echoes away. Drowning the echoes with my actions, with the words of my love, with the promises of my God. Sometimes I take the steps, while hearing those heart-wrenching echoes still, but I take the step anyway. Trembling. Stubborn. I will not let those echoes win.


Two years ago I sat on a hilltop, wondering how to go back to school. Today I have only a few classes left, an internship just around the corner, 90% of my required courses completed, a 3.92 GPA staring back at me on the computer screen. I have two biological kids who still laugh, still love. I have four brought-to-me kids who are growing, testing, letting love filter in here and there. I have a husband who adores me. I let that echo too. It is hard sometimes. I have a God who brings wounded families together, binds them together, restores hurts, broken pieces, loss.


“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all - 
~Emily Dickinson

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Songs of Joy

I shared this at church a few months back, on the topic of joy....

Several years back I grew tired of making New Year’s resolutions. I would just keep writing the same things, year after year, on the next year’s list. Instead, I decided to ask God for one specific thing each year. I would spend a bit of time listening to what it was I thought God might be telling me to request of Him, and I would pray that first day of January for whatever it was I thought He was saying. A couple of years back I asked God to increase my faith. I had no idea that the way He does that is through some pretty painful moments, and, while I highly recommend that everyone ask God for the same thing, I also highly recommend that you brace yourself for what is to come.

Before the month was up I lost a baby.

And then a week later I lost my grandma.

During that year my then-husband lost his job. And then I lost an 11-year marriage. With the loss of the marriage came a loss of my home, the loss of my role as a stay-at-home mom, loss of financial security, loss of a life-journey companion, loss of free time, and even the loss of some friendships.

I can remember feeling scared and uncertain. Desperate about how I would provide for my two children. Fear that I might be alone for the rest of my life. There were moments throughout that year when it was all I could do to get out of bed. Get dressed. Show up at church. I sang on the worship team at my previous church, and there were times when praising God in worship simply meant that I sat, tears dripping, with one hand opened on my lap in surrender.

My faith grew. All throughout that year God showed up in little and big ways. There is a song by BarlowGirl called Never Alone that has these lyrics in it…
I cried out with no reply…and I can't feel You by my side…So I'll hold tight to what I know…You're here and I'm never alone….And though I cannot see You…and I can't explain why….Such a deep, deep reassurance…You've placed in my life…We cannot separate…'Cause You're part of me…and though You're invisible…I'll trust the unseen.

We often talk in church circles about God being the master potter. That we are His clay. That He molds us into what He wants us to be. I think we like to imagine that He makes us into these beautiful little pots, so pretty, so perfect. And that if we submit to His will, then He will create gorgeous masterpieces.

And we are wrong.

God IS the master potter. We ARE His clay. We are pretty little pots, which quickly, through our own sin, through the sin of those around us, through the brokenness that is the world, become broken shards of pottery.

We make decisions based on anger, fear, pride…and pieces of our pot break off.

An unexpected death. There goes another piece.

Loss of a marriage. Another piece.

All of the different ways that life has of causing storms, and our pot teeters and falls.

And we take those broken pieces, and hold them up to God, asking Him to fix it. And He does.

Only, not in the way we expect. We expect a perfect, pretty little pot to be returned to us.
And we get back a pot with holes, and scars, and cracks still showing. A pot glued together with His love and grace. And definitely not perfect.

How can God use this pot? Why would God use such a pot?

The answer lies in this. A perfect, pretty pot is a lovely thing to look at. But place such a pot over a candle and what happens? It blocks the light.

An imperfect pot, cracked…with holes…placed over a candle…shines the light in a unique way. In a way that only that pot can. It is a beacon calling others to the light.

What I learned that year is that my broken places, my redeemed sinful moments, my pain, my loss, everything which hurt within me is useful to God.

He doesn’t waste a hurt. Beauty from ashes.

What does all of this have to do with joy? The next year I asked God to give me joy. And He did. Overflowing, abundant, exuberant joy.
I am married again. To my best friend. I have been given four more children to love on. I am more than halfway through a master’s degree program which is pointing me in a direction where God can use more of my broken pieces.
Each of these gifts is more beautiful, more joyful, because of the previous pain.

Psalm 126:5-6
Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

Life is full of painful moments. Let God use those to bring others to Him. Let God use those to pour out joy into your life, and into the lives of others.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Opening? Closing? Leading?

At the beginning of this year my boss told me that he would like for me to gift him something in this new year...he wanted me to stop thinking, and just say okay when he asked me to do something. He said that he was always two steps ahead of me, and he just wants an okay. 

And I was hurt.

A few weeks ago my hours were dramatically cut at work. Everyone's hours were cut, but mine were cut twice as much as anyone else's.

