Parody of the Pickles…and Perseverance (re-posted)

If you’re receiving this post late or twice, I’m so sorry. There was an issue with my website service on Wednesday. Some of you found my blog through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. There are comments on the original post from Wednesday if you’d like to join the conversation, or feel free to comment on this one. :)

Just drop down to the next post on my website and you’ll see the first post about pickles.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program…

“Julie,” my mother said. “We aren’t those kind of people.”

“What kind of people?”

“Pickle-making people.”

My husband Rick had just brought in a mountain of cucumbers from his garden and we planned to make pickles.

Cinnamon Red Hot Pickles.

Starting the tedious process I thought, What in the heck are we doing? Mother’s right. 

Our ingredients included strange things like ALUM and PICKLING LIME.

Here’s the recipe.  I’m warning you. It’s intimidating. The recipe says it takes three days, but we started at night. It took four.

Washing, peeling, and removing the seeds from 5,000 cucumbers was quite an ordeal.

Next we cut them into a million pieces.

It.

Took.

Forever. 

We cheated and used the dishwasher to sterilize the jars.

With each step, my doubt grew.

We’re wasting our time.

Mother’s right. 

We aren’t pickle-making people. 

It was messy. Sticky. Exhausting.

One night after eleven o’clock, I was so sick of making pickles that I went to bed and left Rick stirring.

Somehow, we made a monumental mistake and bought the wrong kind of Red Hots. :( Ours turned into clear rubbery balls that wouldn’t dissolve.

Nevertheless, Rick charged on, hoping they’d miraculously melt.

They didn’t.

By day three, red sticky syrup covered the counter. Cucumber seeds clung to the cabinets, the floor, and the refrigerator door.

The final morning before Rick left for work he asked me to do the next step.

“You’re kidding,” I said. “We’ve wasted enough time. Let’s just quit.”

“Nope. We’re not giving up.”

Feeling foolish and frustrated, I took the stupid cucs out of the fridge.

To my horror, they were pale green and pink. 

Not candy-apple red.

Then my mother called. “I tried to tell you,” she said.

Throwing the mess away, I decided NO MORE PICKLES. 

This is it. 

I’m done. 

But Rick wouldn’t give up.

He went to four stores in search of the right kind of Red Hots.

He found them.

This time, he called his aunt for her recipe.

We started all over again.

But guess what?

It worked!

We did it! 

We made absolutely incredible Cinnamon Red Hot Pickles! 

Mother still can’t believe we’re pickle-making people. :)

I saved her a jar. 

If you’re working on something that seems impossible:

1. Tune out all negative thoughts. And comments. :)

2. Don’t be afraid to change your approach. (Aunt Jane’s recipe.)

3. Hang in there. Sometimes God’s favor comes when you least expect it.

Can you identify?

P.S. They’re gluten-free!

Love,

Julie and Rick

 

Parody of the Pickles…and Perseverance

If you’re receiving this post late, I’m so sorry. There was an issue with my website service.

“Julie,” my mother said. “We aren’t those kind of people.”

“What kind of people?”

“Pickle-making people.”

My husband Rick had just brought in a mountain of cucumbers from his garden and we planned to make pickles.

Cinnamon Red Hot Pickles.

Starting the tedious process I thought, What in the heck are we doing? Mother’s right. 

Our ingredients included strange things like ALUM and PICKLING LIME.

Here’s the recipe I’m warning you. It’s intimidating. The recipe says it takes three days, but we started at night. It took four.

Washing, peeling, and removing the seeds from 5,000 cucumbers was quite an ordeal.

Next we cut them into a million pieces.

It.

Took.

Forever. 

We cheated and used the dishwasher to sterilize the jars.

With each step, my doubt grew.

We’re wasting our time.

Mother’s right. 

We aren’t pickle-making people. 

It was messy. Sticky. Exhausting.

One night after eleven o’clock, I was so sick of making pickles that I went to bed and left Rick stirring.

Somehow, we made a monumental mistake and bought the wrong kind of Red Hots. :( Ours turned into clear rubbery balls that wouldn’t dissolve.

