On Becoming a Grandmother and Priorities

I’ve come to my office so many times to write this post, then stopped myself.

My heart feels like pictures I made in kindergarten–the ones with crayons melted by a hot iron inside wax paper–so many colors swirled together.

Becoming a grandmother has changed me.

It took a while to gather the courage to share my thoughts. I’ve missed you. I’ve prayed for you. You’ve become some of my dearest friends. And what kind of friend am I if I’m not honest with you?

I had the honor of being in the labor room with my daughter, Katie, and her husband for two days while they waited to meet their baby boy.

There’s something sacred about birth. Especially when it’s a grandchild.

I‘ll never forget my desperate prayer at the 3/4 mark of her labor.

3:30 p.m. on July the 11th.

She’s so tiny, Lord, and it looks like nothing’s happening. Would You help her? Surely Mary was small when she gave birth, and You were there in the manger…

Caleb James was born at 5:10 p.m. the same day. No c-section necessary!

He weighed 6.3. 19 1/2 inches long.

I’ll never stop thanking You, Lord. Ten years of prayer.¬†

When I held my grandson for the first time, Awe and Gratitude came together.

Evidence of God’s faithfulness in my arms.

I wanted to slow dance around the room with him. I may have. I’m not sure. ūüôā

Oh, the Power and Wisdom of Your timing.¬†You don’t always say yes. And rarely do You answer according to our plans. But look at this beautiful boy…

Peering into Caleb’s blue-gray eyes, I thought about life.

I’m 58. Pushing 60.

Maybe the 3/4 mark.

The final lap.

Like the turning point in Katie’s labor.¬†

Caleb’s four weeks old today, and I’m in a new, quiet place.

My priorities are softening and shifting. I’ve never felt this way before.

It’s a Holy Hush.

Social media and platform building (as we writers are encouraged to do) doesn’t seem nearly as urgent. Sharing my opinions doesn’t seem nearly as important. More than anything (even publishing), I want to become someone who loves well.

To love well, I must love God first. 

I wrote Him a long apology letter this morning. 

For years, I put becoming “successful” at the tip-top of my list.¬†

I chased becoming Somebody instead of chasing Him. 

I’m reading Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot for the second time. I skimmed it years ago.¬†

As I keep a quiet heart, God’s teaching me how to love others, one person at a time, the same way He loves me.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these. Mark 12:30-31 NIV

P.S. Katie and her family are doing just fine. Rilynn (Katie’s stepdaughter–who holds a huge chunk of my heart) is on Cloud Ten. ūüôā So is Grandpa Rick. If you want to find out more about Katie’s journey with infertility, read this and this.


Thoughts? Comments? Have you ever had the Lord rearrange your priorities?

Love and gratitude,

Grandma Jewels

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Encouragement from a Squirrel’s Nest

Saturday morning at our porch party, the wind whipped around the house, bending the frail-looking Georgia pines. My husband and I wore heavy coats and were covered in blankets. We sat rocking and drinking coffee together.

Of course I was thinking about lots of things.

Some family issues.

The small group at church we’re going to be leading soon.

Writing ideas.

And I was drawn to the strangest sight–

A clump of leaves way up high in the top of a hardwood.

I’d noticed them several weeks ago.

“Look at those leaves in the middle trees. Why are they there?”

“It’s a squirrels’ nest.”

“Isn’t that weird? It didn’t fall–even with all the wind and rain.”

“Yep.”

“And the poor squirrels had to build it with the only things they had. Leaves and twigs.”

“Um-hmm.”

“I bet they didn’t worry or complain. They probably didn’t say, ‘I wish we had a nice box lined with a soft blanket instead of these dumb old leaves’.”

Rick looked at me like where do you come up with this stuff? 

I didn’t care.¬†I had that sweet, warm feeling God was talking to me.¬†

Later that day, I did some research on squirrels’ nests.

They build their nests with green leaves in the summer. After packing them in tightly, the leaves die and turn brown, and their nests grow even stronger in the winter–just when they need them the most. (Here’s more info on¬†Wikipedia.)

You wouldn’t think squirrels’ nests could possibly work.

A pile of sticks and some leaves.

But they do.

