Julia Rose Mangrem

Julie

Greater Glory.

Many of you reading this have lost a close friend or family member.  The milestones are so hard!  A new song is written and you think, wow, they would love that.  A baby is born and you have an imaginary conversation with your loved one about your kid’s crazy hair.  That’s quasi-normal, RIGHT?!  I’m so thankful that as we grow through grief, we can do it in light of community.  It definitely makes it easier.  This entry is about one of my dearest friends, Julie.  It’s been two years today that she died.  My beautiful 39 year old friend.  God created her in His image and redeemed her life.  Her life was an instrument of worship.   At her funeral, thousands of people watched and participated in pointing their hearts towards Julie’s Love:  Christ.  The gospel:  Christ came, died to save, and desires to have a relationship with us; was shared with thousands around the world (shout out for webcam). What is better than that?  What is more powerful than that?  As a participant, spectator, and friend I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything.  I can’t even describe how much God has been glorified through the life and death of Julie…but I must try.

October 2005 Julie was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer that had spread to her liver.  She was given 6 weeks to live.  She was a wife and mother of Major (5 years old) and Addi (6months old).  The doctors did there best to surgically remove all they could.  She began radiation and chemo treatments after surgery. Through that whole journey, Julie never lost her faith that God could heal her.  Stubborn is definitely an understatement here.

The Pressure is off.

Let me be super clear:  Julie was not at all perfect and she would be the first to tell you that.  Sometimes it was frustrating that she was so stubborn that she would be healed this side of eternity.  I would broach the subject, “hey, so, ah….what if God decides to heal you in a different way”….Her response was always, “I don’t want to talk about that!”  I learned that sometimes, you need to speak truth, sometimes you need to pray truth and keep your mouth shut.  Love in action is what was needed here.  A literal demonstration of washing feet.  God takes care of our heart issues.  Sometimes friends just need to show us we are loved no matter if we have things straight or not.  I saw so many women show me that beautiful example and I love them for it.  “Trust the Lord and trust His guidance.”  Thankfully, she never lost her sense of humor and thankfully, God had mercy on us all.  Nobody is an expert on dying.  Anytime someone dies, it could be easy to think or say “they were perfect”.  But, none of us are.  Julie knew that and trusted that she was forgiven.  She did the best she could to walk out the truths she loved to study.  Despite both our short-comings, it was an absolute gift to walk through 17 years of life with.

February 26, 2010 It was early in the morning when we got the text that Julie had passed away.  She hadn’t spoken in several days, but I can’t even imagine how much pain she had dealt with.  Relief and grief hit us like a ton of bricks when we found out her life here was over.  Thomas and I prayed together for the days ahead and cried tears of Joy and Sorrow.

We write our funerals daily.

I had the privilege of delivering the eulogy at Julie’s funeral.  Looking back on my saved notes from that day made me laugh/cry (just like Julie)  I realized that all of the beautiful things about her (listed below) were just everyday instances where she glorified God.  (She valued people and life)  Here are my notes copied and pasted from that day:

-expert on the “one upper” SNL skit

-Pedicures (only the brightest colors would do)

– G Rated movies especially Tyler Perry movies (girl, don’t make me call the PoPo)

– loved the sun, loved the Beach, loved going to Beach Reach every year, many of you will remember your trips there with her.  She’s brought a few people home from those trips too…Kelli

-THE MOST DETERMINED WOMAN I have ever met.  Fully persuaded in Christ.

– Also, very serious about practical jokes- (bridesmaids and raisins, Falls Creek with LaRue Lamance, make noise and blame it on us)

-Babies…she loved babies

-She loved her babies- treasured being a mommy

-speaking of making babies, she was passionate about purity.

-She had that look and always told her girls, I will know if you mess around, so don’t!!  I like to call that healthly fear.

-No really, she knew the preciousness of waiting upon the Lord

-AND before many of us got married, she knew how to throw one heck of a bachelorette party!!!  All I gotta say is, “be the fantasy”

-loved her bible study girls.  So many different seasons of bible studies groups over the years….she loved it.  She loved you ladies. Raise your hands.

-she desired for people not just to know God, but to experience God and to be set free from their sin.  See, she knew what freedom tasted like- and after walking around in chains….freedom tastes good.

-Julie was a student of Jesus.  She was never satisfied that she knew enough about God, she was always thirsty to learn more.

-She loved her kids.

-threw the best b day parties for her kids….so creative

-She loved and challenged Mark like no other.  What a beautiful example she has been as a wife fully devoted, loving, and supportive.  She was ACTIVE in his ministry

-She loved Connect Church.  God planted the vision of a church and she embraced it and was passionate about it.  She was passionate about Connecting people to Jesus- loving them in that way, no matter what their past was, where they came from,  she had an incredible hope for all she came in contact with. (shout out to Molly Fearing for helping me with this list)
Where are we now?

Because Julie put her faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, she is enjoying heaven.  She has FULL understanding of why God chose to heal her there instead of here.  Scripture describes heaven as joyful never-ending worship…in response to having a much broader understanding of the Glorious goodness of God.  (wow)

Mark has been so transparent in his grief and his trust in the Lord.   God has been faithful to care for him, heal him, and continues to write his story.  As part of the faith family of Connect, it has been awesome to watch God hold our broken-hearted pastor so close, so gently, so steady.  God’s hope continues.  Mark has remarried a wonderful woman, Sarah.  She has won the hearts of those two kids, Major and Addi.  What a blessing to have a loving mommy!  They are growing together as a family and every time I’m with them, I thank the Lord for what He has done there.

