Putting the Brakes on Worry

There’s a part of my husband’s personality that I don’t understand. And there’s something about me he can’t relate to.

He’s never tempted to worry. Ever. About anything. I don’t think he knows how.

I’ve never been tempted to drive fast. I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket. I’m content to poke along in the slow lane, and I don’t mind if people pass me.

The other day our worlds came together in a beautiful way–his temptation to push the speed limit and mine to race from peace to worry.  

It all started when he asked if I wanted to ride with him to test-drive the 1976 Laguna he’s restoring.

If you can’t see the video below, click here.

He cranked the old, red Laguna, and the vroom-vroom-vroom reminded me of the first time I rode in his 1965 GTO. We were 15 and 16. He’d shifted gears back then too. I remembered the power. The speed. My hair swirling in the wind.

He’s always loved fast cars and loud engines.

Here we are in his 1972 Roadrunner before prom.

He’s been pulled over for speeding dozens of times. When he was sixteen, he got stopped four times–in one day. It’s been years since he got a ticket, but if there were no speed limits…

After we rode in the Laguna, we ran errands in my Dodge Journey. 

Over 40 years later. The same man. Same love of speed.

But he did something totally out of character.

It was as if he became a new person. 

He drove slower than normal, content to let cars zoom ahead of him.

“What are you doing?” I said.

“Usually we get 20 miles per gallon, but I’m up to 26.4 miles.” He pointed to the white arrow between 15 and 30. “If we keep the red line on the right side of the arrow, gas mileage improves.”

In all our years together, he’d never acted concerned about gas mileage. 

“That’s neat. What’s your secret?”

“Feathering the gas pedal and coasting. Every now and then, I glance at the white arrow.”

He was driving slowly. Like me. With no sense of urgency. 

Understanding came in the flicker of a moment, and the Red Sea parted in my mind.  

Change is possible for anyone–even me! If my husband, who loves speed, can choose to a drive differently, surely I can do the same thing with my thoughts.

I can put the brakes on worry.

I can refuse to go from zero to a hundred in a matter of seconds.

I can focus on God the same way Rick checks the white arrow. 

I have a choice.

I don’t have to race full-speed ahead into worry. Instead, I can choose to coast and pray. Click to tweet

Are you struggling with something? Do you drive too fast? Does worry tempt you? Is it something else? Please share! 

Love,

Julie

Me and the Tractor and Trust

“Come here for a minute,” my husband said. “I need your help. But be careful. I could get killed doing this.”

“What kind of man says this to his wife?”

“I need you to push a lever on the tractor.”

On the way to his workshop, I remembered the day he said we needed a tractor.

Fourteen years ago. 

Right before we moved into our log cabin.

I thought a tractor was just an expensive toy. 

We argued about it. 

He won.

“Okay,” he said. “Listen. Here’s what I want you to do.”

I leaned in so I could hear over the sound of the tractor. “This scares me. You know that, don’t you?”

“We need to move this engine. It’s heavy.”

“I can’t help you. I don’t do things like that.”

“The tractor’s going to do the hard work.”

“I can’t drive a tractor.”

“All you have to do is move this black lever. And listen to me.”

I stared at the yellow “caution” sign and wondered if I should run get the neighbor next door, but I didn’t have time. 

Rick moved like a surgeon spreading out his instruments–only I was still wide awake. 

If I mess up, how will you die?  

What if the lever gets stuck? 

How hard do I have to push? 

Will you tell me when to stop–or am I just supposed to know when you’re finished?

If you can’t see the video below, click here. 

I climbed on.

“Now,” he said. “Push.”

Gripping the black lever, I pressed it down. The engine slowly dropped.

“Okay. Let off.”

I did.

“Good job.”

“Thanks,” I said, feeling very proud of myself. “Any time.” I hopped off like I knew what I was doing.

Walking toward the house, I watched my husband of 38 years.

He looked kinda cute on the loud, green machine I thought we didn’t need. 

Back then, I had no idea that every few days, he’d have to smooth out the gravel driveway with the tractor blade. Especially after a hard rain.

Or that every spring, the tractor would help plow the garden. 

I didn’t know tractors were like elephants that lifted heavy equipment with their trunks.

Then something beautiful occurred to me.

Although I knew nothing about tractors, my husband did.

Sort of like our Heavenly Father.  

God peers up the road and sees what’s ahead. Then He prepares the way. Click to tweet. 

 I will go before you and make rough places smooth, Isaiah 45:2.

Thoughts? Ideas? Concerns?

I’m praying the tractor will remind us to trust God. He sees. He understands.

For more about our tractor, read Young Love and  a John Deere Tractor.

Love,

Julie

Spread a Little Love–After Valentine’s Day

There’s something special about the friendships that have developed here on the blog. Most of us have never met each other.

