An Uphill Climb to Normal

The screams roared down the hall and swept under the door of the tiny bedroom I shared with my four year old sister. My belly quivered. Not again.
I slid off the top bunk, opened the door and crept down the hall, my bare feet silent against the hardwood floors. Twisting the hem of my pink nightgown in my fist, I peered around the corner into my parent’s bedroom. Red velvet curtains shouted a warning from their vantage point high above the fracas.

I watched my parents’ shadows pantomime on the bedroom floor as they argued inside their bathroom. My ten year old body shuddered as something crashed against the wall. Suddenly my mom and dad stormed out of the bathroom. Just two steps inside their battle zone, I froze.

Chaos erupted. Behind me, all four of my younger siblings now stood in the doorway, wakened by the frightening noises we all dreaded. Their terrified sobs bombarded the room like a tragic symphony.

My parents never noticed.

Husband and wife shoved each other, angry words fiercely spewing like a faulty car radiator that was about to blow. Then, we all watched our parents begin a fist fight.

Someone needs to do something. I jumped between my parents, holding out my hands until one palm touched each of them. "Please stop fighting! You're scaring everybody! Please!"

That's when she did it.

My mom ran toward her nightstand and grabbed our heavy, black telephone. My jaw dropped as I watched her yank the cord right out of the wall. She’s breaking our telephone? Lifting the phone behind her head as though heaving a football, she threw it toward my dad with all her might. The phone plunged into the top of his head with an eerie thud. Blood dripped down my dad's face in a crazy, zigzag design. His hand flew up to the wound and he raced back to the bathroom, large circles of blood dotting the hardwood floor behind him.

The symphony grew to a frenzied hysteria.

Freaked out and terrified, all five of us kids followed our enraged mom as she ran into our living room--heading directly toward my dad's prized possession--his beautiful wood and glass gun case. With her defiant kick the glass enclosure was utterly shattered.

So were our hearts.

Sometimes it’s an uphill climb to normal. For me, normal always seemed far away, like a mystical dream that I knew existed, but would probably never find. Oh, I inhaled the scent of normal on occasion. Like when I visited of my grandparents’ house in Detroit for the weekend, where sheets graced every bed, Johnny Carson performed in their calm living room nightly, and my Gram cooked clockwork meals. Or the time I lived with my aunt and uncle in Arkansas for a year and learned a house could be pert near spotless, ketchup on crock pot pinto beans tastes extraordinary, and the true meaning of family.

My journey to normal started when I met Jesus, almost 20 years ago. It felt like I slowly started to wake up the day I entwined my fingers with His, and the mystical dream slowly shimmered into real life as we walked together. It hasn’t always been easy. But the cool thing about Jesus is He takes every step with you.

He knows our past, He knows our hurts, but I think what I like best about Jesus is He knows our hearts. And somehow, while we walk together, He gathers the shattered fragments and fuses them back together. It might sound improbable, but the girl who lived the scene above and the woman I’ve now become now barely recognize each other. And that’s close enough to normal for me.


Anonymous :) said...

Beautiful story of how walking through life with God heals old hurts and gives us a new identity. I wonder how your mother's life worked out over the years.

Karen said...

Julie, I'm so grateful the "Repairer" of all things touched your life and heart and mended your brokeness. Thank you for opening up and sharing that. Blessings on your week.

Speaking from the Heart said...


Thank you for sharing your private life. It brought back a lot of memories of my parents. I am so glad that God didn't abandon us, even when we didn't know who He is. He patiently waited for us to come to Him.

Ginny said...

That was the most beautiful story of inner healing that I ever heard/read. I am glad that you no longer recognize that little girl. God had the solution before you had the problem. He did not abandon you or stop loving you and that is the true miracle.
Thank you for sharing.

Tammy said...

How wonderful our God is and His promises!

Sharing your story will help others come to Jesus!

Sande said...

What takes us to the point of such frustration?

What lies we must believe to think that we are each others bitterest enemies?

What fools we are when we feel we can exist in any kind of normal without the imput ... no our carrying by the MAKER of us; the LOVER of us

It's not really that we don't believe in HIM, it's just that we believe HE does not believe in us anymore.

Diane said...

Wow. Powerful story of befores and afters. God is GREAT! :O)

Gaia said...

Julie, I would never have guessed you had such a broken past. Thank you for sharing, how one's life could change. Bless you.

Cheryl Barker said...

Julie, what a story of heartbreak and hope. So thankful that Jesus has brought healing to your life. Thanks for sharing -- may God use it to bring hope to another hurting soul!

B His Girl said...

I have a book by John Ortberg, Everybody's Normal Till You Get To Know Them. Have you read it? If not, it is yours. Let me know. God has more for you than 'normal'. Love you, B

Julie Gillies said...


