Words seem so small when you are trying to express such an expanse of time, emotions looming large and memories so deep.
But still, some words need to be spoken, not just assumed…because these moments and days long for them like salve for the hurting and confused and fearful soul that is walking down this unknown and uncomfortable path.
Both for the soul staying and the soul leaving.
So this is my heart.
Friend to friend, family member to family member, life to life.
To you…from me.
To all those who watched us, young and naive, on that stage- young in love and diving into life together- engaged and stepping forward into life together: thank you for believing in us, supporting us.
Thank you for walking us through the newly wed years that quickly turned into parenting years!
For helping us walk through ministry with little ones that jus kept coming summer after summer it seemed! Lol!
We could not have done it without your willingness to pray for us, babysit for us, embrace us in every way that 20 somethings need when they think they have a clue but don’t.
Your grace was our hope and success.
To the church staff and leadership: Thank you for giving my husband the opportunity to walk out the call of God on his life.
In the good and the hard times through these many years, we know God was sovereignly shaping the very things He needed in us so that we could step out into His call even now.
We thank you for being a part of the process of growth.
I pray that the Spirit’s fire is ignited in each of you like never before, all for the glory of our amazing God.
May you look full into His wonderful face and see the person of Grace like never before.
May you breathe compassion for the broken, forgiveness for the fallen, and passion for the Lord.
May the His Kingdom be your focus, and His Holy Spirit your guiding voice above all the noise.
I love you in the Lord.
To all those parents through the years and even now who saw what God was doing in spite of who we were and are and entrusted your teenagers, your children to our ministry: thank you for believing in us.
We know we never got it perfect, and we got it wrong a lot, but we have always loved.
Thank you for letting us love on your most precious gifts.
Know that every choice we made was for one purpose: to bring a generation closer to the very heart of God.
Water those seeds every second you get.
To all my church Mamas- and you know who you are- I cannot even type without tears.
You have prayed for me, loved me, supported me, cheered for me, kept me focused like no others.
You taught me to be proud to stand up in the calling on my life as a mother, unashamed of who He has created me to be.
It is because of you that I was able to step out into His call for me to homeschool my children.
I looked for your faces on those Sunday mornings that I wanted to be in bed with the covers over my head, stuck in my pity parties.
Yes, it was your smiles and hugs that reminded me of the Father’s love and energized me to run after His presence instead of sit down in my circumstance.
It is my turn now.
I promise to make you proud.
Thank you for teaching me how to love this way: full of mama grace.
To the teachers, adults, mentors who have poured Jesus into my children: I cannot even begin to tell you what you mean to me. You have pointed my children to Jesus Sunday after Sunday, year after year.
You have encouraged them, taught them, cried with them, held them, rocked them as babies, guided them as teens, run and played with them as children, wiped their tears, kissed their boo-boos, watched them take first steps, come to Jesus, be dedicated to Him, and discipled them in ways that a mama and daddy just can’t sometimes. You have had eternal influence in their lives! I know that I never said thank you enough. I appreciate your obedience to serve so much.
Never doubt that what you do makes a difference!
To my choir comrades: you will never know the privilege it has been to praise with you, laugh with you, learn with you.
Thank you for trusting this far from expert to lead you into the Throne room with my out of the box ways.
Standing in front of you watching you catch fire with the light from His face was my great joy and it is emblazoned into my soul.
From Easter productions to concerts, to practices, there are memories that I will cherish for a lifetime and on into eternity.
Pursue His presence above all else my friends.
The veil is torn…praise your way to His feet with every breath, every note.
The sound from that place will pierce the atmosphere.
I love you each one of you.
To the children who sang, acted, and danced their hearts out for me through the years: I love your sweet little faces. I have loved acting like a goofball with you and for you.
You always rose to every outrageous expectation.
You are the picture of worshipping with abandon: No pretension, no apprehension…just pure praise.
I loved every second.
And to you ladies that were on that journey with me…wow what a team. Even in the stress there was unspeakable joy.
Sing on. Dance on. Act on. Carry on.
Keep calm and Sing Praise. :)
To the "other half of my brain"-you know who you are: there will never, ever be another you. (I can’t see through the ugly cry to type any more.)
To our fellow local, world travelers through the years-from camping to white water rafting, to camps, to the Dominican Republic, to Nicaragua, to Alaskan Wilderness: what MEMORIES!
I smile at the thought of each journey.
God sculpted so much in our lives through these days and weeks.
Experiences cannot be recreated, but their lessons can be lived out.
And that is my prayer.
Whether it was how to love, how to have deeper friendships, how to laugh in the face of frustration and the unexpected, how to walk in faith and trust, how to simply slow down and enjoy life, how to share space, how to push through exhaustion, how to change a thousand flat tires, how to speak loud the name of Jesus even when they don’t speak your language, how to live to the fullest right where you are…that is what I am asking the Holy Spirit to overflow in your life.
May those experiences nourish you and whet your appetite for more just like it in the days ahead.
