A Thanksgiving Miracle–Inside My Heart and Fridge!

Even though I’m a recovering perfectionist, this past Sunday, everything had to go according to schedule. I’m talking, split-second timing.

Our daughter Katie invited us for Thanksgiving. She married in February. Sunday would be a time of celebration! New marriage. New house. New family.

Early in the week, I posted my list on the fridge.

I even bought a thermal container for my strawberry Jell-o salad–

The yummy kind with a crust made of pretzels.

Sunday Morning Agenda:

1. Go to early church.

2. Son Thomas (24) puts dressing in oven while we’re gone.

3. Hurry home.

4. Pack food.

5. Leave!

Before heading to church, I took the dressing out of the fridge and stuck a note on it for Thomas.

350 x 30 minutes!

When we got home at 11:15, I didn’t smell that wonderful scent of dressing baking in the oven.

A bit of the Old Panic Button Julie rose up.

That terrible uh-oh feeling. 

Wool scarf-tightness around my throat. 

But Thomas’s standing in the kitchen. The oven’s set for 350.

“You put the dressing in at 10:30, right?”

He nodded.

I pulled this out of the oven.

“Thomas, what is it…lasagna? No! It’s the Jell-o salad!”

“It was sitting on the counter with a note on it.”

“You’re right! My fault. Ahhhhh!”

I crammed the Jell-o mess back in the fridge. Kicked the oven up to 400. Threw in the dressing. Made a spinach salad.

“Quick! Pack the cooler!”

The dressing didn’t have time to finish cooking. Mush-mush on one side.

“Hurry! We gotta go!”  

We arrived 25 minutes late. Green bean juice had sloshed all over my new carrier. I opened the cooler.

“Where’s the ice?”

“Ice?” my husband said. “I thought you needed the cooler for storage.” 

“Who takes a cooler for storage?”

Right then, something wild and free broke loose inside of me and I started laughing.

About everything. 

Hysterical laughter! :)

Turns out, the pumpkin pie and spinach salad didn’t need ice. We ate around the gooey parts in the dressing.

Back at home that night, I peeked at the Jell-o salad.

Something miraculous happened while we were gone. You’ll never believe it! 

The Jell-o did its thing again. The pretzels bloomed into delicious salty-tasting gummy worms. :)  

Life becomes a celebration when you learn to laugh at yourself.  Click to tweet

God helps us fix our mess-ups. Click to tweet. 

Sunday reminded me of Surrender, Simple, and Enough.

What are your Thanksgiving plans?

Have you ever tried to make a day go according to schedule and everything fell apart? Did you learn anything? :)

P.S. I’ll be glad to share my baked Jell-o dessert recipe. :)



Death was Arrested–So was My Doubt

This past Friday night our church had a Night of Worship. Part of me didn’t feel like worshiping. I had a lot on my mind. I decided to just stay home.

I’d taken Mother to the rheumatologist on Monday. Something was desperately wrong–a physical, emotional, and spiritual weakness. It had been coming on for weeks.

She has three autoimmune illnesses. She couldn’t eat. Didn’t care to talk.

Our family had been praying.

The doctor mentioned clinical depression. I’ve been there. Twice. I knew the symptoms and the dangers. 

He ordered blood work and discussed a medication change. As I drove her home, gloom and doom filled the car. By Thursday, she was worse. She said if she didn’t get better, she was ready for a nursing home.

Friday afternoon I called my husband. “Let’s skip worship tonight. Traffic will be terrible, and you’ll have to leave straight from work and meet me there.”

But he wanted to go. 

Inside the sanctuary, rustic decorations and small white candles covered the communion tables. I sank into my seat and breathed.

Just breathed. 

Kneeling mats were everywhere–simple brown pieces of cardboard.

Oh, y’all–

That’s when the change began.

When I knelt.

I opened my fingers. Turned my palms upward. 

I love You. I need You. I’m sorry. I trust You. Whatever happens. 

The worship team sang a new song called ”Death was Arrested.”

Oh, this song! This song!

It arrested my doubt. My concerns. I didn’t hold back. I couldn’t hold back!

I worshiped wide-open–with my whole my heart. 

Something supernatural happens when we praise God. Click to tweet. 

Worship welcomes us into His Presence. Click to tweet

I thought I might float out of the building–all the way to heaven.

