How to Stay on Vacation All Year Long

This summer, my husband and I had a stay-cation. We slept late, had long porch parties, and slowed down. I loved stay-cation so much, I didn’t want our simple way of living to end. 

On Friday, we drove to Blue Ridge, Georgia to Mercier Orchards.

I’d brought a stack of books and my journal. “Do you have room for your feet?” Rick said.

“I’m fine.”

Reading was a big part of my stay-cation, and who knows? I might be inspired to write in the car.

Two hours later, we entered Blue Ridge.

“It’s so pretty up here. Wish we could make today last longer.” I decided to jot down every detail so I wouldn’t forget the beauty. I opened my journal. Grabbed a pen.

Instead, an unexpected prayer rose. I began writing. Didn’t stop to edit.

Father,

Thank You for stay-cation.

For being in the car with a man I’ve loved for 40 years!

40 years!

Thank You for plenty of books at my feet. 

I glanced at Rick’s left hand.

His hands–how hard he works–for all the wrenches he’s turned so I can write. 

We stopped at Cheeseburger Bobby’s.

Incredible cheeseburgers, but their fries aren’t gluten-free, and I have Celiac.

Rick ran next door to Chick-fil-A. They have GF fries. 🙂

Thank You for Chick-fil-A fries.

For a husband who’ll get them for me.

Then on to Mercier’s.

When we got there, we sat in the car for a minute, in awe of the mountains and deep valleys.

Thank You for mountains and valleys.

Family problems entered my thoughts.

I paused.

Stopped writing.

A new kind of prayer came.

Thank You for the problems.

For things I can’t change. 

For me having Celiac

Mercier’s is an apple orchard, but they didn’t have many apples.

It was July.

Not October.

Disappointment tried to worm its way in.

Then we spotted summer fruit. 🙂

Thank You for peaches and blackberries and blueberries! 

And fudge.

And kettle corn!

And cider!

 And jelly!

We filled our cart.

And I filled my heart.

Maybe the secret to staying on vacation all year long is to keep saying, “Thank-You, Lord.” For everything.  

Don’t you love vacation relaxation?

What are your va-cay plans?

P.S. Apple pie wasn’t GF, but the fudge was! 🙂

To find out why Rick wears a nine-dollar wedding ring, click here.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friendship…Served With Love on a Paper Plate

A couple of years ago, my husband was all gung-ho about joining a small group at church. Not me. You can’t just throw people together and say, “Wa-lah! Make friends. Form bonds. Trust each other.”

Friendship takes time. 

And it’s risky. 

Being vulnerable enough to experience community brings the possibility of getting hurt.

Yes, of course, I’ve been hurt. I bet you have too.

And I’m embarrassed to tell you, but I wondered if I’d reached a stage in life when you don’t make many more new friends.

But my word Surrender wouldn’t leave me alone.

After days of running scared, I let go of control (again!), and we joined a small group. We knew Rick and Kim, our leaders, and one other person, but the rest of them were strangers.

That first night, my heart went thumpety-thump as we introduced ourselves.

Over time, we shared our struggles, our prayer requests, our joys. Something spread between us like warm caramel.

We were no longer strangers.

We became friends.

Since we ate together, I told them about having Celiac disease, an autoimmune illness, meaning I have to eat gluten-free.

After eighteen months, my husband and I became small group leaders.

Guess what else?

Rick and Kim invited us to their small group party last week!

Kim texted me: CAN YOU HAVE JELLO INSTANT PUDDING?

YES! 🙂

She made two gorgeous orange pineapple cakes–one regular and one gluten-free. For me. 

I nearly cried!

It had been almost eight years since I’d had a layered cake. I didn’t even know it was possible! And my cake looked exactly like the regular one.

Kim reached out with love and helped me feel like a regular person!

The next morning, I had two pieces for breakfast. 🙂

When we relinquish control, sometimes God brings the sweetest surprises. And friendships! 

(Kim used Pamela’s GF vanilla cake mix for mine.)

Thoughts on friendships? 

Share a time when someone’s kindness blew you away. 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

Fudge for Breakfast

Growing up the oldest of four, hard work came before fun. Always. There were little brothers to chase, dishes to do, and I edited my mother’s writing.

Lots of rules to follow. 

Having fun sometimes seemed like a no-no. 

