Get to Know Julie Lyles Carr
Julie is an author, speaker, broadcaster, blogger, and host of the Modern Motherhood Podcast. She serves as the Pastor of LifeWomen Women’s Ministry at her home church of LifeAustin in Austin, TX. Footnotes: Major Lessons from Minor Bible Characters, available now, is her first women's Bible study.
About the Study
Why did you write a study on minor characters of the Bible?
I’m one of those girls who sits at an airport while on a speaking trip and marvels at all the people walking past, all headed to various destinations and each with their own stories, dreams, hopes, and challenges. I wonder about each of their lives—how they would describe themselves and how it is that our lives came to intersect in this city, at this airport—even if just for a few brief seconds of passing each other in the concourse. Minor characters from the Bible feel that way for me, too. I’m often buzzing past them in my Bible reading time while searching for the perfect verse for an upcoming teaching or seeking out what a better known Bible personality had to say about a topic. But when I slow down and look a little deeper, I want to know: Who was this person who doesn’t get much Scriptural air time? Did they ever think they would end up being mentioned in the best-selling book of all time? In an age before social media and archival document storage, how did they think they would be remembered? What did they think their legacy would be? The curiosity and the questions of that sent me on this journey of exploration for Footnotes.
Could you share one fun fact you learned from minor characters?
One of my favorites is looking at the career of Quirinius, the guy we see mentioned at the time of the census that necessitated Joseph and Mary going to Bethlehem when Mary was a couple of contractions away from giving birth to the Savior of the world. Based on Quirinius’s storied military and political ambitions, I’m sure it was never in his goal-setting dashboard that he would be remembered in history as the sidebar mention for a labor and delivery donkey ride to a dusty little town on the outskirts of Roman domination.
Why is it important to study the minor characters alongside the major ones?
I often find it’s in the little details that we can find a more complete understanding. You know how you can be making a recipe and you’ve got all the big ingredients you need? The organic chicken breasts and the special sauce you whipped up from scratch and that one weird ingredient you had to go to three different stores to find? You get it all put together; you’re so proud of your gourmet accomplishment...and then it comes time to taste it. And much to your surprise, you realize that you left out one measly ¼ teaspoon of salt, and it makes the whole dish not have as much punch. That’s why I think it’s important. These minor characters give us so much flavor into what it was like to be alongside the big personalities, what the perspective was like from those seats. The questions some of these minor characters ask, the tasks they carried out, the insights they express are unique. When we seek out the lessons of those who were generally part of the crowd instead of the spotlight, we learn so much about the context of the times in which they lived. It’s a seasoning, a way for the flavors of some of the stories we are so familiar with from a “big name” perspective to be enhanced even more when we look to the people I call the Footnotes.
What is one practical tool you offer women in Footnotes?
One of my favorites is the self-inventory we have in Week 2 for when we say, “Somebody ought to do something.” We are a culture that is very good at pointing out what is wrong, what is missing, what is unjust; but we often think that the church or the government or the school board should fix it. This self-inventory helps us to practically think through what the issue is that is on our radar and what steps would help create a difference in a real, tangible way—not just another social media post crying how unfair something is. I love seeing women take action in the issues they are passionate about, and this tool is a way to move them from a static place of well-intentioned advocacy to life-changing action.
What was your greatest challenge in writing Footnotes?
Ha! Well, let me tell you, I’ve got such a great editor on this project. Her name is Sally and she’s just a delight. And she’s very intentional about running every fact and making sure any historical reference, Greek reference, cultural reference can be backed up by real books and anthologies and scholarly texts, not just a casual web search that could end up being mythology. All of that is very important to me and it’s very important to Sally. But in this day and age, a lot of my reference materials and research are conducted online, so it was a challenge of the best sort to dig really deep, to find numerous extra sources to validate some early research, and to take it to the next level. I absolutely loved it...and that kind of vetting takes a lot of time and detective work and brain cells.
What is one way you’ve seen God at work in your life or the life of your family recently?
We’ve had a series of “big” birthdays and a big anniversary for Michael and me. The twins turned 12, another child turned 25, one turned 16, one turned 21, and one turned 18—all marquis birthdays within the same year and within a span of a few weeks of each other. And Michael and I celebrated our 30th anniversary just a couple of days ago. It’s not lost on me that those “big” numbers—those numbers that speak of significant, calendar-turning life events—were built on daily living, small duties, little decisions, day upon day. When we get to celebrate those big birthdays and anniversaries, it’s such a reminder to me of how God honors and blesses the daily; and that’s how we get to those days of celebration.
