Cookies and Compassion

A few days ago my husband said, “You haven’t made any of those white chocolate cranberry cookies lately.”

“That’s because it’s the wrong season,” I said. “I add pumpkin pie spice to them. They taste like fall.”

He nodded and dropped the subject.

Later that day, I felt a gentle nudge in my heart to make the fall-weather cookies. Feeling a little foolish, I ran to the grocery store–in 95 degree heat–for dried cranberries, walnuts, and white chocolate chips. 

When Rick came home that night the house smelled like October–as if the trees should be full of red and yellow leaves. He was happy, but there’s more to the story.

The next day my mother and I had appointments with our rheumatologist. She’d been having knee pain and had started wearing a knee brace. Before I left to pick her up, I sensed that same soft Voice talking to me.

Take your mother some cookies. 

She won’t eat them. She’ll say she doesn’t need the calories. And they’re not chocolate. She loves chocolate. 

Take them anyway. 

Convinced I was wasting my time, I tossed three cookies in a baggie and headed out the door. Mother and I arrived a few minutes early at the doctor’s office.

“I brought you a surprise.” I handed her the bag expecting her to politely decline them. “It’s July and they’re fall cookies.”

“Oh, good! I’m hungry. I didn’t eat breakfast.”

She took a bite. “Oh, Julie. They’re incredible. Best cookies I’ve ever had.”

She picked up a second cookie–one for each hand–and ate two at a time. Even though her leg hurt, she shoveled food in her mouth and got tickled.

The doctor spent a lot of time with her so she gave him her last cookie. I don’t know how many of his patients give him treats, but I think the cookie made his day.

On the way home, I told Mother I’d make her a whole batch. :)

That night, it seemed God had a message for me about the cookies. 

There were rational reasons why I didn’t want to make (or share!) them. 

1. It was the wrong season.

2. It was too hot for fall cookies.

3. I’d have to go the store for the ingredients. 

4. I’d made chocolate chip cookies a few days earlier.

5. I didn’t think my mother would want any.

But His Sweet Spirit kept pressing on me, tenderizing my heart–

Make white chocolate cranberry cookies.

Such a small thing.

And I almost said no.

When God touches our hearts to give, we can trust Him with the results. Click to tweet.

…show mercy and compassion to one another Zachariah 7:9 NIV

Here’s the recipe link All Things Heart and Home.

Has God touched your heart to do something small with great love? Please share!

P.S. Thank you for praying for me as I rewrite the novel. I’ll be sending it to my agent this week. :) :) I’m working on some new writing ideas and praying about my blogging schedule. I’m posting almost daily on Instagram.  I love it!

So much 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

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

 

 

Panic City–How Do You Rescue a Trapped Bluebird?

When this happened last fall, I thought it was weird. When it happened again last week, I wondered if there was a message in it for me. Maybe for all of us.

We live in a log cabin and have a wood burning stove.

This pipe runs from the stove to the ceiling. It’s twenty-three feet tall.

The other day, I heard a banging noise inside the pipe.

Seconds later, a beautiful bluebird sat in a pile of ashes blinking at me.

Won’t you please help me? I’ve gotten myself into a terrible mess! 

I opened the glass door, but couldn’t catch her. She was covered in ashes.

I know, sweet girl. I know how you feel. I’ve been trapped before–in fear, worry, control, perfectionism. 

I called my husband. “Help! There’s another bluebird stuck in the wood burning stove. I can’t get her!”

“Sit tight. She’ll be okay ’til I get home.”

My husband Rick’s a bird-man. He raises chickens in our backyard.

Once, he rescued a hummingbird. He gave the miniature bird sugar-water and set it free.

Rick has an outdoor atrium full of parakeets.

In the winter, he covers their home in plastic and turns on a heat lamp.

He loves birds.

He understands them.

He’s not afraid to hold them when they’re sick.

A couple of hours later, he came home and knelt by the stove. The bluebird looked up at him.

Thank you! You came! I’m still alive! You didn’t forget about me!

“It’s okay, girl.” With confidence and compassion, Rick reached inside her dusty prison. “I’ve got you now.”

Gently, he rinsed her off in the sink, patted her dry, and set her free.

Whatever you’re struggling with today remember, “He holds you in the palm of His hand.” Isaiah 41:13

And something else–

“He will give you beauty for ashes.” Isaiah 61:3.  

Have you ever felt like a trapped bird with no way out? What held you captive?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Animal Rescue Gene

Something happens every time my mother sees a stray animal. She’s compelled to rescue it. She says she has the animal rescue gene. I love animals–I really do, but I don’t have the gene.

