My Regular Old Southern Self

“Oh, Julie,” my mother said in a somber tone. “New Englanders are a bit different than we are.”

I’d called to tell her I’d be leading a women’s Surrender Retreat at New Colony Baptist Church in Billerica, Massachusetts.

“What do you mean different?”

An incredibly long paused formed.

“People in the New England area are … ”

“Are what, Mother?”

“Well, they don’t eat grits or drink sweet tea, and they never say, ‘I’m fixin to’.”

Uh-oh.Β What have I gotten myself into?

How can I stop being so Southern and beΒ more polished? More New England-ish?

I tried to stop saying “I’m fixin’ to.”

But I couldn’t.

I thought about giving up sweet tea.

But I didn’t.

Instead I made a scary decision.

To go to Massachusetts and be my regular old Southern self.Β 

To share my heart with the ladies.

The real me.

Weeks later standing at the podium, I told them what my mother had said. πŸ™‚

They just about died laughing.

So did I.Β 

I began teaching, as I sometimes do, wearing curlers and a bathrobe. πŸ™‚

I used my Barbie dolls like always.

I evenΒ brought outΒ my chain to share how fear and perfectionismΒ had bound me for most of my life.

Some of my new friends …

At the end of the retreat, I carried balloons of SURRENDER to the middle of the parking lot.

I’m laughing because the wind is blowing so hard.

So beyond my control.

So much bigger than me.

So … God.

When we released them–

Up, up they floated–

And landed in a tree.

But one lone yellow balloon broke free.Β When she did, Truth rose in my heart.Β 

People are just people. We all laugh and cry and struggle.

Best of all, God is still God.Β 

And I get to be me.

Β So much love,


Do you ever struggling with being yourself?

P.S. Thank you for praying for us!



  1. Oh Julie, thank you so much for this post. God has been ripping me apart lately. Ripping me apart about surrendering my ALL to him. I struggle so much with acceptance. If I say “this or that”, will I be accepted. Sharing Jesus with others without being inhibited because of what “people” might think. I just need to le tgo of it. Seriously! I have no problem on my blog but face to face is a different ballgame. I can say that I’m getting there though. He’s getting me there. I’ve been sharing Jesus with others and it’s getting easier every time. I’m fixin’ to get me some balloons today and have a surrender party. Sweet tea and balloons! Freedom!

    • Felicia, you and me both with this surrendering process!

      I know exactly what you mean, my friend. But you know what? The first step is always acceptance, and you just admitted that this is sometimes difficult for you. So brave of you!

      Laughing out loud– you fixin’ to get your balloons and have a surrender party! Wo-hoooooooooooooooooooooooooo! And even sweet tea~~

  2. Anna Haney says:

    Love this. I have discovered that it’s usually best to just let my southern, Appalachian self come out because it’s who I am. How can I speak to folks about the truth if I cannot be truthful to myself. I have given up sweet tea twice–two years in a row for Lent. But I end up drinking it again. Just better that way. Love ya

    • Anna, do you speak with an Appalachian accent? I just love that.

      Such beautiful words just now–how can I speak truth if I can’t be truthful to myself. Profound, my friend. So very profound!

      Love you too. Thanks for being you.

  3. Patricia Martin says:

    I am so glad you had a great time, Julie! You look so warm and cozy in all those jackets(; I have a really hard time being my self at the doctor’s office. I have adapted the “yes Napoleon” and “no Napoleon” attitude.(): I like your skirt and all this talk about jackets just reminded me to say happy Fall! Hope you are fixin to have a great week!
    Hugs from AZ

    • Patricia, so sweet of you to notice my outfits. Guess where I got them??? Target… well, the skirts and the big belts I was wearing, and the little tank tops underneath. And yep, the black blazer came from Target last year. And the long beige/green sweater, from my new favorite store, Charming Charlies.

      Thank you!

  4. Yes, Julie. I struggle. But I find that others love our differences. That’s what makes us unique … uniquely made. By God. For God. πŸ™‚

    When we moved from Texas to Spokane, WA … I would have people say they could listen to me all day long. “Please talk for me some more …” Ha! I used that for all it was worth.

    I can only be me, really … my simple-minded, often embarrassing myself, Southern belle self. πŸ™‚

    You just be you!

    And I love how the one balloon broke free. Lovely.

    • I know, I know, Shellie, and I’m just now discovering how others love our differences. Which makes sense, b/c I like how others are different than me. πŸ™‚

      That balloon, when she broke free, something let go inside of me too! What a moment. πŸ™‚ Will never forget it, my Southern Belle friend.

  5. Love that one lone yellow balloon broke free. Each person could consider it THEIR balloon that broke free, their heart and soul that reached the heavens. You’re a lovely, strong, and courageous person to travel all that way to the retreat to share your heart. Bless you in all of your speaking engagements. Much love.

    • That balloon–I couldn’t have orchestrated her to break free, B.J. You know what I mean? At first, I thought, well shoot, if the wind doesn’t stop blowing my balloons won’t soar. It never quit so we just had to LET GO ANYWAY.

