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. 

“Pray.”

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? 

Father.

Son.

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.

Love,

Julie

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? 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

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.

“Oh.”

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.

Fear.

Envy.

Lust.

Doubt.

Bitterness. 

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?

Love,

Julie

The Fear/Faith Principle

I’ll never forget what my mother did when I was twelve years old. She volunteered me to teach a ladies Sunday school class. She thought it would be fun. She was in the class. :-(

It was youth Sunday, but still …

I was furious. And scared to death.

On the way to  church I felt like throwing up. My hands shook as I clutched the fear/faith poster I’d made. The poster was half black and half yellow. The yellow part represented faith. The black part meant fear.

At the bottom I wrote:

“Faith means walking to the edge of all the light you can see and taking one more step.”

That day in 1972 when I taught the semi-circle of ladies, a miracle happened.

My poster worked!

I didn’t pass out. My heart slowed down. My words flowed.

I saw a softening around their eyes, a tenderness, a look of understanding.

We experienced the awe and humility of God’s Presence.

This weekend, I’m flying to Massachusetts to lead a ladies retreat on Surrender.

I’m packing my carry-on now. The goofy shoes and hat are part of a skit.

I’m bringing the Daily Guideposts 2015 . It contains a Surrender Series I wrote.

On the inside, I’m still the same little girl. Forty-two years later, right before I speak, my heart does that same skippity thing, and my hands turn clammy.

But the fear/faith principle still works.

When you take one tiny step out of all the light you can see, and your foot is coming down into darkness, you don’t realize it, but you’re landing in faith.

Are you stepping out into faith about something?

My church lady shoes for the skit–my mother wore them 27 years ago at her second wedding.

Please say a prayer for us this weekend.

Here’s my blog about the Ladies Surrender Retreat in South Carolina.

“Fear not, for I am with you.” Isaiah 41:10 NKJV

So much love,

Julie

 

To: My Readers … Love: Julie

Have you ever felt a tiny spark of courage to create something out of almost nothing, but you were afraid you’d fail? Afraid you’d be rejected?

That’s how I felt when I began blogging.

Today, this very day, I’m so grateful to each one of you. You welcomed me into your world and blessed me more than you can imagine.

Here’s my loft office and Ellie, one of my granddogs. :)

Exactly three years and one day ago, I was ter-ri-fied. It was the night before my first blog went live. Every few minutes, I got out of bed and tiptoed upstairs to read my post one more time.

Just one more time.

“Be back in a sec,” I said to my husband in a fake-cheery voice.

“Where’re you going?”

What if I have typos?

What if no one reads this? How long will I keep up the façade?

What if my creativity dries up, then what? What do I write about next week, and the next, and the next?

Or worse.

What if people make fun of it and say, ”What’s this supposed to be?”

Finally, oh, finally, the sun came up on Wednesday morning, June 24, 2011.

7 a.m.

I told my trembling fingers to behave and press Publish. Then I wanted to hide under my desk.

Three years later, I still wonder what I’ll write about next week, and my stomach still does a summersault when my blog goes live.

But the unspeakable joy of becoming your friend

And having to depend on God 

Help me forget about myself

And overcome fear.

Thank you.

When we encourage one person, we never know how many lives we might touch. 

Are you creating something new–something a wee bit scary? Please share. I’d love to hear about it.

Love,

Julie

The Courageous Call

I don’t want to make prayer seem formulaic–123–I prayed, I got. That’s not how it works–at least not for me. I’ve prayed for decades about certain situations and nothing’s changed.

But almost 25 years ago, God surprised me. Big time.

One morning, my mother-in-law Carolyn called. “Julie,” she said softly. “It’s hard to explain, but I was reading the Bible and ….” She hesitated. “This time next year, you’re going to have a baby.”

For half a second, I felt a tingly glow.

What if she’s right?

Carolyn’s not the kind of person who goes around saying, “God said to tell you…”

And then a flash of terror.

I wanted to slam the phone down. Hide. Throw up. Run away.

Our daughters were six and eight, and a few months earlier, we lost our son, Robbie, who was born with anencephaly.

“And it’s going to be a boy,” Carolyn proclaimed.

Why would she say something like this?

I couldn’t breathe. Felt my heart rip open.

We wanted risk-free lives. Safe. Confined.

