Today, a dear, sweet friend of mine will be laid to rest. Although I was introduced to Julie as a referral through my Mary Kay business, that was only the vehicle used to connect us. As I travelled to her home a little over an hour away, I had no idea of the kinship we would form and the impact she would have on my life. It was very clear to both of us that the skin care products I shared with Julie and her daughters that day was secondary; the Lord had orchestrated this meeting between us for His purposes.
Julie and I formed an instant connection. We shared many things in common, and yet, we were very different people. Our paths took alternative directions, yet shared similarities. Julie had been a teacher; I had been a teacher (In fact, we taught at the same elementary school at different times years before and knew some of the same people!). Julie was married to the love of her life; I was married to the love of my life. Julie had three daughters living at home; I had two daughters living at home. Julie had homeschooled; I had homeschooled. Julie loved the Lord (and had, in fact, been called with her husband to become missionaries to Honduras); I loved the Lord. Julie had been a Christian blogger for about nine years; I had a desire to start a Christian blog. What began as a skin care consultation that day quickly morphed into an friendship and sisterhood. I was at her home well past the hour and a half that I'd scheduled as we spent time sharing, laughing, and encouraging one another.
As we sat around her kitchen table, I was absorbed into the warmth and love that permeated her home. There was a joy, a calm, a coziness that enveloped any visitor immediately. There was evidence of her love for the people and places she had lived her life. Bright, colorful decor, gathered from her Honduras missionary life, cheerfully peeked out from every corner of each room. Scripture and reminders to "Go and make disciples of all nations" were everywhere. The deep love and devotion that Julie held for her family was evidenced by the photos of her six children and three grandchildren seen throughout the house. Her love of beauty and nature could be seen inside and out: photographs she had taken and flowers and plants she cared for enhanced the beauty of her home.
Julie also shared her experiences of living with cancer that day. It was cancer that forced her and her husband, Ben to leave their missionary assignment in Honduras and return to the States. Diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer, Julie did not allow the diagnosis to define her; instead, she allowed this development to become another part of her testimony to share how good God is and how He loves and walks with her every single day. She shared miracles and blessings like other women share shopping tips or recipes. Her faith was as strong as her resolve to fight the disease waging war in her body.
I naively thought I would be a blessing and encouragement to this woman during our appointment. I pray that God did use me to bless Julie and her girls, but boy, did I leave their home feeling encouraged that day! Julie encouraged me in my homeschooling, in my mothering, in my walk with Christ, but most of all, she encouraged me to pursue my writing and blogging dream.
In the following weeks, months, and years, Julie was a major cheerleader in my efforts, sharing what she'd learned about the ins and outs of starting and maintaining a blog. We met again a couple of times, once at her home and once out for lunch. Every time, she asked about my writing. As I began to publish posts, she'd text me to tell me her thoughts, which were always uplifting. She even invited me to be a guest writer on her blog, godisup2something.com , which I considered to be a great honor and privilege.
When she published her book, Trusting God When Life Gives You Crap, which you can find here: https://godisup2something.com/shop/ , I scooped up a copy, which I have since shared with others. I also went to hear Julie speak in the middle of the Covid pandemic at a local church, thankful to hear encouraging words of God's love and care for us during a time of uncertainty in the world.
We stayed connected through phone calls, in which we laughed, cried, and prayed for one another. Even when she was increasingly sick from the cancer, she managed to leave me feeling better than when the conversation began. I pray I was able to do the same for her.
In her last blog post, Julie shared the following verse of cherished scripture: Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
Julie passed from this life into the welcoming arms of Jesus on Saturday, March 5, 2022, surrounded by her family that she loved so very much. Julie lived a life we should all try to live, a life grounded on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ her Savior, elevated by faith, saturated with joy, love, and encouragement for others. Although my words can't begin to express my gratitude for having the gift of knowing Julie, I pray that I am able to communicate in part how thankful I am to have spent a very short time with a woman who lived and loved well.