Looking behind: Since my last update, it feels like I've only blinked—and in that split-second (a.k.a. six months), an eternity has happened! The past two years at FC were essentially what I had dreamed they would be: a combination of enriching classes, exciting social activities, and life-long friendships all encapsulated by spiritual ideals. I'm pretty sure it's impossible to condense my experience into a few sentences. I just can't explain it... except to say how grateful I am for every professor I learned from, every meal I ate, every night in the dorms, every heart who touched mine, every prayer God answered, every door He opened, and every good thing He placed in my lap. Thanks to everyone who helped me make these wonderful memories.
Today I looked back on my life as a sixth grader. I was reading an old journal and came across this wish: "I hope I'm popular in Heaven. I want all the angels to know who I am!" It makes me laugh to realize how silly and immature I was back then, and yet I know several years from now I'll probably look back and think the same thing all over again. And just for the record, my current goal isn't to be popular in Heaven. It's just to make it there, by the grace of God.
Looking around: KY is my home base for the summer, and I must admit it's been wonderful to be with my family so far! Being home means sleeping in my own room, baking in the kitchen, playing our piano, just sitting and talking to my parents, hearing Luke's music all over the house, reading my Bible in the backyard, visiting my favorite prayer spot, and—of course—missing Jady. When I'm not at home, though, you might find me at camp (yay Texas and Dry Creek!) or hanging out with great Bowling Green-ers or having my wisdom teeth cut violently from my precious gums... but you won't find me substitute teaching anymore. I've had enough of that for awhile!
I do wish Jady could be here, but I'm so thankful for the ways we can grow and be used by God even while we're apart. And it makes me really excited to think of him helping seven-camps-worth of kids these next few months! Dating him brings me so much joy, and I only hope others will be blessed through him, too. I'll try not to wish away my wonderful summer at home, taking to heart the words of Samuel Johnson: "Of the blessings set before you make your choice, and be content. No man can taste the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers of the spring: no man can, at the same time, fill his cup from the source and from the mouth of the Nile."
Looking ahead: God willing, I'll be heading back to FC one more year to finish my Liberal Studies degree. And while I have no idea even what tomorrow may bring, whatever measure of challenges or joys or blessings or pain God deems best, one thing I ask of the Lord. This is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in His temple.
I want to be conscious of God each moment of the day. I want to do everything without complaining or arguing. I want to be less like Julianne and more like Christ. I want to love God's Word, to long for a deeper understanding of His nature and His will, to strain every nerve and submit every fiber of my being in accordance with His purposes. I want to trust and obey...
:: in nouns: livingston avenue. handicap showers. chick-fil-a. yoga. jady. free razors. pink. so many yummy cookies. long walks. the longstreth family whom I (and many others) obviously adore. disney. photo booths and photobooth (the real kind and the software). mounds of seasonal decorations and tables of desserts. a little latin. bert's bees. dinosaurs. pumpkin mousse. floss. deliciously crisp mornings and gently warm evenings. lots of burritos. vitamins. jady. candle warmers. smoothies. unclaimed hay bales. sandals, even in december. my favorite sweater. milton and pascal and pope and johnson and goethe and herbert and so many others. memory verse mondays. 2nd samuel. sunshine on my shoulders and in my soul. puppy chow. bugs. couplah. dr. seuss. southwest. jady. ribbons. cracker barrel cravings. theracanes. quarters. stars.
:: in adjectives: wonderful. crazy. exhausting. helpful. pedagogical. uplifting. memorable.
:: in verbs: texting. praying. reading. researching. typing. LOL-ing. jamba-ing. making our beds. making faces. making happy mail. confessing my appreciation for facebook. worshipping. sharing. tweeting. crying. driving. cherishing. trying harder. smelling the roses. scheduling. counseling. being humbled. napping. pouring out. filling up. trusting. d'lite-ing. enjoying. learning. listening.
