Life-Changing Truth from Mrs. Betty’s Tea Parties

I’ve always been drawn to quiet, gentle people–the ones content to serve others without recognition.

In May, I spoke to the ladies of Galilee Christian Church in Jefferson, GA  at their annual tea party and wrote about it here. 

But there’s more to the story. 

Once a month, a small group of ladies from Galilee Christian invite women who are new to their church to a tea party. In May, I received an invitation.

The minute I arrived, I felt loved. They welcomed me. Served me. Treated me like I belonged. 

Their kindness inspired me. My sister and I are having a little tea party for Mother on her 80th birthday in July. :)

And the ladies invited my mother and me to their June tea party–

So yesterday we headed up Janice’s walkway.

“You’re gonna love it,” I said.

“I already do. Look at her gorgeous hydrangeas. Reminds me of childhood summers.”

“Just wait.”

“How sweet. Two chairs under the tree,” she said.

“One would’ve looked sorta lonely, wouldn’t it?”

Everyone welcomed us. The tables had been set with TLC.

Our table below…

When we sat down, our plates had been prepared, along with handmade place cards.

Mother couldn’t decide what to taste first.

The centerpiece came from flowers in Janice’s yard.

So much laughter…

They made a gluten-free plate just for me…

And my very own gluten-free chocolate chip scone! :)

The food was amazing, but the best part came after we ate.

We read Scripture verses inside our place cards.

Simple.

Powerful.

Then Betty Williams (90) told us how she began having tea parties twenty years ago. She wanted ladies to feel loved and accepted.

When she joined Galilee Christian Church eight years ago, she began a Tea Party Ministry.

Mrs. Betty’s below, on the left. Janice is on the right.

Right before we left, one of my new friends gave me a precious gift–tiny spoons, knives, napkins, and a teacup from her own collection–

To help me with Mother’s birthday tea party.

I came home with a car full of goodies and life-changing Truth.

Nothing–absolutely nothing–outshines kindness when it comes from the heart. Click to tweet

Mother Teresa was right. “Do small things with great love.” Click to tweet

…serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13 NIV Click to tweet

Do you see other Truths from the tea party? 

Does this give you any ideas for new ways to love others? 

Love,

Julie

 

Too Deep For Words

Tuesday morning, even before my husband said a word, I knew something was wrong. He sat in the bedroom chair like he didn’t want to get up. Looked like he was running on empty. In our 37 years of marriage, he’s been the strong one.

“You okay?”

“Just tired.”

“Is it work?”

“Yeah.”

He’s owned a small business for almost 40 years. It’s his job to make sure everything and everyone gets paid on time, and that the work is done right.

We talked for a few minutes. There weren’t any big issues. God’s been faithful, so I tried the we have so much to be grateful for speech, which was the wrong thing to say.

He didn’t need a sermon.

“I know. I’m grateful. I’m just tired.”
I didn’t have anymore wise words, so we did what we do every morning.

We had a porch party.

A quiet porch party.

Lord, I don’t know how to encourage him. We need you. 

Since we weren’t talking much, we focused on the birds.

“There’s a cardinal at the feeder,” I said.

He was beautiful. A big red male.

We put away our concerns long enough to listen to the birds.

If you can’t see the video below click here. 

“See the little brown bird sitting on the water line?” I said. “She has a nest in the fern.”

After several minutes of observing her behavior, I saw a parallel between the mama bird and my husband’s 40 years of hard work.

Help me say it the right way, Lord.

“Look how hard she’s working,” I whispered. “She does the same thing over and over. She finds food, flies in from the trees, lands in the bushes in front of the house, darts to the water line above the fern, hangs on with her feet, flips upside down, and feeds her babies. That takes a lot of energy.”

If you can’t see the video, click here. She flies in at the 50 second mark. :)

“Amazing–how God gave her the skills to do this.”

“It really is,” he said.

While we watched the mama bird, our front porch was transformed by God’s Presence. Click to Tweet

“What she’s doing is hard work,” I said.

