Friendship, Faith, and Feeling Fifteen Again

photo from Meghan Davidson https://flic.kr/p/eEBxML 

“What’s wrong with us?” Robin, my BFF of 40 years said last week on the phone. “Why don’t we ever see each other?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Friends do things together, don’t they? Like on the Hallmark Countdown to Christmas movies--they’re always drinking coffee and laughing and window shopping.”

Robin and I spend our days in the virtual world on computers. We’re bloggers/writers. Her amazing site is All Things Heart and Home.

“Let’s make a lunch date,” she said. “Have some Christmas cheer.”

“I’d love to! We could just meet at Starbucks if you’re–”

“Nope. Let’s go to Maggiano’s. They have an incredible gluten-free menu.” (Here’s a Maggiano’s restaurant review by Pretty Little Celiac.)

I was so excited, I nearly cried. “We can sit and talk!”

“Like real friends!”

Using a Christmas-red marker, I wrote the date on my calendar. 

Thursday morning, we spotted each other in the parking lot, and ran and hugged like they do in the movies. She glanced at the crinkly lines near my eyes. “You haven’t aged a bit,” she said.

“Neither have you.”

Chatting nonstop, we felt fifteen again. We were so busy talking, we forgot to take pictures. Two bloggers forgetting to take pictures!

After lunch, we  weren’t ready to say goodbye, so we shopped. We bought the same kind of jeans. Same size. Not the same size as when we were 15. :)

At the counter, I pulled out my zippered pouch to pay.

“Where’s your wallet?” Robin said.

“It’s right here.”

“Julie, that’s not a wallet.” She showed me hers. Neatly organized. Butterscotch-colored leather. A hand-me-down from one of her daughters. “You need a real wallet.”

We laughed. “Why? I like keeping my credit cards in rubber-bands.”

At Starbucks, she handed me her cup of extra hot soy latte. “Here. Taste. It’s creamy-dreamy.”

“This is terrible. It’s so blah. Try my Sumatra.”

She took a tiny sip and made a face. “Tastes like an ashtray.”

“Today’s been so much fun,” I said. “We didn’t talk about our problems, did we?”

Which we could have.

Because we have problems.

“We’ve been too busy laughing,” she said.

We paused.

Watched shoppers stroll by.

“Maybe this is what faith means. Letting go of problems and living in the moment,” I said.  

“I think so, Jewels.”

I smiled all the way home, so very thankful for faith and friendship.

(photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/ichigochan-/)

Do you have friends like Robin? Oh, I hope so.

Have you discovered living in the moment faith? 

P.S. I don’t understand all the Facebook changes coming in January, but I’m not sure if I’ll still be able to share my blog links through FB. If you haven’t signed up to receive my posts through email, just insert your email address in the box at the top right corner and my blog posts will be delivered every Wednesday morning. Thank you!

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

 

 

 

Life-changing Love

Every now and then, someone comes along and rearranges my thinking. It happened again this weekend.

I’ve been following Vicky Westra’s blog, The Westra World, for a couple of years. Although we’ve never met, each time I read her words, they squeeze my heart–that soft place inside where God lives.

Vicky writes about  faith and fear. And courage.

She considers each day a miracle.

Vicky says, “I’m just a girl living the dream of being married to my superman, raising two active boys, and discovering more of who I am every day I am here. I’m currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer and learning how to expand my time, instead of worrying about extending it. So I am living my moments daily and blogging the whole crazy adventure.”

Recently, a few of Vicky’s friends did a fundraiser in her honor. They crafted door-prizes and selected five winners.

When I made my small contribution, I never expected to win. I was randomly chosen. I couldn’t believe it.

Me! A winner!

For sure, I never expected to win a life-changing gift.  

Saturday morning, my prize basket arrived.

From someone I’d never met.

In honor of Vicky in Minnesota.

A state I’d never visited.

In Fall colors!

I spread everything on the floor around me. Books! Coffee! Music! My favorite things!

Immediately, I was drawn into Bob Goff’s book, Love Does.

Good grief. This book.

The kind of reading where you forget to breathe.

It’s all about love without limits.

The same way Vicky writes and lives her life–the same kind of love her friends have. 

A quote from page 9:

“…the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence. It’s a love that operates more like a sign language than being spoken outright.”

The first song on the Selah CD,  ”You Amaze Us,” shares the same love message.

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

Of course, it’s not about the gift I gave.

It’s about the unexpected, unforgettable, life-changing love I received in return.

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put in your lap, “ Luke 6:38 ESV.

Have you ever had life-changing love rearrange your thinking?

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

 

Chum-Talk…The Secret to Lasting Relationships

I don’t think my husband actually hates the Hallmark Countdown to Christmas movies. I think he just enjoys poking fun at them. Or at me for loving them.

Friday night we had a fire going. We were sharing a blanket on the sofa, watching The Nine Lives of Christmas

My kind of night.

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

“These silly movies are all the same,” Rick said.

“No they’re not.”

“After the first couple of minutes, you know the ending.”

“They’re romantic. See the pretty white lights on the square?”

