Building a Fence…and a Son

Early Saturday morning during our porch party my husband said, “I’m building a fence today.”

“Sounds like a huge project. Bet it takes you lots of Saturdays.”

“No it won’t. Thomas is helping me.” (Thomas is our 24-year-old son.)

Look at that pile of boards.

No way. 

Later that morning, I brought them some ice-water and saw Thomas digging holes.

Like a man.

Wearing big work boots.

With post-hole diggers and everything.

Sudden sweetness came.

When did my little boy become a man? 

When did he learn to build fences and dig holes and drive nails?

Where was I?

 How did I miss it?

They’d been working about an hour when I left to get groceries. Still, I doubted they’d finish their job in one day.

By the time I got home, they were at the halfway point.

Okay, maybe…

Just maybe...

After lunch…

“Wow! Y’all, it looks incredible! We have a real fence now!”

Watching them work, I remembered something that happened years ago. 

Thomas must’ve been ten.

He was pitching in a Little League baseball game. They were losing.

No matter what kind of pitch he threw, they hit it. He started holding his arm and said it hurt. He wanted to sit out the rest of the game.

His daddy felt his right arm. His pitching arm. Then he patted him on the head and left him at the plate.

What? What are you doing?!

Take him out! Let him rest! He’s hurt! 

Get him something cool to drink. He can sit in my lap. 

We argued about it the night it happened. “I can’t believe you made him play!”

“Julie, there was nothing wrong with his arm. He was scared.  They were losing. I saw it in his eyes.”

“There’s no way you–”

“You don’t quit when life gets tough. You dig deep and keep going.” Click to Tweet

Maybe my boy became a man years ago–the day his daddy wouldn’t let him quit.

P.S. Our fence was done around two o’clock. 🙂

Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Don’t tremble with fear. I am your God. I will make you strong. Isaiah 41:10 CEV Click to Tweet

Was there a moment when you almost quit but didn’t?

Who encouraged you to dig deep?  

Do you need prayer today? Do you feel like giving up? 






  1. Beautiful, Julie. 🙂 You always bless my heart. Gave me goose bumps.

  2. Marcia Bargo says:

    It has been awhile since I have placed a comment–not that I have quit reading your blog. I read it each time and am blessed with each post, as well as your Guidepost devotionals. I really enjoyed our coffee together and felt an immediate kindred spirit. Your post today struck a cord at different levels. Yes, I have had a time I did not know if I could make it–raising four children as a single parent with a minimal paying job. But God was gracious and always provided. I am not sure I did everything “right” and it has been just recently that I have let go of the guilt and given my children and their lives back to Him. And, as to raising our children, especially boys, it is sooooo hard to let go and not hover over them. I am very proud of my Marine son and he may not agree, but I did my best to let him fall, get up, and try again. It is hard to see your children go through tough times, but toughness makes us grow, just as my difficult years raising my children helped me grow.
    How is your writing going? I am looking forward to that novel you will be publishing.

    • Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Marcia–do I know just what you mean about boys! I think you did an amazing job.

      You’re absolutely right. We say, “Get up. Keep going. You’ve got this.” And then we believe it in our hearts.

      Thank you for your kind words on my novel. Writing one now. Praying my agent can sell one I’ve finished. My sweet husband prays about it at our porch parties.

      So much love to you and yours~and I LOVED our coffee time that day.

  3. Anna Haney says:

    This most recent chemo round has been rough and I’ve wanted to give up. I’m at the doctors office right now and God knew I needed this. Thank you. Love you

    • I know.

      God’s been whispering it in my heart–to keep lifting you in prayer.

      He’s right there with you. All the time. Praying for the nurses, for every person you come in contact with. Praying for Grace and Mercy and Strength and Courage and Healing.

      I love you. One day, when we finally meet, I want to thank you in person for everything you’ve done for me. You’ll never know….

  4. Cathy Mayfield says:

    Hmm…someone who helped me dig in deep… I’d say the Holy Spirit, nudged by my mom’s prayers. I do recall an older woman who lived beside us when we’d only been married about 5 years. She knocked on our door to give us some baked goods, right at a time I was having a meltdown precipitated by my husband’s moodiness and anger before he left for work. She asked what was wrong, and I spilled it out, all the loneliness, hurt, frustration… She didn’t point me to God, although she was a devout Christian. She merely said something that has stuck with me ever since.