It’s exactly the way God planned it.

When He calls us to do something seemingly impossible–a job, a dream, or even to love someone–He gives us everything we need at just the right time.

And not a moment sooner. 

Have you ever experienced one-leaf-at-a-time kind of faith? Tell me about it! I’d love to hear.

Love,

Julie

Young Love and a John Deere Tractor

When we moved into our log house in the woods, my husband said he needed a tractor. A John Deere tractor.

“What for?”

“Wait ’til it rains. You’ll see.”

It rained for days that spring. Our long gravel driveway turned into a mud slide. “Uh-oh. What now?”

He grinned, hopped onto his tractor, and drove up and down the driveway. The gravel miraculously surfaced. The path to our house returned.

He was right about the tractor.

That John Deere has been faithful after all our storms. Dependable. Strong. It’s helped him in the garden, moved heavy things, and even made us smile.

My beautiful niece Libby, 10 years ago.

Last week I developed an even stronger love for the tractor. 

We’d had days of rain (again) and my husband hadn’t had a chance to drag the driveway. Driving slowly and carefully over the deep gullies, I made my way toward the street.

When I got back home from the grocery store, this sight caught my breath.

Our son and his fiance dragging the driveway together.

They couldn’t hear me following them.

I crept along, thinking.

Remembering.

Newly married, 36 years ago, we couldn’t possibly imagine the road ahead. The twists and turns. Steep hills and valleys.

Watching Brittany and Thomas, a prayer rose.

Lord,

When it rains, go before them. Smooth out the rough places. Protect them. Keep them close. 

When they reached the house, I jumped out of the car and thought about that old country song by The Judds, “Young Love.”

“Oh, y’all! Stay like this. Side-by-side. No matter what.”

And you’ll do just fine.¬†

There’s nothing like riding a tractor with someone you love, no matter your age.

If you can’t see the video below, click here. It’s worth watching. I promise.

What matters most in your relationships?

How is love like a John Deere tractor?

What have you learned about love?

Have you ever ridden a tractor (or skied, or run a race, or swam a river) with someone you love? Tell me about it!

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beneath the Surface

The other day my 22-year-old son Thomas said something he hadn’t said in years. Our grown daughters say this sort of thing¬†all the time, but somewhere around age 15, Thomas stopped saying …

“Mom, come look. You gotta see this.”

So when he¬†said those¬†words,¬†I left my computer and followed him outside to¬†our little¬†koi pond. I couldn’t wait to see what he had to show me.

Just like when he was a little boy.

Is it a frog? A snake? A shiny rock?

We have two koi ponds. The big one has koi in it, but the only thing in the small pond is murky-looking water.

Or so I thought.

(I blogged about¬†the little pond¬†here–“Sometimes You Wade Through Sludge Together.” I wrote about¬†my husband building our koi ponds¬†here for Guideposts.)

When Thomas and I crouched by the water, Kitty Thelma hurried over to check out the situation.

“Look what my new camera does,”¬†Thomas said.

I didn’t even know¬†he had a new camera, something called a GoPro.

He showed me what he’d filmed beneath the surface.

I saw splendor in something I assumed was useless.

As sunlight lit the darkness I spotted lily pads yet to bloom,

Green plants I couldn’t name,

Rocks and hills and valleys formed a magical underwater world.

Even fish darted by.

Maybe the pond holds a life lesson for me.

I thought about¬†people and situations I’d judged–opinions I’d hurriedly formed–times I hadn’t bothered to¬†ask God to help me see beneath the surface.

But God …

He sees the unseen. Past. Present. Future.

He knows no limits.

He creates beauty from ashes–life from dry bones.

And He understands every heart.

Thank You, Lord. You see beneath the surface.

“…even darkness isn’t dark to You.” Psalm 139:12 NIV

Can anyone relate?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Courageous Call

I don’t want to make¬†prayer seem formulaic–123–I prayed, I got. That’s not how¬†it works–at least not for me. I’ve prayed for decades about certain situations and nothing’s changed.

But almost 25 years ago, God surprised me. Big time.

One morning, my mother-in-law Carolyn called. “Julie,” she said softly. “It’s hard to explain, but I was reading the Bible and ….” She hesitated. “This time¬†next year, you’re going to have a baby.”

