I was recently at Women on the Front Lines in Amarillo, TX…completely wrecked and overwhelmed by the GLORY of the Lord. I shared about the 111 blessing at offering time and wanted to tell you the whole story.
I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, the privileged daughter of a well-to-do family. I was raised in a Country Club setting with my dad presiding not only over that club, but also the largest bank in town. We had it all, popularity, prestige, large homes and expensive cars. I never needed or wanted for anything as a child. Anyone would think we had the perfect family portrait. Although we did well, my dad was a very sad person, but I did my best to do everything I could to keep up with the Jones’ by his example. I was an honor student, excelled in everything I did, but I watched my family silently fall apart. The colors in my painting began to fade and before long my dad was imprisoned for embezzlement. We lost everything. Upon his release from prison, he became a ghost, a dead person on the inside. I hardly remember his time at home prior to the darkest tragedy I have ever faced. My dad, on my 2nd day of my sophomore year of High School, took his own life and left us with more questions than answers. It was a nightmare of epic proportions in the mind of an intuitive adolescent girl who thrived in controlled environments. My Dad left me and as a result, I came to the conclusion that God had left me. I turned to drugs and alcohol to numb my pain and add color to my life that I so desperately wanted. I went on a bender that seemed would never end. Somehow I was able to graduate from high school and college, work, get married, have children, and survive, all while suffering in silence and hurting everyone who loved me and cared for me. I was lost, I was broken, my marriage ended, I lost custody of my children, and made a mess of my life and in essence, painted it black. Life as I knew it was a living hell. I was playing roles every moment of every day. I can say I tried, but to me trying meant being inactive and complaining about it. I did a lot of that. I moved states, recovery centers, detox centers, narcotics and alcoholics’ anonymous rooms, churches, and another broken marriage, looking for the colorful life I’d known before….all searching for truth. . I took on two personalities, one that helped me survive in the ghetto when I was trying to score my next high, and one that I had to survive the work force and the demands of being a wife and mother, both for which I was completely unprepared. I was addicted to MORE, to everything, to anything. My addiction took me places I never belonged. Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back I can clearly see the lies that entered my spirit long before I ever took the first drug or ingested the first drink. I was stuck and saw no way out, so I used that as an excuse to stay checked out of life as well. Excuses are the bricks that build a house of failure and I was full of them. More was never enough. I justified every single step that I took away from responsibility. I found myself living on the streets, in abandoned houses or sheds, giving myself away piece by piece in order to get the next high.
My addiction was triggered by my inability to cope with life in general. From a young age, I had a desire to feel accepted. Now, Rejection and Abandonment had become my new friends, the spirits now holding the brush that painted the picture of my life. I realize now that life is all about choices. Was I able to make choices about my future at such a young age? No. Was I able to grasp the reality of what was taking place in the peripherals? Absolutely not. Was I able to truly handle the deceit of the person I trusted the most? No way. However, I was able to make decisions as I grew older, and I feel like “triggers” are just another pretext used to check out of life. I made my own choices. I stepped in my own holes. There is no real justification for why I chose a path of self-destruction, other than I just did. To place blame on ANYTHING would be completely wrong. I stood there for the majority of my adult life, blame-thrower in hand, ready to fire. I triggered myself. I was responsible for the things I suffered. There are always things out of our control, but a decision must be made as how to handle those situations. When you choose to stay the victim, everyone else gets the blame, and God is left out of the picture completely. It’s the beginning of a death spiral. It seemed like a lifetime of living on the streets, wandering around aimlessly through life, expecting to die any day, before I found myself in a new location, on a new street, in a state I wasn’t accustomed to. I had been kicked out of a treatment center because I had no insurance. I had only been there 2 days and they sent me back out in the streets that consumed me. Several days later, as i lie on the ground in the middle of the road from an overdose, my heart slowing its beat, I lost my life as I knew it. I believe i died on the streets of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. How I found myself walking down the street again is still a mystery to me. I was overcome with fear, penniless, hopeless and completely lost. The next day only through the grace of God, I walked into a 6 month, Christ centered work and worship program. I was there only a week when a man by the name of Brother Ray came in to deliver a message to us. I immediately rolled my eyes and sat back for a long nap. He lifted up the Bible in his hand and said “This is the Bible. B I B L E. That stands for basic instructions before leaving earth. Of course, I knew what it was, I was raised in church. He continued to talk and suddenly something began to change. He said, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown.” My heart began to connect to my head in a way like never before. Soon after that, I surrendered my heart to Jesus and within a week I was given my first vision into the supernatural.