To my Sunday School 10th graders through the years: that hour each Sunday has forever impacted my life.
You challenged me to step way outside the box and listen to the Holy Spirit in ways I had not before so that I could reveal His Words and His Life to you.
From fireworks in the back parking lot, to plantings in the church yard, to balloons, and games and my passionate rants…you followed me. I learned from you to open up my life in a way I hadn’t before.
And I bet you know what I am gonna say: This is your critical year. Take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for your relationship with Jesus. Remember that the ONLY truth in this world is God’s Word; everything else is just an opinion.
It is all about relationship, not religion.
Fall in love with Jesus…and let the WORLD know.
You are world changers.
To the Lifesource band who trusted me in the craziest of ways: I love you guys.
Even when I know I drove you crazy, you still jumped headfirst with me into the presence of God.
Every note we played together, every moment we worshipped together is so precious to me.
Thank you for trusting my heart to lead those students past going through the motions and challenge them to press in to deep places of genuine worship.
That alone has been the desire of my heart, and will forever be my prayer for you and for them.
My prayer is that performance and platform will never take precedence over the passion for His presence.
To the Sunday morning smilers…the ones who engaged with me from that stage, who followed me into His presence and let freedom reign in them through worship:Thank you.
You may or may not even know who you are…but I do.
And you reminded me why I had that microphone in my hand.
It has never been about being heard. It has always been and will always been about making Him known.
Seeing your willingness to hear HIM and respond unashamed is so beautiful.
Keep going to that beautiful place, unashamed.
You never know who you are encouraging with your boldness and purity of worship.
To our Bootcamp buddies: we have enjoyed living out a lifestyle of health with you! Thanks for always making it fun and working hard! We pray that you still go after inside out health as you walk through life! You can do ALL things through Christ! And to you plank, rep, and/or movement cheaters…you know who you are…you can hear me yelling! Every rep counts! Love you guys! :)
To the students we have done life with, laughed with, cried with, text with, snap chatted with, pranked with, danced with, dressed up with, traveled with: what a fabulous journey you have made this for us. 19 years has left us with generations of children, now in all stages of life. You all will never know that joy we have in seeing you grow in life, but most of all, fall in love with Jesus.
That will forever be our heart for you.
No wee hours of the night will ever be too late or too early for you to reach out for us…we are always here for you.
We are so proud of you.
Remember the more you seek Him, the more you find Him.
He is not done with you.
Stand with arms high and heart abandoned.
He has EVERYTHING you need.
I love each and every one of you so. stinkin’. much.
To my fellow Homeschooling mamas: you are an answer to prayer!
You have walked through so much with me.
And I am so thankful to have friends who understand the reality and blessing of this journey.
Being able to worship with you has been an added bonus! :)
We will have a Bella night soon! Know I am always here for you!
To my Sisterhood friends: 11 years of all in for Jesus with you has produced fruit that none of us can fully recount.
You filled my spirit with a sister kind of love that is so extraordinary.
Thank you for giving me the privilege of pouring out Jesus to you year after year.
Thank you for holding me accountable and loving me through my mess…God is not finished with us yet my friends!!!
To our family friends and "we do life with you" friends: there will forever be coffee nights, and skiing, and Twin Palmetto, and camping, and group texts, and blessing ceremonies, and games, and New Years Eve, and concerts, and sleepovers, and movies, and birthdays, and workouts, and…and...life.
God just anoints friendships sometimes in ways we can’t explain.
You showed me that it isn’t the "minister’s family" against the world…a lesson I needed to learn.
You made me brave.
You helped me tear down walls I had built in my heart that I for so long never knew were there.
You gave me courage to trust God with my heart and love people for real, and that every now and then, you get this crazy amazing blessing of them loving you back with a Jesus kind of unconditional love.
We are forever friends…and I am forever thankful.
To our Poplar Springs family as a whole: leaving you is the hardest thing we have ever done.
But we love you all so much that we know we must go.
When God calls us to obey, we know that we have to follow.
If we did not, we would not only hurt ourselves, but we would also be ultimately hurting the very ones we love so dearly, the very ones that make leaving so hard to do.
I am still grieving, still weeping through it all, because stepping out of the boat is scary and huge and lonely and the ocean seems like its going to swallow me up some days.
So never think that for a moment that this is easy or trite or that we do not understand your pain and sadness , because we do.
And know we are praying you through it.
But here is true beauty in it all: we may not be under the same roof on a given Sunday morning, but we are all on the same team.
We have the same Father.
And nothing can change that.
Let’s choose to remember we are united in Christ for Kingdom purpose.
Let’s choose to break molds and stereotypes and be people that cheer our team members on as we all, individually and corporately in all different kinds of ways, live out loud for Jesus and go hard after making His Kingdom a reality here on this earth.
Make your mark on this world for Jesus, Poplar Springs.
I am cheering for you.
I always will be.
Your fingerprints are all over my life, the life of my family.
And I am forever grateful.
All my love.
For His Glory,
Julie P. McNeely