Finding Faith in a Tiny Bathroom

The other day I was cleaning our teeny-tiny master bathroom and praying about a relationship problem. Doubt took over and my faith shrank.

Spiritually and physically, I felt claustrophobic.

My prayer changed to worry.

Lord, I don’t see how You can possibly work in this situation. It’s like our tiny bathroom. There are no options. 

There’s only enough room for a single sink, my claw-foot bathtub, and my grandmother’s antique table.

The dark-stained log walls make the bathroom feel even smaller.

More closed in.

Especially on rainy days.

And it was raining.

No extra space.

No room for God to work. 

A few days later my husband and I watched the DIY Network show, Fixer Upper, and talked about how some day, maybe we’d remodel our bathroom. Just daydreaming, really.

The next Saturday, he found twin mirrors in Kirkland’s.

Barn wood. Rustic. Our style.

“These would make our bathroom seem a lot bigger.”

I didn’t believe him. How could mirrors make a difference?

But they were on sale. Only $24 each. “Guess it wouldn’t hurt to try.”

“Pick out a shelf. That’ll give you more room.”

When we got home, he hung everything. “Well, what do you think?”

Peeking inside the doorway, I couldn’t believe it.

It was as if Chip and Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper had totally transformed it(Here’s a great article about them in Country Living magazine.)

I entered our brand new bathroom and stretched my arms out wide and marveled like Alice in Wonderland.  

For less than a hundred dollars, we’d enlarged our tiny bathroom!

But God wanted more.

He wanted to enlarge my faith.

Doesn’t He always? :)

While I decorated my new shelf, He worked on my heart. 

“Lord,  when the bathroom miraculously grew, so did my faith. Nothing–absolutely NOTHING is impossible with You.(from Luke 1:37)

Is there a tiny, cramped area in your life–a certain situation that seems impossible? Tell me. I’d love to pray.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real Women Talk

I’d been toying with the idea that perhaps–just perhaps–my phone had gotten too important to me. Then–BOOM! Something happened Saturday night and there was no denying it.

I had a problem.

My husband Rick and I were invited to a friend’s birthday party. We knew two of the six couples. Most of them had been in a small group together, led by the birthday boy Todd and his wife Debbie.

From left to right: Fay, Dana, Leslie, me, Nikki, Debbie, and Denise.

When the ladies started talking, wouldn’t you know?

The conversation went straight to phones.

How, when we were children, people talked. 

Face to Face.

We had real relationships.

I wanted to hide under the table.

Every time Rick and I get in the car, the first thing I do is grab my phone to check Facebook and catch up on emails.

Honestly, I’m not with him. I’m in another world.

The phone-world always seems so URGENT.

Up until Saturday night, I pretended I didn’t know any better.

Snippets of our table conversation from the ladies:

“My kids invite their friends over and text rather than talk.”

“We went to a party and were instructed to leave our phones by the door.”

“My kids got panicky in the car on vacation when their batteries died.”

“We should make new rules. No phones during mealtimes or on Sundays.”

I’m thinking, no——–please, please, please don’t take my phone! 

I can’t live without it! 

Uh-oh. 

I have a problem.

My phone is WAY too important to me.

The thing is–

At the party, I forgot about my phone. I was having so much fun getting to know people. 

Through expressions.

Through honesty.

Through humor.

Which doesn’t happen from typing words into a screen.

One of my new friends suggested we sneak up on the men to see if they were on their phones.

Four of the six were.

Then something life-changing happened.

Leslie broke out in a birthday song to Todd!

LAUGHTER. 

COMMUNITY.

FRIENDSHIP.

Things I’d have missed if I’d been trapped in the phone-world.

Because real women talk. Sometimes they even sing. :)

You gotta watch this! If you can’t see the video below, click here

From now on, I’m living life instead of letting my phone control me.

Can you relate?

Has anything ever gotten too important to you? 

Love,

Julie

From a Mother’s Heart

Jamie, my 33-year-old daughter, and I talk almost every day. But last week, she told me something about herself she’d never revealed before. I knew I’d be pondering her words for a while. Maybe forever.

“Mom, I love the solar system,” she said. “It makes sense to me.”

