Love Is…

When I write about my husband, I ask him to read it before I hit publish. This time I didn’t.

I’m surprising him with a public love letter.

Dear Ricky, (I call him Ricky, but most people call him Rick)

Sunday night, after we picked out our Christmas tree and brought it home, I headed to my loft office to write while you wrested that prickly, sap-filled Frazier fir into place.

With my fingers on my laptop, I sensed a tapping on my heart and glanced through the banisters to watch you work. You were doing the same thing you’ve done for 39 years.

It sounds like a small thing, but this sight moved me.

So much love came over me, I wanted to get closer.

I tiptoed downstairs and sat in the red chair behind you.

I didn’t say anything. I sat there, watching and thinking. Praying a little bit.

I’d never thought much about Christmas tree lights until that flickering moment.

I remembered our first Christmas, 1978.

We came home with a tree that wouldn’t fit in out den–remember?

Then we drove back to the tree lot and exchanged it for a smaller one. I was afraid we’d lost our money, but you knew they’d do the right thing.

What about all those years when Jamie, Katie, and Thomas helped us decorate?

It never occurred to me that Christmases would change, and one day it would just be you and me.

Every year, you untangle the lights from last Christmas because I’m always in such a hurry to take down the decorations.

And every year you fix my mess.

I don’t know why this touched me so deeply…

Maybe because my word for 2017 is Love.

I didn’t know this as young wife and mother.

And I didn’t put the definition together until three days ago.

This is what Love means:

Love means doing whatever it takes to get the job done. 

Love is content to go unnoticed.

Love is kind–even when the Christmas lights are knotted up. (click to tweet)

Thank you, Ricky.

Happy 39th on December 9th.

I love you.

Julie

To my readers–

What does love mean to you?

Has your definition of love changed over the years? Share it with us!

 

 

Putting the Brakes on Worry

There’s a part of my husband’s personality that I don’t understand. And there’s something about me he can’t relate to.

He’s never tempted to worry. Ever. About anything. I don’t think he knows how.

I’ve never been tempted to drive fast. I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket. I’m content to poke along in the slow lane, and I don’t mind if people pass me.

The other day our worlds came together in a beautiful way–his temptation to push the speed limit and mine to race from peace to worry.  

It all started when he asked if I wanted to ride with him to test-drive the 1976 Laguna he’s restoring.

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

He cranked the old, red Laguna, and the vroom-vroom-vroom reminded me of the first time I rode in his 1965 GTO. We were 15 and 16. He’d shifted gears back then too. I remembered the power. The speed. My hair swirling in the wind.

He’s always loved fast cars and loud engines.

Here we are in his 1972 Roadrunner before prom.

He’s been pulled over for speeding dozens of times. When he was sixteen, he got stopped four times–in one day. It’s been years since he got a ticket, but if there were no speed limits…

After we rode in the Laguna, we ran errands in my Dodge Journey. 

Over 40 years later. The same man. Same love of speed.

But he did something totally out of character.

It was as if he became a new person. 

He drove slower than normal, content to let cars zoom ahead of him.

“What are you doing?” I said.

“Usually we get 20 miles per gallon, but I’m up to 26.4 miles.” He pointed to the white arrow between 15 and 30. “If we keep the red line on the right side of the arrow, gas mileage improves.”

In all our years together, he’d never acted concerned about gas mileage. 

“That’s neat. What’s your secret?”

“Feathering the gas pedal and coasting. Every now and then, I glance at the white arrow.”

He was driving slowly. Like me. With no sense of urgency. 

Understanding came in the flicker of a moment, and the Red Sea parted in my mind.  

Change is possible for anyone–even me! If my husband, who loves speed, can choose to a drive differently, surely I can do the same thing with my thoughts.

I can put the brakes on worry.

I can refuse to go from zero to a hundred in a matter of seconds.

I can focus on God the same way Rick checks the white arrow. 

I have a choice.

I don’t have to race full-speed ahead into worry. Instead, I can choose to coast and pray. Click to tweet

Are you struggling with something? Do you drive too fast? Does worry tempt you? Is it something else? Please share! 

Love,

Julie

Me and the Tractor and Trust

“Come here for a minute,” my husband said. “I need your help. But be careful. I could get killed doing this.”

“What kind of man says this to his wife?”

“I need you to push a lever on the tractor.”

On the way to his workshop, I remembered the day he said we needed a tractor.

Fourteen years ago. 

Right before we moved into our log cabin.

I thought a tractor was just an expensive toy. 

We argued about it. 

He won.

“Okay,” he said. “Listen. Here’s what I want you to do.”

I leaned in so I could hear over the sound of the tractor. “This scares me. You know that, don’t you?”

“We need to move this engine. It’s heavy.”

“I can’t help you. I don’t do things like that.”

“The tractor’s going to do the hard work.”

“I can’t drive a tractor.”

“All you have to do is move this black lever. And listen to me.”

I stared at the yellow “caution” sign and wondered if I should run get the neighbor next door, but I didn’t have time. 

Rick moved like a surgeon spreading out his instruments–only I was still wide awake. 

If I mess up, how will you die?  

