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

Having Fun…101

Some people just naturally know how to have fun. I love people like this. They don’t take themselves too seriously. They go with the flow. I’m going to become a fun person. Seriously. I mean it. I am! The problem is, sometimes I’m too busy checking things off my list to have fun.

Last week–and this was huge for me–I discovered the Countdown to Christmas | Hallmark Channel.

I’d always assumed light-hearted movies were a waste of time. If I was going to watch a movie, I wanted a complicated plotline–something deep, that made me think.

But late Thursday afternoon, I took a break and discovered this movie…A Very Merry Mix-Up | Hallmark Channel.

At first I felt sort of self-conscious. Maybe a little guilty.

Watching a Hallmark movie on a Thursday afternoon.

It wasn’t on my calendar. :-)

But there’s something about these movies…

And Saturday, my husband and I were in the North Georgia mountains in a quaint little town called Dahlonega when I noticed a sign.

 

“Look at the small letters,” I said. “‘The Art of Having Fun.’” The words stole my heart.

 

We walked past a decorated wrought iron arbor.

Hmmm. An entrance. Maybe its welcoming me to a new way of living.

I asked a random teenager to take our picture.

I wanted to remember the spot where I decided to do something fun every day.

Even something as simple as smiling for a goofy picture.

Just like the sign says, having fun is an art–one I’m acquiring.

The new Julie…

1. Lives in the moment.

2. Doesn’t mind looking silly.

3. Doesn’t waste time worrying.

Does having fun come naturally to you? What’s something fun you do this time of year? Are you watching the Countdown to Christmas movies?

P.S. We’ve also watched Snow Bride | Hallmark Channel, Catch a Christmas Star | Hallmark ChannelHoliday Engagement | Hallmark Channel and A Princess for Christmas | Hallmark Channel.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Leaf…My Life

Walking down our driveway last week, I spotted the most beautiful leaf. She stood out from the rest. Red. Star-shaped. I decided to make leaf place cards for my Thanksgiving table. I’d choose a leaf for every family member and paint each person’s name on their own special leaf.

This red leaf would be mine.

Heading up the front porch steps, I grabbed a fake orange leaf from the wreath on the door.

Comparing the two leaves, the red one wasn’t so perfect-looking. Little holes dotted her. Parts of her body were torn off.

She’d been through some hard times.

What was I thinking? She’d make a pitiful place card.

I flipped her over. The other side was worse.

Then I examined the artificial leaf. She was perfect. No dark spots. No rips. Shiny.

I decided to use artificial leaves. One at every place setting.

Then a gentle thought came.

Put the real leaf in front of the candle, God seemed to say. Look closer.

The candlelight shines through the holes. Makes her color even brighter

Difficult times in my life came to mind. Burying our baby boy. Daddy dying with brain cancer. My year of depression. Hard things family members are dealing with right now…

I see all your broken and tender places. Torn edges. Scars.

These are the VERY SPOTS where My Light shines brightest.

We’ll have real leaves on our Thanksgiving table this year–one at each place setting.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV

My dear readers, what does your leaf (your life) look like? I’m praying for you.

Love,

Julie

 

The Cat in the Hat and Me

The other day my 32-year-old daughter Jamie and I were talking. She told me about a tense situation at work, and I said, “Sort of like the Dr. Seuss book, The Cat in the Hat. Remember?”

“Not really.”

 

“How could you forget Thing One and Thing Two? Everything’s a huge mess after the cat in the hat comes over–little Sally doesn’t know what to do.”

 

 

We changed the subject, but I couldn’t forget the book.

When I was little, The Cat in the Hat scared the doo-wah-ditty out of me. Maybe because I was the oldest child, and I had hyperactive twin brothers.

 

 

Every time I read The Cat in the Hat, I’d think…

Sally, be careful. Lock the door. Don’t let that cat inside. He’s going to mess everything up!

And what about the poor fish?

He nearly dies!

Which would have been all Sally’s fault.

She’s doing everything she can to keep things under control, but nothing’s working.

What a nightmare!

And just when you think things can’t get any worse…

The edge of her mother’s black pointy shoe comes toward the front door.

My heart lurches.

OH, GOOD GRIEF. THIS IS RIDICULOUS. I’M AN ADULT NOW.

But this book…why does it still get to me?

Over the next few days, the answer came.

It ties into SURRENDER . :-)

Little Sally may be in charge, but she’s not in control.

God is.

Now I picture her laughing, eating popcorn, and enjoying the show.

When Sally finally realizes it isn’t her job to control life, boy, does she have fun!

Love,

Julie/Sally

*Pictures from Flickr Danxoneil and Danxoneil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mom and Me and Ministry

Saturday morning, 6:50, Mother called. “I’m on your driveway,” she said. “I’m early. I’ll sit in my car ’til you’re ready.”

Years ago, I didn’t plan to be speaking, teaching, and writing like my mother Marion Bond West. We were co-teaching at East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers Conference.

“Look at these terrible hose,” she said, hopping into my car.

“What’s wrong with them?”

“Last night, I laid everything out–my clothes, my shoes, and my wonderful toeless nude hose. I put on my hose this morning and they had a run. So I had to wear this ridiculous pair. I look like Carol Burnett.”

I tried my best not to laugh. Her hose were fine, but Eunice and Mama.

 

 

She stretched out her legs on the dash to show me. “I planned to wear heels with toeless hose, but I had to wear flats. And these stupid hose.”

“Mother, stop. You look cute.”

(Her shoes–I have a pair just like them.)

“You’re just being nice,” she said. “I look like ‘Marion the Librarian.’”

“Hush. You do not.”

“That’s real sweet of you to say, but–”

“Want me to stop by Walmart?”

Her face blanched. “Are they that bad?”

“No, Mother.” I sighed.

Later on…

After we finished teaching, she whispered, “You have a sticker stuck to your shirt.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want to embarrass you.”

“So you let me teach with a sticker stuck to my shirt?”

 

“If I’d told you while you were teaching, you’d have blushed.”

Probably.

On the way home…

“Today was nice,” I said. “Nobody noticed your hose.”

“I forgot all about them. I had fun. We laughed and they laughed with us.”

“I guess it’s not about hose or stickers, is it?”

“Nope. It’s about being real and giving yourself away,” she said.

Mother in her Carol Burnett hose, and me with a sticker stuck to my shirt shared a little bit about honest writing.

Maybe a little bit about honest living, too.

Have you stumbled onto this Truth?

It’s not about me.

Love,

Julie (and Marion/Eunice) :-)