This Much I Know is True

Something about becoming a grandmother is changing me. God’s peeling back the layers of my heart, asking me to be honest. I mentioned it in my last post.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how I spend my time and what matters most in life.

Am I loving people? Really loving them?

When I stepped away from blogging after Caleb was born, something unexpected happened.

God tenderized my heart in the area of relationships. 

I love connecting with women–through a blog post, at a conference, or in my friend’s cozy den at our ladies’ small group. I love spontaneous friendships that happen in the grocery store, and friendships that last a lifetime.

I strongly feel He’s leading me to spend time in one-on-one friendships–ministering in the moment–and loving my family. 

~I want to visit my mom weekly.

~Katie and her husband moved to the Georgia coast, almost four hours away. I want to get to know my grandson.

~My husband’s business of 41 years is going through some changes. He’s supported my writing dream for a long time. I want to be available to him.

I’m going to let the blog rest for now. This doesn’t make sense for a writer who’s supposed to be busy with social media, building her platform, and accepting speaking engagements.

But this much I know is true:

God’s teaching me to love people. It’s a behind the scenes way to live, but living this way brings me so much JOY.

I just wanted to let you how much you mean to me, and why I won’t be here. At least for a season. And believe me–if He whispers, Write about this, Julie, I’ll be all over it!

Over the past seven years, it felt like you and I were sitting at my kitchen table, talking over a cup of coffee, or porch-partying together.

I’m grateful for every comment, every prayer, and every friendship that bloomed here.

You gave me so much more than I could ever give you. 

Maybe this is what Surrender is all about, loving and letting go. 

Something else~~

What if the things that bring us the greatest joy also bring great joy to God?

And what if these things are quiet, hidden from most of the world?

Maybe life is a lot simpler than I ever thought possible.    

I’m sharing my favorite song with you. The first time I heard it, I forgot to breathe. 

I still do. 

I pray it blesses you. 

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

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10 ESV

With all my heart,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Ain’t Over Yet!

If the woman at Home Depot hadn’t been wearing Birkenstock sandals, I probably wouldn’t have bought  strawberry plants.

In March of 2017, my daughter Katie, who’d been struggling with infertility for ten years, was awaiting pregnancy test results (again). I wanted to do something brave–something I’d never done before.

I wanted to plant something new.

In the gardening section of Home Depot, I decided herbs might be easy to grow, so I picked out rosemary and basil.

Then I noticed a woman in the strawberry section wearing Birkenstocks. She had a long, braided ponytail, and looked like she knew what she was doing.

I asked if strawberries were hard to grow. She assured me I could do it. 

I wanted to you say, if I can grow strawberries, do you think can Katie have a baby? 

Back at home, I put the herbs and three strawberry plants on my grandmother’s old ironing board outside. I knew the herbs would be okay there.

But if the strawberries were going to survive, they needed to be planted.

And I was afraid to plant them.

I didn’t want to be disappointed again.

A couple of days later, I moved the strawberry plants to the railing, so they’d be a little closer to the sun.

As long as I don’t plant them, they can’t die.

Then Katie found out she wasn’t pregnant.

Again.

She didn’t talk much about it this time.

She just got quiet.

I did too.

On an unusually hot Thursday afternoon in April of 2017, I planted the strawberries in the rock-hard Georgia clay, where we normally had a garden. We didn’t plant a garden last year.

I felt empty on the inside. Frustrated and faithless. 

You know my heart, Lord. I’m going to plant these stupid strawberries, but I don’t even have faith to water them. I’m not wasting my time. 

One Saturday this spring, my husband came in the house. “Come here,” he said. “You gotta see this.”

We live in the middle of the woods. Maybe he’d found a snake. A possum. Couldn’t be veggies. We didn’t plant anything this year either.

He led me through the yard, past the weeds in our abandoned garden–

And opened the garden gate.

“Come, look,” he said.

Along the edge of the fence–right where I planted the strawberries–I saw lush, green leaves.

The strawberries.

I’d forgotten all about them.

“I can’t believe it. They didn’t die.”

“Keep looking,” Rick said.

I got closer.

Then I spotted the fat, red berries.

“It’s a miracle! We have real strawberries in our yard!” Just like the woman at Home Depot. “Did you take care of them?”

“I haven’t touched them.”

My dear readers, I haven’t had the freedom to tell you this until now.

Not only do we have strawberries,

KATIE’S PREGNANT!

She’s due July 20! 

She waited until I few weeks ago to announce her news.

There’s a phrase in this song that says it all:

“It ain’t over yet!” 

Lord, it ain’t over yet! You can do anything. Even create faith in a faithless heart. You inspired me through a woman wearing Birkenstock sandals and three strawberry plants. 

