Love and a Spotted Donkey

Saturday night, my husband and I were on our way to eat out when he pulled over on the side of the road.

“What are you doing?”

“Looking at the horses,” he said.

I’d passed these horses a thousand times, and I was hungry, but he didn’t put the car in drive, so I glanced at the scene unfolding in the pasture.

It was twilight~~

That magical time right before sunset when God peels back the curtain and reveals a touch of wonder.

The horses were stunning, the edge of the sun slipping over their strong shoulders.

I rolled down the window and became a part of their world.

The sweet scent of October grass filled the car.

In the far left corner of the field, a chocolate-brown donkey stood on the other side of the fence, grazing.

Two more tan donkeys joined her. A smaller animal stood between them.

It looked like a small horse with big, pointy ears.  Or maybe a goat.

“What’s the spotted thing?”

“It’s a donkey,” Rick said.

“A spotted donkey?”

“Yep.”

I had no idea there were spotted donkeys.

Captured by her beauty, I watched her for a few seconds before asking my next question. “Have we always had donkeys on our street?”

“Yep.”

“Even the spotted one?”

“Um-hmm.”

How have I missed this little donkey all these years?

I felt a warm sensation in my heart.

What is it, Lord? I’m listening…

I thought about how He’s the Good Shepherd–how He knows the condition of His flock. (from John 10:14-15 and Proverbs 27:23)

Lord, You don’t zip down the road of life, too busy to care about us.

You don’t glance at us from time to time when You have nothing better to do.

You’re in the field with us. 

And for sure, You’d never forget You have a spotted donkey.

Lord, You’re the Good Shepherd. You can’t possibly forget me! (click to tweet

Did you know about spotted donkeys?

How’s the Good Shepherd helping you today?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love–The Remedy for Discouragement

I set two goals for the month of June:

1. Finish the rewrite on my novel.

2. Take a picture every day about my word for 2017,  Love. Share the pictures on Instagram. 

For 30 days I wondered, will I be able to find evidence of love today? Something picture-worthy? Where? How? When?

And every day I’d catch a glimpse of something and feel a little nudge inside my heart.

~Fresh peaches from Thompson Family Farms~

~Our hammock~

~Summertime petunias~

~The American flag and the last gardenia~~

~Thomas and Brittany’s wedding~(taken by Kylie Martin Photography)

~The rainbow on Father’s Day when the newlyweds invited us to their house for dinner~

~A blank page in my journal~

~Another porch party~

~On June 26th I finally finished my novel. I had it printed and snapped a picture of the box containing the 356 pages~

~I asked someone to edit it and kicked back in the hammock to celebrate~

Three days later, I read through the edit and discovered I have some more work to do.

I need to go deeper. 

One of my characters hasn’t completely opened her heart to me. 

Feeling discouraged, I dumped out the pages on my desk and had a good talk with myself. 

Why is this novel so important to me? Why am I writing it?

Then it dawned on me.  

I write for the same reason I took 30 pictures. 

Because of love. 

Love compels me. 

Love for my characters.  Love for my readers.  Love for God. 

I write because I love. And love is stronger than discouragement. Click to tweet.

The next morning I lit my candles, knelt beside my desk, and prayed a simple prayer. 

Lord, I need You. Will You pour Your love through me today? 

Are you feeling discouraged about something? Look for signs of love. And remember~~

Discouragement doesn’t come from God. Ever. He’s a God of hope. Always. click to tweet

Praise the Lord! He is good. God’s love never fails. Psalms 136:1 click to tweet

Each one of you means so much to me. Thank you for your friendship and for giving me grace with the blog. I’ll be back the first Wednesday in August.

So much love,

Julie

 

An Unexpected Easter Conversation

Last week, a friend and I discussed life and death and heaven. I didn’t handle it very well.

“I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately,” she said. “I’m not sure if I believe in life after death.”

“You mean, you don’t believe in heaven?”

“It’s just not logical.”

She’d memorized a lot of Scripture as a child. She knew about the cross and the Easter story. 

“What about the miracle of birth?” I said. “Is that hard for you to believe?”

“And what about creation?” I said. “Nature? Animals? God created ‘the birds of the air and the fish of the sea’?”

“Yeah, all of that makes sense to me.”

“You mean, scientifically?” I said. “Under a microscope?”

“Yes. We can prove it. But we don’t have any proof of heaven.”