“Thanks, but we’ve decided. No more children.”

I was still grieving. The color baby blue, the Pamper aisle, and little boys wearing overalls brought tears.

Several weeks after the phone call, something happened.

Faith began as one tiny glimmer shining in my heart.  It spread to my husband.

On August 6, 1991, our son Thomas was born.

This past Monday, I called Carolyn to ask her about that phone call 25 years ago.

How? Why? What?

“It was raining,” she said. “Dark. Dreary. Even inside the house. I was in the den. I picked up my Bible. When I read Genesis 18:10, the words fell into my spirit. That’s the only way I can explain it. I knew they were for you. From God. ”

“I don’t think I ever thanked you. If you hadn’t made that courageous call, Thomas wouldn’t be here.”

Dear readers, I can’t explain why God worked this way. We could’ve had our hearts ripped out again.

I only know the miracle began with the phone call.

And a tiny dot of faith.

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” Romans 11:33

Have you ever been surprised by God’s goodness? Please share!

Love,

Julie

 

Stupid Days … Stupid Ways

You’re either going to understand this post, or you’re going to think I’m nuts.

Do you ever have days when your mind wanders–when you’re so preoccupied, you lose track of time and space and do a bunch of stupid stuff?

Please say yes.

That happened to me last week.

Tuesday morning, I made my husband’s lunch for work. He texted me with this picture. “Should there be something else here?”

That afternoon, I ran errands and forgot I’d left the water dripping on the ferns. I came home to a flooded front porch. Here’s the rug after it dried. Well, almost.

Later, I went to pick up clothes from the dry cleaners. I walked into the shop and everything looked different.

It was as though I’d entered The Twilight Zone.

I didn’t know where I was. Didn’t recognize the place.

I glanced to the left.

Okay, this is creepy.

A week earlier, I’d stood behind a black curtain in that very corner to put on a pair of pants.

I left them here to be hemmed.

Now there was no curtain.

Nothing looks familiar, but I can’t be crazy because I have a little green ticket to pick up my pants.

Standing in line it hit me.

I’d tried a new dry cleaners. And this wasn’t it.

I excused myself an ran out the door.

Three stupid things today, God. What’s going on?

It seemed His gentle Spirit said:

Slow down.

Focus.

You can lose your way spiritually too.

Sometimes Your mind leaves the Light of My Presence and takes off into dark places.

For you, those places are Fear and Doubt.

Stay close to me, child.

Guard your thoughts.

Maybe it wasn’t such a stupid day after all.

Can you relate?

Love,

Julie

 

Help! My Phone’s Been Stolen…And My Peace Too!

The other day, I did something stupid. I was grocery shopping. I checked my list which I keep on my phone. Putting my phone back in my purse, I thought, zip your purse.

But I didn’t.

I left my purse in the buggy (that’s Southern for grocery cart) while I looked for chocolate chips.

Seconds later, I reached for my phone.

It wasn’t there. Was it stolen? Did I lose it?

Nooooooooooooo! I need my phone! I love my phone!

My rational self left. Crazy took over.

I squatted on the floor, dumped everything out of my purse, and searched through my groceries like a madwoman.

Calm down. Stop being such a panic button.

I ran to customer service.

“No, ma’am. No one’s turned in a phone.”

Of course not. It was stolen.

I left my groceries, hurried to our service provider, and called the police–the whole time, my word for 2014 softly tapped my heart.

ENOUGH. 

Almost every morning this year, I’d written “God, You’re more than enough for me” in my prayer journal.

What about when someone steals your phone? Or when anything and everything goes wrong?

Is God enough then?

Every few minutes I stopped fretting long enough to pray.

Lord, whether or not I find my phone, You’re more than enough for me.

Each time I prayed my peace returned.

Five hours later after driving to another city for a replacement phone, I received a call.

My phone was turned in at customer service twenty minutes after being stolen. Some kind soul found it in the grocery store parking lot. When I erased my data, the thief probably tossed my phone.

I’d wasted a lot of time hurrying and worrying. But maybe it wasn’t a total waste.

Maybe it was worth the drama to grasp this truth.

No matter what happens, no one can steal our peace.

“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You…” Isaiah 26:3 NKJV

Can you relate? If you chose a word this year, how’s it going?

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

 

 

 

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