If you’re close to giving up, listen to this song. 

If you can’t see the image above, click this link –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ou-p_RDUbB4  

 


How can we pray for you?

Love,

Julie

Love Lessons from an Artist–Part One

My friend Yvette opened the front door of her home. For a moment, I was so moved by God’s Presence and the open Bible, I couldn’t speak. I did the only thing I could. I took off my shoes.

“Yvette…I’m standing on Holy Ground.”

She just smiled.

Backstory: A few weeks ago, I had lunch with a group of high school friends I hadn’t seen in 40 years. As everyone chatted, I mentioned that I’m writing a novel with a character who’s an artist. I told them I didn’t know much about art. Yvette invited me to see her studio. 

Barefoot in her entryway, I started taking pictures. 

“Meet Vivian. My husband and I found her at a flea market. We couldn’t leave her behind.”

“Well, of course not.”

“Some days, Vivian keeps me company.”

Little more backstory:

You’d never know it by Yvette’s countenance, but she has arthritis and Sjogren’s (the same autoimmune issue as me). Sometimes she slows down, stays home, and takes care of herself. Despite painful joints, Yvette never stops creating beauty.

“I believe we should surround ourselves with things that remind us of good experiences. My bike reminds me of good days I spent at St. George Island.”

Who is free enough to put a bicycle in her den? 

I want to be an artist! 

“This is a shoe nobody wanted. Plain.  All black. Overlooked.”

“You brought her home and loved on her,” I said.

“Um-hmm. She’s my Sunday-Go-To-Meeting Shoe. And these vases are for a sweet couple’s wedding. I already had a few vases, so I went to The Fish (a local Christian thrift store) and found some more and decorated them. Julie, I spent a total of four dollars.”

“So, art isn’t about how much money you spend?”

“It has nothing to do with money. Art begins when you open up your heart and discover the secret. Absolutely nothing and no one is trash. Everything and every person can be restored.” 

The love lessons Yvette gave me are worth more than diamonds and pearls. I found out there’s an artist buried inside of me. 🙂 

Stay tuned. I’ll be sharing more from Yvette’s creativity and wisdom with you. 

Check out her art and heart here:

The Charm House  on Facebook.

The Charm House on Pinterest.

The Charm House in Instagram.

The Charm House website.

How does your creativity show? How do you love on people? Do you see trash in treasures too? 

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


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother-Daughter Discoveries

When I was a young mother of three, I thought I had life all figured out. Katie, our middle child, loved baby dolls. I imagined she’d grow up, get married, and one day become a mama.

After she married, life brought some surprises.

It always does, doesn’t it? 

You think you know exactly how things are going to turn out, and then everything changes. 

Katie experienced infertility and divorced after almost eight years of marriage.

Tough times.

Unexpected twists and turns in the road.

She remarried this past February.

A couple of weeks ago, the two of us met at PF Chang’s for my birthday.  She gave me a beautiful scarf and bracelet. “They came from Altar’d State,” she said. “It’s a new store at the mall. After lunch, I’ll show you.”

Nothing on the outside looked much different from other stores.

Inside Altar’d State, scenes from Katie’s childhood came to me. I remembered her playing babies–the white picket fence desires of her heart.

“Isn’t this cute, Mom?”

“Yep. Looks like something you wore when you were little.”

“Did you know I got my second wedding dress at this store?” she said. 

Second wedding dress.

My heart skipped a beat, and we both smiled.

I never thought life would go this way. 

Then I spotted gifts that bring hope–crosses and candles and bracelets.

This sign below says: “You are loved for the little girl you were, for the special woman you are, and for the precious daughter you always will be.”

“Leave it at the cross.”

 

When there are unexpected curves in the road, God is still around the bend, offering Grace. Click to Tweet
P.S. Katie’s now a stepmom to a precious three-year-old girl!
Has your life ever taken an unexpected turn? What happened?
Love,
Julie

Lessons From My Cat Thelma

Have you ever had someone spot beauty you’d overlooked, and it was right there beside you? My husband rescued Kitty Thelma several years ago. She was a few weeks old when he found her hiding underneath a car. This past weekend before the ice and snow, our son’s girlfriend Brittany took  pictures of her.

She captured Thelma’s everyday moments, but there’s nothing everyday about Brittany’s pictures

They are Divine.

Brittany showed them to me Sunday night.

It was as though I’d never really seen my cat until I saw these photos.

Every picture held a message for me.

Talk about having a moment.

I sensed God tapping my heart.

Pay attention, He seemed to say.

“Look at her,” I said. “She’s so happy on our front porch.”

“Rescued animals are always grateful,” Brittany said. “Thelma’s secure. And confident. And fearless.”

