Spread a Little Love–After Valentine’s Day

There’s something special about the friendships that have developed here on the blog. Most of us have never met each other.

Over the past few days, I got valentines from four of you! I felt like a little girl hurrying home after school to dump out my valentine box.

So much LOVE spilled out of each one.

This kind of LOVE is contagious.

When someone spreads a little love our way, we’re stirred to do the same thing–

And love others. 

Thinking about friendship, I wondered, what is the secret of the bond we share?

Later that day, I started making brownies for small group and put the ingredients on the counter. 

Is there a secret ingredient to friendship? Something to be blended together with love? 

Spreading chocolate frosting over the pan of warm brownies, I remembered a relationship tip my husband and I discovered. 

We were training to be small group leaders, and the pastor said something that went straight to my heart.

It’s just one sentence and one word, but I think it applies to all our relationships. 

“If you have a few extra minutes before small group,” the pastor said, “don’t waste time studying your notes. Pray.”

PRAY.

PRAY.

PRAY. 

That struck me as so profound.

You’d think he might have said, “Prepare your notes carefully. Study them diligently. Present your teaching plans well. Memorize your points.”

But he didn’t.

He instructed us to do what matters most in building strong relationships.

And that is to pray–

PRAYER is the secret ingredient to our friendships here on the blog. 

We pray for each other. 

When we pray for people, something miraculous happens inside our hearts. Love grows. Click to tweet. 

P.S. If I ever host a small group for my blog-friends, I’ll make tons of brownies! You can taste the love! I’m serious. Keep reading. The recipe is below. 🙂

Let’s talk about prayer. Have you discovered how prayer is necessary in your relationships

The brownie recipe is from my dear friend DiAnn Mills.

2 eggs

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 sq bitter chocolate *or use 1/3 cup dry cocoa and 1 Tbsp. more butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour (I use Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix. It’s gluten-free.)

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup chopped nuts

Beat eggs very light; set aside. Melt butter and chocolate. Add sugar and beat well. Add to beaten eggs. Fold in flour, salt vanilla, and nuts. Place mixture in 8 x 8 x 2 inch pan. Bake slowly, 40 minutes at 325.

Frosting

1 cup powdered sugar

3 Tbsp cocoa

Mix well. Add enough boiling water to mix (2 1/2 Tbsp). Pour over warm cake.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Birthday Cake Ever!

When I was a child, I loved playing the game with notebook paper that gave you answers to life’s most important questions–well, important to an eight-year-old little girl.

It looked something like this. Remember?

We’d sit in the floor and ask all sorts of questions:

How many children will I have?

What kind of house will I live in?

What’s my husband’s name?

But life doesn’t always cooperate, does it? It’s full of surprises. Some good. Some not so good.

Last week for my husband’s birthday, I asked him if he wanted to go out to eat to celebrate.

“Nah. How ’bout making ground beef patties and mashed potatoes?”

“Yuck. Don’t you want something fancy like steak and shrimp? Want me to order you a birthday cake with lots of icing?”

“No, thanks. Just make a gluten-free dessert, so you can have some.” (I have Celiac.)

I did my best to cook his favorite meal, but something went waaaaayy wrong with his cake.

It fell.

It cracked right down the middle.

I tried to glue the broken pieces together with globs of cream cheese frosting, but I didn’t have enough, so I thinned it down.

The icing slid off the cake–

Which sunk on one side.

It was the saddest excuse for a birthday cake I’ve ever seen. 

After supper, I sliced a couple of pieces. “I don’t know what happened. I tried hard. I followed the recipe.”

I took a bite and stared at my husband.

It was the night of his 57th birthday.

I’ve known him since we were 15 and 16. He’s an honest man.

The cake looked hideous and yet–

“This is amazing,” I said. “I know it looks terrible, but–”

“Better than store-bought. Definitely.”

“I can’t believe it. It’s so tender and sweet.”

“Um-hmm.”

Later that night while I did the supper dishes, I thought about something.

The birthday cake resembled my life–maybe yours too.

Everything hasn’t gone the storybook way I thought I wanted, but my life is a beautiful combination of messy and sweet. 

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. Psalm 16:6 Click to Tweet. 

Has your life gone the way you thought it would? Which parts surprised you?

Right now, today, what’s messy? What’s sweet? 

Are you like me? Did it take a while to be grateful for certain things?

