Death of a Vision–Birth of a New One

This past Monday, I shared my secret with a close friend. 

Ten years ago, I had a vision to become a novelist. My motives were pure. I wanted to write stories that were beautiful and real and full of hope. But something happened along the way. My motives got all tangled up.

What started out good became an idol.

I wanted to impress people. Write a bestseller. Be Somebody.

And I believed a lie. I thought I had to earn God’s love. 

After writing four and a half novels (with multiple rewrites–probably a million words), I’d lost my joy. I dreaded climbing the 13 steps to my office.

“It feels like I’m climbing an endless ladder to Nowhere,” I told my friend. “But there’s no way out. I have to make this work.”

She gave me a verse of Scripture I’d memorized as a child but never understood.

Take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29. 

Rest? I had work to do.

“Julie, what if you wait on God and see where He leads?”

Wait? I had to hurry up and finish. I couldn’t risk being a failure. 

The next morning, I wrote pages and pages in my prayer journal. Gut-level honest prayers. Another Scripture found me.

“Do you wish great things for yourself? Do not seek them…” Jeremiah 45:5

“Yes, Lord, Yes, yes. Please forgive me. I’ve wished great things for myself.”

Defeated, I climbed the mile-high stairs one more time. 

I didn’t want to touch my desk or my chair, so I knelt in the floor of my office and turned on some praise music. For a long time, I just breathed.

If His love was based on my performance, I’d blown it.

Then the most amazing thing happened. 

While I was kneeling, God showed up. 

He didn’t turn away in disgust. He performed heart surgery and cleaned out all the darkness and lies. When He finished, it seemed He suggested the unthinkable.

Are you willing to let go of your novel? 

I hesitated. One…two…three…four…five long seconds. 

Do you trust me? 

Yes, but how could You ask me to do this? 

There was a long silence.

How could I tell Him no? He’d forgiven me of so much. 

With trembling fingers, I removed all my notes and pictures from my whiteboard–everything I’d thought would make me Somebody.

I put them at the foot of the cross–the one my husband made 40 years ago.

Lord, it’s yours. I’m yours. If You want to resurrect my dream, You can. If not, I trust You. 

I stared at my spotless whiteboard.

A new vision rose up.

My heart felt full and still. Peaceful.

What if I start small? If You’ll show me one person each day to encourage, I’ll do it. 

I didn’t have to wait long. The first encounter happened the next day–the lady behind the deli counter.

I thought my word for 2016–DANCE – meant I’d finally be Somebody. But dancing means living in rhythm with Jesus. 

I don’t know where God’s leading, but wherever it is, I’m following. Click to tweet

Are you experiencing the death of dream? There’s Life on the other side. Click to tweet. 

P.S.  Lauren Daigle helped me let go. If you can’t see the video below, click here

More from Lauren. If you can’t see the video, click here

If you need a little more Grace, there’s plenty to go around. Here’s one from Unspoken. If you can’t see below, click here.

If you have a prayer request, feel free to share it in the comments. My blog-friends pray for each other.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary

A couple of weeks ago on the way home from the YMCA, I had a strange thought.

Stop by Starbucks. Get a gift card for a friend. Buy a cup of coffee.

Coffee? It’s 95 degrees. So hot outside I can’t breathe.

But my car turned into Starbucks.

Standing in line, I spotted two friends from my women’s small group. There was another lady with them. Someone I’d never met. She wore jeans. A cute sage-green top. Her hair was in a ponytail. They looked deep in conversation, so I smiled and waved. Didn’t plan to interrupt them.

I was in a hurry. Wearing  ugly workout clothes. No makeup. And they were busy.

But the soft Voice inside seemed to whisper, Go over and talk to them. 

I don’t want to.

Go say hello.

When I did, they invited me to join them. Colorful craft supplies lay on the table.

Uh-oh. 

I sat down on the edge of the chair. “Y’all know, I’m not craftsy.

My friends smiled. “We know. This is the lady we’ve been praying for in small group.”

I looked at her–with the eyes of my heart this time–and I knew who she was. 