“Oh, look. When she’s tired, she rests.”

“This expression,” I said.  “She’s doing exactly what God created her to do. Watch birds.”

“She’s not posing. She’s just being herself,” Brittany said.

“Her beautiful self. I bet she didn’t stress about the photo-shoot.”

“No way. Thelma’s not a people pleaser,” Brittany said.

“You mean, she wasn’t trying to impress you?”

Brittany laughed. “She’s too smart for that.”

“This one’s priceless. She never gets tired of the little things.”

“She’s sitting in my wicker chair–content wherever she lands.”

Then Brittany showed me the last one.

My very favorite.

“How did you get this picture? The sun streaming over her shoulder…”

Brittany just smiled.

“Pure contentment. Like she’s in heaven. Right on her own front porch.”

Lord, I don’t want to miss the Splendor of any moment. Just like Thelma.

Which one of Brittany’s pictures is your favorite and why?

* If you’d like to contact her about a photo-shoot for your pet, you can find her on Facebook, Brittany Lynn Brooks.

Love,

Julie

 

Retro Recipe and Reminiscence

On a random Thursday night this past December, I wondered if we could possibly experience a touch of Christmas morning joy–the kind you feel as a child. Mother had an impromptu pre-Christmas dinner. Only five of us could make it–my sister Jennifer, my niece Libby, Mother and her husband Gene, and me.

We had oyster stew and chocolate fudge. Mother makes the best fudge. She’s been making it since we were little.

After we ate, we played beauty parlor, and Mother braided Libby’s hair. Libby looks so much like my sister, I pretended it was 40 years ago .

 

And then Mother said, “I got y’all a little something to open. Don’t get too excited. It’s not much.”

Beautiful socks!

We gathered in a tight knot, shoulders touching, and took pictures of our hands. I have no idea why. Sometimes mothers and daughters and sisters do the silliest things. 🙂

I’ll never forget what happened next. It’s as if the Lord Himself tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Pay attention.”

This is the second picture of our hands. When Mother saw the first one she said, “My hands look terrible, like chicken claws.” She hid her swollen thumb joints. She has rheumatoid arthritis.

But I hadn’t noticed her joints.

Instead, I saw the circle of our lives and love.

I thought about time passing–went back to my childhood.

To Mother’s creativity–her hands. How her fingers flew over her typewriter. Back then, she painted. I could see her doodling on sketch pads and setting the supper table pretty each night. I remembered how fast she could fold a stack of towels, change a baby’s diapers, and make a pitcher of tea.

All grown up now, I hadn’t expected that under-the-Christmas-tree feeling to find me.

What brought it?

I know it began with gratitude.

Could I reproduce it?

The meal was simple. Mother’s fudge recipe hadn’t changed in 50 years.

Maybe joy-moments can’t be orchestrated, but that doesn’t mean we don’t watch for them.

Anticipate them.

Welcome them.

They’re unexpected gifts from God.

Mother’s Fudge–Gluten-free if you use GF vanilla

This recipe is easier is more predictable with a candy thermometer, but Mother doesn’t use one.

3 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups milk

2/3 cup cocoa

dash of salt

1/2 stick butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 heaping cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Butter an 8 or 9 inch square pan.

Using a heavy 6-quart pot and a wooden spoon, stir everything except butter, vanilla, and nuts on medium heat. Keep stirring until it comes to a full boil.

Then stop stirring but let the mixture continue boiling until it comes to 234 degrees on a candy thermometer, which is a “soft ball” stage.

(If you aren’t using a thermometer, begin doing the “soft ball” test after about 10 minutes of boiling. To perform soft ball test: put a few drops of the mixture into a cup of cold water. When fudge is finished cooking, it will form a soft ball in the water. If you touch the fudge in the water, it will feel formed. It won’t fall apart in the water. Your test ball will flatten when you remove it from the water.)

At the “soft ball” stage, remove fudge from heat.

Add butter and vanilla but don’t stir.

Let fudge sit and cool until it reaches 110 degrees, lukewarm. (If you aren’t using a candy thermometer, this can take about 2 – 1/2 hours.)

Beat fudge until it starts to looks less glossy and gets thicker–usually about 7 minutes.

Then quickly add nuts and pour into buttered pan. Let it cool before cutting.

Slice into small pieces. The fudge can be frozen and makes wonderful Christmas gifts.

Love,

Julie

 

Nighttime Porch Party ~ and a Marriage Secret

I wish someone had shared this marriage secret with me years ago, but I doubt I’d have listened. Saturday night my husband and I were watching TV. “Wanna have a porch party?” I said.

“Right now?”

“Why not? I’ll make coffee and cut some raspberry cheesecake.”