What if the lever gets stuck? 

How hard do I have to push? 

Will you tell me when to stop–or am I just supposed to know when you’re finished?

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

I climbed on.

“Now,” he said. “Push.”

Gripping the black lever, I pressed it down. The engine slowly dropped.

“Okay. Let off.”

I did.

“Good job.”

“Thanks,” I said, feeling very proud of myself. “Any time.” I hopped off like I knew what I was doing.

Walking toward the house, I watched my husband of 38 years.

He looked kinda cute on the loud, green machine I thought we didn’t need. 

Back then, I had no idea that every few days, he’d have to smooth out the gravel driveway with the tractor blade. Especially after a hard rain.

Or that every spring, the tractor would help plow the garden. 

I didn’t know tractors were like elephants that lifted heavy equipment with their trunks.

Then something beautiful occurred to me.

Although I knew nothing about tractors, my husband did.

Sort of like our Heavenly Father.  

God peers up the road and sees what’s ahead. Then He prepares the way. Click to tweet. 

 I will go before you and make rough places smooth, Isaiah 45:2.

Thoughts? Ideas? Concerns?

I’m praying the tractor will remind us to trust God. He sees. He understands.

For more about our tractor, read Young Love and  a John Deere Tractor.

Love,

Julie

When God Gives You a Dream…


My husband Rick had a vision. A goal. This past weekend, when his dream finally came true, I had an “aha” moment.

Because I have a vision too.

I want to become a novelist. I’ve had the dream for years.

Right now, I’m working on my fifth novel. Writing the first three taught me little bit about the craft, but my stories weren’t ready for publication. My agent is shopping my fourth one. At times–especially when I’m tired–I wonder if my dream will ever become a reality.

Two months ago during our porch party, Rick told me about his vision.

“I’ve ordered 40 baby chicks,” he said. “They’re coming next week.”

We already have 15 chickens in our backyard.

I stopped rocking and looked at him.”Why? We don’t have room for 40 more chickens.”

“Half of them are for a friend. And I’m expanding my chicken house.”

Although his dream didn’t make sense to me, I knew he’d work hard to make it happen. I could see it in his eyes.

He didn’t care how foolish he looked.

He didn’t care that most of our friends don’t raise chickens. He didn’t do it to please people. 

The passion came from his heart.

But why?

His pen before the renovation–

First, he had a buddy of his cut down a dozen trees.

The trees became mulch to cover the ground near the pen.

Now he had room to work.

When his baby chicks arrived, some lived lived in a cage outdoors. Some lived in an aquarium in our basement.

If you’re thinking our home took on a new aroma, you’re exactly right. 🙂

The construction took several weeks.

I brought him bottles of Gatorade.

What motivates him to work this hard in the hundred degree weather?

To have his fingers torn up by chicken wire?

Did he ever feel like giving up–like I sometimes did?

Saturday afternoon, he came inside the house and opened the kitchen pantry. “I dug up a yellow jacket’s nest and got popped. Where’s the Benadryl?”

I looked into his dark brown eyes. “Why are you doing this?”

He led me to his work-in-progress. “This is my Rhode Island Red.


“He’s the granddaddy of a lot of my chickens. He’s a fine bird. He needs more room.”

“This is a Silver Leghorn. He didn’t have any hens.”

When I watched him feed his chickens, the answer settled in my heart.

“You’re doing this because you love them, and you want to make their lives better, right?”

He closed the gate to the new pen. “Yeah, something like that.” 

My husband’s love for chickens–and my love for you, dear reader–

Keep our dreams alive. 

When God gives you a dream, let love be your motivation. Click to tweet

Sometimes, when I don’t understand someone’s behavior, there’s a message in it for me. Click to tweet

Do you have a vision? A goal? Does this post help you in any way? I hope so.

For more blogs about our chickens, click here and here. If you’d like to read another one on dreams, click here.

Love,

Julie (and Rick and our chickens too) 🙂

 

 

 

 

And Then Grace Walked In

I’m pretty sure I broke my toe last Sunday afternoon. I didn’t go to the ER, but it swelled, turned blue, and hurt so much, I thought I might pass out.

You’ll never believe how I did it.  

I was hurrying across the kitchen to chop vegetables for supper, my mind a million miles away. My little toe got hung in the metal dog food holder.

I landed against the kitchen counter, and sent the cutting board sailing into the OPEN container of giant-sized Prego.

My veggies went flying.

The impact of my fall broke the plug-in switch behind the Prego–

 Sent red sauce up the center beam–

Over the counter,

And onto the back of the sofa.

I sat in the middle of the floor holding my foot, stunned, not sure how it happened or what to do next.

Maybe you can identify–you make one dumb mistake and your whole world gets turned upside down.

You feel like a fool.

You want a do-over.

There’s a great big mess all around you, and you just want to go back to the way things were, but you can’t.

I’ll never forget what happened next.

My husband came inside and found me in the floor. I was working hard to hold back the tears. “Do you need to go to the hospital?”

I shook my head. “Nothing to do for a broken toe.”

“Sit down in the recliner and put your feet up.”