Her child had been caught in sex trafficking. Operation Liberate is helping. It’s a Christian 501-3(c) non-profit organization.

At that moment, sex trafficking became real to me.

It’s happening right here.

Not in a third world country somewhere faraway. 

“I have an idea,” she said. “I want to make a lot bracelets to help get the word out.”

Get the word out.

Holy goose bumps traveled up my spine.

“You’ll never believe it,” I said. “Next week I’m going to the Christian Communicators Conference. I just found out I was randomly selected to give a five-minute devotional. I’d like to tell our group about your bracelets.”

“Really?” Her eyes filled to the brim. “Do you…do you think they’ll care?”

I couldn’t imagine her pain. “Of course. We all care when someone’s hurting.”

She spent the next four days making 40 bracelets.

I shared them with 36 ladies from all over the country. And they cared. Oh, how they cared. 

God’s gentle nudges are uniquely designed for each one of us. Click to tweet. 

Last night, a few of us from our small group made more bracelets. Some did the fancy, detailed work.

I used the paper-cutter. :)

So many times, when God’s Spirit prompts me to do something, I argue with Him. Or pretend I didn’t hear Him.

~~Buying a cup of coffee in the heat of the day seemed silly. 

~~I was wearing mismatched clothes and no makeup. I didn’t want to “interrupt” my friends. Pride got in the way. 

~~I didn’t want to do arts and crafts. Fear. 

Sometimes, interruptions are Holy Moments designed by God to turn ordinary into extraordinary. Click to tweet

Can you relate?

His Voice is so… very…soft.

Love,

Julie

Acquiring the Art of Anticipation

Dread has always come more easily for me than anticipation. But I’m discovering there’s a better way to live.

This afternoon, I noticed a change in our black-eyed Susans. Yesterday their pedals were perky and sunshine-yellow, but today they look tired and droopy.

My very first thought–

Uh-oh. Fall’s just around the corner, and I haven’t accomplished everything on my summer to-do list. 

I’ve lived most of my life this way. 

When signs of the new seasons charged toward me–Christmas lights, Easter baskets, or fall leaves–my heart lurched. I went into panic mode.

It was a nagging feeling of–

You should be working. You have a job to do. Get busy, you slacker.

My list became more important than the people in my life. 

Sometimes, accomplishing my goals–which were good, noble things–became more important to me than God. 

Sad, isn’t it?

Being so busy with my TTD list, I let moments pass by without praising My Father. Sometimes, I’d just go through the motions of our porch parties–there in body, but not in spirit.

I thought if I hadn’t accomplished everything on my list, I couldn’t relax and enjoy the moment because God wouldn’t be pleased with me.

So yesterday, after noticing the black-eyed Susans the New Julie took over.

I kicked the A/C down, turned on some music, and tried a new fall recipe–Roasted Cauliflower Soup from Paleo Leap. I danced while I cut up my cauliflower.

Y’all, I had fun–even though every item on my list hadn’t been checked off. And even though I haven’t solved every problem in my life. 

I mixed the cauliflower with olive oil and spices–rich scents of home and contentment filling the air.

Then I roasted the cauliflower until it was slightly crispy.

I added coconut milk and ta-day–it became soup. Before making this recipe, I’d never heard of coconut milk!

On a whim, I put crumbled  bacon and cheese on top and made cinnamon applies. :) How’s this for anticipating fall and celebrating the moment?

My new recipe for life is even more delicious than my cauliflower soup. Click to tweet. 

In acquiring the art anticipation, let go of all regrets and find something–anything–to celebrate. Click to tweet.

Life is full of surprises when you stop trying to control it and live in the moment! Click to tweet. 

What are you celebrating today?

Are you like me? Have you ever struggled with living in the moment?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

A Rose Isn’t Always A Rose–Sometimes it’s a Promise

Our daughter Katie’s dealing with infertility. Some days, faith comes easier for her. Some days, she struggles.

April was a hard month–hormones, injections, ultrasounds, and no pregnancy.

One afternoon on my way to cheer her up, I glanced at my rose bushes beside the garage.

