A Heart-Post from my Best Friend of 40 Years

I’m on vacation this week. It’s an honor to introduce Robin.

Hi Julie’s friends! I’m so excited to be visiting you today- I’m Robin and my blog is All Things Heart and Home!

Profile Picture 2014 Mike, who is known on my blog as The Husband, is my partner in projects. We are always busy making or remodeling something around the house :) If you have a minute, I’d love for you to visit me sometime!

Julie and I have been best buds since the 9th grade and I love her heart as much as you do. Today I want to share a heart post while she’s enjoying some time at the beach!

***

furry friend

I woke early, just after three with thoughts clamoring loud for attention. When the coffee was ready I made my way out to the screen porch to have my quiet time. I think sometimes when God wants to talk to me, He coaxes me out of bed extra early. Five animals followed me to the porch, four pups and Reba-the-Cat. As we settled in under blankets, they fell asleep and I sipped coffee and listened for Him.

“Thank you that you have everything under your control…” I’m whispering my prayers when a tiny creature moves quick around the edge of the room towards that hole in the screen.

I’ve seen him before, this tiny thing, on another too-early morning. But that time he ran so fast toward his exit that I couldn’t be certain if he was a chipmunk or a mouse. That time I mildly freaked out and my sleepy pack of animals all jumped up and ran towards him.

Not this time though.

This time he scurried, but not entirely frantic-

This time the pups lifted their heads to see, but never even got up-

This time Reba-the-Cat stood and watched him disappear through the hole in the screen before folding her legs back underneath her and settling down.

“Sorry to bother you,” I told him as he made his exit.

Isn’t it strange that we’re almost accustomed to the little vermin, I thought. Leaning back into my comfy chair I heard:

What thoughts and habits barely make you look twice anymore?

The question came quiet to my thoughts but rang loud in my heart.

What is it in you that comes through the hole in the screen?

It was one of those God-Moments so I grabbed my journal and began making a list of things that are unwelcome but that I’ve become accustomed to…

~worry

~stress eating

~not exercising

~living on the computer

Those were some of the unwelcome vermin that are so familiar they seem like they belong in my life. I think the hole in the ‘screen’ comes from neglect. Neglecting to pray. Neglecting to read my Bible. Neglecting to worship with a group of people. It’s not that we have to do those things to be accepted or to be loved, but to neglect those things means there will be consequences, holes in the screen so to speak. And something unwanted will probably find it’s way in.

Father, help me to fix the hole in the screen…

Has there ever been a season in your life when you realized you were allowing unwelcome things to be the “norm”?

Sending love sweet friends

xo

Thank you, Robin. What a treat.

Y’all, you’d love her blog. Such creativity! She’s been inspiring me for years–long before she started blogging.

Love,

Julie

He’s Got the Whole Wide World in His Hands–Really



This past Friday after reading ATLAS GIRL: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look, by Emily T Wierenga, I sat on the steps that lead to my office. Thinking. Praying.

Completely blown away by Emily’s memoir.

I’m honored to be part of a blog tour to share the news of ATLAS GIRL, but for me, the book was so much more than that.

Staring at the cover, I remembered my own childhood–those family shaped places in my heart that sometimes still throb.

Growing up, I tried to hold our world together. I tried to hold us together.

In March of 1968, my mother gave birth to twin boys. My sister and I were thrilled. We’d each have our own baby to feed and dress–what fun!

But nothing stays the same for very long, does it?

Especially in families.

As our babies grew into rambunctious little boys, I thought …

If I try hard enough, I can fix my family. 

I can …

Run fast enough to catch my brothers and make them behave

Lighten my mother’s load so she can smile

Be smart enough to impress my busy father.

I had no clue our family would break in almost every possible way.

When my brothers were 15, Daddy died with a brain tumor. There was a suicide attempt,  mental illness, homelessness, prison, and addictions. When I was 34, I broke. I couldn’t hold my world together any longer. I experienced clinical depression and wrote about it here for Guideposts.

