Author Archives: juliediterrell

I moved!


I wanted to make a quick post to let you know I created a new blog, in case you’d like to follow along! So many reasons for this, but mainly just that I feel like a different person in a different season than the one who wrote Thoughts From Paradise. It seemed right to start a whole new page for the new person.

By way of quick update, God called us to a rather sudden move in the summer of 2016. By Sep 13 of that year, we were getting the keys to our new home just outside of Dallas, Texas. It was an interesting season of watching God clearly close down everything we had been doing in Chiapas, and clear the way for us to move. It was quite surreal. But we’ve never seen Him move in us or our situation as we have in the past 18 months and it’s a thrilling ride! I’ll be writing more about it over on the new blog eventually. I hope you’ll join me for the adventure!

Change is good.


I just spent the last few minutes scrolling through old blog posts. After not much scrolling, I was several years back (that’s what happens when you stop blogging for a year), reading words that seemed familiar, but not me. Isn’t it strange how much a person can change in a short period of time? Maybe it’s just strange to me! But only a couple short years ago, I was not the same person. I felt helpless to change the things in my life that I didn’t like, helpless to confront things in my past that were affecting my present, and helpless to improve the relationships in my life that I knew were not in a healthy place. I don’t know that I had a victim mentality, but I certainly didn’t see myself as capable of changing my world.

Several years ago, a precious friend very gently pointed out something in my belief system that was not at all Scriptural. I was shocked to realize that she was right. Not only that, I started seeing other things in my heart and mind that it simply had never occurred to me to question. Things that I was taught as a child by a teacher I thought I should respect, and just filed away in the drawer of beliefs that I held as my own. Nathan and I began talking about some of these things, and soon became overwhelmed by the sheer number of issues that we held positions on without knowing if they were consistent with God’s heart or not! Many of these things were taught to us by someone that we once trusted, but now realize is way off base. Where would we starting weeding through the years of faulty philosophy? Thus began a very long season of praying “God I just want YOU. I want to know YOU for Who you really are, not for who I’ve been told that you are. I want to know you for myself, not just know *about* you from others’ perspectives. I want TRUTH, not religion. Whatever the cost, weed out the lies I’m believing and replace them with you.”

It has been a slow process. I appreciate so much that God has never flung open the doors of my heart, grabbing at false beliefs and lies left and right. He gently brings up one thing at a time. It’s as if He reaches into that filing cabinet, pulling out one piece of paper, and placing it before me. I typically respond with “what? I’ve always had that one. It can’t possibly be wrong.” He smiles and says “let’s just talk about it.” Slowly but surely, He addresses things that are skewing my view of Him and His heart. Slowly but surely, I am seeing Him as more loving. Less angry. More hilarious. Less boring. More interested in a relationship with me. Less interested in a perfect performance. More concerned with my heart and less impressed with a flawless outward appearance.


In the midst of these realizations, I began praying for change in my physical world as well. After years of living on very little and learning to trust God for every single bill to be paid (He never once left us hanging! Often coming through right down to the penny…) I felt that He had more for us. That this was a season of learning, and it had fulfilled it’s purpose.

Enter Jamberry. It was a whim. A company created by three sisters just for fun and maybe some play money. My sister signed up, and encouraged me to do the same. It never occurred to me that my life was about to change. It seemed like a small investment that could possibly yield enough to give our grocery budget some wiggle room. But a few months later, Nathan and I looked at our bank account and said “we have to stop accepting financial support for our mission work!” Jamberry has been our sole source of income since that day in Feb of 2014. That was just the first of many changes. God has used that little business to open our eyes to worlds of needs, dreams, possibilities, and gifts we didn’t know we possessed. I try REALLY hard to not push the business opportunity on people, but I so desperately want to see if change everyone’s lives the way it has mine! It has been such a God-send on so many levels.