They’ve been a big, fat disappointment. Their leaves are dry and crispy. Their spindly limbs look like skinny arms covered in thorns. And there are only two blooms.

I was ready to give up on our roses. Year after year, I’ve watered them, trimmed them, babied them, and fed them Miracle Grow.

Here they are at the end of July.

This is as good as they get–more blooms than they had in April, but still, look at them.

Friends offered advice:

They’re diseased. Get rid of them.

You shouldn’t have planted them so close to the house.

Plant banana peels round them.

They’re climbers. They need a fence.

I was tired of fooling with them. I’d done all I could do. Still no miracle. 

A gentle thought came.

Take Katie the roses. 

Two roses from my ugly bushes? That’s not even a real gift. If I had a dozen, maybe.

I inspected the two blooms. One had opened, but the other was closed like a tight, angry fist. Sort of how I felt.

Why, God? A baby. She just wants a baby. 

Bring her the roses. 

But look at my bushes. 

They’re growing so tall, they’re going to clog the gutters. 

I got into my car saying NO. Absolutely not.

I was NOT taking her two buds because I didn’t have a promise to go with them.

I couldn’t promise she’d have a baby. 

But the Still Small Voice inside wouldn’t give up.

I got out of the car.

Sighed.

Cut the only two blooms I had from my wild, stubborn rose bushes.

Rummaged through the pantry for a vase.

But something happened on the way to Katie’s house. I saw their beauty, their soft petals unfurling in the sun.

Finally, I got honest with God.

Lord, will You take this piece of my broken heart and bless it? It’s all I have to give her. 

Katie opened the door and I stumbled through my explanation. “I brought you two roses from our yard.”

I wanted to say, “One’s for a mama and one’s for a baby.”

But I couldn’t promise that.

She took the vase from my hands, and I said the one thing I knew for sure–the only promise I could make.

“I don’t understand, but I know God loves you. He hasn’t forgotten you.” Click to tweet. 

Her eyes filled with tears.

She nodded and hugged me for a long time, His Grace filling all the empty space between us.

Sometimes the prettiest blooms come from the straggly limbs–from broken places when all you have to offer is His love.

Have you ever brought the gift of God’s love to someone? It’s powerful, isn’t it?

Are you in a season of disappointment? God loves you. He hasn’t forgotten you.

Love,

Julie

Mean Girl Memory

I was ten years old the day I acted like a Mean Girl. I’m ashamed to tell you what I did.

A group of us girls stood in our driveway laughing and talking. We were going to the movies. At the last minute, one more little girl showed up.

I didn’t know she’d been invited.

I wanted it to be just US older, mature girls, and she was only seven or eight. I still cringe at what I said.

We were all wearing shorts and T-shirts except for her. She wore a dress and Sunday shoes.

“Why are you so dressed up? We aren’t going to church. We’re just going to the movies.”

She ran home crying. We stopped by her house to pick her up, but she wouldn’t come to the door.

It felt so dark inside my heart.

I’d excluded her from the group.

Something happened last week and I remembered being a Mean Girl, and the shame in her eyes. While my husband was feeding his parakeets, one flew away. A white female.

For days she darted near the atrium where she used to live, but we couldn’t catch her. 

Sometimes, I’d see her in the treetops all by herself. An outsider looking in.

Nearly broke my heart…

Rick hung a bird-cage on the atrium, and fixed the tiny door so if she flew in, it would close. She never did.

And the worst part–at night, she clung on the screen of her old house calling out to her friends. Of course, they couldn’t help her. 

Hungry, thirsty, and lonely, if she survived the summer, she’d never make it through the winter outside the heated atrium.

One morning, Rick sprinkled bird seeds on the walkway near the atrium. She was no where in sight, but just in case…

A few minutes later, our cat Thelma crouched in an attack position, focused on the white parakeet who’d landed to eat.

Please, Lord, don’t let the bird die on the outside looking in. Don’t let Thelma…

Quickly and quietly, Rick shooed Thelma away. 

The parakeet stood still. 

