I stole this group pic of the STN crew from Kaela who took the image in front of her home. It was a good one to be able to give names to faces....
Left to right: Brendan, Renee, Julie, Chris, and Charis
Two pics that Julie took with her I-Phone - one with Brayden before he went to school in the morning - and the other with the group of them as they explored the UO campus later that afternoon.
So, these are the folks that Julie has been "living life" with in Hawaii. What "Surfing the Nations" has done in that community is so amazing - the way they love on the population you don't expect when you think of Hawaii - in all sorts of capacities. Tangibly feeding the poor, running surf lessons, interacting with at-risk youth, and ridding the small town they live in (which is predominately all "red light district") of a porn shop and adult products shop to re-open it as their headquarters. The sort of stuff that absolutely glorifies a mighty, loving God - as it's all just too big for a group of young adults to make happen on their own!
Julie used this week in Oregon to talk to folks in her home town about what she's been doing - as well as in Eugene, Monmouth, and Portland. She got a chance to have some "home time" before the rest of the crew joined her which I know was HUGE for Julie and her family - interacting with the nephew she hasn't seen since he was born in April and the grandpa who's health has been in scary jeopardy at times while she's been gone - all showing up as a surprise to her.
So, with all that time spent in Cannon Beach "catching up", by the time she got down here to Eugene there wasn't a lot of opportunity to just be with Julie - as the focus was more for what the whole group of them could experience together and meet with folks about what STN is all about. At first, I have to admit, the idea was a little bit of a bummer for us - we kind of just wanted Julie to ourselves. But, with the extra crew coming, it did encourage us to proceed with the Carving Party, knowing we'd be entertaining and feeding a bunch of extra folks anyway - why not turn it into a big group - and give them a chance to meet and chat with more people.
Unfortunately, because of the extent of that event, lack of sleep through the week, and a certain "Two-Hand-Touch" football game played at the end of the day with my fifth graders on Thursday - by Friday morning, my head was killing me. I gutted it out to prepare the crew a fun breakfast, but as soon as the pre-meal "Amen" was uttered, I whispered to Julie that I was about to throw up and needed an ice pack and bed in a hurry. Fortunately, some sleep, anti-nausea meds, and the ice did do the trick, so by the time Julie tip-toed in 90 minutes later (as I asked her to do), I was feeling considerably better. In fact, out of the entire visit, those 20 minutes with Julie laying down next to me - us having heart to heart conversation, was my favorite.
I couldn't help but think as I talked to her - and having watched the way her whole group interacted - that Julie embodied that very topic that I addressed last week regarding a life victorious in Christ. When I first met Julie, she couldn't seem to grasp the idea that her past was just that - the past (even though we're not talking much of a past...but it's all about perspective, I get that). She struggled to grasp the enormity of God's grace and vision for her, but slowly and surely, He got through to her, helping her to understand that as a child of His, she was just where she needed to be. We were all excited for her to experience STN, but when 3 months turned into another year, I think we sided with her parents hoping she'd decide to be done soon so she could get back to Oregon. (There was some legitimate health concerns too - as a mom, even if I'm not hers - those things worry me....)
However, after that conversation, it became abundantly clear to me just how radiant Julie is now - and a large part of that is because of the experiences she's had and how much she's been challenged to do so much more than she ever thought or dreamed possible for herself through STN. She said that with any thing you feel like God has called you to do (i.e. John's job or our involvement with college ministry) rarely are you ever given a specific date that it should all end....rather, it's a matter of listening to the Lord and recognizing when His timing is. I couldn't help but agree....but I sure hope she gets a few more extended vacations to visit!
Julie became an extension to our family soon after we met her, so there's much longing that we'd also get to "live life" with her too - like these fellow STN'ers are doing. But, someday, I hope I have the courage to release my own kids to do something they feel strongly led to do by God, as Julie's parents have...knowing that in doing so, it will be then that they may experience Christ so much more intimately than they ever could have under the protective umbrella of how we live. So, go with Christ, Julie - be safe and stay healthy - and never-underestimate how proud we are of you!