Three Tips for a Healthy Thought-life

I think most of us have weaknesses when it comes to our thought-lives. Certain kinds of thoughts get us in trouble. For me, it happens when I allow myself to worry.

It always starts with one small worry, and it doesn’t even have to be rational. 

I knew better than to entertain this particular thought, but when it hit, I chose to hang on to it. Looking back, it’s almost funny.

A few days ago, I got choked on a piece of kale. No big deal, right? But a couple of hours later, I began running a low-grade fever.

The “what if” hit.

Uh-oh.

What if I have aspiration pneumonia? I bet that’s what’s wrong! 

I have no idea where the thought came from.

Only that it tempted me.

The next morning, my temperature was 101, and I was coughing. The doctor at Urgent Care ordered a chest x-ray, which was perfectly normal, and gave me an antibiotic. But right before I left the exam room, she instructed me to go to the ER if I got worse because I might need a lung specialist.

A lung specialist?  

More worry material.

Three days later my fever was gone, but my breathing sounded like Darth Vader’s. If you can’t see the video below, click here. 

What started with one worry brought an avalanche of fear.

Something’s wrong!

Nobody should sound this way! 

Six days after the kale incident, I didn’t go to the ER, but I went to see my regular doctor. She listened to my kale saga and my lungs. Then she gave me a new antibiotic and an inhaler.

“Rest. Drink plenty of fluids. You should be much better in a couple of days.”

“So…you don’t think I have aspiration pneumonia?”

“No.” She smiled. “Your fever’s gone. You have bronchitis.”

My primary care doctor was one-hundred percent correct.

By the next morning, I felt much better–so good I made a pot of homemade chicken soup–even added  fresh spinach. :)

Sitting by the fire with the dogs, I realized I’d wasted a lot of time worrying when I could’ve been praying. Or laughing. Or encouraging others. 

So, I’m sharing my kale tale to see if we can learn from it. :)

1. Healthy thoughts lead to healthy behavior. Click to tweet.

2. Guarding our minds brings joy and peace. Click to tweet

3. With God’s help we have the Power to change our thoughts. Click to tweet. 

“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8 NIV

Comments?

Do you have any Truths to add to the list?

What kinds of thoughts trip you up? It helps to identify them. 

Love,

Julie

My Four-Letter Word for 2017

When the idea for my word first came to me in November, I shoved it aside. I didn’t think it would be much of a challenge. Nothing like my words from the past:

2016 DANCE 

2015 SIMPLE  

2014 ENOUGH

2013 FOLLOW 

2012 SURRENDER  

I thought I’d aced this particular word a long time ago. But it kept popping up. Everywhere. It’s behind my laptop on an ideas board I made back in August.

It’s on the cover of this Angels on Earth magazine on my desk.

I started reading a book on my Kindle by Sheila Walsh, The Longing in Me: How Everything You Crave Leads to the Heart of God. (Great book!)

The word is in the verse at the very beginning of the book, the command from God:

LOVE each other. John 15:17

I do love people. I’m not mean. 

I got a little nervous when I read the title of my BFF’s blog post, Love is Costly. Robin opens with this picture below and says,

“Love was costly for Jesus. Love was costly for God. Of course, love is costly for us too.”

(photo credit All Things Heart and Home.)

I felt an uncomfortable sensation churning inside. An uneasiness. 

God had a grip on my heart. I didn’t want to give in.

This was getting deep, and I wasn’t sure what LOVE might cost.

Taking the Christmas decorations down, I noticed the burlap ribbon on the tree in the kitchen. Leftover from Valentine’s Day. Covered with red hearts.

I’m not craftsy, but I wondered if I could use the ribbon on the front porch–where my Christmas decorations were.

For Valentine’s Day.

Not for LOVE. 

I wrapped it around a grapevine wreath and tied a bow at the bottom.

I brought my old pitcher outside–the one with hearts on it–still arguing with God about the word.

Okay. This looks nice, but it doesn’t mean I have to pick LOVE for my word.

I get it. 

We’re supposed to love people. 

And I do.

Then the word showed up at the bottom of my prayer journal.

Boom.

An arrow.

Straight to my heart.