It’s a daily process, isn’t it? 

So much love,

Julie

 

 

 

The Secret Ingredient to Thanksgiving Hospitality

Yesterday something sweet and tender happened. My daughter Katie texted me a picture of her four-year-old stepdaughter Rilynn. When I saw the picture, I finally figured out the secret ingredient to Thanksgiving hospitality.

It’s so simple. For years, I’d made it complicated. 

Rilynn’s holding a tea party for her dolls on the bathroom floor.

“Oh, Katie–this picture…”

“I know. Don’t you love it?”

I enlarged the photo.

“I bet she’s talking to each one of her little friends,” I said.

“She is.”

“And serving something yummy like apple pie.”

Katie laughed. “Actually, they’re having Cap’n Crunch with Crunch Berries. She put a Crunch Berry in everybody’s dish. And added water.”

We hung up, but I couldn’t forget the picture.

For years, I thought having people over for Thanksgiving meant you had to create a perfect meal and a perfect centerpiece. 

One year, I went nuts over a wrinkled tablecloth! Can you imagine? Never mind the people sitting around my table. So silly! I blogged about it here.

The secret ingredient to Thanksgiving hospitality has nothing to do with being perfect. Just the opposite. 

And Rilynn’s already figured it out.

The secret to Thanksgiving hospitality is this–

Forget about yourself, serve others, and care more about people than place mats.

There. That’s it. It’s that simple.

And something else–

Last night, I thanked God for you. For your comments. Your prayers. You’ve welcomed me into your home and your hearts. In my imagination, you came to my house–each one of you, and I made my favorite dessert from childhood.

A cherry cheesecake pie.

(Here’s the recipe from Eaglebrand.com. I used a gluten-free crust so it’s GF.)

Oh, how I wish we could share a Thanksgiving meal together!

“…Serve one another humbly with love.” Galatians 5:13 NIV 

Have you ever been welcomed into someone’s home the way Rilynn served her friends? What was it like?

Have you ever struggled with trying to be perfect? Now we know better!

Love,

Julie

 

 

How to Stay on Vacation All Year Long

This summer, my husband and I had a stay-cation. We slept late, had long porch parties, and slowed down. I loved stay-cation so much, I didn’t want our simple way of living to end. 

On Friday, we drove to Blue Ridge, Georgia to Mercier Orchards.

I’d brought a stack of books and my journal. “Do you have room for your feet?” Rick said.

“I’m fine.”

Reading was a big part of my stay-cation, and who knows? I might be inspired to write in the car.

Two hours later, we entered Blue Ridge.

“It’s so pretty up here. Wish we could make today last longer.” I decided to jot down every detail so I wouldn’t forget the beauty. I opened my journal. Grabbed a pen.

Instead, an unexpected prayer rose. I began writing. Didn’t stop to edit.

Father,

Thank You for stay-cation.

For being in the car with a man I’ve loved for 40 years!

40 years!

Thank You for plenty of books at my feet. 

I glanced at Rick’s left hand.

His hands–how hard he works–for all the wrenches he’s turned so I can write. 

We stopped at Cheeseburger Bobby’s.

Incredible cheeseburgers, but their fries aren’t gluten-free, and I have Celiac.

Rick ran next door to Chick-fil-A. They have GF fries. 🙂

Thank You for Chick-fil-A fries.

For a husband who’ll get them for me.

Then on to Mercier’s.

When we got there, we sat in the car for a minute, in awe of the mountains and deep valleys.

Thank You for mountains and valleys.

Family problems entered my thoughts.

I paused.

Stopped writing.

A new kind of prayer came.

Thank You for the problems.

For things I can’t change. 

For me having Celiac

Mercier’s is an apple orchard, but they didn’t have many apples.

It was July.

Not October.

Disappointment tried to worm its way in.

Then we spotted summer fruit. 🙂

Thank You for peaches and blackberries and blueberries! 

And fudge.

And kettle corn!

And cider!

 And jelly!

We filled our cart.

And I filled my heart.

Maybe the secret to staying on vacation all year long is to keep saying, “Thank-You, Lord.” For everything.  

Don’t you love vacation relaxation?

What are your va-cay plans?

