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 spreads a little love our way, we’re stirred to do the same thing–

And love others. 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Death of a Vision–Birth of a New One

This past Monday, I shared my secret with a close friend. 

Ten years ago, I had a vision to become a novelist. My motives were pure. I wanted to write stories that were beautiful and real and full of hope. But something happened along the way. My motives got all tangled up.

What started out good became an idol.

I wanted to impress people. Write a bestseller. Be Somebody.

And I believed a lie. I thought I had to earn God’s love. 

After writing four and a half novels (with multiple rewrites–probably a million words), I’d lost my joy. I dreaded climbing the 13 steps to my office.

“It feels like I’m climbing an endless ladder to Nowhere,” I told my friend. “But there’s no way out. I have to make this work.”

She gave me a verse of Scripture I’d memorized as a child but never understood.

Take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29. 

Rest? I had work to do.

“Julie, what if you wait on God and see where He leads?”

Wait? I had to hurry up and finish. I couldn’t risk being a failure. 

The next morning, I wrote pages and pages in my prayer journal. Gut-level honest prayers. Another Scripture found me.

“Do you wish great things for yourself? Do not seek them…” Jeremiah 45:5

“Yes, Lord, Yes, yes. Please forgive me. I’ve wished great things for myself.”

Defeated, I climbed the mile-high stairs one more time. 

I didn’t want to touch my desk or my chair, so I knelt in the floor of my office and turned on some praise music. For a long time, I just breathed.

If His love was based on my performance, I’d blown it.

Then the most amazing thing happened. 

While I was kneeling, God showed up. 

He didn’t turn away in disgust. He performed heart surgery and cleaned out all the darkness and lies. When He finished, it seemed He suggested the unthinkable.

Are you willing to let go of your novel? 

I hesitated. One…two…three…four…five long seconds. 

Do you trust me? 

Yes, but how could You ask me to do this? 

There was a long silence.

How could I tell Him no? He’d forgiven me of so much. 

With trembling fingers, I removed all my notes and pictures from my whiteboard–everything I’d thought would make me Somebody.

I put them at the foot of the cross–the one my husband made 40 years ago.

Lord, it’s yours. I’m yours. If You want to resurrect my dream, You can. If not, I trust You. 

I stared at my spotless whiteboard.

A new vision rose up.

My heart felt full and still. Peaceful.

What if I start small? If You’ll show me one person each day to encourage, I’ll do it. 

I didn’t have to wait long. The first encounter happened the next day–the lady behind the deli counter.

I thought my word for 2016–DANCE — meant I’d finally be Somebody. But dancing means living in rhythm with Jesus. 

I don’t know where God’s leading, but wherever it is, I’m following. Click to tweet

Are you experiencing the death of dream? There’s Life on the other side. Click to tweet. 

P.S.  Lauren Daigle helped me let go. If you can’t see the video below, click here

More from Lauren. If you can’t see the video, click here

If you need a little more Grace, there’s plenty to go around. Here’s one from Unspoken. If you can’t see below, click here.

If you have a prayer request, feel free to share it in the comments. My blog-friends pray for each other.

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

A Rose Isn’t Always A Rose–Sometimes it’s a Promise

Our daughter Katie’s dealing with infertility. Some days, faith comes easier for her. Some days, she struggles.

April was a hard month–hormones, injections, ultrasounds, and no pregnancy.

One afternoon on my way to cheer her up, I glanced at my rose bushes beside the garage.

They’ve been a big, fat disappointment. Their leaves are dry and crispy. Their spindly limbs look like skinny arms covered in thorns. And there are only two blooms.

I was ready to give up on our roses. Year after year, I’ve watered them, trimmed them, babied them, and fed them Miracle Grow.

Here they are at the end of July.

This is as good as they get–more blooms than they had in April, but still, look at them.

Friends offered advice:

They’re diseased. Get rid of them.

You shouldn’t have planted them so close to the house.

Plant banana peels round them.

They’re climbers. They need a fence.

I was tired of fooling with them. I’d done all I could do. Still no miracle. 

A gentle thought came.

Take Katie the roses. 

Two roses from my ugly bushes? That’s not even a real gift. If I had a dozen, maybe.

I inspected the two blooms. One had opened, but the other was closed like a tight, angry fist. Sort of how I felt.

Why, God? A baby. She just wants a baby. 

Bring her the roses. 

But look at my bushes. 

They’re growing so tall, they’re going to clog the gutters. 

I got into my car saying NO. Absolutely not.

I was NOT taking her two buds because I didn’t have a promise to go with them.

I couldn’t promise she’d have a baby. 

But the Still Small Voice inside wouldn’t give up.

I got out of the car.

Sighed.

Cut the only two blooms I had from my wild, stubborn rose bushes.

Rummaged through the pantry for a vase.