The verse nailed me.

Love one another as I have loved you. 

AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.

I don’t do this very often, Lord. I don’t love people unconditionally. Sometimes it’s for show. Or for personal gain. Or because it’s expected.

But to love expecting nothing in return…

This scares me.

Because I don’t know how. 

And I can’t do it without You. 

With trembling fingers, I handed God my heart and said, “Will You teach me how to love others?” Click to tweet

I have no idea what’s next, and yes–I’m still a little bit afraid of my word.

Have you chosen a word for 2017? A theme? A goal? Are you a tiny bit scared too?

Love,

Julie (there’s my word again!)

 

 

 

 

 

What Does it Really Mean to Dance?

Before I opened my eyes Thursday morning, my husband said, “Happy anniversary.”

Five-thirty a.m., and I started laughing. A terrible time to laugh.

It wasn’t the kind of laughter you can stop. 

You know better. 

You tell yourself to behave and act like an adult. But you’ve lost control. 

“Happy anniversary,” I said, when I finally caught my breath.

“What’s so funny?”

“We’ve had a perfect marriage, haven’t we? Thirty-eight years of sheer bliss.”

(Leaving for our honeymoon, 12.9.78)

“Are you drunk?”

“Just think. We’ve never had an argument. No problems with our children. Always plenty of money in the bank. No sickness. No sadness. No family issues.”

“Yeah, right.”

All of the sudden, it wasn’t funny anymore.

We didn’t say anything for a minute. Probably both thinking the same thing.

During our 38 years together, we’d been up close and personal with mental illness, addiction, divorce, arrests, jail, prison, cancer, infertility, anorexia, homelessness…

Maybe you have a similar list.

I started the coffee. Fixed us a cup.

We went outside to the front porchand I thought about my word for 2016, DANCE.

Deep down, I hoped in 2016 I’d be dancing and celebrating certain things. Most of them haven’t happened. Not yet, anyway. 

I leaned back in my rocking chair. Sipped my coffee. “When you get married, you start out with all these wonderful plans–the way you think everything’s supposed to go.”

“Doesn’t work that way. We’re not in control.”

(We’re dancing at our daughter Katie’s first marriage in 2006.)

But something was nagging at me.

I couldn’t figure out how to fit the word DANCE into the puzzle of 2016, and the year was coming to a close.

“Do you think life is like a dance?” I said, thinking maybe I was getting a little closer.

He looked out into the morning, which was just beginning to wake up. “Yep. Life’s hard. Marriage is hard. Raising children is hard. You celebrate when you can.”

Then the magic happened. I connected the dots.

Truth came together in my heart.

I found what I was looking for–a way to tie our messy lives into dancing.

“You know what? Over the years, it’s the slow-dancing you remember,” I said. “The hard times. The times when you don’t know what to do. That’s what bonds people together. It’s not the fun, loud, happy times.”

“You’re right.”

“That’s the secret. That’s what brings us close to God. Hard times. Times when there’s no possible way you can make it without Him.”

He nodded. “Yep. You nailed it.”

When things gets tough, slow dance. Hang on to God with all your might. Lean into Him. Click to tweet. 

Keep your eyes on Him. 

Stay inside the shelter of His embrace. 

He won’t let you go. 

* When you can’t hear the music, remember, God wrote the song. Click to tweet

Three questions:

1. If you chose a word for 2016, how’s it going?

2. Are you slow dancing with God right now?

3. I’m curious. Do you have a list like mine?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

Bone Broth for Blessings

For the past few weeks, I’ve taken dinner to my mother and stepfather on Wednesday afternoons. It’s not a big deal for me. They only live twenty minutes away. I love to cook and my mother doesn’t. She’s happy with smearing peanut butter on a banana and eating a bowl of ice cream.

But my stepfather Gene likes to eat–real food

To be honest, I used food as an excuse to talk to him. Nourishment for my soul.

As a retired minister and sociology professor, Gene knows people. And he’s lived long enough to know what’s important in life. He’s 85.

I trust him.

He’s never given me advice unless I’ve asked for it. This time, I had a lot of questions. 