“Um-hmm.”

“And she’s doing her job even though most of the world never notices.”

He sipped his coffee.  

“You are too.”

The sunlight caught the moisture in his dark brown eyes, and I saw emotion pass through. 

We’d only connected this way a few times in life. 

There were no words. 

God revived my husband’s spirit because a tiny, brown mama bird kept doing the right thing.  Click to tweet. 

 If we take time to look and listen, God has a lot to show us. So many times, I talk too much and miss Him.

Thoughts about someone listening–and really hearing you?

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 Click to Tweet. 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

Forget the Dog Hair and Pray!

Sunday night, I was scheduled to speak to a group of ladies at Connection Pointe Church of God in Austell, GA. It wasn’t time to go yet. I got fidgety. Full of nervous energy.

The afternoon sun fell across the hardwood floor highlighting a pile of dog hair.

I really should vacuum. This looks terrible. 

God spoke to me ever … so … gently.

Forget the dog hair and pray. 

“Yes, of course. You’re right.”

I’d gotten distracted.

“I can’t do this without You. Help me. You’re My Strength…” I prayed all the out way the door.

In the car, I couldn’t find the address on my GPS. I get lost in restaurants.

Moment of panic.

What am I gonna do? What if I can’t get there? What if…

My son was at home. He found the address on his portable GPS. Whew…

“Okay, stay close, Lord. I need You.”

I arrived two hours early, so I drove around town. Got a cup of coffee.

Glancing at my props, I had a moment of doubt.

Look at this mess. You’re not a real speaker. 

I’m with you. Don’t be afraid.

Thank You. You’re right. Okay, what next? Too early to go inside.

Pray.

Yes, yes. Pray. Always. Without ceasing.

I parked across the street at the CVS. Left the car running. Listened to David Crowder sing about, “Hope for the hopeless.”

If you can’t see the video, click here

The song melted me. Drew me in close–again. I raised my hands in the car. Opened my fingers wide.

Thank You. You’re my Helper. Shine Your hope through me.

I’m with you. Always.

The women’s ministry leader invited me to speak because they were having a front porch theme. Someone found my blog about porch parties.

This is what I saw when I walked in. Totally blew me away–

Talk about God and His faithfulness–

My husband and I have a  porch party  every morning–

The church even had crickets chirping in the background. 

Happy, grateful tears. Thank You. This feels like home sweet home!  

Before we got started, I heard beautiful music coming from behind the porch–a song from my childhood.

Listen carefully. It’s really soft.

If you can’t see the video, click here.

Great is Your faithfulness, Lord.

Mabel sat beside me. She’s in charge of the prayer ministry. Can’t you see His strength all over her?!

These ladies did a hilarious skit.

Then it was my turn.

My heart was pound…pound…pounding.

I’m with You. 

When I stood on that front porch and looked at all the smiling faces, something amazing happened. 

God’s fierce love rose up inside of me and crushed all my fear.  Click to tweet. 

Perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18. NASB Click to tweet

P.S. The next time He asks you to do something scary, don’t stay home vacuuming dog hair!

There’s LIFE on the other side of fear. Click to tweet. 

What scares you?

Have you ever experienced God’s faithfulness on the other side of fear? Please share!

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Secret Source of Creativity

I’m fascinated with creative people like my cousin Ricci. She’s a writer, a wife, a mother of four, and she has the gift of faith.

Her mom is my mother-in-love’s sister.

Thursday morning, I saw Ricci’s home office for the first time. Peeking through the gauzy, brown curtains, I felt transported back in time to childhood when anything was possible–

To a place where inspiration bloomed.  

“This room feels like heaven on earth,” I said.

“If you make a place for heaven, it’ll show up.”

Ricci’s office is inside her sun-room, right off the kitchen. She calls it her Creative Space.

“Meet Tassels,” she said.

“How did Tassels get her name?”

(I knew there was a special reason. Ricci’s just that way.) :)

“Remember the woman in the Bible who was healed when she touched  the tassels on Jesus’ robe?”