    “Don’t try to change your husband. Or to make him into your dad. Change yourself.”

    Thirty-seven years of marriage later and I still need those words! Oh, I’ve pretty much given up on changing my husband, and it’s too late for the time to be like my dad. But Jesus and I are still working on the “change yourself” part and will be until I meet Him in heaven! By then, I’m hoping He will look at me and say, “When did my little girl become a woman of God?” 🙂

    Still praying for your project, Julie, especially on the Wednesdays you don’t blog! I have it on a computer “sticky note” on my desktop, so I see it every time I turn the computer on. Blessings!

    • Cathy. Cathy. Cathy.

      What a wise woman your neighbor was. And you too! Sounds like you listened to her simple yet profound advice.

      You can’t imagine how much it means to me–you have my name on your refrigerator and you’re praying for my writing.

      I’ll never forget it.

      thank you.


    • Kim says:


      When I read your comment yesterday, your neighbors words struck a cord in me, but not in a positive lightbulb sort of way. I felt like arguing against them. Why? Because 2 mornings in a row, I was in the midst of processing exactly what you had been that day.

      I know I mentioned in the comments several months ago about my nearly year long healing journey. About fears and trust, facing buried pain of the past, and learning how to open up and reach out, to form relationships and community.

      It is hard work. I no longer run from difficult conversations, or avoid any and all conflict. I can now stand up and say, “Please don’t yell at me. It’s not fair for you to take your work frustrations out on me.”

      I am the one who has changed. I am in a different place mentally, emotionally, spiritually… And because I am different, I respond differently than I have for 20 years, which is now a challenge for him to learn how to respond differently to me as well.

      The key I think is: I come at those conversations with a gentleness and an understanding, because I am the one who has changed. I don’t EXPECT him to change, but I am HOPEFUL that he will. I realize though that I may have to help guide and lead that change, because I am the reason behind it all.

      Honestly, my husband is truly a wonderful, loving, Christian husband, and I am so very grateful for him.

      • Kim, I wish we were having coffee together. You’ve done a lot of hard work. I can feel it rising up in your words. You’ve grown. You’re loving your husband AND yourself. I feel it in my bones. I so appreciate your honesty and where you are. Change is HARD, isn’t it?

        Rich words, my friend. Thanks for sharing a piece of your journey with us.

        Sending you a hug right now.

        • Kim says:

          Thank you Julie. Your words mean a lot to me. I hesitated to say what I was thinking because I wondered if I was speaking out of my own hurt or just being contrary. 🙂 But I realized that maybe someone in this little online community might need to hear that even when you yourself change, often there are still challenges in meaningful relationships that are sometimes in direct relation to your new self.

          I hadn’t realized it, but you are right. I am loving myself along with loving my husband through this.

          I would love to meet you for coffee sometime. McDonough is only an hour southwest of Monroe.

          • Absolutely–there will ALWAYS be challenges in our relationships. Well, at least in marriage! 🙂

            I’m glad you shared from your heart. Growth and change comes in spurts.

            Coffee sounds nice. If you’re a directions kind of person, maybe you could find a Starbucks somewhere in the middle of Monroe and McDonough?


  5. Patricia Martin says:

    We had a log fence just like Rick’s when we lived in Maryland. Thomas looks strong like Rick. Seeing your picture of Thomas as a boy reminds me of that song Sunrise/Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof. How is Rick? Are you looking forward to summer? I am pooped with everyone worrying about my dad, trying to finish my college semester well, and applying to universities!(): much love to you and yours ((:,

    • Patricia! My friend! I’ve been praying for you. Praying for your dad too. And the semester is winding down. Yay!!!

      Rick is doing great. I’m so thankful. So very thankful. Here he is building a fence. It could have gone the other way. :/ Thank You, Lord. I won’t forget what You did.

      I’ll have to look up the boy from Sunrise/Sunset and show Thomas. 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Let me know your finals schedule so I can pray. Don’t ever forget, you got through that speech class!!