I walked into their kitchen with a crock pot full of bone broth soup, warm cornbread, fresh fruit, and a plate of spice cake. And, of course, Hershey bars for Mother.

(Here’s a recipe for how to make bone broth from Wellness Mama.)

Mother hopped up on the counter and popped a grape into her mouth.

“So, Gene,” I said, trying to sound casual. “What’s life all about? I mean, what matters most? What’s my real purpose? Why am I here?”

He smiled, even though I’d asked a long line of heavy questions that he couldn’t be possibly answer in an afternoon visit.

“What you’re feeling is perfectly normal,” he said. “I wrote a little bit about it.” Opening a drawer, he pulled out a thick stack of papers. “It’s my doctrinal dissertation from June of 1967.”

My gaze landed on the word MEANING in the title. Which is what I’d been searching for. Meaning and purpose. What matters most.

“This is amazing,” I said.

Everything I wanted to know, I could find in Gene’s study.

“Do you mind if I borrow it? I’ll take good care of it. I promise.”

“Sure.”

Before he left to run errands, we talked some more, and I followed him outside.

What happened next was one of those sparkly moments–the kind you know you’ll never forget. 

Standing by his truck, I flipped through his research, hoping to make sense of all his facts and figures.

“You really want to know what’s important in life?” he said.

I moved inside his open door. “More than anything.”

He looked up toward heaven. “Love well.”

“Love well? That’s it? Two words. How can life be that simple?”

“That’s it.”

His hazel eyes met mine, and I remembered how he’d been there for me over the years. Always compassionate. Never judging.

~~How he prayed with me during my two bouts of clinical depression in 1994 and 2012.

~~How he read Scripture at our infant son Robbie’s graveside and at our daughter Katie’s first wedding.

Gene was right.

The answer settled my soul. 

Love well.

Love God and love others. What else matters? Click to tweet. 

“He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 NIV

What does LOVE WELL mean to you?

Do you have someone a little older and wiser to talk to?

Love,

Julie

Keeping a Quiet Heart

After my confession blog two weeks ago about putting my novel at the foot of the cross, God’s been remaking me. It’s moment-by-moment as if He’s forming me at the Potter’s wheel.

I’m talking less and listening more.

He whispers without words through friends and family, and even through simple, everyday happenings.

First, it was the eggs.

Almost every day, my husband puts fresh eggs on the kitchen counter. He doesn’t say anything. He spreads them out on a paper towel beside the sink. These eggs look like where they’ve been. They’re dirty. They’re covered in chicken poop and laying feed.

They’re also fragile and delicate–and on their way to being beautiful. But it takes a quiet heart to discover their beauty. 

Over the past few years, I’ve broken plenty of eggs by getting frustrated and impatient. By having a bad attitude.

Why doesn’t he clean them himself?  He doesn’t even ask if I mind. He just plops them on the counter and walks off.

See what I mean? Ungrateful. Missing the miracle of the moment.

Sort of like two weeks ago.

I felt like God had plopped an impossible assignment on my desk.

I thought He’d called me to write novels. But then He asked me to put all my hard work at the foot of the cross and get to know Him better. But how? I had work to do! 

I felt stranded in the middle of nowhere–with a big mess to clean up. 

Or so it seemed. 

But His ways aren’t mine. Neither is His timing or His plans. 

He let me “break a lot of eggs” before I got desperate enough to say,

“Help me. I need You. I can’t make it a day without You.” 

So, standing at the kitchen sink, I kept my heart still and quiet and carefully washed the dirty egg. Then I dried it and marked it with the day’s date–just like God is doing with me. 

Before I closed the lid, I said a quick prayer. Nothing fancy. Just honest and grateful.

A complete dozen. Thank You, Lord. You provide. 

One tiny prayer.

One giant shift in attitude.

This new path I’m walking isn’t a race. I have no idea where He’s leading me. I’m not in control, and I don’t have all the answers. 

But I can promise you this–

A new life begins with brokenness and rises from a quiet heart. Click to tweet. 

P.S. The eggs were my first lesson in keeping a quiet heart. I’m jotting everything down so I won’t forget to tell you!

Have you kept a quiet heart today?

Are you being broken? Be encouraged. God’s at work.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 


 

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