“Really? I pretend it doesn’t exist. Maybe because I don’t understand it.”

“Remember that science fair project I did with Styrofoam planets?”

“Um-hmm. Fourth grade.”

“Some day, I’m going to get a telescope.”

“Have you always loved looking at the sky?”

“Always.”

How could I’ve been her mother this long and not known?

She told me all about the upcoming blue moon and texted me a recent picture she’d taken.

“It’s Venus and Jupiter,” she said. “You can only see them at certain times.”

“Amazing! How do you know this stuff?”

“I study the solar system.”

She talked a little bit about blood moons and end of time prophecy–something we’d never discussed.

After we hung up, I dug through a box of old pictures, not really sure what I was looking for. Clues maybe?

Did she love the night sky as a child? 

September 21, 1981. Jamie was born the next day.

 

Three years old.

She found a pair of scissors and chopped off her pony-tail. I remember thinking, I should’ve been watching her. How’d I let this happen? 

Teaching her to ride a bike, I’m wondering,

When is it safe to let go?

 

I searched through her elementary school pictures.

Nothing about the solar system.

A couple of nights ago, I went outside and sat in the damp grass. The blue-black sky was glorious–diamond-like stars taking up every inch of it.

I looked up until my neck hurt. 

Lord, there are so many things I don’t understand about creation. And children. 

How did You fling the stars into space?

Why don’t we fall off the spinning earth?

Can You connect with Jamie and her musings? 

It was as if He whispered like a good friend–right into my ear.

Just relax.

Enjoy the view.

I’ve got this, Julie. 

What puzzles you about creation? Children?

Do you understand the solar system?

Love,

Julie

 

Parody of the Pickles…and Perseverance (re-posted)

If you’re receiving this post late or twice, I’m so sorry. There was an issue with my website service on Wednesday. Some of you found my blog through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. There are comments on the original post from Wednesday if you’d like to join the conversation, or feel free to comment on this one. :)

Just drop down to the next post on my website and you’ll see the first post about pickles.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program…

“Julie,” my mother said. “We aren’t those kind of people.”

“What kind of people?”

“Pickle-making people.”

My husband Rick had just brought in a mountain of cucumbers from his garden and we planned to make pickles.

Cinnamon Red Hot Pickles.

Starting the tedious process I thought, What in the heck are we doing? Mother’s right. 

Our ingredients included strange things like ALUM and PICKLING LIME.

Here’s the recipe.  I’m warning you. It’s intimidating. The recipe says it takes three days, but we started at night. It took four.

Washing, peeling, and removing the seeds from 5,000 cucumbers was quite an ordeal.

Next we cut them into a million pieces.

It.

Took.

Forever. 

We cheated and used the dishwasher to sterilize the jars.

With each step, my doubt grew.

We’re wasting our time.

Mother’s right. 

We aren’t pickle-making people. 

It was messy. Sticky. Exhausting.

One night after eleven o’clock, I was so sick of making pickles that I went to bed and left Rick stirring.

Somehow, we made a monumental mistake and bought the wrong kind of Red Hots. :( Ours turned into clear rubbery balls that wouldn’t dissolve.

Nevertheless, Rick charged on, hoping they’d miraculously melt.

They didn’t.

By day three, red sticky syrup covered the counter. Cucumber seeds clung to the cabinets, the floor, and the refrigerator door.

The final morning before Rick left for work he asked me to do the next step.

“You’re kidding,” I said. “We’ve wasted enough time. Let’s just quit.”

“Nope. We’re not giving up.”

Feeling foolish and frustrated, I took the stupid cucs out of the fridge.

To my horror, they were pale green and pink. 

Not candy-apple red.

Then my mother called. “I tried to tell you,” she said.

Throwing the mess away, I decided NO MORE PICKLES. 

This is it. 

I’m done. 

But Rick wouldn’t give up.

He went to four stores in search of the right kind of Red Hots.

He found them.

This time, he called his aunt for her recipe.

We started all over again.

But guess what?

It worked!

We did it! 

We made absolutely incredible Cinnamon Red Hot Pickles! 

Mother still can’t believe we’re pickle-making people. :)

I saved her a jar. 

