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

My Beloved Old Blue Chairs

I love seeing old things restored and I adore antiques, so I have no excuse for what happened to my ladder back chairs. After we inherited my grandmother’s antique dining room chairs, I stuck my old blue chairs outside and forgot about them.

Each year, they got a little more worn.

A little less respected.

Kitty Thelma used them for scratching posts.

I tried to ignore them. Made me sorta sad to see them.

One morning this spring, I went antiquing and spotted a pair of gorgeous ladder back chairs. Someone must’ve cared about them.

They’d been restored.

Overwhelming compassion for my old blue chairs enveloped me.

I had to do something about their pitiful plight.

I found a man working there. “Do you know anyone who restores chairs?”

“It’s almost a lost art, but there’s a shop in Maysville, Heritage Chairs. Go see ‘em. They’re good people.”

The next Saturday, my husband and I took my chairs to Maysville.

“If I re-cane them, it’s gonna cost you more than they’re worth,” the shop owner said.

I appreciated his honesty, but a fierce protective love rose up in me about my chairs.

“That is,” he said, “unless they’re worth something to you. Then they’re priceless.”

“Oh, they are. I love them.” I ran my fingers over the raggedy cane and looked at my husband.

Can we get them fixed?

“It’s up to you,” he said.

I love you.

A few weeks later, we picked up my chairs. I got all teary-eyed looking at them.

Welcoming them inside our home, I found a special spot for each chair and thought about how God restores us.

Thank You, Lord.

You love us.

Even in our broken condition.

In Your eyes, we are priceless.

P.S. My new favorite song below. It’s all about How He loves us. Listen for the word Surrender. :)

Surrender proceeds our own restoration.

Do you love the word RESTORATION too?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

Forgetting What’s Broken

5:30 a.m. last Saturday … Our dog started growling. ”Stay down!” my husband whispered. “There’s a man on the back porch with a flashlight.”

My heart pounded. Minutes earlier,  the phone rang at 4:39 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

There was no sleeping now.

No peace.

The man wasn’t an intruder. He was a police officer. The two phone calls were from the phone company. We’ve had phone problems for several weeks. The police department returned a second time that morning.

Our broken phone had alerted 9-1-1.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but our phone situation has been getting the best of me.

No dial tone. Horrible scratchy noise. Sometimes the internet goes out.

So frustrating.

The phone company’s replacing the line. For weeks, we’ve had a tiny fiber-optic cable beside our third of a mile-long driveway.

Our communication runs through this fragile-looking cord over tree limbs, pine straw, and gravel.

So many complications.

Living in the woods, deer, raccoons, possum crossing the path, bad weather ….

And they haven’t buried the line yet.

The whole thing was so bizarre. I wondered if God was trying to teach me something.

This past Saturday walking down the driveway, an idea came. It seemed God said:

Forget what’s broken. Focus on the beauty around you. Your troubles will fade into the background.

Is this really You, Lord? I can’t see how shifting my focus will help.

I glanced at butterfly near my feet.

Because I’d been frustrated about the phone situation, I’d ignored her. She’d fluttered beside me for most of my walk.

The black-eyed Susans in full bloom …

And the best part,

The green archway of trees that sheltered me through the steamy July heat.

I’d overlooked them.

“Lord, You’re sorta like the trees, aren’t You? Always above us. Watching over us. Nothing slips past You. Not even barely visible phone lines. Or bad attitudes.”

Are there “phone lines” in your life today? What “trees” are you’re praising Him for? I’d love to hear~

Love,

Julie

 

 

So Much More Than Chicken Salad

Have you noticed that when girls get together to celebrate, it doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re eating, we share one thing in common.

We love laughing and talking–just plain being silly and having fun.

Maybe you do too. :)

This past Friday, we had a birthday luncheon for my mother and sister at a quaint little tea room in Atlanta called The Swan Coach House. We’ve always just called it The Swan House. This picture is from their Facebook page.

They specialize in Southern yumminess like as cheese straws, chicken salad, and frozen fruit salad. The chicken salad is to…die…for!

Here we are from left to right–minus my other daughter Jamie and our son’s girlfriend Brittany who couldn’t make it.

My daughter Katie, my sister’s daughter, Libby, me :) , my sister Jennifer, and Mother.

Right before this picture was taken, Mother had been craning her neck to check out everyone’s shoes.

“I don’t get out enough,” she said. “I can’t stop staring at people. Look at the hostess’s shoes. Aren’t they adorable? Beige and wheat colored flats with black trim. They match her dress perfectly. And I’m wearing a very brave shade of bright yellow today. Want to see?” She raised her foot slightly. “I’ve never had yellow shoes.”

“Y’all know I don’t know about colors, or clothes, and I hate to shop,” I said.

“We know, Mom,” Katie said. “That’s why I shop with you.”

After lunch, we went to my sister’s house to open presents.