“What about this thought? Life has to start somewhere, right? Do you believe God is our Creator?”

“Yes. But think about it. We die. We’re buried. That has to be the end. How can we come back to life again? There’s no logic to that.”

We talked a while longer–until I got an uncomfortable feeling in my chest.

I’m pushing too hard. 

It’s not my job to change her mind.

After our Easter conversation, a gentle thought came.

She’s right. 

It’s not logical.

It doesn’t make sense.

I should’ve agreed with her.

Death DOES look like the end. It looked like the end–even to Mary and the disciples. 

Almost nothing Jesus did made sense. 

He fed 5,000+ with a little boy’s lunch.

He walked on water and turned water into wine.

He washed His disciples’ feet.

I’d tried to convince my friend–

But faith goes beyond logic.

It can’t be explained.

*The same Power that raised Jesus from the dead comes alive in hearts. That’s faith! (click to tweet)

*Because He arose, death was arrested. We will rise again! (click to tweet)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live…” John 11:25  (click to tweet)

Turn your speakers on high and listen to this song. It’s what Easter is all about.

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

Thoughts? Questions? Want to comment and start a conversation?

Love,

Julie

 

Three Secrets to Finding the Gift of Peace

If you’re a long-time blog reader, you know that my husband and I sit on our front porch together every morning. We read  Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and a few verses of Scripture. We talk little bit, and then we pray.

Nothing complicated, but oh, so powerful.

One Saturday in February, he had an early meeting, so I porch partied alone. Normally, being on the porch is such a peaceful experience.

But in less than 60 seconds, I broke one of our porch party rules. We aren’t supposed to say anything negative.

I didn’t actually SPEAK any negative words, but I let a few negative thoughts creep in.

A pale gray sky.

No sun this morning. 

Probably going to rain.

Can’t stay out here long.

Better hurry.

I have a ton of work to do. 

I wasn’t dwelling on problems, but I wasn’t porch partying. I wasn’t worshiping. I had a busy day ahead and zipped right past God.

Then Thelma and Ellie joined me.

Thelma hopped up on the banister and twirled a few Easter eggs. She pawed the bird’s nest and chewed on a twig. She knocked out a plastic egg and watched it spin.

Ellie couldn’t wait for her to jump down so they could play.

Then it hit me.

Thelma and Ellie weren’t hurrying to do to the next important thing. 

This was the important thing.

Celebrating the morning together.

Just like when we spend time with God. 

Right then, I started my porch party all over again. 

1. I remembered God’s faithfulness. 

2. I remembered how much He loves me.

3. I thanked Him, and then I thanked Him some more. 

Before I went inside, the most glorious thing happened. The sun came out. 

When I praised God, the Son broke through and peace replaced every speck of gray. (Click to tweet.)

If you have a minute, porch party with me. If you can’t see the video below click here.

Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, Isaiah 26:3. 

Have you discovered that praise brings peace? 

What are you praising Him for today? 

Love,

Julie

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

Three Tips for a Healthy Thought-life

I think most of us have weaknesses when it comes to our thought-lives. Certain kinds of thoughts get us in trouble. For me, it happens when I allow myself to worry.

It always starts with one small worry, and it doesn’t even have to be rational. 

I knew better than to entertain this particular thought, but when it hit, I chose to hang on to it. Looking back, it’s almost funny.

A few days ago, I got choked on a piece of kale. No big deal, right? But a couple of hours later, I began running a low-grade fever.

The “what if” hit.

Uh-oh.

What if I have aspiration pneumonia? I bet that’s what’s wrong! 

I have no idea where the thought came from.

Only that it tempted me.

The next morning, my temperature was 101, and I was coughing. The doctor at Urgent Care ordered a chest x-ray, which was perfectly normal, and gave me an antibiotic. But right before I left the exam room, she instructed me to go to the ER if I got worse because I might need a lung specialist.

A lung specialist?  

More worry material.

Three days later my fever was gone, but my breathing sounded like Darth Vader’s. If you can’t see the video below, click here. 

What started with one worry brought an avalanche of fear.

Something’s wrong!

Nobody should sound this way! 

Six days after the kale incident, I didn’t go to the ER, but I went to see my regular doctor. She listened to my kale saga and my lungs. Then she gave me a new antibiotic and an inhaler.

“Rest. Drink plenty of fluids. You should be much better in a couple of days.”

“So…you don’t think I have aspiration pneumonia?”

