On Becoming a Grandmother and Priorities

I’ve come to my office so many times to write this post, then stopped myself.

My heart feels like pictures I made in kindergarten–the ones with crayons melted by a hot iron inside wax paper–so many colors swirled together.

Becoming a grandmother has changed me.

It took a while to gather the courage to share my thoughts. I’ve missed you. I’ve prayed for you. You’ve become some of my dearest friends. And what kind of friend am I if I’m not honest with you?

I had the honor of being in the labor room with my daughter, Katie, and her husband for two days while they waited to meet their baby boy.

There’s something sacred about birth. Especially when it’s a grandchild.

I‘ll never forget my desperate prayer at the 3/4 mark of her labor.

3:30 p.m. on July the 11th.

She’s so tiny, Lord, and it looks like nothing’s happening. Would You help her? Surely Mary was small when she gave birth, and You were there in the manger…

Caleb James was born at 5:10 p.m. the same day. No c-section necessary!

He weighed 6.3. 19 1/2 inches long.

I’ll never stop thanking You, Lord. Ten years of prayer. 

When I held my grandson for the first time, Awe and Gratitude came together.

Evidence of God’s faithfulness in my arms.

I wanted to slow dance around the room with him. I may have. I’m not sure. 🙂

Oh, the Power and Wisdom of Your timing. You don’t always say yes. And rarely do You answer according to our plans. But look at this beautiful boy…

Peering into Caleb’s blue-gray eyes, I thought about life.

I’m 58. Pushing 60.

Maybe the 3/4 mark.

The final lap.

Like the turning point in Katie’s labor. 

Caleb’s four weeks old today, and I’m in a new, quiet place.

My priorities are softening and shifting. I’ve never felt this way before.

It’s a Holy Hush.

Social media and platform building (as we writers are encouraged to do) doesn’t seem nearly as urgent. Sharing my opinions doesn’t seem nearly as important. More than anything (even publishing), I want to become someone who loves well.

To love well, I must love God first. 

I wrote Him a long apology letter this morning. 

For years, I put becoming “successful” at the tip-top of my list. 

I chased becoming Somebody instead of chasing Him. 

I’m reading Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot for the second time. I skimmed it years ago. 

As I keep a quiet heart, God’s teaching me how to love others, one person at a time, the same way He loves me.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these. Mark 12:30-31 NIV

P.S. Katie and her family are doing just fine. Rilynn (Katie’s stepdaughter–who holds a huge chunk of my heart) is on Cloud Ten. 🙂 So is Grandpa Rick. If you want to find out more about Katie’s journey with infertility, read this and this.


Thoughts? Comments? Have you ever had the Lord rearrange your priorities?

Love and gratitude,

Grandma Jewels

 

 

 

It Ain’t Over Yet!

If the woman at Home Depot hadn’t been wearing Birkenstock sandals, I probably wouldn’t have bought  strawberry plants.

In March of 2017, my daughter Katie, who’d been struggling with infertility for ten years, was awaiting pregnancy test results (again). I wanted to do something brave–something I’d never done before.

I wanted to plant something new.

In the gardening section of Home Depot, I decided herbs might be easy to grow, so I picked out rosemary and basil.

Then I noticed a woman in the strawberry section wearing Birkenstocks. She had a long, braided ponytail, and looked like she knew what she was doing.

I asked if strawberries were hard to grow. She assured me I could do it. 

I wanted to you say, if I can grow strawberries, do you think can Katie have a baby? 

Back at home, I put the herbs and three strawberry plants on my grandmother’s old ironing board outside. I knew the herbs would be okay there.

But if the strawberries were going to survive, they needed to be planted.

And I was afraid to plant them.

I didn’t want to be disappointed again.

A couple of days later, I moved the strawberry plants to the railing, so they’d be a little closer to the sun.

As long as I don’t plant them, they can’t die.

Then Katie found out she wasn’t pregnant.

Again.

She didn’t talk much about it this time.

She just got quiet.

I did too.

On an unusually hot Thursday afternoon in April of 2017, I planted the strawberries in the rock-hard Georgia clay, where we normally had a garden. We didn’t plant a garden last year.

I felt empty on the inside. Frustrated and faithless. 

You know my heart, Lord. I’m going to plant these stupid strawberries, but I don’t even have faith to water them. I’m not wasting my time. 

One Saturday this spring, my husband came in the house. “Come here,” he said. “You gotta see this.”

We live in the middle of the woods. Maybe he’d found a snake. A possum. Couldn’t be veggies. We didn’t plant anything this year either.

He led me through the yard, past the weeds in our abandoned garden–

And opened the garden gate.

“Come, look,” he said.