So this past Friday afternoon, I sat on the steps thinking.

Remembering.

Emily’s memoir is real and raw, and yet there’s hope and healing too.

Flipping through the pages, I re-read something I’d underlined.

Page 221:

“…The thing about God is, he sees the big picture. And that big picture is framed by grace and it includes us in it, and he cares more about refining our character and our spirits than he does about acknowledging our feelings. Sometimes he risks us not liking him for the sake of the bigger picture. For the better picture.”

God cares more about refining our character and our spirits …

Could it be …

The jagged places

The messiness

The sickness

The crooked lines I couldn’t straighten

Are somehow part of God’s bigger better picture?

Then I imagined His strong hands holding my lopsided world 

And my family.

Thank You, Lord. You’ve got the whole wide world in Your hands.

So I can keep letting go.

 Emily’s incredible book trailer …

Emily T. Wierenga, award-winning journalist and author of 4 books, has released her first memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look. You can grab a copy here.



ALL proceeds from Atlas Girl will go to Emily’s non-profit, The Lulu Tree. The Lulu Tree is dedicated to preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers. It is a grassroots organization bringing healing and hope to women and children in the slums of Uganda through the arts, community, and the gospel. Find our more and connect with Emily on her blog at www.emilywierenga.comor find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Love,

Julie

To: My Readers … Love: Julie

Have you ever felt a tiny spark of courage to create something out of almost nothing, but you were afraid you’d fail? Afraid you’d be rejected?

That’s how I felt when I began blogging.

Today, this very day, I’m so grateful to each one of you. You welcomed me into your world and blessed me more than you can imagine.

Here’s my loft office and Ellie, one of my granddogs. :)

Exactly three years and one day ago, I was ter-ri-fied. It was the night before my first blog went live. Every few minutes, I got out of bed and tiptoed upstairs to read my post one more time.

Just one more time.

“Be back in a sec,” I said to my husband in a fake-cheery voice.

“Where’re you going?”

What if I have typos?

What if no one reads this? How long will I keep up the façade?

What if my creativity dries up, then what? What do I write about next week, and the next, and the next?

Or worse.

What if people make fun of it and say, ”What’s this supposed to be?”

Finally, oh, finally, the sun came up on Wednesday morning, June 24, 2011.

7 a.m.

I told my trembling fingers to behave and press Publish. Then I wanted to hide under my desk.

Three years later, I still wonder what I’ll write about next week, and my stomach still does a summersault when my blog goes live.

But the unspeakable joy of becoming your friend

And having to depend on God 

Help me forget about myself

And overcome fear.

Thank you.

When we encourage one person, we never know how many lives we might touch. 

Are you creating something new–something a wee bit scary? Please share. I’d love to hear about it.

Love,

Julie

The Ridiculous Lie I Believed About Motherhood

While my children were growing up, I believed a lie.

I thought if I could be a Perfect Mother, I could raise Perfect Children.

Have you ever heard of such nonsense?

On my first day at home with baby Jamie (our first child), my mother stopped by.

Jamie started screaming. I couldn’t do anything to make her happy.

She’s less than a week old and I’m already failing!

Crazy, I know.

I thought it was my job to make sure she never cried.

Or got sick. Or dirty. Or hurt. Or sad. Or lonely.

Or misbehaved when she got older.

While we ate supper, I laid her on the sofa. Somehow she wiggled toward the back of the sofa.

What kind of Perfect Mother does things like this?

Before Mother left, we snapped a few happy pictures.

 

I’m smiling (a Perfect Mother always smiles) but on the inside,

I was a Nervous Nellie.

Two and a half years later Katie was born, 30 years ago today, April 30th. :)

Happy birthday, Katie!

What pressure! Now I had two little girls to make Perfect.

I tried so hard to be a Perfect Mother.

Which was exhausting.

