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Empower Imago Dei.

There’s a whole series of pictures of my high school small group in which my hair looks dumb. Seriously, dumb. We brought dresses to our last Fall Retreat with the plan of getting nice pictures taken, and no one told me that my hair was a hot mess the whole time. We’re talking fly aways all over the place, and don’t even get me started on the chunk of hair falling out of my bun that none of my dear friends thought to mention.I wish one of them would have taken me aside and whispered, “Hey, that hairstyle looks dumb on you today. Go change it.” (Maybe not in those exact words, but you get how the overall idea would have been nice.)Since I know what it’s like to look back and realize I looked dumb, I can’t sit by while you walk around like this. I can’t pretend that I don’t notice that that box looks dumb on you.  But I have a feeling you already knew that. You can feel that it doesn’t fit, but someone at some point told you that this is the box you get…

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Empower Imago Dei.

You are not Beautiful.

When we were freshmen at Johnson, one of Jacob’s friends said he “didn’t get” why Jacob thought I was attractive. (You can probably guess how much that helped boost my self-esteem.) There are some days when I still think about his comment. Days when I wonder what I could do to be more beautiful, and when I have to try extra hard to not let it get to me.If I’ve learned anything as I’ve grown older, it’s that I’m thankful I’m not known as Beautiful. I’ve learned that it doesn’t look at the whole picture. If you were to ask someone to describe me and all they said was “Oh, she’s beautiful”, you still would not know anything of value.Am I a hard worker? Do I like to dance in the car? Is it easy to talk to me? Can I laugh at myself? How do I handle pressure? What do I do in my spare time? How would you describe the essence of Julianna?Beautiful just doesn’t cut it, does it?That’s something I’ve always like about names – unlike simple descriptors, our names…

Empower Imago Dei.

To the Lonely Friend . . .

Earlier this week, I heard another person acknowledge the 4-word feeling I’ve been carrying in my gut for 21 years: “It’s lonely being different.”I’ve never really been one to call myself a loner. I’ve never found myself without friends, nor have I found myself unable to relate with those around me on at least some level. I’ve never fit the mold of a loner.I have, however, been one to call myself lonely. Surrounded by friends, doing typical teenage (and now early-20s) things, going to the popular places at the popular times…and yet, a deep loneliness abounds. Never feeling like I fit. Feeling like that piece of the puzzle that always lines up on three sides, but never the fourth. Feeling like I’m a bright blue chair in a world that ordered the black ones.I felt this most deeply in the 2012 school year. For five days a week, I was an official, full-time college freshman. But, on Sunday, I was a senior in my youth group. Both labels were accurate – I had graduated a year early, so life was dictated by my academic year on weekdays and…

Empower Imago Dei.

How Creating Saved My Life.

The other night, I went to the Notes app in my phone to see what I had saved from my high school years. There were funny quotes from my friends and sisters, notes from church services, and to-do lists that I probably never finished. And then, sprinkled throughout, there were snippets of poems I had written.I wrote poems about everything from marrying my high school sweetheart to longing to escape depression but feeling like I was trapped. I wrote about learning someone I loved was addicted to porn, and about not believing that a friend of mine was really dead.I wrote poems about shattered hopes, wanting to get better, and not knowing where to start.As I was reading through these poems, I realized that not only was high school just as rough as I remember, but writing my way through it probably saved my life.People say that humans were made to be creative beings. That we create in order to have beauty, life, love, and all things joyous in the world.But I also think we create so that we can move forward.Forming something where there was once nothing can only be done through…

Empower Imago Dei.

Purpose Over Perfection.

During my senior year of high school, I decided to take viola lessons. I had played for a couple of years in elementary school and loved it, so I figured it would be fun to try to pick it back up.Two lessons in, I found myself in tears because I wasn’t able to play the notes exactly right. Turns out, 17 year-old Julianna couldn’t handle not being perfect at playing an instrument that she hadn’t touched in at least 6 years.Demanding perfection of yourself like that is exhausting. I would know – I spent most of my time in high school beating myself up for having flaws.But one day, I came across Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good things, which he has prepared in advance for us to do.”I remember thinking, “If I am created first and foremost to do good things, that changes everything.”Suddenly, it was okay to simply do my best and not worry about how it measured up with my unrealistic standards. It was okay to not be perfect, because I knew I was created for a specific purpose…

Empower Imago Dei.

What a Woman Can Be.

Both of my younger sisters were baptized yesterday. Thankfully, I was able to FaceTime with my mom and watch the whole thing take place just a few minutes before I had to go into church. (I may or may not have cried while watching in my car.)Without a doubt, moments like this are to be celebrated . . . but they also make me wonder. What will my sisters be taught about biblical womanhood? What books will they read? What voices will they hear? Will there be an equal balance of opinions that allows them to make their own choice about what they think it means to be a woman of God?I wonder these things because while I was at a bookstore on Saturday, I saw a lot of books for Christian women. I saw a lot of pink and lavender. I saw flowers on covers. I saw pretty, cursive fonts. I saw a marriage book with a chapter titled “The Two Biggies: Submission and Respect.” I saw mandates about covering up to avoid tempting men. I saw instruction on how to be beautiful “inside and out.”Differing opinions aside, I truly do believe that the majority of the authors of…

Empower Imago Dei.

Are the Gifts God has Given Me Good Enough?

For years, I’ve dreamt of teaching incredible sermons to large crowds. I’ve imagined being on the New York Times Best Sellers list, and publishing blog posts that are shared hundreds of times.You see, as most people do, I want my name to be known. I want people to get together with their friends to talk about things I have written. I want to be invited to speak in front of large crowds. I want to scramble to figure out how to keep up with traffic that keeps crashing my website.I want to be known.But what if I knew that there will never be more than 5 people who show up to hear me preach? That only one person will read my books? That my blog will never gain any more readers than it has right now?Would I preach anyway?Would I write books anyway?Would I publish new posts anyway?I like to think that I would.On one hand, it sounds crazy to say I would continue pursuing a career while knowing that I wouldn’t reach more than a handful of people. But on the other hand, preaching, writing, and communicating in…