This Much I Know is True

Something about becoming a grandmother is changing me. God’s peeling back the layers of my heart, asking me to be honest. I mentioned it in my last post.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how I spend my time and what matters most in life.

Am I loving people? Really loving them?

When I stepped away from blogging after Caleb was born, something unexpected happened.

God tenderized my heart in the area of relationships. 

I love connecting with women–through a blog post, at a conference, or in my friend’s cozy den at our ladies’ small group. I love spontaneous friendships that happen in the grocery store, and friendships that last a lifetime.

I strongly feel He’s leading me to spend time in one-on-one friendships–ministering in the moment–and loving my family. 

~I want to visit my mom weekly.

~Katie and her husband moved to the Georgia coast, almost four hours away. I want to get to know my grandson.

~My husband’s business of 41 years is going through some changes. He’s supported my writing dream for a long time. I want to be available to him.

I’m going to let the blog rest for now. This doesn’t make sense for a writer who’s supposed to be busy with social media, building her platform, and accepting speaking engagements.

But this much I know is true:

God’s teaching me to love people. It’s a behind the scenes way to live, but living this way brings me so much JOY.

I just wanted to let you how much you mean to me, and why I won’t be here. At least for a season. And believe me–if He whispers, Write about this, Julie, I’ll be all over it!

Over the past seven years, it felt like you and I were sitting at my kitchen table, talking over a cup of coffee, or porch-partying together.

I’m grateful for every comment, every prayer, and every friendship that bloomed here.

You gave me so much more than I could ever give you. 

Maybe this is what Surrender is all about, loving and letting go. 

Something else~~

What if the things that bring us the greatest joy also bring great joy to God?

And what if these things are quiet, hidden from most of the world?

Maybe life is a lot simpler than I ever thought possible.    

I’m sharing my favorite song with you. The first time I heard it, I forgot to breathe. 

I still do. 

I pray it blesses you. 

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

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10 ESV

With all my heart,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Tiny Moment at a Time

Sometimes a conversation has the power to change your life. That’s what happened Saturday, the day after my son’s wedding. Robin, my BFF of 40 years, came to the wedding, and then spent the night with me.

The two of us are deep-thinkers. 

If we’re not careful, we can get stuck in the melancholy parts of life–the things that weigh your heart down.

We’re prone to worry, but we’re working on changing, one tiny moment at a time. 

We were talking and she made a profound statement. When she did, I remembered so many magical moments about the wedding~~

The first rays of sunlight Friday morning–how they landed softly on the stairs of our cabin. 

Walking into the rehearsal dinner and seeing my sister Jennifer’s smile~~ 

The same expression as when we were little girls~~

Like she had a secret to tell me.

Weeks ago when I chose the restaurant, Jennifer offered to decorate for me. She has an eye for color and style and fashion, and she knows all about flowers and candles and creating ambiance.

I remembered the moment I glanced at Jamie, my daughter, and watched her laughing with Jennifer.

~~Pure joy~~

And Chris, Katie’s husband~~

I remembered the way Katie’s eyes lit up three years ago when she told me about him right after they met.

And my mother at the rehearsal dinner~~

I remembered how she’d taught me everything I needed to know~~

To love Jesus,

To love people,

And to love words. 

Oh, and Rilynn~~

I remembered Chris bringing Rilynn into our lives, our only grandchild, an answer to prayer.

There were two magical wedding moments with Rilynn~~

The way she gazed into the mirror after Brittany’s aunt curled her hair like the big girls.

And how she quietly slipped into the chair beside me at the wedding.

There were magical moments at the reception too~~

I forgot to bring my reading glasses and took pictures wearing my prescription sunglasses. Katie said, “Mom, please take off your sunglasses. You look silly.” 

But I didn’t care how silly I looked. 

I wanted to remember the moments. 

And then seeing Thomas and Brittany leaving for their honeymoon~~

That tiny moment when time stood still and love exploded inside my heart.

But my life-changing conversation with Robin happened after all of this–after all the excitement died down.

Saturday morning, we had a porch party. Just the two of us.

We rocked and drank coffee and laughed about getting older.

Then we went to the square in my little town, Monroe, Georgia, and visited my favorite shop, a children’s bookstore called The Story Shop.

This place is all the best moments of childhood made over~~

 

Surrounded by so much creativity, I knew exactly what Robin was  feeling because I felt it too~~

The magic of the moment. 

Later that day, we dove deep into conversation and talked about the things you share with your closest friends~~

But we didn’t dwell there, in Worry Land. Not this time.

Maybe because we didn’t want to spoil the magic of the moment. 

“Wow, I said, “We let go of our concerns in a hurry, didn’t we?”

“Yep. Record time, for us.” She paused. “Maybe the secret to life is celebrating each tiny moment with all your heart–which doesn’t leave room for worry.”

“And all we have is one tiny moment at a time,” I said.

