A Secret Source of Creativity

I’m fascinated with creative people like my cousin Ricci. She’s a writer, a wife, a mother of four, and she has the gift of faith.

Her mom is my mother-in-love’s sister.

Thursday morning, I saw Ricci’s home office for the first time. Peeking through the gauzy, brown curtains, I felt transported back in time to childhood when anything was possible–

To a place where inspiration bloomed.  

“This room feels like heaven on earth,” I said.

“If you make a place for heaven, it’ll show up.”

Ricci’s office is inside her sun-room, right off the kitchen. She calls it her Creative Space.

“Meet Tassels,” she said.

“How did Tassels get her name?”

(I knew there was a special reason. Ricci’s just that way.) 🙂

“Remember the woman in the Bible who was healed when she touched  the tassels on Jesus’ robe?”

“Ohhhhh, Tassels is a name full of faith.”

The room had a holy glow like a sanctuary. Maybe it was the way the sun sparkled behind the wind chimes.

Ricci’s bookshelves are full of pictures of her children–ages 15, 13, 10, and 8.

So much life and love here~

The Lion of Judah was poised behind her desk, protecting her.

Clues about the novel she’s writing surround her desk. I can’t elaborate, but it’s going to be amazing! Here’s a link to her recent Guideposts story, More Time with Dad. 

Oh, and I love this–

One of her daughters painted a Scripture verse in yellow. It’s beside her desk. It says–

The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10 NAS  Click to Tweet

I looked around the room and thought,

Her office is so different from mine. I don’t have a bird named Tassels or wind chimes or…

But something occurred to me–

Creativity is a gift from God, uniquely designed for each one of us. Click to Tweet.

One more thing–

Right before I left, she added drops of myrrh to a dish of potpourri. The sweet, timeless fragrance filled the room.

“Tell me about myrrh.” I leaned forward. Couldn’t wait to hear.

“Mary Magdalene and the rest of the women who followed Jesus were called myrrh bearers. Mary Magdalene came to the tomb on Sunday to anoint His body with myrrh. It’s what the Wise Men brought baby Jesus.”

I’d never considered the significance of myrrh. 

Everything came together for me in that moment.

When we witness the divine creativity in others, we’re inspired to pursue our own. Click to Tweet

Want to boost your creativity? Spend time with creative people. Click to Tweet. 

Are you inspired by the creativity of others?

Do you have a Creative Space? 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

No More Secrets–Defeating Depression

Last week, my post was light and airy and funny. Today’s different. It’s about clinical depression. If you’re struggling with it now, or if you know someone who is, I’m writing to you straight from my heart.

Because I care.

Because I’ve been there. 

Because there’s hope. And help. And healing. 

Clinical depression feels like the emotional flu.

You wonder if you’ve been dropped off in a strange, unfamiliar world–a place without color, or taste, or seasons. Without joy or anticipation. And you only experience one emotion. FEAR. 

The worst part–you think maybe God’s forgotten you.

Sort of like a certain tree in our yard. This morning, I noticed her dangling leaves, her thin, fragile arms.

I could relate. I used to be like this tree.

The first time depression hit, I was 34. I wrote about it here. After stumbling my way out, I thought, Whew. Glad that’s over. Maybe it’ll never happen again. 

But it did. In 2012. Almost twenty years later.

Both times, I prayed to get better quickly and quietly. On my own. Without help. So no one would find out. I was afraid I’d lost myself-the real me–and that I’d never find my way back home.

Remember the little tree in our yard?

With her on my mind, I drove through our neighborhood and noticed all sorts of trees. This one is small, but to me, her leaves are sparkling rubies. 

It’s how you feel when you begin to recover from depression. You’re small but hallelujah! You have leaves again. 🙂

You begin sleeping and eating and sometimes even laughing. You’re still afraid to glance over your shoulder at the minefield where you’ve been, but that’s okay. Baby steps. You’re learning to be gentle with yourself. To love yourself.

Then one day, the miracle tiptoes in–

In all its Glory!

You look in the mirror and there you are! Strong and tall. A tree full of leaves!

With God’s help, and medication, and prayer, and caring friends and family, I’ve been restored twice. 

I’m so grateful. How could I keep this secret to myself? 

My second depression story will appear in December Guideposts, “A Sliver of Light.” If you read it, here’s a P.S. I didn’t stop writing in 2012. I took a break, finished the novel, and signed with a literary agent. 🙂 I share a little more of what happened in this video below. If you can’t see it, click here.