“Same setting. Same town. Same Christmas tree lot.”

“Small-town life. So picturesque.”

“Same characters with the same goofy expressions. Look at how they grin at each other.”

“They’re just happy. And in love.”

“Nobody has that many teeth.”

By this time I was laughing, and the drama between Zachary and Marilee came to a climax. There’d been a huge misunderstanding. Although their cats had bonded, the two of them hadn’t.

Marilee teared up, and as Zachary murmured something soft and tender, Rick made another joke. This one was funny. “What’d he say? I missed it.”

“Just chum-talk.”

“What’s chum-talk?”

“It’s what they always say right before they kiss.”

“Their one big moment, and you made me laugh.”

“Don’t worry. It’ll be on 17 more times.”

“Good. I’m watching them all.”

“Now they’re going to hug,” Rick said.

And they did.

After the movie, I pondered chum-talk. “I bet Zachary probably told Marilee how much he loved her. And he was sorry.” I said. “And Marilee told Zachary she loved him too. And she forgave him.”

“You think so?” Rick said, smiling.

“I know so.”

Chum-talk is the emotional glue to lasting relationships.

I’m sorry.

I forgive you.

I love you. 

Do you love these movies? They’re so full of heart.

If you need to have a chum-talk with someone, I’ll pray be glad to pray.

P.S. We watched The Nine Lives of Christmas again last night!

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

The Day the Woods Came Alive

Last Wednesday, November 5th, a certain sentence from Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young planted itself in my heart.

“Put more energy into trusting Me and enjoying My Presence.”

What does that mean, Lord–enjoying Your Presence? Show me Your Presence. 

Later that morning, I headed into the woods behind our house to walk. Not sure what His Presence might look like, my senses were on high alert.

A few minutes later, I heard something rustling in the leaves. Too big and loud to be a squirrel.

Suddenly, a huge owl landed in this tree right in front of me.

I’d never seen a real owl before.

Neither of us moved.

He glared at me. A fearless, determined expression.

I thought about Alfred Hitchcock’s horror movie, The BirdsMy mind went wild!

Owls are predators. Did he view me as his prey? Could he carry me away?

(*photo credit Dave Wendelken, Flickr,The Great Horned Owl in Virginia) https://flic.kr/p/pk7YZm 

After a few seconds of us looking at each other, I discovered Mr. Owl wasn’t my enemy.

He seemed just as fascinated with me as I was with him.

He’s watching me–me!–with bright yellow eyes.

He’s gorgeous. 

And powerful.

Mystified by his splendor, my fear melted into awe.

I ran to get my camera, but when I returned, he’d flown away.

I’ll never forget his expression–those eyes–the way he studied me–a reminder of God’s Presence.

He is with us. Always. 

 For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” 2 Chronicles 16:9 NAS.

Another reminder of God’s Presence in the video below. I can’t watch it without dancing!

How is God reassuring you of His Presence?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robin’s Early Christmas Gift

I’m just now acknowledging a touch of sadness leftover from childhood. After all these years, Mother and I finally talked about it.

“When I was little, you didn’t enjoy Christmas very much, did you?” I said, hesitantly.

“No, I dreaded it–the cleaning and cooking and pine needles everywhere. I’m so sorry. If I had it to do all over again–”

“No, no. No need to apologize. You did all the right things. We had presents and a tree. It’s just…you didn’t smile much. Maybe you were depressed or had autoimmune illnesses back then.” (She has three.)

“I can still see my grim face. It breaks my heart. I wanted to smile, but I was just so tired.”

With this conversation circling my thoughts last week, my friend Robin called on Halloween. We love books, antiques, and we feel things deeply.

But there’s something very different about us.

Robin celebrates holidays with her whole heart. 

It’s always fascinated me.

When we were young mothers, she sewed pilgrim outfits for her four children. Everybody made crafts.

I don’t sew or even own a glue stick. And that weird Christmas emotion (guilt? sadness?) creeps in every so often.

Robin and I chatted about everything from hair color to motherhood, and the conversation shifted.

“Jewels, guess what I did yesterday?”

“No telling.”

“I watched my favorite Christmas movies.”

“You watched Christmas movies before Halloween?”

That secret place in my heart clamored for attention.

“I had the best time!” she said. “On November first, I always start planning Christmas.”

What if it’s really okay to love Christmas? 

Something clicked into place like a key unlocking a door.

Robin has the gift of anticipation.

And it’s okay to anticipate Christmas!

Was it too late for me? Could I change?

After we hung up, I made our first fire of the season.

Mother called. “What’re you doing?” she said.

“Looking forward to Christmas.” I told her about Robin’s plans.

“Bless her little Christmas heart. And yours too. I love Robin.”

“I’m washing Christmas mugs, and I’m going to have a Porch Party all by myself with real whip cream, and–”

“Julie, Christmas is spilling into my heart and spreading across my living room. I’m going to get out my nativity right now!

Who knew anticipation could be contagious?

“And even healing,” Mother said softly. “It’s a form of worship.”

What about your childhood? Is there something that needs healing? 

Robin’s blog, All Things Heart and Home, is full of anticipation!

