Thanksgiving–Speaking Gratitude to God and Others

I’m the kind of person who feels deeply. And I love words. But I don’t always express my gratitude to God and others.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend in small group posed a question.

“What if all we had tomorrow was what we’d thanked God for today?”

Whoa.

My heart stretched uncomfortably.

I fidgeted in my chair and glanced around the room and wondered if everyone else felt the same way I did.

Sometimes I let problems overshadow my gratitude. I doubt God’s goodness. His faithfulness. 

I focus on the physical world and forget the supernatural world. I forget we have a God who is Lord over all, and He knows best. 

I withhold gratitude. 

The next morning, I filled pages in my prayer journal. I had a lot of catching up to do. I thanked Him for my coffee, my Bible, my reading glasses, 56 years of life.

I thanked Him for “blog readers who’ve become my friends.” It’s miraculous when God brings people into divine relationships, isn’t it?

I thought about how my husband Rick and I’ve been married for almost 38 years.

Later that day, I made a list for Thanksgiving. Could I praise God with our table decorations? I wanted something rustic and woodsy. I found an idea on Pinterest. It’s here.

Last Saturday, I asked Rick if he had time to make it.

He stopped what he was doing, and we headed for the woods.

“First, we need a log,” he said and pointed out three possibilities. “Which one do you like best?” 

I picked out my favorite, and he chopped off the ends.

He cut holes for tea candles–just the right size.

We gathered pine cones. I already had pumpkins and plenty of leaves.

After I decorated around the log, Rick lit the candles.

I stood back, fresh gratitude rising, and spoke the words I was thinking.

“I can’t believe you made this. It’s beautiful. You didn’t even read the directions.”

He nodded.

“Really,” I said. “Thank you. You did it just for me.”

“Anytime.”

I reached for him spontaneously and he held me.

A prayer formed.

Thank You, Lord.

I love You.

You’re always here for me. 

You listen and You love me. 

Then it hit me.

Sometimes expressing gratitude to others ignites fresh gratitude to God. Click to tweet. 

I will give thanks to You, Lord, with all my heart… Psalm 9:1 Click to tweet.

Does the question my friend asked stir fresh gratitude? 

“What if all we had tomorrow was what we’d thanked God for today?” 

So much love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

Another Day to Live and Love

Saturday morning, my husband Rick and I were having our porch party, and I sensed God’s gentle voice inside my heart.

Slow down. Look around you. Praise Me.

But I didn’t do it.

I ignored a dogwood tree in full bloom.

The next night, the strangest thing happened.

When it did, I had a feeling everything around me was about to change, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Rick took a shower and came into our bedroom. His hair was wet, and he had a towel wrapped around his waist. “Did I just take a shower?”

“Of course. Why’re you asking me?”

“I’m not sure. I can’t remember.”

“Are you okay?”

“I had a weird dream. Did I just take a nap?”

Had he fallen and hit his head?

I checked the bathroom. No blood.

He paced from the kitchen to the den like he was lost. Something was terribly wrong.

I felt numb–scared–refused to believe what might be happening.

I asked him to sit down. “Do you feel okay? You look confused. Can you tell me today’s date?”

He paused.

I stopped breathing.

“I don’t know.”

“Who’s the president?”

“Jimmy Carter.”

Maybe he’s playing an April Fool’s joke.

“Isn’t it Carter? George Bush?”

I felt everything inside me sink.

Oh, Dear Lord… 

I grabbed the flashlight to check his pupils, but my hands were shaking. I couldn’t find the off/on switch. “Can you turn this on?”

If you can’t, I’m calling 911.

He did and handed it back to me.

His pupils responded to light. Blood pressure, 132/94. A little high but not stroke level.

Not yet.

“We’re going to the hospital,” I said. “Get dressed.”

“I’m fine.”

I  called our 24-year-old son who was at his fiance’s house. “Thomas, come home. We’re taking your dad to the hospital.”

At the ER, the nurse got us back quickly.

“Mr. Garmon, what year is it?” the doctor said.

“I’m not sure.”

Help, God. 

“Take a guess,” the doctor said.

“Is it 2016?”

I shouldn’t be relieved that my husband knows what year it is. 

“What month is this?” the doctor said.

“I don’t know.”

“Take a guess.”

“September? October?”

