Cruisin’ the Coast and Cruisin’ Through Marriage

“You can still change your mind and come with us,” my husband Rick said. It was our final Porch Party before he left town. He and his uncle were driving from Atlanta, Georgia to Biloxi, Mississippi. They were taking a 1988 Chevy truck Rick restored for Uncle David to a car show called Cruisin’ the Coast.

Before restoration:

After restoration: 

They’d be tooling the town looking at 10,000 cars.

I squirmed in my rocking chair. “Thanks, but y’all go on. I’m going to be cruisin’ thousands of words at home.”

I was looking forward to a week by myself, but I felt a twinge of guilt.

Aren’t married people supposed to love the same things? 

But after 36 years of marriage, I probably wasn’t going to develop a sudden passion for cars. And Rick probably wasn’t going to enjoy cruising bookstores.

By the middle of the week, I was getting sorta lonely. Thursday night he called. “Do you miss me yet?”

“Yes. Especially in the mornings when I’m porch partying by myself. Do you miss me?”

“Yep.”

He wasn’t coming home until Sunday, so thinking about marriage and love and porch parties–the things we have in common–I got an idea.

I bought two new mugs and made pumpkin bread.

Before baking.

With yummy topping.

All done minus one piece. :)  

We’d have a Welcome Home Porch Party Sunday night!

Here’s a marriage hint that took me forever to learn:

Marriage isn’t about becoming clones of one another.  

It’s about encouraging each other to become the incredibly unique person God created us to be. 

*Click here for Pamela’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Loaf Recipe. (Just use self-rising flour if you aren’t eating GF.)

*If you’re into cars, here’s an article from The Sun Herald about the record-breaking numbers who attended Cruisin’ the Coast.

Love,

Julie

P.S. Did you marry your exact opposite too?

Trusting God and Letting the Pansies Go

Mother called late Thursday afternoon. “Julie, your brother (Jeremy) is making me a pansy garden. You’ve gotta see it. He bought special fertilizer, planted them in a big dirt mound, and covered them in mulch. He even pressure-washed my angel birdbath, and put out my ‘Trust in God’ sign.”

Friday, she met me at her carport door, sad-faced. “Early this morning, a neighbor saw a 10-point buck eating all my pansies!”

She showed me a picture. “I took this before everything was ruined. Jeremy built the wall by hand with a mallet and hammer. All that’s left now is his rock wall and my sign.”

“Can’t he replant your pansies?”

“Well, he could, but I’d have to stand guard and watch for the deer.”

“That’s a lot of work.”

“Yep. I thought about artificial pansies, but Gene (her husband) said no.”

Monday afternoon she called. “Jeremy’s replanting the whole thing. He’s spreading mothballs to repel the deer.”

“You don’t sound excited. Have you seen it?”

“No. I’m afraid to look. I feel so sorry for the pansies. I can’t stand it if they get eaten again.”

“They’re my favorite flower.”

“Mine too.”

“They’re so brave,” I said.

“They’re survivors. They make it through bitter cold winters.”

“Well, you can’t be afraid to look at them. Let me know when you gather your courage.”

Later that day, she called. “I haven’t looked yet, but I visualized each pansy and prayed over them.”

I could feel her peace through the phone.

“Okay, I’m walking to the window now. Oh, Julie. They’re gorgeous. He planted them not once, but twice, so I love them twice as much. I’ll let you know what happens, but I’m trusting God. I can’t live in fear. Not even about my pansies.”

“Wonderful! Now, send me a picture of you smiling.”

P.S. This week the “pansies” in my life are something I’ve been writing for a long time. Soon, I’m pressing send, trusting God, and letting go.

What are your “pansies” right now?

P.S.S. I just talked to Mother. So far, so good. :)

Love,
Julie

 

September Song, An Old Picture, Some New Insight

When things happen unexpectedly, sometimes I wonder if God’s trying to get my attention. This past Thursday afternoon, I was going about my everyday routine. Clyde (my yellow lab) and I hurried down the driveway to get the mail.

Well, I was hurrying.

Clyde was poking around, sniffing the fall air, and checking out patches of pine straw.

