A Skinny Cow… and Love Somehow

To me, there’s nothing more fascinating than people. What makes them laugh and cry?

The other night our son’s girlfriend Brittany and I had a good time talking. She’s an animal lover and told me all about her cows. Toward the end of our conversation, we had quite a moment.

When Brittany was younger, she went to cow auctions with her daddy and brother.

“We’d look at all the cows for sale, probably a hundred of them, and I could only choose one. I’d always pick the skinniest most pitiful looking cow.”

“Why?”

“Because I knew what she could become. Like with Strawberry. When I saw her, I told Daddy, ‘That’s the one I want.’ He just laughed. ‘What for, Brittany? Look at her.’”

“Her coat was dull and she was skinny, but I fell in love with her. I wanted to rescue her. Same thing with Texas.”

 

“And Colorado.”

“And Gypsy.”

“When you brought them home what happened?” I leaned forward, could hardly wait to hear.

It took her a few second to speak. Her eyes brimmed with happy tears.

“They became the beautiful cows I knew they could be.”

Her words stirred my heart. I thought about hurting people, friends and family, myself–my faults.

“What’s your secret with cows?”

“We put them out in the pasture to graze. I gave them sweet feed and loved on them. Before long, they’d get fat and pretty and happy. And they’d have babies.”

Strawberry a few months later…

And Texas.

And Gypsy.

And Colorado.

Seeing the miraculous change in Brittany’s cows, holy goose bumps covered me.

“The same thing happens to people,” I said. “God sees us as we are and rescues us.”

She nodded, her brown eyes shining. “He knows who we can become.”

If you and I were  sitting at my kitchen table, what would we talk about?

What stirs your heart?

Love,

Julie

Early Morning Gratitude

Saturday morning my husband was out of town, so I porch partied alone. I woke up early, around 4 a.m., made coffee, and took my flashlight and Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling outside.

The air felt different that morning. Soft and cool on my face. Almost lavender.

Like Easter morning.

Maybe the air felt this way when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before He went to the cross.

I paused.

Almost thought about the cross, but I wasn’t ready.

Not yet.

Instead I pondered gentle things.

Pastel images.

The dogwoods had just bloomed.

I could barely see the branches in the darkness, but I remembered their splendor.

The Easter tree my mother-in-law made.

She gave it to us when the children were little.

I let my mind dwell on bright green Easter grass. Filling baskets. Egg hunts.

I thought about our oldest child’s first Easter.

While I sat rocking and thinking, I knew I’d return to the cross.

I remembered ten years ago, when I saw The Passion of the Christ.

And that one scene.

How it undid me.

It still does.

When He suffered the beating, the scourging, the whips on His back, when His hands and feet were nailed to the cross…

My heart pounded with the heaviness of the Truth.

A weight fell on me,

So intense I couldn’t breathe.

For the first time I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt

What He did for me was Enough.

Now I wonder

Could it have been…

That moment was the first time I worshipped my Jesus of the Cross?

I couldn’t help but say it over and over again.

Thank You.

Thank You.

Thank You.

There was nothing more You could have done.

You did it all. 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have You Ever Hated Your Can Opener?

Hint: This post is about more than a broken can opener so hang  in here with me.

The other day I turned the twirl-y thing on my can opener around a can of green beans 42,000 times, but nothing happened.

So I bought a new can opener. Real modern-looking. I figured it would last longer. That afternoon, I tried to open the green beans again. I held the can opener every possible way, but I couldn’t get the stupid thing to work.

Wouldn’t even poke a hole in the can.

When my husband came home from work, I handed him the can opener. He’s a mechanical genius.

It took him about thirty minutes to open the green beans. “Yeah, it works. You just have to hold the can opener at a forty-five degree angle.”

“That’s crazy. I should just use my teeth.”

I’d already tossed the receipt. I was stuck with it.

Every time I saw the new can opener peeking at me from the drawer it annoyed me.

You’re not getting the best of me, Mr. Can Opener! I’ll show you who’s boss!

For the next few days, I cooked without any canned goods.

