The Face Behind Je Suis Julie



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


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 none.

If you’ve been following my grief story you know that experiencing death has made me yearn for heaven. I would go now if He 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.”

Good Morning December


This December has been a weird one. Since we lost Johnny in October, I feel as if the months are drifting by, unnoticed. Or maybe this is just me having to grow-up much faster than I anticipated.

December makes me feel like a kid again, especially now that I’m out of school and back in Indianapolis. The city transforms with lights and trees and decorations. The sky dusts the naked trees with snow. I sit in my living room and gaze through foggy windows watching a mesmerizing snowfall. Why is it that year after year the first snow never fails to leave me speechless? But something is missing. This year will be different because we’ve lost someone.

I think of Johnny’s sisters coming home for Christmas and how I will want to cry with them. I cry with his best friend as we write cards of condolences to comfort friends in this holiday season. It has been two months since Johnny passed away and the absence of our dear friend is still surreal.  I begin to wonder if the human mind can ever fully comprehend death.

When I wake up to a new day, with fresh thoughts of grief and sorrow I simply rise and say “Good morning December. Let’s get through this together.” For December is not just a month in the year. If December were a character in a story he’d be tall and burly with a fur hat and wide leather boots, and deep eyes that tell stories of Christmases gone by.

I know I promised to write about something new, to leave the subject of death alone and blog about a more vibrant topic. But, try telling that to the bare trees and the empty cornfields and to the frozen earth where the grass is turning brown. Death is ever present on this side of heaven.

I feel as if December is mourning John’s death too. The stale air, the dead trees, the blood stained sky above a cold morning sunrise. Together we grieve.

And yet . . . together we look to the Lord to bring us through these dark valleys and grant us rest in green pastures.

Death, a path we all must take


It hit me yesterday. Just plain sadness. So I sat there and let it wash over me, refusing to fight, hide or minimize it.

Sadness comes to me in moments when I think of John and how he’s gone. In these moments I ponder where he is and what he’s doing. I silently weep and admit he is definitely enjoying life in heaven worshiping God, but I wonder what that looks like. Why am I saddened by this? Maybe because it’s so difficult to understand.


It’s another Friday on this side of heaven, and I’m determined to write about a new subject. . . Life.

Lately I’ve focused primarily on my body and not on my soul. As the thought of death has been haunting me these last two months, I feel a sense of frustration that I’ve only been thinking of death as the end of all things and not a mere transition from physical to spiritual life. My friend expressed some similar fears. She brought up C.S. Lewis and his series the Chronicles of Narnia, a story where children find a magical world by climbing through a wardrobe.

“This life is like the wardrobe, and Narnia is like heaven,” she told me. “We are just passing through.” We smiled at each other in spite of our fears.  I have to admit, no matter how you put it, death is still difficult to understand.

Last Sunday I watched The Lord of the Rings. This movie alone reminds me of Johnny. We watched it a lot when we were kids, acting out scenes and trading playing cards. One piece of dialogue in the movie helped me see life in a new way.

Pippin: I never thought it would end this way.
Gandalf: End? No, the journey does not end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take… The grey rain curtain of this world rolls back and all turns to silver glass… And then you see it…
Pippin: What, Gandalf? See what?
Gandalf: White shores… And beyond… A far green country under a swift sunrise.
Pippin: Well, that isn’t so bad.
Gandalf: No… No, it isn’t.

Okay, I’ve definitely deemed myself a homeschooler by quoting both C.S. Lewis and Tolkien in the same blog post, but nonetheless I am resolved to focus not on death, but on life. The life to come, the life Johnny is living now, and the life I am commissioned to live on this side of heaven until my new journey begins.


Death, A Daily Reality


Weddings, babies, and graduation ceremonies are what I thought would fill the duration of my post-college years. But, instead I find myself attending the funeral of one of my best friends and then hearing about the sudden death of several other young people in my community. Life is weird.

For some I suppose this is a daily reality. Those in war-torn countries, people in crime infested neighborhoods. Maybe I was just spared this type of grief in my growing up years. In former days, death was the stuff of news articles, statistics, and maybe a distant relative or an old church member. Now, death proceeds from the mouth of a friend still in shock, it arrives in a church announcement, a phone call in the night.

