Problems and Praying and Ironing

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

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

“Me too. Definitely by 40.”

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

“If so, I don’t want to meet them.”

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

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

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

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

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

Mother loved Jimmie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A recovery rock.

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

An unmistakable softness filled me. 

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

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

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

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

Thoughts on trusting God? 

Love,

Julie

 

Fear…Get ‘Cha Gone!

This quote is why I blog: “A wonderfully nurturing atmosphere is created when people help other people by being themselves and sharing their own experiences.” Courage to Change–One Day at a time in Al-Anon II

It reminds me of my friendship with Peggy Frezon. Peggy lives in New York and I’m in Georgia, so we only get to see each other at Guideposts’ writers workshops, like this past weekend in Vero Beach

 

Peggy and I battle The Fear Monster. Sometimes she says, “Fear! Get ‘Cha Gone!”

If the two of us gave in to our fears, we’d stay home in our closets. The things that scare Peggy aren’t frightening to me. And vice-versa.

But Fear is Fear. And it doesn’t play nice. 

Peggy’s afraid to travel.

She rode to a Guideposts workshop in 2004 with a jacket over her head. Her husband was driving. She’s afraid of elevators. And flying (at least right now).

But we’re on our way to becoming fearless!

Her husband  rode the train with her from New York to Vero Beach, Florida. They rented a car for part of the trip. She sat in back seat holding Jesus Calling.

I brought Jesus Calling to Vero Beach, too. Not because I’m afraid to travel.

I’m afraid of rejection.

Of being judged. 

Of not measuring up. 

I’d submitted another story about my depression. I wrote about it here years ago. The group would be discussing my story (my second clinical depression!) at the workshop.

The root of my fear?

Pride. What’ll they think of me?

But guess what?

Nothing I was afraid of happened. 

No one judged me!

No condemnation!

After the trip, Peggy and I emailed each other:

“I think God’s calling us to dip our toes into the water,” I wrote. “To go deeper with Him.”

“Look at the pictures I just texted you!” she wrote. “I took them right before we left!”

Peggy at the ocean. 

One step closer.  

Then another.

Peggy’s so courageous–traveling  from New York to Florida. She captured the moment on video–the same kind of joy I experienced when I wrote the truth and no one rejected me. 

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

And then Sunday we sang this song at church. A certain phrase won’t let me go.

“And You call me, deeper still…”

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

Do you fight The Mean Fear Monster too?

Maybe God’s calling us to go deeper.

I pray this post helps.

Love,

Julie (and Peggy) 🙂

 

Our Mysterious Destination (and My 2015 Word)

I’d been considering a certain word for 2015. I didn’t have much in common with it, but I loved it. It’s tiny and tender compared to my last three heavyweights–surrender follow, and enough.

Something unexpected happened Christmas night, and I knew the word was mine.

Six p.m.

“Go get your coat,” my husband said.

“Why? Is everything okay? Where’re we going? Do I need my purse? Let me get my phone.”

“Nope. Just your coat.”

(We re-enacted  for pictures. On Christmas night there were no cars.)

Even though I felt uneasy leaving everything behind, I followed his simple instructions and grabbed my coat. While he drove to our mysterious destination, I asked a million more questions.

He just smiled.

Patted my knee.

Approximately eight minutes later, we parked at the town square.

“Ohhhhh, we’re walking around the square, right?”

He winked.

It’d been a couple of years since we’d walked around the square together. And never on Christmas night. “Wow. Everything’s all lit up.” I hurried toward the first shop to peek in the window.

“Slow down. We’re not exercising.”

Oh.

I felt a tug at my heart.

Something’s happening. Pay attention.

“Look at the Christmas tree lights!” I said. “They’re the big old-fashioned kind, like when we were little.”

“Oh, look at Buckles Hardware all decorated.”

“We might even see Barney Fife!

“Yep,” he said.

photo credit Bisse’s Photostream Flickr link

How had I missed the beauty of small town simplicity?

The beauty of simple things? 

We stopped at a window box full of pansies.

Spotting one simple candle glowing in the window, I finally said yes to my word. One-hundred percent yes.