Along the edge of the fence–right where I planted the strawberries–I saw lush, green leaves.

The strawberries.

I’d forgotten all about them.

“I can’t believe it. They didn’t die.”

“Keep looking,” Rick said.

I got closer.

Then I spotted the fat, red berries.

“It’s a miracle! We have real strawberries in our yard!” Just like the woman at Home Depot. “Did you take care of them?”

“I haven’t touched them.”

My dear readers, I haven’t had the freedom to tell you this until now.

Not only do we have strawberries,

KATIE’S PREGNANT!

She’s due July 20! 

She waited until I few weeks ago to announce her news.

There’s a phrase in this song that says it all:

“It ain’t over yet!” 

Lord, it ain’t over yet! You can do anything. Even create faith in a faithless heart. You inspired me through a woman wearing Birkenstock sandals and three strawberry plants. 

If you’re close to giving up, listen to this song. 

If you can’t see the image above, click this link –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ou-p_RDUbB4  

 


How can we pray for you?

Love,

Julie

One Tiny Moment at a Time

Sometimes a conversation has the power to change your life. That’s what happened Saturday, the day after my son’s wedding. Robin, my BFF of 40 years, came to the wedding, and then spent the night with me.

The two of us are deep-thinkers. 

If we’re not careful, we can get stuck in the melancholy parts of life–the things that weigh your heart down.

We’re prone to worry, but we’re working on changing, one tiny moment at a time. 

We were talking and she made a profound statement. When she did, I remembered so many magical moments about the wedding~~

The first rays of sunlight Friday morning–how they landed softly on the stairs of our cabin. 

Walking into the rehearsal dinner and seeing my sister Jennifer’s smile~~ 

The same expression as when we were little girls~~

Like she had a secret to tell me.

Weeks ago when I chose the restaurant, Jennifer offered to decorate for me. She has an eye for color and style and fashion, and she knows all about flowers and candles and creating ambiance.

I remembered the moment I glanced at Jamie, my daughter, and watched her laughing with Jennifer.

~~Pure joy~~

And Chris, Katie’s husband~~

I remembered the way Katie’s eyes lit up three years ago when she told me about him right after they met.

And my mother at the rehearsal dinner~~

I remembered how she’d taught me everything I needed to know~~

To love Jesus,

To love people,

And to love words. 

Oh, and Rilynn~~

I remembered Chris bringing Rilynn into our lives, our only grandchild, an answer to prayer.

There were two magical wedding moments with Rilynn~~

The way she gazed into the mirror after Brittany’s aunt curled her hair like the big girls.

And how she quietly slipped into the chair beside me at the wedding.

There were magical moments at the reception too~~

I forgot to bring my reading glasses and took pictures wearing my prescription sunglasses. Katie said, “Mom, please take off your sunglasses. You look silly.” 

But I didn’t care how silly I looked. 

I wanted to remember the moments. 

And then seeing Thomas and Brittany leaving for their honeymoon~~

That tiny moment when time stood still and love exploded inside my heart.

But my life-changing conversation with Robin happened after all of this–after all the excitement died down.

Saturday morning, we had a porch party. Just the two of us.

We rocked and drank coffee and laughed about getting older.

Then we went to the square in my little town, Monroe, Georgia, and visited my favorite shop, a children’s bookstore called The Story Shop.

This place is all the best moments of childhood made over~~

 

Surrounded by so much creativity, I knew exactly what Robin was  feeling because I felt it too~~

The magic of the moment. 

Later that day, we dove deep into conversation and talked about the things you share with your closest friends~~

But we didn’t dwell there, in Worry Land. Not this time.

Maybe because we didn’t want to spoil the magic of the moment. 

“Wow, I said, “We let go of our concerns in a hurry, didn’t we?”

“Yep. Record time, for us.” She paused. “Maybe the secret to life is celebrating each tiny moment with all your heart–which doesn’t leave room for worry.”

“And all we have is one tiny moment at a time,” I said.

Then Robin handed me the secret~~

“Maybe this is how God intends for us to live. One tiny moment at a time.” Click to tweet

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.” Matthew 6:34 MSG

What tiny moments are you celebrating today? 

P.S. Robin has an amazing blog, All Things Heart and Home. You’ll love it! I promise!

Love,

Julie

 

My Grandmother’s Secret

For the past few weeks, my heart’s been all over the place.

Thomas, our youngest child, is getting married on May 19th. He’s 25. I love Brittany, his bride-to-be. He’s ready to get married. They both are.

But I was afraid of how I’d feel at their wedding.

Afraid of all the love bumping around in my heart. 

Love and letting go were tightly intertwined. 