“No.” She smiled. “Your fever’s gone. You have bronchitis.”

My primary care doctor was one-hundred percent correct.

By the next morning, I felt much better–so good I made a pot of homemade chicken soup–even added  fresh spinach. 🙂

Sitting by the fire with the dogs, I realized I’d wasted a lot of time worrying when I could’ve been praying. Or laughing. Or encouraging others. 

So, I’m sharing my kale tale to see if we can learn from it. 🙂

1. Healthy thoughts lead to healthy behavior. Click to tweet.

2. Guarding our minds brings joy and peace. Click to tweet

3. With God’s help we have the Power to change our thoughts. Click to tweet. 

“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8 NIV

Comments?

Do you have any Truths to add to the list?

What kinds of thoughts trip you up? It helps to identify them. 

Love,

Julie

What Does Love Have to do with a Fence?

I have so much to learn and relearn about LOVEmy word for 2017.

Monday, I hurried into Target with my list, but my mind wasn’t on shopping. I wanted to figure out what Real Love means.

I wanted to tuck Love into a box. Tie a bow on it.  Move on.

I stopped at the front of the store where they put seasonal things on sale and came home with three Valentine’s Day items that weren’t on my list:

Heart-shaped lights to go over the kitchen table–

A pack of Valentines.

A notepad decorated with conversation candy.

After I hung the lights, I lit three red candles in the kitchen.

But it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t satisfied.

Love is more than Valentine’s Day. It’s more than red hearts and white, lacy doilies.

What is Real Love? 

Does Real Love always mean giving, giving, giving and saying yes? 

Maybe it would help to define what Real Love isn’t. 

I usually think better in the woods, so I took the dogs for a walk. The trees were bare, and I noticed something.

The fence. 

It runs horizontally, and you can only see it in the winter. 

But it’s always there. 

I crunched my way through the dead leaves and stood beside it.

It’s just a fence. A useless fence. 

But for some reason, I was drawn to it.

The fence doesn’t even keep the dogs in the backyard. 

It marks our property line

What difference does the property line make? 

With the dogs standing quietly at my side, I stood there praying, thinking, wondering. 

The fence matters. 

The thought came softly, but it startled me.

I remembered a book I’d studied in a ladies’ small group, Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John TownsendWe even did the workbook. 🙂

Back in my office, I found my copy of Boundaries. 

Chapter One–What Does a Boundary Look Like?

In small group, we talked about how fences are physical boundaries, and how physical and emotional boundaries are necessary.

I skimmed my notes:

1. Boundaries (fences) define our personal property. Our space.

2. Boundaries show where one person ends and another person begins.

3. Boundaries protect us. They keep the good in and the bad out.

4. Boundaries aren’t selfish. They’re loving and kind.

We discussed the power of the word NO–

The importance of keeping emotional and geographical distance when appropriate.

How to back up our boundaries with consequences.

Whew…

Real love includes fences. 

Real love doesn’t always mean, YES. Of course. Let me do that for you. 

Real love isn’t about red and pink hearts. Sometimes it means loving yourself enough to say, “No.” Click to tweet.

Does this side of love stir your emotions?

It does mine. I’m reading Boundaries again. 

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

Finding Faith and Fall with a Five-Year-Old Child

It never occurred to me that five-year-old Rilynn would give me a greater gift than I could ever give her.

Our daughter Katie remarried in 2014 and became a stepmom. Katie and her husband decided Rick and I would be called “Grand Pa Rick and Grand Ma Jewels.” It’s an honor to become anyone’s grandmother, but it’s especially sweet when God brings a child into your life in such a surprising way.

A few weeks ago, Katie asked if we could keep Rilynn for the weekend. I told her, yes, yes, yes a million yeses. It was the first time she’d spent the night with us.

My first assignment as being a grandmother. 

I wanted her to feel comfortable with us.

I wanted to do everything right.

It’d been so many years since a child had stayed in our home. Our youngest is 25. And he’s a boy.

Think, think, think. What do five-year-old little girls like to do? 

I ran to the store and bought Play-Doh and paints and coloring books.

Whew. She loves to paint. 🙂

Grand Pa Rick taught her how to make a turkey. Y’all know I’m not craftsy. This was all him!

(He also built her a dollhouse for her fourth birthday.)

They gathered eggs. There was only one, but it was the perfect number for her little hands to carry.

