Collection of Beautiful Things (V)

I have been in a really happy mood recently.  It feels like my soul has wings and is bursting forth towards the heavens.  (If you’ve read one of my most recent posts, you can probably guess why.). The world is beautiful and rosy and shimmering in magic.

On my phone, I have a collection of screenshots.  These photos are things that touch my heart and soul in some deep way.  They are beautiful and wonderful and thought-provoking.  This small snippet of photos are varied in topic, but I think each and every one of them have an element of beauty to them, and they make my heart happy.  Some are reminders of God and corresponding verses, some are reminders to adventure, and yet others simply beautiful in motivation and illustration.  Beauty is multi-faceted, isn’t it?

As I am working on other posts to show you soon, I thought I would try to spread the happiness and beauty I am feeling and seeing, with the rest of the world.

Ciao for now,

Julia

Let go and embrace His plan.

Hey guys, sorry its been a it.  I promise I am working on several posts; most notably the results from my survey.  But right now, I’m feeling really happy, and I don’t want to work on those posts.

Some of the major details I’d like to keep secret for awhile longer.  I’m feeling incredible happy, and my soul is singing, and I don’t want to do anything that could potentially ruin this.  But I am learning some really important things, and like all things, I wanted to share it with you.

I am learning, that in order to fully embrace what God is going to do in your life, you have to let go of certain expectations and plans you may place on Him. 

Let me explain.  I’ve been single for three-wish years. (I did date someone at the beginning of the year for two-ish months.  And because of that short duration, I consider it simply a tiny blimp on my “single” timeline.). And I’m getting to the point in my life where I’m beginning to think about my future and getting married.  So it would seem natural that I would be looking for a relationship, right?

Last year, when I applied for a summer position at a Christian camp, I thought for sure that I would meet the man of my dreams at the camp, and the rest would be history.  I began to place that desire on God, and I expected Him to follow through with it.  However, when I wasn’t offered a position, I thought God wasn’t keeping His promise.  I think I was more hurt by the fact that I wasn’t going to meet Godly men, and the future I had built before me involving a Godly man from camp wasn’t going to happen, than I was with the actual rejection.

When this past fall semester started, I had the same mentality; The man I am supposed to meet will be in one of my classes.  He wasn’t.  Then spring semester started.  Same thing.  Then I started a new job.  Still, I had the same mentality.  And as of right now, the same result.  I was beginning to think this illusive man would be at this college I’m transferring to in the fall.

But, well, all I’ll say, is sometimes, maybe, God has a different plan.

What I’m learning, is if I continue to place that expectation of meeting my Prince Charming at a certain place at a certain time on God, I may be missing out on His true plan for me.  I need to stop trying to confine God to what I think He should do, and when I think He should do it.  “I am not skilled to understand, what God has willed, what God has planned”, so why should I try to think I do?

I am also learning that nothing I do could ever screw up God’s plan for me.  Ever.  I am not that powerful.

I used to be so worried that the right guy would come along while I was in a relationship.  That while I was with one guy, the “right” guy would catch my eye.  I used to be so worried I would get stuck in between my timing and God’s timing.  I used think I had the ability to royally screw up God’s plan for me.  And I used to think anything I did in one relationship could directly affect my chances of meeting Mr. Right.

But I’m learning I am not a god, and therefore, I do not have the power, nor ability, to screw anything up.  I do not have the power to override God’s plan for me.  Nothing I do could ever cause God to change His mind about what He’s planned for me.  Everything I have ever done, and every relationship I have ever been in, or will be in, fits perfectly into God’s design for my life.  There is something so freeing in realizing that.

I am truly very happy.  I woke upon this morning in a wonderful mood, and have pretty much been smiling ever since.  And, I feel closer to God than I have in a long time.

Let go of any and all expectations you have of God, regarding your future, and embrace His plan.  I promise you, it is beautiful and better than anything you could ever imagine.

Ciao for now,

Julia

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Religion.