I could write an entirely separate post about the changes that I’ve seen in myself, my family, my finances, my dreams, my passions, and my future in the last year alone. But my FAVORITE of all the changes is my understanding of God and how He feels about me. I feel like He has just begun to give me a glimpse of His heart. The more I see, the more desperate I am to see more. I used to be one who was nervous about change. I was comfortable in my home town, native language, ministry that I understood and felt equipped to handle, and a god who fit neatly in a nice square box that I could tuck in my pocket and access whenever it was convenient. I now see that God likes to change things up to bring us to a new place of reliance on Him alone.

Change is good. I believe and hope that I am standing on the edge of a massive change. And I say bring it. My prayer remains “just give me YOU, God! Change what needs changing.”



It has been so long since I logged into my blog that it took 10 minutes and password guessing just to get here! Ha! I’ve missed you, blogging world. The reason for my loooong absence is slightly long and complicated, but I’ve been motivated to start back up. There is much to catch up on! But for today I just needed to get out a few thoughts that I’ve been mulling over this-morning. I promise I’ll be back for a catch-post ASAP!

Today is Independence Day! It’s always been one of my favorite holidays. But it means more to me this year than ever before. Spending the 4th in another country always makes you appreciate things in a different way, but this is more than that.

Freedom means something special to anyone who has lived in a situation less than free. I’ve never lived under a tyrannical leader, but I did live in slavery to The Law. I was ruled by a list of rules and “standards” and driven by the fear of what might happen if I slipped or accidentally forgot one of the many many rules of the religious system. I laid awake at night wondering if I was doing enough, if I was doing it all right, if I had missed a bullet point on the holiness checklist… if *I* was enough!

Then I found a relationship. An actual back-and-forth conversation with a loving God, Who simply wanted ME. Not my performance or completed checklist, but my whole heart instead. As a result, the outward appearance changed as well. I loved more, was able to forgive more freely, and suddenly was not so concerned about everyone else’s holiness checklist. I was too enthralled with my new relationship!

This is freedom. Freedom to walk and live and love as HE leads. Freedom to change! Freedom to just be who He made me, knowing that He smiles when He sees my heart, and not worrying about what others might think of it. Freedom. Independence from the tyranny of law and fear. Freedom to follow the Spirit where He leads without wondering if it will look bad or sully my perfect image of holiness. Freedom to be me, regardless of who I’m sitting in front of or talking to at that moment.

This is my wish for my friends! That they would find (and choose to accept) freedom, from whatever is holding them captive today.

Happy Independence Day!!!

“It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us free!” Gal 5:1

apathy and grace


I’ve never clicked that “reblog” button before. I suppose because it’s not often that I read something that absolutely grips my heart, slaps me in the face, and takes my breath away all at once. My friend Christina wrote this, but I could easily have said the same words. Just not as eloquently as she has. If you wonder where I’ve been lately, perhaps this will shed some light? I’ve been wrestling. With the past. With expectations. With questions. With a faint glimmer of what the future could hold. I don’t have many answers, but I can echo my friend here when she says; “I want more. I’d rather engage in a living union than lifelessly assenting to a system of beliefs.”

Christmas `13 at the orphanage report


I’m so embarrassed that I am just now writing this report in February.  I could give you the list of reasons for this ridiculously late post, but that seems a little bit unnecessary. So I think I will instead give you the basic run-down, and if you want more details please feel free to email me!

Due to a variety of changes in our situation and a series of random events, God has led us to a new orphanage! It’s not actually new, because we have known the family that runs it for several years now. But God has only recently led us to start working there. We ended up putting the “Christmas at the Orphanage” funds to good use there (after checking with the donors of course)!

This orphanage used to just be the Dappen family, and they happened to take in a few kids off the street. But in recent years, the majority of the Dappen family moved back to the U.S. and it’s now a full-blown orphanage run by just 2 of the Dappen kids and a spouse! They currently have 22 children in their care, with over half of those being special needs kids. Some of them are very disabled, with need for constant care, braces, wheelchairs or medications. Others just need a little more help than the average child. But without exception, they are all precious!

Cloe playing with a couple of the boys. Precious babies!!!!

Cloe playing with a couple of the boys. Precious babies!!!!