Yesterday at church, I stood on stage with the worship team. Looking out into the congregation I saw so many grieving faces. A church elder got up and shared about the 20-year-old murder victim who was closely connected to members of our church. My heart sank as I shuffled the pages on my music stand before we started the next song.

Death is horrible. Now that I’ve experienced it I don’t retract in fear like I once did. Instead of being afraid of death I’m just disheartened by it. What is there to fear when you’ve already lost a very close friend? I feel united with my friends who are grieving. I look into their dimmed eyes and say, “I too lost a best friend.”

Not fearful however I can’t help but ask myself, who is next? What person in my life will be the next to go? Where will I be when I hear the earth-shattering news that yet another person has left this earth? Maybe it will be me. I rise in the morning and wonder if today is my last, and I go to bed at night thinking I may awake in a place called eternity. At a grief seminar last week I realized it’s good to come to terms with death, to ponder your own death. Just because you want to die doesn’t mean you’re suicidal.

I know this post is a little scattered but to make sense of death is very difficult. Once the griever, now I feel called to be the comforter. How do you comfort a grieving friend? What do you say to a father who has just lost his son, or a sister who has lost her only brother?

I am comforted by one thing only. The Lord is here. The Lord is with you. Most of the time there are no words or deeds to mend a grieving heart. But the simple act of being with someone can make the grieving process a great deal better.

How to grieve when the world moves on


Johnny’s sister mentioned something to me this week about the world moving on when we are still sad and still hurting.

There is a tendency to stop and just sit down, like we did in the grass by his grave. To linger in the moment, as my mind seems to return to the night it happened. To stop buying food. To stop eating. To stop working or reading or updating social media.

What do you do when the world is moving on, when all that stopped for John’s death has recommenced its course?  How can you, when you are still grieving the loss of a most beloved soul?


It’s a strange word, as if the aftermath of a sudden death could ever come to recovery. The word “still implies that we will eventually be okay. Can I agree with this? Some say it will take a year, others claim two years. But since the sudden death of John, I feel we shall never be the same on this side of heaven.

The world has moved on. It has already changed since Johnny left. The grocery stores are decorated for the holidays, the wind has unclothed the warm-colored trees, and darkness sets in before the day is over.

The world is moving on, and people are talking of winter decor and seasonal Starbucks drinks. I listen, trying to enjoy this time of year like I always do. But then I look down at my chest and see a fresh wound still bleeding, still hurting. When my thoughts return to that night my heart aches. I search for something to ease the pain.

I cry. I don’t cry. I hold it in. I don’t hold it in. But still, there is no remedy for death.

Grief is a ruthless enemy. It strikes when you least expect it. It hits you while you’re down. It comes from behind and descends like a cold November rain.

I’m realizing that I cannot just move on as the world has. I cannot come out of this, unchanged. And one thing in particular that must change is time with God. If anything, death should draw me nearer to Him. It surely has. But still, I need something to combat this ruthless enemy.  A lamp to guide my steps as the world is moving on.

Psalm 119:9 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.”

Death was not intended for us

“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so.” — John Donne


I was sitting in the cozy part of the university student center, near the coffee shop. A blog post I’d shared on social media had brought an unexpected flood of attention. I scrolled through my analytics and realized I’d hit a record of blog views in one day, reaching eleven different countries in readership. I’d only shard it so my sister could find the link, but I must admit the response was rewarding.

My phone buzzed with a text from a friend about my post. He reminded me that God did not intend for us to die.

My last post addressed the issues involved in death and the reality of grief. I asked the question of why people have to die. Lately, I’ve been asking God this same question every time I think of John. I’m okay that John died. I know where he is and I know he is alright. But I’m not okay with death. Nor am I at ease with the thought that every relationship in life will end in sadness. It’s a difficult reality to swallow. Not only will every relationship end — this alone is disheartening — but every relationship will end in pain and sadness.

Great, what a life we have before us.

But, my friend who reminded me that God did not intend for us to die, also reminded me that we should take comfort in this truth. I once wrote that there is no comfort in death. Death is a result of sin and I’m learning to see that in Christ we can overcome sin. I know what you are thinking. Can we cheat death? No. But can we overcome the power of death, not the reality of it? To this I say yes.

I was waiting for my evening class to begin as I pondered this thought. The sun was disappearing, the night was drawing in and I realized that lately I’ve been thinking of death as the ultimate outcome.