Then God slipped a truth into my heart. He’s so good at that. Especially when I’m being ridiculous.

Sometimes you do this with people. You shut them out and hold onto bitterness.

True.

That takes a lot of energy.

True.

I’d been pouting with people and can openers.

The next day, I picked out another can opener. The new one has a simple design, but it works beautifully.

I celebrated by making a big pot chili with lots of canned tomatoes.

I’m tossing the other can opener–along with my bad attitude.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice…” Eph 4:31 ESV

Love,

Julie

 

 

The One Secret to Thirty-Five Years of Marriage

Saturday morning, two days before our 35th anniversary, we sat in our rocking chairs, porch partying. I wanted to ask my husband a few questions, but I couldn’t just blurt them out. I had to proceed delicately. With caution.

“Remember our first Christmas?” I said. “We brought home that Griswold Family Christmas tree and had to exchange it.”

 

“I still think I could’ve made it fit.”

“Maybe so.” Playing it cool, I yawned before asking my next question. “Do you mind if I interview you about marriage? Thirty-five years is a lotta Christmases together.”

“You know you’re going to, so go ahead.”

Yipee! I ran inside for my glasses and girl reporter steno pad.

“First question. What’s important in marriage?”

He rocked. Drank his coffee. Rocked some more.

Maybe he’s not going to answer me.

“It’s not my stuff, your stuff,” he finally said. “Or my money, your money. It’s us. Ours.”

“That’s good. What else?”

“Deception is a big deal. We don’t have any secrets.”

“True. In the past 35 years, what was your most difficult time?”

“Eating gluten-free with you.” He laughed. (I have Celiac.)

“Be serious. What about building this house? That was tough, wasn’t it?”

“That was my hardheadedness–a mechanic, building a log house.”

That’s why I love you.

I chewed my pen. Pretended to think up a new question. ”So, would you say we’re best friends?”

“Something like that.”

“Looking back, what were our toughest times?”

His eyes got shiny.

I held my breath. Couldn’t believe he was going to give me a real answer.

“Burying Robbie.” (our newborn son) “Raising teenagers.”

I felt incredibly close to him. “Is there one secret to having a good marriage?”

“Yep.”

Ready to jot down his words, I leaned toward him. “What is it?”

He rocked back and forth, back and forth. “Don’t be selfish.”

“That’s it? Three words?”

“That’s it. That covers it all.”

I thanked him for the interview and closed my notebook. “You know, you’re exactly right. Wonder why it takes years to figure this stuff out when the answers are so simple?”

“Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you,” Matthew 7:12.

Thoughts on marriage anyone?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Driveway to My Heart Part Two

Saturday morning, several people were heavy on my heart. Walking down my DRIVEWAY, I thought about their situations. A broken sobriety. Possible jail time. Infertility. Divorce. Someone feeling beaten down in her job. A young mother, 36, died unexpectedly.

My prayers quickly shifted to, God, hello? Where are You? Have You forgotten?

He didn’t offer any explanations, so put my iPod on and hushed my thoughts.

This song came on.

It was as though I’d never heard it.

As the music played, a feather-soft suggestion landed in my heart.

It seemed ridiculous.

Unnecessary.

Awkwardly humbling, actually.

Open your fingers.

I glanced at my hands. They were tight like a boxer’s hands. Why should I open my fingers?

I didn’t feel like it.

Open your fingers and stretch out your hands.

Such a silly idea. A tiny act that couldn’t possibly amount to much.

I ignored the thought for a few seconds.

And then that music–those sweet words–their gentle persistence filled me.

When I said yes, when I unfurled my fingers and slowly turned my hands over, opening them toward heaven, I’m telling you the truth.

I felt the Power and the Presence of The Great I Am.

The Great I Am!

The Great I Am!

There was something supernatural in the unclenching of my fists.

And my will.

The power of the song was so much stronger than my concerns. My worries floated up, up, and away.

 

Here’s where it happened.

This is the very spot where The Great I Am met me.

The place where I opened my hands.

