Robin’s Early Christmas Gift

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there’s something very different about us.

Robin celebrates holidays with her whole heart. 

It’s always fascinated me.

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

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

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

“Jewels, guess what I did yesterday?”

“No telling.”

“I watched my favorite Christmas movies.”

“You watched Christmas movies before Halloween?”

That secret place in my heart clamored for attention.

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

What if it’s really okay to love Christmas? 

Something clicked into place like a key unlocking a door.

Robin has the gift of anticipation.

And it’s okay to anticipate Christmas!

Was it too late for me? Could I change?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who knew anticipation could be contagious?

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

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

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

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

Surrender…It’s So Very Daily

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

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

So many times I return to Step One.

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

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

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

I’m powerless over people I love.

I’m powerless over others’ opinions of me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

On loop number eight, she sharpened her claws.

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

I waited on her.

Nope. She stayed put.

Which brought me back to Surrender.

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

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

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

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

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

I’m just supposed to work on myself.

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

Love,

Julie

Trusting God and Letting the Pansies Go

Mother called late Thursday afternoon. “Julie, your brother (Jeremy) is making me a pansy garden. You’ve gotta see it. He bought special fertilizer, planted them in a big dirt mound, and covered them in mulch. He even pressure-washed my angel birdbath, and put out my ‘Trust in God’ sign.”

Friday, she met me at her carport door, sad-faced. “Early this morning, a neighbor saw a 10-point buck eating all my pansies!”

She showed me a picture. “I took this before everything was ruined. Jeremy built the wall by hand with a mallet and hammer. All that’s left now is his rock wall and my sign.”

“Can’t he replant your pansies?”

“Well, he could, but I’d have to stand guard and watch for the deer.”

“That’s a lot of work.”

“Yep. I thought about artificial pansies, but Gene (her husband) said no.”

Monday afternoon she called. “Jeremy’s replanting the whole thing. He’s spreading mothballs to repel the deer.”

“You don’t sound excited. Have you seen it?”

“No. I’m afraid to look. I feel so sorry for the pansies. I can’t stand it if they get eaten again.”

“They’re my favorite flower.”

“Mine too.”

“They’re so brave,” I said.

“They’re survivors. They make it through bitter cold winters.”

“Well, you can’t be afraid to look at them. Let me know when you gather your courage.”

Later that day, she called. “I haven’t looked yet, but I visualized each pansy and prayed over them.”

I could feel her peace through the phone.

“Okay, I’m walking to the window now. Oh, Julie. They’re gorgeous. He planted them not once, but twice, so I love them twice as much. I’ll let you know what happens, but I’m trusting God. I can’t live in fear. Not even about my pansies.”

“Wonderful! Now, send me a picture of you smiling.”

P.S. This week the “pansies” in my life are something I’ve been writing for a long time. Soon, I’m pressing send, trusting God, and letting go.

What are your “pansies” right now?

P.S.S. I just talked to Mother. So far, so good. :)

Love,
Julie

 

My Regular Old Southern Self

“Oh, Julie,” my mother said in a somber tone. “New Englanders are a bit different than we are.”

I’d called to tell her I’d be leading a women’s Surrender Retreat at New Colony Baptist Church in Billerica, Massachusetts.

“What do you mean different?”

An incredibly long paused formed.

“People in the New England area are … ”

“Are what, Mother?”

“Well, they don’t eat grits or drink sweet tea, and they never say, ‘I’m fixin to’.”

Uh-oh. What have I gotten myself into?

How can I stop being so Southern and be more polished? More New England-ish?

I tried to stop saying “I’m fixin’ to.”

But I couldn’t.

I thought about giving up sweet tea.

But I didn’t.

Instead I made a scary decision.

To go to Massachusetts and be my regular old Southern self. 

To share my heart with the ladies.

The real me.

Weeks later standing at the podium, I told them what my mother had said. :)

They just about died laughing.

So did I. 

I began teaching, as I sometimes do, wearing curlers and a bathrobe. :)

I used my Barbie dolls like always.

I even brought out my chain to share how fear and perfectionism had bound me for most of my life.

Some of my new friends …

At the end of the retreat, I carried balloons of SURRENDER to the middle of the parking lot.

I’m laughing because the wind is blowing so hard.

So beyond my control.

So much bigger than me.

So … God.

When we released them–

Up, up they floated–

And landed in a tree.

But one lone yellow balloon broke free. When she did, Truth rose in my heart. 

People are just people. We all laugh and cry and struggle.

Best of all, God is still God. 

And I get to be me.

 So much love,

Julie

Do you ever struggling with being yourself?

P.S. Thank you for praying for us!

 

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

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