Then Robin handed me the secret~~

“Maybe this is how God intends for us to live. One tiny moment at a time.” Click to tweet

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.” Matthew 6:34 MSG

What tiny moments are you celebrating today? 

P.S. Robin has an amazing blog, All Things Heart and Home. You’ll love it! I promise!

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

 

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

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

 

Heartfriends and Three Dancing Tips

I’m in love with my word for 2016, DANCE. I’ve been thinking about what it means to dance in life. With this idea twirling through my thoughts, I received an email from someone who reads my blog. Her name is Mary. She wanted to meet me.

The Old Julie would’ve politely declined.

What if we don’t click? What if it’s awkward? 

But saying yes felt right. Mary’s a writer and a storyteller. Sometimes it’s good to spend time with people who understand.

And my word is DANCE.

So I said yes. 😉

NOTE: I’m not suggesting we meet strangers on the side of the road! 

Mary planned to drive from Arkansas to Georgia, visit friends, and then head my way. She said she was up for an adventure.

I was too.

As soon as I walked into Starbucks, we spotted each other.

Right away, I noticed her beautiful silver necklace, and how her coat matched her shirt.

I glanced at my feet.

Brown boots and a black purse. “Oops. I meant to change purses.”

“Look at mine,” she said. “Twinsies!”

“Sisters of the heart,” I said. “I love your necklace.”

She touched the silver pendant and laughed. “I made it myself. The snowflake was a dollar.”

Just like that, we bonded.

We talked about writing and life. Then she surprised me with something I’ll never forget.

“Last night, I wished I had a present for you,” she said. “And I knew it was too early in our friendship to give gifts. Then I remembered something I had in my car.” She placed a wrapped present on the table.

Uh-oh. Gulp, gulp.

I don’t have anything to give her. 

I remembered my word. 

You can’t worry while you’re dancing. It’s impossible. Click to Tweet

“When you open it, you’ll understand.” Mary’s green eyes sparkled with anticipation. “I bought it several years ago at Goodwill, and forgot I had it with me. I wrapped it at 11:30 last night.”

I ripped off the corner of the present.

No words came.

Just a burst of unspeakable JOY.

“I love this song,” she said. “I’ve listened to it over and over. The CD’s in the back of the book.”

I cleared my throat.

Still couldn’t talk.

She opened the book.”Look at the inscription.”

Because I hope you ‘dance’ every chance you can in 2016.

“Oh, Mary. Thank you.”

“Consider it a gift from God.”

Dancing means we–

1. Trust our partner. 

2. Don’t try to control the rhythm–or anything else. 

3. Relax–even when we’re learning a new step.

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

How do you plan to dance in 2016?

Have you ever risked forming new friendship and found a heartfriend? Click to Tweet. 

Love,

Julie

On Faith and Feathered Friends

Saturday morning, my husband Rick and I were on the front porch drinking coffee and talking–porch partying, as we call it. His roosters crowed and all sorts of questions bubbled to the surface.

Rick raises chickens in the backyard.

“Do you really enjoy your chickens?”

He gave me a slightly perturbed look like, How could I not?

“I mean, isn’t it a lot of work? Why do you do it?”‘

“It’s fun. Chickens have different personalities, when you get to know them.”

Sounds like they’re real people–with names and feelings.

“When did you start raising chickens? I don’t remember.”

“Oh, golly. I guess when Thomas was nine.” (Our son Thomas is 24.)

“How many do we have now?”

“Thirteen. I have had 65 at one time.”

I had no idea.

Mostly I’ve ignored them. 

“How many eggs do we get every week?” I never counted. Just sorta took them for granted.

“About a dozen.”

“So, you do it for the eggs?”

“Nope.”

I wasn’t satisfied with his half-answers. There had to a reason.

Did he have an emotional connection with his feathered friends? 

Later that morning, I asked about one of his hens. A few months ago, a fox or a possum attacked her. She survived with a broken wing. I remembered how much he cared about her.

“Come take a look,” he said. “She’s doing fine.”

“Is her wing okay?”

“Good as new. She’s an Araucana and lays colored eggs.”

“She’s beautiful and so are her eggs. What helped her heal?”

“Lots of rest. I separated her from the others. I spent time with her at night after work.”

My heart grew incredibly tender–toward my husband who loves chickens. Click to Tweet. 

“Your hen actually wanted to be with you?”

“Sure she did. It calmed her down. Helped her rest.”

“Do your feathered friends ever teach you anything about life?”

“Of course. We all experience hard times. Cold winters. Rainy seasons. Long hot summers.”

“And broken wings.” I stroked her colored feathers.

“But we don’t give up.”

“You’re a sweet girl. I’m so glad you survived.”

The next morning when the roosters crowed, I smiled. “I know why you do it. You love them.”

He took a long sip of coffee. “Something like that.”