Nevertheless, Rick charged on, hoping they’d miraculously melt.

They didn’t.

By day three, red sticky syrup covered the counter. Cucumber seeds clung to the cabinets, the floor, and the refrigerator door.

The final morning before Rick left for work he asked me to do the next step.

“You’re kidding,” I said. “We’ve wasted enough time. Let’s just quit.”

“Nope. We’re not giving up.”

Feeling foolish and frustrated, I took the stupid cucs out of the fridge.

To my horror, they were pale green and pink. 

Not candy-apple red.

Then my mother called. “I tried to tell you,” she said.

Throwing the mess away, I decided NO MORE PICKLES. 

This is it. 

I’m done. 

But Rick wouldn’t give up. 

He went to four stores in search of the right kind of Red Hots.

He found them.

This time, he called his aunt for her recipe.

We started all over again.

But guess what?

It worked!

We did it! 

We made absolutely incredible Cinnamon Red Hot Pickles! 

Mother still can’t believe we’re pickle-making people. :)

I saved her a jar. 

If you’re working on something that seems impossible:

1. Tune out all negative thoughts. And comments. :)

2. Don’t be afraid to change your approach. (Aunt Jane’s recipe.)

3. Hang in there. Sometimes God’s favor comes when you least expect it.

Can you identify?

P.S. They’re gluten-free!

Love,

Julie and Rick

 

 

There’s Something about a Tenderhearted Man

I guess you’d say my husband Rick is a man’s man. He drives a truck, works with his hands, and has always had big dogs–Labradors–dogs that serve a purpose–never a little frou-frou dog.

Katie, our 31-year-old daughter, went through some life changes this year. She remarried, became a stepmom, and their house is on the market.

A few weeks ago her husband, a police officer, began training a new dog for the K-9 department–a German Shepherd who just so happens to be an alpha dog.

And Katie has an itty bitty Morkie named Ellie. 

(Morkie = Yorkie plus Maltese)

Ellie’s scrappy and determined, and she’s also smart. Every time the new dog came near her, Ellie trembled and hid behind the furniture.

We’ve kept Ellie a few times over the years. Each time Katie picked her up, Rick said, “If Smelly ever needs a new home, I want her. I love those little black eyes”

I thought he was kidding until two weeks ago when Katie made a really hard decision–

To let Ellie come live with us.

For now, she’s ours.

Or rather, she’s Rick’s.

Katie’s house, homecoming day.

“Here. I”ll hold her,” I said on the way home.

“She’s fine. I’ve got her.”

I fell in love all over again. 

Laid-back Clyde said, “Come in, Ellie. Everyone’s welcomed here.”

Ellie found her spot at  porch parties.

According to the Great Dogs website, “Morkies are lapdogs to the core and try to please their owners.”

But Ellie doesn’t have to work to please Rick.

He fell in love the first time he saw her.

Keep your heart open. 

Sometimes love strikes unexpectedly like a summer storm.

A 30-second video. Ellie’s checking out her new home. You’ll hear one of our roosters welcoming her. :)

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

Have you ever fallen in love in an instant?

What is it about a tenderhearted man? 

Big dogs or little dogs? 

Love,

Julie (and Rick) :)  

How to Stay on Vacation All Year Long

This summer, my husband and I had a stay-cation. We slept late, had long porch parties, and slowed down. I loved stay-cation so much, I didn’t want our simple way of living to end. 

On Friday, we drove to Blue Ridge, Georgia to Mercier Orchards.

I’d brought a stack of books and my journal. “Do you have room for your feet?” Rick said.

“I’m fine.”

Reading was a big part of my stay-cation, and who knows? I might be inspired to write in the car.

Two hours later, we entered Blue Ridge.

“It’s so pretty up here. Wish we could make today last longer.” I decided to jot down every detail so I wouldn’t forget the beauty. I opened my journal. Grabbed a pen.

Instead, an unexpected prayer rose. I began writing. Didn’t stop to edit.

Father,

Thank You for stay-cation.

For being in the car with a man I’ve loved for 40 years!

40 years!

Thank You for plenty of books at my feet. 

I glanced at Rick’s left hand.