If you’re working on something that seems impossible:

1. Tune out all negative thoughts. And comments. :)

2. Don’t be afraid to change your approach. (Aunt Jane’s recipe.)

3. Hang in there. Sometimes God’s favor comes when you least expect it.

Can you identify?

P.S. They’re gluten-free!

Love,

Julie and Rick

 

Parody of the Pickles…and Perseverance

If you’re receiving this post late, I’m so sorry. There was an issue with my website service.

“Julie,” my mother said. “We aren’t those kind of people.”

“What kind of people?”

“Pickle-making people.”

My husband Rick had just brought in a mountain of cucumbers from his garden and we planned to make pickles.

Cinnamon Red Hot Pickles.

Starting the tedious process I thought, What in the heck are we doing? Mother’s right. 

Our ingredients included strange things like ALUM and PICKLING LIME.

Here’s the recipe I’m warning you. It’s intimidating. The recipe says it takes three days, but we started at night. It took four.

Washing, peeling, and removing the seeds from 5,000 cucumbers was quite an ordeal.

Next we cut them into a million pieces.

It.

Took.

Forever. 

We cheated and used the dishwasher to sterilize the jars.

With each step, my doubt grew.

We’re wasting our time.

Mother’s right. 

We aren’t pickle-making people. 

It was messy. Sticky. Exhausting.

One night after eleven o’clock, I was so sick of making pickles that I went to bed and left Rick stirring.

Somehow, we made a monumental mistake and bought the wrong kind of Red Hots. :( Ours turned into clear rubbery balls that wouldn’t dissolve.

Nevertheless, Rick charged on, hoping they’d miraculously melt.

They didn’t.

By day three, red sticky syrup covered the counter. Cucumber seeds clung to the cabinets, the floor, and the refrigerator door.

The final morning before Rick left for work he asked me to do the next step.

“You’re kidding,” I said. “We’ve wasted enough time. Let’s just quit.”

“Nope. We’re not giving up.”

Feeling foolish and frustrated, I took the stupid cucs out of the fridge.

To my horror, they were pale green and pink. 

Not candy-apple red.

Then my mother called. “I tried to tell you,” she said.

Throwing the mess away, I decided NO MORE PICKLES. 

This is it. 

I’m done. 

But Rick wouldn’t give up. 

He went to four stores in search of the right kind of Red Hots.

He found them.

This time, he called his aunt for her recipe.

We started all over again.

But guess what?

It worked!

We did it! 

We made absolutely incredible Cinnamon Red Hot Pickles! 

Mother still can’t believe we’re pickle-making people. :)

I saved her a jar. 

If you’re working on something that seems impossible:

1. Tune out all negative thoughts. And comments. :)

2. Don’t be afraid to change your approach. (Aunt Jane’s recipe.)

3. Hang in there. Sometimes God’s favor comes when you least expect it.

Can you identify?

P.S. They’re gluten-free!

Love,

Julie and Rick

 

 

I Can’t Possibly Do This!

I was in full-blown panic mode. My husband and I volunteered at our church’s Fourth of July fireworks celebration and were assigned to serve on the parking team.

Me.

On the parking team.

Including cars I’ve hit in my own driveway and the mailbox I took out, I’ve had a total of nine wrecks.

I can’t parallel park and I’m terrible at directions.

When I told my mother and daughters the news, Katie laughed until she cried. Mother said, “Julie. No. It’s too dangerous.” Jamie only said one word. “MOMMMMMMMMMMMM!”

When Rick and I arrived for duty, we were given official Walkie-Talkies, neon-green vests and lanyards, and flashlights.

I’m not doing this. I can’t. I don’t know how.

During our training session, my heart pounded so hard that I couldn’t speak.

After we prayed, I raised my hand.”Um. This is way out of my comfort zone. Please fire me. I’ll do anything else but–”

“We aren’t firing anybody.” The man in charge smiled. “I’ll find just the right spot for you.”

Trapped, I hopped on his golf cart, and we zipped to a driveway blocked by cones.

“All you have to do is keep cars from turning in here.” He gave me his umbrella and a couple of bottled waters. Then my father-in-law brought me a chair.

About an hour later, an elderly gentleman asked for help. He had a bad leg and couldn’t keep walking.

