Dear January, you’ve been so unkind

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I really wanted to begin this year with confidence and poise. I went to a conference on evangelism. I was going to make 2018 about spreading the gospel and loving people unconditionally and using every opportunity to share about my life-giving God.

Instead, I’m held up in my house watching TV, eating microwaved dumplings, stressing about my statistics homework, and dreading small group — which I’m already late for.

We’ve come to the end of January and I’m so far from the Julia I wanted to be this year. I typed a blog post on how God was calling me out of my comfort zone, but I was terribly unprepared to actually experience discomfort.

My car accident two weeks ago sent me into a flurry of stress, confusion and sadness. But mostly I find myself irritated with everyone: the smiling people overjoyed with happiness, the sad people complaining about a flat tire or their dog who died last year. And I’m frustrated with myself for not sympathizing. After all I’m a feeler. I’m usually so understanding. But lately this Julia is cloaked in an unsettling numbness.

My current form of transportation is a rental car. I’m still waiting to hear if my insurance will cover my car damage or just write me a check for a new one. If only they’d call me back.

My time is consumed with calculating data for my stats class and drafting memos for my finance class, all the while hoping this semester won’t swallow me alive. Then I’m sitting in a classroom, tired from a long day, and reluctantly eating my jalapeno Chex Mix because I accidentally bought the wrong flavor. My professor is lecturing but I’m not following him, all I can think of is how much he looks like Frank Sinatra with the teeth of Humphrey Bogart.

As the sky outside grows dark I think about the night that was much like this one, when I drove home from class to discover my friend had been killed in a bike accident. Death is the greatest discomfort.

After class, I stumble through the 27 degree air to my garage and climb into my rental car. It’s nice, actually, a 2017 Corolla, with a little screen that says, “Hello” and “Goodbye.” My gas tank is so low I might not make it home, so I pray that I’ll find a gas station as I’m speeding up the main road.

***

It’s Wednesday morning in January and I’m so glad this awful month is almost over.

Maybe February will be better. Peut être. -_-

 

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Wednesday Wisdom

“Communion with God is the end for which we were created.”

– John Piper 

The Saga Continues

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Indianapolis, 9:30 pm — This blog should be called The Saga of a Girl Named Julie.  In a recent blog post I noted that I would stop writing about death and write more about living.  Well here you have it. Bet you didn’t realize there would be so much drama.

Today my symptoms of pain from the car accident increased tremendously. I arrived at work feeling pretty bad with the pain in my neck and lower back drifting in and out. A few hours later the pain was so intense I couldn’t think straight so I decided to spend my lunch break napping in my car. I headed to the garage and felt both nauseous and dizzy. As I gently rubbed my neck, it only seemed to worsen.

I decided to go straight to the ER. Only after I pulled out on the wet streets did I realize I was in no condition to be driving. But I made it there. It was the same ER where we sat in the bereavement room with fresh news of John’s death. I felt a wave of sadness and my heart began pumping rapidly. I stayed a moment before realizing the line was way too long and that maybe I was just overreacting.

I went back to the office and sat at my desk to formulate a game plan. My body seemed to tell me to go home, so I scheduled a quick doctor’s appointment and found my way back to the garage. My sweet and wonderful roommate met me at home and drove met to the doctors office.

As a result I learned there was nothing seriously wrong with my body other than severe whiplash and maybe a little PTSD, which I don’t want to admit. I’m suppose to take some meds and start Physical Therapy. The doctor noted that the symptoms may have been increased by anxiety and trauma, not only from the accident but also from losing a friend three months ago.

So I went home and slept it off but when I woke up I realized I had all the same problems I went to sleep with: damaged car, unfinished grad school homework, and a huge bill for the repairs. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep going when you have to deal with one dilemma after another. It’s so tempting to just throw in the towel.

When I woke early this morning I felt like a car had run over me. “God, I can’t get up today. I just don’t have the strength,” I whispered into the darkness, then I thought of something.

Yesterday in church our pastor shared a video of his friend who has terminal brain cancer. This man is only 40 years old and has a wife and kids. But the video was about living for the kingdom of God. Even though this man can see the end drawing nearer, he still lives everyday sharing the gospel. So I told myself, “If that man can get out of bed everyday and live for the kingdom, so can I.”

Today was tremendously difficult. I cannot deny it. But writing seems to help a little, I’ve made it through a lot of days and lived to blog about them.

