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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Birthday Cake Ever!

When I was a child, I loved playing the game with notebook paper that gave you answers to life’s most important questions–well, important to an eight-year-old little girl.

It looked something like this. Remember?

We’d sit in the floor and ask all sorts of questions:

How many children will I have?

What kind of house will I live in?

What’s my husband’s name?

But life doesn’t always cooperate, does it? It’s full of surprises. Some good. Some not so good.

Last week for my husband’s birthday, I asked him if he wanted to go out to eat to celebrate.

“Nah. How ’bout making ground beef patties and mashed potatoes?”

“Yuck. Don’t you want something fancy like steak and shrimp? Want me to order you a birthday cake with lots of icing?”

“No, thanks. Just make a gluten-free dessert, so you can have some.” (I have Celiac.)

I did my best to cook his favorite meal, but something went waaaaayy wrong with his cake.

It fell.

It cracked right down the middle.

I tried to glue the broken pieces together with globs of cream cheese frosting, but I didn’t have enough, so I thinned it down.

The icing slid off the cake–

Which sunk on one side.

It was the saddest excuse for a birthday cake I’ve ever seen. 

After supper, I sliced a couple of pieces. “I don’t know what happened. I tried hard. I followed the recipe.”

I took a bite and stared at my husband.

It was the night of his 57th birthday.

I’ve known him since we were 15 and 16. He’s an honest man.

The cake looked hideous and yet–

“This is amazing,” I said. “I know it looks terrible, but–”

“Better than store-bought. Definitely.”

“I can’t believe it. It’s so tender and sweet.”

“Um-hmm.”

Later that night while I did the supper dishes, I thought about something.

The birthday cake resembled my life–maybe yours too.

Everything hasn’t gone the storybook way I thought I wanted, but my life is a beautiful combination of messy and sweet. 

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. Psalm 16:6 Click to Tweet. 

Has your life gone the way you thought it would? Which parts surprised you?

Right now, today, what’s messy? What’s sweet? 

Are you like me? Did it take a while to be grateful for certain things?

It’s a daily process, isn’t it? 

So much love,

Julie

 

 

 

The Big Blue Blob–Ruining My Friend’s Carpet

Have you ever done something really stupid? After your mistake, you wanted to crawl in a hole and hide.

Last Wednesday night at small group, Karen, our leader, welcomed me into her lovely home and asked me to put on a name tag.

It was our first meeting. Fourteen ladies. Some of us had never met.

I popped the cap off the blue PERMANENT Sharpie and dropped the marker onto her spotless, cream-colored carpet. The stain bloomed, deepening in color.

Panicky heat rose up my neck. “Oh, Karen, I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I did that. I’ve ruined your carpet.”

This is how the stain looked (and felt!) to me.

 

“Julie, don’t you worry about a thing,” she said. “I have grandchildren. My house isn’t perfect. We’ll clean it up later.”

What else could she say? I’d ruined her Berber carpet! 

“Let’s work on it now before it sets,” I said.

Because if it doesn’t come up, I’ll never forgive myself. 

“We’ll do it later, after the meeting.” She hugged me.

But the one blue eye stared at me.

I couldn’t leave it alone. “Do you have any carpet cleaner?”

“Let me go check, sweetie. The carpet’s going to be fine and you are too. I promise.”

But it’s a permanent marker. 

She found a bottle of rug cleaner, but it didn’t help. She gave me a quick wink as the doorbell rang.

More faces. Multiple explanations. Gentle laughter.

The spot and I had become the center of attention.

Everyone offered suggestions on how to get THE PERMANENT BLUE STAIN JULIE MADE out of Karen’s carpet.

“Try hairspray or rubbing alcohol,” someone said.

Karen didn’t have either one.

Another lady offered to put her foot over it.

Such a big to-do about my accident.

A friend texted her husband and asked him to bring cleaning supplies. He showed up while Karen was teaching.

So… I … had … to … keep… waiting. I couldn’t absorb any of the teaching for stealing sneaks at the big, blue, blob.

Then Karen closed in prayer. When she finally said “amen” I dropped to my knees. With my right hand on the hairspray, I held up my left hand. “Please, Lord. Help me.”

Everybody watched expectantly.

Slowly, with alcohol and hairspray, the ugly thing lost its battle.

Glorious relief!

None of my new friends condemned me with words or looks.

Not one.

Two hugged me.

Have you ever known the sweetness of instant forgiveness? Click to Tweet. Please share what happened!

When others graciously forgive us, we’re able to forgive ourselves. Click to Tweet. 