:: in complete sentences: Three semesters down, three to go... for this chapter in my life, at least. I'm still at Florida College and still loving it, because God is still in Heaven and still loving me! He shows me such amazing care and gives me fresh grace every day and strengthens my hands for work. I'm so completely indebted to Him, but so happy and confident to be serving Him. There is no other Rock.
Fall break brought me back to Kentucky, and God brought me back to some high school friends. Tonight I had a great time catching up with them, and I think God used them to teach me some important lessons.
They told me about our classmates: dropping out of school. Having children. Aborting children. Living with guys. Splitting up marriages. Betraying their friends. Bulimic. Mentally unstable. Alcoholic. Depressed. Gaining or losing drastic amounts of weight. Smoking. Sleeping with random guys. Using paychecks to buy pot... talk about a reality slap to knock the naiveté out of you.
The ironic part is how seemingly happy and popular and smiley they all were in high school. I often looked at my religious restrictions as making me miss out on all the fun, and I was jealous of their carefree prancing through the halls. But you know who's waking up smiling now?
It's not like I just live in the absence of depressing, messy things; instead, I live in the presence of rich and beautiful things. I have friends who would lay down their lives for me—friends who genuinely care for me and help me and lift me up and speak the truth in love. I have a boyfriend who respects and protects and values my purity. I have a mom and dad so faithful to God, and to me, and to each other. (Tomorrow is their 23rd anniversary.) I have a truly rare educational experience at Florida College, being taught by Christians and with Christians. And I have a unique lifestyle while at FC: knowing someone will check on me every night at curfew, finding happy mail in my mailbox, walking to class and waving at everyone in a half-campus radius.
God has blessed me with rich things, and I'm truly happy. The world may see restrictions, but I feel totally free in a John 8:32 kinda way. By living God's way and walking in His truth, I can be all that He wants me to be. I can enjoy His gifts while still longing for Heaven. I can be so confident in living each new day and going wherever He sends me and doing whatever He commands, because I know He'll take care of me. In the context of my classmates, the most religious kid is now the happiest kid.
1. Even (especially) in high school, be evangelistic.
If I had spoken up a little more boldly, perhaps I could have helped someone. Odds are, not many would have listened. But even if I could have prevented one precious heart from breaking (and causing a domino line of others), it would have been worth whatever weird looks or laughs I had received in return. If they're in so much pain right now here on earth, I shudder to imagine the eternal anguish sin will bring.
2. Never underestimate your influence.
Apparently a couple years ago, a guy asked me in front of the class if I was going to come drink at his party that night, and I just replied, "No, I like to remember the fun I have." And the very kids I thought were rolling their eyes at me were the ones silently applauding me. One of the girls I was with tonight told me about this, and about how proud she was of me that day. Who knew? Oh, God did. He sees inside people. And I love Him for that.
3. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Getting into my car tonight, tears immediately flooded my eyes as I began praying for all these kids. My drive back was on a dark and winding road, so I also said a quick prayer for safety. And then I realized how accidentally metaphorical my prayer was. Aren't we all driving down dark, windy roads? But as Christians, we get to drive with our brights on. God's word is a lamp to our feet, illuminating our paths so that even our night will shine like the day
4. God is winning, and we are more than conquerors through Him.
Go read Psalms 37 and 73
If you devote your heart to Him, and stretch out your hands to him,
If you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,
Then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear.
You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by.
Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning.
You will be secure, because there is hope;
You will look about you and take your rest in safety.
I would go crazy trying to recount all the details from the past couple months. But I have come to this conclusion: our Lord is incredible—His provision, wisdom, patience, Word, timing, discipline—and I am thankful to be His servant.
Being in D.C. was great; being with Ben was even greater! He got tickets for us to watch the fireworks on the White House lawn, right under the President's balcony. There were thousands of other people there, so it wasn't like a personal jam session with the Bushes, but it was still a really fun experience. Beautiful fireworks display + free Bluebell ice cream + my wonderful family = a memorable 4th of July for sure.