And I was hurt.

I have wallowed in that hurt. Allowing Satan to whisper in my ear both that I'm not good enough and that I'm too good for this job. I have replayed the words in my head, hearing that I only think I'm smart, responding with thoughts of anger and a desire to cut him down to size, focusing on his errors. I have given in to anger and frustration. I have sat and calculated everyone's hours, kept track of how much more I work, focused on  my bitterness. 

I admit all of this because I aim to be honest here, on my blog. I aim to present a true picture of who I am, who God has saved, just who He is calling. I am not perfect. I am often angry and bitter and frustrated and arrogant and hurting.

Sunday, in church, our pastor spoke about our identity in Christ. But what spoke to me louder than his words, were the songs we sung in worship.

 Be Thou My Vision. 

This verse.... Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise, thou mine inheritance, now and always: Thou and Thou only, first in my heart, High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

My vision has been focused on me, again. I was striving for man's praise, when, even if I did receive it, all it would be was emptiness. I have struggled to find my identity in a job which I have known was only temporary, was stopgap given to me for a short period of time. I have allowed words spoken, not out of hatred or disgust, to reverberate in my mind. I have responded with pride and arrogance, chin lifted high. All along, what I needed to be focusing on was my Father. The praises of my God. 

I confessed to Him during worship that I had forgotten, once again. He whispered "I know". I told Him I was sorry. He whispered "Already forgiven". He whispered "I love you, my child". And my tears flowed. 

Why have I clung, in bitterness, to something which may simply be a door that God is closing so that I can walk through another door? 

Yesterday, in facebook conversation with my mother-in-law, I expressed how I so long to do God's will for my life, and how I have felt like my husband and I have been in a holding pattern for awhile, with God providing basic needs and prepping us for something, but how inpatient I am to discover what it is He is preparing us for. So much of the past year and a half has been "wait and see", and I want to see it already! I mentioned that I probably should focus on improving my spiritual life and keep waiting on Him.

And then today, for one of my graduate courses, I watched a presentation by Katie Brazelton. She's an author, life coach, etc. I actually read her Pathway to Purpose for Women book a handful of years ago and loved it so much that I bought the workbook to go with it and shared it with my mother. She was talking about Life Purpose Coaching: what it is, what it looks like, etc. And every word resonated within me. The talks we've been having about developing a program to help blended families navigate those difficult waters, the longing I've had my entire life to help others, the courses I've been taking on counseling others, the life experiences I've gone through which God has used to shape me for His future plan, the books I've read, the talents I possess, the desire of my heart to work with women, even my love for Bolivia and the ministry possibilities there (hello, the company is INTERNATIONAL)..all of it, being used in that manner, in helping others through Life Purpose Coaching. Katie Brazelton mentioned her Do-Be-Do life today what God is calling you to do today, be striving toward living a life of holiness, and then, when those two things are being done, God will reveal what you are to do with your life...His grand purpose for you. 

Could this be what I am being directed toward? There is training course and curriculum to go through to become a Life Purpose Coach. I have asked my mother-in-law to be in prayer in regards to that course and whether God is leading me there. I will ask my own mother to do the same. I will ask my husband to lift it before God as well. And I ask you, anyone who is reading this blog, to do the same. Tell me your thoughts of this ministry and how I might fit into it. 

Monday, January 14, 2013


This past week made me forget. It made me crabby. It made me tired and discouraged and angry and bitter and resentful and narrow sighted. I only thought of me. How I missed my husband. How I had to do more around the house. How I had to deal with the kids on my own. How tired I was. How there was so much I wanted to do and not enough time, money, energy. I forgot.

I forgot to be thankful. To feel the blessings. To turn to God.

I forgot.

How quickly I forget. I forget that He is the one to turn to when I am tired and discouraged and angry and bitter and resentful and find my eyes focused on me.

Isaiah 40:28-30....
Do you not know? 
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. 
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

And this, these verses, the prayer of my heart (Oh Father, forgive my forgetfulness. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.), the songs of praise filling my mind with reminders.....this is why God calls me to daily time with Him.

I forget so easily. And can be so easily reminded. If I but spend the time with Him.

Thank you, Father.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Life is pain, Highness

This is the time of year when we drag out the Christmas decorations, glam up our house, bake our hearts out, and try to find the perfect gift. If you are like me, you look forward to Christmas, and love the music, and think there is nothing more beautiful than the Christmas tree lit up at night. And you are exhausted. A lot. I have a friend who declares every year that she is tired of being "the sole provider of Christmas joy" in her house. She's exhausted. I have a husband who is wonderful about decorating and "doing" Christmas. And we are both exhausted. How are we missing the point so badly? What is it that makes it feel like such a race?

