The Gift of Improv–in Life and Love

Last week, I called our grown daughters. “Guess what? Your dad and I are going out Saturday night with our new friends Debbie and Todd!”

“Umm, that’s not really a big deal, Mom,” they said. “People go out all the time.”

But to me it was HUGE.

We were going to an improv comedy show, something we’d never done, with new friends, at the Aurora Theater in Lawrenceville, GA a place I’d never been.

Sometimes I’m a little slow to make friends. And when a new friendship forms, I let the other person initiate the first invitation. And Debbie had invited us! I was so excited!

I even looked up “improv” to make sure I understood.

Wikipedia:

“Improvisation or improv–a form of theater where most or all of what is performed is created at the moment it is performed.”

The actors can’t practice ahead of time. Holy cow.

Before the show started, the empty stage gave me goosebumps.

Nothing but three boxes and a couple of chairs.

Talk about faith–

To walk out on stage and not know your lines! 

Even getting coffee and M&Ms was exciting–the list of shows, the atmosphere. And $10 for our tickets, $4 for snacks.

After the theater company introduced themselves, they asked the audience to toss out clues.

The cast had to totally wing it.

Zero control.

Free falling. 

They nailed it, too! The show was hilarious, and clean :) .

Laughing with new friends–such fun.

Sorry for the photo quality–improv phone pictures.

Todd and Debbie.

And us.

We talked on the way home.

“I had such a good time tonight,” I said. “I think I’m supposed to live more improv.”

“How so?” Rick said.

“Have more fun. Take more chances. Roll with whatever comes my way, even if I haven’t memorized my lines.”

“Yep.”

“Totally trust God.”

Have you been to an improv show? Live theater?

What about friendships? Do you trust easily?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

Chipped Rooster Dishes and Rules for Fine Dining

We’re rooster people–we have them all over our house. It’s who we are. My husband raises chickens in the backyard. I’ve written about it here. I even have a set of rooster dishes.

But last week before our Small Group meeting, I decided to use my wedding china.

Because some of my rooster dishes are chipped.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using wedding china, but I wanted to impress people.

And chipped rooster dishes aren’t very impressive.

At the grocery store, I thought about buying long-stem pink roses as a centerpiece for my wedding china. This tiny voice inside said,

Be who you are. Use your chipped rooster dishes.

I pictured all the roosters in my house. It’d be hard to hide them. They’re everywhere.

My Small Group would be greeted by one on the front porch–

One on the old church pew–

The wind chimes by the back door–

All over the kitchen–

At the entry from the den to the kitchen–

In the guest bathroom–

Along the floors–

In the upstairs bedroom–

By the front window–

Then I remembered my favorite picture. We’ve had it for years.

It still stirs my heart.

In the painting, the morning sun is streaming through the window. The woman is gathering eggs. Maybe she’s praying about the day ahead.

She looks so content.

I put the long-stem pink roses down.

Decided to use my rooster dishes.

It felt like the right thing to do.

What about a centerpiece?  

What goes with chipped rooster dishes?

Be who you are. 

I remembered a tin rooster cock-a-doodle-dooing on the kitchen counter.

Back at home, I set the table.

Right before everyone arrived, I lit the red candles.

I stood there looking, surprised by joy.

Oh, the contentment of using our chipped dishes–

And letting God use us–

Just as we are. 

Thoughts?

Do you have something imperfect you love dearly?

Are you a rooster person too?

What do you collect?

Love,

Julie

 

 

Suddenly Spring?

“Time changes tomorrow,” my husband said at our porch party Saturday morning. “I need to take down the white Christmas lights.”

Sometimes I resist change.

Hearing his announcement about daylight savings time, I felt a little unsettled. Out of sorts. It seemed I was late for something important and needed to hurry and catch up.

Weird, I know. And irrational.

Maybe it’s because we’re racing toward spring, and I’m not ready to say goodbye to winter.

And the lights were so beautiful.

I remembered how they looked when it snowed a few days earlier.

Almost magical.

I felt caught between winter and spring–like having children at home and then adapting to an empty next. “Why don’t we just leave them up all year?”

“Because time’s changing. More daylight hours. And if we never took them down, pretty soon, we wouldn’t even notice them.”

Later that day, I walked around the porch and spotted signs of spring.

The wreath tied with pink ribbon.

My rain boots.

The dwindling stack of firewood.

The rabbit under my grandmother’s old table.

