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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On When I Was 8-ish | A Letter to Myself

"I don't know a perfect person.  I only know flawed people who are still worth loving."
--John Green

• • • • • • • • • •

I found this photo while organizing the craft room and it hit me up in all of my feelings.  If you know me well, that's not really hard to do anyway.  I think I was about 8 here, but I'm not positive - there is no date on the back.  I know that this was taken in my childhood bedroom and that puppy in the photo was named Pete.  If I close my eyes really tightly, I can still smell his puppy smell.  It's one of my favorite smells in the world.  Seriously, I love puppy smell. I don't remember what happened to Pete, but I do remember him.

See that boat I am sitting in?  It was an inflatable boat that I got to go to take to the lake one summer.  I loved it so much and I slept in it on my bed for months.  I also note the stuffed animals lined up in the back, two of which were made for me by my Grannie.  Strawberry Shortcake and the tiger one.  I used to line all of my "babies" up and read to them and "teach" them.  See?  Feels.  


What hit me hard though is me.  Look at that smiling girl, so sweet and innocent.  No idea that she needed to grow into her teeth (and thank goodness, she did) or that one day she would actually pay someone good money on a regular basis to apply hot wax to her bushy eyebrows and rip it off. (Thanks for those, Daddy.)

I started to wonder what that little girl would say to me today and, what would I say to her?  I think maybe this:

Dear 8-ish-year-old-Julie:

Wow, you are so cute!  Seriously, you are a cute kid.  Pretty soon you are going to start looking in the mirror and criticizing yourself - how you look, how you speak, what you wear, etc.  You are going to start caring A LOT about what people think of you.  That little sparkle in your eyes is going to dull a little bit, your insecurities taking their place.  

I wish I could bubble wrap you up and keep your tender heart away from all that approval seeking noise that's about to start in your head.  

You don't know this, but when you grow up, you are going to go to college and you will eventually finish, although you won't end up doing what you go to school for.  You're going to get married and you're going to have a beautiful baby girl.  This is important because in a couple of years you are going to be told by doctors that children won't be possible because you're going to find out that you have a tumor on your spine that's been there since you were born.  Oh sweet girl, I wish I could tell you that it won't be scary.  It will be, but I promise that you will be fine.  You will fight your way through it and you will be just fine.  You are so strong and brave and you don't even know it!

One day you will have your heart broken in a way you've never felt before.  I wish again that I could tell you it won't be scary.  It will be.  But I promise, again, that you will be fine.  You are brave and strong, remember?  After a while, you'll start to see the good that comes out of something bad and you'll learn that family comes in all kinds of packages.  Don't worry - everyone will get along and most importantly, your daughter will know that she is loved.  You know what?  Your daughter is going to look just like you.  Twins.

Most of all I want to tell you that you will find the love of your life.  You'll meet Him when you're about ten, but you won't really fall in love with Him until all this other stuff happens.  That's why I know I can't bubble wrap you.  I'm not sure you would find Him in the way you have if you don't walk down this road to where I am today.  

I don't want to ruin the next thirty years for you, but it all turns out to be pretty amazing, even with the bad stuff.  If you ever get scared, just know that I'm here and I love you.  Remember that you are never alone.

Adult Julie

• • • • • • • • • •

Dear Adult Julie:

Hi!  Thanks for the letter.  I'm gonna be honest and say that some of it was kind of a bummer, but I'll trust you that everything turns out okay.

One thing I wonder about is if you are doing what you like to do.  You know, like coloring and drawing and laughing and using your imagination?  Do you still like to run outside and make mudpies?  Do you have a puppy?  Do you still giggle a lot and have fun with your friends?  

I sure do hope so.  

I love you!  I love writing letters to you and I hope that you are always happy in your heart.  I hope that you are smiling, just like you were in this photo.

8-ish-year-old Julie 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Absence Makes the Heart Grow | Marriage Letters Link Up

Absence Makes the Heart Grow | Marriage Letters Link Up | All Things Sunshiney

Dear Marriage:

As a little girl, I dreamed of you.  I set you up in my mind to be full of happiness and joy - a craftsman style bungalow with a fenced yard, three kids, a puppy, two cars in the driveway, and two people (one of them was me) who loved each other like Noah and Allie in The Notebook.  I viewed you as a vending machine, as if I could push the right buttons and get exactly what I ordered.  I placed high expectations upon you and thought that you would be the key to my happiness. 

