Finding Faith and Fall with a Five-Year-Old Child

It never occurred to me that five-year-old Rilynn would give me a greater gift than I could ever give her.

Our daughter Katie remarried in 2014 and became a stepmom. Katie and her husband decided Rick and I would be called “Grand Pa Rick and Grand Ma Jewels.” It’s an honor to become anyone’s grandmother, but it’s especially sweet when God brings a child into your life in such a surprising way.

A few weeks ago, Katie asked if we could keep Rilynn for the weekend. I told her, yes, yes, yes a million yeses. It was the first time she’d spent the night with us.

My first assignment as being a grandmother. 

I wanted her to feel comfortable with us.

I wanted to do everything right.

It’d been so many years since a child had stayed in our home. Our youngest is 25. And he’s a boy.

Think, think, think. What do five-year-old little girls like to do? 

I ran to the store and bought Play-Doh and paints and coloring books.

Whew. She loves to paint. 🙂

Grand Pa Rick taught her how to make a turkey. Y’all know I’m not craftsy. This was all him!

(He also built her a dollhouse for her fourth birthday.)

They gathered eggs. There was only one, but it was the perfect number for her little hands to carry.

She wanted to see Grand Pa Rick’s garden–even though there was nothing growing but weeds. To her, they were beautiful.

Everything was.

Later that day, I showed her pretend leaves on the porch. She wanted to see real ones.

I grabbed a brown paper sack and we headed to the woods behind our house. Of course, Clyde and Ellie came too.

Because Rilynn was with me, the woods became an enchanted forest. 

“The leaves change colors every October,” I said. “Why don’t we pick out our favorite ones? You can take them home with you.”

“Really? I can keep them?”

“Sure, as many as you want.”

“Look! Grand Ma Jewels, two yellow ones!”

“What’s that?” she said.

“It’s an old tree stump. God lets animals live in it when it’s cold.”

She peered inside. “That’s nice of Him.”

“Um-hmm.”

We walked a few feet down the path. “What’s this?”

“It’s a tiny pine tree. One day, it’ll be all grown up.”

You will too. Life goes so fast. I used to be five.

“What kind of leaf is this?”

To me, the leaf wasn’t pretty at all. It was huge and brown and ugly–so dry, its edges curled. “I think it’s from this big oak tree.”

“I like it.” She put it in her sack. “What’s this, Grand Ma Jewels?” She handed me an acorn.

I hadn’t thought about acorns in years–even though our driveway was covered in them.  

I’d stomped on them.

Crushed them with my feet. 

Driven over them.

Saw them as a nuisance. 

“Sweetie, it’s an acorn. God made it. And somehow, He makes acorns grow into giant oak trees.”

She nodded as if the miracle made perfect sense. Gathering a dozen or so, she stuffed them into her sack. 

Then I picked one up and examined the impossibly small thing.

How’d you do it, Lord? You packed the miracle of life inside this hard brown shell.  Rilynn believed quickly–with all her heart. She never doubted.

If I could have a tiny portion of this child’s perfect faith…

Following her down the path toward home, I put the acorn in my pocket, a seed of rugged faith growing inside me.

 With God–and only with God–all things are possible. Borrowed from Matthew 19:26 click to tweet

Have you ever been blown away by God’s enormous size, and yet He’s involved in the intricate details of our lives?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Free! Free to Love and Serve

Two weeks ago when I walked into Galilee Christian Church in Jefferson, GA, for a few seconds I forgot to breathe.

Oh, the talent~

The love~ (the men served)

The exquisite details!

I was speaking at their annual Spring Ladies’ Tea.

Each table had been decorated from someone’s heart and home. I’m sure there was a story behind every plate and cup.

Simply gorgeous~as my grandmother would say. 

A tiny peek of the splendor–

Place cards…

They say, “Welcome! You matter.”

Fresh daffodils–

Delicate pink roses–

Springtime dogwoods–

Hospitality and graciousness covered the room, but the love didn’t end with the decorations.

This was at my place setting.

A gluten-free meal just for me.

Oh, and the people–

Meet Betty Williams and Sarah Trippe.

Years ago, Betty Williams (on the left) began having tea parties to make ladies feel loved and accepted. She turns 92 this week.

Isn’t that a lovely idea?