And let go. Again.

Praying for you, my precious friends.

Love,

Julie

 

Pride and Parakeets

I bet none of you have ever withheld praise from someone you love. I’m embarrassed to say, I did this recently. Just plain ugliness. My husband Rick is a man of many hobbies. I have three: reading, cooking, and going to the YMCA.

One of his hobbies is raising outdoor parakeets. Last summer, a virus struck his birds. All forty of them died. I found him in the backyard burning his bird atrium to the ground.

“I’m really sorry,” I said.

“I’m starting over. Building a new one. Some boards were rotten.”

“Why don’t you buy a couple of new birds and keep them inside?”

After he burned the house, I found him mixing cement–for footings and a new floor, he said.

“You mean, like a real house?”

“Yep.”

“Seems like a lot of work to me.”

Over the next few weekends, I pretended to read a book, but really, I sat outside studying my husband.

Trying to figure him out.

As the new house started coming together something came over me, but I didn’t tell him how I felt.

That I adored his eye for detail. His creativity.

Mostly, I admired him for not giving up.

For not taking the easy way out.

I would have.

Then one day he finished.

He’d stained the log siding to match our log house–even used the same tin roof!

What happened next completely undid me.

When he put Mr. and Mrs. Parakeet inside their new home, they scooted close together and kissed.

They weren’t shy about expressing their gratitude.

Clearing my throat, I walked toward my man and his new birds. “You amaze me. You did a beautiful job.”

“No big deal.”

“Yes it is. I should’ve told you sooner.”

We kissed like happy parakeets.

Me and my foolish pride.

Pride prevents praise.

Have you ever held back from praising someone? Please…somebody say yes.

Love,

Julie

Perils of People Watching

The other night, my hobby of people watching brought out the ugly in me. Maybe because I’m a writer with a big imagination, I like to spy and figure out what might be going on in other people’s lives. I study mannerisms, reactions, and outfits. I’ll think things like…

He’s watching football and not listening to a word she’s saying. Now she’s texting. She looks mad. He’s gnawing on hot wings. Maybe she wants a baby and he doesn’t.

Restaurants and malls are great for people watching.

Crowded

 

So last week, my husband and I went out for pizza. (Incredible gluten-free pizza from Your Pie.)

I spotted a group of college-age girls. Boots tucked in designer jeans. Long sweaters down to their hips. I tried to create a storyline but they were chitty-chatting way too loud about nothing.

Wish I could say I came up with sweet scenarios.

But I didn’t.

In my heart, I moved past observing.

I judged them.

It happened so quickly. Less than 30 seconds. Mean thoughts…

You’re not all that funny. Do you have to be so loud? You’re just trying to get attention.

And then guess what…

Their pizza came and the girl with shimmery blonde hair said the blessing. It wasn’t a hurry-up-let’s-eat kind of blessing.

She prayed passionately. Honestly. Not for show. 

They even shut their eyes.

I wanted to crawl under the table. Ahhhhhhhh! They’re talking to You, Lord. Like I should’ve been doing instead of judging. Forgive me.

I was wrong. Way wrong.

After she prayed, she looked right at me and smiled.

I smiled back. From my heart. I’m so sorry.

I’m adding “people praying” to my “people watching” hobby.

Have you ever done what I did? Pleeeease, someone say yes…

Love,

Julie

 *above photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/davefayram/6485360921/

 

 

 

Nagging Negative Nelda is Transformed!

During our morning porch parties, my husband and I aren’t supposed to say anything negative or nag. Last week, I blew it. The morning was brisk, the coffee  fixed just right, and a negative thought came to me. Tiny at first. About the size of a flea. I knew I needed to let the thought go.

But I chose not to.

“Before long, we need to trim the bushes around the porch.”

Rick didn’t say anything. Just kept rocking.

Another negative thought. This one seemed bigger. More important. Feeling justified, I kept going.

“Will you fill the bird feeders today? It’s cold. The birds look hungry.” I was taking up for the poor birds. I had to say it.