But something happened on the way to Katie’s house. I saw their beauty, their soft petals unfurling in the sun.

Finally, I got honest with God.

Lord, will You take this piece of my broken heart and bless it? It’s all I have to give her. 

Katie opened the door and I stumbled through my explanation. “I brought you two roses from our yard.”

I wanted to say, “One’s for a mama and one’s for a baby.”

But I couldn’t promise that.

She took the vase from my hands, and I said the one thing I knew for sure–the only promise I could make.

“I don’t understand, but I know God loves you. He hasn’t forgotten you.” Click to tweet. 

Her eyes filled with tears.

She nodded and hugged me for a long time, His Grace filling all the empty space between us.

Sometimes the prettiest blooms come from the straggly limbs–from broken places when all you have to offer is His love.

Have you ever brought the gift of God’s love to someone? It’s powerful, isn’t it?

Are you in a season of disappointment? God loves you. He hasn’t forgotten you.

Love,

Julie

Mean Girl Memory

I was ten years old the day I acted like a Mean Girl. I’m ashamed to tell you what I did.

A group of us girls stood in our driveway laughing and talking. We were going to the movies. At the last minute, one more little girl showed up.

I didn’t know she’d been invited.

I wanted it to be just US older, mature girls, and she was only seven or eight. I still cringe at what I said.

We were all wearing shorts and T-shirts except for her. She wore a dress and Sunday shoes.

“Why are you so dressed up? We aren’t going to church. We’re just going to the movies.”

She ran home crying. We stopped by her house to pick her up, but she wouldn’t come to the door.

It felt so dark inside my heart.

I’d excluded her from the group.

Something happened last week and I remembered being a Mean Girl, and the shame in her eyes. While my husband was feeding his parakeets, one flew away. A white female.

For days she darted near the atrium where she used to live, but we couldn’t catch her. 

Sometimes, I’d see her in the treetops all by herself. An outsider looking in.

Nearly broke my heart…

Rick hung a bird-cage on the atrium, and fixed the tiny door so if she flew in, it would close. She never did.

And the worst part–at night, she clung on the screen of her old house calling out to her friends. Of course, they couldn’t help her. 

Hungry, thirsty, and lonely, if she survived the summer, she’d never make it through the winter outside the heated atrium.

One morning, Rick sprinkled bird seeds on the walkway near the atrium. She was no where in sight, but just in case…

A few minutes later, our cat Thelma crouched in an attack position, focused on the white parakeet who’d landed to eat.

Please, Lord, don’t let the bird die on the outside looking in. Don’t let Thelma…

Quickly and quietly, Rick shooed Thelma away. 

The parakeet stood still. 

He scooped her up, opened the door, and put her inside. Her friends welcomed her home and threw a grand celebration!

But the best part…

A week later, our long-lost white parakeet laid three white eggs.

Oh, the sweetness of belonging–of hearing, “Welcome. We’re so glad you’re here.” Click to tweet

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:7 (ESV) Click to tweet 

Have you ever been on the outside looking in?  

Have you ever been a Mean Girl? Or am I the only one?

Love,

Julie

 

Life-Changing Truth from Mrs. Betty’s Tea Parties

I’ve always been drawn to quiet, gentle people–the ones content to serve others without recognition.

In May, I spoke to the ladies of Galilee Christian Church in Jefferson, GA  at their annual tea party and wrote about it here. 

But there’s more to the story. 

Once a month, a small group of ladies from Galilee Christian invite women who are new to their church to a tea party. In May, I received an invitation.

The minute I arrived, I felt loved. They welcomed me. Served me. Treated me like I belonged. 

Their kindness inspired me. My sister and I are having a little tea party for Mother on her 80th birthday in July. 🙂

And the ladies invited my mother and me to their June tea party–

So yesterday we headed up Janice’s walkway.

“You’re gonna love it,” I said.

“I already do. Look at her gorgeous hydrangeas. Reminds me of childhood summers.”

“Just wait.”

“How sweet. Two chairs under the tree,” she said.

“One would’ve looked sorta lonely, wouldn’t it?”

Everyone welcomed us. The tables had been set with TLC.

Our table below…

When we sat down, our plates had been prepared, along with handmade place cards.

Mother couldn’t decide what to taste first.

The centerpiece came from flowers in Janice’s yard.

So much laughter…

They made a gluten-free plate just for me…

And my very own gluten-free chocolate chip scone! 🙂

The food was amazing, but the best part came after we ate.

We read Scripture verses inside our place cards.

Simple.

Powerful.

Then Betty Williams (90) told us how she began having tea parties twenty years ago. She wanted ladies to feel loved and accepted.

When she joined Galilee Christian Church eight years ago, she began a Tea Party Ministry.

Mrs. Betty’s below, on the left. Janice is on the right.

