The Life-Changing Power of Kindness and a Smile

Last Thursday my 79-year-old mother finally agreed to conquer her iPad fear. She’s had an iPhone for almost two years. An iPad would mean a larger screen. More user-friendly.

But she was eaten up by what-ifs. 

I’ve wrestled with what-ifs a bazillion times. Mother’s always been the one to encourage me.

On the way to Best Buy, we stopped for lunch. I said a quick blessing. “Thank You for our food. Please help us shop.”

And give Mother courage. 

“And Lord,” she added. “Will You please send us a nice salesperson? Someone who’s kind and smiles a lot.”

After I said “amen” she started backpedaling.

“Really, Julie. We don’t have to do this today. I know you’re busy.”

“You’re going to have an iPad. Today.”

“What if I can’t do it? What if I’m not smart enough? What if–”

“Baby steps.” I patted her hand. “Take a deep breath. You can do this.”

Inside Best Buy, a friendly-looking salesman approached us. “Hi. My name is Jeremy. How can I help you?”

I have a brother named Jeremy. Mother and I looked at each other. 

See. It’s gonna be fine. His name is Jeremy. And he’s smiling.

Jeremy helped us choose a gold iPad with a cute little stand. He didn’t act like Mother was a bother. Or stupid. He answered all her questions.

“Well, you ’bout ready?” I said. “Time to check out.”

She looked at me, big-eyed.

“What if I can’t–?”

“What if you can?”

“Mother, you’ve come this far by faith. No turning back.”

Jeremy, bless his sweet heart. 

He acted like it was perfectly normal for customers to talk about fear and faith at the check-out counter. 

He surprised her and downloaded three free apps – Kindle, YouVersion Bible, and AccuWeather.

Aren’t people like Jeremy at Best Buy THE BEST!

On the way home, we stopped by Starbucks for a quick lesson.”Look at you! Sitting in Starbucks with your iPad!”

“I’m faking it. I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“Pretty soon, it’ll make sense.”

Her dark brown eyes met mine. “Okay. I think I can do this.”

She called the next day. “Guess what? I’m listening to Patsy Cline, The Plattersand Jim Reeves. They’re singing whatever songs I ask them to.”

Mother wants you to hear her favorite song, “Only You” by the Platters. Click “The Platters” above if you can’t see the video.

So many people have helped me do scary stuff–including YOU! :)  

What have you been afraid of? Was there a kind person like Jeremy who led the way? 

Fear shrinks our worlds. Faith does the opposite. Click to Tweet. 

Speak the words, “I can do this.” Faith soars and fear flees. Click to Tweet

Love,

Julie

The Dancing Queen Has an Aha Moment

Have you ever found the answer to a problem in a bizarre way? That happened to me this weekend. Saturday morning, I was stumped.

My problem just so happened to be about writing, but it could’ve been about anything.

Thinking too hard and drinking way too much coffee, I sat in my office staring at dozens of sticky notes. I couldn’t figure out how to fix the plot in my novel.

By 10 a.m., my brain already felt like this.

A knotted-up mess. 

Ever so gently, my word for 2016 came to me.

DANCE. Why don’t you dance?

Now? 

I can’t dance. 

I have to fix this problem.

Take a break. Dance. Let it go. 

I can’t. 

Work comes before play.

Always.

Those are the rules. 

Then four words came to me. Four one-syllable words.

Do you trust Me? 

Yes, of course but…

Then dance–the gentle thought brushed against my heart.

Don’t laugh, y’all, but I did.

I got out my chair, twirled around in my office (no one was home but me), and I boogied my way downstairs–

Like I was the room monitor, slacking off on my duty.

Then I did something really wild and crazy. I hopped into the car. Drove to the YMCA.

For 30 minutes, I played solitaire on the treadmill as though I had absolutely nothing better to do. 

I acted like a kid during recess and danced–mentally and physically. 

Guess what?

The best thing happened–

When I forgot about my problem, the answer came. I knew what to do! How crazy is that?

Back at home, I moved a few sticky notes around on my whiteboard and fixed my plotting issue. 