“Ohhhhh, Tassels is a name full of faith.”

The room had a holy glow like a sanctuary. Maybe it was the way the sun sparkled behind the wind chimes.

Ricci’s bookshelves are full of pictures of her children–ages 15, 13, 10, and 8.

So much life and love here~

The Lion of Judah was poised behind her desk, protecting her.

Clues about the novel she’s writing surround her desk. I can’t elaborate, but it’s going to be amazing! Here’s a link to her recent Guideposts story, More Time with Dad. 

Oh, and I love this–

One of her daughters painted a Scripture verse in yellow. It’s beside her desk. It says–

The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10 NAS  Click to Tweet

I looked around the room and thought,

Her office is so different from mine. I don’t have a bird named Tassels or wind chimes or…

But something occurred to me–

Creativity is a gift from God, uniquely designed for each one of us. Click to Tweet.

One more thing–

Right before I left, she added drops of myrrh to a dish of potpourri. The sweet, timeless fragrance filled the room.

“Tell me about myrrh.” I leaned forward. Couldn’t wait to hear.

“Mary Magdalene and the rest of the women who followed Jesus were called myrrh bearers. Mary Magdalene came to the tomb on Sunday to anoint His body with myrrh. It’s what the Wise Men brought baby Jesus.”

I’d never considered the significance of myrrh. 

Everything came together for me in that moment.

When we witness the divine creativity in others, we’re inspired to pursue our own. Click to Tweet

Want to boost your creativity? Spend time with creative people. Click to Tweet. 

Are you inspired by the creativity of others?

Do you have a Creative Space? 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

Building a Fence…and a Son

Early Saturday morning during our porch party my husband said, “I’m building a fence today.”

“Sounds like a huge project. Bet it takes you lots of Saturdays.”

“No it won’t. Thomas is helping me.” (Thomas is our 24-year-old son.)

Look at that pile of boards.

No way. 

Later that morning, I brought them some ice-water and saw Thomas digging holes.

Like a man.

Wearing big work boots.

With post-hole diggers and everything.

Sudden sweetness came.

When did my little boy become a man? 

When did he learn to build fences and dig holes and drive nails?

Where was I?

 How did I miss it?

They’d been working about an hour when I left to get groceries. Still, I doubted they’d finish their job in one day.

By the time I got home, they were at the halfway point.

Okay, maybe…

Just maybe...

After lunch…

“Wow! Y’all, it looks incredible! We have a real fence now!”

Watching them work, I remembered something that happened years ago. 

Thomas must’ve been ten.

He was pitching in a Little League baseball game. They were losing.

No matter what kind of pitch he threw, they hit it. He started holding his arm and said it hurt. He wanted to sit out the rest of the game.

His daddy felt his right arm. His pitching arm. Then he patted him on the head and left him at the plate.

What? What are you doing?!

Take him out! Let him rest! He’s hurt! 

Get him something cool to drink. He can sit in my lap. 

We argued about it the night it happened. “I can’t believe you made him play!”

“Julie, there was nothing wrong with his arm. He was scared.  They were losing. I saw it in his eyes.”

“There’s no way you–”

“You don’t quit when life gets tough. You dig deep and keep going.” Click to Tweet

Maybe my boy became a man years ago–the day his daddy wouldn’t let him quit.

P.S. Our fence was done around two o’clock. :)

Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Don’t tremble with fear. I am your God. I will make you strong. Isaiah 41:10 CEV Click to Tweet

Was there a moment when you almost quit but didn’t?

Who encouraged you to dig deep?  

Do you need prayer today? Do you feel like giving up? 

Love,

Julie

 

 

Another Day to Live and Love

Saturday morning, my husband Rick and I were having our porch party, and I sensed God’s gentle voice inside my heart.

Slow down. Look around you. Praise Me.

But I didn’t do it.

I ignored a dogwood tree in full bloom.

The next night, the strangest thing happened.