This wasn’t the post I had planned for this morning.  I was actually going to write something very different.

But before settling down to write, I stumbled upon a video by SoulPancake.  Those of you that have been with me for awhile know I really like this organization, and I often look to their book for prompt ideas.  This particular video is titled “Do we need religion?”, and well, it made me happy.

As a Christian, I believe it is important to hear other people’s perspective on religion.  I think it is important to understand why they believe what they believe.

Do we need religion?

You know, I think human beings, in their very essence, desire something to put their faith into.  People put faith in science, in reason, in other people, even in the human race, and in god-like deities.  And its from that faith that religion is born.  I understand religion to be the act living out that faith, and doing life with other people with the same faith.

I am not a Christian because my parents are, or because my grandparents are.  I’m not a Christian because I’ve been going to a church my whole life.  I am a Christian because I, myself, have faith that Jesus Christ is who He says He is.  I am a Christian because I, myself, have faith that the Bible is the living, breathing Word of God.  And I am a Christian because I, myself, believe in God.

Like many of the people in the video, I believe that religion helps people make sense of their world, and it adds meaning to their life.  And I believe that religions helps anchor people.  My life has felt rather messy and out-of-control at times, and other people can be really quite mean about religion (particular Christianity).  And when I question and doubt, sometimes seriously, there is always some indescribable thing that calms my mind and heart, and guides me back.  My faith in God and living out my Christian religion always seems to re-balance and re-settle me.

And I am sure that is the same for every other religion.

The conversation of religion always opens the door for “right” and “wrong” labeling.  I know some Christians who are content to adamantly claim other religions (or lack thereof) are wrong, and are more than willing to say so.  This is not meant to be a theological discussion, or a lesson on evangelism.  But no one wants to be told what they believe is wrong; they stop listening to what you have to say.

Yes, as a Christian, I believe my faith is “right”, and I believe that there is ample enough proof, outside of the Bible.  But Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, even Agnostics and Atheists believe their faith (or ideologies) are “right”.  If they didn’t believe that, they wouldn’t have faith in it, right?

I believe in God, and at my former job, I have a friend who believes there is no God.  We know each other’s beliefs, but we are still friends.  I think this is so important, because at the end of the day, we are just trying to understand our world, all the horrible, tragic, and good.

In Christian teachings, we are supposed to bring unbelievers to God, but we are supposed to do it through love.  We believe our faith has eternal consequences, and if we ask you to come to church with us, it isn’t (mainly) because we think what you believe is wrong.  We ask you because we love you and care about you, and we want to spend eternity with you.  We pray for you, because we love you.  We do life with you, because we care about you.  And we share our faith with you because we want you to experience Heaven with us.

Do we need religion?

I think so.  I think religion gives us hope.  It gives us something to look to when life gets hard and bad things seem to press in from every side.  It gives us something to put our trust in when people do bad things.

I think we need religion because we need faith.

What do you think?

Ciao for now,

Julia

(P.S. I apologized this felt rather unstructured.  These are my unfiltered thoughts.  Plus, the more I wrote, the more I realized I could probably split this topic into a few other posts.  We’ll see what happens.)

 

 

God Thoughts

Hey guys, happy New Year! How’s everyone? I took some time away from the Internet and social media over Christmas, then I was in Atlanta, Georgia for a conference New Year’s Day.  And then this past weekend, my family and I explored Washington D.C.  The beginning of my year has been busy, but very wonderful.  I have quite a lot of wonderful, and challenging, things to share with you, so get ready! It’s going to be epic!

Right off the bat, I want to share with you some of the things that really touched my heart while at the conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  This conference is called Passionand is a gathering of 18-25 year old students from all over the place.  This year, there were over 55,000 college students, from various states and countries, packed into the Georgia Dome, with thousands of others streaming online.  It was intense, and just a small glimpse of Heaven.