Sometimes trusting God means we let go, take a break, and dance. Click to Tweet

Is this an aha moment for you too? Or have you always known about the dancing secret? I bet you have! :)

P.S. If you have a minute, watch this video from 1978. “Dancing Queen” used to be my fave song back in the day.

If you can’t see the video, click here. It’s impossible to watch it without dancing!

Love,

Julie–the Dancing Queen 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My 2016 Word–The Flip Side of Surrender

A couple of weeks ago, one word from a Scripture verse danced off the page, begging for my attention. Can you guess what it was?

“And David danced before the Lord with all his might…” 2 Samuel 6:14 (KJV)

As a child, I loved to dance.

I started taking ballet lessons when I was three. I came alive in the ballet studio–a wide open room with shiny wooden floors and mirrored walls.

But eight years later when I got my first pair of toe shoes, a fearful thought took root.

You’re never going to learn how to dance in these pointy shoes. 

So I quit dancing.

My mother spray-painted my toe shoes red. They hung in my bedroom for years.

Untouched but never forgotten.  

Yesterday while I thought about 2016 word possibilities, my husband dragged the Christmas tree outside and moved my pie safe back into place.

After days of rain the sun came out, and my wedding dishes sparkled. So pretty. Closing the doors to protect my china, I noticed my oldest child’s handprint.

She’s 34 now.

My hands used to be this small–

When I was a tiny ballerina–

Who stopped dancing because of fear.

Can I actually choose a fun word for 2016? Like  Dance

I always pick stoic words like Enough, Simple, Follow, and Surrender

What if the flip side of Surrender is Dance? 

Maybe when we let go of control, we’re free to dance. 

I bet when David danced before the Lord he didn’t say, “Don’t watch me. I’m a terrible dancer.” He probably danced with his heart and soul–with everything inside him. 

That’s when my word came to me with absolute assurance. 

My 2016 word for the year is DANCE.  

I danced to the pie safe, flung open the doors, and grabbed some dishes. 

Breaking all sorts of decorating rules, I mixed wedding china with my grandmother’s depression glass and set up a coffee station.

I filled an antique container with Sour Patch Kids. I love Sour Patch Kids! :)

I even lit a pink candle in the middle of the day.

In 2016, I’m going to:

* Use my wedding china.

* Light more candles.

* Bathe with decorative soap.

* Love people with my whole heart. 

* Most of all, I’m going to dance–not just with my feet, but with everything I do. 

When we surrender and live fearlessly, others are set free! Click to Tweet

Do you have a 2016 word? Do tell! 

Are you gonna dance next year?

For the full experience, watch this video below. If you can’t see it, click here.  She’s even redheaded!

** Let’s remember to pray for those in Texas and the Midwest who’ve been affected by the storms. My heart is with them right now.

P.S. Ballet pics from Pixaby. 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Miracle–Healing of a Childhood Memory

Sometimes it takes years to be healed from a lie you’ve believed about yourself. Especially when it began in childhood. Over time, you convince yourself it’s not important because it happened so long ago.

I’d buried that terrible moment from the third grade until last Thursday night.

Karen, my friend from church, invited me to their small group Christmas party. All women. About ten or twelve of us. We laughed and talked, the way ladies do. After we ate, she cleared off the kitchen table. “Craft time!”

That’s when I remembered the day the lie–THE FEAR–was planted, 47 years ago.

“Ummm, excuse me. I don’t do arts and crafts.”

“Oh, these are easy,” Jackie, another friend said. “We’re making snowmen ornaments.”

My heart did double time. 

Please no! Not arts and crafts! Help! Help! I’m stuck! 

“No thanks. I’ll just watch.”

That day in the third grade, the teacher passed out brown construction paper. We were supposed to rip a camel out of our paper. No scissors or pencils were allowed.

About thirty minutes later, the teacher proudly displayed 26 camels on the bulletin board. She wouldn’t hang up my camel.

None of them. I tried over and over.

They weren’t good enough. And I wasted lots of paper. 