When it did, I had a feeling everything around me was about to change, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Rick took a shower and came into our bedroom. His hair was wet, and he had a towel wrapped around his waist. “Did I just take a shower?”

“Of course. Why’re you asking me?”

“I’m not sure. I can’t remember.”

“Are you okay?”

“I had a weird dream. Did I just take a nap?”

Had he fallen and hit his head?

I checked the bathroom. No blood.

He paced from the kitchen to the den like he was lost. Something was terribly wrong.

I felt numb–scared–refused to believe what might be happening.

I asked him to sit down. “Do you feel okay? You look confused. Can you tell me today’s date?”

He paused.

I stopped breathing.

“I don’t know.”

“Who’s the president?”

“Jimmy Carter.”

Maybe he’s playing an April Fool’s joke.

“Isn’t it Carter? George Bush?”

I felt everything inside me sink.

Oh, Dear Lord… 

I grabbed the flashlight to check his pupils, but my hands were shaking. I couldn’t find the off/on switch. “Can you turn this on?”

If you can’t, I’m calling 911.

He did and handed it back to me.

His pupils responded to light. Blood pressure, 132/94. A little high but not stroke level.

Not yet.

“We’re going to the hospital,” I said. “Get dressed.”

“I’m fine.”

I  called our 24-year-old son who was at his fiance’s house. “Thomas, come home. We’re taking your dad to the hospital.”

At the ER, the nurse got us back quickly.

“Mr. Garmon, what year is it?” the doctor said.

“I’m not sure.”

Help, God. 

“Take a guess,” the doctor said.

“Is it 2016?”

I shouldn’t be relieved that my husband knows what year it is. 

“What month is this?” the doctor said.

“I don’t know.”

“Take a guess.”

“September? October?”

“We’re running an MRI and CT scan, check your carotid arteries, do an echo…”

Is this for real? Am I dreaming?

I spent the night at the hospital. Neither one of us slept. All during the night, he caught me watching him.

“You okay?”

“Fine.”

Just before the sun came up, I crawled into bed with him.

In less than twenty-four hours, his test results came back.

Everything was normal.

The doctors think he experienced something called Transient Global Amnesia. It’s very peculiar. You’ll have to read about it.

Basically, it means he lost several hours of his life. He’ll never remember what happened.

He’s supposed to slow down. Reduce stress. Prioritize his life.

Sounded like a wake-up call for him.

For me too–to pay attention to what matters most.

At our next porch party, I picked up Jesus Calling to read the devotional. ”What’s today’s date? I’ve lost track…” I looked at him.

A tiny wave of fear came over me.

He smiled. “April the fifth.” 

I thanked God for another day to be with the man I love. 

The gift of another morning. 

Another porch party.

I thought about my people. Family. Friends. 

The dogwood tree beside our porch.

I broke off a branch and brought it inside.

Lord, another day to live and love. Thank You. I love You.

Have you ever been reminded of what matters most? It’s not usually a painless process, is it?  Click to tweet. 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

I’m Free! Free to Love and Serve

Two weeks ago when I walked into Galilee Christian Church in Jefferson, GA, for a few seconds I forgot to breathe.

Oh, the talent~

The love~ (the men served)

The exquisite details!

I was speaking at their annual Spring Ladies’ Tea.

Each table had been decorated from someone’s heart and home. I’m sure there was a story behind every plate and cup.

Simply gorgeous~as my grandmother would say. 

A tiny peek of the splendor–

Place cards…

They say, “Welcome! You matter.”

Fresh daffodils–

Delicate pink roses–

Springtime dogwoods–

Hospitality and graciousness covered the room, but the love didn’t end with the decorations.

This was at my place setting.

A gluten-free meal just for me.

Oh, and the people–

Meet Betty Williams and Sarah Trippe.

Years ago, Betty Williams (on the left) began having tea parties to make ladies feel loved and accepted. She turns 92 this week.

Isn’t that a lovely idea?