      And look what happened. πŸ™‚

  6. I wish I could have been there!

    • Me too, my antique-loving friend. One day, we’ll meet, Elizabeth. I just know it! One day before heaven. πŸ™‚

  7. As a Southern girl who frequently travels outside the gentle south, I have loved sharing my accent and colloquialisms around the country. An opening standard line I often use when speaking outside the south: Y’all talk funny! Always brings a laugh.

    I decided a long time ago to just be myself. Regardless of where we live, we may not be perfect, but praise God, we worship a Savior who is!

    • Vonda, I’m just now coming into this TRUTH. I don’t know what took me so long. Yes I do. Pride. Fear. Maybe control too.

      But you’ll have to excuse me. I’m fixin’ to make some sweet tea now. πŸ™‚

  8. I started teaching as I sometimes do in a bathrobe and curlers! Oh my gosh I nearly died laughing…this is so delightful…and true!!! love you my friend

    • Love you, too, Rob.

      Now that I’m free, I’m going to be wearing curlers the next time I see you!

      P.S. See why I always have to mail my visuals ahead of time? Too much for a carry-on. πŸ™‚

  9. As a New England native, I know that in our hearts we are all the same and we worship the same loving God who made each of us in His own image. And yes, I do drink sweet tea too. πŸ˜‰ If I still lived in the area, I would of loved to have gone and listen to you speak. Looks like it was a wonderful time of fellowship. xxoo

    • OH, I love it, Eileen. You actually drink sweet tea. My mother was wrong. So very wrong. Can’t wait to tell her!

      Thank you for your words–just knowing you drink sweet tea makes me smile all over myself.

  10. My heart and prayers have been with you! The yellow one broke away- ohhhh- how that strikes a chord with me. I also wish I could have been there! Thank you for sharing with us- I too, love my sweet tea πŸ™‚

    • I know, Vicky!! And 5 seconds earlier, I was wondering, what will I do with my surrender balloons? The wind won’t stop blowing.

      Am praying for your speaking engagement. Hope someone tapes it!

      And you also love sweet tea. That settles it. My mother was wrong, wrong, wrong. If I can just get y’all to say, “Fixin’ to.” πŸ™‚

  11. marci says:

    This hit some cords! Spirit lifting! Wow! (yellow balloon) The lessons. 1) Panic is something I am working to rid myself of, It is a work in progress. God keeps giving me ways I can work on that– My husband popped his head in to say his brother would be here in a few minutes during lunch, my instinct was panic, but I quickly reversed. I revised the lunch menu and Chas went to get a box of chicken. I am learning. And how nice to get those chains off! To not worry .. Instead of feeling bad because I couldn’t do the impossible, I too was able to enjoy lunch.

    I smiled at your mother’s advice.– And do like what others have said in their comments too. I think it is best when we are who we are.. and when you were called to speak in New England, they were expectiong a ‘Southern Lady”.

    With 50 yrs in Arkansas, I am not sure I could get through a day without saying “fixin to” .. and sweet tea is usually in the frig.
    I think being different is part of the charm.

    Growing up in AZ, then coming to the south, I remember the first time grits was served. I didn’t understand grits, and thought it was cream of wheat. and put sugar on them. LOL. A Bishop here in AR was fond of saying, “Grace is like grits in the south,.. You get it even if you didn’t order it.”

    I relate to what Shelli said, as when I got here, the girls would always want me to say something, just to hear the way I talked, and that I said ‘You guys” instead of Ya’ll.

    And yes, that yellow balloon.. how that speaks.

    Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with all of us.

  12. That’s exactly what I’m talking about, Marci! Breaking out of the chains of panic! So proud of you!!

    I never thought these beautiful New Englanders were expecting a Southern lady. Like Me. πŸ™‚

    Oh, oh, oh, oh, and you say fixin’ to too! A Friend For Life! We could sit on my porch drinking sweet tea, eating a big bowl of grits, and say, “I’m fixin’ to pour some more tea. Would you like some?”

    And you’d say, “Why yes. I think I might.”

    We’re not so different after all, are we?

    Thank you, for your wonderful response. Reading it was like BUTTER and SALT on my grits! πŸ™‚

    • marci says:

      Oh yes! I would love some sweet tea, sitting on your porch! I noticed you had a Ball canning jar for your glass of tea. The best way to drink ice tea! I use them all the time. : )

  13. Oooops, somehow in all my comments above, I became Julie Garmong. Typo in my own name, but that’s okay. I’m free!!!!!

  14. Shelley Elaine says:

    Oh, Julie, it seems like I struggle every day with just being me…thank you so much for this post and reminder and for sharing your trip and experience with us. And, also, so good to know we’re kindred spirits with our sweet tea and fixin tos … But then again, I already knew we were

    • Me too, Shelley. I think I’m still discovering who I am. Imagine that! And what freedom in knowing we can be ourselves and people will still love us–even when we blow it.