I felt God’s fearless love explode inside me.

I knew exactly what to do.

I gave the man my chair, a bottle of cold water, and radioed for a golf cart. 

Then something even better happened.

During the fireworks, Katie texted me this picture below and these words:

“Our first Fourth of July together.” 

Blinking back happy tears, it hit me.

ONLY when you step out of your comfort zone do you get front row seats.

And God’s standing right there with you.

That’s where the magic happens. 

(Katie’s holding her stepdaughter. For more of their story, click here. )

(blog idea came during this sermon, “Fearless, by Miles Welch. 

Can you relate?

Some of you’ve recently stepped out of your comfort zone. How’s it going?

Are you thinking about doing something a little scary?

Love,

Julie

 

Peanuts, Peaches, and People

The other day, I broke our porch party rules and brought up the subject of so-and-so’s behavior. The longer my husband and I talked, the more  judgmental I became–at least in my heart.

For a while that day, I thought I knew everything. 

We headed to  Thompson Family Farms to buy fresh peaches, my mind still analyzing someone else’s business.

“I love this place,” I said when we got out of the car. “I know all about Georgia produce.”

Finally! A place where my expertise can shine!

“I grew up shelling butter beans.”  I grabbed some frozen field peas. “Daddy had a garden every summer. ”

“We even canned tomatoes when I was little,” I said.

Of course, I knew everything there was to know about sweet Vidalia onions. I’d lived my whole life in Georgia.

“Oh, look! They have yellow meat watermelons.”

That’s what you call a yellow watermelon down South–yellow meat.

Feeling sorta smug, I sniffed the cantaloupes until I found a perfect one.

Then something unexpected happened. 

I spotted a bucket of peanuts.

Strange, because they weren’t boiled peanuts, like you find in Georgia.

They were shelled and put into baggies.

“What are these?” I said to the cashier.

“Fried peanuts.”

“Never heard of them. “

“They’re delicious. Try some.”

I bought a bag and told her I was making homemade peach ice cream the next day.

“If you want your peaches to ripen in a hurry, put them outside. Spread them out on a table, so they aren’t touching each other.”

“Huh. Never knew that.”

Back at home, I tasted fried peanuts for the first time.

Amaaaaaazing.

I put the peaches outside in the heat. A few hours later, they were soft.

Just like she said.

A thought hit me.

I bet there’s something I don’t know about the person and the situation I’d been so quick to judge.

Forgive me, Lord. Help me keep it simple. 

I don’t know everything about peanuts, peaches, and especially people.

Can you relate?

Have you been humbled lately?

Or learned something new?

If you chose a word this year, how’s it going? It’s already July!

Love,

Julie

For my homemade peach ice cream recipe in Guideposts magazine, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Bless This Mess

“Come here. You gotta see this,” my husband said Saturday morning. I turned on the coffee maker and followed him outside. “A bird’s built her nest in this wreath.”

I laughed. ” It’s not a real nest. Your mother made that wreath a few years ago.”

“There’s a real nest behind the fake one.”

Way down inside the dark hole, I spotted a pile of something fuzzy and gray. Feathers maybe? “Looks like baby birds might have been here. Hope they didn’t die.”

“Keep watching.”

“Ohhhhhh, you’re right! They’re opening their little mouths, waiting on their  mama to feed them!”

My husband carried on with his Saturday morning routine, but I couldn’t forget the two nests.

Real birds were living right behind a fake mama bird and her plastic eggs. 

So peculiar.

And spectacular.

Of course, I had a feeling there was a message here for me. :)

I touched  the  stiff mama bird.

Nothing was out of place in her perfect world. She even had matching, perfectly formed eggs. A spotless nest.

Years ago, I tried to be the perfect mom and raise perfect children. But living that way wasn’t really living at all.

Then I studied the other nest where real life was going on. Two baby birds chirped loudly. And there was probably poop in the nest.

Nevertheless, the birds were safely tucked inside a downy-soft home created with love.

And they were eagerly anticipating their mama returning.

Something dawned on me.

It’s better to be real,

To be someone who  listens and laughs,

Someone with faults who goofs up,

Than to be perfect, but cold and plastic. 