His hands–how hard he works–for all the wrenches he’s turned so I can write. 

We stopped at Cheeseburger Bobby’s.

Incredible cheeseburgers, but their fries aren’t gluten-free, and I have Celiac.

Rick ran next door to Chick-fil-A. They have GF fries. :)

Thank You for Chick-fil-A fries.

For a husband who’ll get them for me.

Then on to Mercier’s.

When we got there, we sat in the car for a minute, in awe of the mountains and deep valleys.

Thank You for mountains and valleys.

Family problems entered my thoughts.

I paused.

Stopped writing.

A new kind of prayer came.

Thank You for the problems.

For things I can’t change. 

For me having Celiac

Mercier’s is an apple orchard, but they didn’t have many apples.

It was July.

Not October.

Disappointment tried to worm its way in.

Then we spotted summer fruit. :)

Thank You for peaches and blackberries and blueberries! 

And fudge.

And kettle corn!

And cider!

 And jelly!

We filled our cart.

And I filled my heart.

Maybe the secret to staying on vacation all year long is to keep saying, “Thank-You, Lord.” For everything.  

Don’t you love vacation relaxation?

What are your va-cay plans?

P.S. Apple pie wasn’t GF, but the fudge was! :)

To find out why Rick wears a nine-dollar wedding ring, click here.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Can’t Possibly Do This!

I was in full-blown panic mode. My husband and I volunteered at our church’s Fourth of July fireworks celebration and were assigned to serve on the parking team.

Me.

On the parking team.

Including cars I’ve hit in my own driveway and the mailbox I took out, I’ve had a total of nine wrecks.

I can’t parallel park and I’m terrible at directions.

When I told my mother and daughters the news, Katie laughed until she cried. Mother said, “Julie. No. It’s too dangerous.” Jamie only said one word. “MOMMMMMMMMMMMM!”

When Rick and I arrived for duty, we were given official Walkie-Talkies, neon-green vests and lanyards, and flashlights.

I’m not doing this. I can’t. I don’t know how.

During our training session, my heart pounded so hard that I couldn’t speak.

After we prayed, I raised my hand.”Um. This is way out of my comfort zone. Please fire me. I’ll do anything else but–”

“We aren’t firing anybody.” The man in charge smiled. “I’ll find just the right spot for you.”

Trapped, I hopped on his golf cart, and we zipped to a driveway blocked by cones.

“All you have to do is keep cars from turning in here.” He gave me his umbrella and a couple of bottled waters. Then my father-in-law brought me a chair.

About an hour later, an elderly gentleman asked for help. He had a bad leg and couldn’t keep walking.

I felt God’s fearless love explode inside me.

I knew exactly what to do.

I gave the man my chair, a bottle of cold water, and radioed for a golf cart. 

Then something even better happened.

During the fireworks, Katie texted me this picture below and these words:

“Our first Fourth of July together.” 

Blinking back happy tears, it hit me.

ONLY when you step out of your comfort zone do you get front row seats.

And God’s standing right there with you.

That’s where the magic happens. 

(Katie’s holding her stepdaughter. For more of their story, click here. )

(blog idea came during this sermon, “Fearless, by Miles Welch. 

Can you relate?

Some of you’ve recently stepped out of your comfort zone. How’s it going?

Are you thinking about doing something a little scary?

Love,

Julie

 

Peanuts, Peaches, and People

The other day, I broke our porch party rules and brought up the subject of so-and-so’s behavior. The longer my husband and I talked, the more  judgmental I became–at least in my heart.

For a while that day, I thought I knew everything. 

We headed to  Thompson Family Farms to buy fresh peaches, my mind still analyzing someone else’s business.

“I love this place,” I said when we got out of the car. “I know all about Georgia produce.”

Finally! A place where my expertise can shine!

“I grew up shelling butter beans.”  I grabbed some frozen field peas. “Daddy had a garden every summer. ”

“We even canned tomatoes when I was little,” I said.

Of course, I knew everything there was to know about sweet Vidalia onions. I’d lived my whole life in Georgia.

“Oh, look! They have yellow meat watermelons.”