If this post hits home, don’t keep it a secret. Get help. Today. If you know someone who’s struggling with depression, please forward my blog link. 

Thoughts? Questions? 

Love,

Julie

When You Have a Dream and You’re Afraid You’ll Fail

When you have a dream, all sorts of doubts, fears, and negative thoughts hound you.

You can’t do this.

You’re wasting your time. 

Stick with something you know.

When you fail, you’re going to look like a fool.

Forget this silly idea and get on with your life.

A few years ago, I had a dream.

I wanted to become a novelist–which is peculiar because as a child, I never planned to write. My mother was a writer. When I was ten, she made me her Junior Editor–a job I didn’t want.  (Marion Bond West, my mom, is below.)

Writers–people like my mother–were strange.

By the time I reached 40, life had blindsided me.

I’d survived clinical depression, lost a full-term baby boy, and attended Al-Anon. Writing helped me focus and listen to God’s healing voice.

In 2004, I entered the Guideposts writers contest and won!

I became what I never planned to be.

One of those weird writers.

For instance–

A writer can be talking to you and suddenly float away to another world. We don’t mean to be rude–it’s just that our minds get crowded. Right now, my brain looks something like this.

This is where I interview my characters. My people. They’re so real to me that I catch myself asking them what’s for supper. 🙂

Another bizarre thing about writers–

At night we dream answers to our plotting problems and hop out of bed to jot them down. We’ll even do this for a good sentence or just the right word.

I’m still working toward my dream.

As I’m writing this post, I’m packing for a novelists retreat in Ridgecrest, North Carolina. I can’t wait! Next week, I’ll learn new things and have fun, but the best part is–

I’ll get to hang out with people who don’t think my dream is strange. 

When you have a dream, surround yourself with friends who believe in you. Sometimes it only takes one! 

 “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Thank you. 

You encourage me every week.

I’m so very, very grateful. 

Do you have a dream? Has someone encouraged you along the way?

P.S. I’m taking Lolly my laptop and will be checking comments. 🙂 I haven’t even left home and I already miss you!

Love,

Julie

 

Peanuts, Peaches, and People

The other day, I broke our porch party rules and brought up the subject of so-and-so’s behavior. The longer my husband and I talked, the more  judgmental I became–at least in my heart.

For a while that day, I thought I knew everything. 

We headed to  Thompson Family Farms to buy fresh peaches, my mind still analyzing someone else’s business.

“I love this place,” I said when we got out of the car. “I know all about Georgia produce.”

Finally! A place where my expertise can shine!

“I grew up shelling butter beans.”  I grabbed some frozen field peas. “Daddy had a garden every summer. ”

“We even canned tomatoes when I was little,” I said.

Of course, I knew everything there was to know about sweet Vidalia onions. I’d lived my whole life in Georgia.

“Oh, look! They have yellow meat watermelons.”

That’s what you call a yellow watermelon down South–yellow meat.

Feeling sorta smug, I sniffed the cantaloupes until I found a perfect one.

Then something unexpected happened. 

I spotted a bucket of peanuts.

Strange, because they weren’t boiled peanuts, like you find in Georgia.

They were shelled and put into baggies.

“What are these?” I said to the cashier.

“Fried peanuts.”

“Never heard of them. “

“They’re delicious. Try some.”

I bought a bag and told her I was making homemade peach ice cream the next day.

“If you want your peaches to ripen in a hurry, put them outside. Spread them out on a table, so they aren’t touching each other.”

“Huh. Never knew that.”

Back at home, I tasted fried peanuts for the first time.

Amaaaaaazing.

I put the peaches outside in the heat. A few hours later, they were soft.

Just like she said.

A thought hit me.

I bet there’s something I don’t know about the person and the situation I’d been so quick to judge.

Forgive me, Lord. Help me keep it simple. 

I don’t know everything about peanuts, peaches, and especially people.

Can you relate?

Have you been humbled lately?

Or learned something new?

If you chose a word this year, how’s it going? It’s already July!

Love,

Julie

For my homemade peach ice cream recipe in Guideposts magazine, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Fear…Get ‘Cha Gone!

This quote is why I blog: “A wonderfully nurturing atmosphere is created when people help other people by being themselves and sharing their own experiences.” Courage to Change–One Day at a time in Al-Anon II

It reminds me of my friendship with Peggy Frezon. Peggy lives in New York and I’m in Georgia, so we only get to see each other at Guideposts’ writers workshops, like this past weekend in Vero Beach

 

Peggy and I battle The Fear Monster. Sometimes she says, “Fear! Get ‘Cha Gone!”