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

Surrender…It’s So Very Daily

I’ve been blessed to contribute devotionals to Daily Guideposts since 2003. The 2015 edition contains a Surrender Series I wrote about my word from 2012. A few days ago, Guideposts featured one of my devotionals from the series on their website.

In this devotional, I mention Al-AnonAl-Anon is a 12-Step program for people like me who have a friend or family member who is an alcoholic.

So many times I return to Step One.

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Surrender, for me, means admitting I’m powerless. Step One affects every part of my life.

I’m not only powerless over alcohol, I’m powerless over everything and everyone except my choices and my responses.

I’m powerless over people I love.

I’m powerless over others’ opinions of me.

I’m even powerless over whether or not the sun shines. :)

Moment-by-moment, I’m reminded that I’m not in control–even on my daily walks.

Last week Clyde (our Lab) and I walked the loop through the woods behind our house. We always circle the loop ten times. I noticed Kitty Thelma watching us.

“Kitty, kitty, come on. Walk with us.”

She swished her tail like she had better things to do.

Each time we passed her, the same thing happened. I begged her to come. She refused.

On loop number eight, she sharpened her claws.

Oh, good! Maybe she’s thinking about it.

I waited on her.

Nope. She stayed put.

Which brought me back to Surrender.

I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to change people.  

Just like I’d done with Thelma–I was even trying to control my cat!

On my last loop, I smiled at her, but I didn’t try to change her mind.

Leaving the woods, I saw the sun peeking through the fall leaves.

Thank You, Lord. It’s not my job to change anyone. (Not even Thelma. :) )

I’m just supposed to work on myself.

Have you ever tried to change someone? Pointless, isn’t it.

Love,

Julie

Spiderwebs and Sticky Thoughts

One Saturday last fall, my husband Rick and I took a walk through the woods behind our house. The leaves were just beginning to change, and the sky, unbelievably blue. As soon as we got into the woods, Rick found a big stick. He waved it around in front of us like a sword, as though fighting an imaginary enemy.

“What are you doing?” 

“Knocking down spiderwebs.”

“I don’t see any.”

He smiled.

“Oh.”

This past Saturday, Clyde, our Lab, and I walked through the same woods.

I remembered that day last fall.

The stick.

The spiderweb discussion.

The imaginary enemy. 

Are there really spiderwebs back here? 

Just in case, I grabbed a stick and twirled it in front of me.

Pretty soon, I decided I really didn’t need the stick.

It was a lot of work.

And I looked silly.

Rick was probably teasing me. If I see any spiderwebs, I’ll knock them down. 

I dropped my stick and kept walking.

It wasn’t long before I felt a sticky spiderweb all over my face–yuck!–and a black spider in my hair.

I never saw it coming.

I walked smack-dab in the middle of it.

Finding another stick, I had an aha moment.

All spiderwebs begin the same way–

With a barely visible thread.

Then the spider spins her web and sets the trap.

Soon her unsuspecting prey is gobbled up.

The same way one tiny thought can spin a web of destruction in my life.

Fear.

Envy.

Lust.

Doubt.

Bitterness. 

Wrong-thinking has taken me down too many times.

Waving my stick is like guarding my mind. 

“Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life.” Proverbs 4:23 CEV

Do you carry a big stick and guard your thoughts too?

Love,

Julie

Cruisin’ the Coast and Cruisin’ Through Marriage

“You can still change your mind and come with us,” my husband Rick said. It was our final Porch Party before he left town. He and his uncle were driving from Atlanta, Georgia to Biloxi, Mississippi. They were taking a 1988 Chevy truck Rick restored for Uncle David to a car show called Cruisin’ the Coast.

Before restoration:

After restoration: 

They’d be tooling the town looking at 10,000 cars.

I squirmed in my rocking chair. “Thanks, but y’all go on. I’m going to be cruisin’ thousands of words at home.”

I was looking forward to a week by myself, but I felt a twinge of guilt.

Aren’t married people supposed to love the same things? 

But after 36 years of marriage, I probably wasn’t going to develop a sudden passion for cars. And Rick probably wasn’t going to enjoy cruising bookstores.

By the middle of the week, I was getting sorta lonely. Thursday night he called. “Do you miss me yet?”

“Yes. Especially in the mornings when I’m porch partying by myself. Do you miss me?”

“Yep.”

He wasn’t coming home until Sunday, so thinking about marriage and love and porch parties–the things we have in common–I got an idea.

I bought two new mugs and made pumpkin bread.

Before baking.

With yummy topping.

All done minus one piece. :)  

We’d have a Welcome Home Porch Party Sunday night!

Here’s a marriage hint that took me forever to learn:

Marriage isn’t about becoming clones of one another.  

It’s about encouraging each other to become the incredibly unique person God created us to be. 

*Click here for Pamela’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Loaf Recipe. (Just use self-rising flour if you aren’t eating GF.)

*If you’re into cars, here’s an article from The Sun Herald about the record-breaking numbers who attended Cruisin’ the Coast.

Love,

Julie

P.S. Did you marry your exact opposite too?