Julie Newland

MY FAITH JOURNEY

I was asked to speak for a few minutes today on Gratitude. First of all, I want to thank all of you at FUMC and the Holy Spirit for being in my heart as Sam and I lived in rural Utah these past 7 years. It is wonderful to see so many of you again and I look forward to meeting more of the congregation and catching up with the many opportunities to serve in mission outreach.

I’m grateful that I can talk to Jesus any time any day anywhere. He’s always there. When I pray, there is usually a ‘Please Jesus help me through this!” or a “Thank you Jesus for getting me through that!” Looking back I thought about the hard times when it was difficult to even think of being grateful and I also thought about how grateful I am to have survived and grown through hard times so that I am now better able to serve others. Sometimes it seems never-ending and overwhelming when bad things happen. I hope my experience is a good example of what God has done in my life and how you too can count on Him to help you through to an Attitude of Gratitude and a grateful harvest of the fruits of His Love and devotion to all His children.

The top stressors in life include death, divorce, major illness, moving, job loss. As a congregation, we as a church family often hear of many of these big stressors and actively pray for each other silently or in person for ‘Peace be with you’ and answer back ‘also with you.’ It is our reminder that we not only have God walking with us, but each other and I am truly grateful to be back here with all of you and Rev. Eun Sang after so long away.

The biggest stressor for me, standing in the way of an attitude of gratitude, has been divorce. When I divorced Sam’s dad, it was the first time in my life that I was not employed. Sam was a baby, I had been away from God for at least a decade, I lived far away from family, and honestly had built my whole world around my husband, home, and baby and really had no friends to turn to.  I hadn’t meant to build a self-centered home, but that’s what we did in our marriage. We did not attend church nor acknowledge God into our home even though we were both raised in the Methodist church. We showed love for our neighbors, but really at arm’s length. So, when I found myself alone, unemployed, with a baby, and soon after, a broken down car, a fence blown over by the wind, and a roof needing replacement. I hit a low of emotional numbness and depression and was in a deep dark hole of despair. I had myself and a baby to raise, so I started getting my house in order and turned my life back over to God to take the wheel. Sam and I went back to church right away at Hilltop UMC in Sandy, Utah, where I renewed my membership and Sam was baptized. I had an abundance of requests go up to God during that time and not many prayers in gratitude.

Sam and I lived away from Utah when I married my 2nd husband which ended quickly. When we moved back to Utah, we ended up living in a ‘well loved’ ‘naturally ventilated’ fixer upper that was for sale at the bottom of the market. Once again, unemployed, needing to get back on my feet, it was a very difficult time. Some of you may remember that first year back or have heard me talk about it. I was so devastated from this 2nd divorce that I cried for a year in the back pew and generally was an emotional wreck throughout a five year legal situation related to the divorce. After that first year, I was asked to serve as a Sunday School teacher and later with the trustees. Though my life was still in turmoil and we as a church had a lot of decisions to make, I knew that we were all in it together and looked forward to literally receiving Jesus into my body each Sunday during communion and could hear Rev. Brian back then preach the Word with passion.

I’m grateful first to the Holy Spirit for being in my heart, that God sent me my child Sam, that He sent Jesus and others to help me when I needed help, that Rev Eun Sang is here as our guide in the Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service, and that I am in this congregation with all of YOU! I was crying the other Sunday in the back row when David played his violin accompanied by Scott on the piano. Behind them was the organ in mid-installation after its 6 years of fundraising and restoration. I am grateful that my tears are now of happiness.

I want all of you to know that you are never ever alone. If you call on Jesus, He’ll be there for you and will comfort you. Tell Him all about it! He can take it! Talk to brothers and sisters here in the congregation or in the community. Together, we can find peace and then in turn help others through giving back by our tithe offerings, service in the many mission opportunities, or what may be the smallest most meaningful part of our day – a smile, a hug, and a prayer – to encourage each other and express our gratitude.  It’s good to be back!