For half a second, I felt a tingly glow.

What if she’s right?

Carolyn’s not the kind of person who goes around saying, “God said to tell you…”

And then a flash of terror.

I wanted to slam the phone down. Hide. Throw up. Run away.

Our daughters were six and eight, and a few months earlier, we lost our son, Robbie, who was born with anencephaly.

“And it’s going to be a boy,”¬†Carolyn proclaimed.

Why would she say something like this?

I¬†couldn’t breathe. Felt¬†my heart¬†rip open.

We wanted risk-free lives. Safe. Confined.

“Thanks, but we’ve decided. No more children.”

I was still grieving. The color baby blue, the Pamper aisle, and little boys wearing overalls brought tears.

Several weeks after the phone call, something happened.

Faith began as one tiny glimmer shining in my heart.  It spread to my husband.

On August 6, 1991, our son Thomas was born.

This past Monday, I called Carolyn to ask her about that phone call 25 years ago.

How? Why? What?

“It was raining,” she said. “Dark. Dreary. Even inside the house. I¬†was in the den. I picked up my Bible. When I read Genesis 18:10,¬†the words¬†fell into my spirit. That’s the only way I can explain it. I knew they were for you. From God.¬†”

“I don’t think I ever¬†thanked you.¬†If you hadn’t made that courageous call, Thomas wouldn’t be here.”

Dear readers, I can’t explain why¬†God worked this way. We could’ve had our hearts ripped out again.

I only know the miracle began with the phone call.

And a tiny dot of faith.

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” Romans 11:33

Have you ever been surprised by God’s goodness? Please share!

Love,

Julie

 

I Give Thanks for You, Dear Readers

I process life with my heart, my gut, and my instincts. Usually not logically. Sort of like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.

Take blogging, for instance. When I first started, I decided it would a good idea to write dozens of posts in advance and pre-schedule them.

But my heart wouldn’t cooperate.

I panicked.

What if my creativity dries up? Then what? I’ll be an ex-blogger? An un-blogger.

But each week an idea comes.

Just one.

A gentle thought–so tiny, yet it sparkles.

Almost like manna from heaven.

Impossible to ignore.

And¬†along with fresh ideas, God’s¬†provided readers.

This Thanksgiving I’m grateful to you, Dear Readers.

You’ve demonstrated God’s faithfulness to me.

Thank you for the privilege of your time.

Thank you for reading, for each comment, and most of all, for you friendship.

We connect hearts here, don’t we? ūüôā

Wouldn’t it be fun to gather at my cabin? I’d fix cheesecake and plenty of coffee and sweet tea.

We’d¬†have a sure ‘nough¬†PORCH PARTY, wouldn’t we!

I believe today’s message is…

If God’s calling you into a new adventure, no need to fret. He’s faithful. He’ll provide. His way. In His time.

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies…” Psalms 36:5 NIV.

Gluten-Free Cheesecake

Easy Gluten-free Cheesecake

Crust:

Midel Gluten-Free Ginger Snaps (1 1/2 cups) Just use regular graham crackers if you don’t eat gluten-free.

1/2 cup melted butter

 Filling:

3 (8-oz) packages softened cream cheese

5 eggs, separated

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

 Topping:

1/4 cup sugar

1 (8-oz) sour cream 

 Melt butter. Pour over cracker crumbs. Press into bottom of spring form pan (or use a 9 inch Pyrex dish). I always use a spring form pan. Set aside.

Separate eggs. Beat whites separately until stiff but not dry. Set aside.

Beat cream cheese, eggs yolks, sugar, and vanilla. Fold in egg whites. Pour over crust. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes. Mix sour cream and sugar. Pour over cheesecake and bake for 5 minutes.

With so much love and  gratitude,

Julie

The Wizard of Oz from Flickr Commons

Love from a Leaf–a Single Yellow Leaf

This is a strange question, but have you ever spotted something and wondered if it was some sort of message for you? Please say yes. This happened to me last week. Clyde, our yellow Lab, and I were walking down the driveway like we do every day, and a single yellow leaf appeared to be suspended in midair.