We heard from some incredible speakers: Christine Caine, John Piper, Louie Giglio, Levi Lusko, Beth Moore, Francis Chan, and Katherine and Jay Wolf.  We got to worship with incredible bands: Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Hillsong United, Chris Tomlin, Passion band, and Crowder (who was at one point joined by Carrie Underwood!).

So tonight, I just wanted to share some thoughts from each speaker.  They’re pretty powerful, and have pretty heavily shaken up my heart for the new year.

Christine Caine christine-1

  • “We, as followers of Jesus Christ, do not need to grow weary or faint-hearted, because Jesus already endured it all for us.”
  • God is not in Heaven freaking out about anything.  Nothing surprises Him.
  • You don’t build endurance through the path of least resistance.
  • Is the race that is set before us, enough for us?
  • Don’t obsess over where I’m going.  Just follow Jesus.
  • Where you start, and how you start, determines where, and how, you end.
  • Stop looking at the world–LOOK UP.

John Piper98667a57-d3d1-4335-98da-93188b645796-jpg-_cb522772874__sl300__

  • Until you know, see, understand, and hate the evil in your own heart and in the world, you are dumbing down and minimizing the power and majesty of God, the triumph of Christ, and the glory of your own life.
  • The essence of every temptation is the belief that God is withholding something wonderful and exciting.  We don’t want to be denied what we want more than God Himself.
  • If you see “commandment following” as good and “commandment breaking” as bad, you will never know why you do what you do.
  • God turned “delighting in His character” as a commandment, so thusly, it is right to delight in God’s character above everything else, even obedience to commandments.
  • The battle I need to be fighting is one focused on what I desire, not the one focused on what I do.
  • Can you call anything “good” if it’s stripped from God?

Beth Moorebeth-circle

  • Will I be willing to follow the plan of the Living God?
  • Jesus Christ alone is my calling.
  • I know the one in whom I’ve placed my trust.  But I will by my biggest betrayer.
  • The Devil is ultimately after my faith, and he will use everything else to get to that.

Francis Chan1

  • Amazing things happen when we speak to God.
  • If I truly knew the hope into which I have been called, nothing, ever, could get me down.
  • The highest thought I have of myself, is nowhere close to God’s lowest thought about me.  His thoughts are so much higher than I could ever even fathom.
  • Stop listening to yourself and trust God.

Louie Gigliopassion-20172

  • God doesn’t want us to just be 40% or 50% Christian.  He wants us to be 100% in love with Him.
  • The cross is devastatingly beautiful because it is the only place where dead people come alive.
  • The cross is devastatingly beautiful because it cancels out shame.
  • The cross is a devastating power.
  • You know God loves you based on Jesus’ circumstances, not by your circumstances.
  • The cross is devastatingly beautiful because it ends one story, and begins another.

Levi Lusko

  • It takes endurance to be the fragrance of Christ.  And to make a fragrance, you have levi-lusko-aboutto take something precious, and crush it.
  • Courage is contagious.
  • Fear is faith in the enemy.
  • Jeremiah was destined for impact, and so am I.
  • I was saved, not just to be freed from my sins, but to shake up Hell, and to embrace my inheritance in Heaven.
  • You cannot be surprised for the calling God has prepared you for.
  • God’s favorite math is multiplication.  But in order to multiply, He must first break.
  • Don’t rely on willpower, because we have God’s power.
  • Far too many Christians come only through Calvary, and not through Pentecost, so they end as butterflies, instead of the eagles God called them to be.

I pray that something here has touched your heart, and is propels you back into God this year.

Ciao for now,

Julia

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Here are the full sermons:

Christine Caine (Please checkout her newest book.  It’s powerful.)

John Piper

Beth Moore

Katherine and Jay Wolf (Please check out their book.  It made me cry.)

Francis Chan

Louie Giglio

Levi Lusko (Please check out his book. It’s so good.)

Days of Cheer: Christmas Carols

I love Christmas songs, particularly those sung in church.  I love carols that remind me of the real reason for the season, songs that are poignant and haunting and beautiful .  Tonight, I want to share some of my favorite carols with you.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

 

Silent Night

 

O Holy Night

 

Mary, Did You Know?