Cheery notes in lunchboxes, ribbons in hair, matching outfits, plus I never screamed (on the outside).

Then something happened that began to change me.

Our third child Robbie was born with anencephaly.

He lived twenty minutes.

Life and death can rearrange our thinking. Shift priorities.

We had another son two years later.

Slowly but surely, (and definitely while raising teenagers!) I discovered how wrong I was.

It was never my job to be a Perfect Mother.

And something else.

The root of my desire for perfection was control.

I wasn’t in control then.

I’m not in control now.

God is.

He’s my Perfect Father. And my children’s Perfect Father too.

Did you believe any crazy lies about motherhood?

Wishing you a happy and relaxed Mother’s Day.

P.S.

I’m helping to spread the word about a new ministry called The M.O.M. Initiative. “Mothers on a Mission to Mentor other Mothers.”

They’re having a conference July 21 – August 2, 2014 in Jacksonville, FL for moms, mentors, and leaders, and are reaching out to mothers everywhere, and not just during the conference.

Such good stuff! Wish this had been around 30 years ago.

Click on the picture below for more information.

Hey sweet BETTER TOGETHER partners! We are in full swing with the promos for the conference. Here's a new graphic to share along with the website link to use to share about BETTER TOGETHER. And did I mention that every blog partner gets a 2 tickets to BETTER TOGETHER FREE? http://www.themominitiative.com/conferences/2014-better-together-m-o-m-conference/

Love,

Julie

 

Have You Ever Hated Your Can Opener?

Hint: This post is about more than a broken can opener so hang  in here with me.

The other day I turned the twirl-y thing on my can opener around a can of green beans 42,000 times, but nothing happened.

So I bought a new can opener. Real modern-looking. I figured it would last longer. That afternoon, I tried to open the green beans again. I held the can opener every possible way, but I couldn’t get the stupid thing to work.

Wouldn’t even poke a hole in the can.

When my husband came home from work, I handed him the can opener. He’s a mechanical genius.

It took him about thirty minutes to open the green beans. “Yeah, it works. You just have to hold the can opener at a forty-five degree angle.”

“That’s crazy. I should just use my teeth.”

I’d already tossed the receipt. I was stuck with it.

Every time I saw the new can opener peeking at me from the drawer it annoyed me.

You’re not getting the best of me, Mr. Can Opener! I’ll show you who’s boss!

For the next few days, I cooked without any canned goods.

Then God slipped a truth into my heart. He’s so good at that. Especially when I’m being ridiculous.

Sometimes you do this with people. You shut them out and hold onto bitterness.

True.

That takes a lot of energy.

True.

I’d been pouting with people and can openers.

The next day, I picked out another can opener. The new one has a simple design, but it works beautifully.

I celebrated by making a big pot chili with lots of canned tomatoes.

I’m tossing the other can opener–along with my bad attitude.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice…” Eph 4:31 ESV

Love,

Julie

 

 

Confessions From the Oldest Child of the Scared Family

One of my brothers used to say were the Scared Family. He had a dry sense of humor, and mostly, he was talking about my mother and me. Anything and everything was reason to be afraid. Very afraid.

Easter morning, forty years ago…

Mother’s hair was a little scary looking, don’t you think? And what about her tie?

Seriously, my brother was right.

Most of the things I’ve been afraid of never happened, but I lived through them just the same.

Hospital waiting rooms were particularly scary. But after fifty years, the Scared Family is changing.

Remember when my mother had her  biopsy? My sister made fudge and we had a party. We didn’t do this years ago–combine biopsies with fudge and sunglasses and silliness.

The other day, my sweet step-father Gene fell taking out the trash and broke his hip. After being rushed to the hospital by ambulance, he had surgery. He’s in a rehab facility recuperating.

And look! Mother’s smiling in the waiting room during surgery. FYI, this is not the woman who raised me. :)

I’m sure I’ll have more scary times, but this much I know is true:

Fear doesn’t change the outcome. It’s exhausting, addictive, and leaves no room for good thoughts.