“Guess what my word is for 2015? It’s the exact opposite of me.”

“Risk-taker?”

“No. It’s Simple. My new word is Simple. Like, ‘K.I.S.S. Keep it Simple, Sweetheart.’‘”

He looked at me and I knew exactly what he was thinking.

But you’re not simple. You’re complicated. You never stop thinking. Or planning.

“With God’s help, I’m going to think simple thoughts. I am–I’m going to simplify and focus on what matters most.”

Maybe simple faith is all we really need.

Do you have a word for 2015? Please share it with our group!

**Reminder** Facebook is changing in January. Be sure to sign up for my blog through my website.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surrender…It’s So Very Daily

I’ve been blessed to contribute devotionals to Daily Guideposts since 2003. The 2015 edition contains a Surrender Series I wrote about my word from 2012. A few days ago, Guideposts featured one of my devotionals from the series on their website.

In this devotional, I mention Al-AnonAl-Anon is a 12-Step program for people like me who have a friend or family member who is an alcoholic.

So many times I return to Step One.

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Surrender, for me, means admitting I’m powerless. Step One affects every part of my life.

I’m not only powerless over alcohol, I’m powerless over everything and everyone except my choices and my responses.

I’m powerless over people I love.

I’m powerless over others’ opinions of me.

I’m even powerless over whether or not the sun shines. 🙂

Moment-by-moment, I’m reminded that I’m not in control–even on my daily walks.

Last week Clyde (our Lab) and I walked the loop through the woods behind our house. We always circle the loop ten times. I noticed Kitty Thelma watching us.

“Kitty, kitty, come on. Walk with us.”

She swished her tail like she had better things to do.

Each time we passed her, the same thing happened. I begged her to come. She refused.

On loop number eight, she sharpened her claws.

Oh, good! Maybe she’s thinking about it.

I waited on her.

Nope. She stayed put.

Which brought me back to Surrender.

I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to change people.  

Just like I’d done with Thelma–I was even trying to control my cat!

On my last loop, I smiled at her, but I didn’t try to change her mind.

Leaving the woods, I saw the sun peeking through the fall leaves.

Thank You, Lord. It’s not my job to change anyone. (Not even Thelma. :))

I’m just supposed to work on myself.

Have you ever tried to change someone? Pointless, isn’t it.

Love,

Julie

Porch Party… for One?

This past Sunday, I woke up extra early thinking God, I’m tired of  waiting type thoughts. I felt stuck in a writing project, and I wanted to change a situation for one of our grown children. “Are you awake?” I said, tapping my husband on the shoulder. No response, so I got up, made coffee, and decided to have a PORCH PARTY by myself.

Just our yellow Lab and me. And my stack of devotional books.

 

Glancing at the empty rocking chair, I asked Jesus if He’d like to join me.

I pictured Him sitting down and I immediately started talking.

I guess You know I woke up feeling impatient. Restless. Doubting.

He nodded, listening intently.

I told Him about my concerns.

He seemed to say, “Julie, what was your word for last year?”

You mean SURRENDER?

I sensed Him smiling.

When I worry, does it always mean I’m trying to control?

I knew the answer.

Wanting something I could touch and feel, I opened MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST.

July 21, from Oswald Chambers in red:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit…” (Matthew 5:3). This is the first principle in the kingdom of God.

The knowledge of our own poverty is what brings us to the proper place where Jesus Christ accomplishes His work.”

Hmmm. Sounds like Step One in Al-Anon. Admitting I’m powerless over…

I imagined Jesus rocking with me. Slowly. In unison.

No matter how long I have to wait, You’ll wait with me, won’t You?

 

Opening my hand, Peace found me.

So did my husband. 🙂

Anyone struggling to let go of a situation? Let me know if you’d like prayer.

Love,

Julie

Sure Fire Remedy for Stinkin’ Thinkin’

Last week, my stinkin’ thinkin’ crept back in. If you’re familiar with Al-Anon or AA, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Stinking thinking means allowing thoughts that used to boss us around to return. To have their way. To do us in. My struggle isn’t with alcohol, but to worry, obsess, fix, and try to control–as ugly as it sounds.