I ended up staying on as staff at this wonderful place for nearly 4 years. I left in December 2016 and followed the Lord’s leading to my “happy place” which was the beach in Biloxi, MS. I started a new church and decided to fast for the 7 days ahead of my 40th birthday. During that fast, the Lord spoke to me and said, “This is your last year of wilderness wandering. You will step into the Promised Land but it won’t be easy.” I told the Lord that I was OK with that, I just didn’t want to do it alone. So the Lord instructed me to break my fast on my birthday (2/11/17) at the marriage conference that was being simulcast at my small church. I very begrudgingly agreed. I was the only single person in the room but I didn’t care. I saw on that big screen in that tiny sanctuary a vision of marriage that I had never before seen. I saw hope renewed in the face of a man I had never heard of by the name of Jimmy Evans. That big man on that big screen in my tiny church spoke life back into a place in my heart that I thought was broken forever. I started writing prayers for my future husband that very day and trusted the Lord for His provision. 30 days later I met Jason at church and my life changed in an instant. We became fast friends and Jason’s walls around his heart began to crumble…very slowly. We loved doing life together and we absolutely adored our homeless friends that we ministered to every chance we got. Jason told me he loved me for the first time on October 2nd, 2017. It was the first time he had ever spoken those words to a woman and I couldn’t believe that I was the recipient of such a gift. Jason and I had both been wanderers in this world and we had wandered right into one another. But not all who wander are lost!
By the end of October, he had received a phone call for a job in Amarillo, TX and I just knew that he would wander right back out of my life. However, on November 2nd, 2017, Jason asked me to be his wife on the same pier where we had cast visions overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. We were married 9 days later on 11/11/17, a date truly ordained by God and not a date that we would have even chosen for ourselves. It was 8 months since the day we had met. We didn’t pay for one single thing and we had the most amazing wedding. We shared our first kiss that day and angels were clapping in Heaven! Four days later, we packed up what we could fit in the back of our cars and moved to Amarillo, TX. As we passed Wichita Falls, I told God, “Lord, I have never been this way before. Can you please tell me why You are bringing me out here to the middle of nowhere, far away from everything I know, and into this land with the biggest sky I have ever seen?” The Lord replied, “Julie, I am bringing you here for protection from that which you cannot yet see. And you will glean from fields you did not plant.” So, I trusted the only One in my life who had never led me astray. The day before Thanksgiving, 2017, we moved into a fully furnished apartment and our new life in our new town began. We decided to visit Trinity Fellowship our first Sunday in Amarillo and, lo and behold, that big man on the big screen in my tiny church in Biloxi, MS was now only feet in front of me and I knew that I was home.
I was working from home, Jason had his new job, we dove headfirst into service at church and we became incredibly busy people doing amazing things for the Lord. However, we were still unsure of our new marriage, we did not know how to lean on one another for support and we started pushing each other, and God, away. The Lord took a back seat and gave us a full dose of what we thought we needed and we muddled through the days, not being kind to one another, and barely getting by. I was in the process of publishing my 5th book, writing in my blog that had gone around the world countless times, pushing myself all over social media, and finding refuge in the praise of others. My heart was in shambles. I found validation in all the wrong places and our marriage paid for it. We were roommates at best. Only 8 months into our new marriage, the bottom fell out, I hit my famous default button, the enemy found his way into the kinks of my armor, and I relapsed. I spent weeks on the streets, back in the arms of disaster. It was exactly what the enemy wanted. He wanted me off of my platform, off of the stages where I was speaking. He wanted my covenant marriage to end. And he was winning…hands down. I had been volunteering at Faith City Mission, speaking in their chapel to their homeless guests and Faith City Mission was the last place I wanted to go to find help, but it was the only door open for me. I swallowed my nasty pride and walked into an 8 month program and found humility and a grace of God that I had never before experienced in the arms of beautiful souls.