Thoughts? Feelings? Comments?

Love,

Julie

 

 

Problems and Praying and Ironing

Last week, a close friend and I had a long talk–the kind where you open your heart and share your soul. We mentioned a few things we’d been praying about for years and decided that certain problems just drag into infinity.

“I remember thinking that by the time I turned 30, I wouldn’t have any more problems,” I said. “Isn’t that crazy?”

“Me too. Definitely by 40.”

“Do you think anyone actually lives that way? Without problems?”

“If so, I don’t want to meet them.”

“Don’t you wish we could take a giant iron and smooth out all the wrinkles in life?”

“Yeah, a wrinkle-free world. That’d be great.”

Later that day, our conversation about a wrinkle-free life gave me a strong desire to iron. My ironing board is upstairs in a spare bedroom.

As I began ironing, I remembered my grandmother’s old wooden ironing board across the hall, in my office.

When my mother was growing up, a teenage girl named Jimmie kept her during the day.

Mother loved Jimmie.

She said Jimmie’s skin was the color of eggplants–so soft and smooth. Jimmie used to let Mother touch her arms while she ironed.

(Jimmie and Mother, May 1938, right after my grandfather died.)

When Mother was six, Jimmy had a baby boy. Being an only child, Mother was thrilled. My grandmother let Jimmie bring him to work. Mother pretended he was her little brother.

The two of them sat under the ironing board while Jimmie ironed.

And every time Jimmie ironed, she sang hymns–deep, rich praise songs from the bottom of her soul. It was a spiritual thing, Mother said.

Jimmie didn’t live a wrinkle-free life. She had problems like the rest of us. 

Almost seventy-five years later, my mother still remembers Jimmie’s faith.  

And then something caught my attention on my grandmother’s ironing board.

A recovery rock.

An Al-Anon friend painted it for me a few years ago.

An unmistakable softness filled me. 

Peace doesn’t mean the absence of problems. Peace means believing God’s in control. No matter what. Click to Tweet. 

“… In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV Click to Tweet. 

Have you ever wondered if other people had problem-free lives?

Is there a Jimmie in your life–someone whose faith helps keep you centered?  

Thoughts on trusting God? 

Love,

Julie

 

The Life-Changing Power of Kindness and a Smile

Last Thursday my 79-year-old mother finally agreed to conquer her iPad fear. She’s had an iPhone for almost two years. An iPad would mean a larger screen. More user-friendly.

But she was eaten up by what-ifs. 

I’ve wrestled with what-ifs a bazillion times. Mother’s always been the one to encourage me.

On the way to Best Buy, we stopped for lunch. I said a quick blessing. “Thank You for our food. Please help us shop.”

And give Mother courage. 

“And Lord,” she added. “Will You please send us a nice salesperson? Someone who’s kind and smiles a lot.”

After I said “amen” she started backpedaling.

“Really, Julie. We don’t have to do this today. I know you’re busy.”

“You’re going to have an iPad. Today.”

“What if I can’t do it? What if I’m not smart enough? What if–”

“Baby steps.” I patted her hand. “Take a deep breath. You can do this.”

Inside Best Buy, a friendly-looking salesman approached us. “Hi. My name is Jeremy. How can I help you?”

I have a brother named Jeremy. Mother and I looked at each other. 

See. It’s gonna be fine. His name is Jeremy. And he’s smiling.

Jeremy helped us choose a gold iPad with a cute little stand. He didn’t act like Mother was a bother. Or stupid. He answered all her questions.

“Well, you ’bout ready?” I said. “Time to check out.”

She looked at me, big-eyed.

“What if I can’t–?”

“What if you can?”

“Mother, you’ve come this far by faith. No turning back.”

Jeremy, bless his sweet heart. 

He acted like it was perfectly normal for customers to talk about fear and faith at the check-out counter. 

He surprised her and downloaded three free apps – Kindle, YouVersion Bible, and AccuWeather.

Aren’t people like Jeremy at Best Buy THE BEST!

On the way home, we stopped by Starbucks for a quick lesson.”Look at you! Sitting in Starbucks with your iPad!”

“I’m faking it. I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“Pretty soon, it’ll make sense.”

Her dark brown eyes met mine. “Okay. I think I can do this.”

She called the next day. “Guess what? I’m listening to Patsy Cline, The Plattersand Jim Reeves. They’re singing whatever songs I ask them to.”

Mother wants you to hear her favorite song, “Only You” by the Platters. Click “The Platters” above if you can’t see the video.

