An Old Purse–A New Me!

My sister Jennifer has the gift of organization. She can simplify and beautify anything. Not me. Take our purses, for example. Last week, we went to lunch. I was driving.

“Will you hand me my sunglasses? They’re in my purse.” I cringed.

So much junk, it wouldn’t close. Ahhhhhhh!

“Where are they?” she said.

“They’re there somewhere. Just keep looking.”

My purse was totally out of control. I hated digging through it for my  YMCA pass, my lipstick, a pen–ANYTHING! 

Jennifer dumped out my bulging makeup bag, an empty pack of chewing gum, and a handful of wadded receipts. Her gray leather envelope of a purse lay neatly at her feet.

“How do you get by with such a small purse?”

“Simple. I only carry what I need.”

This idea intrigued me – freeing myself up to only carry what I needed. My shoulders wouldn’t get tired. I wouldn’t get annoyed trying to find my wallet. 

And the word SIMPLE. 

My word for the year. 

Jen said “simple.” 

Perhaps this went deeper than my purse. 

Sometimes I carry thoughts that clutter my peace. I can be too sensitive. Someone says something that hurts my feelings and I hang on to it. 

But could I possibly change? I’d had a messy purse forever. Could I toss unnecessary stuff? And thoughts too?

Maybe a small purse would help me remember to keep life simple.

 I  found a tiny one in the back of my closet.

And said goodbye to my old heavy, burdensome bag.

I got rid of all manner of clutter–cuticle oil, Band-aids, a broken nail file,

And decided to keep only useful things, 

And useful thoughts.

I even found a nifty spot for my YMCA pass. :)

The new me! :)

With God’s help, daily, I’m being made new!

This song sums it up beautifully, especially the “lay down your burdens” part. If you can’t see the video below, click here.

Do you have a neat purse? I bet so!

Are there any heavy thoughts dragging you down? Lay down your burdens! Let’s get freed up together! 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

SIMPLE–How My Tiny Word for the Year Rescues Me

One day last week the simplest thing caught my attention–a single tiny flower poking her head out from under a log. She was the only violet in the woods near our house.

How peculiar. 

Maybe since my word for the year is SIMPLE, she caught my attention.

God seemed to whisper,“Pay attention, Julie. There’s a message here for you.” 

A few days later, something happened between loved ones. Years of buried pain came out in strong emotions and words. Now there’s distance between them. It bothered me.

I woke up at 3:15 Easter morning, my mind exploding with ways to fix it.

Maybe if I think hard enough, I’ll figure out how to…

Soon I moved into dangerous territory and wandered down the path of WORST CASE SCENARIO thinking. I knew better but tried to rationalize worrying.

“Lord, surely You see this broken relationship. Surely it bothers You too. What if I try to–”

He pressed something into my heart. Something I wasn’t expecting.

It had nothing to do with the others. 

It was about my relationship with Him. 

Never mind them.

He seemed to say: “Julie, don’t let troubles in life separate us. I am God. Keep your eyes on Me.”

I wanted to explain how I felt–how if only I could say the right thing and encourage reconciliation, I could fix the problem.

Then I remembered the violet.

Surrounded by busy-body squirrels, hoot owls, and squawking blue jays she captured my attention.

Peaceful. Serene. Illuminated by sunlight. 

I’m supposed to live that way. Like the violet.

With SIMPLE faith.

Peaceful.

Focused on the Son. Not on problems. 

Thank You, Lord, for one tiny violet. 

Is there an area in life that trips you? It helps so much to acknowledge it.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day Easter Became Real To Me

Every spring right before Easter, my grandmother (my father’s mother) used to say, “This is too pretty.” She’d close her eyes, refusing to look at yellow bells.

And dogwoods.

I’d beg her to please peek at the colors.

She wouldn’t do it. Maybe she had her own version of spring and wanted to keep it that way.

I’ve done the same thing about Easter–not with my eyes but with my heart. I get this uncomfortable feeling. Easter’s so deep and wide, it’s hard to think about.

Because Easter means a lot more than pretty pastels. 

Easter means The Cross.

