The Fear/Faith Principle

I’ll never forget what my mother did when I was twelve years old. She volunteered me to teach a ladies Sunday school class. She thought it would be fun. She was in the class. :-(

It was youth Sunday, but still …

I was furious. And scared to death.

On the way to  church I felt like throwing up. My hands shook as I clutched the fear/faith poster I’d made. The poster was half black and half yellow. The yellow part represented faith. The black part meant fear.

At the bottom I wrote:

“Faith means walking to the edge of all the light you can see and taking one more step.”

That day in 1972 when I taught the semi-circle of ladies, a miracle happened.

My poster worked!

I didn’t pass out. My heart slowed down. My words flowed.

I saw a softening around their eyes, a tenderness, a look of understanding.

We experienced the awe and humility of God’s Presence.

This weekend, I’m flying to Massachusetts to lead a ladies retreat on Surrender.

I’m packing my carry-on now. The goofy shoes and hat are part of a skit.

I’m bringing the Daily Guideposts 2015 . It contains a Surrender Series I wrote.

On the inside, I’m still the same little girl. Forty-two years later, right before I speak, my heart does that same skippity thing, and my hands turn clammy.

But the fear/faith principle still works.

When you take one tiny step out of all the light you can see, and your foot is coming down into darkness, you don’t realize it, but you’re landing in faith.

Are you stepping out into faith about something?

My church lady shoes for the skit–my mother wore them 27 years ago at her second wedding.

Please say a prayer for us this weekend.

Here’s my blog about the Ladies Surrender Retreat in South Carolina.

“Fear not, for I am with you.” Isaiah 41:10 NKJV

So much love,

Julie

 

Sometimes Faith Means Taking a Break

When you read this, you’re probably going to think, well, duh, what took her so long? The other day, I got stuck. It had to do with writing, but it could’ve been about anything.

Here’s my not-so-pretty pattern:

I try too hard. Drink too much coffee. Focus so intently on the problem, I shut out the rest of the world. Sometimes … even God.

A tiny thought came to me.

Why don’t you surrender this?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! That word again. Surrender was my theme for 2012.

For me, surrender means saying, “Help me, Lord.”

“Okay,” I whispered, opening my hands and lifting them. “I can’t fix this by myself.”

And then I got a crazy idea.

I decided to stop working, take a break, and make a cheesecake.

I shut down my computer and left my little loft office.

At the grocery store, I didn’t rush around like a madwoman. I smiled at small children and didn’t get annoyed because I got in the slow lane.

Back at home, the football game was on. I even asked the score. :)

(Use these cookies and your cheesecake will be gluten-free.)

Because I wasn’t obsessing, my mind was free to think gentle thoughts.

I didn’t lose count with my eggs. My meringue turn out just right.

I’m discovering (after 50 years!) it’s okay to have fun–even when your work’s not completely finished.

I’m finally beginning to understand …

It honors God when I let go  of my problem(s) and take a break.

The answer to my writing problem came a couple of days later, after I stopped trying so hard.

“Do the things that show you have really changed your hearts and lives.” Matthew 3:8 NCV

Have you ever struggled with pushing too hard like me?

What do you do to chill out?

Click here for the cheesecake recipe.

Love,

Julie

What our Front Porch Really Looks Like

Lately, if I’m not careful, I can lose my porch party peace in a hurry. Every morning, my husband and I start the day by having a porch party. We sit in rocking chairs, drink coffee, light a candle, talk a little bit, read Jesus Calling, and pray.

If you were to come over, at first, this is what you’d see.

Then you’d walk up our front porch steps and discover a huge mess. Everywhere you looked, things would be out of place.

The trouble started this spring when squirrels chewed holes in our porch ceiling.

Which meant plywood had to be replaced all the way around the house.

Which meant my husband had plenty of measuring and figuring to do.

Which means ceiling fans are now resting in our hammock.

Hoping to deter the squirrels, he used corrugated metal instead of wood.

The corners are the toughest, he says.

Even with our son helping, it’s a slow process.

After they get the new ceiling up, they have to stain a bunch of boards for molding.

You have to watch your step, or you could trip and fall.

Sometimes I get impatient.

The other day Mother and I were talking about struggles. Difficulties. Mess.