I left the baby birds so their mama would return to her wonderfully messy life. 

And I could return to mine. 

What do you think about the mama bird building her nest so close to the fake one?

Ever tried to be perfect? Exhausting, isnt it?!

I wrote more about breaking free from the trap of perfection here and here.

Love,

Julie


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miracle of the Marigolds and Me

This spring, I decided to play in the dirt again. I’d avoided all things green for three years after I got a horrible case of poison ivy  by pulling weeds without wearing gloves. I wanted my husband to think I was a real gardener.

And only thing I knew for sure about summer plants was that marigolds love sun and heat.

Anyone can take care of them, right? How hard could it be?

I found my tin watering cans and bought a potted caladium and a tray of marigolds.

I didn’t waste time reading plant care directions. 

I threw potting soil in my watering cans, and in less than five minutes, I created a summer garden on our porch!

Days later, I moved the marigolds to our patio. Total sun. 

They’re tough. They can handle it. 

For almost a week I ignored a gentle prompt.

Water the marigolds.

Saturday morning, their lovely heads were bent toward their feet. Their poor leaves had shriveled up. 

I’d ignored them for so long, I’d killed them!

I gave them a long, cool drink, but I was wasting my time. They were goners.

I left the kitchen. Couldn’t bear to watch them die.

An hour later they were a tad perkier, but the damage was done.

I left them overnight, hoping and praying for a miracle.

The next morning, I peeked with one eye shut.

It’s a miracle! 

My marigolds had been restored! 

“Welcome back, girls,” I whispered. “Sorry I forgot about you.”

At times, I’ve ended up just like my wilted marigolds.

Parched. Exhausted. 

I thought I was tough enough to do life on my own. 

I forgot I needed God every hour. 

I forgot to drink from the Living Well.

The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life. John 4:14 (MSG)

If you can’t see the video, click here. It’s a beautiful reminder of how much we need Him.

 Have you ever ended up my wilted marigolds?

Love,

Julie

Fear…Get ‘Cha Gone!

This quote is why I blog: “A wonderfully nurturing atmosphere is created when people help other people by being themselves and sharing their own experiences.” Courage to Change–One Day at a time in Al-Anon II

It reminds me of my friendship with Peggy Frezon. Peggy lives in New York and I’m in Georgia, so we only get to see each other at Guideposts’ writers workshops, like this past weekend in Vero Beach

 

Peggy and I battle The Fear Monster. Sometimes she says, “Fear! Get ‘Cha Gone!”

If the two of us gave in to our fears, we’d stay home in our closets. The things that scare Peggy aren’t frightening to me. And vice-versa.

But Fear is Fear. And it doesn’t play nice. 

Peggy’s afraid to travel.

She rode to a Guideposts workshop in 2004 with a jacket over her head. Her husband was driving. She’s afraid of elevators. And flying (at least right now).

But we’re on our way to becoming fearless!

Her husband  rode the train with her from New York to Vero Beach, Florida. They rented a car for part of the trip. She sat in back seat holding Jesus Calling.

I brought Jesus Calling to Vero Beach, too. Not because I’m afraid to travel.

I’m afraid of rejection.

Of being judged. 

Of not measuring up. 

I’d submitted another story about my depression. I wrote about it here years ago. The group would be discussing my story (my second clinical depression!) at the workshop.

The root of my fear?

Pride. What’ll they think of me?

But guess what?

Nothing I was afraid of happened. 

No one judged me!

No condemnation!

After the trip, Peggy and I emailed each other:

“I think God’s calling us to dip our toes into the water,” I wrote. “To go deeper with Him.”

“Look at the pictures I just texted you!” she wrote. “I took them right before we left!”

Peggy at the ocean. 

One step closer.  

Then another.

Peggy’s so courageous–traveling  from New York to Florida. She captured the moment on video–the same kind of joy I experienced when I wrote the truth and no one rejected me. 

If you can’t see the video below, click here

And then Sunday we sang this song at church. A certain phrase won’t let me go.

“And You call me, deeper still…”

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

Do you fight The Mean Fear Monster too?

Maybe God’s calling us to go deeper.

I pray this post helps.

Love,

Julie (and Peggy) :)