I had a lot to do that day, so I didn’t pause to study the changing seasons.

But what I found buried in the stack of mail got my attention.

It was anything but ordinary.

A plain white envelope from a dear friend.

Inside was an old picture of my husband and me at a wedding.

No note enclosed.

Just a photo  carefully wrapped in a paper towel.

She’d written one word on the back.

“1995.”

I sat on the front porch steps remembering when we were younger–that season in life when I was a new mother, folding diapers, bringing babies home from the hospital.

How fast it all goes. 

Almost twenty years since this picture was taken.

Now the children are all grown. And we’re older. A different season.

We’re middle-aged–no longer in the summertime of life.

Maybe we’re in the fall of our lives? 

A couple of days later, I showed my husband the picture. “What do you think?” I said.

“About what?”

“About us. How young we looked. About life. About everything.”

He studied the picture. Didn’t say anything.

“Well?”

“Your hair is shorter in the picture,” he finally said.

“And yours is longer, but don’t you get it? We’re not young anymore.”

“So what. We’re still us.”

I taped the picture to the refrigerator and smiled.

It’s good to remember the past, anticipate the future, and always be grateful for the present.

Willie Nelson sings about the seasons of life in an oldie but goodie.

Take a break and listen. I think you’ll love it too.

What life season are you in right now?

Are you anticipating something in the future?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Regular Old Southern Self

“Oh, Julie,” my mother said in a somber tone. “New Englanders are a bit different than we are.”

I’d called to tell her I’d be leading a women’s Surrender Retreat at New Colony Baptist Church in Billerica, Massachusetts.

“What do you mean different?”

An incredibly long paused formed.

“People in the New England area are … ”

“Are what, Mother?”

“Well, they don’t eat grits or drink sweet tea, and they never say, ‘I’m fixin to’.”

Uh-oh. What have I gotten myself into?

How can I stop being so Southern and be more polished? More New England-ish?

I tried to stop saying “I’m fixin’ to.”

But I couldn’t.

I thought about giving up sweet tea.

But I didn’t.

Instead I made a scary decision.

To go to Massachusetts and be my regular old Southern self. 

To share my heart with the ladies.

The real me.

Weeks later standing at the podium, I told them what my mother had said. :)

They just about died laughing.

So did I. 

I began teaching, as I sometimes do, wearing curlers and a bathrobe. :)

I used my Barbie dolls like always.

I even brought out my chain to share how fear and perfectionism had bound me for most of my life.

Some of my new friends …

At the end of the retreat, I carried balloons of SURRENDER to the middle of the parking lot.

I’m laughing because the wind is blowing so hard.

So beyond my control.

So much bigger than me.

So … God.

When we released them–

Up, up they floated–

And landed in a tree.

But one lone yellow balloon broke free. When she did, Truth rose in my heart. 

People are just people. We all laugh and cry and struggle.

Best of all, God is still God. 

And I get to be me.

 So much love,

Julie

Do you ever struggling with being yourself?

P.S. Thank you for praying for us!

 

The Fear/Faith Principle

I’ll never forget what my mother did when I was twelve years old. She volunteered me to teach a ladies Sunday school class. She thought it would be fun. She was in the class. :-(

It was youth Sunday, but still …

I was furious. And scared to death.

On the way to  church I felt like throwing up. My hands shook as I clutched the fear/faith poster I’d made. The poster was half black and half yellow. The yellow part represented faith. The black part meant fear.

At the bottom I wrote:

“Faith means walking to the edge of all the light you can see and taking one more step.”

That day in 1972 when I taught the semi-circle of ladies, a miracle happened.

My poster worked!

I didn’t pass out. My heart slowed down. My words flowed.

I saw a softening around their eyes, a tenderness, a look of understanding.

We experienced the awe and humility of God’s Presence.

This weekend, I’m flying to Massachusetts to lead a ladies retreat on Surrender.

I’m packing my carry-on now. The goofy shoes and hat are part of a skit.

I’m bringing the Daily Guideposts 2015 . It contains a Surrender Series I wrote.