How could I handle both emotions at the same time?

How do you love and let go?  

A few days ago, I picked up my dress for the wedding and stopped by Mother’s house to show it to her. She ran her hands lightly over the pastel chiffon.

Stepping into the dress, I slipped it over my shoulders. The dress magnified what I was feeling.

The flurry of time.

Seasons changing.

“This brings back the memories, doesn’t it?” Mother said. “Your prom dresses. Your wedding dress.”

I wasn’t a teenager. Or a bride. I was a mother-of-the groom. And I had to prepare my heart for the wedding. But how? 

Mother zipped my dress. “This reminds me of my mother tying the sash of my nurse uniform,” she said.

“It was just an apron, but we called it a nurse’s uniform. When I was six, I got pneumonia and had to go to the hospital to take shots of penicillin. Goge (my grandmother) worked and couldn’t stay with me. I wasn’t really a patient, but the nurses watched me all day long until my mother returned.”

(Mother and Goge, my grandmother, 1940.)

So sad. Goge had to leave my mother for nurses to watch while she worked.

Mother’s daddy died when she was two.

Love can be a scary thing. Like life. You can’t control it.

“Didn’t you hate spending the day at the hospital?”

“Oh, no. I loved it. It was a tiny hospital. It had been someone’s home, and the doctor was our good friend. I got to sit on a white, metal stool in the lab and talk to the nurses. Actually, it felt like going to a birthday party.”

This was a good memory for Mother. God was with her at the hospital.

More than that.

Years before Goge went to heaven, she discovered the secret of letting go. 

She let go through the power of love.

Maybe that’s the only way we can do it. 

A tingly feeling came over me–as if my grandmother had a message for me. 

That’s when the miracle happens, Julie. Don’t be afraid of your love for Thomas. Use it to help you let go. God will give him everything he needs. And He’ll take care of your mama-heart too. 

At last, the Thomas-shaped place in my mama-heart stood up and cheered.

I didn’t have to separate my feelings.

The two worked together as a team, love and letting go.

I’d let go just like Goge did–through the power of love. 

When we let go with love, something miraculous happens. God shows up. (click to tweet)

Are you letting go of someone or something right now? If so, I pray this post helps.

P.S. Remember what my word for the year is? 🙂 LOVE.

With so much love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

What Does it Really Mean to Dance?

Before I opened my eyes Thursday morning, my husband said, “Happy anniversary.”

Five-thirty a.m., and I started laughing. A terrible time to laugh.

It wasn’t the kind of laughter you can stop. 

You know better. 

You tell yourself to behave and act like an adult. But you’ve lost control. 

“Happy anniversary,” I said, when I finally caught my breath.

“What’s so funny?”

“We’ve had a perfect marriage, haven’t we? Thirty-eight years of sheer bliss.”

(Leaving for our honeymoon, 12.9.78)

“Are you drunk?”

“Just think. We’ve never had an argument. No problems with our children. Always plenty of money in the bank. No sickness. No sadness. No family issues.”

“Yeah, right.”

All of the sudden, it wasn’t funny anymore.

We didn’t say anything for a minute. Probably both thinking the same thing.

During our 38 years together, we’d been up close and personal with mental illness, addiction, divorce, arrests, jail, prison, cancer, infertility, anorexia, homelessness…

Maybe you have a similar list.

I started the coffee. Fixed us a cup.

We went outside to the front porchand I thought about my word for 2016, DANCE.

Deep down, I hoped in 2016 I’d be dancing and celebrating certain things. Most of them haven’t happened. Not yet, anyway. 

I leaned back in my rocking chair. Sipped my coffee. “When you get married, you start out with all these wonderful plans–the way you think everything’s supposed to go.”

“Doesn’t work that way. We’re not in control.”

(We’re dancing at our daughter Katie’s first marriage in 2006.)

But something was nagging at me.

I couldn’t figure out how to fit the word DANCE into the puzzle of 2016, and the year was coming to a close.

“Do you think life is like a dance?” I said, thinking maybe I was getting a little closer.

He looked out into the morning, which was just beginning to wake up. “Yep. Life’s hard. Marriage is hard. Raising children is hard. You celebrate when you can.”

Then the magic happened. I connected the dots.

Truth came together in my heart.

I found what I was looking for–a way to tie our messy lives into dancing.

“You know what? Over the years, it’s the slow-dancing you remember,” I said. “The hard times. The times when you don’t know what to do. That’s what bonds people together. It’s not the fun, loud, happy times.”

“You’re right.”

“That’s the secret. That’s what brings us close to God. Hard times. Times when there’s no possible way you can make it without Him.”