He scooped her up, opened the door, and put her inside. Her friends welcomed her home and threw a grand celebration!

But the best part…

A week later, our long-lost white parakeet laid three white eggs.

Oh, the sweetness of belonging–of hearing, “Welcome. We’re so glad you’re here.” Click to tweet

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:7 (ESV) Click to tweet 

Have you ever been on the outside looking in?  

Have you ever been a Mean Girl? Or am I the only one?

Love,

Julie

 

When God Gives You a Dream…


Sometimes, when I don’t understand someone’s behavior, there’s a message in it for me. Click to tweet

My husband Rick had a vision. A goal. This past weekend, when his dream finally came true, I had an “aha” moment.

Because I have a vision too.

I want to become a novelist. I’ve had the dream for years.

Right now, I’m working on my fifth novel. Writing the first three taught me little bit about the craft, but my stories weren’t ready for publication. My agent is shopping my fourth one. At times–especially when I’m tired–I wonder if my dream will ever become a reality.

Two months ago during our porch party, Rick told me about his vision.

“I’ve ordered 40 baby chicks,” he said. “They’re coming next week.”

We already have 15 chickens in our backyard.

I stopped rocking and looked at him.”Why? We don’t have room for 40 more chickens.”

“Half of them are for a friend. And I’m expanding my chicken house.”

Although his dream didn’t make sense to me, I knew he’d work hard to make it happen. I could see it in his eyes.

He didn’t care how foolish he looked.

He didn’t care that most of our friends don’t raise chickens. He didn’t do it to please people. 

The passion came from his heart.

But why?

His pen before the renovation–

First, he had a buddy of his cut down a dozen trees.

The trees became mulch to cover the ground near the pen.

Now he had room to work.

When his baby chicks arrived, some lived lived in a cage outdoors. Some lived in an aquarium in our basement.

If you’re thinking our home took on a new aroma, you’re exactly right. :)

The construction took several weeks.

I brought him bottles of Gatorade.

What motivates him to work this hard in the hundred degree weather?

To have his fingers torn up by chicken wire?

Did he ever feel like giving up–like I sometimes did?

Saturday afternoon, he came inside the house and opened the kitchen pantry. “I dug up a yellow jacket’s nest and got popped. Where’s the Benadryl?”

I looked into his dark brown eyes. “Why are you doing this?”

He led me to his work-in-progress. “This is my Rhode Island Red.


“He’s the granddaddy of a lot of my chickens. He’s a fine bird. He needs more room.”

“This is a Silver Leghorn. He didn’t have any hens.”

When I watched him feed his chickens, the answer settled in my heart.

“You’re doing this because you love them, and you want to make their lives better, right?”

He closed the gate to the new pen. ”Yeah, something like that.” 

My husband’s love for chickens–and my love for you, dear reader–

Keep our dreams alive. 

When God gives you a dream, let love be your motivation. Click to tweet

Do you have a vision? A goal? Does this post help you in any way? I hope so.

For more blogs about our chickens, click here and here. If you’d like to read another one on dreams, click here.

Love,

Julie (and Rick and our chickens too) :)

 

 

 

 

And Then Grace Walked In

I’m pretty sure I broke my toe last Sunday afternoon. I didn’t go to the ER, but it swelled, turned blue, and hurt so much, I thought I might pass out.

You’ll never believe how I did it.  

I was hurrying across the kitchen to chop vegetables for supper, my mind a million miles away. My little toe got hung in the metal dog food holder.

I landed against the kitchen counter, and sent the cutting board sailing into the OPEN container of giant-sized Prego.

My veggies went flying.

The impact of my fall broke the plug-in switch behind the Prego–

 Sent red sauce up the center beam–

Over the counter,

And onto the back of the sofa.

I sat in the middle of the floor holding my foot, stunned, not sure how it happened or what to do next.

Maybe you can identify–you make one dumb mistake and your whole world gets turned upside down.

You feel like a fool.

You want a do-over.

There’s a great big mess all around you, and you just want to go back to the way things were, but you can’t.

I’ll never forget what happened next.

