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

 

 

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

When You Have a Dream and You’re Afraid You’ll Fail

When you have a dream, all sorts of doubts, fears, and negative thoughts hound you.

You can’t do this.

You’re wasting your time. 

Stick with something you know.

When you fail, you’re going to look like a fool.

Forget this silly idea and get on with your life.

A few years ago, I had a dream.

I wanted to become a novelist–which is peculiar because as a child, I never planned to write. My mother was a writer. When I was ten, she made me her Junior Editor–a job I didn’t want.  (Marion Bond West, my mom, is below.)

Writers–people like my mother–were strange.

By the time I reached 40, life had blindsided me.

I’d survived clinical depression, lost a full-term baby boy, and attended Al-Anon. Writing helped me focus and listen to God’s healing voice.

In 2004, I entered the Guideposts writers contest and won!

I became what I never planned to be.

One of those weird writers.

For instance–

A writer can be talking to you and suddenly float away to another world. We don’t mean to be rude–it’s just that our minds get crowded. Right now, my brain looks something like this.

This is where I interview my characters. My people. They’re so real to me that I catch myself asking them what’s for supper. 🙂

Another bizarre thing about writers–

At night we dream answers to our plotting problems and hop out of bed to jot them down. We’ll even do this for a good sentence or just the right word.

I’m still working toward my dream.

As I’m writing this post, I’m packing for a novelists retreat in Ridgecrest, North Carolina. I can’t wait! Next week, I’ll learn new things and have fun, but the best part is–

I’ll get to hang out with people who don’t think my dream is strange. 

When you have a dream, surround yourself with friends who believe in you. Sometimes it only takes one! 

 “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Thank you. 

You encourage me every week.

I’m so very, very grateful. 

Do you have a dream? Has someone encouraged you along the way?

P.S. I’m taking Lolly my laptop and will be checking comments. 🙂 I haven’t even left home and I already miss you!

Love,

Julie

 

A Message from Callie the Caladium

Sometimes I’m drawn to the most insignificant things. I’ll see something and feel a quickening in my spirit. It happened a few weeks ago–all because of a Caladium–a pink and green plant I bought this spring.

First time I’d ever had a Caladium. I named her Callie.

In August, Callie’s leaves started drooping.

That’s when the PAY ATTENTION feeling came. 

Maybe  because Callie reminded me of things I’d been praying about for a long time and nothing had changed.

A situation with one of my children.

Something about writing.

A few family members. 

Based on how long I’ve been praying, I should probably give up.

But I didn’t want to give up on Callie. 

I googled how to grow Caladiums. I watered and fertilized her. Brought her inside during the heat of the day.

Nothing helped. 

In September, I noticed a gorgeous Caladium outside a store in a giant clay pot so I gave Callie a bigger home.

Which didn’t help.

I called my brother Jeremy, who knows about plants.

“Caladiums are like Elephant ears,” he said.

I walked out to the porch. “Our Elephant Ears are doing fine.”

“They’re hardier than Caladiums.”

“What if I plant it?”

“It’s too late. You should’ve done it earlier in the season.”

“Is it hopeless?”

“You can try cutting off the dead leaves. Probably won’t help.”

Performing surgery on Callie, I spotted one tender sprout near the black soil.

Only one.

She was small, but she was alive and well. 

I did what Jeremy said–I cut off everything that was dead.

And focused on all that was living. 

Guess what?

Yesterday, after a heavy rain, Callie stood a little taller and raised her face toward the sun.

That’s when the message came.

 “… if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]. Phil 4:8 AMP 

If you’ve been praying about something for a long, long time, I understand. And I care. Don’t give up. 

Thoughts?

Love,

Julie

 

Life-changing Love

Every now and then, someone comes along and rearranges my thinking. It happened again this weekend.

I’ve been following Vicky Westra’s blog, The Westra World, for a couple of years. Although we’ve never met, each time I read her words, they squeeze my heart–that soft place inside where God lives.

Vicky writes about  faith and fear. And courage.

She considers each day a miracle.

Vicky says, “I’m just a girl living the dream of being married to my superman, raising two active boys, and discovering more of who I am every day I am here. I’m currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer and learning how to expand my time, instead of worrying about extending it. So I am living my moments daily and blogging the whole crazy adventure.”

Recently, a few of Vicky’s friends did a fundraiser in her honor. They crafted door-prizes and selected five winners.

When I made my small contribution, I never expected to win. I was randomly chosen. I couldn’t believe it.

Me! A winner!

For sure, I never expected to win a life-changing gift.  

Saturday morning, my prize basket arrived.

From someone I’d never met.

In honor of Vicky in Minnesota.

A state I’d never visited.

In Fall colors!

I spread everything on the floor around me. Books! Coffee! Music! My favorite things!

Immediately, I was drawn into Bob Goff’s book, Love Does.

Good grief. This book.

The kind of reading where you forget to breathe.

It’s all about love without limits.

The same way Vicky writes and lives her life–the same kind of love her friends have. 