 

O Come, All Ye Faithful

 

Ciao for now,

Julia

Happy Holidays! Xx

Days of Cheer: The Tale of the Three Trees

I think this story is so beautiful.  The older I get, the more I love it.

three-trees

A long time ago, three little trees stood on a mountaintop.  They dreamed of what they wanted to be when they grew up.  The first little tree gazed at the night sky, full of stars above him, and said “Someday, I want to hold treasure.  I want to be covered in gold, and filled with beautiful stones and precious gems.  I want to be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!” The second little tree looked out from the mountaintop, and saw a little stream winding its way to the ocean.  “I want to be a strong sailing ship,” he said.  “I want to travel to great places, sail over mighty waters, and carry powerful kings.  I want to be the strongest ship in the world!”  The third little tree looked at the valley below, full of busy people living busy lives.  She took a deep breath, and thought.  “I don’t want to leave this mountaintop at all.  I want to grow so big and tall, that when people stop and look up at me, they will raise their eyes to Heaven and think of God.  I want to be the tallest tree in the world!”

Years passed.  Rains came, the sun shone, and the trees grew very tall and strong.  One day, three woodcutters climbed up the mountain, looking for some wood.

The first woodcutter looked at the first tree.  “This tree is beautiful,” he said.  “It is perfect for me.” With a mighty swoop of his axe, the first tree fell.  “Now I shall become a beautiful treasure chest,” he thought, hope and joy blossoming in his chest.  “I will hold incredible treasure.”

The second woodcutter looked at the second tree, and said, “This tree is strong.  It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his axe, the second tree fell.  “Now I shall sail mighty waters,” he thought, hope and joy blossoming in his chest.  “I will be a ship fit for incredible kings!”

The third tree’s heart sank when the last woodcutter looked at her.  She stood straight and tall, and pointed bravely to Heaven.  The woodcutter didn’t even look up, however.  “Any tree will be fine for me,” he muttered.  And with a swoop of his axe, the third tree fell.

The first tree rejoiced when he was brought to a carpenter’s shop.  The carpenter wasn’t thinking about treasure chests, however.  His work-worn hands crafted the tree into a feed box for farm animals.  The once beautiful tree was neither covered in gold or filled with treasure.  Instead, he was coated in sawdust, filled with hay for hungry animals, and placed in a stable.  The second tree smiled when the woodcutter brought him to a shipyard.  However, no mighty and powerful sailing ships were being made that day.  The workers hammered and sawed the tree into a simple fishing boat.  Because he was too small and too weak to sail on oceans or even a river, the little tree was taken out on a lake all day.  Every day, he brought in nets upon nets of dead, smelly fish.  The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into long strong beams, and laid her in a lumberyard.  “What happened? All I ever wanted was to stay on that mountaintop and point to God,” the once tall tree thought.

Years went by, and the trees nearly forgot their dreams. 

20161201_203232But on one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed a newborn baby in the feed box.  Her husband whispered, “I wish I could make a cradle for him.”  The mother smiled and squeezed his hand.  “This manger is perfect,” she said, as golden sunlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood.  And suddenly, the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in all the world.

20161201_203301One evening, years later, a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat.  As the sec0nd tree quietly sailed out onto the lake, the traveler soon fell asleep.  Soon, a thundering and ferocious storm sprung up.  The little tree shuddered, and became afraid.  He knew he did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely to shore through the wind, waves, and rain.  The sleeping traveler awakened, stretching out his hand as he stood up.  “Peace,” he said, and the storm stopped as quickly as it had started.  And suddenly, the second tree knew he was carrying the most incredible king, the King of Heaven and earth.

Years later, on a Friday morning, the third tree was startled as her beams were pulled from the 20161201_203317forgotten woodpile.  She flinched as she was pulled through a angry and jeering crowd.  She shuddered as soldiers nailed a man’s hands into her beams.  She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.  But on Sunday morning, as the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything.