That’s what you call a yellow watermelon down South–yellow meat.

Feeling sorta smug, I sniffed the cantaloupes until I found a perfect one.

Then something unexpected happened. 

I spotted a bucket of peanuts.

Strange, because they weren’t boiled peanuts, like you find in Georgia.

They were shelled and put into baggies.

“What are these?” I said to the cashier.

“Fried peanuts.”

“Never heard of them. “

“They’re delicious. Try some.”

I bought a bag and told her I was making homemade peach ice cream the next day.

“If you want your peaches to ripen in a hurry, put them outside. Spread them out on a table, so they aren’t touching each other.”

“Huh. Never knew that.”

Back at home, I tasted fried peanuts for the first time.

Amaaaaaazing.

I put the peaches outside in the heat. A few hours later, they were soft.

Just like she said.

A thought hit me.

I bet there’s something I don’t know about the person and the situation I’d been so quick to judge.

Forgive me, Lord. Help me keep it simple. 

I don’t know everything about peanuts, peaches, and especially people.

Can you relate?

Have you been humbled lately?

Or learned something new?

If you chose a word this year, how’s it going? It’s already July!

Love,

Julie

For my homemade peach ice cream recipe in Guideposts magazine, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Bless This Mess

“Come here. You gotta see this,” my husband said Saturday morning. I turned on the coffee maker and followed him outside. “A bird’s built her nest in this wreath.”

I laughed. ” It’s not a real nest. Your mother made that wreath a few years ago.”

“There’s a real nest behind the fake one.”

Way down inside the dark hole, I spotted a pile of something fuzzy and gray. Feathers maybe? “Looks like baby birds might have been here. Hope they didn’t die.”

“Keep watching.”

“Ohhhhhh, you’re right! They’re opening their little mouths, waiting on their  mama to feed them!”

My husband carried on with his Saturday morning routine, but I couldn’t forget the two nests.

Real birds were living right behind a fake mama bird and her plastic eggs. 

So peculiar.

And spectacular.

Of course, I had a feeling there was a message here for me. :)

I touched  the  stiff mama bird.

Nothing was out of place in her perfect world. She even had matching, perfectly formed eggs. A spotless nest.

Years ago, I tried to be the perfect mom and raise perfect children. But living that way wasn’t really living at all.

Then I studied the other nest where real life was going on. Two baby birds chirped loudly. And there was probably poop in the nest.

Nevertheless, the birds were safely tucked inside a downy-soft home created with love.

And they were eagerly anticipating their mama returning.

Something dawned on me.

It’s better to be real,

To be someone who  listens and laughs,

Someone with faults who goofs up,

Than to be perfect, but cold and plastic. 

I left the baby birds so their mama would return to her wonderfully messy life. 

And I could return to mine. 

What do you think about the mama bird building her nest so close to the fake one?

Ever tried to be perfect? Exhausting, isnt it?!

I wrote more about breaking free from the trap of perfection here and here.

Love,

Julie


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miracle of the Marigolds and Me

This spring, I decided to play in the dirt again. I’d avoided all things green for three years after I got a horrible case of poison ivy  by pulling weeds without wearing gloves. I wanted my husband to think I was a real gardener.

And only thing I knew for sure about summer plants was that marigolds love sun and heat.

Anyone can take care of them, right? How hard could it be?

I found my tin watering cans and bought a potted caladium and a tray of marigolds.

I didn’t waste time reading plant care directions. 

I threw potting soil in my watering cans, and in less than five minutes, I created a summer garden on our porch!

Days later, I moved the marigolds to our patio. Total sun. 

They’re tough. They can handle it. 

For almost a week I ignored a gentle prompt.

Water the marigolds.

Saturday morning, their lovely heads were bent toward their feet. Their poor leaves had shriveled up. 

I’d ignored them for so long, I’d killed them!

I gave them a long, cool drink, but I was wasting my time. They were goners.

I left the kitchen. Couldn’t bear to watch them die.

An hour later they were a tad perkier, but the damage was done.

I left them overnight, hoping and praying for a miracle.

The next morning, I peeked with one eye shut.

It’s a miracle! 