Let us keep the faith and live for the Kingdom without growing weary of doing good.

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:12-13

The Stress is Real

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This week has been extremely exhausting. Let’s be honest. As cheerful as I sounded in my last blog post, I really didn’t know what was coming. It’s amazing the amount of stress one suffers under the conditions of a car accident. Not only are your joints achey but you’re suddenly forced to coordinate rides and humbly, dare I say desperately, ask for help.

Things seemed to go from bad to worse, over the last few days, as the holding lot charged me for not only the tow but also for spilled fluid and the four days it held my car. And no matter how many times I tried to coordinate with the body shop for them to pick up my car, I woke up to another morning to find that my car was still waiting in the pound.

There’s nothing like seeing money leave your bank account for no good reason.

I feel like this week I was in survival mode, all the while trying to remain calm. From work to school to talking with my insurance, to phoning the impound lot and driving to the repair shop, I kept telling myself “This is not that bad.” But who am I kidding? This absolutely sucks.

But I finally got my car out of the holding lot. For some reason coordinating a tow truck was way more difficult than I anticipated. Aside from some whip lash and stiff joints I’m physically okay. Mentally? That’s questionable.

For the time being I wanted to say thank you to everyone who has helped me out so far. My friends who gave me rides, John’s parents for lending me their car. And hopefully by Monday I should have a rental.

I don’t usually do update posts, but considering the circumstances I just thought I might as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accidents Happen

Indianapolis 3:57 a.m. — My bedroom is dark and I’m sitting in my warm bed listening to the hum of the humidifier. This is becoming my prime time for writing blog posts, those sleepless hours when my mind begins to formulate my feeling into descriptive sentences. But tonight it isn’t caffeine keeping me awake. No, I’m just rattled from my car accident.

So, remember when I wrote about letting go of comfort? Maybe I spoke too soon. This evening I was on my way home from work. The roads were pretty slick and the temperature was flirting with the single digits. Yeah, a recipe for disaster.

I was almost home when I lost control on an icy road. Suddenly I was forced to decide between hitting the guy in front of me and hitting the fire hydrant beside him. Reluctantly, and in a sputter of panic I chose the latter. And now I am without a car.

Talk about letting go of comfort.

A moment later a kind face appeared in my car window as I began to sob. I couldn’t get the door opened so he told me to roll down my window.

Why was I crying? I wasn’t hurt and hadn’t hurt anyone. I guess the shock of it was what triggered the tears all at once. And I couldn’t help but relate those feelings of shock to the night John was hit. And in seconds I was not crying for myself or my car. I was just crying for John.

I’m sure the witnesses were wondering how such a small accident could cause a girl to cry.

In all honesty, I left the scene of the accident feeling disturbed and achy . . . but I was alive. After the initial shock wore off I started to worry about getting through the next few days sans my beautiful Toyota—don’t worry I’m not one of those people who names her car. My car and I are friends, but at the end of the day it’s just a car.

Then I remembered my empty fridge and how I was planning to buy groceries on the way home. And then I wondered how I would get to work tomorrow and to class and back home. . . sigh.

Life is a gift that often feels like a burden.

“You’re lucky to walk away uninjured,” they told me. Am I really? Wouldn’t it have been better to say, “Well, time’s up. Now I can cross over from this side of heaven, a place that sometimes feels like hell, and graciously bid this world adieu.”

But of course not. In reality I’m not ready to die. As I was sailing toward the fire hydrant, bracing myself for impact, feeling absolutely no control over my car, I felt so afraid. And as I collided and watched my bumper explode, I felt only fear. The cold air bit me as I came out to examine the damage, exchange paperwork and phone my friends. My legs wobbled as I found warmth in a stranger’s car and waited for the police. It was a minor accident but definitely left me feeling shaken up.

Life is so surreal sometimes. The mundane is ruptured by these things called accidents where ordinary people experience extraordinary things. And you look up at heaven and breathe into the cold air, “Lord, why?”

Why Johnny, and not me? Why here in my neighborhood and not the forty minute trip I took over highways and under bridges where such an accident could have been fatal.

In high school I was in a car accident. Oddly enough I didn’t blog about it or even share it on social media. I was embarrassed and scared. It’s interesting to see where I’ve come and how I view life differently. I believe it’s important to be both authentic and transparent, to recognize life as difficult and cumbersome, and sometimes mundane and often scary. By recognizing our difficulties we learn to bare each other’s burdens.