We didn’t have any medical gauze or tape. He buddy-wrapped my broken toe to the one beside it with a paper towel and car-painting tape. “Better?”

I couldn’t believe it. My toe felt better. It really, really did.

The stronger toe supported the weaker one–

It was a powerful thing. 

Maybe it was his tenderness. Maybe it was because he didn’t say what I was thinking–

Stupid! Stupid! 

You need to be more careful.

You’re always in a hurry. 

When are you going to learn to watch where you going?

Nope.

None of that.

When my husband came into the kitchen and saw me, Grace walked in.

When we’re broken, the compassion of just one person can bring healing. Click to Tweet.

If  you’ve fallen and need a little grace today, listen to my new favorite song. It might help you feel better.

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

Can you identify in any way?

Love,

Julie

 

 

Too Deep For Words

Tuesday morning, even before my husband said a word, I knew something was wrong. He sat in the bedroom chair like he didn’t want to get up. Looked like he was running on empty. In our 37 years of marriage, he’s been the strong one.

“You okay?”

“Just tired.”

“Is it work?”

“Yeah.”

He’s owned a small business for almost 40 years. It’s his job to make sure everything and everyone gets paid on time, and that the work is done right.

We talked for a few minutes. There weren’t any big issues. God’s been faithful, so I tried the we have so much to be grateful for speech, which was the wrong thing to say.

He didn’t need a sermon.

“I know. I’m grateful. I’m just tired.”
I didn’t have anymore wise words, so we did what we do every morning.

We had a porch party.

A quiet porch party.

Lord, I don’t know how to encourage him. We need you. 

Since we weren’t talking much, we focused on the birds.

“There’s a cardinal at the feeder,” I said.

He was beautiful. A big red male.

We put away our concerns long enough to listen to the birds.

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

“See the little brown bird sitting on the water line?” I said. “She has a nest in the fern.”

After several minutes of observing her behavior, I saw a parallel between the mama bird and my husband’s 40 years of hard work.

Help me say it the right way, Lord.

“Look how hard she’s working,” I whispered. “She does the same thing over and over. She finds food, flies in from the trees, lands in the bushes in front of the house, darts to the water line above the fern, hangs on with her feet, flips upside down, and feeds her babies. That takes a lot of energy.”

If you can’t see the video, click here. She flies in at the 50 second mark. 🙂

“Amazing–how God gave her the skills to do this.”

“It really is,” he said.

While we watched the mama bird, our front porch was transformed by God’s Presence. Click to Tweet

“What she’s doing is hard work,” I said.

“Um-hmm.”

“And she’s doing her job even though most of the world never notices.”

He sipped his coffee.  

“You are too.”

The sunlight caught the moisture in his dark brown eyes, and I saw emotion pass through. 

We’d only connected this way a few times in life. 

There were no words. 

God revived my husband’s spirit because a tiny, brown mama bird kept doing the right thing.  Click to tweet. 

 If we take time to look and listen, God has a lot to show us. So many times, I talk too much and miss Him.

Thoughts about someone listening–and really hearing you?

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 Click to Tweet. 

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

 

 

 

Staying in Love–A Valentine Porch Party

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I decided to interview my husband of 37 years. I wanted to find out how he felt about one of my favorite days of the year.

The Day of Love. 

What better time to talk than during a porch partyEvery morning we get up with the roosters, drink coffee, read Jesus Calling, and pray.

Friday afternoon, I set the stage.

I spruced up the table with ivy, fluffed our red blankets, and put out a new candle.

I made a cake and bought  heart-shaped candy.

I chose a valentine card for him covered in conversation hearts. 

Saturday morning.

7:15. 

I sipped my coffee and carefully posed my question.

“When you were a little boy, didn’t you just love Valentine’s Day?”

He didn’t say a word.

Maybe he didn’t understand the question. 

“After school, I hurried home and dumped out the cards in my Valentine box on my bed.”

No comment.

“I analyzed each one very carefully. I could tell if the sender really liked me by the words on the card. And I loved choosing just the right card for my friends. Didn’t you do that?”

“No. I threw away all the cards that said ‘Be mine’ or ‘I love you’.”

“You never tried to figure out which girls liked you by their cards?”

“No. Never.”

You are the strangest person I’ve ever met.

“Okay. Forget the cards. How did you feel about Valentine’s Day?”

“I hated it. All the pink and white lacy stuff.”

I can’t believe it. 

My husband hates Valentine’s Day. 

Poor Charlie Brown. I could identify with him. If you can’t see the video, click here.

I had one more question, but I was afraid I knew the answer.

“Do you still hate it…now that you’re grown?”

He looked at me and sorta smiled. “Nah. It’s not too bad anymore. I have fun picking out those big, tacky cards for you.” Reaching into the pink dish, he chose a chocolate covered heart.

Then he opened it and handed it to me. 

It was just as good as if he’d said–

BE MINE.

I’M YOURS.

ALWAYS.

Staying in love means you give your heart away–over and over. Click to Tweet.

How do you feel about Valentine’s Day?

Did you look forward to it as a child? Did you analyze your cards like I did?

Any memories or thoughts you want to share?

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