I’d just taken¬†a beginner’s photography class at MONROE ART GUILD and decided if the leaf was still there after my walk (four driveway laps), I’d take a picture for you.

Even with Clyde darting under and around¬†my leaf, it didn’t fall.

 

Common sense said there¬†had to be a spider web supporting the little leaf, but I sure¬†didn’t see one. I zoomed in closer.

 

How peculiar. Nothing appeared to be holding her up.

A breeze blew and she twirled, putting on a show for me, yet still clinging to her invisible cord.

Why am I so drawn to this leaf? There are so many others in the woods.

I know it sounds was weird, but I felt kind of sorry for this lonely yellow leaf.

She was different from the rest.

God, what is it about the leaf? 

Then last night I heard this song…

“So I Can Just Be Me.”

 

That’s it!

This little yellow leaf is just being herself.

Who she was created to be.

She’s trusting¬†God to be God.

And that, my sweet friends, brings Him glory.

Each of us is unique.

Special.

A masterpiece.

We are¬†“…fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalms 139:14 KJ

Do you ever think about leaves? Please tell me you do!

Love,

Julie

Much More Than Talking to Peacocks

“Come here,” my husband Rick said. “You gotta see this.” I followed him out to the chicken pen. “See it? Sitting on top of the pen.”

“Is it a buzzard?”

“No, it’s a peacock.”

“You sure?”

“I’m positive.¬†There’s another one on the ground. Both females. Probably wandered to our yard from somebody’s flock.”

Later that day…

“If you talk to them, they’ll follow you,” he said.

“Talk to peacocks?”

“Sure.”

“What do you say?”

“Pretend you’re a peacock.”

Just to prove my husband wrong, I squatted in the grass, waddling along behind them. “They don’t like me. They ran the other way.”

“Give them some chicken feed. And talk to them.”

“This is silly. They’re not coming back.”

“Have a little faith.”

“They won’t even look at me.”

“You have to talk to them. I’m serious.” He laughed.

“You don’t¬†sound too¬†serious.¬†I think you’re¬†setting me up to look stupid.”

“Be patient.”

I started clucking my tongue.¬† No response. “Here pretty little peacocks, come here. Come see me.”

“Keep talking,” he said. “They’ll come.”

“Hey, pretty peacocks. Come here.”

This time they¬†turned toward me. I couldn’t believe it! “Look! They’re coming!”

“Yep.”

 

 This is about  much more than talking to peacocks.

It’s about not giving up.

Even if you’re tired.

Even if you look foolish.

 

“I’m hand-feeding¬†peacocks in my own back yard. I can’t believe it!”

When your best efforts are producing nothing…

When you want to throw your hands up and walk away…

Don’t.

We never know what surprises God has in store for us.

Love,

Julie

 

 

Life (and Writing) are Like My Gardenia Bushes

I have a confession. On Tuesdays before my blog posts went live, I used to wake¬† up¬†during the middle of the night in¬†a total¬†panic. What if nobody understands? What if I’m the only person who feels this way?

On Wednesday afternoons, I wondered…

What if that’s it? What if my creativity is all used up? What if I don’t have any more ideas? Then what?

Being¬†a type-A person, I decided to write¬†tons of blogs in advance, so I’d be ready.

So I’d be¬†in control.

Ha! I tried, but I couldn’t do it. My mind went blank.

Life (and writing) involve trust.

Ideas (and answers) come gently, like manna from heaven, and usually not until the very last minute.

For instance…

This morning at our PORCH PARTY, I said, “Can you believe the gardenias? Last week there were only a few blooms.”

(Every morning, my husband and I start our day together on the front porch, talking and drinking coffee.)

“Remember¬†the bad snow storm?” I said. “Ice slid off the roof and smashed the bushes flat. I thought they were goners, but look at all the itty-bitty buds! So many, I can’t count them.”

“Guess they’ll bloom when it’s time, won’t they?” my husband said.

I smiled. Simple words. Huge lesson for me.

Sometimes SURRENDER means waiting expectantly on the gardenias to bloom.

“…My ways are higher than yours and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 NIV

What are you trusting and waiting for today?

Love,

Julie