So what’s bringing change to the Scared Family?

1. We’re laughing more.

If there’s anything you can laugh about, laugh.

After surgery, Gene was confused coming out of anesthesia. “Why are we in the hospital?”

“We’re having a baby,” Mother said.

“Oh. Then why am I in the bed?”

“This time you’re doing the work.”

2. Take a break. Do normal things like fold the laundry, go to the grocery  store, or even paint your toenails.

3. Pretend you’re not afraid. It works. Courage becomes real in your heart.

We’re told 365 times in the Bible not to be afraid.

So do not fear, for I am with you…” Isaiah 41:10 NIV.

Have you battled fear too?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

Lessons From My Cat Thelma

Have you ever had someone spot beauty you’d overlooked, and it was right there beside you? My husband rescued Kitty Thelma several years ago. She was a few weeks old when he found her hiding underneath a car. This past weekend before the ice and snow, our son’s girlfriend Brittany took  pictures of her.

She captured Thelma’s everyday moments, but there’s nothing everyday about Brittany’s pictures

They are Divine.

Brittany showed them to me Sunday night.

It was as though I’d never really seen my cat until I saw these photos.

Every picture held a message for me.

Talk about having a moment.

I sensed God tapping my heart.

Pay attention, He seemed to say.

“Look at her,” I said. “She’s so happy on our front porch.”

“Rescued animals are always grateful,” Brittany said. “Thelma’s secure. And confident. And fearless.”

“Oh, look. When she’s tired, she rests.”

“This expression,” I said.  ”She’s doing exactly what God created her to do. Watch birds.”

“She’s not posing. She’s just being herself,” Brittany said.

“Her beautiful self. I bet she didn’t stress about the photo-shoot.”

“No way. Thelma’s not a people pleaser,” Brittany said.

“You mean, she wasn’t trying to impress you?”

Brittany laughed. “She’s too smart for that.”

“This one’s priceless. She never gets tired of the little things.”

“She’s sitting in my wicker chair–content wherever she lands.”

Then Brittany showed me the last one.

My very favorite.

“How did you get this picture? The sun streaming over her shoulder…”

Brittany just smiled.

“Pure contentment. Like she’s in heaven. Right on her own front porch.”

Lord, I don’t want to miss the Splendor of any moment. Just like Thelma.

Which one of Brittany’s pictures is your favorite and why?

* If you’d like to contact her about a photo-shoot for your pet, you can find her on Facebook, Brittany Lynn Brooks.

Love,

Julie

 

Clutching Church Pews and Steering Wheels

The other day I was in the car hurrying to go nowhere, thoughts flying all over the place. I’d slipped back into stinking thinking. Into trying to control certain situations. Into assuming I knew better than God.

My worries felt so…

Necessary. Justified.

Deep down, I knew my behavior didn’t match my one word for the year Enoughas in, God is more than enough for me.

And then this song came on the radio. When Matt Maher sang the phrase, “Lord, I need You, oh, I need You, every hour I need You…” I went back to my childhood, to a song we sang in church.

All of a sudden, I’m eight years old again singing,I need Thee every hour” in my shaky voice. My small clammy hands cling to the wooden church pew.

To the illusion of control.

Because even as a little girl, I was afraid to let go.

In my car, my grownup hands clutch the steering wheel like an ambulance driver heading to the next crisis.

And bless Matt’s heart. He just keeps singing…

“Lord, I need You, oh, I need You…”

A soft voice inside says,

Let go. Unclench your fingers.

I stop at a red light and stretch open my hands.

I’m telling you the truth.

In an instant, the sweetest peace filled my car.

Just by loosening my grip on life.

If something (or someone) is weighing you down, take a couple of minutes to listen to this song, watch the pictures, and open your fingers.

I’m praying for you.

Thank You, Lord.