Other family updates include Julie welcoming her father-in-law in heaven a few months ago.  (What a reunion.)  God has sent a couple of really special babies here (shout out Chrissy and Kristen).  Life moves on.

Connect Church is thriving.  For a season, God brought many people who were suffering from someone dying of cancer.  Families would come and take comfort. Mark’s transparency was unique and God used it to touch many.  Through the pain and devastation, God was faithful to keep us together, loving Him and serving up Hope to others.  We are still healing, but we’ve come a long way. I’m confident that only God could bring a church through something like that.

Our family continues to be thankful for God’s Sovereignty in Julie’s life and death.  By sovereignty, I mean that sometimes we don’t get it.  We don’t see it the WHY.  We don’t understand what the heck is going on!  Yielding to God’s sovereignty is perhaps one of the hardest lessons (I’m learning).  When relationships are broken by death (or strife) it’s so hard, even impossible to see the good.  But, thanking God for His sovereignty is essential in practicing trust and faith.  I’m finding that sometimes God graciously fills in the gaps of our understanding but only heaven will give us full understanding of all His purposes.  It took me awhile to embrace what that means and live the truth of it.  It’s changed my perspective about what I live for here on earth,  a HUGE daily reminder that our lives our not our own and that although we can plan our days, God determines our steps.  (I’m not saying it’s a cake walk) I’ve actually become thankful for this attribute of God.  My anger and sorrow has been replaced with worship and deep, abiding trust.  I guess this is what it means “to cling to, to hold on to”.  And a funny thing happens as we embrace this concept….our capacity to know God, His love, His glory, and His joy opens up even wider. (scary/cool)

Two stories about how Julie’s legacy has lived on (in my personal life):

1.  This Christmas, our neighbor “B” came over to help us decorate for Christmas.  She is 8 years old and hilarious.  Anyways, as we were pulling out stuff, she asked, “what’s that?”, pointing to a nativity scene.  “That’s Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus.”  Her response, “Who are they?”  I explained the nativity scene which led to sharing the gospel which led to me giving her the nativity scene.  She took it home and put it in her room.  A few weeks ago she brought it back.  I intended for her to keep it but…whatever. While wrapping it up for next year, I flipped it over to find that it was given to me by Julie.  I laughed and said “haha-you stinker”.

2.  Our friends recently adopted a little girl from Africa.  They call her “Gigi”.  I was talking to Grace about our new little friend and Grace asked about giving her a book “Gigi”- “since that’s her name, Mommy”.  This book had been given to us by Aunt Juju when Grace was born.  It was so beautiful to watch my daughter give another little girl a book that Julie had given her.  Julie loved children!

The voids that Julie left were big, but God’s daily presence has been bigger.

I’m so thankful to have known Julie and to have walked the journey with her.  God keeps teaching me about “greater glory”.  This sums up the “what now?” theme:  “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.  Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.  Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. ”  Galations 5:24-26. I know that many people (including myself) have a long way to go.  It’s a daily thing.  God has been so patient.  He keeps watch over us and heals us.  Responding to Him has become the joy in our lives.  Certain fears have been conquered and seeds of truth planted.  We know that God will be more than enough if tragedy happens.  (which life tells us it certainly will) Courage and boldness are springing up.

Remembering the Celebration Service

We all decided to wear bright clothes in honor of Julie, which is always flattering when you’re 8 months pregnant.  Never the less, before the service started, I will always remember laughing so hard at Steve Graber, Cherie’ Strader, and Trae Castles.  A bunch of goof-balls playing jokes all the way up until the service started.  How else are you gonna get through something like that?  Love those guys. If you want to know what Steve Graber did with the flowers from the service, you’re gonna haft to ask him yourself.

We prayed before the service and tried not to cry watching the slide show before worship.  The first song:  My chains are gone.

I’ll never forget looking out across a sea of faces at her “funeral”;  Ginger Osiek’s hands were the first to go up in worship.  She was up and outta her seat ready to sing some praises.  Love that.

Thousands of people singing,

“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free.  My God my Savior has ransomed me.  And like a flood, His mercy rains, Unending Love, Amazing Grace.”

Looking at all those faces, worshiping and lifting hands to Christ, wow, it was so beautiful.  I loved joining with all the voices.  It was a coming together.  A community’s confession of the Glory of God.  God’s presence was so thick- like a wool blanket, wrapping us up and comforting us. We heard this Great Comforter speak Truth and Love.  Healing was already ours for the taking.  Greater Glory was continuing to be our vision and our song.  God was proving all His former promises.  Once again:  His cross, His love, His hope for the future.  And in that moment I’ll never forget Jesus’ words to me, “Beloved, this is just a sliver of heaven.” (smile)

And so it is just the beginning of eternity for Julie.  I think if she would speak to us today, it would be with a sense of urgency- All of life comes down to just one thing: knowing Christ and making Him known.  Get to it!  Heaven will be here before you know it-  Are you ready for all that?

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Comments
5 Responses to “Julia Rose Mangrem”
  1. Oh, Rach, thanks so much for sharing your heart. You captured so much of what’s in my heart & head into words. I miss her so, yet I know her legacy…and Jesus working through it…have accomplished so much, and will continue to. Oh, how I wish I could be there to hug all your necks today. Sometimes it’s a little harder walking through these days with people who have only heard about her from my stories. Love you, sweet friend!

  2. Emily says:

    Beautiful tribute. Beautiful. Love that connection with Gigi’s books. God is good.

  3. Ellen says:

    Thank you for writing this, I love you.

  4. Julie Gibson says:

    Love what you wrote thanks so much for taking the time to share.

  5. Mary Ingram says:

    Love.

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