Mother called the next morning.


“Julie, you won’t believe it, but last night the depression lifted. I can’t explain it, but it’s gone! I’m myself again.”

Lord, I don’t understand how or why, but thank You. 

Sunday morning, the praise team sang my song at our church campus.

I took a 50-second video of the end of the song. If you can’t see it, click here.

Northpoint Church Worship Team wrote “Death was Arrested.” They sing the entire song below. The video quality is much better than mine. :)

If you can’t see it, click here. 

Worship Him–even when you don’t feel like it. Beautiful things happen. Click to tweet. 

Have you ever praised God when you didn’t feel like? Awesome, isn’t it.  



( First 4 pictures from 12Stone Church Facebook.)

The Secret Ingredient to Thanksgiving Hospitality

Yesterday something sweet and tender happened. My daughter Katie texted me a picture of her four-year-old stepdaughter Rilynn. When I saw the picture, I finally figured out the secret ingredient to Thanksgiving hospitality.

It’s so simple. For years, I’d made it complicated. 

Rilynn’s holding a tea party for her dolls on the bathroom floor.

“Oh, Katie–this picture…”

“I know. Don’t you love it?”

I enlarged the photo.

“I bet she’s talking to each one of her little friends,” I said.

“She is.”

“And serving something yummy like apple pie.”

Katie laughed. “Actually, they’re having Cap’n Crunch with Crunch Berries. She put a Crunch Berry in everybody’s dish. And added water.”

We hung up, but I couldn’t forget the picture.

For years, I thought having people over for Thanksgiving meant you had to create a perfect meal and a perfect centerpiece. 

One year, I went nuts over a wrinkled tablecloth! Can you imagine? Never mind the people sitting around my table. So silly! I blogged about it here.

The secret ingredient to Thanksgiving hospitality has nothing to do with being perfect. Just the opposite. Click to tweet.

And Rilynn’s already figured it out.

The secret to Thanksgiving hospitality is this–

Forget about yourself, serve others, and care more about people than place mats. Click to tweet

There. That’s it. It’s that simple.

And something else–

Last night, I thanked God for you. For your comments. Your prayers. You’ve welcomed me into your home and your hearts. In my imagination, you came to my house–each one of you, and I made my favorite dessert from childhood.

A cherry cheesecake pie.

(Here’s the recipe from Eaglebrand.com. I used a gluten-free crust so it’s GF.)

Oh, how I wish we could share a Thanksgiving meal together!

“…Serve one another humbly with love.” Galatians 5:13 NIV Click to tweet. 

Have you ever been welcomed into someone’s home the way Rilynn served her friends? What was it like?

Have you ever struggled with trying to be perfect? Now we know better!





Panic City–How Do You Rescue a Trapped Bluebird?

When this happened last fall, I thought it was weird. When it happened again last week, I wondered if there was a message in it for me. Maybe for all of us.

We live in a log cabin and have a wood burning stove.

This pipe runs from the stove to the ceiling. It’s twenty-three feet tall.

The other day, I heard a banging noise inside the pipe.

Seconds later, a beautiful bluebird sat in a pile of ashes blinking at me.

Won’t you please help me? I’ve gotten myself into a terrible mess! Click to tweet. 

I opened the glass door, but couldn’t catch her. She was covered in ashes.

I know, sweet girl. I know how you feel. I’ve been trapped before–in fear, worry, control, perfectionism. Click to tweet. 

I called my husband. “Help! There’s another bluebird stuck in the wood burning stove. I can’t get her!”

“Sit tight. She’ll be okay ’til I get home.”

My husband Rick’s a bird-man. He raises chickens in our backyard.

Once, he rescued a hummingbird. He gave the miniature bird sugar-water and set it free.

Rick has an outdoor atrium full of parakeets.

In the winter, he covers their home in plastic and turns on a heat lamp.

He loves birds.

He understands them.

He’s not afraid to hold them when they’re sick.

A couple of hours later, he came home and knelt by the stove. The bluebird looked up at him.

Thank you! You came! I’m still alive! You didn’t forget about me!

“It’s okay, girl.” With confidence and compassion, Rick reached inside her dusty prison. “I’ve got you now.”

Gently, he rinsed her off in the sink, patted her dry, and set her free.