Right before we left, one of my new friends gave me a precious gift–tiny spoons, knives, napkins, and a teacup from her own collection–

To help me with Mother’s birthday tea party.

I came home with a car full of goodies and life-changing Truth.

Nothing–absolutely nothing–outshines kindness when it comes from the heart. Click to tweet

Mother Teresa was right. “Do small things with great love.” Click to tweet

…serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13 NIV Click to tweet

Do you see other Truths from the tea party? 

Does this give you any ideas for new ways to love others? 

Love,

Julie

 

A Secret Source of Creativity

I’m fascinated with creative people like my cousin Ricci. She’s a writer, a wife, a mother of four, and she has the gift of faith.

Her mom is my mother-in-love’s sister.

Thursday morning, I saw Ricci’s home office for the first time. Peeking through the gauzy, brown curtains, I felt transported back in time to childhood when anything was possible–

To a place where inspiration bloomed.  

“This room feels like heaven on earth,” I said.

“If you make a place for heaven, it’ll show up.”

Ricci’s office is inside her sun-room, right off the kitchen. She calls it her Creative Space.

“Meet Tassels,” she said.

“How did Tassels get her name?”

(I knew there was a special reason. Ricci’s just that way.) 🙂

“Remember the woman in the Bible who was healed when she touched  the tassels on Jesus’ robe?”

“Ohhhhh, Tassels is a name full of faith.”

The room had a holy glow like a sanctuary. Maybe it was the way the sun sparkled behind the wind chimes.

Ricci’s bookshelves are full of pictures of her children–ages 15, 13, 10, and 8.

So much life and love here~

The Lion of Judah was poised behind her desk, protecting her.

Clues about the novel she’s writing surround her desk. I can’t elaborate, but it’s going to be amazing! Here’s a link to her recent Guideposts story, More Time with Dad. 

Oh, and I love this–

One of her daughters painted a Scripture verse in yellow. It’s beside her desk. It says–

The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10 NAS  Click to Tweet

I looked around the room and thought,

Her office is so different from mine. I don’t have a bird named Tassels or wind chimes or…

But something occurred to me–

Creativity is a gift from God, uniquely designed for each one of us. Click to Tweet.

One more thing–

Right before I left, she added drops of myrrh to a dish of potpourri. The sweet, timeless fragrance filled the room.

“Tell me about myrrh.” I leaned forward. Couldn’t wait to hear.

“Mary Magdalene and the rest of the women who followed Jesus were called myrrh bearers. Mary Magdalene came to the tomb on Sunday to anoint His body with myrrh. It’s what the Wise Men brought baby Jesus.”

I’d never considered the significance of myrrh. 

Everything came together for me in that moment.

When we witness the divine creativity in others, we’re inspired to pursue our own. Click to Tweet

Want to boost your creativity? Spend time with creative people. Click to Tweet. 

Are you inspired by the creativity of others?

Do you have a Creative Space? 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

I’m Free! Free to Love and Serve

Two weeks ago when I walked into Galilee Christian Church in Jefferson, GA, for a few seconds I forgot to breathe.

Oh, the talent~

The love~ (the men served)

The exquisite details!

I was speaking at their annual Spring Ladies’ Tea.

Each table had been decorated from someone’s heart and home. I’m sure there was a story behind every plate and cup.

Simply gorgeous~as my grandmother would say. 

A tiny peek of the splendor–

Place cards…

They say, “Welcome! You matter.”

Fresh daffodils–

Delicate pink roses–

Springtime dogwoods–

Hospitality and graciousness covered the room, but the love didn’t end with the decorations.

This was at my place setting.

A gluten-free meal just for me.

Oh, and the people–

Meet Betty Williams and Sarah Trippe.

Years ago, Betty Williams (on the left) began having tea parties to make ladies feel loved and accepted. She turns 92 this week.

Isn’t that a lovely idea?

Mrs. Williams taught Sarah all her secrets, including how to make scones. The tea ministry is still thriving in their church, and Mrs. Williams now serves tea to the ladies at her assisted living.

Have you ever heard of anything more precious?

Some new friends who sat with me~

Let me introduce you to B.J. Thompson, better known as the Queen Candy Lady.

She makes incredible candy. She even has her own business cards!

She’s 90. 🙂

Such a joy to be with her~

And this sign–

I knew it had a message for me.

It’s as if God said, “Julie, pay attention. This is important.” 

Zack, the photographer, helped me figure out the meaning. While I spoke, he sat on the front row and had the most wonderful expressions.

Happy eyes. Lots of nodding.

Afterwards, we had a chance to talk.

“I wanted to get a picture of you holding up your chain,” he said. “But I wasn’t quick enough.”

I laughed. “Want to take one now?”

“Sure.”

I’d used the chain to share how certain lies I’d believed about myself had kept me bound for years.

And when Zack took my picture, I understood the sign.