  6. Look at that beautiful fence and those gorgeous flowers. Sometimes I don’t have vision. I see the hard work, I think it isn’t worth it, I wonder if things are just better left the way they are. But then, my hubby (like yours) does a project and beautifies the empty spot into something he had already seen in his own mind. It becomes a work of art. A work of passion. A work of glory to God. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

    • Absolutely–me too. “Is it worth it.”

      But B.J. you and I are not going to lose sight of our visions, are we? We’ve come too far…So what if sometimes it’s been by taking lots and lots of baby-steps.

      I love you~

  7. I love when I read something so timely. Our younger son turned 21 today! Some would say he is a “late bloomer”, but I say that we all come along in the space of time we are made to. Recently, we had to replace some shingles on our barn roof—he used the skills he learned working for a roofing company to get it done with a little help from our 14 year old daughter. He felt great that he could help in such a practical way. It is hard for moms to not always protect, it’s the way we are wired. But I am grateful for male voices who propose that there are times to stick it out through the hard times. We learn so much through difficult circumstances.

    • Stephanie, Yes, yes, “we all come along in the space of time we are made to.” TRUE.

      And your daughter helped with roof! I love it!

      I don’t think we learn except for through difficult circumstances!

      Thanks for your thoughts~~~

  8. Such a great story, Julie. Thank you for taking the time to tell it. We have five sons. We’ve caught some of those hinge moments, and missed some. I’m so thankful our Father is the faithful parent to us all.

    • thank you so much, Sarah. Thomas is our only son. Yes, yes, God is the faithful parent to us all. I love how you said it!!

  9. Patricia Martin says:

    God got me through that speech class and your prayers!(:

  10. Jo Ann Thomason says:

    Precious!!! And your fence is beautiful!!!

  11. marci says:

    I am late getting here, It was a joy reading your writing for today. It made me think – memories, lessons. As I read it I kept thinking of the Rascal Flatts song- “Stand”. I had to put the CD on and listen to it. When you wrote ” You don’t quit when life gets tough. You dig deep and keep going”, it made me think of that song.

    I think any of us with grown children can relate to that experience- When did our child become a grown up? I have felt that with my daughter. When we went to pick up our beloved Ginger, RIP. our daughter said, we could hang around for a while, while she did a surgery. So through a glass I watched her and it was one of those times when I realized the incredable young woman she is.. and I too know that a lot of her strength comes from challenges and struggles she went through. It sure can be hard to see them go through hard times, and I can understand how hard it must have been for you when your little boy was not taken out of the game. And how proud you are of him now, the young man he has become. Sometimes, it is nice to just sit back and enjoy who our children are, right now, at this moment. I am glad for that reminder.

    The fence really looks nice. You must be enjoying it. How nice that Thomas and your husband worked on it together. Sounds like what will be a nice family memory! Isn’t it something that the little things are what we remember with such fondness, the little everyday things? Bless you, dear Julie!

    • Yes, Marci’a….sweet Ginger. I’m still praying for you as you grieve. It takes a while, doesn’t it?

      You’re right. The strength comes from the struggles and the challenges. No other way, I guess.

      Thank you for your precious thoughts, as always.

      So much love~

      • marci says:

        Thank you Sweet Julie,

        Thank you for your caring and understanding about my mourning Ginger. You are right, it takes a while, but it is good when we can say “Thank You Lord for the years we were blessed with her”

        I did not have much time yesterday, so today I have taken some more time to read through the comments, some of which (the needs) I am going to be adding to my prayers this week.

        To the ones, like Marcia who are/ or where single parents, I think they should get 5 gold stars. I, and maybe you also, as your writing shows, feel it is hard enough to be a parent when there are 2 parents, and how hard it must be for those who are doing it all by themselves.

        I always keep you , and your writing in my prayers. And I am looking forward to a day when I see one of your novels in print! I believe that day will come.

        God Bless you dear friend.

  12. K. Denise Holmberg says:

    Would you consider hiring those two guys out? Beautiful post, as Mom to three boys I so relate! Especially the “he can sit in my lap” part! Thank you for sharing! Blessings sweet girl.