…I have called you friends…John 15:15 (ESV)

What about you? Was there a time when you experienced God’s TLC through a friend–either a person or an animal?

Or a time when you felt compelled to show love? 

Do you understand Rick’s unfailing love for his birds?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

Shy Girl Makes Friends and Learns Five Lessons

I’m an introvert who can fake being an extrovert. When I make a new friend and we click, I always learn something–you know the kind of friendship I’m talking about–

You both love coffee. You laugh at the same bizarre things. You can be together and not talk and it’s perfectly fine. 

Before the Ridgecrest Novelists Retreat last week, I wondered if the magic would happen.

Would I make new friends and reconnect with old ones? Would one of them teach me a life lesson? 

As soon as I arrived, I spotted my friend Vonda SkeltonShe’s an amazing writer, speaker, and teacher. It’s impossible to be with her and not laugh because Vonda laughs at herself. 🙂

Lesson Number 1 came quickly from Vonda:

1. Life’s more fun when you can finally learn to laugh at yourself. 

Later that day, I sat down in a class about social media and novel-writing.

Can I do this? Can I actually learn to speak new languages in social media?

Edie Melson and DiAnn Mills co-taught the class, The Author RoadmapEdie covered the social media aspect and DiAnn covered novel-writing.

Right away Edie smiled. 🙂 I smiled back.

And relaxed.

Maybe I can do this. Edie smiled at me. She thinks I can. 

Lesson number 2 from Edie:

2. For me, smiling and having a positive attitude became the first step to learning. 

Next I met Torry Martin.

Oh. Wow. Torry’s a speaker, writer, comedian, and actor. He’s also free-spirited and hilarious. Give the man a sentence and he can write an entire screenplay–in just a few hours!

Lesson number 3 from Torry.

3. Don’t doubt yourself. Be fearlessly creative. 

I met Bea Fishback, another writer, speaker, teacher. We introduced ourselves and discovered we both love coffee. 🙂 On the way to Starbucks, we laughed because we couldn’t find my car in the parking lot.

Kindred spirits.

I told her how much I loved her scarf. A few minutes later, in the conference room, she handed me a neatly folded, bright orange square.

Her scarf.

Spontaneous giving always undoes me. It’s how Jesus gives.

Lesson number 4 from Bea:

4. Give joyfully and unexpectedly.

And DiAnn.

DiAnn and I’ve been friends since the day she approached me at a writers’ conference in 2006 and said, “You look shy. Do you need a friend?”

Lesson number 5 from DiAnn.

5. Keep an open heart for new friends. They’re everywhere! 

Driving home, surrounded by the changing leaves, the scarf around my neck felt almost like an encouraging hand on my shoulder.

Thank You, Lord. The magic happened all over again. A shy girl made friends.

Does this stir your thoughts? Have you made a new friend lately? What about when Bea gave me her scarf? Whew…

Has God ever surprised you with an unexpected friend?

Love,

Julie

Love Lessons from an Artist–Part Three

I hoped my friend Yvette might teach me a little something about art. I never expected her to teach me how to love people. Or anything about marriage. I’ve been married almost 37 years. I thought I had it all figured out. 

(Parts one and two are here and here.)

This sentence over Yvette’s bedroom door stumped me.

How can my ordinary life become a fairytale? 

Parts of it are messy and broken.  

Yvette showed me the rest of her bedroom, but I kept thinking about the fairytale sentence.

“On my wedding day, my sister’s mother-in-love gave me a hankie.” 

“She’d embroidered our names and the date on it. My mother started doing the same thing for brides. She made one for my daughter and my daughter-in-love. She even made one for me on their wedding days.”

“Gifts from the heart.”

Yvette’s wedding dress is on display right beside her bed.

“What a wonderful idea!” 

Especially since I threw mine away a few years after we married. 🙁

There was an old Bingo card lying on a chipped Formica table.

“This is one of my favorite things. I found pictures of us when we were five and pieced them together.”

“It’s precious. Have y’all been together since kindergarten?”

She smiled.

“No, but we’ve loved each other for a long, long time.”

In their bathroom, a small shelf held a cross, a white card, and some Scrabble letters.

“We leave love notes for each other here. I used Scrabble letters. He wrote, ‘I love you’ on the card.” 

Something stirred in my heart.

Once again, I couldn’t talk.

Before we left the bathroom, I noticed pictures near the mirrors.

Below them, I spotted a small sign.

Tiny letters.

This is how Yvette loves others–especially her husband.

Maybe it’s how–

 “Love gives us a fairytale right in the middle of our ordinary lives.” 

What do you think? Is it possible to experience a fairytale even though our lives are ordinary and messy and broken?

You can find Yvette here:

The Charm House  on Facebook.

The Charm House on Pinterest.

The Charm House in Instagram.

The Charm House website.

The Charm House on Twitter.

Love,

Julie