If the two of us gave in to our fears, we’d stay home in our closets. The things that scare Peggy aren’t frightening to me. And vice-versa.

But Fear is Fear. And it doesn’t play nice. 

Peggy’s afraid to travel.

She rode to a Guideposts workshop in 2004 with a jacket over her head. Her husband was driving. She’s afraid of elevators. And flying (at least right now).

But we’re on our way to becoming fearless!

Her husband  rode the train with her from New York to Vero Beach, Florida. They rented a car for part of the trip. She sat in back seat holding Jesus Calling.

I brought Jesus Calling to Vero Beach, too. Not because I’m afraid to travel.

I’m afraid of rejection.

Of being judged. 

Of not measuring up. 

I’d submitted another story about my depression. I wrote about it here years ago. The group would be discussing my story (my second clinical depression!) at the workshop.

The root of my fear?

Pride. What’ll they think of me?

But guess what?

Nothing I was afraid of happened. 

No one judged me!

No condemnation!

After the trip, Peggy and I emailed each other:

“I think God’s calling us to dip our toes into the water,” I wrote. “To go deeper with Him.”

“Look at the pictures I just texted you!” she wrote. “I took them right before we left!”

Peggy at the ocean. 

One step closer.  

Then another.

Peggy’s so courageous–traveling  from New York to Florida. She captured the moment on video–the same kind of joy I experienced when I wrote the truth and no one rejected me. 

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

And then Sunday we sang this song at church. A certain phrase won’t let me go.

“And You call me, deeper still…”

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

Do you fight The Mean Fear Monster too?

Maybe God’s calling us to go deeper.

I pray this post helps.

Love,

Julie (and Peggy) 🙂

 

And Then Debbie Macomber Smiled

Writing, like anything else requiring faith and perseverance, can humble you and wear you out, but sometimes, it brings the sweetest rewards. This past weekend, my mother Marion Bond West and I were selected with ten other writers to attend a Guideposts refresher workshop in Vero Beach, Florida–so many gifts at once!

Spending Mother’s Day weekend with my mom and some of my dearest friends,

And on Saturday night, Debbie Macomber would join us for dinner!

On the way to the airport, Mother insisted we take a selfie.

I gave Mom her Mother’s Day gift in the car.

When we got to the beach, I had time to walk with Stephanie Thompson, Ginger Rue Stewart, and Sue Karas.

Mother stayed in the room and caught up on her reading. 🙂

After the workshop Saturday we had dinner.

From top left:

Ginger Rue Stewart, Stephanie Thompson, Marion Bond West, Edward Grinnan, Julie Garmon, Shawnelle Eliasen, Monica Morris, Molly Brown, Peggy Frezon, Rick Hamlin, Sue Karas, Amy Wong, Julie Lavender, Janet Smith, and Roberta Messner.

Shawnelle and Peggy are among a group of incredible Guideposts bloggers.

But the best part of all–

New York Times, bestselling author Debbie Macomber shared her story.

When she spoke, she smiled—no, she laughed and brought bubbly joy, and the message to “keep on keeping on.”

Success didn’t happen quickly for Debbie. She experienced years of devastating rejections, lean times of living hand-to-mouth, and she dealt with dyslexia. 

And then Debbie told us what kept her going…

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

So many days when she wanted to quit, Debbie read a certain prayer from The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale that begins this way–

“I believe I am divinely guided…”

Thank you, Debbie.

This means we’re divinely guided too. 

God is with us through our struggles and nothing happens by chance.

Most of all, thank you for letting us know you’re one of us. 

You’re been we are.

You understand.

And you care.

Love,

Julie

P.S. Has anyone made a difference in your life and encouraged you to hang in there? Please share!

Three Sweet Blessings from Friendships with Women

Rick and I’ve been married for 36 years. We have no secrets. He’s my best friend, but sometimes it’s fun to spend time with lady-friends. When we get together, the conversation shifts from deep talk to silliness. In a heartbeat.

Saturday, a girlfriend invited another friend and me to go shopping. I’m attending a Guideposts writers’ workshop in two weeks and wanted something spiffy to wear.

“There’s an antique shop down the street,” she said. “Let’s go there.”

Clothes in an antique store? 

She took us to a place I’d never noticed in my very own small town of Monroe, GA.

Good friends are like that–always teaching us new stuff.

When we arrived, I didn’t care if they had clothes or not.

I felt like a little girl again!

Hodge Podge held the same splendor I remembered from childhood when I went antiquing with my mother and sister. There’s a certain thrill in rounding the corner of a shop and discovering dusty surprises.