Last week I went to Mother’s house so we could edit each other’s devotionals for Daily Guideposts. She surprised me with homemade fudge. She and my sister Jennifer made The Best Fudge. (Here’s their recipe. It’s GF.)

I put a piece of sweetness in my mouth. Let it melt on my tongue. “Your fudge is…”

“Pretty wonderful, isn’t it?”

Our work forgotten, we just sat and talked.

“I’ve started wearing aprons again,” she said.

“Here’s my kitty-cat one.”

“Jennifer gave me this one.”

I loved what was happening.

We’d never played before work.

It felt amazing!

Like we were actresses on a movie set!

“Women wore this kind in the fifties,” she said.

Who could see this and not laugh?

“Oh, we need to run to the post office,” she said. “And let’s eat lunch out.”

“Now? Before we work?”

“Sure, why not?”

When we got to the post office, she insisted we take a selfie.

Our first mother/daughter selfie. 

“You know, people are staring,” I said.

“Who cares?”

Later, in her office, we laughed while we worked, making our task a joy. 

The next morning, I wanted to keep the memory alive, so I broke the rules (again!) and had fudge for breakfast!

Something I’d never done.

Mother called.

“Yesterday was so much fun,” I said.

“Yeah, sometimes we think fun has to be a trip to Disney World.”

“I know. We even broke the ‘work before play’ rule, didn’t we?”

“We sure did.”

“Mother, what’s your definition of fun?”

“Fun means doing simple things in life with someone you love.”

Ta-da! 

SIMPLE. 🙂

My word for 2015. 

What simple ways do you have fun? How’re you doing on your word for the year?

Love,

Julie

Friendship, Faith, and Feeling Fifteen Again

photo from Meghan Davidson https://flic.kr/p/eEBxML 

“What’s wrong with us?” Robin, my BFF of 40 years said last week on the phone. “Why don’t we ever see each other?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Friends do things together, don’t they? Like on the Hallmark Countdown to Christmas movies-they’re always drinking coffee and laughing and window shopping.”

Robin and I spend our days in the virtual world on computers. We’re bloggers/writers. Her amazing site is All Things Heart and Home.

“Let’s make a lunch date,” she said. “Have some Christmas cheer.”

“I’d love to! We could just meet at Starbucks if you’re–”

“Nope. Let’s go to Maggiano’s. They have an incredible gluten-free menu.” (Here’s a Maggiano’s restaurant review by Pretty Little Celiac.)

I was so excited, I nearly cried. “We can sit and talk!”

“Like real friends!”

Using a Christmas-red marker, I wrote the date on my calendar. 

Thursday morning, we spotted each other in the parking lot, and ran and hugged like they do in the movies. She glanced at the crinkly lines near my eyes. “You haven’t aged a bit,” she said.

“Neither have you.”

Chatting nonstop, we felt fifteen again. We were so busy talking, we forgot to take pictures. Two bloggers forgetting to take pictures!

After lunch, we  weren’t ready to say goodbye, so we shopped. We bought the same kind of jeans. Same size. Not the same size as when we were 15. 🙂

At the counter, I pulled out my zippered pouch to pay.

“Where’s your wallet?” Robin said.

“It’s right here.”

“Julie, that’s not a wallet.” She showed me hers. Neatly organized. Butterscotch-colored leather. A hand-me-down from one of her daughters. “You need a real wallet.”

We laughed. “Why? I like keeping my credit cards in rubber-bands.”

At Starbucks, she handed me her cup of extra hot soy latte. “Here. Taste. It’s creamy-dreamy.”

“This is terrible. It’s so blah. Try my Sumatra.”

She took a tiny sip and made a face. “Tastes like an ashtray.”

“Today’s been so much fun,” I said. “We didn’t talk about our problems, did we?”

Which we could have.

Because we have problems.

“We’ve been too busy laughing,” she said.

We paused.

Watched shoppers stroll by.

“Maybe this is what faith means. Letting go of problems and living in the moment,” I said.  

“I think so, Jewels.”

I smiled all the way home, so very thankful for faith and friendship.

(photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/ichigochan-/)

Do you have friends like Robin? Oh, I hope so.

Have you discovered living in the moment faith? 

