Panic City–How Do You Rescue a Trapped Bluebird?

When this happened last fall, I thought it was weird. When it happened again last week, I wondered if there was a message in it for me. Maybe for all of us.

We live in a log cabin and have a wood burning stove.

This pipe runs from the stove to the ceiling. It’s twenty-three feet tall.

The other day, I heard a banging noise inside the pipe.

Seconds later, a beautiful bluebird sat in a pile of ashes blinking at me.

Won’t you please help me? I’ve gotten myself into a terrible mess! Click to tweet. 

I opened the glass door, but couldn’t catch her. She was covered in ashes.

I know, sweet girl. I know how you feel. I’ve been trapped before–in fear, worry, control, perfectionism. Click to tweet. 

I called my husband. “Help! There’s another bluebird stuck in the wood burning stove. I can’t get her!”

“Sit tight. She’ll be okay ’til I get home.”

My husband Rick’s a bird-man. He raises chickens in our backyard.

Once, he rescued a hummingbird. He gave the miniature bird sugar-water and set it free.

Rick has an outdoor atrium full of parakeets.

In the winter, he covers their home in plastic and turns on a heat lamp.

He loves birds.

He understands them.

He’s not afraid to hold them when they’re sick.

A couple of hours later, he came home and knelt by the stove. The bluebird looked up at him.

Thank you! You came! I’m still alive! You didn’t forget about me!

“It’s okay, girl.” With confidence and compassion, Rick reached inside her dusty prison. “I’ve got you now.”

Gently, he rinsed her off in the sink, patted her dry, and set her free.

Whatever you’re struggling with today remember, “He holds you in the palm of His hand.” Isaiah 41:13. Click to tweet. 

And something else–

“He will give you beauty for ashes.” Isaiah 61:3.  Click to tweet. 

Have you ever felt like a trapped bird with no way out? What held you captive?















A Message from Callie the Caladium

Sometimes I’m drawn to the most insignificant things. I’ll see something and feel a quickening in my spirit. It happened a few weeks ago–all because of a Caladium–a pink and green plant I bought this spring.

First time I’d ever had a Caladium. I named her Callie.

In August, Callie’s leaves started drooping.

That’s when the PAY ATTENTION feeling came. 

Maybe  because Callie reminded me of things I’d been praying about for a long time and nothing had changed.

A situation with one of my children.

Something about writing.

A few family members. 

Based on how long I’ve been praying, I should probably give up.

But I didn’t want to give up on Callie. 

I googled how to grow Caladiums. I watered and fertilized her. Brought her inside during the heat of the day.

Nothing helped. 

In September, I noticed a gorgeous Caladium outside a store in a giant clay pot so I gave Callie a bigger home.

Which didn’t help.

I called my brother Jeremy, who knows about plants.

“Caladiums are like Elephant ears,” he said.

I walked out to the porch. “Our Elephant Ears are doing fine.”

“They’re hardier than Caladiums.”

“What if I plant it?”

“It’s too late. You should’ve done it earlier in the season.”

“Is it hopeless?”

“You can try cutting off the dead leaves. Probably won’t help.”

Performing surgery on Callie, I spotted one tender sprout near the black soil.

Only one.

She was small, but she was alive and well. 

I did what Jeremy said–I cut off everything that was dead.

And focused on all that was living. 

Guess what?

Yesterday, after a heavy rain, Callie stood a little taller and raised her face toward the sun.

That’s when the message came.

 ”… if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]. Phil 4:8 AMP 

If you’ve been praying about something for a long, long time, I understand. And I care. Don’t give up. Click to Tweet. 





Love Lessons from an Artist–Part Three

I hoped my friend Yvette might teach me a little something about art. I never expected her to teach me how to love people. Or anything about marriage. I’ve been married almost 37 years. I thought I had it all figured out. 

(Parts one and two are here and here.)

This sentence over Yvette’s bedroom door stumped me.

How can my ordinary life become a fairytale? 

Parts of it are messy and broken.  

Yvette showed me the rest of her bedroom, but I kept thinking about the fairytale sentence.

“On my wedding day, my sister’s mother-in-love gave me a hankie.” 

“She’d embroidered our names and the date on it. My mother started doing the same thing for brides. She made one for my daughter and my daughter-in-love. She even made one for me on their wedding days.”

“Gifts from the heart.”

Yvette’s wedding dress is on display right beside her bed.

“What a wonderful idea!” 

Especially since I threw mine away a few years after we married. :(

There was an old Bingo card lying on a chipped Formica table.

“This is one of my favorite things. I found pictures of us when we were five and pieced them together.”

“It’s precious. Have y’all been together since kindergarten?”

She smiled.

“No, but we’ve loved each other for a long, long time.”

In their bathroom, a small shelf held a cross, a white card, and some Scrabble letters.

“We leave love notes for each other here. I used Scrabble letters. He wrote, ‘I love you’ on the card.” 

Something stirred in my heart.