So many people have helped me do scary stuff–including YOU! :)  

What have you been afraid of? Was there a kind person like Jeremy who led the way? 

Fear shrinks our worlds. Faith does the opposite. Click to Tweet. 

Speak the words, “I can do this.” Faith soars and fear flees. Click to Tweet

Love,

Julie

The Dancing Queen Has an Aha Moment

Have you ever found the answer to a problem in a bizarre way? That happened to me this weekend. Saturday morning, I was stumped.

My problem just so happened to be about writing, but it could’ve been about anything.

Thinking too hard and drinking way too much coffee, I sat in my office staring at dozens of sticky notes. I couldn’t figure out how to fix the plot in my novel.

By 10 a.m., my brain already felt like this.

A knotted-up mess. 

Ever so gently, my word for 2016 came to me.

DANCE. Why don’t you dance?

Now? 

I can’t dance. 

I have to fix this problem.

Take a break. Dance. Let it go. 

I can’t. 

Work comes before play.

Always.

Those are the rules. 

Then four words came to me. Four one-syllable words.

Do you trust Me? 

Yes, of course but…

Then dance–the gentle thought brushed against my heart.

Don’t laugh, y’all, but I did.

I got out my chair, twirled around in my office (no one was home but me), and I boogied my way downstairs–

Like I was the room monitor, slacking off on my duty.

Then I did something really wild and crazy. I hopped into the car. Drove to the YMCA.

For 30 minutes, I played solitaire on the treadmill as though I had absolutely nothing better to do. 

I acted like a kid during recess and danced–mentally and physically. 

Guess what?

The best thing happened–

When I forgot about my problem, the answer came. I knew what to do! How crazy is that?

Back at home, I moved a few sticky notes around on my whiteboard and fixed my plotting issue. 

Sometimes trusting God means we let go, take a break, and dance. Click to Tweet

Is this an aha moment for you too? Or have you always known about the dancing secret? I bet you have! :)

P.S. If you have a minute, watch this video from 1978. “Dancing Queen” used to be my fave song back in the day.

If you can’t see the video, click here. It’s impossible to watch it without dancing!

Love,

Julie–the Dancing Queen 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heartfriends and Three Dancing Tips

I’m in love with my word for 2016, DANCE. I’ve been thinking about what it means to dance in life. With this idea twirling through my thoughts, I received an email from someone who reads my blog. Her name is Mary. She wanted to meet me.

The Old Julie would’ve politely declined.

What if we don’t click? What if it’s awkward? 

But saying yes felt right. Mary’s a writer and a storyteller. Sometimes it’s good to spend time with people who understand.

And my word is DANCE.

So I said yes. ;)

NOTE: I’m not suggesting we meet strangers on the side of the road! 

Mary planned to drive from Arkansas to Georgia, visit friends, and then head my way. She said she was up for an adventure.

I was too.

As soon as I walked into Starbucks, we spotted each other.

Right away, I noticed her beautiful silver necklace, and how her coat matched her shirt.

I glanced at my feet.

Brown boots and a black purse. “Oops. I meant to change purses.”

“Look at mine,” she said. “Twinsies!”

“Sisters of the heart,” I said. “I love your necklace.”

She touched the silver pendant and laughed. “I made it myself. The snowflake was a dollar.”

Just like that, we bonded.

We talked about writing and life. Then she surprised me with something I’ll never forget.

“Last night, I wished I had a present for you,” she said. “And I knew it was too early in our friendship to give gifts. Then I remembered something I had in my car.” She placed a wrapped present on the table.

Uh-oh. Gulp, gulp.

I don’t have anything to give her. 

I remembered my word. 

You can’t worry while you’re dancing. It’s impossible. Click to Tweet

“When you open it, you’ll understand.” Mary’s green eyes sparkled with anticipation. “I bought it several years ago at Goodwill, and forgot I had it with me. I wrapped it at 11:30 last night.”

I ripped off the corner of the present.

No words came.

Just a burst of unspeakable JOY.

“I love this song,” she said. “I’ve listened to it over and over. The CD’s in the back of the book.”

I cleared my throat.

Still couldn’t talk.

She opened the book.”Look at the inscription.”

Because I hope you ‘dance’ every chance you can in 2016.

“Oh, Mary. Thank you.”

“Consider it a gift from God.”

Dancing means we–

1. Trust our partner. 

2. Don’t try to control the rhythm–or anything else. 

3. Relax–even when we’re learning a new step.

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

How do you plan to dance in 2016?

Have you ever risked forming new friendship and found a heartfriend? Click to Tweet. 

Love,

Julie