I’ve been working my program for years, but Thursday stinkin’ thinkin’ tried to tie me in a tizzy.

And then the gentlest most obscure thought tiptoed in.

Why don’t you try to get to number 1,000 on your gratitude list?

Because I’d have to come up with sixteen things. Five is the most I’ve written in a day.

Try…

After reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp last year, I started listing things I’m grateful for in a little green journal.  With 984 gifts already noted, I decided to give it a shot.

I grabbed my journal and started snapping pictures.

#985. Clyde and Levi (our daughter’s Lab) having fun.

#986. Mounds candy bars. (I have Celiac Disease. Can’t eat wheat or gluten but Mounds are just fine!)

#987. Crunch of  fall leaves.

#988. My walking path.

#989. New copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.

#990. Summer slipping into fall–my favorite season.

 #991. Sweet aroma of the tea olive tree.

On a roll! Having too much fun to worry. 🙂

#992. Front porch gardenia is still thriving.

#993. Candlelight at my desk. Lord, You’re the Light of the world. And my heart.

#994. My novel characters and what they teach me.

 

#995. Ferns made it through October.

#996 One more pepper in the garden.

 #997. Laughing at our porch party this morning.

#998. Log parakeet house Rick is building in the backyard.

#999. Acorns falling at my feet.

and finally….

oh finally…..

Wo-hoo!

Hallelujah!

Number 1,000. When someone asked my opinion, I spoke the truth in love. 🙂

Gratitude delivered me from my stinkin’ thinking.’

I’m on my way to number 2,000!

Has gratitude ever changed your outlook? I’d love to hear!

Love,

Julie

 

 

Jeremy–The Road to Recovery Part 2

One of Jeremy's tool boxes. The other one is in his heart.

Jeremy, what made you decide to change? How did you start the process?

“I got so low I never wanted to go down that rocky road again. For me, change is a lifelong process. I stopped hanging out with my old friends, but knew I needed friends. I started going to Celebrate Recovery every Thursday night. I have an accountability partner. We talk three times a week. I talk to God every single day. I go to church. I made amends with people I’d hurt.”

What did you lose?

“An inheritance from my grandfather, a business, respect of my family, pride in myself.”

What have you gained? (I’m smiling. I can’t wait to hear his answer!)

“A new house better than my old one with a nice shop out back, an up-and-coming lawn maintenance company, a leadership position for chemically addicted young men at Celebrate Recovery, regained trust and respect of all my family members, an inheritance from my Heavenly Father than can never be destroyed.”

Amen!

“And you know what else? I don’t always have to look over my shoulder. I don’t have to be afraid every time I see a cop. Peace. Tranquility. Flow. Organization. Continuity in my life. Total mental clarity.”

A pause formed in our conversation…

“Back when I was using, it made me mad that you (Julie) wouldn’t give up on me. I thought, she’s beating a dead horse. I wanted you to shut up and go away. I couldn’t understand why you’d encourage something I thought was impossible.”

Your addiction worked for good in me, too. I’m so grateful.  I had a lot to learn on the Al-Anon side. I had to leave you alone and start working on myself.  I’ll write more about that later. What would you say to someone facing any kind of addiction?

“Nobody’s beyond hope. Right now, I have two chemically addicted young men who call me daily. I don’t chase them around. It doesn’t help to beg someone to change. You can’t nag or guilt somebody into sobriety.”

You’re so right. None of us changes until he or she is ready.

“I’m available for these two men 24/7, but it’s their responsibility to contact me. If you’re serious about recovery, work on it. Every single day. Find a sponsor.”

Do you have one last piece of advice?

“Build a toolbox for yourself. Fill it with whatever works for you. I use things I’ve learned from counseling, AA, NA, Celebrate Recovery, life experiences, my family, my sponsor, church, and group meetings. We’re all different. No two set of tools will be identical.”

What’s your favorite scripture?

“It’s Philippians 4:13. I know it in English and Spanish. ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.’ That’s the key. It’s His strength working in me. I can’t make it on my own.'”

Me either, Jeremy.

Love,

Julie and Jeremy