“For as long as I can remember,” she said, “we’ve had problems. Sometimes I think, as soon as this gets worked out, everything will finally be okay.”

“But that’s not how life goes, is it?”

Later, on the porch, I sensed God nudging my heart.

Somewhere, there’s truth buried in this chaos.

I spotted Kitty Thelma. Napping. Smack dab in the middle of the disarray.

And Jesus Calling.

 

Maybe that’s it.

Maybe there’s always a place of Peace and Rest in His Presence.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”. John 16:13 NLT

I know some of you are in a season of chaos. I’m praying.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Crazy Lies I Believed

I was well into my thirties when my best friend, who’d worked for a dentist, informed me that, yes, you’re supposed to brush the backs of your teeth, not just the fronts. As a goody two-shoes, rule-following nerd, I was HORRIFIED! My whole life, I thought you only had to brush the parts that showed.

Lie number two.

I discovered this truth at sixteen while learning to drive.

What a nightmare.

1976. Mother and I were in our ’66 Chevy Impala, “The Blue Goose,” with me hunched over the steering wheel like an old woman. Clamped on in the ten and two position exactly like the manual instructed, sweaty palms, my heart about to beat out of my chest, I tried so hard to keep the car the middle of the road.

“Julie, what in the world are you doing?” Mother said. “You’re staring at the nose of the car.”

“I’m keeping it inside the white lines.”

“No, no, no. Don’t look at the car. Look way off down the road.”

Who knew?

Lie number three.

I thought if I could somehow become a perfect mother, I’d raise perfect children. :) Ha! Double ha-ha on that one!

Number four.

I believed the more committees I served on, the busier I stayed (never mind my heart or my motives), the more God would love me.

I thought His love was based on something I did or didn’t do. Have you ever heard of such nonsense?

Now in my fifties, I brush the backs of my teeth, keep my eyes on the road, and I’m learning to relax in His unfailing love and grace.

Sometimes we have to admit we’ve been mistaken in order to grow.

What crazy lies have you believed?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Perks to Choosing Peace over Perfection

Have you ever walked into someone’s home and immediately felt welcomed? There’s nothing like that kind of peace, is there? When we moved into our log house ten years ago, I wanted our home to be a comfy cozy place that welcomed people.

A home that offered peace and healing.

But I have a confession.

At times, I’ve focused on the negatives in myself, my surroundings, and in others.

The chip in the dinner plate. Scuff marks on the kitchen cabinets. My insecurities about writing.

When I seek perfection, poof, my peace vanishes.

How can I offer peace when I’ve lost mine?

But something inside me began to shift in 2012 when I chose the word SURRENDER.

When I made a choice to let go and let God do His will in me.

It’s a process, for sure, and sometimes I struggle to let go, but not last Saturday. :)

We had a birthday party for our son Thomas and my father-in-law Richard. During the party I kept thinking …

This is amazing! I can’t wait to tell my bloggy friends!

Pulling the potato casserole from the oven, I glanced at everyone gathered in our home.

I spotted my father-in-law looking at his son, my husband, who was grilling hamburgers, people laughing, having a good time.

So was I!

Thomas’s girlfriend Brittany took pictures.

 

Looking at Brittany’s pictures something occurred to me.

When I stop demanding perfection, awesome things happen.

1. I slow down long enough to see beauty.

2. My gratitude soars.

3. I smile a lot more.

A surrendered heart brings peace and welcomes the gift of hospitality.

“…live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11 NIV

What makes you feel welcomed in someone’s home? Has striving for perfection ever stolen your peace?

 

Love,

Julie

 

Chatty Cathy and Prayer

Do you remember that doll from the sixties named Chatty Cathy? When you pulled the magic cord in the back of her neck, she chatted with you.

“Let’s play school … Do you like my dress?”

Could there be anything more wonderful? A best friend who was always there whenever you wanted to talk.

But after a while, Chatty Cathy wasn’t that much fun.

She always said the same phrases over and over.

Sort of like my prayer time lately.

The other day, I filled my prayer journal with pages of the same words.

Same situations. Same people. Same problems.

Same concerns.

Could’ve just written, “Ditto.”

After I finished, I closed my journal and traced the letters in the word SERENITY.

My prayer time hadn’t brought much serenity that morning.

Later while I was washing dishes, I glanced out the kitchen window and spotted a deer.