Being in Texas was hot/wonderful/uplifting/tiring/sobering/fun all at once. I just learned/loved/laughed so much in those two weeks. There were moments/conversations/opportunities when I just had to tell myself, "This must be why God let me be a camp friend." I've been praying that the girls in my classes/cabin were as benefited from being there as I know I was! Thanks, Texas campers/staff, for making the week so great—and glory to God for that.
Being home is a breath of fresh air. I've just finished up working at the B&G Club, and now I have the next week to get ready for Florida. We've had a string of sweet company lately to whet my social butterfly's appetite, so I'm completely stoked about this fall. Lord-willing, I'll leave the 11th. I've loved being home, and I feel overwhelmingly welcome here, and I love that, and I probably always will... but it's time to move on. There are better things ahead than any we leave behind, right?
-- I am totally, completely, 100% attached to my falling apart shoes. We're going on four years (three D.C. trips, two white water rafting expeditions, and one mountain hike... just to continue the countdown).
-- The ZOE Group is the soundtrack to my life. Thanks a lot, D-Wat.
-- I'm in love with: fresh fish, hip hop music, children's artwork, the color pink (which is almost as much of a mindset as a color), and the Yankee Candle Company.
-- It's important to have friends of various ages and personalities, because they are like open textbooks walking through our lives.
-- God knows what we need, when we need it, why we need it, and how much we need it.
-- We've gotta give our hearts fully, impartially, and unhesitatingly to the people around us—not because they deserve it, but because God demands it.
-- Discipline, self-control, and respect for God's gifts are so physically apparent in how we live. Do we keep the space around us clean? Do we manage our time wisely? Do we open our mouths with wisdom? The clothes in our closet, the minutes in our day, the words on our lips... these have been entrusted to us by God.
-- Sometimes it's other people's weaknesses that hurt us, and not our own. But we must bear these meekly and patiently.
-- Mountains and stars and oceans and sunsets are wonderful. Truly. But, to me, people are the most beautiful of God's creation. Humanity is so stained by sin, but there are moments when Christ will shine through a brother or sister, and I remember why I'm here and what I'm to be doing. And there's no doubt in my mind: why would I want to be Julianne when I could be like Christ? I want to lose myself in Him...
This summer, I'm working at the Boys and Girls Club here in Franklin. The job is simultaneously challenging and rewarding. (Typical, huh?) I've gotten so good at tying shoes, putting on Band-Aids, playing Foosball, and calling out exotic names like Olajuan and Tarneesha and Da'Sha and Ventavious and Lyric and Hajjah. I get to hug all over kids whose parents deal drugs, hide from the police, and tell their children to only be friends with people of their own race. I give paper airplanes and high-fives and afternoon snacks to kids who have defective moral compasses and skewed worldviews. From 7:30 to 4:00, five days a week, that's where you'll find me.
I'm learning so much about the importance of disciplining children and recognizing how perfect our Father is in His own discipline of us. (Evaluating a situation, knowing the proper punishment for each party, and then actually executing the penalty is extremely hard—yet God does it flawlessly!) I'm also learning how silly it seems when kids get upset and find a corner to cry in when they should obviously just come to an adult who could help them; yet how much sillier are we when the Creator of the universe is only a prayer away, and we wallow in our own self-pity? The kids at the Club are just constantly challenging me to reflect God's patience and grace, knowing firsthand how wonderfully rich He is in this capacity.
Last summer around this time, I was at the DOV camp and traveling out to Colorado. Honestly, I'd probably give up one of our kittens just to be there again, with those people, in those places, drinking in all of the good opportunities. But there's nowhere else I'd rather be than right where God wants me to be! If He has me here, then I'm content in just trusting He knows the way. In the words of Milton, "Who brought me hither will bring me hence; no other guide I seek."
Speaking of delicious opportunities, I was blessed with a fantastic MN camp experience. It was a week of challenging studies, edifying conversations, and new friendships of all shapes and sizes. We even went to a Twins game and the Mall of America—both firsts for me. So fun! Lord-willing, I'll be headed to Texas for two more camps next Saturday. But first it's another week of work and a quick trip to D.C. to visit my brother!
Thank you, God, for summer.