    • Ha! Hey Denise, sure, sounds good to me. Thomas is cutting grass on Saturdays now. I bet he could work in building a fence.

      Sitting in the lap part…I almost took that out, but it was THE TRUTH. That’s how I felt.

      Much love, my Dear Friend!

  13. Powerful truth! How quickly they grow. I know you’re proud of your young man!

    Makes me wonder how many times my words either frustrated my girls or gave them excuses to quit. I’m not sure I realized the power of my words when they were growing up. I thought I did at the time, but as I look back now, I see that I understand things more clearly as I get older. Many things that seemed so important then carry little weight today. Praise God that His truth of love can override my failures.

  14. I know what you mean, Vonda. Me too. Sometimes my mind wanders and I remember things I said…attitudes I took–especially with our daughters.

    So grateful His love covers my mistakes–all my boo-boos.

    I love you~~

  15. Patricia Martin says:

    Happy Mother’s Day, Julie!! Hope you have a day as special as you are! Blessings. xoxo

    • Thank you, my sweet friend. Patricia, you are so special to me. So glad God brought us together — even though it’s online!!

  16. Julie Gilleand says:

    When I was 20 years old and newly a believer, I had tried to quit smoking many times to no avail. I prayed and tried everything I could think of to make it happen. Twelve failures inside of twelve months. I told the Lord that I’d given it all I had and if He wanted me free, He’d have to do it Himself. Thankfully — He is able! Two scripture verses, He directed me to that have been embedded in my soul every since — 1 John 5:14-15. What I heard Him say to me as I read, was that I had asked God for something that was His will — to set me free from bondage. Because of that I could be assured that He’d heard my prayer and that I had what I’d asked. Not will have. HAD! I suddenly knew that healing and deliverance had been given me. It wasn’t something I had to wait for. It was mine already, no matter what it seemed or felt like. The manifestation would come over time, but the deliverance had already been given me. Now, mind you, I’d never heard any “faith teaching” in my life so I wasn’t trying to act out something I’d heard in a sermon somewhere. This came from God. Only He could have broken through like that. Anyway, that night 50% of all my craving was gone. That’s huge! The next 50% would be the remaining struggle. 3 weeks into that struggle, I was about to cave in. I didn’t think I could take it anymore. I remember sitting at my piano trying to play something but feeling overwhelmed by a surge of craving for a cigarette. I pounded the keys in exasperation and said out loud through clenched teeth: “God I want a cigarette so bad!”. I knew as soon as the words left my mouth it was a mistake to say them, no matter how I felt as saying it seemed to give strength to the craving.

    But something rather miraculous happened right then. I saw a vivid picture in my mind. A vision, some might call it. Whatever it was, it was crystal clear. I saw a runner, running a marathon, but in a sort of labyrinth. I was seeing this from a bird’s eye view. The runner didn’t know where the finish line was or how much longer it would take to reach it. But I could see from my view, that the finish line was right around the corner. Right then I heard a voice in my head: “Wouldn’t it be a shame if he gave up now? Just when he is so close to the finish line?” I knew then that God was telling me it would really be a shame if I gave up now because maybe, just maybe I’m so close to the finish line. And I was. Ten days later, I had no more craving whatsoever. And haven’t in the 35 years since! I am so thankful that He kept me from giving up. Without Him, I know I would have!

    God bless, Julie!

    Leafy 🙂

  17. JULIE!

    This gave me holy chill bumps! This is sooooooooooooooooooooo powerful! God delivered you in an instant. Of course, you had to choose to stay free.

    Ohhhh, I love, love, love this! Thank you for sharing. Right now, I’m praying for anyone (including me!) who reads this, to have our faith rekindled. God wants to set us free from whatever weighs us down.

    Love you, my friend.

    • Julie Gilleand says:

      Thanks Julie and for your prayers also for whoever needs their faith rekindled. I think maybe God gave me such a powerful miracle so early on in my faith journey so I would always be reminded of it in years to come when I needed to remember it during even harder trials. Maybe that’s the dual purpose of everything God brings us through — just like with your son on the baseball field.

      Take care,

      Leafy 🙂

  18. Yes, Yes, totally agree, Julie~~ He gives us these glimpses of His power and we can look back and “remember when….”


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