Whatever you’re struggling with today remember, “He holds you in the palm of His hand.” Isaiah 41:13. Click to tweet. 

And something else–

“He will give you beauty for ashes.” Isaiah 61:3.  Click to tweet. 

Have you ever felt like a trapped bird with no way out? What held you captive?















Shy Girl Makes Friends and Learns Five Lessons

I’m an introvert who can fake being an extrovert. When I make a new friend and we click, I always learn something–you know the kind of friendship I’m talking about–

You both love coffee. You laugh at the same bizarre things. You can be together and not talk and it’s perfectly fine. 

Before the Ridgecrest Novelists Retreat last week, I wondered if the magic would happen.

Would I make new friends and reconnect with old ones? Would one of them teach me a life lesson? 

As soon as I arrived, I spotted my friend Vonda SkeltonShe’s an amazing writer, speaker, and teacher. It’s impossible to be with her and not laugh because Vonda laughs at herself. :)

Lesson Number 1 came quickly from Vonda:

1. Life’s more fun when you can finally learn to laugh at yourself. Click to Tweet

Later that day, I sat down in a class about social media and novel-writing.

Can I do this? Can I actually learn to speak new languages in social media?

Edie Melson and DiAnn Mills co-taught the class, The Author RoadmapEdie covered the social media aspect and DiAnn covered novel-writing.

Right away Edie smiled. :) I smiled back.

And relaxed.

Maybe I can do this. Edie smiled at me. She thinks I can. 

Lesson number 2 from Edie:

2. For me, smiling and having a positive attitude became the first step to learning. Click to Tweet. 

Next I met Torry Martin.

Oh. Wow. Torry’s a speaker, writer, comedian, and actor. He’s also free-spirited and hilarious. Give the man a sentence and he can write an entire screenplay–in just a few hours!

Lesson number 3 from Torry.

3. Don’t doubt yourself. Be fearlessly creative. Click to Tweet. 

I met Bea Fishback, another writer, speaker, teacher. We introduced ourselves and discovered we both love coffee. :) On the way to Starbucks, we laughed because we couldn’t find my car in the parking lot.

Kindred spirits.

I told her how much I loved her scarf. A few minutes later, in the conference room, she handed me a neatly folded, bright orange square.

Her scarf.

Spontaneous giving always undoes me. It’s how Jesus gives.

Lesson number 4 from Bea:

4. Give joyfully and unexpectedly. Click to Tweet. 

And DiAnn.

DiAnn and I’ve been friends since the day she approached me at a writers’ conference in 2006 and said, “You look shy. Do you need a friend?”

Lesson number 5 from DiAnn.

5. Keep an open heart for new friends. They’re everywhere! Click to Tweet. 

Driving home, surrounded by the changing leaves, the scarf around my neck felt almost like an encouraging hand on my shoulder.

Thank You, Lord. The magic happened all over again. A shy girl made friends.

Does this stir your thoughts? Have you made a new friend lately? What about when Bea gave me her scarf? Whew…

Has God ever surprised you with an unexpected friend?



When You Have a Dream and You’re Afraid You’ll Fail

When you have a dream, all sorts of doubts, fears, and negative thoughts hound you.

You can’t do this.

You’re wasting your time. 

Stick with something you know.

When you fail, you’re going to look like a fool.

Forget this silly idea and get on with your life.

A few years ago, I had a dream.

I wanted to become a novelist–which is peculiar because as a child, I never planned to write. My mother was a writer. When I was ten, she made me her Junior Editor–a job I didn’t want.  (Marion Bond West, my mom, is below.)

Writers–people like my mother–were strange.

By the time I reached 40, life had blindsided me.

I’d survived clinical depression, lost a full-term baby boy, and attended Al-Anon. Writing helped me focus and listen to God’s healing voice.

In 2004, I entered the Guideposts writers contest and won!

I became what I never planned to be.

One of those weird writers.

For instance–

A writer can be talking to you and suddenly float away to another world. We don’t mean to be rude–it’s just that our minds get crowded. Right now, my brain looks something like this.

This is where I interview my characters. My people. They’re so real to me that I catch myself asking them what’s for supper. :)

Another bizarre thing about writers–

At night we dream answers to our plotting problems and hop out of bed to jot them down. We’ll even do this for a good sentence or just the right word.

I’m still working toward my dream.