As a naïve young woman, I met you and I was so in love with you.  Finally, my name was Wife.  For ten years I danced on eggshells with you, terrified that if I wasn't Wife, then I was nothing.  I placed you on a pedestal and then I blamed you for not meeting my high expectations and fulfilling my happiness quota.  You were my idol and I was blinded by your name and my television based fantasy of what you SHOULD be for me.  I didn't nourish you properly or pray for you until it was too late.

After you left, I swore that I would never dream of you again.  I was so full of anger and bitterness towards you.  You were a dysfunctional vending machine that only dispensed boxes of darkness.  I could not see what you really were - a sacred bond that required choice, commitment, and work from two people.  I would see you thriving for other couples and, because of my comparisons, I despised you more.  I stopped believing that you could ever be on the same page with me.

Over the past four years, I have forgiven you.  I have started to pray for you again.  I asked you to forgive me.  I started learning about you -- the real you that God intended you to be.  I am starting to believe in you again, but not in my little girl dreams of you.   I have opened up my heart towards you, I have earned a deep respect for you, I have grown because of your absence, and I thank you for every lesson you have taught me.

Even if I never personally meet you again, I believe in you and everything you stand for.  I cheer for you in the lives of my friends and family.  I pray for you in the life of my daughter.  I believe that you are worth the struggles, the late nights, the tears, the joys, and the way you break a heart open for good things.

Prayerfully that my heart continues to grow,

• • • • • • • • • •

Linking with Marriage Letters at

Monday, March 2, 2015

On Genuineness, The Mean Girl, and Being Brave | An Open Letter to My Daughter

An Open Letter to My Daughter | All Things Sunshiney

"What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful." 
Brene Brown

• • • • • • • • • •

Dear Doodlebug:

You are so beautiful to me, sweet girl.  It was snowing the other day at the house and you were standing outside playing with the dogs, snowflakes falling down around your face.  You put a blanket down on the snow and begged Miles to lay down beside you while you tried to catch snow on your tongue.  Red cheeks and long blonde hair falling around your face, calling out to me to come outside with you.  How did I get so lucky to be your mom? 

You are almost twelve and lately you and I have been having some really deep conversations.  You ask me very thoughtful questions and I am enjoying the quality time we spend together while we talk about things that really matter.  I can see the wheels turning in your head as you try your best to figure out what is good and right in the world.

One thing that comes up frequently is "the mean girl."  Oh, sweetheart.  What can I tell you about the mean girl?  Unfortunately, she is every where you go and also, she is there even when you are 37, like me.  I remember being your age, wanting so badly to fit in.  One day having a best friend and the next day being the loner on the play ground.  It is hard.  One thing I have learned over the years about the mean girl is that she is insecure and hurting and she doesn't know how to express those feelings so she expresses them in unhealthy ways and a lot of times, it's hurtful to others.  I know that is hard to understand, but the more you can try to have compassion for "the mean girl," the less your tender heart will be hurt. 

Another thing we have to deal with in life when it comes to relationships with other people is balancing being genuine and brave with who we are while also protecting our hearts.  There are people you will meet who will be safe enough to be in your inner circle, friends who will actually wade into the trenches of life with you, loving you every step of the way, and there are people who you will meet that you should be kind to from a distance.  When getting to know others, as you are growing and forming friendships, be cautious who you allow into your inner circle.  Not everyone will be willing to stay in the deep with you, and that is ok.  Protect your heart.

Also remember, as you are learning about friendships, that most of your life lasting friendships will be made when you are an adult.  Think about my close circle of friends.  Aside from one close friend from my youth, M, who I still stay in close contact with, every single one of my friends has been made when I was an adult.  I know that right now it may seem like the end of the world when so and so doesn't want to be your friend today, but believe me when I say that not all friendships will be like this.  I promise.

Lastly, I want to talk to you about being brave and genuine.  More than anything, I want you to grow into an adult who is not ever afraid to tell her story.  You never know who may need to hear it or be helped by it.  There is a way to tell your story and to protect your heart.  This is never a weakness, sweetheart, although some people will try to make you feel that it is.  Telling your story is brave.  Sharing your authentic self is brave.  Standing firm and telling someone that you have no reason to be ashamed of your life, even if you have made mistakes, is brave.  This year for your birthday, I pray over you the courage to be brave with your life.

I love you so very much.