All these years, I’ve been afraid of arts and crafts. 

Inside Karen’s kitchen, everyone got busy.

Everyone except me.

Jackie placed a clear ball in front of me. “You can do this,” she whispered. “I’ll help you.”

My heart boom-boom-boomed in my ears.

I was eight years old again. 

Shaky hands.

Staring at a piece of brown construction paper. 

But Jackie was nothing like my third grade teacher. She smiled a lot and helped me. :)

First I poured something called Gleams inside my ball.

 

I swirled the paint around until my ornament turned white.

What if mine doesn’t work?

How’s this blob going to magically turn into a snowman?  

Jackie said to let it dry inside a Styrofoam cup.

“Now, it’s time to glue his stocking cap on and draw a face.”

A glue gun? I don’t do glue guns. Or draw. 

But I’d come this far.

So I did the next part carefully. So… very… carefully, and–

Ya’ll–

I made a Christmas ornament! My first arts and crafts project! 

I fell in love with his precious face–almost like he was my own newborn baby. 

Then Karen said something I’ll never forget. 

“Congratulations, Julie! You’re now an official crafter.” 

Me. A crafter! :) Who knew? I’d been one my whole life–I just didn’t know it!

Back at home, I found a special place on the tree for my creation. Looking right at me, he seemed to say,

“Thank you! You brought me to life.”

Sort of like what God did for me–through Karen and Jackie. 

A single act of kindness can set someone free. Click to Tweet. 

All sorts of miracles happen when we’re set free! Click to Tweet.  

Have you ever believed a lie about yourself? Maybe that you weren’t good enough? 

Lies can cripple us, but their power over us can be broken! 

P.S. Have you ever discovered you had a hidden talent? Awesome, isn’t it!

Snowman ornament from Pinterest--20 Dollar Store Christmas Decor Ideas on Browser.net 

Love,

Julie

 

 

Guarding My Thoughts–Frogs, Marbles, and Jewels

I’m a visual learner. Whenever I’m asked to speak or teach, I bring a giant bag of props. One of them is my Thought Box. I know this sounds goofy, but hang with me for a minute.

For most of my life, I chased almost every negative notion and fear that popped into my mind.

Unhealthy thinking. 

Guess what? There’s another way to live! Here’s what I’m talking about. 

My Thought Box represents my mind. 

It contains three things–

Shiny marbles, pretty jewels, and plastic frogs. 

I keep it on my desk. 

With God’s help, I choose which thoughts to dwell on and which ones to toss. I don’t like frogs, so they symbolize destructive thinking. Condemning froggy-thoughts are lies. And they leap from one bad thought to the next.

To the next.

To the next. 

I don’t have to listen to them anymore. 

Froggy-thoughts:

1. You’ll never measure up. :(

2. You’re not smart enough. :(

3. Depression took you under. How embarrassing! You should be so ashamed of yourself! (This could be ANYTHING you struggle with or ANYTHING in your past–not just depression.)

4. Uh-oh!!! You were supposed to follow Plan A, but you chose Plan B. You blew it! It’s too late to change! :(

5. You’ll never get it right! You’ll never be free. :(

6. God’s probably forgotten about you. :(

Okay, here’s the amazing part~~

God-shaped thoughts are like precious jewels and rock-solid marbles.

We can trust them.

They’re true. 

1. God is for me. He loves me. 

2. I don’t ever have to be afraid. 

3. God says I’m precious in His sight. 

4. God forgives me. 

5. I’ve been set free! 

6. I don’t have to be perfect! Jesus did that for me. Click to Tweet. 

Guard your thoughts. They have the power to build us up or tear us down.

What froggy-thoughts (lies!) pester you? 

What jewel-thoughts (truths) encourage you? 

“For you are God’s masterpiece. He has created you anew in Christ Jesus, so you can do the good things He planned for you long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 

“Don’t be afraid or discouraged for the Lord your God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” 1 Chronicles 28:20 

“…We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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! 

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. 

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

And something else–

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

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

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

Thoughts?

Love,

Julie

 

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.” 

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.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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) :)