Over the past few days, I got valentines from four of you! I felt like a little girl hurrying home after school to dump out my valentine box.

So much LOVE spilled out of each one.

This kind of LOVE is contagious.

When someone  unexpectedly spreads a little love, it stirs our hearts to love others. 

I don’t know why.  

It just does.

Thinking about friendship, I wondered, what is the secret of the bond we share?

Later that day, I started making brownies for small group and put the ingredients on the counter. 

Is there a secret ingredient to friendship? Something to be blended together with love? 

Spreading chocolate frosting over the pan of warm brownies, I remembered a relationship tip my husband and I discovered. 

We were training to be small group leaders, and the pastor said something that went straight to my heart.

It’s just one sentence and one word, but I think it applies to all our relationships. 

“If you have a few extra minutes before small group,” the pastor said, “don’t waste time studying your notes. Pray.”

PRAY.

PRAY.

PRAY. 

That struck me as so profound.

You’d think he might have said, “Prepare your notes carefully. Study them diligently. Present your teaching plans well. Memorize your points.”

But he didn’t.

He instructed us to do what matters most in building strong relationships.

And that is to pray–

PRAYER is the secret ingredient to our friendships here on the blog. 

We pray for each other. 

When we pray for people, something miraculous happens inside our hearts. Love grows. Click to tweet. 

P.S. If I ever host a small group for my blog-friends, I’ll make tons of brownies! You can taste the love! I’m serious. Keep reading. The recipe is below. :)

Let’s talk about prayer. Have you discovered how prayer is necessary in your relationships

The brownie recipe is from my dear friend DiAnn Mills.

2 eggs

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 sq bitter chocolate *or use 1/3 cup dry cocoa and 1 Tbsp. more butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour (I use Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix. It’s gluten-free.)

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup chopped nuts

Beat eggs very light; set aside. Melt butter and chocolate. Add sugar and beat well. Add to beaten eggs. Fold in flour, salt vanilla, and nuts. Place mixture in 8 x 8 x 2 inch pan. Bake slowly, 40 minutes at 325.

Frosting

1 cup powdered sugar

3 Tbsp cocoa

Mix well. Add enough boiling water to mix (2 1/2 Tbsp). Pour over warm cake.

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

 

 

 

Two Truths–When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

Yesterday morning at our porch party, everything seemed topsy-turvy. A storm had blown through the day before. I’d received weather alert texts, and the dogs and I stayed in the basement for a while. At the same time, parts of Tennessee were being destroyed by wild fires–so many homes and businesses burned to the ground.

So much devastation and loss and chaos.

And this was just our area of the world. 

My husband sat down on the porch, and I started cleaning up the mess from the storm. My little white Christmas tree had blown over. I found a pine cone ornament in the corner behind my rocking chair.

The tiny trees on my grandmother’s table were upside down.

The angel on the table beside the door had flipped over, as if she’d buried her face in the ground.

Poor thing.

She looks hopeless. 

I thought about families waking up after the fire, and prayer requests from some of you and from our friends and family.

But I wasn’t ready to pray. Not yet. I wanted to make sense of everything first.

We sat quietly.

Sipping coffee and rocking.

Me thinking too much, the bad overshadowing the good, at least in my mind. 

This is heavy stuff, Lord. So many needs. So many are hurting. 

Just then Clyde, our Labrador, climbed the front porch steps with a pumpkin in his mouth. I’d thrown it away in the woods beside our house–so far back, I didn’t think he could possibly find it.

That’s just what we need. A pumpkin or our porch in December. 

He plopped it at our feet as though he’d retrieved a duck.

“Thank you, buddy,” my husband said, scratching him behind the ears. “Good boy.”

“Good boy? He brought us a pumpkin.”

“He probably thought we wanted it back.”

Right then, something shifted inside me. Rick had spoken words of praise even though the situation hadn’t called for it. What he said touched a placed in my heart. I remembered a Scripture. 

Be thankful in all circumstances… 1 Thessalonians 5:18

When life doesn’t make sense:

1. We’re supposed to be thankful–in all circumstances. 

And something else.

2. Our emotions are a breath away from each other–so close, they’re almost touching. 

Fear cowers inches from Faith. Discouragement trembles at heels of Hope. Click to tweet. 

Now I was ready to pray.

We thanked God for His faithfulness and for being God. We prayed for the families waking up after the fire. And for you. For friends and family members. For so many who are hurting.

We said “amen,” and I hung the ornament back on the tree.

I stood the angel in place.

But I left the pumpkin under the Christmas tree as a reminder. 

Praising God when things don’t make sense is the right thing to do. Always.  Click to tweet. 