  15. Lisa G. says:


    I SO enjoyed this blog entry! It really hit home with me. Firstly because of the way you said you tried to stop saying “fixin’ to!” An old boss at one of my previous jobs (your daughter Katie would know who I’m referring to!) tried to get me to stop saying that because I sounded “too Southern” in front of clients. I got so self conscious about it that I did stop saying it. Once I left that job I quickly realized I was saying it again…and you know what? I don’t care anymore, I don’t have clients that I talk to or face every day now, and even if I did, so what? That’s who I am; it’s part of what makes me, me, right? πŸ˜‰

    Secondly, I have a way of hanging on to things that I know I should let go of. Sort of like those balloons getting stuck in the tree and unable to break free. Specifically, I was in a wreck last November that I was faulted for. I rear-ended a car on 78 going to work one morning and that car hit another. No one was hurt badly, thank goodness, but my carpool partner and I did have to go to the ER. To this day if I start thinking about it, I almost grieve myself over it and blame myself for what I put everyone through, especially my sweet carpool partner. She was so forgiving of me right from the start. The thing that I keep worrying over is that fact that I cannot remember the wreck or what happened to cause it. It comes across my mind probably 2-3 times a week and I just almost get sick over it. If I mention it to my carpool partner now she gets upset because I’m still upset over it. She has forgiven me and she urges me to “let it go!”

    Your blog just confirms that I need to “just let it go!” I know your entry wasn’t specifically about letting things go, but the balloons made me think of that. I just need to break free of the old devil’s grip on me and put it out of my mind when it comes to me. It’s only him tormenting me and getting in the way of God’s healing spirit.

    So, as I write this, I pray and confirm that I am officially “letting go” of that wreck and everything associated with it. It’s over and I will move on now, just like that yellow balloon breaking free and floating on up out of the tree!

    Thanks Julie…I really needed this. And I am just my old Southern, South Caroline girl self…always “fixin’ to” do something…hopefully to God’s glory!

    In His love always!

    • Ohhh, Lisa. Your words touched that sweet spot in my heart. Thank you for sharing. I can’t believe someone else has tried to stop saying, “Fixin’ to.” You just made my day–my week! And isn’t it wonderful you and I have broken free, and we are going to keep right on saying it and being our Southern Selves. I just love it!

      The wreck. I do understand.

      What’s been helping me lately is so very simple–so simple, I don’t see how it works, but it does. When I get stuck in the past, or blaming myself for something I know I’ve already talked to God about, I stretch out my fingers as wide as they’ll go, and look at my wide open palms facing heaven, and I whisper, “This is Yours, Lord. I can’t carry it anymore. It’s too heavy for me.” And I let go.

      Yes, sometimes I have to do it over and over, when I feel the urge to obsess (which is something I’m working on!), but each time I release it, it grows smaller. When I’m carrying shame and guilt, all my relationships suffer–especially with God. And He died to set us free. So letting go, surrendering, for me, is the only way to really live.

      Thank you, my friend, for your honesty. I’m praying for you.

      • Thanks Julie…looking forward to your next entry! I shared my blog above; I haven’t been inspired to write in awhile but if you read any of them you will see ebbs and flows in my writing. Sometimes I just have to get it out and written! Have a good weekend my friend!

  16. Julie Gilleand says:

    I’m so glad you decided to be yourself! I, for one, LOVE to hear how “ya’ll” talk! I’d be so, so, disappointed if I went to hear someone speak, or teach, or to just visit with someone from down yonder, and they sounded just like me! I’m a serious chameleon when it comes to picking up on that accent (yes — it’s ya’ll who have the accent not us yankees up here!). My first taste of the south (not counting Texas when I was 6) was a trip my parents and I took to Memphis when I was 16. I fell in love with how people talked down there. And I didn’t even realize it right away, but when I got back home, I sounded like one of ya’ll! My friends rolled their eyes, thinking I was just trying to grab attention, but I seriously could not shake it for two full weeks! Later on, I became friends with some folks from Mississippi. They’d be up here for a visit and as soon as we started talking, I became a southerner, at least by the sound of it. Same thing when I went down to visit them in their neck of the woods. I was introduced to my friend’s parents and we talked a bit. As she and I left the room I could hear her dad saying to his wife: “She don’t SOUND like she’s from up north!” I became slightly indignant and tried my best to sound northern after that, but the point was, I had to actually try to sound like myself! I always sort of felt like my heart was down there. That’s why I took to it so quickly. Maybe someday. You know about my Savannah dreams and how I’m fixin’ to head down that way one of these days right?

    Thanks for sharing, my southern leaf sister. Oh and by the way — I like sweet tea!

    • That’s exactly it, Julie. It wears us out to try and be/talk/dress/act like other people!!!!!!!

      Now then. I’m fixin’ to refill my coffee cup one more time this morning.

      Thank you for commenting and letting me know you’re still reading, Leaf Sissy.

  17. Kathryn Richardson says:

    Oh what fun! That’s right…just be yourself!

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