Something occurred to me–

A few days ago, I’d noticed a thin layer of ice in the bird bath. The same day, daffodils on the side of the road waved.

Ice and daffodils. 

Like a van Gogh painting, the last hint of gray winter softly blended with the pastels of spring.

Maybe this transition helps us surrender the past and anticipate the future. 

And maybe God, in His mercy, often eases us into the next season of life.

Have you ever felt this way about time changing? Life changes? Family changes?

What season are you in right now?

Love,

Julie

 

 

Fudge for Breakfast

Growing up the oldest of four, hard work came before fun. Always. There were little brothers to chase, dishes to do, and I edited my mother’s writing.

Lots of rules to follow. 

Having fun sometimes seemed like a no-no. 

Last week I went to Mother’s house so we could edit each other’s devotionals for Daily Guideposts. She surprised me with homemade fudge. She and my sister Jennifer made The Best Fudge. (Here’s their recipe. It’s GF.)

I put a piece of sweetness in my mouth. Let it melt on my tongue. “Your fudge is…”

“Pretty wonderful, isn’t it?”

Our work forgotten, we just sat and talked.

“I’ve started wearing aprons again,” she said.

“Here’s my kitty-cat one.”

“Jennifer gave me this one.”

I loved what was happening.

We’d never played before work.

It felt amazing!

Like we were actresses on a movie set!

“Women wore this kind in the fifties,” she said.

Who could see this and not laugh?

“Oh, we need to run to the post office,” she said. “And let’s eat lunch out.”

“Now? Before we work?”

“Sure, why not?”

When we got to the post office, she insisted we take a selfie.

Our first mother/daughter selfie. 

“You know, people are staring,” I said.

“Who cares?”

Later, in her office, we laughed while we worked, making our task a joy. 

The next morning, I wanted to keep the memory alive, so I broke the rules (again!) and had fudge for breakfast!

Something I’d never done.

Mother called.

“Yesterday was so much fun,” I said.

“Yeah, sometimes we think fun has to be a trip to Disney World.”

“I know. We even broke the ‘work before play’ rule, didn’t we?”

“We sure did.”

“Mother, what’s your definition of fun?”

“Fun means doing simple things in life with someone you love.”

Ta-da! 

SIMPLE. :)

My word for 2015. 

What simple ways do you have fun? How’re you doing on your word for the year?

Love,

Julie

Real Love and a Nine Dollar Wedding Ring

It probably shouldn’t have been a big deal to me. But it was. After our honeymoon, my husband stopped wearing his wedding ring.

He’s a mechanic and has explained so many times.

“If I held a wrench and touched a battery post, I could lose my finger.”

It wasn’t that I didn’t believe him. It just sorta made me sad. I’d worn my wedding band every day since we married.

A couple of months ago, our daughter told me about a silicone ring for people who work with their hands.

“Think your dad would wear one?”

“They’re only $9. Can’t hurt to try.”

After 36 years of marriage, I ordered my husband a new wedding ring from Saferingz.com.

Was I being silly to care so much? 

Would he wear a black, rubber-looking ring?

A few days later, his ring arrived.

The big moment…

After supper, he sat in his recliner. I hid the ring inside my clammy palm. My heart fluttered like we were teenagers. “I bought you a little surprise.”

Does he love me enough to wear a nine dollar ring? That’s the real question.

I gave it to him.

He put it on his finger.

“Will you wear it?”

“Sure, why not.”

“Really? Wow!”

I could’ve talked all night , but I could tell–he didn’t have anything else to say about it.

This past Sunday at our porch party

“I just love your new ring. How do you feel about it?”

He looked at me like I was speaking Pig Latin.

“How do I feel about it?”

“Yeah, I mean–”

“It’s like brushing my teeth and putting on my underwear. I don’t have feelings about it.”

Well, I do.

We both laughed.

You love me enough to wear a nine dollar ring. Because it matters to me.

That’s the stuff real love is made of.

And it only took me 36 years to figure it out. :)

What have you learned about real love? It’s not exactly what we thought, is it? 

Love,

Julie

 

 

Our Creative Best–What if?

When our son Thomas was fifteen, he stopped showing me things that impressed him. He’s twenty-three now, and a couple of years ago, he said, “Mom, come here. You gotta see this.”

I hightailed it up the steps.

He was in my office watching a video. “This guy’s incredible. Look.”

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

Bending over Thomas’s shoulder, I studied the guitarist. He was young. Amazing. Played from his heart.