You’re my ONE DEFENCE. MY RIGHTEOUSNESS. OH, GOD, HOW I NEED YOU.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Word for 2014…Enough is Enough

Deciding on my one word for the year always goes this way. A word comes to me in November. I run from it. Same thing happened in 2013. Here’s a snippet from my journal about my 2014 word:

“Lord, what kind of word is Enough? Enough doesn’t sound very spiritual, and I have no idea how to apply it. E.N.O.U.G.H. Enough what?”

Enough.

It was December 27 and I was getting fidgety–way past time to have picked my word. I sat in my prayer chair and read from Sarah Young’s JESUS CALLING hoping for clarity.

 

Page 378:

“Take time to be still in My Presence so that I can strengthen you.”

Further down the page…

How much better is it to walk close to Me, depending on My strength and trusting Me in every situation.”

Oswald Chambers, MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST, December 27:

“The most dangerous and unsure thing is to try to live without God.”

“You know, God, I’ve done this plenty of times. Lived life my way, by fear rather than faith.”

I got down on my knees. “Sounds like You’re telling me You’re Enough. Are You sure you can handle me? Sometimes I get….complicated.”

Then I hushed long enough to listen. Here’s what I believe He said:

I am Christ in You, the Hope of Glory.

I am the Prince of Peace.

I AM the Great I AM.

Nothing slips by Me.

I AM the First and the Last. The Alpha and the Omega. The Beginning and the End.

You can rest in Me.

You’ll never need more than I can provide.

I AM ENOUGH.

Happy tears came.

Enough. What a wonderful , beautiful, perfect word.

Deep and full and wide.

Such a strong word.

Eeee–nough.

No matter what 2014 brings, God, You’re enough. You’re more than Enough.

What’s your word for 2014? Do tell!

Love,

Julie

 

 

I Give Thanks for You, Dear Readers

I process life with my heart, my gut, and my instincts. Usually not logically. Sort of like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.

Take blogging, for instance. When I first started, I decided it would a good idea to write dozens of posts in advance and pre-schedule them.

But my heart wouldn’t cooperate.

I panicked.

What if my creativity dries up? Then what? I’ll be an ex-blogger? An un-blogger.

But each week an idea comes.

Just one.

A gentle thought–so tiny, yet it sparkles.

Almost like manna from heaven.

Impossible to ignore.

And along with fresh ideas, God’s provided readers.

This Thanksgiving I’m grateful to you, Dear Readers.

You’ve demonstrated God’s faithfulness to me.

Thank you for the privilege of your time.

Thank you for reading, for each comment, and most of all, for you friendship.

We connect hearts here, don’t we? :)

Wouldn’t it be fun to gather at my cabin? I’d fix cheesecake and plenty of coffee and sweet tea.

We’d have a sure ‘nough PORCH PARTY, wouldn’t we!

I believe today’s message is…

If God’s calling you into a new adventure, no need to fret. He’s faithful. He’ll provide. His way. In His time.

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies…” Psalms 36:5 NIV.

Gluten-Free Cheesecake

Easy Gluten-free Cheesecake

Crust:

Midel Gluten-Free Ginger Snaps (1 1/2 cups) Just use regular graham crackers if you don’t eat gluten-free.

1/2 cup melted butter

 Filling:

3 (8-oz) packages softened cream cheese

5 eggs, separated

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

 Topping:

1/4 cup sugar

1 (8-oz) sour cream 

 Melt butter. Pour over cracker crumbs. Press into bottom of spring form pan (or use a 9 inch Pyrex dish). I always use a spring form pan. Set aside.

Separate eggs. Beat whites separately until stiff but not dry. Set aside.

Beat cream cheese, eggs yolks, sugar, and vanilla. Fold in egg whites. Pour over crust. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes. Mix sour cream and sugar. Pour over cheesecake and bake for 5 minutes.

With so much love and  gratitude,

Julie

The Wizard of Oz from Flickr Commons