What Jesus did for me. 

And I can’t pay Him back. Or even the score. 

My attempts to be good are like filthy rags. 

I can’t save myself.

Only by His death am I saved. 

He died for me. 

I’m tearing up right now remembering the day Easter became real to me. When the first person in my family died in 1983, I was afraid to look inside the casket. When I finally did, I saw my father’s 48-year-old freckled fingers, his bald head from radiation and chemo, and one emotion came over me.

I wasn’t expecting it.

Peace. 

This is not who my father is.  

This is an empty shell. An earthsuit. 

Daddy’s not here.

That July night, I stood in my back yard behind the house where I grew up.

I saw the most glorious sight I’d ever seen, as if God created new colors just for me. With my eyes wide open, I experienced a glimpse of His Power.

Because Jesus had been raised from the dead,

So had Daddy. 

Because He overcame death and sin,

We are free.

That’s what Easter means. 

This song expresses it beautifully. If you can’t see the video below, click here It’s so worth listening to!

Have you experienced Easter moments when heaven came to earth?

Love,

Julie

sunset *from Christian Photos. Net 

 

 

 

I Blew It

Well, y’all, I blew it. In less than a week, I rebelled against my word for 2015, SIMPLE. I turned something SIMPLE into something complicated and ugly.

As it was happening, I ignored God’s gentle tap-tap-tapping on my heart.

The week started out beautifully, too.

I used my Belk Christmas gift card from Mother to buy plain, white dishes. I thought if my kitchen table looked SIMPLE, I’d remember my word.

I found a SIMPLE green wreath from Target.

But the day I bought my dishes, a phone conversation with someone I love went south.

God seemed to whisper, Don’t respond. Leave this alone. 

But I didn’t.

Anger erupted inside of me like red-hot lava.

For most of my life, my anger has turned inward. My stomach hurts. I shut down and smile. This time, I lost my temper. I let loose. I screamed back. Tried to defend my opinion. I was driving, and it felt like the car shuddered around me.

Hang up the phone now, the Soft Voice said.

I lost all sense of time and space, but worse than that.

I lost my peace. I abandoned my word. 

Even then, I sensed God’s Spirit calling out to me.

You don’t have to do this. 

I knew better. I’ve had years of Alanon.

Still holding the phone, I cried messy tears–the kind where you can’t catch your breath. “I have to go now. Bye,” I choked out.

I came home. Took a hot bath. Cried some more.

I can’t share details, but I knew better than to poke the bear. 

The next day, my SIMPLE white dishes arrived.

Feeling stupid and exhausted and a million miles away from God, I unpacked them and set the kitchen table.

Then I unpacked my heart.

I sat by my dishes and wrote hard and fast in my prayer journal.

I did the only thing I could do.

I started over on Step One in Alanon which applies to every area of my life. 

I “admitted I was powerless over alcohol and that my life had become unmanageable.

If you’re like me and you’ve somehow lost your word, its closer than you think. 

So is God.

My Simple Peace returned, bright and warm, like the candlelight shining on my plain-white dishes. 

God’s tenderness found me. Again. 

Keep it Simple, Sweetheart. There’s really no other way.

How’s your year going? Your word?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Straight from the Heart

This past Sunday we were having a tiny family get-together to make Christmas cookies. Very low-key. But Saturday morning, we had a church commitment and overslept.

Hurrying, I forgot what matters most.

“I hate running late!” I said. “Now we’ll be behind all weekend long. I have so much to do.”

“Nah,” Rick said. “We’re fine.”

By the time we got back home, I felt like I was chasing myself around trying to catch up.

Get a Christmas tree.

Bring decorations upstairs from the basement.

Decorate.

Go to the grocery store.

Finish addressing Christmas cards.

NOW. Hurry!

And I’m married to a man who can’t be pushed. Or rushed. The harder I tried to get things done, the slower he moved.

Sunday afternoon right before the party, he finally brought the tree inside, and I started making cookies.

Which should’ve been done hours earlier.

Scanning the box for directions, I discovered something odd–

A paragraph explaining why “Mr. Sunface Bebo” founded Immaculate Baking Company.