I remembered Thomas and his first guitar.

Tiny tears came.

Happy tears.

Around the time we watched the video, Thomas started playing the guitar again.

Wonder why when I see someone doing his or her creative best, it lights a fire in me?

My husband Rick’s passion is cars. The other night, he was watching TV. I was reading.

“Wow,” Rick said. “Look at this.”

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

Watching Chip Foose draw, I spotted the fascinating tools in his office. Markers, brushes, pencils.

Did he draw as a child? 

I thought about my own office, my clothesline full of characters. Sometimes I talk to them.

I ask about their lives. What brings them hope? What inspires them?

And I absolutely love notebooks and colored pens. If I don’t have any paper, a chewing gum wrapper will do.

My attraction to words started when I was young.

I’m eight, reading a Redbook magazine.

I’ve been thinking.

Surely God inspired passion in each of us when we were children.

Maybe it was to knit.

Grow gardens.

Organize stacks of chaos.

Do math problems with ease.

Bake cakes.

Perform science experiments.

Be kind to outsiders.

Sometimes the joys of childhood get buried. We forget what we once loved. 

What if He’s calling us to play from our hearts again?

 “…take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” Galatians 6:5 The MSG

Love,

Julie

A Secret Place in My Heart

One day last week, an editor called. She presented me with a startling writing assignment. A big scary assignment. An idea that could take months. And if there’s one thing that messes with me, it’s fear.

After we hung up, I sat down at my desk. My cold, clammy fingers hovered above my keyboard. I had no idea how to begin.

Why does she think I can do this?  I don’t know how. 

The softest sweetest voice in my heart whispered one word. 

“Pray.”

I knelt beside by my desk.

Lord, fear is trespassing in my heart again. And I don’t have to be afraid.  

If You’re in this, help me. 

Sometimes when I write, I light a candle. I love the bright glow and the warm smell of cinnamon. I lit my favorite candle and watched the flame for a minute or two.

Then I put my fingers on the keys.

But the candle wasn’t enough.

Two unlit candles caught my attention.

What is it, Lord? 

Father.

Son.

Holy Spirit.

The Trinity. Three in one. Light all three candles. Ask Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to help you. 

I’d never considered praying this way before.

Yes! Yes!

I lit the other candles and knelt again.

“Lord, You’re my Father. The Great I Am. My Protector. Alpha and Omega. 

Jesus, You’re My Savior. My Friend.  Emmanuel. Wonderful Counselor. My Redeemer.

Holy Spirit, You’re my Comforter. My Deliverer. My Teacher. Dwell with me today.”

I crawled back into my chair and typed:

“I had no idea there was any other way to live. Fear, perfectionism, and control were like my wicked stepsisters.”

The words came from a secret place in my heart.

I had begun. :)

Here’s a 15-second video of my candles. Just had to show you!

If you can’t see video below, click here

Is there anything in life that keeps you on your knees? 

That’s okay.

It’s a safe place to be.

Love,

Julie

Go Ahead…Do it Afraid

When I’m with my mother, I never know where our conversation will land. Monday we had doctor’s appointments at the same office. We arrived thirty minutes early, so we sat in my car, talking.

“I wish I could’ve overcome my shyness around boys earlier in life,” she said.

“Mother, you’re not shy.”

“I used to be. Around boys.” She pulled the visor down and fluffed her hair. “I’ll always wish I’d slow-danced with Richard.”

“Richard who?” 

And who is this woman sitting in my car?

“A boy in high school. Since my daddy died when I was two, and I was an only child, I didn’t know how to talk to boys. Sort of like they were Martians. Even as an adult, I got nervous talking to men–the mailman, the butcher, the pediatrician.”

“Are you still afraid to talk to men?”

“Heavens, no.”

“How’d you break free?”

“I guess it started when y’all were little. I volunteered at the hospital teaching people to paint. They asked me to work with a man who was paralyzed from the neck down.”

“Were you scared?”

“Terrified. I stood outside his room for a long time, shaking. Finally, I said, ‘Okay, God, you’re on.’ Coy was strapped face-down in a Stryker frame bed about four feet off the ground.”

“What’d you say to him?”

“‘Hi, Coy, would you like to paint today?’ He said, ‘Sure.’ He told me to break the paintbrush in half because it was so long I’d choke him with it. We laughed. I used a cardboard box for a canvas, put the brush in his teeth, and he started painting.”

“What’d he paint?”