As I’m writing this post, I’m packing for a novelists retreat in Ridgecrest, North Carolina. I can’t wait! Next week, I’ll learn new things and have fun, but the best part is–

I’ll get to hang out with people who don’t think my dream is strange. 

When you have a dream, surround yourself with friends who believe in you. Sometimes it only takes one! Click to Tweet. 

 “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Thank you. 

You encourage me every week.

I’m so very, very grateful. 

Do you have a dream? Has someone encouraged you along the way?

P.S. I’m taking Lolly my laptop and will be checking comments. :) I haven’t even left home and I already miss you!




A Message from Callie the Caladium

Sometimes I’m drawn to the most insignificant things. I’ll see something and feel a quickening in my spirit. It happened a few weeks ago–all because of a Caladium–a pink and green plant I bought this spring.

First time I’d ever had a Caladium. I named her Callie.

In August, Callie’s leaves started drooping.

That’s when the PAY ATTENTION feeling came. 

Maybe  because Callie reminded me of things I’d been praying about for a long time and nothing had changed.

A situation with one of my children.

Something about writing.

A few family members. 

Based on how long I’ve been praying, I should probably give up.

But I didn’t want to give up on Callie. 

I googled how to grow Caladiums. I watered and fertilized her. Brought her inside during the heat of the day.

Nothing helped. 

In September, I noticed a gorgeous Caladium outside a store in a giant clay pot so I gave Callie a bigger home.

Which didn’t help.

I called my brother Jeremy, who knows about plants.

“Caladiums are like Elephant ears,” he said.

I walked out to the porch. “Our Elephant Ears are doing fine.”

“They’re hardier than Caladiums.”

“What if I plant it?”

“It’s too late. You should’ve done it earlier in the season.”

“Is it hopeless?”

“You can try cutting off the dead leaves. Probably won’t help.”

Performing surgery on Callie, I spotted one tender sprout near the black soil.

Only one.

She was small, but she was alive and well. 

I did what Jeremy said–I cut off everything that was dead.

And focused on all that was living. 

Guess what?

Yesterday, after a heavy rain, Callie stood a little taller and raised her face toward the sun.

That’s when the message came.

 ”… if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]. Phil 4:8 AMP 

If you’ve been praying about something for a long, long time, I understand. And I care. Don’t give up. Click to Tweet. 





Love Lessons from an Artist–Part Three

I hoped my friend Yvette might teach me a little something about art. I never expected her to teach me how to love people. Or anything about marriage. I’ve been married almost 37 years. I thought I had it all figured out. 

(Parts one and two are here and here.)

This sentence over Yvette’s bedroom door stumped me.

How can my ordinary life become a fairytale? 

Parts of it are messy and broken.  

Yvette showed me the rest of her bedroom, but I kept thinking about the fairytale sentence.

“On my wedding day, my sister’s mother-in-love gave me a hankie.” 

“She’d embroidered our names and the date on it. My mother started doing the same thing for brides. She made one for my daughter and my daughter-in-love. She even made one for me on their wedding days.”

“Gifts from the heart.”

Yvette’s wedding dress is on display right beside her bed.

“What a wonderful idea!” 

Especially since I threw mine away a few years after we married. :(

There was an old Bingo card lying on a chipped Formica table.

“This is one of my favorite things. I found pictures of us when we were five and pieced them together.”

“It’s precious. Have y’all been together since kindergarten?”

She smiled.

“No, but we’ve loved each other for a long, long time.”

In their bathroom, a small shelf held a cross, a white card, and some Scrabble letters.

“We leave love notes for each other here. I used Scrabble letters. He wrote, ‘I love you’ on the card.” 

Something stirred in my heart.

Once again, I couldn’t talk.

Before we left the bathroom, I noticed pictures near the mirrors.

Below them, I spotted a small sign.

Tiny letters.

This is how Yvette loves others–especially her husband.

Maybe it’s how–

 ”Love gives us a fairytale right in the middle of our ordinary lives.” Click to tweet. 

What do you think? Is it possible to experience a fairytale even though our lives are ordinary and messy and broken?

You can find Yvette here:

The Charm House  on Facebook.

The Charm House on Pinterest.

The Charm House in Instagram.

The Charm House website.

The Charm House on Twitter.








Love Lessons from an Artist–Part Two

“Real creativity means listening to your heart,” my friend Yvette said. (I began sharing her story last week here.)