This sentence seemed about ten feet tall. 

“His vision is to inspire people to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.”

Whoa. 

A baking company has a vision to inspire people to love one another? 

And it’s right here on the box.

Straight from the founder’s heart.

Something inside me shifted.

In all my hurrying, I’d lost my vision for why I was having a cookie party.

Because I love my family. 

Before long, I saw–really SAW–our son Thomas and his girlfriend Brittany decorating the tree.

Our daughter Katie was frosting cookies.

We missed you, Jamie. :(

I sat beside Rick. “Sorry, I pushed so hard.”

He made his my wife scares me face. Which is part of why I love him. His sense of humor.

Later, alone in the kitchen, I turned out the big tree lights.

And studied our nativity.

Because of God’s great love for us,

We can love one another,

Straight from the heart. 

Do you decorate Christmas cookies?

Have you been hurrying too and missing the good stuff?

(The glutenfree cookies were amazing! I have Celiac.)

“…love one another…” John 13:34

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Bumps and Bruises

I saw one of those sweet Publix Thanksgiving commercials the other day, and the family-shaped place in my heart ached. Watching their warm, endearing expressions toward each other, I wondered if everything was really this perfect in their world.

Or were some family members missing from the table?

Were any estranged from each other?

Had some gone to Heaven?

Did they have any problems?

Or were they a little more like our family?

With a few bumps and scrapes and bruises.

(If you can’t see the video of the commercial below, click here. It’s only a minute long.)

Watching this TV family, I longed for health and healing–in every way–for all of us in my family.

No barriers.

No illnesses.

Peace and joy.

I guess I wanted the impossible.

Heaven on Earth. 

The next morning I sat in my bedroom talking to God about life, and Clyde laid down beside me as always.

I spotted a handmade bookmark on my bedside table from a Daily Guideposts reader. I’d probably skimmed it a dozen times and had never noticed how the words were spaced on separate lines.

This time I read each phrase slowly.

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am.

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be. 

Just be still like Clyde. Still and trusting. At peace.

One day, all the bumps and scrapes and bruises in our families will be healed.

Be.

Be still.

Be still and know.

“Be still and know that He is God,” Psalms 46:10.

I’ll be giving thanks tomorrow and praying for you and yours.

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

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

 

Pret-ty, Pret-ty, Pret-ty–A Love Song From My Father

What happened this weekend must’ve been a preview to Heaven. I visited my dear friend and best-selling author DiAnn Mills in Houston, TX.

Before we worshipped together at her church …

We sat in this cozy corner near her pool and had a porch party.

Everywhere I looked I saw beauty.

Maybe God has a special message somewhere out here for me today.

“Ohhh, look at my coffee cup,” I said, thinking surely this was it.

She smiled. “That’s why we write.”

Nice words, but the quote wasn’t what I needed.

“Your flowers are gorgeous. Are you the gardener?”

“Yes. When I need inspiration, I get on my knees in the dirt. I plot and plant and pray. And pray some more.” A cool breeze blew. “Smell that sweet scent?” she said. “That’s alyssum.” (Her white flowers.)

The aroma was so lovely, for a few moments, we didn’t say anything.

We sat still and quiet, worshipping.

And then we heard the first bird of the morning.

“Did I ever tell you what my daddy said when I was a little girl?” She sipped her coffee.  “We were outside–just the two of us. He whispered, ‘Listen. Do you hear that bird? She’s saying, ‘pret-ty, pret-ty, pret-ty. She’s singing to you, DiAnn.”

I swallowed the knot in my throat.

“I didn’t think I was pretty,” she said. “But my father did.”

What a gift her daddy gave her.

The next thought came before I could stop it.

My father never told me I was pretty.

What a silly thing to remember. I’m a grown woman.

In an instant, a wooden cross caught my attention–at the center of the wind chimes.

Keeping my eyes on the cross, an unexpected healing prayer rose.

Thank You, Lord.

When earthly fathers (and others) fall short, You will … “rejoice over me with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

I’m praying this Scripture for you, my friends.

Love,

Julie

 

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