Mrs. Williams taught Sarah all her secrets, including how to make scones. The tea ministry is still thriving in their church, and Mrs. Williams now serves tea to the ladies at her assisted living.

Have you ever heard of anything more precious?

Some new friends who sat with me~

Let me introduce you to B.J. Thompson, better known as the Queen Candy Lady.

She makes incredible candy. She even has her own business cards!

She’s 90. :)

Such a joy to be with her~

And this sign–

I knew it had a message for me.

It’s as if God said, “Julie, pay attention. This is important.” 

Zack, the photographer, helped me figure out the meaning. While I spoke, he sat on the front row and had the most wonderful expressions.

Happy eyes. Lots of nodding.

Afterwards, we had a chance to talk.

“I wanted to get a picture of you holding up your chain,” he said. “But I wasn’t quick enough.”

I laughed. “Want to take one now?”

“Sure.”

I’d used the chain to share how certain lies I’d believed about myself had kept me bound for years.

And when Zack took my picture, I understood the sign.

That’s it! That’s why I love the “I’m free” sign!

Jesus died to set us free.

To set ME free. 

Hallelujah!

When Jesus sets us free, we use our gifts, talents, and even our scars to serve others. Click to tweet.

“So, if the Son shall set you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 Click to tweet.

Can you relate?

What areas of serving others makes you happy?

Do you have scars that serve a purpose?

Love,

Julie

 

The Best Birthday Cake Ever!

When I was a child, I loved playing the game with notebook paper that gave you answers to life’s most important questions–well, important to an eight-year-old little girl.

It looked something like this. Remember?

We’d sit in the floor and ask all sorts of questions:

How many children will I have?

What kind of house will I live in?

What’s my husband’s name?

But life doesn’t always cooperate, does it? It’s full of surprises. Some good. Some not so good.

Last week for my husband’s birthday, I asked him if he wanted to go out to eat to celebrate.

“Nah. How ’bout making ground beef patties and mashed potatoes?”

“Yuck. Don’t you want something fancy like steak and shrimp? Want me to order you a birthday cake with lots of icing?”

“No, thanks. Just make a gluten-free dessert, so you can have some.” (I have Celiac.)

I did my best to cook his favorite meal, but something went waaaaayy wrong with his cake.

It fell.

It cracked right down the middle.

I tried to glue the broken pieces together with globs of cream cheese frosting, but I didn’t have enough, so I thinned it down.

The icing slid off the cake–

Which sunk on one side.

It was the saddest excuse for a birthday cake I’ve ever seen. 

After supper, I sliced a couple of pieces. “I don’t know what happened. I tried hard. I followed the recipe.”

I took a bite and stared at my husband.

It was the night of his 57th birthday.

I’ve known him since we were 15 and 16. He’s an honest man.

The cake looked hideous and yet–

“This is amazing,” I said. “I know it looks terrible, but–”

“Better than store-bought. Definitely.”

“I can’t believe it. It’s so tender and sweet.”

“Um-hmm.”

Later that night while I did the supper dishes, I thought about something.

The birthday cake resembled my life–maybe yours too.

Everything hasn’t gone the storybook way I thought I wanted, but my life is a beautiful combination of messy and sweet. 

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. Psalm 16:6 Click to Tweet. 

Has your life gone the way you thought it would? Which parts surprised you?

Right now, today, what’s messy? What’s sweet? 

Are you like me? Did it take a while to be grateful for certain things?

It’s a daily process, isn’t it? 

So much love,

Julie

 

 

 

Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea Gratitude to You

When I started blogging almost five years ago, I was terrified that I’d be writing to myself.

But you came! You showed up! We bonded and you cheered me on! You’re the friend in Proverbs 18:24 “who sticks closer than a brother.”  

I have something to share with you.

Here’s how my creativity has always worked:

I’m a speed boat skimming across the ocean. I get an idea and rush-rush-rush back to the shore to write it. Then I hurry, hurry, hurry in a panic to find the next idea.