“Tell me more.” We entered her kitchen.

“This rug, for instance. I found it at a flea market. It was six dollars.”

“Did you know for sure it would match?”

“I didn’t care if it matched. I loved it.”


“Creativity isn’t about matching or being perfect.”

Incredible! Yvette’s teaching me the same things God’s been showing me. 

“This was my grandfather’s pipe. And my grandmother’s snuff.” :)

We laughed.

“I love it! You keep your grandmother’s snuff on the kitchen counter. You’re breaking so many rules.”

“That’s what art’s all about. Being free. Being yourself.”

Maybe that’s what good writing’s about, too.

“How long have you known this secret?”

“It started when I was a little girl. I discovered treasures under my grandmother’s house–all sorts of bottles and tiny trinkets. I decorate with them because I loved my grandmother.” 

Wow! Sounds so SIMPLE–my word for the year. 

“Oh, look. Christmas candles and it’s not even December!”

Which takes a lot courage. To be different. Christmas candles in September.

We walked into her den.

“When I was nine,” she said, “I found my uncle’s miniature bronze horse–small enough to fit inside my palm. Love at first sight. I took it home with me.  A few years ago, I felt a nudge to give the horse to my cousin. It should’ve been hers all along. I didn’t want to, but I knew I was supposed to. Does that make sense?”

I nodded.

“A few days after I gave it to her, I found this horse at a flea market. Can you believe it?”

“Julie, it’s an exact replica of the horse I gave away. Only a lot bigger.”

“It’s a miracle.”

“I know. In all my  years of flea-marketing, I’ve never seen another horse like the one I gave away. Except for this one.”

Yvette had just given me another love lesson:

If God asks you to give something away, obey Him. Quickly. Blessings follow obedience. 

Has God ever asked you to give away something you dearly loved? Click to Tweet. 

Have you discovered art and decorating have nothing to do with being perfect? Click to Tweet. 

You can find Yvette here:

The Charm House  on Facebook.

The Charm House on Pinterest.

The Charm House in Instagram.

The Charm House website.

The Charm House on Twitter.



Love Lessons from an Artist–Part One

My friend Yvette opened the front door of her home. For a moment, I was so moved by God’s Presence and the open Bible, I couldn’t speak. I did the only thing I could. I took off my shoes.

“Yvette…I’m standing on Holy Ground.”

She just smiled.

Backstory: A few weeks ago, I had lunch with a group of high school friends I hadn’t seen in 40 years. As everyone chatted, I mentioned that I’m writing a novel with a character who’s an artist. I told them I didn’t know much about art. Yvette invited me to see her studio. 

Barefoot in her entryway, I started taking pictures. 

“Meet Vivian. My husband and I found her at a flea market. We couldn’t leave her behind.”

“Well, of course not.”

“Some days, Vivian keeps me company.”

Little more backstory:

You’d never know it by Yvette’s countenance, but she has arthritis and Sjogren’s (the same autoimmune issue as me). Sometimes she slows down, stays home, and takes care of herself. Despite painful joints, Yvette never stops creating beauty.

“I believe we should surround ourselves with things that remind us of good experiences. My bike reminds me of good days I spent at St. George Island.”

Who is free enough to put a bicycle in her den? 

I want to be an artist! 

“This is a shoe nobody wanted. Plain.  All black. Overlooked.”

“You brought her home and loved on her,” I said.

“Um-hmm. She’s my Sunday-Go-To-Meeting Shoe. And these vases are for a sweet couple’s wedding. I already had a few vases, so I went to The Fish (a local Christian thrift store) and found some more and decorated them. Julie, I spent a total of four dollars.”

“So, art isn’t about how much money you spend?”

“It has nothing to do with money. Art begins when you open up your heart and discover the secret. Absolutely nothing and no one is trash. Everything and every person can be restored.“ 

The love lessons Yvette gave me are worth more than diamonds and pearls. I found out there’s an artist buried inside of me. :)  

Stay tuned. I’ll be sharing more from Yvette’s creativity and wisdom with you. 

Check out her art and heart here:

The Charm House  on Facebook.

The Charm House on Pinterest.

The Charm House in Instagram.

The Charm House website.

How does your creativity show? How do you love on people? Do you see trash in treasures too?