He nodded. “Yep. You nailed it.”

When things gets tough, slow dance. Hang on to God with all your might. Lean into Him. Click to tweet. 

Keep your eyes on Him. 

Stay inside the shelter of His embrace. 

He won’t let you go. 

* When you can’t hear the music, remember, God wrote the song. Click to tweet

Three questions:

1. If you chose a word for 2016, how’s it going?

2. Are you slow dancing with God right now?

3. I’m curious. Do you have a list like mine?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

When Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary

A couple of weeks ago on the way home from the YMCA, I had a strange thought.

Stop by Starbucks. Get a gift card for a friend. Buy a cup of coffee.

Coffee? It’s 95 degrees. So hot outside I can’t breathe.

But my car turned into Starbucks.

Standing in line, I spotted two friends from my women’s small group. There was another lady with them. Someone I’d never met. She wore jeans. A cute sage-green top. Her hair was in a ponytail. They looked deep in conversation, so I smiled and waved. Didn’t plan to interrupt them.

I was in a hurry. Wearing  ugly workout clothes. No makeup. And they were busy.

But the soft Voice inside seemed to whisper, Go over and talk to them. 

I don’t want to.

Go say hello.

When I did, they invited me to join them. Colorful craft supplies lay on the table.

Uh-oh. 

I sat down on the edge of the chair. “Y’all know, I’m not craftsy.

My friends smiled. “We know. This is the lady we’ve been praying for in small group.”

I looked at her–with the eyes of my heart this time–and I knew who she was. 

Her child had been caught in sex trafficking. Operation Liberate is helping. It’s a Christian 501-3(c) non-profit organization.

At that moment, sex trafficking became real to me.

It’s happening right here.

Not in a third world country somewhere faraway. 

“I have an idea,” she said. “I want to make a lot bracelets to help get the word out.”

Get the word out.

Holy goose bumps traveled up my spine.

“You’ll never believe it,” I said. “Next week I’m going to the Christian Communicators Conference. I just found out I was randomly selected to give a five-minute devotional. I’d like to tell our group about your bracelets.”

“Really?” Her eyes filled to the brim. “Do you…do you think they’ll care?”

I couldn’t imagine her pain. “Of course. We all care when someone’s hurting.”

She spent the next four days making 40 bracelets.

I shared them with 36 ladies from all over the country. And they cared. Oh, how they cared. 

God’s gentle nudges are uniquely designed for each one of us. Click to tweet. 

Last night, a few of us from our small group made more bracelets. Some did the fancy, detailed work.

I used the paper-cutter. 🙂

So many times, when God’s Spirit prompts me to do something, I argue with Him. Or pretend I didn’t hear Him.

~~Buying a cup of coffee in the heat of the day seemed silly. 

~~I was wearing mismatched clothes and no makeup. I didn’t want to “interrupt” my friends. Pride got in the way. 

~~I didn’t want to do arts and crafts. Fear. 

Sometimes, interruptions are Holy Moments designed by God to turn ordinary into extraordinary. Click to tweet

Can you relate?

His Voice is so… very…soft.

Love,

Julie

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? 

Love,

Julie

 

 

The Best Birthday Cake Ever!

When I was a child, I loved playing the game with notebook paper that gave you answers to life’s most important questions–well, important to an eight-year-old little girl.

It looked something like this. Remember?

We’d sit in the floor and ask all sorts of questions:

How many children will I have?

What kind of house will I live in?

What’s my husband’s name?

But life doesn’t always cooperate, does it? It’s full of surprises. Some good. Some not so good.

Last week for my husband’s birthday, I asked him if he wanted to go out to eat to celebrate.

“Nah. How ’bout making ground beef patties and mashed potatoes?”

“Yuck. Don’t you want something fancy like steak and shrimp? Want me to order you a birthday cake with lots of icing?”

“No, thanks. Just make a gluten-free dessert, so you can have some.” (I have Celiac.)

I did my best to cook his favorite meal, but something went waaaaayy wrong with his cake.

It fell.

It cracked right down the middle.

I tried to glue the broken pieces together with globs of cream cheese frosting, but I didn’t have enough, so I thinned it down.

The icing slid off the cake–

Which sunk on one side.

It was the saddest excuse for a birthday cake I’ve ever seen. 

After supper, I sliced a couple of pieces. “I don’t know what happened. I tried hard. I followed the recipe.”

I took a bite and stared at my husband.

It was the night of his 57th birthday.

I’ve known him since we were 15 and 16. He’s an honest man.

The cake looked hideous and yet–

“This is amazing,” I said. “I know it looks terrible, but–”

“Better than store-bought. Definitely.”

