Over the next two days, you will have an opportunity to meet two of my staff wives at LifeSong. Today you will meet Julie.  Out of all of my guest bloggers this week, Julie is the most recent to come into my life. She serves faithfully alongside her husband, Jarrett, as he leads our Next Generation Students.  I’m honored to lead an extraordinary group of staff wives. They all are crazy talented and gifted, and each give wholeheartedly of themselves.  Julie has been a welcome addition as she brings such joy and laughter to every room she enters.  She loves passionately, serves in any way she is asked, and most importantly, she leads her family well! Thank you, Julie, for sharing YOU with so many…
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I remember as a little girl being taught to say “thank you”. Some of the “magic words”, they say.
My chubby little hands full of whatever thing I had wanted or had been given…it was always supposed to end up with a “thank you”.

But no one tells you when you are little that you will have to learn to say thank you with empty hands.
When you are staring at Thanksgiving Day for the first time without a grandparent, it feels empty.
When you are faced with a day all about thanks, but friendships once present are painfully absent.
When you are walking through daily life with the glass of fractured and broken realtionships painful all in your soul, and you’re supposed to be grateful.
I’m not gonna lie.
Thankfulness is tough.
Life shoves you up under the water and then you hear a muffled yell, “Be thankful!”…when all you want to do is breathe.
You can only pretend you have air in your lungs for so long. At some point, stuff starts shutting down and you are sinking to the bottom.
Empty places make you feel like that.
And thank you is hard.
I’m not just talking about routine thank you’s in the middle of lack, though.
Finding ways to give thanks in the voids of life is one thing.
But the hard place God has been leading me? To give thanks for them.
Being the good girl, I want to scurry around and stay busy making lists of all that I do have- a good practice…but not without its ulterior motives.
See, I rationalize that if I keep my mind busy enough, it won’t continuously remind my heart of the aching, gaping hole.
But all the while, the Lord is asking me to stop and stand up right in the middle of that empty place and learn to praise Him for what isn’t there.
He wants me to trust Him in the taking so I can believe Him for the filling.
He wants me to be grateful for the absence so I can be more aware of His presence.
Saying thank you as you hand over something you don’t want to give away? That’s tough.
Saying thank you again and again as you stand empty handed for what seems like forever? It feels impossible.
But God.
His grace will take you where you cannot go on your own- right to the middle of that empty place.
Because I promise that is where I have found-and you will find- His loving arms hold you the tightest, His promises ring the truest, His hope shines the brightest, His presence is the fullest.
So I am learning to take a deep breath of grace, and hold out these hands-remembering the empty hands that Jesus stretched out for me.
Because His empty hands led to an empty tomb!
The stone wasn’t just rolled away so Jesus could get out…it was so we could see in!
Otherwise, we would have assumed death resided there!
They had to look at the empty place so they could see that it gave rise to LIFE!
Jesus gave me an empty tomb to be thankful for so that I can give thanks for my empty places.
He turns misery into marvel.
He grows a garden of gratitude from the gaping holes of life.
With Jesus, LIFE always comes breaking out of the empty places!
It’s true, I’m all grown up now.
But to be perfectly honest, I still feel periodically inclined to have a tantrum about what isn’t in my hands.
But God.
God is teaching me to say “thank you” instead. Not because they are magic words, but because they are words full of power and life.
Maybe you, too, are faced with your empty in this season of gratitude.
Don’t lose hope: LOOSE it in the middle of your empty place by thanking God for the life that will most assuredlyspring from it.
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:­19
“…Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing.  Romans ­4:17-18 The Message
“But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.” Luke ­24:12
imageJulie is in love with Jesus, her husband and her three kids…and a good cup of coffee! She is a worship leader at heart who loves to teach God’s Word and write about the Simple Truth the Holy Spirit reveals through day to day life. Julie has served alongside her husband Jarrett in ministry for 17 years, and continues to do so at LifeSong Church where he serves as Next Generation Pastor. She enjoys serving on the worship teams at LifeSong, Encounter, and Celebrate Recovery in her church. Through the years, Julie has led with passion in adult, student, and children’s worship as well as lead in women’s ministry and her own music and speaking ministry outside of the church. In marriage, motherhood, ministry, homeschooling, pursuit of health and fitness, and just everyday life, she has come to stand firm on this core truth: Grace alone is the reason we live and breathe. Her desire is to live to know Jesus and make Him known…and find joy in loving and doing life with people along the way. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10.
 You can find Julie sharing #SimpleTruth over at  www.juliemcneely.blogspot.com.

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