It had made the first tree beautiful.

It had made the second tree strong.

And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God.  That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

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Ciao for now,

Julia

Happy Holidays! Xx

*Story re-wrote in my own words, based on the traditional folktales, re-written by Angela Elwell Hunt 

Look what God has done!

I am a firm believer in the idea that if you aren’t bursting at the seams to talk about what God is doing in your life, there’s a problem.  And let me say, I just want to tell everyone what God has been doing in my life.  I’m in a constant state of overwhelming joy, because the person I was at the beginning of the year isn’t who I am today, all because of God.

Come see what God has done!

1. He has broken down my walls. The first post I ever made public was titled When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned.  I wrote that coming out of a rough patch in my life.  I wrote it at the beginning of June, with plans of attending a conference with the junior high youth at my church later in the month.  Let me tell you what: I was supposed to be at that conference. One night, in the middle of the week, the leader of our group gave us time to just be with, and talk to, God.  That entry in my prayer journal is probably one of my favorites, because I got so real and raw with God.  My hurt and anger about my plans not going through came out in such beautifully painful way.  I was *internally* yelling, and physically sobbing.  The very last thing I wrote in that entry was “How can I trust you now? You know that’s what I wanted!”. Right after I wrote that, I kid you not, I felt such an indescribable peace.  I can’t explain it, but it’s almost like God used that moment to knockscreenshot_2016-10-23-13-51-12 down the walls I had made against Him, in the time since my application was rejected.  Looking back, it’s very clear to me that I was afraid to trust God with my future.  And since that moment, which will be forever etched in my mind, my relationship with God has been totally different.

2. He has redeemed a part of my story.  On the last night of the conference, the leader of the group had us all sit in a circle and gave us the opportunity to stand in front of each other, resubmitting our lives to God.  At one point, a girl stood up and told us she was giving her life back to God, and that her girlfriend didn’t want her to.  Now, this girl was someone I was having trouble loving because of different rumors and stories and whatnot.  A couple of minutes later, this girl stood back up and said her girlfriend just broke up with her.  This girl also said she wasn’t going to go back on her decision.  I applauded her, because I know what it’s like to leave a relationship for God.  (That’s my favorite story to tell, but one for a much later time.). Fast forward a couple of minutes to when everyone was heading back into the hotel.  I happened to walk past this girl hugging with some of her friends, and without even thinking of my past, something compelled me to turn around.  The words just came tumbling out if my mouth, “Hey, I have something to tell you, and I don’t know if it’s something you want to hear or not.  But I left a relationship for God too, so I know what you’re going through.  If you need to talk or anything, I’m here.”. I thought that was all I needed to do, but then the girl hugged me and said “thank you”.  And then, when we returned from the trip and were unpacking the vans, this girl came and found me, and said she wanted to hug me again. I was, and still am, amazed by God, and how He used that moment.

3. He has restored a broken relationship. This part is also becoming one of my favorite parts to talk about.  So, the end of my sophomore year of high school, I tried out for the flute and clarinet section leader position for my high school’s marching band.  My best friend of 10+ years also tried out.  From my perspective, our relationship had been falling apart prior to the try-outs, but after the results were posted, the relationship came crashing down in a tremendous display.  I was given the position, and it was a bittersweet 20160906_222934thing.  We didn’t really talk to each other for years after that.  In fact, I was even afraid to go to things where I knew she would be, because I was still hurting and afraid.  That is, until this summer.  God kinda blows me away, because the similarities between trying out for section leader, and applying for the position at the church camp were incredibly striking.  When I eventually had the courage to talk about my disappointment of not being accepted at the camp with those in my young adult group, it opened the door for the four-years coming conversation with my friend, who goes to the same church.  Since that moment, our relationship has been getting better and better by the day.  We’ve car-pulled together, worship together, gone to lunch together, planned a party together, given advice to each other, texted each other (which we haven’t done in years!).  Heck, I even asked her to write a post for my blog.  Now, our relationship isn’t perfect, but God is good.  And what I think is so beautiful about this, is that her and I had the time to grow and learn about ourselves separately, and then have a second chance at the friendship, continuing to learn and grown.