“I can’t believe it. It’s so tender and sweet.”

“Um-hmm.”

Later that night while I did the supper dishes, I thought about something.

The birthday cake resembled my life–maybe yours too.

Everything hasn’t gone the storybook way I thought I wanted, but my life is a beautiful combination of messy and sweet. 

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. Psalm 16:6 Click to Tweet. 

Has your life gone the way you thought it would? Which parts surprised you?

Right now, today, what’s messy? What’s sweet? 

Are you like me? Did it take a while to be grateful for certain things?

It’s a daily process, isn’t it? 

So much love,

Julie

 

 

 

Problems and Praying and Ironing

Last week, a close friend and I had a long talk–the kind where you open your heart and share your soul. We mentioned a few things we’d been praying about for years and decided that certain problems just drag into infinity.

“I remember thinking that by the time I turned 30, I wouldn’t have any more problems,” I said. “Isn’t that crazy?”

“Me too. Definitely by 40.”

“Do you think anyone actually lives that way? Without problems?”

“If so, I don’t want to meet them.”

“Don’t you wish we could take a giant iron and smooth out all the wrinkles in life?”

“Yeah, a wrinkle-free world. That’d be great.”

Later that day, our conversation about a wrinkle-free life gave me a strong desire to iron. My ironing board is upstairs in a spare bedroom.

As I began ironing, I remembered my grandmother’s old wooden ironing board across the hall, in my office.

When my mother was growing up, a teenage girl named Jimmie kept her during the day.

Mother loved Jimmie.

She said Jimmie’s skin was the color of eggplants–so soft and smooth. Jimmie used to let Mother touch her arms while she ironed.

(Jimmie and Mother, May 1938, right after my grandfather died.)

When Mother was six, Jimmy had a baby boy. Being an only child, Mother was thrilled. My grandmother let Jimmie bring him to work. Mother pretended he was her little brother.

The two of them sat under the ironing board while Jimmie ironed.

And every time Jimmie ironed, she sang hymns–deep, rich praise songs from the bottom of her soul. It was a spiritual thing, Mother said.

Jimmie didn’t live a wrinkle-free life. She had problems like the rest of us. 

Almost seventy-five years later, my mother still remembers Jimmie’s faith.  

And then something caught my attention on my grandmother’s ironing board.

A recovery rock.

An Al-Anon friend painted it for me a few years ago.

An unmistakable softness filled me. 

Peace doesn’t mean the absence of problems. Peace means believing God’s in control. No matter what. Click to Tweet. 

“… In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV Click to Tweet. 

Have you ever wondered if other people had problem-free lives?

Is there a Jimmie in your life–someone whose faith helps keep you centered?  

Thoughts on trusting God? 

Love,

Julie

 

The Secret Ingredient to Thanksgiving Hospitality

Yesterday something sweet and tender happened. My daughter Katie texted me a picture of her four-year-old stepdaughter Rilynn. When I saw the picture, I finally figured out the secret ingredient to Thanksgiving hospitality.

It’s so simple. For years, I’d made it complicated. 

Rilynn’s holding a tea party for her dolls on the bathroom floor.

“Oh, Katie–this picture…”

“I know. Don’t you love it?”

I enlarged the photo.

“I bet she’s talking to each one of her little friends,” I said.

“She is.”

“And serving something yummy like apple pie.”

Katie laughed. “Actually, they’re having Cap’n Crunch with Crunch Berries. She put a Crunch Berry in everybody’s dish. And added water.”

We hung up, but I couldn’t forget the picture.

For years, I thought having people over for Thanksgiving meant you had to create a perfect meal and a perfect centerpiece. 

One year, I went nuts over a wrinkled tablecloth! Can you imagine? Never mind the people sitting around my table. So silly! I blogged about it here.

The secret ingredient to Thanksgiving hospitality has nothing to do with being perfect. Just the opposite. 

And Rilynn’s already figured it out.

The secret to Thanksgiving hospitality is this–

Forget about yourself, serve others, and care more about people than place mats.

There. That’s it. It’s that simple.

And something else–

Last night, I thanked God for you. For your comments. Your prayers. You’ve welcomed me into your home and your hearts. In my imagination, you came to my house–each one of you, and I made my favorite dessert from childhood.

A cherry cheesecake pie.

(Here’s the recipe from Eaglebrand.com. I used a gluten-free crust so it’s GF.)

Oh, how I wish we could share a Thanksgiving meal together!

“…Serve one another humbly with love.” Galatians 5:13 NIV 

Have you ever been welcomed into someone’s home the way Rilynn served her friends? What was it like?

Have you ever struggled with trying to be perfect? Now we know better!

Love,

Julie