There were weeds growing in the hay that had held pumpkins in October. Here it was January.  ”How ’bout tossing the hay from the fall scene?”

 

How had he missed those weeds? In my mind, they were humongous…so big, they took over the whole yard.

 

He gave me “the look” and the porch party fell flat.

I hadn’t meant to ruin the morning. And it happened so fast. In three sentences.

In one single thought, actually.

Scrutinizing what was wrong, I missed all that was right.

Maybe it’s not too late.

“Sorry for nagging,” I said.

“No problem.”

The way out of negative thinking (and fear and self-pity!) seemed too simple to save our porch party.

Gratitude and praise.

But I tried it anyway.

“Listen, is that geese?” I said.

“I think so.”

We smiled at each other–the beauty of the morning restored.

Our thoughts create our emotions.

And we get to choose our thoughts. And our words.

Love,

Julie

“…if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” Phil 4:8 NIV

Life…in Retrospect

I stopped by Mother’s the other day. She was sitting at her desk in her office. “Sometimes I wish I could do it all over again,” she said.

“What?”

“Motherhood. Remember how it feels to bring a new baby home from the hospital? You put them over your shoulder and pat their little bottoms. Sweetest weight in the world.”

“And kiss their soft heads. People tried to tell me how fast it would go, but I didn’t listen.”

“Me either,” she said. “I just thought, I’m tired of folding diapers, getting supper ready, making formula, and feeding the dog.”

“Wish we could go back for a few days. I’d hurry less. Laugh a lot more.”

“I wouldn’t talk near as much,” Mother said leaning on her typewriter. “If one of you wanted my attention, I’d stop putting the clothes in the washing machine or reading the mail, or even writing, and be quiet and listen.”

I smiled imagining the thought.

“Another thing,” she said. “Making sandwiches. I’d cut them in half and trim off the edges. And I wouldn’t pinch y’all in church.”

I laughed. “I’d forgotten about that.”

She turned from her typewriter to face me.

“And never in a million years would I scream unless the house was on fire,” she said. “I’d make homemade Christmas cookies and let ya’ll decorate them. I wouldn’t care that the kitchen got messy. I wouldn’t make you and Jennifer sleep in tight pink sponge rollers every Saturday night. I’d never lock y’all out of the house and make you drink out of the hose while I was writing. I’d smile every time I looked at you. No more frownie faces.”

 ”You’re smiling now,” I said.

“You are too.”

“Anytime we talk we’re making a memory. A memory happens when hearts connect.”

“And when someone really listens,” she said.

Love,

Julie

A Lesson from a Pile of Sticks

Remember our porch parties? The number one porch party rule is: “Don’t say anything negative. Just sip coffee and talk about good things.” Last week I blew it.

A pile of sticks became like Ray and Debra’s suitcase.

Clyde, our Lab, has a new hobby. He chews sticks at porch parties and spits the wood into a pile like a beaver building a dam.

Right in front of Rick’s chair.

For the last two weeks, Clyde had quite a pile going.  (Below is from this morning–a rather small pile.)

For days I thought, How big will the pile get if I don’t sweep it? You know, the whole Little Red Hen thing. :-)

But the broom was closer to Rick. I looked at him. Don’t the sticks bother you?

Apparently not.

The next day I broke Rule Number One. “The sticks are getting pretty messy. I guess ‘we’ should sweep.”

“We need to,” he said.

Only one person can sweep. 

I decided I wasn’t sweeping–no matter how big the pile got.

And then a couple of days later, Rick swept the sticks into a neat pile.

But he left the pile on the porch.

So instead of focusing on this…

Or this…

I only saw a pile of sticks.

Friday night, I peeked out the window as my husband gathered the last of the tomatoes from the garden. My heart melted. It’s so hot. Probably 102. He has to be tired.

My word for the year came to me.

SURRENDER.

Over a pile of sticks? Really?

REALLY.

I swept the sticks into the dustpan and threw them away.

I can’t tell you how good it felt! :-)

Has anyone ever let something silly get waaaaaay too important to you?

Love,

Julie