These next few days will be far from comfortable, but I’m resting in Jehovah Jireh, my God who provides.

The Face Behind Je Suis Julie

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Hi readers. I suppose I should unveil this person I am and let you guys in a little more. I tend to just give you a glimpse of my life and to mask the rest with anecdotes and metaphors. But it’s a new year and my college roommate inspired me to do a Q&A to better inform you of who I am. So here it goes.

 

Why do you write?

Because I love it. Writing to me is a sixth sense, a way in which I can feel and process my emotions and navigate through life’s circumstances in the most comfortable way. Also I love to publish my writing and to give readers a way to see life differently. Life involves perspective, and writing allows me to put a new perspective on every day things.

 

What do you enjoy writing most?

Blogs posts about racial identity and cultural differences. But recently I’ve written a lot about death because I lost a best friend back in October. I do write some fiction, mostly short stories. The novel I’m working on depicts a student journalist exploring her racial identity and the issues of immigration in France. It was inspired by my time in Europe as a college student. I’m not sure I’ll ever submit it for publication but it’s a fun project to work on.

 

What do you read most often?

The news. I’m a communications specialist so I constantly try to keep up with the media. I generally read The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The New Yorker. I also read blogs and newsletters. As for books, I’m gravely embarrassed to call myself a writer because I don’t read a lot of books, but I do love the classics.

 

Favorite book?

To Kill a Mockingbird.

 

Favorite blog?

I read Relevant Magazine sometimes and a few months ago I came across a blogger named Ethan Renoe. He’s super relatable in his writing and he’s a deep thinker. He writes about Christian living in the 21st century and the common struggles of young people. Also Ana Harris’s blog is great. She writes about recovering from Lyme’s disease and pursuing healthy living.

 

Favorite word?

I don’t know. I have trouble with this question. Can I use a French word? “Formidable”. It means “wonderful”.

Or maybe a Korean word “Moegja”. It means “let’s eat” and carries with it a lot of memories of eating Korean food with my college friends.

An English word? Probably “Coffee” no explanation needed.

 

Most used app?

Generally Instagram. Guilty Millenial.

 

Top track right now?

King’s Kaleidoscope, Joy Has Dawned. It’s a Christmas album but worth a listen. The song “All Glory Be to Christ” is my favorite.

 

If you could travel to any place in the world, where would you go?

This is difficult. There are too many places, and choosing one would be so unfair to all my friends who live around the world. Also, after a three week vacation in Paris–by my self–I learned that it’s not where you go that makes an experience great, it’s who you go with. So I’d probably go to South Africa with my brothers and sisters. Trouble is, I have nine of them so don’t ask me to narrow that down.

 

Dream job?

Foreign Relations officer. Yeah I’m doing my Masters right now in Public Management. I would love to work for the United Nations and be an Ambassador. Where to? Probably East Africa or East Asia.

 

Book character you relate to most?

Honestly it’s hard to say, because I’m a biracial female Christian. How many books depict this type of character? But I sort of relate to the protagonist in Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It’s a great story about culture shock and the experience of living in another country.

 

Movie/TV show character?

Jim Halpert. I generally feel like the only sane person in my office that’s trying to find humor in everyday life.

 

Celebrity crush?

Right now it’s Kumail Nanjiani after I watched The Big Sick. And how often do you see a person of color taking the lead role in a movie? He’s super funny but I have to admit, not all of his humor is clean.

 

Favorite activity?

Baking and playing music. And no, I’m not a Stay-At-Home mom. But these two activities are what I call my “back to joy” activities. When I’m down I play music to lift myself up.

 

iPhone or Android?

iPhone.  My Dad has always been a Mac guy so naturally our whole family conformed. Except for my brother-in-law. We’re still working on him.

 

Flying or sailing?

Is it weird to say I’d be a pilot if I could? I love flying so much it’s probably a little strange. I took a 16 hour flight from Indy to Seoul and loved every minute of it — well maybe not the last three hours. But for some reason I love being up in the air with the clouds and the sunshine.

 

Favorite season?

Spring, my birthday season, and all the flowers.

 

Mountains or beaches?

Beaches. They’re so therapeutic and also they’re how I picture heaven will be.

 

Go-to Starbucks drink?

I used to be a SB barista so I kind of got tired of all the fancy drinks. Now I just go with a grande dark roast with room. I know, kind of boring.

 

Best advice you’ve ever heard?

Great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events, and small minds talk about people.