He stopped eating, raised his head, perked his ears, and looked right at me. He didn’t run away!

He stood quietly as if he enjoyed my presence.

Such a peaceful moment.

Sweet. Unexpected. Unscripted.

Maybe my prayer time can be more like this …

Knowing for certain that God is with me.

He’s not in a hurry.

Sometimes I can just be quiet,

And rest in His presence.

No words are necessary.

Because He knows my heart.

He understands.

 ”… a time to be silent and a time to speak …” Ecclesiastes 3:7 NIV.

Have you ever prayed like you’re a Chatty Cathy doll?

Have you had one of these quiet times with God lately? Aren’t they wonderful? :)

Love,

Julie

My Beloved Old Blue Chairs

I love seeing old things restored and I adore antiques, so I have no excuse for what happened to my ladder back chairs. After we inherited my grandmother’s antique dining room chairs, I stuck my old blue chairs outside and forgot about them.

Each year, they got a little more worn.

A little less respected.

Kitty Thelma used them for scratching posts.

I tried to ignore them. Made me sorta sad to see them.

One morning this spring, I went antiquing and spotted a pair of gorgeous ladder back chairs. Someone must’ve cared about them.

They’d been restored.

Overwhelming compassion for my old blue chairs enveloped me.

I had to do something about their pitiful plight.

I found a man working there. “Do you know anyone who restores chairs?”

“It’s almost a lost art, but there’s a shop in Maysville, Heritage Chairs. Go see ‘em. They’re good people.”

The next Saturday, my husband and I took my chairs to Maysville.

“If I re-cane them, it’s gonna cost you more than they’re worth,” the shop owner said.

I appreciated his honesty, but a fierce protective love rose up in me about my chairs.

“That is,” he said, “unless they’re worth something to you. Then they’re priceless.”

“Oh, they are. I love them.” I ran my fingers over the raggedy cane and looked at my husband.

Can we get them fixed?

“It’s up to you,” he said.

I love you.

A few weeks later, we picked up my chairs. I got all teary-eyed looking at them.

Welcoming them inside our home, I found a special spot for each chair and thought about how God restores us.

Thank You, Lord.

You love us.

Even in our broken condition.

In Your eyes, we are priceless.

P.S. My new favorite song below. It’s all about How He loves us. Listen for the word Surrender. :)

Surrender proceeds our own restoration.

Do you love the word RESTORATION too?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

Forgetting What’s Broken

5:30 a.m. last Saturday … Our dog started growling. ”Stay down!” my husband whispered. “There’s a man on the back porch with a flashlight.”

My heart pounded. Minutes earlier,  the phone rang at 4:39 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

There was no sleeping now.

No peace.

The man wasn’t an intruder. He was a police officer. The two phone calls were from the phone company. We’ve had phone problems for several weeks. The police department returned a second time that morning.

Our broken phone had alerted 9-1-1.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but our phone situation has been getting the best of me.

No dial tone. Horrible scratchy noise. Sometimes the internet goes out.

So frustrating.

The phone company’s replacing the line. For weeks, we’ve had a tiny fiber-optic cable beside our third of a mile-long driveway.

Our communication runs through this fragile-looking cord over tree limbs, pine straw, and gravel.

So many complications.

Living in the woods, deer, raccoons, possum crossing the path, bad weather ….

And they haven’t buried the line yet.

The whole thing was so bizarre. I wondered if God was trying to teach me something.

This past Saturday walking down the driveway, an idea came. It seemed God said:

Forget what’s broken. Focus on the beauty around you. Your troubles will fade into the background.

Is this really You, Lord? I can’t see how shifting my focus will help.

I glanced at butterfly near my feet.

Because I’d been frustrated about the phone situation, I’d ignored her. She’d fluttered beside me for most of my walk.

The black-eyed Susans in full bloom …

And the best part,

The green archway of trees that sheltered me through the steamy July heat.

I’d overlooked them.

“Lord, You’re sorta like the trees, aren’t You? Always above us. Watching over us. Nothing slips past You. Not even barely visible phone lines. Or bad attitudes.”

Are there “phone lines” in your life today? What “trees” are you’re praising Him for? I’d love to hear~

Love,

Julie

 

 

So Much More Than Chicken Salad

Have you noticed that when girls get together to celebrate, it doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re eating, we share one thing in common.