In a household of seven, there are very rarely moments of quiet. There is noise, chaos, fights, crashing of cars, electric guitars, music of every different style, barking, meowing, and phones chiming. With work and graduate school, daughter to gymnastics, son to shooting club, son to doctor, son to youth group, daughter's car won't work, rooms to clean, dinners to make, laundry, laundry, laundry...there is never a moment of silence.

These moments. This life. This is what I will miss when it is silent again in our home. When I have hours of free time to decorate my tree, bake my cookies, shop for gifts. This mad chaos that is our life right now, these are the moments. How do I hold on to that?

There is a quote in a Jodi Picoult book which sums this up....

"Life was what happened when all the what-if’s didn’t, when what you dreamed or hoped or – in this case – feared might come to pass passed by instead. "
— Jodi Picoult

I don't want to miss this life. I don't want to miss the joy of Christmas because I am so concerned with it being perfect. My beautifully messy life is perfect.  

Life is pain, Highness...anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something. Yes, life is pain. There is intense pain. Moments when you think another breath will be your last. Moments when you clutch at your chest or gut, doubled over, the tears dripping off your face, thinking this is it...I can't do this anymore. Moments when you look around at your life in desperation, thinking this can't really be my life. There are moments when you hear the dreaded word, moments when you lose the one person you can't imagine living without, moments when the door closes and you see no other way out. Those moments are life. They are pain. 

For anyone who has come out the other side of that pain, you know that life is pain. That pain is a part of you now, a part which will never leave. It is your story. It is a scar you carry with you. 

It is beautiful.

When you can once again look at the sky, once again laugh over coffee, once again smile at a stranger, once again take joy in a good book, once again hug, once again think on that painful place...then you know true beauty.

Out of the ashes, beauty.

This picture was taken a few years ago. Two months after I left my marriage, with two children, and a 10 year old van. No money, no job, no idea how it was all going to work out. I had no way to make a Christmas that year. And friends, family, and strangers stepped in and blessed us in ways I can't even express. Gifts, food, clothing, a place to live, money, a haircut, cards and encouragement, prayers, and constant reminders that I was not alone. Beauty, from ashes.

Christmas. The ones growing up when we didn't have enough money. I was mortified to be given handmade rabbits by my mother once Christmas. Everyone else got the latest and greatest. What I wouldn't give to have those rabbits now. Knowing that she spent hours on them. Knowing that she was in full-time graduate school herself, then. Knowing, now, how busy she was and how hard she worked on them. I can appreciate the work my parents have done, now, because of the messy chaos of my life now. I can appreciate the gift of four children, brought into my life by my husband, because of the pain of losing a baby. I can appreciate the joy of spending time with my best friend, my partner, my husband, because of the devastation of divorce. I can look back and see that, yes, my life has been shaped by pain. Life is pain. And it is beautiful. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I have a love for home decorating/renovating, and have longed to start a blog to highlight all of the changes I'll be making to our home. I really don't have the time to be doing this now...full-time graduate school, part-time work, mom/step-mom to six kids, and wife to my best friend!...but whatever, I love nothing more than procrastinating school work! I'm going to start by introducing myself and our family...

Julie. 30-something. Lover of coffee, starry nights, hot bread, the smell of lemons, eye wrinkles, fresh notebooks, good books, Thai food, and trees.
Brian. Not 30-something. 6'4". My best friend. My love. My husband. My partner. The man who makes me laugh more than anyone else in the world. My shelter. My comfort. And pretty much the best guy ever.
Between the two of us we have six kids.
Miss is the oldest. She is in college, and out on her own. She loves Johnny Depp, The Golden Girls, NCIS, her brothers, and my cheesecake.
Young Mr. is next oldest. He looks like his dad. He's 18 and attending the same online university as his dad and me. He loves being with his friends, laughs easily, and we've developed a great friendship.
Next is Diva. Dramatic, out-going, energetic, usually right (and always thinks she is), creative, and is going to own the world one day. She's 10. She wants to be a singer/actress, and she has the spark, the talent, and the drive to do it.
Justice. 6 months younger than Emilie. Master of witty comebacks. Loud shower singer. The policeman of the family. Tender heart.
Taco. Almost 6 years old. Big brown eyes. Cute lisp. Gamer extraordinaire. Future stuntman.
Youngest. 5 years old. Loves to love everyone. Always willing to share. Has his daddy wrapped around his finger. And going to be tall!

We are an imperfect blend. We love each other. We fight. We are committed to making this family strong, by keeping our marriage strong.

Our house was my husband's grandparents house. His mother was raised here. He was raised here. It has a lot of history, a lot of projects, and a lot of potential!