– Eleanor Roosevelt

Letting go of comfort

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My friend Anna got married two days before Christmas. We sat in a cafe one Saturday in November and she told me of her wedding plans. Quietly, I sipped my coffee and listened, sort of wishing I had been invited. After John’s funeral I wanted, for some reason, to attend a wedding and remember what it was like to celebrate happy things. Am I wrong to say there is no happiness in death?

The following day, Anna asked me to play violin in her ceremony. So there I was, two days before Christmas playing music and feeling so much happiness. The song Anna chose for us to play was called “Shall not Want” by Audrey Assad. The lyrics begin,

From the love of my own comfort

From the fear of having nothing

From a life of worldly passions

Deliver me O God

As we played I thought of how everyone strives for comfort. Even me. Comfort is something I love, maybe even idolize.  I believe I hold tightly to comfortable things in the uncertainty of tomorrow. But then again, comfort is overrated.  I almost feel as if God is calling me to give up my life of comfort in this new year.

It’s sort of liberating to do the things I always thought of doing but failed to do because they lingered outside of what I deemed comfortable. Good things, of course, like praying for someone aloud, like buying a bowl of soup for a homeless man, like giving more that I feel obliged. These are all uncomfortable things but they involve living for the God of all comfort in a selfless and radical manner.

Last week in Virginia I found myself hesitating when God asked me to give double the cost of the conference to the Richmond church. I reluctantly penned my name in my check book and dropped the check into the offering box.

When I got home from the conference there was a letter sitting on my desk. Inside was a check from Anna for playing in her wedding. I really hadn’t expected her to pay me and to my astonishment the amount was exactly what I’d given extra in Richmond.  I began to realize that living comfortably is really overrated, especially when we serve the God of all things.

Something else I find uncomfortable is losing a friend. And even more so, seeing the ramifications of that lost friend, the hurting ones who miss him most. The aftermath is far more than uncomfortable to watch. It’s disturbing. But God has called me out of my comfortable space. I turn the page and see that this book of life has more characters that need love and comfort than I do.

My prayer is for God to deliver me from a love of my own comfort and to guide me through life’s desserts and valleys with a faith so strong I don’t need to rely on the comforts of this world.

Lord, Send Me

It’s 3:00 a.m. in Richmond Virginia and I’m regretting that second cup of coffee I had this afternoon. Let’s just say I’m sensitive to caffeine.

I’m at a Christian conference that is all about evangelism, and although I would probably prefer a seminar on grief, I’m slowly beginning to see why God brought me here.

A Christian youth conference is nothing short of speed dating for some. Don’t worry that’s not why God brought me to Richmond, at least I don’t think so. But prior to losing Johnny I probably would have come here thinking about finding a nice Christian guy. I guess death gives life a new perspective.

Instead, as I sit through these lectures about evangelism I feel weird inside. I haven’t thought about sharing the gospel since October 3rd, the night it all happened.

However, there were the few weeks that followed where I felt like I was rendering myself useless to the gospel on account of my grief. At the pinnacle time to share my faith with my coworkers and family who don’t know God, I was instead trying to process the deepest sadness I’ve ever known. My heart was just too heavy to share the reason for the hope within me. Maybe there was no hope.

If you’ve been following my grief story you know that experiencing death has made me yearn for heaven. I feel as if I would go to heaven in a heartbeat if  God called me. Many nights I’ve laid awake wondering why I’m still alive. Many mornings I have risen asking God what could this day hold that is keeping me from going home with Him.

Last night the speaker for this conference shared about the heart of God. He said perhaps God is waiting to come back so that more people can hear the gospel and be saved.

I’ve written these passed two months about yearning for heaven and about the fear of death. It’s the only thing I seem to ponder aside from what I’m going to eat tomorrow. But it’s New Year’s Day and I want to think more about evangelism and sharing the reason for the hope within me.

Christmas this year was really hard. I cried a lot. And at this conference I feel weird hearing people cry about their fear of sharing the gospel and even more their desire for people to know God. I haven’t cried about anything other than Johnny for the last two months. Why don’t I cry for the people who don’t know God? Why don’t I cry about the way I’ve neglected to share with them the need for repentance and forgiveness?

So I’ve learned one thing so far. God wishes that none should perish and we must dwell a little longer on this side of heaven to share with the world the truth that God loves them.

Perhaps I will hold off on praying maranatha and instead say, “Lord send me.”