Are there situations in your life right now that don’t make sense? Are you close to giving up hope? Want to share them with our group? We’ll pray.

(To donate to the American Redcross of East Tennesee donate online at Redcross.org where you can specify the local Red Cross.)

Love,

Julie

Thanksgiving–Speaking Gratitude to God and Others

I’m the kind of person who feels deeply. And I love words. But I don’t always express my gratitude to God and others.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend in small group posed a question.

“What if all we had tomorrow was what we’d thanked God for today?”

Whoa.

My heart stretched uncomfortably.

I fidgeted in my chair and glanced around the room and wondered if everyone else felt the same way I did.

Sometimes I let problems overshadow my gratitude. I doubt God’s goodness. His faithfulness. 

I focus on the physical world and forget the supernatural world. I forget we have a God who is Lord over all, and He knows best. 

I withhold gratitude. 

The next morning, I filled pages in my prayer journal. I had a lot of catching up to do. I thanked Him for my coffee, my Bible, my reading glasses, 56 years of life.

I thanked Him for “blog readers who’ve become my friends.” It’s miraculous when God brings people into divine relationships, isn’t it?

I thought about how my husband Rick and I’ve been married for almost 38 years.

Later that day, I made a list for Thanksgiving. Could I praise God with our table decorations? I wanted something rustic and woodsy. I found an idea on Pinterest. It’s here.

Last Saturday, I asked Rick if he had time to make it.

He stopped what he was doing, and we headed for the woods.

“First, we need a log,” he said and pointed out three possibilities. “Which one do you like best?“ 

I picked out my favorite, and he chopped off the ends.

He cut holes for tea candles–just the right size.

We gathered pine cones. I already had pumpkins and plenty of leaves.

After I decorated around the log, Rick lit the candles.

I stood back, fresh gratitude rising, and spoke the words I was thinking.

“I can’t believe you made this. It’s beautiful. You didn’t even read the directions.”

He nodded.

“Really,” I said. “Thank you. You did it just for me.”

“Anytime.”

I reached for him spontaneously and he held me.

A prayer formed.

Thank You, Lord.

I love You.

You’re always here for me. 

You listen and You love me. 

Then it hit me.

Sometimes expressing gratitude to others ignites fresh gratitude to God. Click to tweet. 

I will give thanks to You, Lord, with all my heart… Psalm 9:1 Click to tweet.

Does the question my friend asked stir fresh gratitude? 

“What if all we had tomorrow was what we’d thanked God for today?” 

So much love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

When God Gives You a Dream…


My husband Rick had a vision. A goal. This past weekend, when his dream finally came true, I had an “aha” moment.

Because I have a vision too.

I want to become a novelist. I’ve had the dream for years.

Right now, I’m working on my fifth novel. Writing the first three taught me little bit about the craft, but my stories weren’t ready for publication. My agent is shopping my fourth one. At times–especially when I’m tired–I wonder if my dream will ever become a reality.

Two months ago during our porch party, Rick told me about his vision.

“I’ve ordered 40 baby chicks,” he said. “They’re coming next week.”

We already have 15 chickens in our backyard.

I stopped rocking and looked at him.”Why? We don’t have room for 40 more chickens.”

“Half of them are for a friend. And I’m expanding my chicken house.”

Although his dream didn’t make sense to me, I knew he’d work hard to make it happen. I could see it in his eyes.

He didn’t care how foolish he looked.

He didn’t care that most of our friends don’t raise chickens. He didn’t do it to please people. 

The passion came from his heart.

But why?

His pen before the renovation–

First, he had a buddy of his cut down a dozen trees.

The trees became mulch to cover the ground near the pen.

Now he had room to work.

When his baby chicks arrived, some lived lived in a cage outdoors. Some lived in an aquarium in our basement.

If you’re thinking our home took on a new aroma, you’re exactly right. :)

The construction took several weeks.

I brought him bottles of Gatorade.

What motivates him to work this hard in the hundred degree weather?

To have his fingers torn up by chicken wire?

Did he ever feel like giving up–like I sometimes did?

Saturday afternoon, he came inside the house and opened the kitchen pantry. “I dug up a yellow jacket’s nest and got popped. Where’s the Benadryl?”

I looked into his dark brown eyes. “Why are you doing this?”

He led me to his work-in-progress. “This is my Rhode Island Red.


“He’s the granddaddy of a lot of my chickens. He’s a fine bird. He needs more room.”

“This is a Silver Leghorn. He didn’t have any hens.”

When I watched him feed his chickens, the answer settled in my heart.

“You’re doing this because you love them, and you want to make their lives better, right?”

He closed the gate to the new pen. ”Yeah, something like that.” 

My husband’s love for chickens–and my love for you, dear reader–

Keep our dreams alive. 