My very first day off the streets, I was shuttled by Faith City to Master’s Arrow Ministries to a conference and I was so broken. Dr. Shane (our dear friend) was being ordained and during his ordination, a beautiful woman on a screen caught my attention. Her name was Katie Souza. Something in my spirit awakened and I knew that something was very familiar about this woman but I could not put my finger on it. I was in such a desperate time of repentance and loss and grief that I couldn’t discern much of anything. 4 months later as I walked through a transition at Faith City, I was able to get my phone and my car back. I was off to visit some friends from my old life group at church to fill them in on all that was taking place so they could pray for me and I could build a support network. I was absolutely terrified so I began to pray before setting out for the coffee shop and the Lord said clearly to me, “Turn on your CD Player.” I laughed out loud because my CD player had been broken since early 2016 and there had been a CD stuck in the player the entire time that would not play. But I turned it on anyway and very flippantly and much to my surprise, it worked! And the CD that had been stuck in there since 2016 was none other that Katie Souza. I was absolutely astounded and so very grateful because her words to me on the way to coffee with my friends soothed my very soul and I knew I needed more. I was diving deeper into my past than I ever had before. I was becoming brutally honest for the first time in my life. My marriage was slowly coming back into the Light of God’s Glory, and I was seeking and experiencing things in the spirit that I had never before born witness to. I was changing and how could I not be moved? I began to seek Katie out on YouTube and since early December, 2018, I have watched no less than 100 of her videos. She has taught me things that my soul was longing to know. I was so hungry for truth and to truly understand my purpose and my calling so I watched one video after another…EVERY…SINGLE…DAY.
The time at Faith City Mission was a challenge for Jason and I, but when you are called by God and set apart for great service to Him and His people, the enemy will do everything in his measly power to try to thwart God’s plans. Thankfully, we saw that, but we also so the heavenly perspective over it. What could have been the worst thing to happen for our marriage was actually the best thing that could have happened. We have been so willing to change and not stay the same that we have taken massive action in repentance and we have done all we can to find God in the midst of our trial. We have found JOY! Our marriage has been fully restored to better than it was before and we know the enemy and his tricks and guard against it in every way. Katie Souza, as an instrument and mouthpiece of the Lord, has been instrumental in our comeback story. One sermon we watched together in December spoke to Deuteronomy 1:11. “May the Lord, the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times and bless you as He has promised!” Katie spoke in this message of how the 1:11 blessing belongs to us and God would do marvelous things to show Himself mighty in our lives and WE BELIEVED! We see this number 111 EVERYWHERE! In the middle of the night, on the microwave, in restaurants, everywhere we look. While I was at Faith City, I woke up countless nights and see 11:11 (the date of our wedding) and it would comfort me to know that God had us on His mind. God ordained our wedding date and I believe it’s because He wanted to show Himself mighty! We were already walking in the 1:11 blessing before we even knew what it was!
Now, since Jason and I are wanderers, we never saw ourselves staying in this area for long. But in the first week of 2019, we fasted and prayed and sought the Lord in our new journey. I recently had given away my publishing company, put my 5 books on a shelf, shut down all social media, all 3 of my websites and my blog are now obsolete, and my speaking engagements are no more unless the Lord leads. We said “No” to the world, and “YES” to whatever God would have us to do. We wanted a place to rest, a place to call home, and a place of comfort and peace for us for when I graduated the program in March, so we began to pray. On day 3 of our fast, Jena Taylor, the Executive Director of Faith City Mission said, “God wants to to do something both terrifying and amazing this year. You have laid everything that was “you” at the foot of the Cross. Now ask Him what He wants.” Before I could even close my eyes, the Lord said, “Buy a house and put down roots.” My eyes flew open so fast it made my head spin! I cried out, “But God…we aren’t staying here that long! That is for someone else! Give me something else!!” I closed my eyes again and willed for God to tell me something new. I heard, “Buy a house and put down roots.” That was on a Wednesday. I told Jason and much to my surprise, he agreed. So I started dreaming. By that evening we had been preapproved for 100,000 more than what we needed, I found the cutest house in a simple, one-cow town, and we had an appointment to go to 111 Franklin Ave…111…..111!!!!!! I couldn’t even speak when we walked in the door of the home that God would have us to buy. I was so overcome with gratitude, peace, joy, and hope for a future I thought was dead. I watched my normally indecisive husband be taken over by the Holy Spirit as he waled from room to room. By the time we left, we made an offer….$101,111…to honor God and say that we trusted Him in all things! We closed on my birthday, 2.11.19, and we walked into the promise of God.
I have since graduated from Faith City Mission and have been hired as an independent contractor…the Capital Campaign Marketing Consultant. We didn’t have even a fork to put in our new home less than a month after moving in, it was completely FULL! We blessed a needy family with one of our vehicles and God has blessed US! Now, someone else very deserving is getting their wounded soul healed by listening to the CD player stuck in my car!! THANK YOU LORD!
When we came to this conference, I knew that I had to get that 1:11 blessing in person. Jason and I sowed two different seeds into Women on the Front Line and we honor God with our precious gift. He is doing a new thing in this new season and I am so grateful to Master’s Arrow Ministries and Katie Souza. Thank you for giving to the Lord…I AM A LIFE THAT WAS CHANGED!! -J.B.