“We’re running an MRI and CT scan, check your carotid arteries, do an echo…”

Is this for real? Am I dreaming?

I spent the night at the hospital. Neither one of us slept. All during the night, he caught me watching him.

“You okay?”

“Fine.”

Just before the sun came up, I crawled into bed with him.

In less than twenty-four hours, his test results came back.

Everything was normal.

The doctors think he experienced something called Transient Global Amnesia. It’s very peculiar. You’ll have to read about it.

Basically, it means he lost several hours of his life. He’ll never remember what happened.

He’s supposed to slow down. Reduce stress. Prioritize his life.

Sounded like a wake-up call for him.

For me too–to pay attention to what matters most.

At our next porch party, I picked up Jesus Calling to read the devotional. “What’s today’s date? I’ve lost track…” I looked at him.

A tiny wave of fear came over me.

He smiled. “April the fifth.” 

I thanked God for another day to be with the man I love. 

The gift of another morning. 

Another porch party.

I thought about my people. Family. Friends. 

The dogwood tree beside our porch.

I broke off a branch and brought it inside.

Lord, another day to live and love. Thank You. I love You.

Have you ever been reminded of what matters most? It’s not usually a painless process, is it?  Click to tweet. 

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

 

 

 

Love Lessons from an Artist–Part Two

“Real creativity means listening to your heart,” my friend Yvette said. (I began sharing her story last week here.)

“Tell me more.” We entered her kitchen.

“This rug, for instance. I found it at a flea market. It was six dollars.”

“Did you know for sure it would match?”

“I didn’t care if it matched. I loved it.”

Oh.

“Creativity isn’t about matching or being perfect.”

Incredible! Yvette’s teaching me the same things God’s been showing me. 

“This was my grandfather’s pipe. And my grandmother’s snuff.” 🙂

We laughed.

“I love it! You keep your grandmother’s snuff on the kitchen counter. You’re breaking so many rules.”

“That’s what art’s all about. Being free. Being yourself.”

Maybe that’s what good writing’s about, too.

“How long have you known this secret?”

“It started when I was a little girl. I discovered treasures under my grandmother’s house–all sorts of bottles and tiny trinkets. I decorate with them because I loved my grandmother.” 

Wow! Sounds so SIMPLE–my word for the year. 

“Oh, look. Christmas candles and it’s not even December!”

Which takes a lot courage. To be different. Christmas candles in September.

We walked into her den.

“When I was nine,” she said, “I found my uncle’s miniature bronze horse–small enough to fit inside my palm. Love at first sight. I took it home with me.  A few years ago, I felt a nudge to give the horse to my cousin. It should’ve been hers all along. I didn’t want to, but I knew I was supposed to. Does that make sense?”

I nodded.

“A few days after I gave it to her, I found this horse at a flea market. Can you believe it?”

“Julie, it’s an exact replica of the horse I gave away. Only a lot bigger.”

“It’s a miracle.”

“I know. In all my  years of flea-marketing, I’ve never seen another horse like the one I gave away. Except for this one.”

Yvette had just given me another love lesson:

If God asks you to give something away, obey Him. Quickly. Blessings follow obedience. 

Has God ever asked you to give away something you dearly loved? 

Have you discovered art and decorating have nothing to do with being perfect? 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bless This Mess

“Come here. You gotta see this,” my husband said Saturday morning. I turned on the coffee maker and followed him outside. “A bird’s built her nest in this wreath.”

I laughed. ” It’s not a real nest. Your mother made that wreath a few years ago.”

“There’s a real nest behind the fake one.”

Way down inside the dark hole, I spotted a pile of something fuzzy and gray. Feathers maybe? “Looks like baby birds might have been here. Hope they didn’t die.”

“Keep watching.”

“Ohhhhhh, you’re right! They’re opening their little mouths, waiting on their  mama to feed them!”

My husband carried on with his Saturday morning routine, but I couldn’t forget the two nests.

Real birds were living right behind a fake mama bird and her plastic eggs. 

So peculiar.

And spectacular.

Of course, I had a feeling there was a message here for me. 🙂

I touched  the  stiff mama bird.

Nothing was out of place in her perfect world. She even had matching, perfectly formed eggs. A spotless nest.

Years ago, I tried to be the perfect mom and raise perfect children. But living that way wasn’t really living at all.