My husband came inside and found me in the floor. I was working hard to hold back the tears. “Do you need to go to the hospital?”

I shook my head. “Nothing to do for a broken toe.”

“Sit down in the recliner and put your feet up.”

We didn’t have any medical gauze or tape. He buddy-wrapped my broken toe to the one beside it with a paper towel and car-painting tape. “Better?”

I couldn’t believe it. My toe felt better. It really, really did.

The stronger toe supported the weaker one–

It was a powerful thing. 

Maybe it was his tenderness. Maybe it was because he didn’t say what I was thinking–

Stupid! Stupid! 

You need to be more careful.

You’re always in a hurry. 

When are you going to learn to watch where you going?

Nope.

None of that.

When my husband came into the kitchen and saw me, Grace walked in.

When we’re broken, the compassion of just one person can bring healing. Click to Tweet.

If  you’ve fallen and need a little grace today, listen to my new favorite song. It might help you feel better.

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

Can you identify in any way?

Love,

Julie

 

 

Life-Changing Truth from Mrs. Betty’s Tea Parties

I’ve always been drawn to quiet, gentle people–the ones content to serve others without recognition.

In May, I spoke to the ladies of Galilee Christian Church in Jefferson, GA  at their annual tea party and wrote about it here. 

But there’s more to the story. 

Once a month, a small group of ladies from Galilee Christian invite women who are new to their church to a tea party. In May, I received an invitation.

The minute I arrived, I felt loved. They welcomed me. Served me. Treated me like I belonged. 

Their kindness inspired me. My sister and I are having a little tea party for Mother on her 80th birthday in July. :)

And the ladies invited my mother and me to their June tea party–

So yesterday we headed up Janice’s walkway.

“You’re gonna love it,” I said.

“I already do. Look at her gorgeous hydrangeas. Reminds me of childhood summers.”

“Just wait.”

“How sweet. Two chairs under the tree,” she said.

“One would’ve looked sorta lonely, wouldn’t it?”

Everyone welcomed us. The tables had been set with TLC.

Our table below…

When we sat down, our plates had been prepared, along with handmade place cards.

Mother couldn’t decide what to taste first.

The centerpiece came from flowers in Janice’s yard.

So much laughter…

They made a gluten-free plate just for me…

And my very own gluten-free chocolate chip scone! :)

The food was amazing, but the best part came after we ate.

We read Scripture verses inside our place cards.

Simple.

Powerful.

Then Betty Williams (90) told us how she began having tea parties twenty years ago. She wanted ladies to feel loved and accepted.

When she joined Galilee Christian Church eight years ago, she began a Tea Party Ministry.

Mrs. Betty’s below, on the left. Janice is on the right.

Right before we left, one of my new friends gave me a precious gift–tiny spoons, knives, napkins, and a teacup from her own collection–

To help me with Mother’s birthday tea party.

I came home with a car full of goodies and life-changing Truth.

Nothing–absolutely nothing–outshines kindness when it comes from the heart. Click to tweet

Mother Teresa was right. “Do small things with great love.” Click to tweet

…serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13 NIV Click to tweet

Do you see other Truths from the tea party? 

Does this give you any ideas for new ways to love others? 

Love,

Julie

 

Too Deep For Words

Tuesday morning, even before my husband said a word, I knew something was wrong. He sat in the bedroom chair like he didn’t want to get up. Looked like he was running on empty. In our 37 years of marriage, he’s been the strong one.

“You okay?”

“Just tired.”

“Is it work?”

“Yeah.”

He’s owned a small business for almost 40 years. It’s his job to make sure everything and everyone gets paid on time, and that the work is done right.

We talked for a few minutes. There weren’t any big issues. God’s been faithful, so I tried the we have so much to be grateful for speech, which was the wrong thing to say.

He didn’t need a sermon.

“I know. I’m grateful. I’m just tired.”
I didn’t have anymore wise words, so we did what we do every morning.

We had a porch party.

A quiet porch party.

Lord, I don’t know how to encourage him. We need you. 

Since we weren’t talking much, we focused on the birds.

“There’s a cardinal at the feeder,” I said.