Once again, I couldn’t talk.

Before we left the bathroom, I noticed pictures near the mirrors.

Below them, I spotted a small sign.

Tiny letters.

This is how Yvette loves others–especially her husband.

Maybe it’s how–

 ”Love gives us a fairytale right in the middle of our ordinary lives.” Click to tweet. 

What do you think? Is it possible to experience a fairytale even though our lives are ordinary and messy and broken?

You can find Yvette here:

The Charm House  on Facebook.

The Charm House on Pinterest.

The Charm House in Instagram.

The Charm House website.

The Charm House on Twitter.








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.


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?




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.


Julie (and Peggy) :)


Comfort, a Clothesline, and a Dog Named Clyde

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m sharing a little secret about my mother. She’s sort of like The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan. She knows what animals are thinking.

Here she is with her husband the day they adopted Thor, their rescue dog.

Last week, I called her to see if she could psychoanalyze Clyde, our Lab. He does the strangest thing when I hang out the sheets.

“Mother, you know how Clyde wants to be with us all the time?”

“Of course. He’s a sweetheart.”

“Yes, but he’s a scaredy-cat. He never wants to be alone. He looks worried after Thomas (our 23-year-old son) leaves every morning.”

“That’s not so strange.”

“That’s not my question. I’m just explaining what kind of dog he is. He stays right beside us during our porch parties.”

(Every morning my husband and I sit on the porch together.)

“He even shares chairs with us.”

“He’s just a good dog, Julie. That’s all.”

“I know he’s good. Here’s what doesn’t make sense. The only time he’s not clingy is when I hang out the sheets. He sits by the clothesline and watches me, and then–”

“That’s not weird.”

“I haven’t gotten to the weird part yet.”

“He doesn’t follow me back in the house. He stays near the sheets.”

“The only time Clyde’s brave is when the sheets are on the line.”

“He even falls asleep out there.”

“So, what is it about the sheets?”

“A dog’s sense of smell is thousands of times stronger than humans. He’s picking the smell of you and home and safety from the sheets.”

“Huh. That makes sense. Okay, so what’s he thinking?”

“He’s thinking, It’s so nice and warm today. And I can smell my people close by, so I know I’m safe. I’m just going to relax a while in the sunshine. Everything’s fine.”

“I bet you’re right.” I paused. “You know, I think God has a message here for us.”

“Me too.” Mother said. ”Whenever we’re afraid, we need to stay close to the Comforter.”

As a mother comforts her child, so I’ll comfort you. Isaiah 66:13 MSG

There are a couple of situations in my life that are a tad bit scary. What about you? Let’s cuddle up beside the Comforter.

P.S. Are you like my mother? Do you know what animals are thinking?






The Gift of Improv–in Life and Love

Last week, I called our grown daughters. “Guess what? Your dad and I are going out Saturday night with our new friends Debbie and Todd!”

“Umm, that’s not really a big deal, Mom,” they said. “People go out all the time.”

But to me it was HUGE.

We were going to an improv comedy show, something we’d never done, with new friends, at the Aurora Theater in Lawrenceville, GA a place I’d never been.

Sometimes I’m a little slow to make friends. And when a new friendship forms, I let the other person initiate the first invitation. And Debbie had invited us! I was so excited!

I even looked up “improv” to make sure I understood.


“Improvisation or improv–a form of theater where most or all of what is performed is created at the moment it is performed.”

The actors can’t practice ahead of time. Holy cow.

Before the show started, the empty stage gave me goosebumps.

Nothing but three boxes and a couple of chairs.

Talk about faith–

To walk out on stage and not know your lines! 

Even getting coffee and M&Ms was exciting–the list of shows, the atmosphere. And $10 for our tickets, $4 for snacks.

After the theater company introduced themselves, they asked the audience to toss out clues.

The cast had to totally wing it.

Zero control.

Free falling. 

They nailed it, too! The show was hilarious, and clean :) .

Laughing with new friends–such fun.

Sorry for the photo quality–improv phone pictures.

Todd and Debbie.

And us.

We talked on the way home.

“I had such a good time tonight,” I said. “I think I’m supposed to live more improv.”

“How so?” Rick said.

“Have more fun. Take more chances. Roll with whatever comes my way, even if I haven’t memorized my lines.”


“Totally trust God.”

Have you been to an improv show? Live theater?

What about friendships? Do you trust easily?







A Secret Place in My Heart

One day last week, an editor called. She presented me with a startling writing assignment. A big scary assignment. An idea that could take months. And if there’s one thing that messes with me, it’s fear.

After we hung up, I sat down at my desk. My cold, clammy fingers hovered above my keyboard. I had no idea how to begin.

Why does she think I can do this?  I don’t know how. 

The softest sweetest voice in my heart whispered one word. 


I knelt beside by my desk.

Lord, fear is trespassing in my heart again. And I don’t have to be afraid.  

If You’re in this, help me. 