Mrs. Williams taught Sarah all her secrets, including how to make scones. The tea ministry is still thriving in their church, and Mrs. Williams now serves tea to the ladies at her assisted living.

Have you ever heard of anything more precious?

Some new friends who sat with me~

Let me introduce you to B.J. Thompson, better known as the Queen Candy Lady.

She makes incredible candy. She even has her own business cards!

She’s 90. 🙂

Such a joy to be with her~

And this sign–

I knew it had a message for me.

It’s as if God said, “Julie, pay attention. This is important.” 

Zack, the photographer, helped me figure out the meaning. While I spoke, he sat on the front row and had the most wonderful expressions.

Happy eyes. Lots of nodding.

Afterwards, we had a chance to talk.

“I wanted to get a picture of you holding up your chain,” he said. “But I wasn’t quick enough.”

I laughed. “Want to take one now?”

“Sure.”

I’d used the chain to share how certain lies I’d believed about myself had kept me bound for years.

And when Zack took my picture, I understood the sign.

That’s it! That’s why I love the “I’m free” sign!

Jesus died to set us free.

To set ME free. 

Hallelujah!

When Jesus sets us free, we use our gifts, talents, and even our scars to serve others. Click to tweet.

“So, if the Son shall set you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 Click to tweet.

Can you relate?

What areas of serving others makes you happy?

Do you have scars that serve a purpose?

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

 

 

 

From a Mother’s Heart

Jamie, my 33-year-old daughter, and I talk almost every day. But last week, she told me something about herself she’d never revealed before. I knew I’d be pondering her words for a while. Maybe forever.

“Mom, I love the solar system,” she said. “It makes sense to me.”

“Really? I pretend it doesn’t exist. Maybe because I don’t understand it.”

“Remember that science fair project I did with Styrofoam planets?”

“Um-hmm. Fourth grade.”

“Some day, I’m going to get a telescope.”

“Have you always loved looking at the sky?”

“Always.”

How could I’ve been her mother this long and not known?

She told me all about the upcoming blue moon and texted me a recent picture she’d taken.

“It’s Venus and Jupiter,” she said. “You can only see them at certain times.”

“Amazing! How do you know this stuff?”

“I study the solar system.”

She talked a little bit about blood moons and end of time prophecy–something we’d never discussed.

After we hung up, I dug through a box of old pictures, not really sure what I was looking for. Clues maybe?

Did she love the night sky as a child? 

September 21, 1981. Jamie was born the next day.

 

Three years old.

She found a pair of scissors and chopped off her pony-tail. I remember thinking, I should’ve been watching her. How’d I let this happen? 

Teaching her to ride a bike, I’m wondering,

When is it safe to let go?

 

I searched through her elementary school pictures.

Nothing about the solar system.

A couple of nights ago, I went outside and sat in the damp grass. The blue-black sky was glorious–diamond-like stars taking up every inch of it.

I looked up until my neck hurt. 

Lord, there are so many things I don’t understand about creation. And children. 

How did You fling the stars into space?

Why don’t we fall off the spinning earth?

Can You connect with Jamie and her musings? 

It was as if He whispered like a good friend–right into my ear.

Just relax.

Enjoy the view.

I’ve got this, Julie. 

What puzzles you about creation? Children?

Do you understand the solar system?

Love,

Julie

 

There’s Something about a Tenderhearted Man

I guess you’d say my husband Rick is a man’s man. He drives a truck, works with his hands, and has always had big dogs–Labradors–dogs that serve a purpose–never a little frou-frou dog.

Katie, our 31-year-old daughter, went through some life changes this year. She remarried, became a stepmom, and their house is on the market.

A few weeks ago her husband, a police officer, began training a new dog for the K-9 department–a German Shepherd who just so happens to be an alpha dog.

And Katie has an itty bitty Morkie named Ellie. 

(Morkie = Yorkie plus Maltese)

Ellie’s scrappy and determined, and she’s also smart. Every time the new dog came near her, Ellie trembled and hid behind the furniture.

We’ve kept Ellie a few times over the years. Each time Katie picked her up, Rick said, “If Smelly ever needs a new home, I want her. I love those little black eyes”

I thought he was kidding until two weeks ago when Katie made a really hard decision–

To let Ellie come live with us.

For now, she’s ours.

Or rather, she’s Rick’s.