He was beautiful. A big red male.

We put away our concerns long enough to listen to the birds.

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

“See the little brown bird sitting on the water line?” I said. “She has a nest in the fern.”

After several minutes of observing her behavior, I saw a parallel between the mama bird and my husband’s 40 years of hard work.

Help me say it the right way, Lord.

“Look how hard she’s working,” I whispered. “She does the same thing over and over. She finds food, flies in from the trees, lands in the bushes in front of the house, darts to the water line above the fern, hangs on with her feet, flips upside down, and feeds her babies. That takes a lot of energy.”

If you can’t see the video, click here. She flies in at the 50 second mark. :)

“Amazing–how God gave her the skills to do this.”

“It really is,” he said.

While we watched the mama bird, our front porch was transformed by God’s Presence. Click to Tweet

“What she’s doing is hard work,” I said.

“Um-hmm.”

“And she’s doing her job even though most of the world never notices.”

He sipped his coffee.  

“You are too.”

The sunlight caught the moisture in his dark brown eyes, and I saw emotion pass through. 

We’d only connected this way a few times in life. 

There were no words. 

God revived my husband’s spirit because a tiny, brown mama bird kept doing the right thing.  Click to tweet. 

 If we take time to look and listen, God has a lot to show us. So many times, I talk too much and miss Him.

Thoughts about someone listening–and really hearing you?

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 Click to Tweet. 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

Forget the Dog Hair and Pray!

Sunday night, I was scheduled to speak to a group of ladies at Connection Pointe Church of God in Austell, GA. It wasn’t time to go yet. I got fidgety. Full of nervous energy.

The afternoon sun fell across the hardwood floor highlighting a pile of dog hair.

I really should vacuum. This looks terrible. 

God spoke to me ever … so … gently.

Forget the dog hair and pray. 

“Yes, of course. You’re right.”

I’d gotten distracted.

“I can’t do this without You. Help me. You’re My Strength…” I prayed all the out way the door.

In the car, I couldn’t find the address on my GPS. I get lost in restaurants.

Moment of panic.

What am I gonna do? What if I can’t get there? What if…

My son was at home. He found the address on his portable GPS. Whew…

“Okay, stay close, Lord. I need You.”

I arrived two hours early, so I drove around town. Got a cup of coffee.

Glancing at my props, I had a moment of doubt.

Look at this mess. You’re not a real speaker. 

I’m with you. Don’t be afraid.

Thank You. You’re right. Okay, what next? Too early to go inside.

Pray.

Yes, yes. Pray. Always. Without ceasing.

I parked across the street at the CVS. Left the car running. Listened to David Crowder sing about, “Hope for the hopeless.”

If you can’t see the video, click here

The song melted me. Drew me in close–again. I raised my hands in the car. Opened my fingers wide.

Thank You. You’re my Helper. Shine Your hope through me.

I’m with you. Always.

The women’s ministry leader invited me to speak because they were having a front porch theme. Someone found my blog about porch parties.

This is what I saw when I walked in. Totally blew me away–

Talk about God and His faithfulness–

My husband and I have a  porch party  every morning–

The church even had crickets chirping in the background. 

Happy, grateful tears. Thank You. This feels like home sweet home!  

Before we got started, I heard beautiful music coming from behind the porch–a song from my childhood.

Listen carefully. It’s really soft.

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

Great is Your faithfulness, Lord.

Mabel sat beside me. She’s in charge of the prayer ministry. Can’t you see His strength all over her?!

These ladies did a hilarious skit.

Then it was my turn.

My heart was pound…pound…pounding.

I’m with You. 

When I stood on that front porch and looked at all the smiling faces, something amazing happened. 

God’s fierce love rose up inside of me and crushed all my fear.  Click to tweet. 

Perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18. NASB Click to tweet

P.S. The next time He asks you to do something scary, don’t stay home vacuuming dog hair!

There’s LIFE on the other side of fear. Click to tweet. 

What scares you?

Have you ever experienced God’s faithfulness on the other side of fear? Please share!

Love,

Julie