Mom hugging Libby and me …

Libby, our matriarch, and Jennifer …

I felt a touch of anxiety as they opened their gifts from me, but bless their hearts, they oohed and ahhed over them.

Sitting there on Jen’s back porch, I said, “This has been so much fun. We should do it more often.”

We talked about going to the Fox Theater in Atlanta, or maybe even flying to New York to see a Broadway play.

“We could, you know,” Mother said.

“We should,” Jennifer added.

Driving home I thought about something.

At The Swan House, everyone feels like a beautiful swan. And if you ask for a box for left-overs, they return with your carry-out tucked inside heavy tinfoil fashioned into a perfect swan.

But we left with so much more than swans.

In our hearts, we carried out sweet memories.

My sister’s amaaaaaazing chicken salad recipe (gluten-free!)

Jen’s Jenerous Chicken Salad

3 or 4 boneless chicken breasts

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped

A stem of grapes, red or green, cut in half–a good handful or so

Slivered almonds, about half a cup

A big spoon of mayo (start with maybe a third cup)

Sour cream, (optional) about a teaspoon or two

Salt and pepper to taste

Thyme (optional) about a teaspoon

Boil chicken breasts in water sprinkled with salt, pepper, and thyme. Boil for about 45 minutes. Let cooked chicken cool. Either shred it with a fork or chop it really small. Stir in other ingredients. Delish!

Love,

Julie

 

Beneath the Surface

The other day my 22-year-old son Thomas said something he hadn’t said in years. Our grown daughters say this sort of thing all the time, but somewhere around age 15, Thomas stopped saying …

“Mom, come look. You gotta see this.”

So when he said those words, I left my computer and followed him outside to our little koi pond. I couldn’t wait to see what he had to show me.

Just like when he was a little boy.

Is it a frog? A snake? A shiny rock?

We have two koi ponds. The big one has koi in it, but the only thing in the small pond is murky-looking water.

Or so I thought.

(I blogged about the little pond here–”Sometimes You Wade Through Sludge Together.” I wrote about my husband building our koi ponds here for Guideposts.)

When Thomas and I crouched by the water, Kitty Thelma hurried over to check out the situation.

“Look what my new camera does,” Thomas said.

I didn’t even know he had a new camera, something called a GoPro.

He showed me what he’d filmed beneath the surface.

I saw splendor in something I assumed was useless.

As sunlight lit the darkness I spotted lily pads yet to bloom,

Green plants I couldn’t name,

Rocks and hills and valleys formed a magical underwater world.

Even fish darted by.

Maybe the pond holds a life lesson for me.

I thought about people and situations I’d judged–opinions I’d hurriedly formed–times I hadn’t bothered to ask God to help me see beneath the surface.

But God …

He sees the unseen. Past. Present. Future.

He knows no limits.

He creates beauty from ashes–life from dry bones.

And He understands every heart.

Thank You, Lord. You see beneath the surface.

“…even darkness isn’t dark to You.” Psalm 139:12 NIV

Can anyone relate?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Heart-Post from my Best Friend of 40 Years

I’m on vacation this week. It’s an honor to introduce Robin.

Hi Julie’s friends! I’m so excited to be visiting you today- I’m Robin and my blog is All Things Heart and Home!

Profile Picture 2014 Mike, who is known on my blog as The Husband, is my partner in projects. We are always busy making or remodeling something around the house :) If you have a minute, I’d love for you to visit me sometime!

Julie and I have been best buds since the 9th grade and I love her heart as much as you do. Today I want to share a heart post while she’s enjoying some time at the beach!

***

furry friend

I woke early, just after three with thoughts clamoring loud for attention. When the coffee was ready I made my way out to the screen porch to have my quiet time. I think sometimes when God wants to talk to me, He coaxes me out of bed extra early. Five animals followed me to the porch, four pups and Reba-the-Cat. As we settled in under blankets, they fell asleep and I sipped coffee and listened for Him.

“Thank you that you have everything under your control…” I’m whispering my prayers when a tiny creature moves quick around the edge of the room towards that hole in the screen.

I’ve seen him before, this tiny thing, on another too-early morning. But that time he ran so fast toward his exit that I couldn’t be certain if he was a chipmunk or a mouse. That time I mildly freaked out and my sleepy pack of animals all jumped up and ran towards him.

Not this time though.

This time he scurried, but not entirely frantic-

This time the pups lifted their heads to see, but never even got up-

This time Reba-the-Cat stood and watched him disappear through the hole in the screen before folding her legs back underneath her and settling down.

“Sorry to bother you,” I told him as he made his exit.

Isn’t it strange that we’re almost accustomed to the little vermin, I thought. Leaning back into my comfy chair I heard:

What thoughts and habits barely make you look twice anymore?

The question came quiet to my thoughts but rang loud in my heart.

What is it in you that comes through the hole in the screen?