P.S. Apple pie wasn’t GF, but the fudge was! 🙂

To find out why Rick wears a nine-dollar wedding ring, click here.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friendship, Faith, and Feeling Fifteen Again

photo from Meghan Davidson https://flic.kr/p/eEBxML 

“What’s wrong with us?” Robin, my BFF of 40 years said last week on the phone. “Why don’t we ever see each other?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Friends do things together, don’t they? Like on the Hallmark Countdown to Christmas movies-they’re always drinking coffee and laughing and window shopping.”

Robin and I spend our days in the virtual world on computers. We’re bloggers/writers. Her amazing site is All Things Heart and Home.

“Let’s make a lunch date,” she said. “Have some Christmas cheer.”

“I’d love to! We could just meet at Starbucks if you’re–”

“Nope. Let’s go to Maggiano’s. They have an incredible gluten-free menu.” (Here’s a Maggiano’s restaurant review by Pretty Little Celiac.)

I was so excited, I nearly cried. “We can sit and talk!”

“Like real friends!”

Using a Christmas-red marker, I wrote the date on my calendar. 

Thursday morning, we spotted each other in the parking lot, and ran and hugged like they do in the movies. She glanced at the crinkly lines near my eyes. “You haven’t aged a bit,” she said.

“Neither have you.”

Chatting nonstop, we felt fifteen again. We were so busy talking, we forgot to take pictures. Two bloggers forgetting to take pictures!

After lunch, we  weren’t ready to say goodbye, so we shopped. We bought the same kind of jeans. Same size. Not the same size as when we were 15. 🙂

At the counter, I pulled out my zippered pouch to pay.

“Where’s your wallet?” Robin said.

“It’s right here.”

“Julie, that’s not a wallet.” She showed me hers. Neatly organized. Butterscotch-colored leather. A hand-me-down from one of her daughters. “You need a real wallet.”

We laughed. “Why? I like keeping my credit cards in rubber-bands.”

At Starbucks, she handed me her cup of extra hot soy latte. “Here. Taste. It’s creamy-dreamy.”

“This is terrible. It’s so blah. Try my Sumatra.”

She took a tiny sip and made a face. “Tastes like an ashtray.”

“Today’s been so much fun,” I said. “We didn’t talk about our problems, did we?”

Which we could have.

Because we have problems.

“We’ve been too busy laughing,” she said.

We paused.

Watched shoppers stroll by.

“Maybe this is what faith means. Letting go of problems and living in the moment,” I said.  

“I think so, Jewels.”

I smiled all the way home, so very thankful for faith and friendship.

(photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/ichigochan-/)

Do you have friends like Robin? Oh, I hope so.

Have you discovered living in the moment faith? 

P.S. I don’t understand all the Facebook changes coming in January, but I’m not sure if I’ll still be able to share my blog links through FB. If you haven’t signed up to receive my posts through email, just insert your email address in the box at the top right corner and my blog posts will be delivered every Wednesday morning. Thank you!

Love,

Julie

 

 

Sometimes Faith Means Taking a Break

When you read this, you’re probably going to think, well, duh, what took her so long? The other day, I got stuck. It had to do with writing, but it could’ve been about anything.

Here’s my not-so-pretty pattern:

I try too hard. Drink too much coffee. Focus so intently on the problem, I shut out the rest of the world. Sometimes … even God.

A tiny thought came to me.

Why don’t you surrender this?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! That word again. Surrender was my theme for 2012.

For me, surrender means saying, “Help me, Lord.”

“Okay,” I whispered, opening my hands and lifting them. “I can’t fix this by myself.”

And then I got a crazy idea.

I decided to stop working, take a break, and make a cheesecake.

I shut down my computer and left my little loft office.

At the grocery store, I didn’t rush around like a madwoman. I smiled at small children and didn’t get annoyed because I got in the slow lane.

Back at home, the football game was on. I even asked the score. 🙂

(Use these cookies and your cheesecake will be gluten-free.)

Because I wasn’t obsessing, my mind was free to think gentle thoughts.

I didn’t lose count with my eggs. My meringue turn out just right.

I’m discovering (after 50 years!) it’s okay to have fun–even when your work’s not completely finished.

I’m finally beginning to understand …

It honors God when I let go  of my problem(s) and take a break.

The answer to my writing problem came a couple of days later, after I stopped trying so hard.

“Do the things that show you have really changed your hearts and lives.” Matthew 3:8 NCV

Have you ever struggled with pushing too hard like me?

What do you do to chill out?

Click here for the cheesecake recipe.

Love,

Julie