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

When You Married Your Exact Opposite

For years, I believed a big fat lie. I thought to have a good marriage, husbands and wives had to enjoy the same hobbies, foods, and even have similar personalities.

When we married 36 years ago, my husband Rick loved loud cars. He talked about RPMs, MUSCLE CARS and MOPAR–things I didn’t understand.

I loved books and libraries and diagramming sentences.

I kept thinking pretty soon he’ll discover the beauty of literature, antique shops, and brussels sprouts.

I couldn’t change him, but guess what?

Something better happened.

We went to a car show this past weekend in Tucker, GA. This wasn’t our first car show, but this one was special.

Rick delivered a customer’s car he’d restored to the show. A 1967 Camaro.

He’s wiping smudges. Car people do that all the time. :)

Richard, my FIL, helping …

Cars, cars — everywhere you look.

Brittany (our son’s girlfriend), Chase (Brittany’s rescue German shepherd), our son Thomas, Richard (my FIL) and Carolyn (my MIL).

My FIL showed me some neat cars–a 1936 Ford.

Rick with his happy customer …

From what I understand, the way a car sounds is really important.

Listen…

But you know what’s even more important?

Listening in marriage.

After all these years, Rick still loves loud cars.

And I still love quiet words.

Here’s our secret connection.

A few months ago, we started praying for each other.

Every day, I ask God to bless the work of my husband’s hands as he fixes cars.

He asks God to bless the work of my hands as I write.

Marriage-changing.

Life-changing.

You don’t have to understand someone to pray for him. Or her.

Is there distance between you and someone you love? Praying this way might bring you closer.

Love,

Julie

 

 

On Friendship … When You’re an Introvert

“Strangers are just friends waiting to happen.” Rod McKuen Looking for a Friend

I try to cover it, but I’m an introvert. I have friends–really, I do–I promise, but I love days of solitude, writing in my cabin in the woods–so much that sometimes I overdo it.

A few weeks ago Robin called. We’ve been best friends for forty years.

Oddly, or maybe miraculously, we have the same autoimmune illnesses, Sjogren’s and Celiac disease.

“I’ve never met Heather,” Robin said, “but she reads my blog. She was diagnosed with Celiac a year ago and is inviting a few friends over for coffee. Everyone who’s coming has Celiac.”

Hmmm. “And you’ve never met her?”

“No, but she’s so sweet. You’ll love her. She wants us share our experiences.”

I felt the familiar tug to do what comes naturally, but for some reason, I didn’t.

I said yes.

Walking into Heather’s home, I never expected to feel so welcomed.

So instantly connected.

See what I mean?

A Celiac celebration.

Everything was gluten-free, and she had coffee and hot tea–lots of flavors.

Sometimes when you have Celiac (or anything about you that’s a little different) there’s that awkward moment when you have to explain.

But that didn’t happen at Heather’s. :)

We laughed about it.

Because we all understood.

Heather on the left and Robin on the right …

Robin and me …

My new friends … and sorry, I didn’t take my good camera that day. :(

Here’s the best part …

We bonded the way it happens in childhood.

And in novels.

We even prayed together.

See the Scripture on Heather’s chalkboard?

“God will meet all your needs…” Philippians 4:19.

Sometimes, God meets my needs when I’m in community –

When I break out of my routine, let go, and trust Him.

Sounds like SURRENDER, doesn’t it?

Are you somewhat of an introvert too?

Have you ever been surprised by unexpected friendships? Aren’t they just wonderful!

P.S. If you haven’t visited Robin’s blog at All Things Heart and Home, please do. You’ll love her too.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

The Courageous Call

I don’t want to make prayer seem formulaic–123–I prayed, I got. That’s not how it works–at least not for me. I’ve prayed for decades about certain situations and nothing’s changed.

But almost 25 years ago, God surprised me. Big time.

One morning, my mother-in-law Carolyn called. “Julie,” she said softly. “It’s hard to explain, but I was reading the Bible and ….” She hesitated. “This time next year, you’re going to have a baby.”

For half a second, I felt a tingly glow.

What if she’s right?

Carolyn’s not the kind of person who goes around saying, “God said to tell you…”

And then a flash of terror.

I wanted to slam the phone down. Hide. Throw up. Run away.

Our daughters were six and eight, and a few months earlier, we lost our son, Robbie, who was born with anencephaly.

“And it’s going to be a boy,” Carolyn proclaimed.

Why would she say something like this?

I couldn’t breathe. Felt my heart rip open.

We wanted risk-free lives. Safe. Confined.

“Thanks, but we’ve decided. No more children.”

I was still grieving. The color baby blue, the Pamper aisle, and little boys wearing overalls brought tears.

Several weeks after the phone call, something happened.

Faith began as one tiny glimmer shining in my heart.  It spread to my husband.

On August 6, 1991, our son Thomas was born.

This past Monday, I called Carolyn to ask her about that phone call 25 years ago.

How? Why? What?

“It was raining,” she said. “Dark. Dreary. Even inside the house. I was in the den. I picked up my Bible. When I read Genesis 18:10, the words fell into my spirit. That’s the only way I can explain it. I knew they were for you. From God. ”

“I don’t think I ever thanked you. If you hadn’t made that courageous call, Thomas wouldn’t be here.”

Dear readers, I can’t explain why God worked this way. We could’ve had our hearts ripped out again.

I only know the miracle began with the phone call.

And a tiny dot of faith.

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” Romans 11:33

Have you ever been surprised by God’s goodness? Please share!

Love,

Julie

 

From Dread to Delight

I’ve been working hard to change a bad habit, but sometimes I slip into stinkin’ thinkin’. I ignore all the wonderful possibilities and head straight to the most dreaded outcome.

I did it this past Friday. My son’s girlfriend Brittany called. “I’m on my way over,” she said. “I’m bringing you some new animals.”

Uh-oh.

I braced myself. Brittany checks the pound daily to see if there’s anything she can rescue.

What could she be bringing?

A box of newborn kitties?

A litter of puppies?

Maybe a ferret?

A skunk?

More chickens?

We were already dog sitting for our daughter. And we have a dog and a cat.

“You’ll never guess what it is.” I could hear her smiling over the phone.

I cringed. “I can’t imagine.”

“Four parakeets! Someone left them at the pound. They’d been there for weeks. Their time was almost up. ”

“Parakeets at the pound?”

We have a parakeet atrium. Years ago, an elderly friend couldn’t take care of his outdoor parakeets, so my husband Rick adopted themall 40 of them.

Ten minutes later, Brittany arrived.

Wonder if they’ll get along with our birds? Do birds fight?

 

“I hope our parakeets act nice,” I said as Thomas added the newcomers.


They checked out their surroundings.

Right away, they made friends!

Maybe even sang some new songs.

Brittany went inside for a visit.

Watching her, something dawned on me.

I’d imagined the worst case scenario.

What if she brings a baby possum? And here she comes with four lovely birds.

The next time DREAD looms over me, I’ll remember the DELIGHT of Brittany’s Beautiful Birds.

Sometimes outcomes are even more wonderful than we can imagine.

Maybe that’s what faith is all about.

Love,

Julie