I keep returning to this one bible character who walked with the Lord all his life. I can’t remember his name or which book he was recorded in. I heard a pastor say this man walked with the Lord straight into heaven. An ideal way to go. Death for the people in this world appears to be the ultimate outcome, but ultimate would imply that it is final. Although death is the finish line on this side of heaven, it is also the starting point on the other side.

My sadness for Johnny was first brought on by a longing to be with him, then it became a fear of facing death in this world over and over again until it was my turn to suffer this final enemy. I don’t know what I think of death now. But it doesn’t seem quite as scary as it first did. Not with the remembrance that God never intended for us to die.

“One short sleep past, we wake eternally, and death shall be no more. Death, thou shalt die.” — Holy Sonnets; Death, Be Not Proud

A Grave Visitation

Friday was the one month anniversary since John died. His best friend and I went to the grave to pay our respects. I wasn’t ready for it. The night before I tossed and turned until I found myself in the kitchen chugging a glass of water to replenish the tears I’d cried in my bed.

The graveyard is an easy half hour drive from the city. A quiet countryside surrounds it with square farmlands and big roofed houses. Gravel crunched beneath our feet as we silently approached the grave. I trembled with pulsing thoughts that said, I’m not ready for this.

It was one of those moments in life that you never expect to live. To be in your early twenties approaching the grave of your dear childhood friend, on a Friday afternoon in November. Isn’t this the time of life when you’re thinking about who you should marry, or what job you should pursue, or what countries you want to visit?

How surreal it is to visit the dead. They hadn’t set a tombstone, so we stopped at the bed of grass that was raised up from the ground with the bouquet of flowers from the funeral at the foot of it. They were white and wilted with long green stems and their petals were starting to brown at the edges. It felt odd, the two of us looming over this plot of grass where his body was laid. So I told him we should sit down.  And so we did, and then we wept. . .

“I wish there was a tombstone,” I remarked. I’d pictured this moment in my head since the day my brother said we’d occasionally have to visit the grave. I wanted to see his name and the date and the bible scripture his parents had chosen to engrave in the stone. But no. There was just the earth and the flowers and the sky and the absence.

It was indeed surreal, too surreal to recount. Not pleasant, not healing, not restorative. Just sad. Sad that people have to die. Sad to think I too will lie in the earth someday. Sad to consider how many times we will return to this spot to grieve the loss of our dear friend.

Two is better than one. I’m glad I went with his best friend. We cried together. We prayed together. We sat in silence heaving deep breaths of autumn air, while flicking bugs off of us and listening to John’s favorite album through an iPhone speaker.

Leaving was harder than coming. As we drove away with the gravel crunching beneath the tires, I wept again, feeling the absence of John so very strongly. It would no longer be  the three of us.


Another week begins. And I am doing better. I was feeling so distant from God lately that I sat in church yesterday and waited patiently for a word from him. He met me in the back pew with a passage from Romans 8.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[g] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

I woke this morning ready to declare my usual greetings to God, but all I could manage to say was, “Thank you for grace.”


Afraid to live Afraid to die

Fear: noun; a distressed emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, or pain.

I suppose fear is a result of death, and that of sin. As expected, these days I am depleted by the fear of death more than ever before. I use to think about death in a good way. It was my ultimate outcome, a sign of a job well done, the end of the race.

Now it scares me.

I fear losing another close friend. I fear dying when my time comes. How will it feel to leave my body, this vessel I call home, and to experience a state of bodilessness.

My fear extends beyond death. I’m now afraid to live. Afraid of making memories without him. Afraid of doing things we used to do together. Afraid of growing older than him, for he was always a year ahead of me. Afraid of stepping into new chapters of life and not being able to tell him about them. And most of all, afraid of forgetting things we did together.

When someone dies, memories are all that remain. Photographs hardly do them justice. But what of when I forget the sound of his voice, the way he walked, the expressions he made?

I was at first comforted by the thought of seeing him again; heaven seemed all the more near. But as one morning without Johnny in this world becomes a few dozen, I search in vain for that comfort?

I remember a famous line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” 

Last week I didn’t want to beBut with each new morning in this sad chapter of life I realize that Someone wants me to be. And as long as I am here, ’till the day I get to see Johnny again, I will carry out the tasks my Father has asked of me.

As I start a new week I pray these words from the Psalms, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.”