The front door was wide open and welcomed us like a warm smile.  I took a step inside and childhood memories came alive.

Miniature tea sets.

Sparkling chandeliers.

Handmade lavender soap.

Oh me, oh my —

My heart went pitter-patter at the crocheted shirt.

My sweet friends.

They insisted I try it on in all three colors–aqua, black, and oatmeal.

“Definitely, the oatmeal-colored one,” they said in unison.

After we shopped, we stopped for coffee at The Cotton Cafe.  Sitting at a small table, we laughed and shared secrets the way little girls do.

At home, I hung up my new crocheted top in my closet and smiled.

Good friends are one of God’s greatest blessings. They:

1. Help us not to take life (and ourselves!) so seriously.

2. Always want the best for us.

3. Encourage us to sparkle and shine. 

“A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” Proverbs 27:9 The MSG

Have you had fun lately with your friends? What’d you do?

What sweet blessings have you found in friendship?

Love,

Julie

 

 

Surrender…It’s So Very Daily

I’ve been blessed to contribute devotionals to Daily Guideposts since 2003. The 2015 edition contains a Surrender Series I wrote about my word from 2012. A few days ago, Guideposts featured one of my devotionals from the series on their website.

In this devotional, I mention Al-AnonAl-Anon is a 12-Step program for people like me who have a friend or family member who is an alcoholic.

So many times I return to Step One.

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Surrender, for me, means admitting I’m powerless. Step One affects every part of my life.

I’m not only powerless over alcohol, I’m powerless over everything and everyone except my choices and my responses.

I’m powerless over people I love.

I’m powerless over others’ opinions of me.

I’m even powerless over whether or not the sun shines. 🙂

Moment-by-moment, I’m reminded that I’m not in control–even on my daily walks.

Last week Clyde (our Lab) and I walked the loop through the woods behind our house. We always circle the loop ten times. I noticed Kitty Thelma watching us.

“Kitty, kitty, come on. Walk with us.”

She swished her tail like she had better things to do.

Each time we passed her, the same thing happened. I begged her to come. She refused.

On loop number eight, she sharpened her claws.

Oh, good! Maybe she’s thinking about it.

I waited on her.

Nope. She stayed put.

Which brought me back to Surrender.

I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to change people.  

Just like I’d done with Thelma–I was even trying to control my cat!

On my last loop, I smiled at her, but I didn’t try to change her mind.

Leaving the woods, I saw the sun peeking through the fall leaves.

Thank You, Lord. It’s not my job to change anyone. (Not even Thelma. :))

I’m just supposed to work on myself.

Have you ever tried to change someone? Pointless, isn’t 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Porch Party in New York — a Preview and a Promise

This past Friday, 5 a.m., I felt a twinge of I’m gonna miss this as my husband and I ended our PORCH PARTY.

“You’ll only be gone a couple of days. I think you’ll be okay,” he said.

“I know.”

But still.

I was flying to Rye, NY for a GUIDEPOSTS writers refresher workshop.

At the last minute, I put JESUS CALLING by Sarah Young in my suitcase. The little jewel of a book has become part of our routine every morning.

Maybe I’ll have a few minutes to porch party alone.

Here’s the gang of workshoppers…

Early Saturday morning at the WAINWRIGHT HOUSE, I poured a cup of coffee and felt the familiar tug to sit on the porch.

The weather was glorious.

Everything appeared to be scrubbed clean from the Friday night storms. I took Jesus Calling and headed for the door.

Would God show up so far from home?

On a different porch.

In a different state.

“You gonna have a porch party this morning?” PEGGY FREZON asked.

“I sure am. Wanna join me?”

“I’d love to.”

It was early.

And unscripted.

A few more of us gathered together.

Our view…

JANET SMITH on the left, Peggy on the right…

Sheryl Smith-Rogers

Marilyn Turk on the left.

Lisa Bogart

Sharon Mangus

Stu Reinenger joined us toward the end of our porch party.

I read from JESUS CALLING,  May 17th.

“These glimpses are tiny foretastes of what you will experience eternally in heaven.”

Tiny foretastes of Heaven–whew!

Sunset that night.

Beauty that exceeds our imagination …

Heaven.

We can’t even imagine, Lord.

A Preview.

 A Promise.

You’re with us.

Always.

P.S. If you’re interested in entering the GUIDEPOSTS‘ Writers’ Contest, the deadline is June, 12, 2014.

Here’s the scoop: Tell Us Your Story.

Love,

Julie