We love laughing and talking–just plain being silly and having fun.

Maybe you do too. :)

This past Friday, we had a birthday luncheon for my mother and sister at a quaint little tea room in Atlanta called The Swan Coach House. We’ve always just called it The Swan House. This picture is from their Facebook page.

They specialize in Southern yumminess like as cheese straws, chicken salad, and frozen fruit salad. The chicken salad is to…die…for!

Here we are from left to right–minus my other daughter Jamie and our son’s girlfriend Brittany who couldn’t make it.

My daughter Katie, my sister’s daughter, Libby, me :) , my sister Jennifer, and Mother.

Right before this picture was taken, Mother had been craning her neck to check out everyone’s shoes.

“I don’t get out enough,” she said. “I can’t stop staring at people. Look at the hostess’s shoes. Aren’t they adorable? Beige and wheat colored flats with black trim. They match her dress perfectly. And I’m wearing a very brave shade of bright yellow today. Want to see?” She raised her foot slightly. “I’ve never had yellow shoes.”

“Y’all know I don’t know about colors, or clothes, and I hate to shop,” I said.

“We know, Mom,” Katie said. “That’s why I shop with you.”

After lunch, we went to my sister’s house to open presents.

Mom hugging Libby and me …

Libby, our matriarch, and Jennifer …

I felt a touch of anxiety as they opened their gifts from me, but bless their hearts, they oohed and ahhed over them.

Sitting there on Jen’s back porch, I said, “This has been so much fun. We should do it more often.”

We talked about going to the Fox Theater in Atlanta, or maybe even flying to New York to see a Broadway play.

“We could, you know,” Mother said.

“We should,” Jennifer added.

Driving home I thought about something.

At The Swan House, everyone feels like a beautiful swan. And if you ask for a box for left-overs, they return with your carry-out tucked inside heavy tinfoil fashioned into a perfect swan.

But we left with so much more than swans.

In our hearts, we carried out sweet memories.

My sister’s amaaaaaazing chicken salad recipe (gluten-free!)

Jen’s Jenerous Chicken Salad

3 or 4 boneless chicken breasts

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped

A stem of grapes, red or green, cut in half–a good handful or so

Slivered almonds, about half a cup

A big spoon of mayo (start with maybe a third cup)

Sour cream, (optional) about a teaspoon or two

Salt and pepper to taste

Thyme (optional) about a teaspoon

Boil chicken breasts in water sprinkled with salt, pepper, and thyme. Boil for about 45 minutes. Let cooked chicken cool. Either shred it with a fork or chop it really small. Stir in other ingredients. Delish!

Love,

Julie

 

Beneath the Surface

The other day my 22-year-old son Thomas said something he hadn’t said in years. Our grown daughters say this sort of thing all the time, but somewhere around age 15, Thomas stopped saying …

“Mom, come look. You gotta see this.”

So when he said those words, I left my computer and followed him outside to our little koi pond. I couldn’t wait to see what he had to show me.

Just like when he was a little boy.

Is it a frog? A snake? A shiny rock?

We have two koi ponds. The big one has koi in it, but the only thing in the small pond is murky-looking water.

Or so I thought.

(I blogged about the little pond here–”Sometimes You Wade Through Sludge Together.” I wrote about my husband building our koi ponds here for Guideposts.)

When Thomas and I crouched by the water, Kitty Thelma hurried over to check out the situation.

“Look what my new camera does,” Thomas said.

I didn’t even know he had a new camera, something called a GoPro.

He showed me what he’d filmed beneath the surface.

I saw splendor in something I assumed was useless.

As sunlight lit the darkness I spotted lily pads yet to bloom,

Green plants I couldn’t name,

Rocks and hills and valleys formed a magical underwater world.

Even fish darted by.

Maybe the pond holds a life lesson for me.

I thought about people and situations I’d judged–opinions I’d hurriedly formed–times I hadn’t bothered to ask God to help me see beneath the surface.

But God …

He sees the unseen. Past. Present. Future.

He knows no limits.

He creates beauty from ashes–life from dry bones.

And He understands every heart.

Thank You, Lord. You see beneath the surface.

“…even darkness isn’t dark to You.” Psalm 139:12 NIV

Can anyone relate?

Love,

Julie