But something inside me is changing.

When I’m still and quiet, in my mind, I see the ocean. But not the surface of the water.

It’s a deep place.

A secret place.

A place I’ve never been. 

It’s the bottom of the ocean floor. 

I bet all sorts of treasures are there–colors, textures, living things, mountains, kingdoms–

Unexplored emotions.

I believe God’s calling the deepest part of me to write something new like Psalm 42:7 says–“Deep calls to deep.”

To do this, I need to spend more time with Him. 

Just the two of us.

Last week a friend said–

“Julie, when you go to the bottom of the sea, it takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the light–for the particles to settle so you can see clearly.”

I want to focus on Him. 

I want Him to show me His Heart. 

What matters to Him. 

I’m asking for your prayers.

My agent is shopping what I hope will become my debut novel, but I have another story to write. It’s about an 18-year-old girl named Annie.

Annie’s part of a wonderfully messy family–the kind most of us belong to. Writing her story means for I while, I need to go to the bottom of the ocean floor.

So…

I’m going to start blogging every other Wednesday. 

After my journey, I hope to share something special with you.

I already miss you–you know that, don’t you? 

And I love you.

Oh, how I love you.

It’s hard to pull away because you’ve given me the courage to go deep. 

My new favorite song, from my heart to yours–if you can’t see the video, click here.

Have you ever felt God calling you like “Deep unto deep”? Click to tweet. 

What stirs your creativity? Art? Music? Colors? Food? People? 

Love,

Julie

The Big Blue Blob–Ruining My Friend’s Carpet

Have you ever done something really stupid? After your mistake, you wanted to crawl in a hole and hide.

Last Wednesday night at small group, Karen, our leader, welcomed me into her lovely home and asked me to put on a name tag.

It was our first meeting. Fourteen ladies. Some of us had never met.

I popped the cap off the blue PERMANENT Sharpie and dropped the marker onto her spotless, cream-colored carpet. The stain bloomed, deepening in color.

Panicky heat rose up my neck. “Oh, Karen, I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I did that. I’ve ruined your carpet.”

This is how the stain looked (and felt!) to me.

 

“Julie, don’t you worry about a thing,” she said. “I have grandchildren. My house isn’t perfect. We’ll clean it up later.”

What else could she say? I’d ruined her Berber carpet! 

“Let’s work on it now before it sets,” I said.

Because if it doesn’t come up, I’ll never forgive myself. 

“We’ll do it later, after the meeting.” She hugged me.

But the one blue eye stared at me.

I couldn’t leave it alone. “Do you have any carpet cleaner?”

“Let me go check, sweetie. The carpet’s going to be fine and you are too. I promise.”

But it’s a permanent marker. 

She found a bottle of rug cleaner, but it didn’t help. She gave me a quick wink as the doorbell rang.

More faces. Multiple explanations. Gentle laughter.

The spot and I had become the center of attention.

Everyone offered suggestions on how to get THE PERMANENT BLUE STAIN JULIE MADE out of Karen’s carpet.

“Try hairspray or rubbing alcohol,” someone said.

Karen didn’t have either one.

Another lady offered to put her foot over it.

Such a big to-do about my accident.

A friend texted her husband and asked him to bring cleaning supplies. He showed up while Karen was teaching.

So… I … had … to … keep… waiting. I couldn’t absorb any of the teaching for stealing sneaks at the big, blue, blob.

Then Karen closed in prayer. When she finally said “amen” I dropped to my knees. With my right hand on the hairspray, I held up my left hand. “Please, Lord. Help me.”

Everybody watched expectantly.

Slowly, with alcohol and hairspray, the ugly thing lost its battle.

Glorious relief!

None of my new friends condemned me with words or looks.

Not one.

Two hugged me.

Have you ever known the sweetness of instant forgiveness? Click to Tweet. Please share what happened!

When others graciously forgive us, we’re able to forgive ourselves. Click to Tweet. 

Thoughts? Feelings? Comments?

Love,

Julie