“Birds and rabbits and flowers. The woods. He was incredibly talented. The newspaper did a big write-up about him.”

“You found God in Coy’s room, didn’t you?”

“I sure did. His room was full of the sweetness of God’s Holy Spirit.” 

“How’d Coy help you overcome your fear of boys?”

She smiled. Looked down at her lap. 

Even though I’d turned off the engine, the car filled with warmth that cold February morning. 

Whatever she said would be good.

I could tell.

“He was seventeen when I met him. I was twice his age. Our friendship lasted for thirty years.”

She paused and I held my breath.

“Coy taught me there’s not much difference between boys and girls and their emotions. And everybody has needs. Even more than that, he taught me to go beyond myself. To step out in faith and take a chance.”

“Wow. That’s beautiful, Mother. Thank you.”

Are you a little bit shy too?

Have you ever found God in unexpected friendships? In a hospital? 

Have you discovered how much we receive by volunteering? 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

Encouragement from a Squirrel’s Nest

Saturday morning at our porch party, the wind whipped around the house, bending the frail-looking Georgia pines. My husband and I wore heavy coats and were covered in blankets. We sat rocking and drinking coffee together.

Of course I was thinking about lots of things.

Some family issues.

The small group at church we’re going to be leading soon.

Writing ideas.

And I was drawn to the strangest sight–

A clump of leaves way up high in the top of a hardwood.

I’d noticed them several weeks ago.

“Look at those leaves in the middle trees. Why are they there?”

“It’s a squirrels’ nest.”

“Isn’t that weird? It didn’t fall–even with all the wind and rain.”

“Yep.”

“And the poor squirrels had to build it with the only things they had. Leaves and twigs.”

“Um-hmm.”

“I bet they didn’t worry or complain. They probably didn’t say, ‘I wish we had a nice box lined with a soft blanket instead of these dumb old leaves’.”

Rick looked at me like where do you come up with this stuff? 

I didn’t care. I had that sweet, warm feeling God was talking to me. 

Later that day, I did some research on squirrels’ nests.

They build their nests with green leaves in the summer. After packing them in tightly, the leaves die and turn brown, and their nests grow even stronger in the winter–just when they need them the most. (Here’s more info on Wikipedia.)

You wouldn’t think squirrels’ nests could possibly work.

A pile of sticks and some leaves.

But they do.

It’s exactly the way God planned it.

When He calls us to do something seemingly impossible–a job, a dream, or even to love someone–He gives us everything we need at just the right time.

And not a moment sooner. 

Have you ever experienced one-leaf-at-a-time kind of faith? Tell me about it! I’d love to hear.

Love,

Julie

Young Love and a John Deere Tractor

When we moved into our log house in the woods, my husband said he needed a tractor. A John Deere tractor.

“What for?”

“Wait ’til it rains. You’ll see.”

It rained for days that spring. Our long gravel driveway turned into a mud slide. “Uh-oh. What now?”

He grinned, hopped onto his tractor, and drove up and down the driveway. The gravel miraculously surfaced. The path to our house returned.

He was right about the tractor.

That John Deere has been faithful after all our storms. Dependable. Strong. It’s helped him in the garden, moved heavy things, and even made us smile.

My beautiful niece Libby, 10 years ago.

Last week I developed an even stronger love for the tractor. 

We’d had days of rain (again) and my husband hadn’t had a chance to drag the driveway. Driving slowly and carefully over the deep gullies, I made my way toward the street.

When I got back home from the grocery store, this sight caught my breath.

Our son and his fiance dragging the driveway together.

They couldn’t hear me following them.

I crept along, thinking.

Remembering.

Newly married, 36 years ago, we couldn’t possibly imagine the road ahead. The twists and turns. Steep hills and valleys.

Watching Brittany and Thomas, a prayer rose.

Lord,

When it rains, go before them. Smooth out the rough places. Protect them. Keep them close. 

When they reached the house, I jumped out of the car and thought about that old country song by The Judds, “Young Love.”

“Oh, y’all! Stay like this. Side-by-side. No matter what.”

And you’ll do just fine. 

There’s nothing like riding a tractor with someone you love, no matter your age.

If you can’t see the video below, click here. It’s worth watching. I promise.

What matters most in your relationships?

How is love like a John Deere tractor?

What have you learned about love?

Have you ever ridden a tractor (or skied, or run a race, or swam a river) with someone you love? Tell me about it!

Love,

Julie