P.S. I don’t understand all the Facebook changes coming in January, but I’m not sure if I’ll still be able to share my blog links through FB. If you haven’t signed up to receive my posts through email, just insert your email address in the box at the top right corner and my blog posts will be delivered every Wednesday morning. Thank you!

Love,

Julie

 

 

Straight from the Heart

This past Sunday we were having a tiny family get-together to make Christmas cookies. Very low-key. But Saturday morning, we had a church commitment and overslept.

Hurrying, I forgot what matters most.

“I hate running late!” I said. “Now we’ll be behind all weekend long. I have so much to do.”

“Nah,” Rick said. “We’re fine.”

By the time we got back home, I felt like I was chasing myself around trying to catch up.

Get a Christmas tree.

Bring decorations upstairs from the basement.

Decorate.

Go to the grocery store.

Finish addressing Christmas cards.

NOW. Hurry!

And I’m married to a man who can’t be pushed. Or rushed. The harder I tried to get things done, the slower he moved.

Sunday afternoon right before the party, he finally brought the tree inside, and I started making cookies.

Which should’ve been done hours earlier.

Scanning the box for directions, I discovered something odd–

A paragraph explaining why “Mr. Sunface Bebo” founded Immaculate Baking Company.

This sentence seemed about ten feet tall. 

“His vision is to inspire people to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.”

Whoa. 

A baking company has a vision to inspire people to love one another? 

And it’s right here on the box.

Straight from the founder’s heart.

Something inside me shifted.

In all my hurrying, I’d lost my vision for why I was having a cookie party.

Because I love my family. 

Before long, I saw–really SAW–our son Thomas and his girlfriend Brittany decorating the tree.

Our daughter Katie was frosting cookies.

We missed you, Jamie. 🙁

I sat beside Rick. “Sorry, I pushed so hard.”

He made his my wife scares me face. Which is part of why I love him. His sense of humor.

Later, alone in the kitchen, I turned out the big tree lights.

And studied our nativity.

Because of God’s great love for us,

We can love one another,

Straight from the heart. 

Do you decorate Christmas cookies?

Have you been hurrying too and missing the good stuff?

(The glutenfree cookies were amazing! I have Celiac.)

“…love one another…” John 13:34

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

Cruisin’ the Coast and Cruisin’ Through Marriage

“You can still change your mind and come with us,” my husband Rick said. It was our final Porch Party before he left town. He and his uncle were driving from Atlanta, Georgia to Biloxi, Mississippi. They were taking a 1988 Chevy truck Rick restored for Uncle David to a car show called Cruisin’ the Coast.

Before restoration:

After restoration: 

They’d be tooling the town looking at 10,000 cars.

I squirmed in my rocking chair. “Thanks, but y’all go on. I’m going to be cruisin’ thousands of words at home.”

I was looking forward to a week by myself, but I felt a twinge of guilt.

Aren’t married people supposed to love the same things? 

But after 36 years of marriage, I probably wasn’t going to develop a sudden passion for cars. And Rick probably wasn’t going to enjoy cruising bookstores.

By the middle of the week, I was getting sorta lonely. Thursday night he called. “Do you miss me yet?”

“Yes. Especially in the mornings when I’m porch partying by myself. Do you miss me?”

“Yep.”

He wasn’t coming home until Sunday, so thinking about marriage and love and porch parties–the things we have in common–I got an idea.

I bought two new mugs and made pumpkin bread.

Before baking.

With yummy topping.

All done minus one piece. 🙂  

We’d have a Welcome Home Porch Party Sunday night!

Here’s a marriage hint that took me forever to learn:

Marriage isn’t about becoming clones of one another.  

It’s about encouraging each other to become the incredibly unique person God created us to be. 

*Click here for Pamela’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Loaf Recipe. (Just use self-rising flour if you aren’t eating GF.)

*If you’re into cars, here’s an article from The Sun Herald about the record-breaking numbers who attended Cruisin’ the Coast.

Love,

Julie

P.S. Did you marry your exact opposite too?

Sometimes Faith Means Taking a Break

When you read this, you’re probably going to think, well, duh, what took her so long? The other day, I got stuck. It had to do with writing, but it could’ve been about anything.

Here’s my not-so-pretty pattern:

I try too hard. Drink too much coffee. Focus so intently on the problem, I shut out the rest of the world. Sometimes … even God.

A tiny thought came to me.

