A Lesson from a Pile of Sticks

Remember our porch parties? The number one porch party rule is: “Don’t say anything negative. Just sip coffee and talk about good things.” Last week I blew it.

A pile of sticks became like Ray and Debra’s suitcase.

Clyde, our Lab, has a new hobby. He chews sticks at porch parties and spits the wood into a pile like a beaver building a dam.

Right in front of Rick’s chair.

For the last two weeks, Clyde had quite a pile going.  (Below is from this morning–a rather small pile.)

For days I thought, How big will the pile get if I don’t sweep it? You know, the whole Little Red Hen thing. 🙂

But the broom was closer to Rick. I looked at him. Don’t the sticks bother you?

Apparently not.

The next day I broke Rule Number One. “The sticks are getting pretty messy. I guess ‘we’ should sweep.”

“We need to,” he said.

Only one person can sweep. 

I decided I wasn’t sweeping–no matter how big the pile got.

And then a couple of days later, Rick swept the sticks into a neat pile.

But he left the pile on the porch.

So instead of focusing on this…

Or this…

I only saw a pile of sticks.

Friday night, I peeked out the window as my husband gathered the last of the tomatoes from the garden. My heart melted. It’s so hot. Probably 102. He has to be tired.

My word for the year came to me.


Over a pile of sticks? Really?


I swept the sticks into the dustpan and threw them away.

I can’t tell you how good it felt! 🙂

Has anyone ever let something silly get waaaaaay too important to you?




  1. Anna Haney says:

    Mercy, I needed to hear this! Since Christmas, there have been no words between my husband and I and his brother and his wife. It goes back to Don and Ron’s childhood, but there are more recent hurts that have sprung up and caused this latest thing. Their son, Thomas, had a birthday on the 20th. I sent him a FB message. He did not respond–he’s 17 so I wasn’t sure he would, but yesterday both Don and I got birthday cards. Granted, Vonda signed both for Ron and herself–so it sounds like she and I are surrendering and trying to move on. Let’s pray our husbands can do the same. Thanks for sharing! Love ya!

    • I’m telling you, Anna, this Surrender thing is powerful. It can even bring reconciliation. I’ll be praying for your families.

      Thanks so much for commenting today.


  2. Oh, Julie!! I’ve been there. Love the Ramond clip and for your transparency! Thanks for sharing!

    • You’re so welcome, Nora. Whew! Glad you’ve been there, watching the stupid pile of sticks!


  3. Janette says:

    I am chuckling away here…that is so funny and I for one can relate. We all get those piles of sticks in our lives from time to time. Surrender. Such a special word of a heart action. Thanks for sharing. I had a lab like Clyde once and if I could have only trained his tail right he could have swept up the pile of sticks. Labs have their own minds and their tails uncontrolled exuberance capable of knocking over a small child! Love them with all their faults they have a heart that is big as their bodies.

  4. Janette, what a beautiful way to look at this. 🙂 We could train Clyde to sweep with his big ole tail!

    You’re right. The word Surrender brought me to immediate heart action.

    So glad I have a new fellow Lab lover.


  5. I’ve learned to surrender a lot of those “piles of sticks” since they aren’t important in the big scheme of things. I used to love getting the last word. I still do but don’t insist any more. I let the hubs have it, eve if I don’t agree. Most of those things aren’t important, but a simple difference of opinion. And you know what they say about opinions. They’re like bellybuttons. Everyone has one. ;o)

  6. Amen, Ane!!! Loved your response. I’m discovering why my word for the year needed to be surrender!

  7. I too have swept my share of sticks…..but I am NOT picking up his dirty underwear! Hee hee…..

  8. Brenda Greene says:

    Hey Julie!

    Love your front porch…reminds me a lot of ours! Love starting my day out there at the table with God’s Word and other devotionals….starts my day in the right focus.

    You blog today reminded me of a a book I read several years ago that impacted me for life. The late Charlie Shedd (United Methodist Minister in this area) wrote a sweet book in honor of his wife Martha after she died: “Remember I Love You” (her words to her family whenever they parted. Sweet, sweet words to live by. Especially timely for me was turning lose (surrender!) of the “need to be right” attitude I thought was my “right”! She said there are three times when it’s okay to keep quiet (turn lose): when you’re wrong, when you know you’re right, and when it doesn’t matter if you’re right or not. Certainly has helped me over the years!