Compared to the other orphanage projects we’ve taken on, the needs the Dappens are facing are much more practical and basic. Such as food, working bathrooms, furniture and rent money. Beyond the basic needs, there is a serious need for extra medical funding. You will be hearing more from me here on this topic soon! But for now, I’ll show you where the Christmas Project funds went.

Water filters, cleaning supplies, non-perishable food,  paper goods, and a little chocolate!

Water filters, cleaning supplies, non-perishable food, forks, soap, bath towels, paper goods, and a little chocolate!

The majority of the boys are living on a ranch, learning and trying to grow their own food. Their living conditions are… how shall I say this… rustic? Very rough. The boys were SO curious about all the soap and cleaning supplies, and wanted to know which ones could be used on their hair. Hehehe! I told them I would bring shampoo next time, but please don’t use the Pine-scented cleaner on their bodies!

It's not the best picture, but we bought 18 blankets (one of their first/most urgent requests), as well as a few kick balls and boxes of mega-blocks.

It’s hard to see in this picture, but we bought 15 blankets (one of their first/most urgent requests), as well as a few laundry baskets, kick balls and boxes of mega-blocks.

Lastly, FOOD! You can probably imagine how much food it takes to feed 3 adults and 22 kids (some of whom are teenagers). Or maybe you can’t? If you have the standard family of 4, just multiply your grocery bill times 5. That’s a lot of food! Especially if you want them to have good food that can help combat the malnutrition they have all arrived with. This, obviously, is an ongoing need. But we did what we could to stock them up for a little bit.

Beans, rice, milk, oranges, cereal, oats, honey, olive oil, eggs, and meat!

Beans, rice, milk, oranges, cereal, canned peaches, oats, honey, carrots olive oil, and eggs!

With the money you gave towards the Christmas fund, we were also able to pay their rent for the month, which was a huge prayer request answered for them. If you are on Facebook, please take a moment to follow the link to “like” and follow their page!

Thank you for being part of this project, and making a difference in these children’s lives. You will not find more deserving or grateful recipients!!

When joy becomes a choice


Sometimes joy doesn’t come naturally.  Sometimes you are awakened 6 times in the night by teething and feverish children, and morning comes far too quickly and the sunlight feels harsh instead of… well, sunny.  Sometimes you are so tired that you attempt to make coffee in your French Press… without putting any coffee in it.  Sometimes you sneak off to the bathroom with your coffee cup, turn on the fan, and just hope it takes the kids a few minutes to figure out that you are simply escaping to a moment of silence and solitude.  What?  Don’t tell me you’ve never done that!

These last few weeks have been rough.  The kind of month that plays a mean game of tug-o-war with your last nerve.  Car accidents (no one was hurt, thank God), losing my wallet in the back of a taxi, being home alone with 4 littles for more than half of the last month, very important relationships suffering heavy strain, and now, the latest development in our saga, the disappearance of money from our lockbox. A lot of money.  We are mystified about that last one.  This all could not really have come at a worse time of year.  November is when I historically start getting very homesick.  The realization has set in: we’re spending our 4th yr in a row in Mexico for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I think I did better when it was one year here, one year at home in Colorado with my family. It seemed less traumatic.  At any rate, I’m trying to line up activities, traditions, outings with the orphans, fun food, new crafts, and all manner of things to make these next 2 months more joy-full and less homesick.

Then the unexpected happens.  One thing after another.  Just when I think I’m recovering emotionally and psychologically from one blow, here comes a new one.  I admit, once I had a moment of silence today (I will neither confirm nor deny my whereabouts in the house when this moment occurred), I whispered through a choked back tear, “really God??? Why? Why right now?”

I just remembered the lyrics of a song that says “When you can’t see His hand, trust His heart.”  I don’t doubt for a moment that God is in control.  I don’t doubt that He is orchestrating every day of our lives, no matter how chaotic they seem to us at times.  I know this.  I’ve seen enough miracles in my relatively short life (especially in the last 8 yrs on the mission field) to readily acknowledge that God is real.  God is big.  God is intimately involved in our lives.  He cares about the details.  He is concerned with what concerns us.  I know!  But sometimes I don’t feel it.