On the inside, I’m still the same little girl. Forty-two years later, right before I speak, my heart does that same skippity thing, and my hands turn clammy.

But the fear/faith principle still works.

When you take one tiny step out of all the light you can see, and your foot is coming down into darkness, you don’t realize it, but you’re landing in faith.

Are you stepping out into faith about something?

My church lady shoes for the skit–my mother wore them 27 years ago at her second wedding.

Please say a prayer for us this weekend.

Here’s my blog about the Ladies Surrender Retreat in South Carolina.

“Fear not, for I am with you.” Isaiah 41:10 NKJV

So much love,

Julie

 

Sometimes Faith Means Taking a Break

When you read this, you’re probably going to think, well, duh, what took her so long? The other day, I got stuck. It had to do with writing, but it could’ve been about anything.

Here’s my not-so-pretty pattern:

I try too hard. Drink too much coffee. Focus so intently on the problem, I shut out the rest of the world. Sometimes … even God.

A tiny thought came to me.

Why don’t you surrender this?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! That word again. Surrender was my theme for 2012.

For me, surrender means saying, “Help me, Lord.”

“Okay,” I whispered, opening my hands and lifting them. “I can’t fix this by myself.”

And then I got a crazy idea.

I decided to stop working, take a break, and make a cheesecake.

I shut down my computer and left my little loft office.

At the grocery store, I didn’t rush around like a madwoman. I smiled at small children and didn’t get annoyed because I got in the slow lane.

Back at home, the football game was on. I even asked the score. :)

(Use these cookies and your cheesecake will be gluten-free.)

Because I wasn’t obsessing, my mind was free to think gentle thoughts.

I didn’t lose count with my eggs. My meringue turn out just right.

I’m discovering (after 50 years!) it’s okay to have fun–even when your work’s not completely finished.

I’m finally beginning to understand …

It honors God when I let go  of my problem(s) and take a break.

The answer to my writing problem came a couple of days later, after I stopped trying so hard.

“Do the things that show you have really changed your hearts and lives.” Matthew 3:8 NCV

Have you ever struggled with pushing too hard like me?

What do you do to chill out?

Click here for the cheesecake recipe.

Love,

Julie

What our Front Porch Really Looks Like

Lately, if I’m not careful, I can lose my porch party peace in a hurry. Every morning, my husband and I start the day by having a porch party. We sit in rocking chairs, drink coffee, light a candle, talk a little bit, read Jesus Calling, and pray.

If you were to come over, at first, this is what you’d see.

Then you’d walk up our front porch steps and discover a huge mess. Everywhere you looked, things would be out of place.

The trouble started this spring when squirrels chewed holes in our porch ceiling.

Which meant plywood had to be replaced all the way around the house.

Which meant my husband had plenty of measuring and figuring to do.

Which means ceiling fans are now resting in our hammock.

Hoping to deter the squirrels, he used corrugated metal instead of wood.

The corners are the toughest, he says.

Even with our son helping, it’s a slow process.

After they get the new ceiling up, they have to stain a bunch of boards for molding.

You have to watch your step, or you could trip and fall.

Sometimes I get impatient.

The other day Mother and I were talking about struggles. Difficulties. Mess.

“For as long as I can remember,” she said, “we’ve had problems. Sometimes I think, as soon as this gets worked out, everything will finally be okay.”

“But that’s not how life goes, is it?”

Later, on the porch, I sensed God nudging my heart.

Somewhere, there’s truth buried in this chaos.

I spotted Kitty Thelma. Napping. Smack dab in the middle of the disarray.

And Jesus Calling.

 

Maybe that’s it.

Maybe there’s always a place of Peace and Rest in His Presence.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”. John 16:13 NLT

I know some of you are in a season of chaos. I’m praying.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Crazy Lies I Believed

I was well into my thirties when my best friend, who’d worked for a dentist, informed me that, yes, you’re supposed to brush the backs of your teeth, not just the fronts. As a goody two-shoes, rule-following nerd, I was HORRIFIED! My whole life, I thought you only had to brush the parts that showed.

Lie number two.

I discovered this truth at sixteen while learning to drive.

