My StoryNever Ever Give Up!

There I was – in Federal Prison.

I had let everyone down – I had failed miserably in life.

I felt worthless and completely hopeless.

Giants of depression, self-hatred, and despair surrounded me on every side. I was so strung out from 17 years of alcohol and methamphetamine addiction that I couldn’t even put together a coherent sentence. My left leg had been amputated due to neurological complications from the spina bifida. My dad had died unexpectedly from lung cancer, I had run away from a failing, miserable marriage, and I had lost custody of my precious son Tyler when he was 4 years old because I was such a mess.

I hurt everyone who got close to me. No one in my family wanted anything to do with me. At one point I was living as a fugitive on-the-run in Ensenada Mexico, with a meth lab in my house and Federales with black masks and machine guns raiding my house. In the eyes of society, I was nothing but hopeless, worthless, useless, purposeless trash.

​When I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ on my knees on a cold, hard, cement floor in a federal prison in 2001, I didn’t just give Him a piece of my heart – I gave Him ALL of it! I didn’t just invite Jesus into my life – I gave Him every part of my life!! TOTAL SURRENDER!! I thought I was about to spend the remainder of my life in prison but I was full of JOY UNSPEAKABLE because I was finally FREE ON THE INSIDE AND I KNEW IT!

At that moment, in that prison, I had a choice. I could either wallow in the pain of my past and let the giants of guilt, shame, and remorse defeat me – or I could rise to the occasion, walk in FULL SURRENDER to Jesus Christ, and make up my mind that I would stop at nothing to become the mother my son deserved and EVERYTHING GOD CREATED ME TO BECOME.

​I knew I had a battle in front of me. I was facing life in prison for walking across an international border with 4 pounds of crystal methamphetamine duct-taped around my waist, but something happened to me in that place of total surrender. A warrior rose up on the inside of me because I had fallen head over heels in love with Jesus Christ and I was not going to waste another moment of my life settling for anything less than God’s BEST.

​From my prison bunk, I read about how Jesus fought Satan with the Word AND DEFEATED HIM. I determined in my heart that I was going to turn my focus away from my circumstances and believe what the Word of God said about me. I read in 2 Cor 5:17 that I was a brand new creation in Christ! My heart flooded with hope when Jeremiah 29:11 told me that God had GOOD plans for my life and wanted to give me a hope and a future! Isaiah 54 told me that God was about to do a NEW THING in my life! Matthew told me that angels in heaven were rejoicing over ME – one little sinner who repented!! And Jeremiah 31:17 told me there was a hope for my future, that my children would come again to their own land! (Tyler!!! My baby!!!)

​The more of the Word I read, the stronger my faith became. Isaiah 55 told me that God’s Word does not return void, but it DOES WHAT IT SAYS IT WILL DO! I believed it and started to pray God’s Word over my circumstances and over Tyler, my son! I gained strength by facing every day challenges in prison. I considered it my training ground. My personal Boot Camp. My first test came when my mom died right before I got out of prison. I was absolutely devastated with grief. My dear mom who was waiting anxiously for me to get out of prison so she could watch me blossom into the beautiful young woman she always knew I could become – would now never see the changes that Jesus was making in my life. I would spend hours curled up on my metal prison bunk reading and absorbing God’s Word with great hunger as He slowly knit together my broken heart. It was in that season the Holy Spirit spoke to me and gently said, “Julie – it’s time to depend ONLY on ME now!”

​I got out of prison after serving only 22 months!! I had been facing LIFE in prison but on my sentencing day the Judge said he “saw something different” in me and he gave me a chance to fulfill the call of God on my life. The day I walked out of prison I was homeless. I had nothing and no one but Jesus! I immediately found a church to call home and got on the worship team and sang my heart out for Jesus. I read in Philippians where Paul told me to run with endurance the race set before me – and so I stepped out in COURAGE – and by the power of the Holy Spirit I defeated fear – fear that I wouldn’t make it, fear that I would go back to drugs, fear that I might never see my son again, fear because I was all alone. Every time I stepped out in COURAGE in the face of my fears, I stood a little taller, walked a little straighter, spoke a little bolder, and in just a few years I stood on the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park San Diego, graduating from college with over 20 scholarships, a 4.0 GPA and I was the Chancellor’s Award winner who gave the speech at the graduation. I was written up in the local newspaper as the little amputee who overcame addiction, the untimely death of both parents, and federal prison to tell that graduating class to “Never Ever Give Up!”

​My past did not cancel out the call of God upon my life. What the devil meant for harm, God took and used it for GOOD and STILL uses it to shape my DESTINY today! I have been clean and sober for almost 20 years! I now have 2 college degrees, I am a prison evangelist, a health educator, a wellness coach, and an Ordained Minister with the Assemblies of God. I go into prisons, homeless shelters, juvenile detention centers, recovery homes, and I influence the lost and broken for the glory of God. I speak, share, and preach at any church, women’s conference, luncheon or youth event – anywhere the Lord opens up a door because there is a fire shut up in my bones to share the love and hope of Jesus Christ with a lost, dying, hurting, desperate world.

​I have won awards and been recognized by the Mayor of Jacksonville for my job and my volunteer work in the community. And NONE OF THIS is because I am great or smart (because I’m not) – it is ALL GOD – I take no credit. You see, Romans 9:25 says that God takes nobodies and makes them somebodies and when you start throwing rocks at the devil, people around you notice when the giants fall.

​I wept and prayed and cried out to the Lord daily for Tyler to be saved and restored to my life. I claimed God’s Word that says He restores the years the locust have eaten and I asked Him to take me and turn me into the mother, sister, friend, and woman of God He created me to be. Along the way, the Lord brought a retired Navy Senior Chief into my life. This amazing man believed in the power of God to transform lives and, somehow, he fell in love with this one-legged, ex addict, former felon.

​And get this – God is using MY past and the giants I slayed along the way to shape my husband’s destiny. My husband, who had no idea what he was going to do with his life when we got married right as he retired from the Navy – HAS NOW BECOME A PRISON CHAPLAIN! God had my husband MARRY A FELON (me) because he had a DESTINY for him, to make him a Chaplain in the Florida Department of Corrections! You see, God wants to take your past, your mistakes, your messy situation, your fears, and turn it all around and use it all to create influence and destiny in the lives of those around you!

​God truly did restore the years the locust had eaten! He took everything the devil meant for harm and turned it around to use for good! And He isn’t finished! The miracles keep on coming! My son Tyler has been totally and fully restored to my life! He is deeply in love with Jesus and “I” got to walk him down the aisle at his wedding in 2016!

​What you are reading is only a tiny nutshell version of my testimony. There is more. Oh, there is SO. MUCH. MORE.