Thanks for the book recommendation. In writing this post, which God pretty much insisted on, I hoped to convey not that I'm not parked at "normal", but that all of the effects of the trauma is gone. It's my fervent prayer that He use what the enemy meant for my harm to help others.

I agree that God has far better than normal for each of us. May He propel us on to great things as we trust Him.

KelliGirl said...

I admire your writing, but the few times you've written about your past, your words take on a life of their own. Your writing transcends the circumstances and leads us straight to the heart of God.

I am so thankful that our God is greater than ALL of our shattered pasts. And that in Him we can be set free and made new creations.

Blessings, my friend,

Lindsey @ A New Life said...

A scene so very familiar.

Thank you for the glimpse into your childhood, but more importantly the encouragement found in your obvious healing from that past. I am getting there, and I love to read stories like these, as they keep me grounded in hope and trusting in God's love.


Deb said...


Our God is wonderful. Loving. Magnificient!

He holds us. Helps us. And heals us.

When we get hurt like that.

Your pain. Your hurt. Your wounds.

All point to Him and what He's done in your life.

And what He's doing now.

Amazing what happens when a woman believes God.

Sweet dreams.

Eagles Wings said...

Thanks for sharing your story...
Thanks my friend for being real!
God help me!

Melinda said...

Julie, Everytime I hear a little bit more of your story, I am amazed at God's transforming power. He has made something beautiful out of the pain -- YOU!

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

You stand as a living witness to the power and truth of God's transforming grace. The greatest miracle (I believe) that we'll ever witness is the one that takes place in a heart of restoration. God is rebuilding your life with the bricks and mortar of the cross.

I wish your childhood could have lived differently. I wish you were spared all the anger and hurt. No child deserves to be in the middle of such carnage. Sure, it's part of your history, part of why you are the woman you are today, but that still doesn't merit the abuse you knew.

I'm sorry Julie. Someone should have stepped in. Someone has, and his love cannot be measured according to man's warped attempt at the same.

Thank you for giving me this piece of your history. It strengthens me and makes me want to do better with my kids.


One Happy Campa said...

I love seeing how He has brought beauty from your ashes. I lived a self-inflicted chaos for 8 years and know that when the Lord heals and restores His restoration is complete and completely beautiful! Thank you for sharing and for allowing the Lord to speak to others through you! Blessings, ML

Terri Tiffany said...

I wanted to weep when I read this story. When I first met you online, I was so intimidated by you. You seemed like the woman who had it all--so confident so assured--and I know you are--but one never knows what a person has overcome to be who they are today, Praise God for Him in your life! Thank you for sharing your testimony today. And I too lived similar pain with my folks--I am so thankful I have a heavenly father who has always loved me.

Janna Leadbetter said...

"We were our hearts." Never a shorter and more poignant sentence. Just beautiful and heartbreaking.

Thank you for visiting my blog, and leaving birthday wishes yesterday. It was very nice!

Jody Hedlund said...

Wow, Julie! What a powerful message! Thank you for sharing a bit of your past in such a heart-wrenching way. God is using you to offer hope and healing to so many!

Bonita said...

Julie, your transformation is such a testimony to God's goodness and grace. It's almost hard for me to imagine that you were once that emotionally battered young girl and all that you've been through. Such an inspiring life!

Christina Davis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christina Davis said...

YOU are a miracle.
What a nice visit to your blog today. Your story, especially the most painful parts, remind me that God always has a plan. How strong of you to be so open.

Terri Tiffany said...

Send me your snail mail please! You won one of my books:)

Tonya said...


Thank God for moving on your behalf and helping you move forward to normalcy!

I also want to say that you did a beautiful job on writing about such a heartbreaking event. I was hanging onto every word. It wasn't until the end that I realized you were talking about yourself.

Andrea said...

Praise God for his mighty work in our lives! He is so faithful to bring good from life's traumas.

I take great comfort in God's knowing of my heart. I can't tell you how many times he's been (besides my sweet husband) the only One who understood me.

Beautiful piece. Thank you for sharing your heart. I love your lovely writing.

God bless you. Have a great Sunday.


Heather - On the Road... said...

Oh my friend,
I had to read this 3 times. I still found myself holding my breath through the first part.

This takes my breath away... your gift for writing had me in that house with you. Thank you so much for sharing... Thank you for following what God pretty much insisted you write.

Very powerful how God can take our shattered pieces and fuse them back together. He gave me that word picture about a year and a half ago, and it has never left me... him lifting up my heart in His hands, gently healing pieces back together, one trauma at a time.

Love you, and God bless you!

Susie said...

Julie, I can barely type with hands trembling for that little girl, and also trembling at the sight of the girl I know now. The Lord is so good, so gracious and so REAL! Thank you for sharing this, and I just want you to know-you inspire me so much. Your words came to life and I was there with you!

I even looked up fracas-what a great word! Love you dear friend!

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