Then I studied the other nest where real life was going on. Two baby birds chirped loudly. And there was probably poop in the nest.

Nevertheless, the birds were safely tucked inside a downy-soft home created with love.

And they were eagerly anticipating their mama returning.

Something dawned on me.

It’s better to be real,

To be someone who  listens and laughs,

Someone with faults who goofs up,

Than to be perfect, but cold and plastic. 

I left the baby birds so their mama would return to her wonderfully messy life. 

And I could return to mine. 

What do you think about the mama bird building her nest so close to the fake one?

Ever tried to be perfect? Exhausting, isnt it?!

I wrote more about breaking free from the trap of perfection here and here.

Love,

Julie


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robin’s Early Christmas Gift

I’m just now acknowledging a touch of sadness leftover from childhood. After all these years, Mother and I finally talked about it.

“When I was little, you didn’t enjoy Christmas very much, did you?” I said, hesitantly.

“No, I dreaded it–the cleaning and cooking and pine needles everywhere. I’m so sorry. If I had it to do all over again–”

“No, no. No need to apologize. You did all the right things. We had presents and a tree. It’s just…you didn’t smile much. Maybe you were depressed or had autoimmune illnesses back then.” (She has three.)

“I can still see my grim face. It breaks my heart. I wanted to smile, but I was just so tired.”

With this conversation circling my thoughts last week, my friend Robin called on Halloween. We love books, antiques, and we feel things deeply.

But there’s something very different about us.

Robin celebrates holidays with her whole heart. 

It’s always fascinated me.

When we were young mothers, she sewed pilgrim outfits for her four children. Everybody made crafts.

I don’t sew or even own a glue stick. And that weird Christmas emotion (guilt? sadness?) creeps in every so often.

Robin and I chatted about everything from hair color to motherhood, and the conversation shifted.

“Jewels, guess what I did yesterday?”

“No telling.”

“I watched my favorite Christmas movies.”

“You watched Christmas movies before Halloween?”

That secret place in my heart clamored for attention.

“I had the best time!” she said. “On November first, I always start planning Christmas.”

What if it’s really okay to love Christmas? 

Something clicked into place like a key unlocking a door.

Robin has the gift of anticipation.

And it’s okay to anticipate Christmas!

Was it too late for me? Could I change?

After we hung up, I made our first fire of the season.

Mother called. “What’re you doing?” she said.

“Looking forward to Christmas.” I told her about Robin’s plans.

“Bless her little Christmas heart. And yours too. I love Robin.”

“I’m washing Christmas mugs, and I’m going to have a Porch Party all by myself with real whip cream, and–”

“Julie, Christmas is spilling into my heart and spreading across my living room. I’m going to get out my nativity right now!

Who knew anticipation could be contagious?

“And even healing,” Mother said softly. “It’s a form of worship.”

What about your childhood? Is there something that needs healing? 

Robin’s blog, All Things Heart and Home, is full of anticipation!

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

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

 

Early Morning Gratitude

Saturday morning my husband was out of town, so I porch partied alone. I woke up early, around 4 a.m., made coffee, and took my flashlight and Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling outside.

The air felt different that morning. Soft and cool on my face. Almost lavender.

Like Easter morning.

Maybe the air felt this way when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before He went to the cross.

I paused.

Almost thought about the cross, but I wasn’t ready.

Not yet.

Instead I pondered gentle things.

Pastel images.

The dogwoods had just bloomed.

I could barely see the branches in the darkness, but I remembered their splendor.

The Easter tree my mother-in-law made.

She gave it to us when the children were little.

I let my mind dwell on bright green Easter grass. Filling baskets. Egg hunts.

I thought about our oldest child’s first Easter.

While I sat rocking and thinking, I knew I’d return to the cross.

I remembered ten years ago, when I saw The Passion of the Christ.

And that one scene.

How it undid me.

It still does.

When He suffered the beating, the scourging, the whips on His back, when His hands and feet were nailed to the cross…

My heart pounded with the heaviness of the Truth.

A weight fell on me,

So intense I couldn’t breathe.

For the first time I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt

What He did for me was Enough.

Now I wonder

Could it have been…

That moment was the first time I worshipped my Jesus of the Cross?

I couldn’t help but say it over and over again.

Thank You.

Thank You.

Thank You.

There was nothing more You could have done.

You did it all. 

Love,

Julie