Katie’s house, homecoming day.

“Here. I”ll hold her,” I said on the way home.

“She’s fine. I’ve got her.”

I fell in love all over again. 

Laid-back Clyde said, “Come in, Ellie. Everyone’s welcomed here.”

Ellie found her spot at  porch parties.

According to the Great Dogs website, “Morkies are lapdogs to the core and try to please their owners.”

But Ellie doesn’t have to work to please Rick.

He fell in love the first time he saw her.

Keep your heart open. 

Sometimes love strikes unexpectedly like a summer storm.

A 30-second video. Ellie’s checking out her new home. You’ll hear one of our roosters welcoming her. 🙂

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

Have you ever fallen in love in an instant?

What is it about a tenderhearted man? 

Big dogs or little dogs? 

Love,

Julie (and Rick) 🙂  

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.

P.S.S. Another link about rescuing animals. 🙂

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

The Day Love Exploded Inside My Heart

Even though my three children are grown, sometimes they still need a little TLC.

Don’t we all?

This past Friday, my daughter Jamie and I planned to meet at Chick-fil-A . Just the two of us. Even though she’s 33, I wanted to spend some time with her–let her know how much I love her.

Words are my love language, but I decided to take her a small gift.

I’m not the best shopper. Usually, I walk in circles and don’t know what to buy. I found three of my favorite baby pictures of Jamie, and headed to Target for frames.

Jamie’s first Easter.

Jamie and her daddy.

I pulled into the Target parking lot.

This should be easy. Three frames. No hard shopping decisions. 

But Target didn’t have any frames to fit my pictures.

Now what?

Almost time to meet at Chick-fil-A.

Help me, Lord.

Jamie’s favorite color is pink.

Think pink. 

I found two soft pink t-shirts and pink azaleas in the floral section.

But the baby pictures–I couldn’t forget about them. And no time to go to another store. 

Circling the frame aisle one more time, I spotted a dark wooden coat rack. Lo and behold, it had a place for three pictures!

Back at home, I put her gifts on the counter and hurriedly slipped the pictures into the frames.

They fit perfectly! Hallelujah! 

When Jamie drove up at Chick-fil-A, I planned to calmly give her a hug, but when I handed her the pictures, something exploded inside my heart. 

God’s love gushed through me. 

Full force. 

I hugged her to me tightly. Her hair smelled sweet–so sweet, I couldn’t get enough of her scent.

Her beauty.

I cried sloppy tears and choked out, “I love you.

“Love you too, Mom.”

Sometimes God nudges you to do something.

And you have no idea how to do it.  Or why. 

Just move forward.

Step by step.

And He does it through you. 

Can anyone relate?

Love,

Julie

A Secret Place in My Heart

One day last week, an editor called. She presented me with a startling writing assignment. A big scary assignment. An idea that could take months. And if there’s one thing that messes with me, it’s fear.

After we hung up, I sat down at my desk. My cold, clammy fingers hovered above my keyboard. I had no idea how to begin.

Why does she think I can do this?  I don’t know how. 

The softest sweetest voice in my heart whispered one word. 

“Pray.”

I knelt beside by my desk.

Lord, fear is trespassing in my heart again. And I don’t have to be afraid.  

If You’re in this, help me. 

Sometimes when I write, I light a candle. I love the bright glow and the warm smell of cinnamon. I lit my favorite candle and watched the flame for a minute or two.

Then I put my fingers on the keys.

But the candle wasn’t enough.

Two unlit candles caught my attention.

What is it, Lord? 

Father.

Son.

Holy Spirit.

The Trinity. Three in one. Light all three candles. Ask Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to help you. 

I’d never considered praying this way before.

Yes! Yes!

I lit the other candles and knelt again.

“Lord, You’re my Father. The Great I Am. My Protector. Alpha and Omega. 

Jesus, You’re My Savior. My Friend.  Emmanuel. Wonderful Counselor. My Redeemer.

Holy Spirit, You’re my Comforter. My Deliverer. My Teacher. Dwell with me today.”

I crawled back into my chair and typed:

“I had no idea there was any other way to live. Fear, perfectionism, and control were like my wicked stepsisters.”

The words came from a secret place in my heart.

I had begun. 🙂

Here’s a 15-second video of my candles. Just had to show you!