Why don’t you surrender this?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! That word again. Surrender was my theme for 2012.

For me, surrender means saying, “Help me, Lord.”

“Okay,” I whispered, opening my hands and lifting them. “I can’t fix this by myself.”

And then I got a crazy idea.

I decided to stop working, take a break, and make a cheesecake.

I shut down my computer and left my little loft office.

At the grocery store, I didn’t rush around like a madwoman. I smiled at small children and didn’t get annoyed because I got in the slow lane.

Back at home, the football game was on. I even asked the score. 🙂

(Use these cookies and your cheesecake will be gluten-free.)

Because I wasn’t obsessing, my mind was free to think gentle thoughts.

I didn’t lose count with my eggs. My meringue turn out just right.

I’m discovering (after 50 years!) it’s okay to have fun–even when your work’s not completely finished.

I’m finally beginning to understand …

It honors God when I let go  of my problem(s) and take a break.

The answer to my writing problem came a couple of days later, after I stopped trying so hard.

“Do the things that show you have really changed your hearts and lives.” Matthew 3:8 NCV

Have you ever struggled with pushing too hard like me?

What do you do to chill out?

Click here for the cheesecake recipe.

Love,

Julie

On Friendship … When You’re an Introvert

“Strangers are just friends waiting to happen.” Rod McKuen Looking for a Friend

I try to cover it, but I’m an introvert. I have friends–really, I do–I promise, but I love days of solitude, writing in my cabin in the woods–so much that sometimes I overdo it.

A few weeks ago Robin called. We’ve been best friends for forty years.

Oddly, or maybe miraculously, we have the same autoimmune illnesses, Sjogren’s and Celiac disease.

“I’ve never met Heather,” Robin said, “but she reads my blog. She was diagnosed with Celiac a year ago and is inviting a few friends over for coffee. Everyone who’s coming has Celiac.”

Hmmm. “And you’ve never met her?”

“No, but she’s so sweet. You’ll love her. She wants us share our experiences.”

I felt the familiar tug to do what comes naturally, but for some reason, I didn’t.

I said yes.

Walking into Heather’s home, I never expected to feel so welcomed.

So instantly connected.

See what I mean?

A Celiac celebration.

Everything was gluten-free, and she had coffee and hot tea–lots of flavors.

Sometimes when you have Celiac (or anything about you that’s a little different) there’s that awkward moment when you have to explain.

But that didn’t happen at Heather’s. 🙂

We laughed about it.

Because we all understood.

Heather on the left and Robin on the right …

Robin and me …

My new friends … and sorry, I didn’t take my good camera that day. 🙁

Here’s the best part …

We bonded the way it happens in childhood.

And in novels.

We even prayed together.

See the Scripture on Heather’s chalkboard?

“God will meet all your needs…” Philippians 4:19.

Sometimes, God meets my needs when I’m in community —

When I break out of my routine, let go, and trust Him.

Sounds like SURRENDER, doesn’t it?

Are you somewhat of an introvert too?

Have you ever been surprised by unexpected friendships? Aren’t they just wonderful!

P.S. If you haven’t visited Robin’s blog at All Things Heart and Home, please do. You’ll love her too.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

Retro Recipe and Reminiscence

On a random Thursday night this past December, I wondered if we could possibly experience a touch of Christmas morning joy–the kind you feel as a child. Mother had an impromptu pre-Christmas dinner. Only five of us could make it–my sister Jennifer, my niece Libby, Mother and her husband Gene, and me.

We had oyster stew and chocolate fudge. Mother makes the best fudge. She’s been making it since we were little.

After we ate, we played beauty parlor, and Mother braided Libby’s hair. Libby looks so much like my sister, I pretended it was 40 years ago .

 

And then Mother said, “I got y’all a little something to open. Don’t get too excited. It’s not much.”

Beautiful socks!

We gathered in a tight knot, shoulders touching, and took pictures of our hands. I have no idea why. Sometimes mothers and daughters and sisters do the silliest things. 🙂

I’ll never forget what happened next. It’s as if the Lord Himself tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Pay attention.”

This is the second picture of our hands. When Mother saw the first one she said, “My hands look terrible, like chicken claws.” She hid her swollen thumb joints. She has rheumatoid arthritis.

But I hadn’t noticed her joints.