When God gives you a dream, let love be your motivation. Click to tweet

Sometimes, when I don’t understand someone’s behavior, there’s a message in it for me. Click to tweet

Do you have a vision? A goal? Does this post help you in any way? I hope so.

For more blogs about our chickens, click here and here. If you’d like to read another one on dreams, click here.

Love,

Julie (and Rick and our chickens too) :)

 

 

 

 

And Then Grace Walked In

I’m pretty sure I broke my toe last Sunday afternoon. I didn’t go to the ER, but it swelled, turned blue, and hurt so much, I thought I might pass out.

You’ll never believe how I did it.  

I was hurrying across the kitchen to chop vegetables for supper, my mind a million miles away. My little toe got hung in the metal dog food holder.

I landed against the kitchen counter, and sent the cutting board sailing into the OPEN container of giant-sized Prego.

My veggies went flying.

The impact of my fall broke the plug-in switch behind the Prego–

 Sent red sauce up the center beam–

Over the counter,

And onto the back of the sofa.

I sat in the middle of the floor holding my foot, stunned, not sure how it happened or what to do next.

Maybe you can identify–you make one dumb mistake and your whole world gets turned upside down.

You feel like a fool.

You want a do-over.

There’s a great big mess all around you, and you just want to go back to the way things were, but you can’t.

I’ll never forget what happened next.

My husband came inside and found me in the floor. I was working hard to hold back the tears. “Do you need to go to the hospital?”

I shook my head. “Nothing to do for a broken toe.”

“Sit down in the recliner and put your feet up.”

We didn’t have any medical gauze or tape. He buddy-wrapped my broken toe to the one beside it with a paper towel and car-painting tape. “Better?”

I couldn’t believe it. My toe felt better. It really, really did.

The stronger toe supported the weaker one–

It was a powerful thing. 

Maybe it was his tenderness. Maybe it was because he didn’t say what I was thinking–

Stupid! Stupid! 

You need to be more careful.

You’re always in a hurry. 

When are you going to learn to watch where you going?

Nope.

None of that.

When my husband came into the kitchen and saw me, Grace walked in.

When we’re broken, the compassion of just one person can bring healing. Click to Tweet.

If  you’ve fallen and need a little grace today, listen to my new favorite song. It might help you feel better.

If you can’t see the video below, click here. 

Can you identify in any way?

Love,

Julie

 

 

Too Deep For Words

Tuesday morning, even before my husband said a word, I knew something was wrong. He sat in the bedroom chair like he didn’t want to get up. Looked like he was running on empty. In our 37 years of marriage, he’s been the strong one.

“You okay?”

“Just tired.”

“Is it work?”

“Yeah.”

He’s owned a small business for almost 40 years. It’s his job to make sure everything and everyone gets paid on time, and that the work is done right.

We talked for a few minutes. There weren’t any big issues. God’s been faithful, so I tried the we have so much to be grateful for speech, which was the wrong thing to say.

He didn’t need a sermon.

“I know. I’m grateful. I’m just tired.”
I didn’t have anymore wise words, so we did what we do every morning.

We had a porch party.

A quiet porch party.

Lord, I don’t know how to encourage him. We need you. 

Since we weren’t talking much, we focused on the birds.

“There’s a cardinal at the feeder,” I said.

He was beautiful. A big red male.

We put away our concerns long enough to listen to the birds.

If you can’t see the video below click here. 

“See the little brown bird sitting on the water line?” I said. “She has a nest in the fern.”

After several minutes of observing her behavior, I saw a parallel between the mama bird and my husband’s 40 years of hard work.

Help me say it the right way, Lord.

“Look how hard she’s working,” I whispered. “She does the same thing over and over. She finds food, flies in from the trees, lands in the bushes in front of the house, darts to the water line above the fern, hangs on with her feet, flips upside down, and feeds her babies. That takes a lot of energy.”

If you can’t see the video, click here. She flies in at the 50 second mark. :)

“Amazing–how God gave her the skills to do this.”

“It really is,” he said.

While we watched the mama bird, our front porch was transformed by God’s Presence. Click to Tweet

“What she’s doing is hard work,” I said.

“Um-hmm.”

“And she’s doing her job even though most of the world never notices.”

He sipped his coffee.  

“You are too.”

The sunlight caught the moisture in his dark brown eyes, and I saw emotion pass through. 

We’d only connected this way a few times in life. 

There were no words. 

God revived my husband’s spirit because a tiny, brown mama bird kept doing the right thing.  Click to tweet. 

 If we take time to look and listen, God has a lot to show us. So many times, I talk too much and miss Him.

Thoughts about someone listening–and really hearing you?

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 Click to Tweet. 

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