It was one of those God-Moments so I grabbed my journal and began making a list of things that are unwelcome but that I’ve become accustomed to…

~worry

~stress eating

~not exercising

~living on the computer

Those were some of the unwelcome vermin that are so familiar they seem like they belong in my life. I think the hole in the ‘screen’ comes from neglect. Neglecting to pray. Neglecting to read my Bible. Neglecting to worship with a group of people. It’s not that we have to do those things to be accepted or to be loved, but to neglect those things means there will be consequences, holes in the screen so to speak. And something unwanted will probably find it’s way in.

Father, help me to fix the hole in the screen…

Has there ever been a season in your life when you realized you were allowing unwelcome things to be the “norm”?

Sending love sweet friends

xo

Thank you, Robin. What a treat.

Y’all, you’d love her blog. Such creativity! She’s been inspiring me for years–long before she started blogging.

Love,

Julie

He’s Got the Whole Wide World in His Hands–Really



This past Friday after reading ATLAS GIRL: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look, by Emily T Wierenga, I sat on the steps that lead to my office. Thinking. Praying.

Completely blown away by Emily’s memoir.

I’m honored to be part of a blog tour to share the news of ATLAS GIRL, but for me, the book was so much more than that.

Staring at the cover, I remembered my own childhood–those family shaped places in my heart that sometimes still throb.

Growing up, I tried to hold our world together. I tried to hold us together.

In March of 1968, my mother gave birth to twin boys. My sister and I were thrilled. We’d each have our own baby to feed and dress–what fun!

But nothing stays the same for very long, does it?

Especially in families.

As our babies grew into rambunctious little boys, I thought …

If I try hard enough, I can fix my family. 

I can …

Run fast enough to catch my brothers and make them behave

Lighten my mother’s load so she can smile

Be smart enough to impress my busy father.

I had no clue our family would break in almost every possible way.

When my brothers were 15, Daddy died with a brain tumor. There was a suicide attempt,  mental illness, homelessness, prison, and addictions. When I was 34, I broke. I couldn’t hold my world together any longer. I experienced clinical depression and wrote about it here for Guideposts.

So this past Friday afternoon, I sat on the steps thinking.

Remembering.

Emily’s memoir is real and raw, and yet there’s hope and healing too.

Flipping through the pages, I re-read something I’d underlined.

Page 221:

“…The thing about God is, he sees the big picture. And that big picture is framed by grace and it includes us in it, and he cares more about refining our character and our spirits than he does about acknowledging our feelings. Sometimes he risks us not liking him for the sake of the bigger picture. For the better picture.”

God cares more about refining our character and our spirits …

Could it be …

The jagged places

The messiness

The sickness

The crooked lines I couldn’t straighten

Are somehow part of God’s bigger better picture?

Then I imagined His strong hands holding my lopsided world 

And my family.

Thank You, Lord. You’ve got the whole wide world in Your hands.

So I can keep letting go.

 Emily’s incredible book trailer …

Emily T. Wierenga, award-winning journalist and author of 4 books, has released her first memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look. You can grab a copy here.



ALL proceeds from Atlas Girl will go to Emily’s non-profit, The Lulu Tree. The Lulu Tree is dedicated to preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers. It is a grassroots organization bringing healing and hope to women and children in the slums of Uganda through the arts, community, and the gospel. Find our more and connect with Emily on her blog at www.emilywierenga.comor find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Love,

Julie

To: My Readers … Love: Julie

Have you ever felt a tiny spark of courage to create something out of almost nothing, but you were afraid you’d fail? Afraid you’d be rejected?

That’s how I felt when I began blogging.

Today, this very day, I’m so grateful to each one of you. You welcomed me into your world and blessed me more than you can imagine.

Here’s my loft office and Ellie, one of my granddogs. :)

Exactly three years and one day ago, I was ter-ri-fied. It was the night before my first blog went live. Every few minutes, I got out of bed and tiptoed upstairs to read my post one more time.

Just one more time.

“Be back in a sec,” I said to my husband in a fake-cheery voice.

“Where’re you going?”

What if I have typos?

What if no one reads this? How long will I keep up the façade?

What if my creativity dries up, then what? What do I write about next week, and the next, and the next?

Or worse.

What if people make fun of it and say, ”What’s this supposed to be?”

Finally, oh, finally, the sun came up on Wednesday morning, June 24, 2011.

7 a.m.

I told my trembling fingers to behave and press Publish. Then I wanted to hide under my desk.

Three years later, I still wonder what I’ll write about next week, and my stomach still does a summersault when my blog goes live.

But the unspeakable joy of becoming your friend

And having to depend on God 

Help me forget about myself

And overcome fear.

Thank you.

When we encourage one person, we never know how many lives we might touch. 

Are you creating something new–something a wee bit scary? Please share. I’d love to hear about it.

Love,

Julie