If you're not new to my blog/life you likely remember Julie. I haven't updated on her for awhile and thanks to a sweet comment from Amy@ My
Front Porch, I realized I should because frankly it's quite a good story.
If you need to get up to date, you can go to this post to get the back-story (for the record, I had to re-read to to figure out where I left off ;)
So. In 2009-2010 Julie (from Norway) was our exchange student. In May of 2010 she finished her year as an exchange student and went back to Norway to finish her last year of school there (they go 13 years.)
Through reasons that can only be explained by God, she decided to come back to Iowa to attend a University that is only about 15 minutes from our tiny town. If you read that last post about Julie, you'll see that I was really looking forward to getting a do-over with her. Our experience with her as an exchange student was wonderful. And crazy all at the same time.
We learned so much about teenagers. And parenting of teenagers. Boyfriends and dating and curfews and saying no and setting restrictions and enforcing and protecting. To Julie's credit, she was pretty easy-going as far as exchange students go. She took it in stride, and respectfully submitted...even if there were some tears involved. She never ran off and slammed her bedroom door. I remember Ben and I looking at each other many times and saying, "Our own kids are not going to act so graciously about our rules."
Her first year at college, I helped her move in and get settled. We occasionally had coffee together or she'd stop by the house, but I remember telling Ben that it wasn't quite the do-over I expected. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but it seemed like there was something that was causing a distance between us. I became the "mom" who had to ask 20 questions in order to get any information.
And then late in the winter or early spring she went on a retreat with a group of college kids from her church. (Julie just shared her testimony about this retreat at her church's college group, and the Pastor sent me the CD so I could hear it, so it's how I know the inside-story :) During the retreat they were encouraged to really sit quietly with God to see if there were areas in their life that they needed to ask forgiveness in order to move on...and other stuff.
Julie was reminded of something that had happened when she lived with us as an exchange student. I do not know that details of the event (Thank you Jesus) but it involved her lying to Ben and I. She felt convicted and knew God wanted her to call and apologize to us. She shares in her testimony that she did NOT want to make that call. She did her best to rationalize that it was in the past, and really wasn't necessary to bring it up again. But the gut feeling wouldn't ease, and she made the call.
When she called, she was crying so hard I could barely understand what she was saying. I knew she was apologizing for something that had happened when she lived here...and it didn't matter what it was or the details...but I knew without a doubt that she was sorry and that God was moving in her life. I reassured her that all was forgiven, and that we loved her, and that we were so proud of her for doing the hard thing and being obedient to God's nudging.
I hung up that phone so incredibly humbled for the opportunity to be a part of Julie's life. Our greatest desire had always been to encourage her in her faith. To witness her doing the hard things necessary to grow was beyond worth it!
And it opened the door for that do-over that I had so looked forward to. :) The guilt that she had felt had hindered our relationship...without either of us really knowing it. God taught both of us something really valuable...when he nudges us to do something, even if we think or want it to be invalid: It's not. He wants us to do the hard things because He knows it's what brings us freedom. We have a closeness now that we didn't have before.
This year, Julie is already a Junior in college and is working as a RA (Resident's Assistant) and she's interning at the (quite large) church she attends. God is using her life, and her testimony and we are so very proud of the woman that she is allowing God to shape her into. She stops in for visits, and every now and then stays for a couple days...and we feed her.
Occasionally we reminisce about the events that lead her here to tiny town Iowa. I'm still in awe that we even decided to have an exchange student in the first place! It seemed like a crazy idea, but isn't that just like God? He works in the crazy, unexpected ways.
Julie is and will always be one of our family. And I'm not gonna lie...I'm really hoping she falls in love with an American boy that loves Jesus as much as she does. But I'll let God write that story...but I can still hope. ;)
Here's our Christmas card this year...and then I promise no more Christmas pictures till next year.
Side Note: I'm working on an "interview" for Julie so that she can answer some questions on the blog. If you have any questions you might like to ask her (i.e. How annoying is the parsonage family?) go ahead and leave a comment for email me and I will add it to the list. Fun, right!?!