Instead, I saw the circle of our lives and love.

I thought about time passing–went back to my childhood.

To Mother’s creativity–her hands. How her fingers flew over her typewriter. Back then, she painted. I could see her doodling on sketch pads and setting the supper table pretty each night. I remembered how fast she could fold a stack of towels, change a baby’s diapers, and make a pitcher of tea.

All grown up now, I hadn’t expected that under-the-Christmas-tree feeling to find me.

What brought it?

I know it began with gratitude.

Could I reproduce it?

The meal was simple. Mother’s fudge recipe hadn’t changed in 50 years.

Maybe joy-moments can’t be orchestrated, but that doesn’t mean we don’t watch for them.

Anticipate them.

Welcome them.

They’re unexpected gifts from God.

Mother’s Fudge–Gluten-free if you use GF vanilla

This recipe is easier is more predictable with a candy thermometer, but Mother doesn’t use one.

3 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups milk

2/3 cup cocoa

dash of salt

1/2 stick butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 heaping cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Butter an 8 or 9 inch square pan.

Using a heavy 6-quart pot and a wooden spoon, stir everything except butter, vanilla, and nuts on medium heat. Keep stirring until it comes to a full boil.

Then stop stirring but let the mixture continue boiling until it comes to 234 degrees on a candy thermometer, which is a “soft ball” stage.

(If you aren’t using a thermometer, begin doing the “soft ball” test after about 10 minutes of boiling. To perform soft ball test: put a few drops of the mixture into a cup of cold water. When fudge is finished cooking, it will form a soft ball in the water. If you touch the fudge in the water, it will feel formed. It won’t fall apart in the water. Your test ball will flatten when you remove it from the water.)

At the “soft ball” stage, remove fudge from heat.

Add butter and vanilla but don’t stir.

Let fudge sit and cool until it reaches 110 degrees, lukewarm. (If you aren’t using a candy thermometer, this can take about 2 – 1/2 hours.)

Beat fudge until it starts to looks less glossy and gets thicker–usually about 7 minutes.

Then quickly add nuts and pour into buttered pan. Let it cool before cutting.

Slice into small pieces. The fudge can be frozen and makes wonderful Christmas gifts.

Love,

Julie

 

The One Secret to Thirty-Five Years of Marriage

Saturday morning, two days before our 35th anniversary, we sat in our rocking chairs, porch partying. I wanted to ask my husband a few questions, but I couldn’t just blurt them out. I had to proceed delicately. With caution.

“Remember our first Christmas?” I said. “We brought home that Griswold Family Christmas tree and had to exchange it.”

 

“I still think I could’ve made it fit.”

“Maybe so.” Playing it cool, I yawned before asking my next question. “Do you mind if I interview you about marriage? Thirty-five years is a lotta Christmases together.”

“You know you’re going to, so go ahead.”

Yipee! I ran inside for my glasses and girl reporter steno pad.

“First question. What’s important in marriage?”

He rocked. Drank his coffee. Rocked some more.

Maybe he’s not going to answer me.

“It’s not my stuff, your stuff,” he finally said. “Or my money, your money. It’s us. Ours.”

“That’s good. What else?”

“Deception is a big deal. We don’t have any secrets.”

“True. In the past 35 years, what was your most difficult time?”

“Eating gluten-free with you.” He laughed. (I have Celiac.)

“Be serious. What about building this house? That was tough, wasn’t it?”

“That was my hardheadedness–a mechanic, building a log house.”

That’s why I love you.

I chewed my pen. Pretended to think up a new question. “So, would you say we’re best friends?”

“Something like that.”

“Looking back, what were our toughest times?”

His eyes got shiny.

I held my breath. Couldn’t believe he was going to give me a real answer.

“Burying Robbie.” (our newborn son) “Raising teenagers.”

I felt incredibly close to him. “Is there one secret to having a good marriage?”

“Yep.”

Ready to jot down his words, I leaned toward him. “What is it?”

He rocked back and forth, back and forth. “Don’t be selfish.”

“That’s it? Three words?”

“That’s it. That covers it all.”

I thanked him for the interview and closed my notebook. “You know, you’re exactly right. Wonder why it takes years to figure this stuff out when the answers are so simple?”

“Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you,” Matthew 7:12.

Thoughts on marriage anyone?

Love,

Julie