A quote from page 9:

“…the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence. It’s a love that operates more like a sign language than being spoken outright.”

The first song on the Selah CD,  “You Amaze Us,” shares the same love message.

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

Of course, it’s not about the gift I gave.

It’s about the unexpected, unforgettable, life-changing love I received in return.

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put in your lap, “ Luke 6:38 ESV.

Have you ever had life-changing love rearrange your thinking?

Love,

Julie

To: My Readers … Love: Julie

Have you ever felt a tiny spark of courage to create something out of almost nothing, but you were afraid you’d fail? Afraid you’d be rejected?

That’s how I felt when I began blogging.

Today, this very day, I’m so grateful to each one of you. You welcomed me into your world and blessed me more than you can imagine.

Here’s my loft office and Ellie, one of my granddogs. 🙂

Exactly three years and one day ago, I was ter-ri-fied. It was the night before my first blog went live. Every few minutes, I got out of bed and tiptoed upstairs to read my post one more time.

Just one more time.

“Be back in a sec,” I said to my husband in a fake-cheery voice.

“Where’re you going?”

What if I have typos?

What if no one reads this? How long will I keep up the façade?

What if my creativity dries up, then what? What do I write about next week, and the next, and the next?

Or worse.

What if people make fun of it and say, “What’s this supposed to be?”

Finally, oh, finally, the sun came up on Wednesday morning, June 24, 2011.

7 a.m.

I told my trembling fingers to behave and press Publish. Then I wanted to hide under my desk.

Three years later, I still wonder what I’ll write about next week, and my stomach still does a summersault when my blog goes live.

But the unspeakable joy of becoming your friend

And having to depend on God 

Help me forget about myself

And overcome fear.

Thank you.

When we encourage one person, we never know how many lives we might touch. 

Are you creating something new–something a wee bit scary? Please share. I’d love to hear about it.

Love,

Julie

An Oh-So-Simple Relationship Secret

I did a little experiment and was so moved by my findings, I wanted to share them. I decided to notice everything good my husband did over the weekend.

First thing Saturday morning, he went to his parents’ house to visit his mother. She had a quadruple bypass a few days ago. When he got home, one of our daughters called. Car trouble. He diagnosed the problem over the phone and sent our son to install a new battery.

Next I found him working on our squeaky dryer.

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Needs a new pulley.”

“How’d you figure that out?”

“Took it apart.”

“Now what?”

“Parts store is closed. I got a brass bearing from Ace Hardware and cut it to size.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about but that doesn’t matter.” I smiled.

He peered at me over his glasses like woman, I’ll never understand you.

When I slowed down long enough to study my husband, I was in awe.

I couldn’t fix a dryer. Not in a million years.

I told him so.

Sunday afternoon, he took down the Christmas lights from our wrap-around porch. He has this system of unwinding the strands and wrapping them in tidy circles. This process takes hours, but he never complains.

Since we moved into our log cabin ten years ago, I’d never thanked him for handling the lights, so I did.

When I focus on the good in my husband (or friend or family member) guess what?

Something amazing happens.

Our love grows.

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other…1 Thessalonians 3:12 NIV.

Have you discovered this secret too? Tell me. I’d love to hear!

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just When You Think You Know Someone…

Thursday night, my husband Rick and I were coming home listening to The Eagles Greatest Hits CD. Back in the 70’s during the eight-track era, we loved Jackson Browne, James Taylor, and The Eagles.

We still do.

“Hole in the World” came on. Oh, those voices! “Sing for me,” I said in the middle of the song.

“Nah, not tonight.”

I didn’t think he would. I’d only heard my husband sing beside me in church–always quietly, but I had a feeling he could carry a tune.

And then all of a sudden he belted it out with Don Henley. “…until we learn to love one another, we will never reach the promised land...”

Rick’s voice intertwined with Don’s so beautifully, I couldn’t tell them apart.

Holy cow.

He looked at me and grinned. “Sing with me.”

“Are you kidding me? No way. I can’t. Not like that.” I remembered church choir as a teenager. I wasn’t a soprano or an alto, so I moved my lips and mumbled a lot.

“Sing Glen Frey’s part,” Rick said. “He’s back-up. It’s a chorus.”

“No, thanks. You and Don are doing just fine.”

Two days later, Saturday night rolled around. I gathered my courage. I’d been practicing. My heart pounded as we got in the car. “Okay, I’ll sing with you this time.”

Rick found song number sixteen on the CD.

I started out softly, “There’s a hole in the world tonight…” practically whispering.

“You got it! Now sing like you mean it.”

I took a deep breath and let loose. Wow! We were singing together–the two of us with Don and Glenn!  After 33 years of marriage, a duet, and we weren’t too shabby. 🙂

Felt like the night we danced at our daughter’s wedding. 🙂

It’s never too late to encourage someone you love.

To believe in them. 

To say, “You can do it.”

“…encourage each other, and build one another up…” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV

Has anyone encouraged you like that? It matters, doesn’t it!

P.S. # 710 in my gratitude journal…”Singing a duet with my husband!”


Love,

Julie