    Love reading your blogs….thanks for your transparency!


    • I read Mother your comment this afternoon, Brenda. She says she was in a writing group with Charlie years ago! Loved your words. They choked me up reading them to her. Such wisdom, my friend.

      Thank you for encouraging me. I really wondered if I was the only one who felt this way! 🙂

    First I grinned my way through this post…I could totally relate to it but thinking of the WE should sweep & Ricky sweeping the sticks in a pile just tickled me.
    I can think of about 10 things I need to give up right this second. I love what Brenda said…
    She said there are three times when it’s okay to keep quiet (turn loose): when you’re wrong, when you know you’re right, and when it doesn’t matter if you’re right or not.

    so true. This was a hugely helpful post and the comments were just as helpful xoxo

    • I’m hugging you from here–just seeing how you wrote my name. 🙂

      And I keep thinking one of these days, I’ll totally master the surrender thing, but maybe it’s one day at a time. One moment a a time. I bet I have 10 more lined things lined up just waiting for me to open my fingers.

      xoxoxo praying for Bella, and Mom is too.

  10. OH…I almost forgot…I’m getting so much joy from your photos…keep it up- your heart is showing xo

    • Good grief. What’s with me. Tearing up over, “Your heart is showing.” Thank you. I learn so much from watching you.

  11. Um…does this mean I need to surrender my desire for him to be the one who “gets” the boxes in the garage unpacked? But it’s 106 out there! 🙂

    Seriously, a great post. My husband and I have been married over 27 years, only the last few of which I have started to learn the surrendered lesson. It’s amazing how much happier BOTH of us are!

  12. Good question, Becca. I don’t think you have to surrender the desire. Just let it stay a tiny itty bitty little thing in your heart, so you can see the Glory in all the good stuff.

    And why, why didn’t I learn this early in marriage? You, 27 year, us, going on 34! I probably wasn’t ready, and I’m still learning.

    Thank you so much for writing! xoxoxo and I hope there aren’t any crayons in those boxes. 🙂

  13. I love big Clyde and his goofy love for sticks. I love the Everybody Loves Raymond clip and the photos of your porch and kitty cat. I love you, for sharing your wisdom and strength. Keep surrendering and I’ll keep learning from you.
    Hugs & love.

    • …and B.J., you know I’m learning from you. Maybe this is what it’s all about. 🙂

      Can’t think about you without smiling.

  14. Uhh…personally, I’ve never faced any of these emotions. None. Nope. Never. Not once. I have no idea what you’re talking about… :-/

  15. Vonda, girl, you make me laugh! XOXOXOXOXOXOXOX

  16. Sandra Walker says:

    Your post has been on my mind the whole time since last Wednesday. So much I would like to say but don’t want to embarrass myself in a public place! It is daily and moment-by-moment and probably will be (but less and less) until we go home. A “pile of sticks” even though small can bring disunity to our marriages. The Lord has had us working on the unity thing more; I don’t understand why I have to more than he does! 🙂 I, too, read Charlie Shedd’s books years ago. Looking forward to finding some copies and going back over them.

  17. Hey Sandra, if you want to write me privately, feel free to. 🙂 Just use the contact form on my website.

    Sooooo true. A pile of sticks can chop up a marriage!! In a hurry.

    Thank you so much for writing again. It means more than you can imagine–to know that when I write about such “simple–ha!” things, it touches hearts.

    Much love,

  18. arie says:

    Hi Julie, we are on vacation and I am catching up on my reading. This was great…pick your battles is a suggestion to me in regard to parenting. Have engaged in worthless battles too many times with my sweet 9 year old….working on it. I appreciate Brenda’s comments. Here’s one to add: when we were wrongly promptly admitted it. When the other guy is wrong, let him breathe. Working on doing that (especially with my daughter) and limit my V8 moments (I could have had a V8!). I could have paused and let her breathe. Hope this makes sense…typing on my phone , which I don’t like that much. Blessings, Arie

  19. Beautiful thoughts, Arie! Yep, I’ve memorized that, “When we were wrong, prompty admitted it.” 🙂

    Makes perfect sense. Thank you!!

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