If you can’t see video below, click here

Is there anything in life that keeps you on your knees? 

That’s okay.

It’s a safe place to be.

Love,

Julie

Go Ahead…Do it Afraid

When I’m with my mother, I never know where our conversation will land. Monday we had doctor’s appointments at the same office. We arrived thirty minutes early, so we sat in my car, talking.

“I wish I could’ve overcome my shyness around boys earlier in life,” she said.

“Mother, you’re not shy.”

“I used to be. Around boys.” She pulled the visor down and fluffed her hair. “I’ll always wish I’d slow-danced with Richard.”

“Richard who?” 

And who is this woman sitting in my car?

“A boy in high school. Since my daddy died when I was two, and I was an only child, I didn’t know how to talk to boys. Sort of like they were Martians. Even as an adult, I got nervous talking to men–the mailman, the butcher, the pediatrician.”

“Are you still afraid to talk to men?”

“Heavens, no.”

“How’d you break free?”

“I guess it started when y’all were little. I volunteered at the hospital teaching people to paint. They asked me to work with a man who was paralyzed from the neck down.”

“Were you scared?”

“Terrified. I stood outside his room for a long time, shaking. Finally, I said, ‘Okay, God, you’re on.’ Coy was strapped face-down in a Stryker frame bed about four feet off the ground.”

“What’d you say to him?”

“‘Hi, Coy, would you like to paint today?’ He said, ‘Sure.’ He told me to break the paintbrush in half because it was so long I’d choke him with it. We laughed. I used a cardboard box for a canvas, put the brush in his teeth, and he started painting.”

“What’d he paint?”

“Birds and rabbits and flowers. The woods. He was incredibly talented. The newspaper did a big write-up about him.”

“You found God in Coy’s room, didn’t you?”

“I sure did. His room was full of the sweetness of God’s Holy Spirit.” 

“How’d Coy help you overcome your fear of boys?”

She smiled. Looked down at her lap. 

Even though I’d turned off the engine, the car filled with warmth that cold February morning. 

Whatever she said would be good.

I could tell.

“He was seventeen when I met him. I was twice his age. Our friendship lasted for thirty years.”

She paused and I held my breath.

“Coy taught me there’s not much difference between boys and girls and their emotions. And everybody has needs. Even more than that, he taught me to go beyond myself. To step out in faith and take a chance.”

“Wow. That’s beautiful, Mother. Thank you.”

Are you a little bit shy too?

Have you ever found God in unexpected friendships? In a hospital? 

Have you discovered how much we receive by volunteering? 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

Cruisin’ the Coast and Cruisin’ Through Marriage

“You can still change your mind and come with us,” my husband Rick said. It was our final Porch Party before he left town. He and his uncle were driving from Atlanta, Georgia to Biloxi, Mississippi. They were taking a 1988 Chevy truck Rick restored for Uncle David to a car show called Cruisin’ the Coast.

Before restoration:

After restoration: 

They’d be tooling the town looking at 10,000 cars.

I squirmed in my rocking chair. “Thanks, but y’all go on. I’m going to be cruisin’ thousands of words at home.”

I was looking forward to a week by myself, but I felt a twinge of guilt.

Aren’t married people supposed to love the same things? 

But after 36 years of marriage, I probably wasn’t going to develop a sudden passion for cars. And Rick probably wasn’t going to enjoy cruising bookstores.

By the middle of the week, I was getting sorta lonely. Thursday night he called. “Do you miss me yet?”

“Yes. Especially in the mornings when I’m porch partying by myself. Do you miss me?”

“Yep.”

He wasn’t coming home until Sunday, so thinking about marriage and love and porch parties–the things we have in common–I got an idea.

I bought two new mugs and made pumpkin bread.

Before baking.

With yummy topping.

All done minus one piece. 🙂  

We’d have a Welcome Home Porch Party Sunday night!

Here’s a marriage hint that took me forever to learn:

Marriage isn’t about becoming clones of one another.  

It’s about encouraging each other to become the incredibly unique person God created us to be. 

*Click here for Pamela’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Loaf Recipe. (Just use self-rising flour if you aren’t eating GF.)

*If you’re into cars, here’s an article from The Sun Herald about the record-breaking numbers who attended Cruisin’ the Coast.

Love,

Julie

P.S. Did you marry your exact opposite too?