People-to-people  relationships can be like that sometimes too, right?  Sometimes you have to remind yourself of what you know to be true, whether or not it *feels* true at the moment.  You have to choose to believe the best of your spouse, whether you feel like it or not.  Maybe you have to choose to believe that person didn’t *mean* to hurt you with the thoughtless words or actions.  Don’t assume that a lack of communication from a friend or family member is the same as a lack of love.  Assume the best.  Choose to love.

Today I’m choosing faith.  I choose to believe that God is doing something through all these weird things going on lately.

I choose to open my eyes to the blessings surrounding me.  The paintings of oddly formed butterflies on my fridge, the play-dough models of horses (I admit, I thought it was supposed to be a dragon), the perfect white calla-lily growing out in the yard, the stifled giggles and whispers escaping from my little girls’ room after the lights have been turned out for the night, the perfect aroma of coffee, the sparkle in William’s eyes… beauty.   Abundant blessings that I too often ignore for the busy-ness or refuse to acknowledge because I am *so* occupied with my pity-party.

I choose GRACE.  I choose to be a conduit that God can use to love on my kids.  I will not refuse the grace that He is attempting to give me for each moment by dwelling on the thoughts that steal my peace.

Tonight, I’m choosing joy.  Not because my situation is fantastic, or my finances stellar, or my marriage perfect, or my children well-behaved with nicely trimmed finger nails… but because I can.  Because over and over again in Scripture, joy is related to being in God’s presence.  THAT’S what I want.  That’s what I *can* do something about.  I’m learning to live my life in His presence.  I’ll letcha know when I have figured out how to do this perfectly (don’t hold your breath).  For now, I’m loving this journey.  And I’m banking on the promise Jesus gave in John 15 when He said “abide in me… your joy will be complete!”  That sounds good to me.  Complete joy.  Count me in.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:2-3

A small collection of the blessings I noticed today

A small collection of the blessings I noticed today

Christmas `13 at the Orphanage


It’s that time again!  Time to talk about what is quite possibly my favorite project, every year.  Christmas at the orphanage!!


Christmas has been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember. As I was reflecting on what we could do for the orphanage this year (our fourth year in a row to do this with Casa Hogar Canaan), I had an idea. Part of what brought this project about 4 yrs ago was the realization that this wonderful holiday doesn’t necessarily hold wonderful memories for so many children.  Especially children who have been through some of the heart-wrenching things that these kids have been through. I would like to change that. So instead of flooding their space with a bunch of STUFF, I would like to give them some really fun memories.

Casa Hogar family

Casa Hogar Canaan family

The logistics are still being worked out. But here is my idea. Right now, Casa Hogar Canaan is home to 20 orphans. I would like to take them out in groups of 4-5 kids. We will spend the day with them, let THEM choose a toy or clothing item that they love (each child would have an allotted amount of money available to them) , take them out to eat, come back to our home for cookie decorating, games, a Christmas movie, popcorn, and a sleep-over! If we have enough funds, I would like to get each of them a loaded toiletry bag to unwrap, as well. While this new plan may take more of our time, I don’t think it will cost any more money. And I believe the memories will be longer lasting than what we’ve done in the past. (If you would like to see the reports from the last 3 projects, click here!)


Here are the details. If you want to help (even $5 would go far!) you can do so 2 different ways. Send a check to our church with “Orphanage Christmas” in the memo line:

Redeemer Baptist Church

18800 E. Iliff Ave,  Aurora, CO  80013

OR you can use paypal and transfer funds to:

If you don’t have anything to give, we understand that too. Maybe you could help by posting this link to your Facebook or Twitter? Or perhaps your church or other small group would like to get involved? Whatever it is, just know that you won’t be sorry. Being a part of this project is something I look forward to SO much every year. These children are precious and deserve every good thing we could possibly give them!

I can’t wait to see what God is going to do through you this year!!

James 1:27… “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans…”