Sometimes when I write, I light a candle. I love the bright glow and the warm smell of cinnamon. I lit my favorite candle and watched the flame for a minute or two.

Then I put my fingers on the keys.

But the candle wasn’t enough.

Two unlit candles caught my attention.

What is it, Lord? 



Holy Spirit.

The Trinity. Three in one. Light all three candles. Ask Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to help you. 

I’d never considered praying this way before.

Yes! Yes!

I lit the other candles and knelt again.

“Lord, You’re my Father. The Great I Am. My Protector. Alpha and Omega. 

Jesus, You’re My Savior. My Friend.  Emmanuel. Wonderful Counselor. My Redeemer.

Holy Spirit, You’re my Comforter. My Deliverer. My Teacher. Dwell with me today.”

I crawled back into my chair and typed:

“I had no idea there was any other way to live. Fear, perfectionism, and control were like my wicked stepsisters.”

The words came from a secret place in my heart.

I had begun. :)

Here’s a 15-second video of my candles. Just had to show you!

If you can’t see video below, click here

Is there anything in life that keeps you on your knees? 

That’s okay.

It’s a safe place to be.



Go Ahead…Do it Afraid

When I’m with my mother, I never know where our conversation will land. Monday we had doctor’s appointments at the same office. We arrived thirty minutes early, so we sat in my car, talking.

“I wish I could’ve overcome my shyness around boys earlier in life,” she said.

“Mother, you’re not shy.”

“I used to be. Around boys.” She pulled the visor down and fluffed her hair. “I’ll always wish I’d slow-danced with Richard.”

“Richard who?” 

And who is this woman sitting in my car?

“A boy in high school. Since my daddy died when I was two, and I was an only child, I didn’t know how to talk to boys. Sort of like they were Martians. Even as an adult, I got nervous talking to men–the mailman, the butcher, the pediatrician.”

“Are you still afraid to talk to men?”

“Heavens, no.”

“How’d you break free?”

“I guess it started when y’all were little. I volunteered at the hospital teaching people to paint. They asked me to work with a man who was paralyzed from the neck down.”

“Were you scared?”

“Terrified. I stood outside his room for a long time, shaking. Finally, I said, ‘Okay, God, you’re on.’ Coy was strapped face-down in a Stryker frame bed about four feet off the ground.”

“What’d you say to him?”

“‘Hi, Coy, would you like to paint today?’ He said, ‘Sure.’ He told me to break the paintbrush in half because it was so long I’d choke him with it. We laughed. I used a cardboard box for a canvas, put the brush in his teeth, and he started painting.”

“What’d he paint?”

“Birds and rabbits and flowers. The woods. He was incredibly talented. The newspaper did a big write-up about him.”

“You found God in Coy’s room, didn’t you?”

“I sure did. His room was full of the sweetness of God’s Holy Spirit.” 

“How’d Coy help you overcome your fear of boys?”

She smiled. Looked down at her lap. 

Even though I’d turned off the engine, the car filled with warmth that cold February morning. 

Whatever she said would be good.

I could tell.

“He was seventeen when I met him. I was twice his age. Our friendship lasted for thirty years.”

She paused and I held my breath.

“Coy taught me there’s not much difference between boys and girls and their emotions. And everybody has needs. Even more than that, he taught me to go beyond myself. To step out in faith and take a chance.”

“Wow. That’s beautiful, Mother. Thank you.”

Are you a little bit shy too?

Have you ever found God in unexpected friendships? In a hospital? 

Have you discovered how much we receive by volunteering? 






Spiderwebs and Sticky Thoughts

One Saturday last fall, my husband Rick and I took a walk through the woods behind our house. The leaves were just beginning to change, and the sky, unbelievably blue. As soon as we got into the woods, Rick found a big stick. He waved it around in front of us like a sword, as though fighting an imaginary enemy.

“What are you doing?” 

“Knocking down spiderwebs.”

“I don’t see any.”

He smiled.


This past Saturday, Clyde, our Lab, and I walked through the same woods.

I remembered that day last fall.

The stick.

The spiderweb discussion.

The imaginary enemy. 

Are there really spiderwebs back here? 

Just in case, I grabbed a stick and twirled it in front of me.

Pretty soon, I decided I really didn’t need the stick.

It was a lot of work.

And I looked silly.

Rick was probably teasing me. If I see any spiderwebs, I’ll knock them down. 

I dropped my stick and kept walking.

It wasn’t long before I felt a sticky spiderweb all over my face–yuck!–and a black spider in my hair.

I never saw it coming.

I walked smack-dab in the middle of it.

Finding another stick, I had an aha moment.

All spiderwebs begin the same way–

With a barely visible thread.

Then the spider spins her web and sets the trap.

Soon her unsuspecting prey is gobbled up.

The same way one tiny thought can spin a web of destruction in my life.






Wrong-thinking has taken me down too many times.

Waving my stick is like guarding my mind. 

“Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life.” Proverbs 4:23 CEV

Do you carry a big stick and guard your thoughts too?