How has God’s love and grace been most evident in your life this year?
My son recently got engaged, and she is absolutely the girl we’ve prayed for. To see their joy, to see how she fits him and he fits her and how they are building this relationship on their faith—it’s profound.
How do you juggle leading as a women's pastor and writing while being a mother and wife?
I would so love to say here that I’ve got it figured out, that it’s all perfectly balanced, that I know just how to be a mom and wife and fully honor my eight kids and my one husband while also fully honoring the thousands of women of my home church, listening well, and writing what God lays on my heart. But...I don’t. There are times that I miss the family outing or the dance recital. There are times I’m too tired for date night. There are times that I see one more text or email come in from a congregant and I just dissolve in tears because I just can’t meet one more need. And frankly, writing is the thing I most want to escape to, but I have the hardest time doing just that because so many other important and urgent things clamor for my attention. I have learned that there are times I just need to put myself in “time out.” I retreat from the world (usually just to my bedroom), turn off the phone, and give myself an afternoon. I used to feel guilty about it, but no longer. I can return to the world refreshed and renewed simply by unplugging for a bit. Another practical thing I’ve done to help in the juggling is to turn off certain notifications on my phone, particularly email. I would be having a great time with my kids or sitting focused over coffee with one of the women in my ministry when that email notification would go off with a blurb about an “urgent” matter, and I’d lose the ability to stay present. Once I turned off that email notification, I could then stay focused on the writing, the ministry, the kids—whatever I was attending to in the moment—and deal with any email craziness later when I chose. It’s a small thing, but it has yielded huge peace and presence in my life.
Tell us about some “small” events in your life that turned out to be “big” in your story.
Ah! So many! How to choose? Let’s go with this one: I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve had a “chance” encounter with someone who then goes on to play a big role in my life. For example, when I was a kid growing up in Southern California, we would go to Yosemite every year for a family encampment for our church. Every year the main speaker would be this handsome, dapper Texas preacher. He would bring his family along, too. We didn’t get to know them personally at that time, because they were practically celebrity status in our particular church background. We just admired them from afar each summer encampment. Fast forward a few years, and I ended up in the college where he was a professor. Fast forward a few more years, and his daughter and son-in-law became some of my husband’s and my best friends when we were all living in Oklahoma. Fast forward a few more years, and my husband and kids and I stayed at that Texas preacher’s ranch with him and his wife when a hurricane threatened the island we were then living on. Fast forward a couple more years after that, and we ended up moving just up the road from that Texas preacher in Austin, Texas. And the legacy simply continues. We were just at a wedding with one of the grandsons of that Texas preacher. And every time I’m with any member of that family, it strikes me again how those “little” family camping trips have evolved into such a long and layered friendship.
Okay, now I have to tell another one. In 2001, our daughter Maesyn was diagnosed with significant hearing loss. We didn’t know what to do, where to turn. For a year, I tore up the world wide web (such as it was in 2001) trying to find information and direction. One night, at the end of that first year following her diagnosis, I was really struggling and felt completely overwhelmed as to what to do for her. I was up in the middle of the night, probably around 3:00 am. I put in the search engine, one more time, hearing impaired. Except, this time I accidentally typed hearimg instead of hearing. That one typo, that one small thing, connected me to a site that had the same spelling error somewhere deep in their site. And that site was for a language and listening non-profit organization that was exactly what my daughter needed in a city just 90 miles away. That small change of an m completely changed the trajectory of helping Maesyn. And I never did find the spelling error on their site! What a Footnote!
How has writing the study impacted your own life and walk of faith?
I’m humbled afresh and freshly aware of how many people have walked this earth over so many centuries. And each and every one of those lives has been known and seen by God, even when history hasn’t recorded them, even when we don’t know their names, even when their gravestones have been etched smooth by time and moss and summer rains. The magnitude of God’s fatherhood over so many people has never felt more awe-inspiring, which makes the magnitude of who He is even greater. We are such tiny, frail things and He is such a big, big God.