She wanted to see Grand Pa Rick’s garden–even though there was nothing growing but weeds. To her, they were beautiful.

Everything was.

Later that day, I showed her pretend leaves on the porch. She wanted to see real ones.

I grabbed a brown paper sack and we headed to the woods behind our house. Of course, Clyde and Ellie came too.

Because Rilynn was with me, the woods became an enchanted forest. 

“The leaves change colors every October,” I said. “Why don’t we pick out our favorite ones? You can take them home with you.”

“Really? I can keep them?”

“Sure, as many as you want.”

“Look! Grand Ma Jewels, two yellow ones!”

“What’s that?” she said.

“It’s an old tree stump. God lets animals live in it when it’s cold.”

She peered inside. “That’s nice of Him.”

“Um-hmm.”

We walked a few feet down the path. “What’s this?”

“It’s a tiny pine tree. One day, it’ll be all grown up.”

You will too. Life goes so fast. I used to be five.

“What kind of leaf is this?”

To me, the leaf wasn’t pretty at all. It was huge and brown and ugly–so dry, its edges curled. “I think it’s from this big oak tree.”

“I like it.” She put it in her sack. “What’s this, Grand Ma Jewels?” She handed me an acorn.

I hadn’t thought about acorns in years–even though our driveway was covered in them.  

I’d stomped on them.

Crushed them with my feet. 

Driven over them.

Saw them as a nuisance. 

“Sweetie, it’s an acorn. God made it. And somehow, He makes acorns grow into giant oak trees.”

She nodded as if the miracle made perfect sense. Gathering a dozen or so, she stuffed them into her sack. 

Then I picked one up and examined the impossibly small thing.

How’d you do it, Lord? You packed the miracle of life inside this hard brown shell.  Rilynn believed quickly–with all her heart. She never doubted.

If I could have a tiny portion of this child’s perfect faith…

Following her down the path toward home, I put the acorn in my pocket, a seed of rugged faith growing inside me.

 With God–and only with God–all things are possible. Borrowed from Matthew 19:26 click to tweet

Have you ever been blown away by God’s enormous size, and yet He’s involved in the intricate details of our lives?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping a Quiet Heart

After my confession blog two weeks ago about putting my novel at the foot of the cross, God’s been remaking me. It’s moment-by-moment as if He’s forming me at the Potter’s wheel.

I’m talking less and listening more.

He whispers without words through friends and family, and even through simple, everyday happenings.

First, it was the eggs.

Almost every day, my husband puts fresh eggs on the kitchen counter. He doesn’t say anything. He spreads them out on a paper towel beside the sink. These eggs look like where they’ve been. They’re dirty. They’re covered in chicken poop and laying feed.

They’re also fragile and delicate–and on their way to being beautiful. But it takes a quiet heart to discover their beauty. 

Over the past few years, I’ve broken plenty of eggs by getting frustrated and impatient. By having a bad attitude.

Why doesn’t he clean them himself?  He doesn’t even ask if I mind. He just plops them on the counter and walks off.

See what I mean? Ungrateful. Missing the miracle of the moment.

Sort of like two weeks ago.

I felt like God had plopped an impossible assignment on my desk.

I thought He’d called me to write novels. But then He asked me to put all my hard work at the foot of the cross and get to know Him better. But how? I had work to do! 

I felt stranded in the middle of nowhere–with a big mess to clean up. 

Or so it seemed. 

But His ways aren’t mine. Neither is His timing or His plans. 

He let me “break a lot of eggs” before I got desperate enough to say,

“Help me. I need You. I can’t make it a day without You.” 

So, standing at the kitchen sink, I kept my heart still and quiet and carefully washed the dirty egg. Then I dried it and marked it with the day’s date–just like God is doing with me. 

Before I closed the lid, I said a quick prayer. Nothing fancy. Just honest and grateful.

A complete dozen. Thank You, Lord. You provide. 

One tiny prayer.

One giant shift in attitude.

This new path I’m walking isn’t a race. I have no idea where He’s leading me. I’m not in control, and I don’t have all the answers. 

But I can promise you this–

A new life begins with brokenness and rises from a quiet heart. Click to tweet. 

P.S. The eggs were my first lesson in keeping a quiet heart. I’m jotting everything down so I won’t forget to tell you!

Have you kept a quiet heart today?

Are you being broken? Be encouraged. God’s at work.

Love,

Julie