Two weeks ago my brother, Jeremy, who also has the ARG, climbed a tree and rescued a five-week-old kitten. He brought her to Mother who already had three rescued animals–two cats and a dog.

Mother’s husband gave her an ultimatum. “Me or the cat.”

You can probably guess what happened. :)

Jamie, my daughter, has the ARG, and so does my son’s fiance Brittany. After Sunshine got settled in, Brittany and I went to meet her.

Brittany spoke softly, moved slowly, and Sunshine seemed mesmerized.

People with the ARG are gifted this way. 

Didn’t take them long to bond.

Brittany took these pictures.

She has the incredible ability to capture the hearts of animals–

And people born with the ARG.

My all-time favorite picture of Mother. 

Such little girl joy!

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

If you have the ARG, you’ll love these.

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

One more.

Sunshine finally notices me in this one. :)

If you can’t see it, click here.

Then Mother took us to the Athens Humane Society, a no-kill shelter, where she volunteers

She spends one-on-one time with Precious.

Brittany went straight to a puppy named Squishy.

Squishy came to the shelter with twine wrapped around her foot, requiring surgery.

“Julie, I’m in animal heaven.”

Click here for Squishy’s rescue story.

Watching Brittany love on Squishy, something dawned on me about the ARG.

 Maybe it’s sort of like the way God feels about us.

When there’s one lost sheep, He’s moved with great compassion.

He leaves the ninety-nine others and rescues the one.  (from Luke 15:4)

Do you have the ARG? 

P.S. Sunshine’s brother, Moonshine, and lots more of God’s creatures are available for adoption at The Athens Humane Society.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

A Skinny Cow… and Love Somehow

To me, there’s nothing more fascinating than people. What makes them laugh and cry? The other night our son’s girlfriend Brittany and I had a good time talking. She’s an animal lover and told me all about her cows. Toward the end of our conversation, we had quite a moment. When Brittany was younger, she went to cow auctions with her daddy and brother. “We’d look at all the cows for sale, probably a hundred of them, and I could only choose one. I’d always pick the skinniest most pitiful looking cow.” “Why?” “Because I knew what she could become. Like with Strawberry. When I saw her, I told Daddy, ‘That’s the one I want.’ He just laughed. ‘What for, Brittany? Look at her.’” “Her coat was dull and she was skinny, but I fell in love with her. I wanted to rescue her. Same thing with Texas.”   “And Colorado.” “And Gypsy.” “When you brought them home what happened?” I leaned forward, could hardly wait to hear. It took her a few second to speak. Her eyes brimmed with happy tears. “They became the beautiful cows I knew they could be.” Her words stirred my heart. I thought about hurting people, friends and family, myself–my faults. “What’s your secret with cows?” “We put them out in the pasture to graze. I gave them sweet feed and loved on them. Before long, they’d get fat and pretty and happy. And they’d have babies.” Strawberry a few months later… And Texas. And Gypsy. And Colorado. Seeing the miraculous change in Brittany’s cows, holy goose bumps covered me. “The same thing happens to people,” I said. “God sees us as we are and rescues us.” She nodded, her brown eyes shining. “He knows who we can become.” If you and I were  sitting at my kitchen table, what would we talk about? What stirs your heart? Love, Julie

Wisdom at the Waffle House

It’s a pride thing. I’m sure of it.

Four years ago, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, an autoimmune illness meaning no more wheat or gluten for me. Eating out is complicated. Sometimes I lie to servers and say, “I’m allergic to wheat.” It’s easier than explaining. I feel awkward being the center of attention and answering so many questions.

I like to pretend I’m like everybody else.

Last Saturday morning my husband and I went to the Waffle House. Ordering is easy.

“Bacon, scrambled eggs, and hash browns. No toast, please”

Good stuff at the Waffle House

A few minutes later our piping hot order was delivered with two pieces of toast on my plate. “Um, I didn’t want toast.”

I can get sick from a few crumbs, but I didn’t want to say that. I needed a clean plate.

The waitress sighed, removed the toast, and handed me my old plate.

Another waitress saw what was happening. It was like she knew me. She looked me straight in the eyes. “Honey, you have Celiac, don’t you?”

I nodded.

“So does me niece. Here, let me get you a new plate. It’s safer.”

I wanted to jump over the counter and hug her neck. She saw the real me and felt compassion.

She smiled. “Here you go. Enjoy your breakfast.”

Oh, that God would give me the same sensitive spirit–a heart that doesn’t rush to judge and understands far beyond what my eyes can see. A heart more like His.

“When the Lord saw her, he felt compassion for her…” Luke 7:13 (NAS)

Love,

Julie