4. He has met fear with love, and redeemed another part of my story.  Okay, this one is a bit harder to talk about, as it is more recent.  Last year, I was involved in something I’m really ashamed of.  It’s not who I am, and if I could go back in time, I would change it in a heartbeat.  However, I didn’t tell my parents about it, because I was afraid of disappointing them.  I  put off telling them for over a year, and it really began to affect me. I had confessed it all to God prior, so I thought I was forgiven, and that was the end of that.  But just a couple of weeks ago, I was at the weekly young adult worship I go to, and I began to feel really convicted to tell my parents.  You guys, I was so scared and so afraid, because one of my biggest fears is disappointing those I love.  It’s rather petrifying sometimes.  When I got home, I told my parents.  I was expecting anger and disappointment, but they showed me love.  Love; pure unjudging love.  And if that’s how my parents respond when I’ve screwed up, just think how much greater our Father’s love is.  Since that moment, since experiencing that love, I’ve felt so free.  It’s such a beautiful thing.

5. He has provided financial help for college.  The end of my freshman year of college, my grades could have either fallen three B’s and two A’s, or four A’s and one B for the spring semester.  It all depended on how well I did for the finals.  I was stressing out and studying like crazy.  See, I’m currently at a community college, planning to transfer to a private college to complete my Bachelor’s degree.  If I maintained a high enough GPA, I would be invited to join the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society for community college students.  If I joined, my transfer school would recognize that achievement and cover half of my tuition.  The college I’ll be transferring to is just around $50,000/yr.  It’s a tad overwhelming.  However, my dad is an alumni, so I’ll get a small discount from that.  And my mom is a professor at the college I’m currently attending, so the college recognizes that relationship and covers my tuition.  I was really stressing during finals week, and while waiting for the final grades, because if I didn’t get invited to join PTK, I’d be looking at paying $100,0o0.  God is good, because I ended the spring semester with four A’s and one B, increasing my GPA.  I took classes over the summer, too, which further increased GPA.  Around the beginning of this school year, I got my invitation to join PTK.  I’ve joined, and am currently waiting to hear back from my transfer college about my application.  God is so good.

6. He is rebuilding my ideas and expectations of romantic relationships. This I could talk about forever.  I mentioned in an earlier post that I was testing someone.  I still am, and we went on our first date a couple of weeks ago.  We started talking in August, and have been texting since.  Whatever this is, it’s moving really slow, and I love it.  I’ve beenScreenshot_2016-10-16-17-00-31.png single for over two years.  My first relationship moved really quite fast, and it was an emotionally hard relationship.  Since it ended, I’ve been hurt by potential relationships, and I’ve hurt guys who have gotten close to me.  I was a bit of a mess there for a bit ….. but I’ve gotten to the point where I know my worth is not based on a relationship.  I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t need a guy, or a relationship, to validate me.  I’ve taken control of my life and have embraced who I am as a person, and I think that’s why I’m so excited about getting to know this guy.  I’ve gotten to the point where I can stand in my own power.  Having been single for so long has given me the chance to re-evaluate my expectations of a relationship, and give my romantic heart back to God.  And this guy is treating me like I have never been treated before.  I could go on and on about why, but know that I am very happy, and I feel safe.  Because we met at the weekly young adult worship, I know God is a part of his life  Whether or not this texting (and occasional dates) turns into anything else is beside the point.   My heart has been beautifully reset, and I couldn’t be happier.

I could really go on and on about the things God is doing in my life.  I am beyond happy and overjoyed for the things God has done in my life, and I can’t wait to see what He’ll do in the future.

What is God doing in your life?  Are you bursting at the seams to tell people, “Look what God has done!”?

Ciao for now,

Julia