Thankful to be part of your inner circle,

Thursday, February 12, 2015

On That Time I Allowed a Complete Stranger to Hurt My Heart | A Note for You and for Me

On That Time I Allowed a Complete Stranger to Hurt My Heart | All Things Sunshiney

"It's one thing to impress people, but it's another thing to love them."
Donald Miller

• • • • • • • • • •

Dear Heart On Her Sleeve Wearing Friend,

I want to tell you a story.

Thump, thump, thump.


My heart pounded as I read the words.  Someone that I have never met and do not know had written an untruth about me in a public post on Facebook, wherein they were telling a mutual friend exactly what they thought about something.  I wasn't a part of the situation, but I got dragged into the middle of it anyway.  Thankfully, the person it was being said to (or written to) had the libel removed within an hour.  I doubt many people saw it.

My immediate reaction was laughter because what she said about me was so outrageous, a complete  lie, and not within my character at all.  But, within a few minutes, my laughter turned into defense mode.  Who WAS this person and why did she say these things about me?  I blocked her account from my personal Facebook account and went on about my day and my life, but her words nagged at me.

What this woman said about me hurt me.  A complete stranger had managed to hurt my heart and what was worse: I was allowing a complete stranger to hurt my heart.

A symptom of hurt is anger.  When we feel hurt, a natural reaction is to hit back and hurt the one who has hurt us.  One thing I know to be true is this:  hurt people hurt people.  When my anger over the situation kicked in, I wanted to confront this woman.  I wanted to send her a passive aggressive, sarcastic message that said something like:

"Hi, you don't know me, but since you've felt comfortable enough to publicly make assumptions about my life and accuse me of things I haven't done, I thought I should at least introduce myself.  My name is Julie.  I squeeze my toothpaste from the bottom of the tube.  I love bacon.  Clowns have never really scared me.  When I say 'comfortable,' I pronounce every syllable.  Is there anything else you would like to know?" 

I mean, seriously, the hospitable part of me was in a pickle, ya'll.  What is the protocol for a proper introduction in these situations?  Did I have to consult Emily Post's Etiquette, or was winging it ok?

Sarcasm aside: words matter and they are powerful.  When we feel brave enough to say things about other people, do we stop first to consider that the person we are speaking of is a REAL person, just like us, who has feelings and a life and friends and family who love them?  Do we stop to think that maybe this person sees a side to the situation that we cannot see?

I recently heard someone say, "There are three sides to every situation.  The side I cannot see, the side you cannot see, and the side we both cannot see."

As my hurt turned to anger and as my anger began to steal my peace and joy, I shared the situation with a trusted friend who often speaks truth to me.  I said:  I do not want to be bitter over a stranger's false accusation.  What is wrong with me?  Why does this bother me so much?

She said, well, it bothers you so much because (1) it was a lie, about you, that was posted in a public forum and because (2) you have a natural tendency to want people to like you.  Hi, my name is Julie and I have a disease known as the need to please others.  It is really unhealthy, but I'm working on it.

After a healthy talk with my friend and the realization that this woman's rant really wasn't about ME or anything I had done, I stopped to consider this person.  She is a valuable human being, after all, made by the same God who made each and everyone one of us in His image.  Through this lens, I wondered about her.  What was she like?  Did she like to cook?  When she laughed was it a giggle, or was it a throw your head back and belly laugh until you cry kind of laugh?  What was her life scripting that she would think an acceptable reaction to being hurt would be to lash out at my friend so publicly (which just happened to land on me a little bit because I was close to the friend she was giving the lashing) instead of privately sharing her thoughts?  I knew that there was a side to the situation that she could not see (mine), but what I really asked myself was: what side of the situation could I not see?

I didn't have an answer to that and most likely never will, because like I said, I don't even know this person and I never sent her a message about my toothpaste tube pushing habits in an effort to introduce myself, but what I realized is that my being offended by what she wrote was equivalent to being offended if she had written that Doritos were purple and tasted like crushed ginger.  They were just words written on Facebook.  That didn't make them the truth.

I could choose to accept that she wanted her words to be her truth.  I could choose to not allow her words to become my truth.  I could choose to let it go.  I could choose to be ok that she may be someone who just doesn't like me.  I could choose to forgive her.  I could choose to embrace my peace and joy and not allow bitterness to steal it away.  I could choose to see her as someone like me, like you...flawed, emotional, in need of grace, 60% water and still thirsty.

In His Grace,