That’s it! That’s why I love the “I’m free” sign!

Jesus died to set us free.

To set ME free. 

Hallelujah!

When Jesus sets us free, we use our gifts, talents, and even our scars to serve others. Click to tweet.

“So, if the Son shall set you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 Click to tweet.

Can you relate?

What areas of serving others makes you happy?

Do you have scars that serve a purpose?

Love,

Julie

 

Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea Gratitude to You

When I started blogging almost five years ago, I was terrified that I’d be writing to myself.

But you came! You showed up! We bonded and you cheered me on! You’re the friend in Proverbs 18:24 “who sticks closer than a brother.”  

I have something to share with you.

Here’s how my creativity has always worked:

I’m a speed boat skimming across the ocean. I get an idea and rush-rush-rush back to the shore to write it. Then I hurry, hurry, hurry in a panic to find the next idea.

But something inside me is changing.

When I’m still and quiet, in my mind, I see the ocean. But not the surface of the water.

It’s a deep place.

A secret place.

A place I’ve never been. 

It’s the bottom of the ocean floor. 

I bet all sorts of treasures are there–colors, textures, living things, mountains, kingdoms–

Unexplored emotions.

I believe God’s calling the deepest part of me to write something new like Psalm 42:7 says–“Deep calls to deep.”

To do this, I need to spend more time with Him. 

Just the two of us.

Last week a friend said–

“Julie, when you go to the bottom of the sea, it takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the light–for the particles to settle so you can see clearly.”

I want to focus on Him. 

I want Him to show me His Heart. 

What matters to Him. 

I’m asking for your prayers.

My agent is shopping what I hope will become my debut novel, but I have another story to write. It’s about an 18-year-old girl named Annie.

Annie’s part of a wonderfully messy family–the kind most of us belong to. Writing her story means for I while, I need to go to the bottom of the ocean floor.

So…

I’m going to start blogging every other Wednesday. 

After my journey, I hope to share something special with you.

I already miss you–you know that, don’t you? 

And I love you.

Oh, how I love you.

It’s hard to pull away because you’ve given me the courage to go deep. 

My new favorite song, from my heart to yours–if you can’t see the video, click here.

Have you ever felt God calling you like “Deep unto deep”? Click to tweet. 

What stirs your creativity? Art? Music? Colors? Food? People? 

Love,

Julie

The Big Blue Blob–Ruining My Friend’s Carpet

Have you ever done something really stupid? After your mistake, you wanted to crawl in a hole and hide.

Last Wednesday night at small group, Karen, our leader, welcomed me into her lovely home and asked me to put on a name tag.

It was our first meeting. Fourteen ladies. Some of us had never met.

I popped the cap off the blue PERMANENT Sharpie and dropped the marker onto her spotless, cream-colored carpet. The stain bloomed, deepening in color.

Panicky heat rose up my neck. “Oh, Karen, I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I did that. I’ve ruined your carpet.”

This is how the stain looked (and felt!) to me.

 

“Julie, don’t you worry about a thing,” she said. “I have grandchildren. My house isn’t perfect. We’ll clean it up later.”

What else could she say? I’d ruined her Berber carpet! 

“Let’s work on it now before it sets,” I said.

Because if it doesn’t come up, I’ll never forgive myself. 

“We’ll do it later, after the meeting.” She hugged me.

But the one blue eye stared at me.

I couldn’t leave it alone. “Do you have any carpet cleaner?”

“Let me go check, sweetie. The carpet’s going to be fine and you are too. I promise.”

But it’s a permanent marker. 

She found a bottle of rug cleaner, but it didn’t help. She gave me a quick wink as the doorbell rang.

More faces. Multiple explanations. Gentle laughter.

The spot and I had become the center of attention.

Everyone offered suggestions on how to get THE PERMANENT BLUE STAIN JULIE MADE out of Karen’s carpet.

“Try hairspray or rubbing alcohol,” someone said.

Karen didn’t have either one.

Another lady offered to put her foot over it.

Such a big to-do about my accident.

A friend texted her husband and asked him to bring cleaning supplies. He showed up while Karen was teaching.

So… I … had … to … keep… waiting. I couldn’t absorb any of the teaching for stealing sneaks at the big, blue, blob.

Then Karen closed in prayer. When she finally said “amen” I dropped to my knees. With my right hand on the hairspray, I held up my left hand. “Please, Lord. Help me.”

Everybody watched expectantly.

Slowly, with alcohol and hairspray, the ugly thing lost its battle.

Glorious relief!

None of my new friends condemned me with words or looks.

Not one.

Two hugged me.

Have you ever known the sweetness of instant forgiveness? Click to Tweet. Please share what happened!

When others graciously forgive us, we’re able to forgive ourselves. Click to Tweet. 

Thoughts? Feelings? Comments?

Love,

Julie