My marigolds had been restored! 

“Welcome back, girls,” I whispered. “Sorry I forgot about you.”

At times, I’ve ended up just like my wilted marigolds.

Parched. Exhausted. 

I thought I was tough enough to do life on my own. 

I forgot I needed God every hour. 

I forgot to drink from the Living Well.

The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life. John 4:14 (MSG)

If you can’t see the video, click here. It’s a beautiful reminder of how much we need Him.

 Have you ever ended up my wilted marigolds?

Love,

Julie

The Animal Rescue Gene

Something happens every time my mother sees a stray animal. She’s compelled to rescue it. She says she has the animal rescue gene. I love animals–I really do, but I don’t have the gene.

Two weeks ago my brother, Jeremy, who also has the ARG, climbed a tree and rescued a five-week-old kitten. He brought her to Mother who already had three rescued animals–two cats and a dog.

Mother’s husband gave her an ultimatum. “Me or the cat.”

You can probably guess what happened. :)

Jamie, my daughter, has the ARG, and so does my son’s fiance Brittany. After Sunshine got settled in, Brittany and I went to meet her.

Brittany spoke softly, moved slowly, and Sunshine seemed mesmerized.

People with the ARG are gifted this way. 

Didn’t take them long to bond.

Brittany took these pictures.

She has the incredible ability to capture the hearts of animals–

And people born with the ARG.

My all-time favorite picture of Mother. 

Such little girl joy!

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

If you have the ARG, you’ll love these.

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

One more.

Sunshine finally notices me in this one. :)

If you can’t see it, click here.

Then Mother took us to the Athens Humane Society, a no-kill shelter, where she volunteers

She spends one-on-one time with Precious.

Brittany went straight to a puppy named Squishy.

Squishy came to the shelter with twine wrapped around her foot, requiring surgery.

“Julie, I’m in animal heaven.”

Click here for Squishy’s rescue story.

Watching Brittany love on Squishy, something dawned on me about the ARG.

 Maybe it’s sort of like the way God feels about us.

When there’s one lost sheep, He’s moved with great compassion.

He leaves the ninety-nine others and rescues the one.  (from Luke 15:4)

Do you have the ARG? 

P.S. Sunshine’s brother, Moonshine, and lots more of God’s creatures are available for adoption at The Athens Humane Society.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

Friendship…Served With Love on a Paper Plate

A couple of years ago, my husband was all gung-ho about joining a small group at church. Not me. You can’t just throw people together and say, “Wa-lah! Make friends. Form bonds. Trust each other.”

Friendship takes time. 

And it’s risky. 

Being vulnerable enough to experience community brings the possibility of getting hurt.

Yes, of course, I’ve been hurt. I bet you have too.

And I’m embarrassed to tell you, but I wondered if I’d reached a stage in life when you don’t make many more new friends.

But my word Surrender wouldn’t leave me alone.

After days of running scared, I let go of control (again!), and we joined a small group. We knew Rick and Kim, our leaders, and one other person, but the rest of them were strangers.

That first night, my heart went thumpety-thump as we introduced ourselves.

Over time, we shared our struggles, our prayer requests, our joys. Something spread between us like warm caramel.

We were no longer strangers.

We became friends.

Since we ate together, I told them about having Celiac disease, an autoimmune illness, meaning I have to eat gluten-free.

After eighteen months, my husband and I became small group leaders.

Guess what else?

Rick and Kim invited us to their small group party last week!

Kim texted me: CAN YOU HAVE JELLO INSTANT PUDDING?

YES! :)

She made two gorgeous orange pineapple cakes–one regular and one gluten-free. For me. 

I nearly cried!

It had been almost eight years since I’d had a layered cake. I didn’t even know it was possible! And my cake looked exactly like the regular one.

Kim reached out with love and helped me feel like a regular person!

The next morning, I had two pieces for breakfast. :)

When we relinquish control, sometimes God brings the sweetest surprises. And friendships! 

(Kim used Pamela’s GF vanilla cake mix for mine.)

Thoughts on friendships? 

Share a time when someone’s kindness blew you away. 

Love,

Julie