What a nightmare.

1976. Mother and I were in our ’66 Chevy Impala, “The Blue Goose,” with me hunched over the steering wheel like an old woman. Clamped on in the ten and two position exactly like the manual instructed, sweaty palms, my heart about to beat out of my chest, I tried so hard to keep the car the middle of the road.

“Julie, what in the world are you doing?” Mother said. “You’re staring at the nose of the car.”

“I’m keeping it inside the white lines.”

“No, no, no. Don’t look at the car. Look way off down the road.”

Who knew?

Lie number three.

I thought if I could somehow become a perfect mother, I’d raise perfect children. :) Ha! Double ha-ha on that one!

Number four.

I believed the more committees I served on, the busier I stayed (never mind my heart or my motives), the more God would love me.

I thought His love was based on something I did or didn’t do. Have you ever heard of such nonsense?

Now in my fifties, I brush the backs of my teeth, keep my eyes on the road, and I’m learning to relax in His unfailing love and grace.

Sometimes we have to admit we’ve been mistaken in order to grow.

What crazy lies have you believed?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Perks to Choosing Peace over Perfection

Have you ever walked into someone’s home and immediately felt welcomed? There’s nothing like that kind of peace, is there? When we moved into our log house ten years ago, I wanted our home to be a comfy cozy place that welcomed people.

A home that offered peace and healing.

But I have a confession.

At times, I’ve focused on the negatives in myself, my surroundings, and in others.

The chip in the dinner plate. Scuff marks on the kitchen cabinets. My insecurities about writing.

When I seek perfection, poof, my peace vanishes.

How can I offer peace when I’ve lost mine?

But something inside me began to shift in 2012 when I chose the word SURRENDER.

When I made a choice to let go and let God do His will in me.

It’s a process, for sure, and sometimes I struggle to let go, but not last Saturday. :)

We had a birthday party for our son Thomas and my father-in-law Richard. During the party I kept thinking …

This is amazing! I can’t wait to tell my bloggy friends!

Pulling the potato casserole from the oven, I glanced at everyone gathered in our home.

I spotted my father-in-law looking at his son, my husband, who was grilling hamburgers, people laughing, having a good time.

So was I!

Thomas’s girlfriend Brittany took pictures.

 

Looking at Brittany’s pictures something occurred to me.

When I stop demanding perfection, awesome things happen.

1. I slow down long enough to see beauty.

2. My gratitude soars.

3. I smile a lot more.

A surrendered heart brings peace and welcomes the gift of hospitality.

“…live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11 NIV

What makes you feel welcomed in someone’s home? Has striving for perfection ever stolen your peace?

 

Love,

Julie

 

Chatty Cathy and Prayer

Do you remember that doll from the sixties named Chatty Cathy? When you pulled the magic cord in the back of her neck, she chatted with you.

“Let’s play school … Do you like my dress?”

Could there be anything more wonderful? A best friend who was always there whenever you wanted to talk.

But after a while, Chatty Cathy wasn’t that much fun.

She always said the same phrases over and over.

Sort of like my prayer time lately.

The other day, I filled my prayer journal with pages of the same words.

Same situations. Same people. Same problems.

Same concerns.

Could’ve just written, “Ditto.”

After I finished, I closed my journal and traced the letters in the word SERENITY.

My prayer time hadn’t brought much serenity that morning.

Later while I was washing dishes, I glanced out the kitchen window and spotted a deer.

He stopped eating, raised his head, perked his ears, and looked right at me. He didn’t run away!

He stood quietly as if he enjoyed my presence.

Such a peaceful moment.

Sweet. Unexpected. Unscripted.

Maybe my prayer time can be more like this …

Knowing for certain that God is with me.

He’s not in a hurry.

Sometimes I can just be quiet,

And rest in His presence.

No words are necessary.

Because He knows my heart.

He understands.

 ”… a time to be silent and a time to speak …” Ecclesiastes 3:7 NIV.

Have you ever prayed like you’re a Chatty Cathy doll?

Have you had one of these quiet times with God lately? Aren’t they wonderful? :)

Love,

Julie