We started having porch parties about three years ago. Every morning we start our day together on the front porch, but nighttime porch parties are magical too.

Surrounded by crickets and a blanket of darkness, we speak in quiet, almost reverent tones.

“What’re you thinking?” I whispered.

“Oh, nothing.”

“Yes you are. Tell me.”

“Just wishing one day we could drive ROUTE 66  together… in a muscle car I’ve restored.”

“Really? That’s what you were thinking?”

He nodded.

“Make it happen, and I’ll go.”

My answer surprised both of us.

 “You serious?” he said.

“Sure, why not.”

“Well, all right then. One day we’re going.”

We talked about places we’d stop along the way, how we’d need a camper–something big enough to pull his car, and also have a small kitchen so we could cook gluten-free for me. (I have CELIAC DISEASE.)

My reaction amazed me because…

I didn’t respond like the Old Julie.

I didn’t analyze his bucket list dream to death.

I didn’t try and convince him that driving Route 66 in a muscle car wasn’t practical.

Nope. I didn’t do any of that.

Instead, something fresh and shiny and new rose inside of me.

A spirit of adventure.

 SURRENDERING to God makes marriage is a lot more fun!

This story to be continued…some day. 🙂

 

Picture courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/luppes777/8754910333/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Gluten-Free raspberry cheesecake is made with MI-DEL GINGER SNAPS as a crust. 🙂

P.S. Here’s Rick’s story in Guideposts about a muscle car he restored.

 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Friday Night Miracle

“Probably ninety-nine percent of people have never seen this,” my husband said. Friday night, we weren’t expecting to spot anything amazing as we headed toward the restaurant. We were just riding down same road we’ve traveled thousands of times, going about our everyday routine, when all of a sudden, we spotted them.

Three baby foxes!

This one was the bravest–the other two ran inside the hole in the concrete.

We sat there watching. Whispering.  “They look sorta like kittens and a little like puppies,” I said. “You sure they’re foxes?”

“Positive. This is incredible.”

We watched for a few more minutes. Pretty soon Holy chills covered me.

There’s a message here, God seemed to say. Pay attention.

“We don’t live this way, do we?” Rick said.

“What do you mean?”

“Expecting God to show up and surprise us always–at any time.”

“We really don’t.”

“We should,” he said, as the baby fox dashed out of sight.

“You’re right.” I reached for his hand. “We should.”

This morning Oswald Chambers confirmed our Friday night discussion in My Utmost for His Highest

“To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of BREATHLESS EXPECTATION.”

Breathless expectation!

Oswald says…

“When we have the right relationship with God, life is full of SPONTANEOUS JOYFUL UNCERTAINTY AND EXPECTANCY.”

Oh, Lord, let me live every day expecting You to break in at any moment.

Because You can.

You have.

You will.

Has God surprised you lately?

Love,

Julie

 

The Secret to Becoming a Lean Mean Cleaning Machine

I’m fascinated with people who have immaculate houses. Smudge-free windows. Dustless furniture. My husband Rick grew up that way. Then he married me. Saturday, he started the tedious process of dusting our log walls.

 

He didn’t complain. Or fuss. He put on a dust mask and got busy.

His patience stirred my heart.

Could I become a lean, mean cleaning machine too? And actually enjoy it?

A friend I’ve met through my blog came to mind. She cleans houses. A couple of weeks ago, I sent her a picture of my kitchen floor and asked how to clean it.

She suggested an O’ Cedar Light and Thirsty Mop and Mr. Clean. She said if she lived closer, she’d love to come mop my floor for me. We’ve never met in person.

Have you ever heard of such kindness?

 Here are more cleaning tips she gave me… along with a life lesson:

1. Streak-less wiping cloths from Yoders Crafts and Gifts in Punxsutawney, PA.

2. Dawn dishwashing soap for all-around cleaning.

3. Mr. Clean in a spray bottle for counters and sinks. Also great for toilets.

4. Mr. Clean Magic Sponges.

5. Swiffer cloths for furniture.

6. Soft Scrub for spots on walls and sinks.

7. Clorox Clean-up if surface is bleach-safe.

8. Sheila Shine for stainless appliances.

9. Scouring Stick from Ace Hardware for hard water stains in toilets.

I’d always been bored while cleaning. I had to know her big secret. “What do you think about while you clean?”

Her answer melted me.

Sometimes she sings at work. 🙂 And she always prays for her clients while she cleans. 🙂

Aha! That’s it! She sings and prays while cleaning! I love it!

I just mopped my floor (again!) with Mr. Clean. INCREDIBLE STUFF! I smiled the whole time. 🙂

Any cleaning or life secrets to share?

Love,

Julie