My Grandmother’s Secret

For the past few weeks, my heart’s been all over the place.

Thomas, our youngest child, is getting married on May 19th. He’s 25. I love Brittany, his bride-to-be. He’s ready to get married. They both are.

But I was afraid of how I’d feel at their wedding.

Afraid of all the love bumping around in my heart. 

Love and letting go were tightly intertwined. 

How could I handle both emotions at the same time?

How do you love and let go?  

A few days ago, I picked up my dress for the wedding and stopped by Mother’s house to show it to her. She ran her hands lightly over the pastel chiffon.

Stepping into the dress, I slipped it over my shoulders. The dress magnified what I was feeling.

The flurry of time.

Seasons changing.

“This brings back the memories, doesn’t it?” Mother said. “Your prom dresses. Your wedding dress.”

I wasn’t a teenager. Or a bride. I was a mother-of-the groom. And I had to prepare my heart for the wedding. But how? 

Mother zipped my dress. “This reminds me of my mother tying the sash of my nurse uniform,” she said.

“It was just an apron, but we called it a nurse’s uniform. When I was six, I got pneumonia and had to go to the hospital to take shots of penicillin. Goge (my grandmother) worked and couldn’t stay with me. I wasn’t really a patient, but the nurses watched me all day long until my mother returned.”

(Mother and Goge, my grandmother, 1940.)

So sad. Goge had to leave my mother for nurses to watch while she worked.

Mother’s daddy died when she was two.

Love can be a scary thing. Like life. You can’t control it.

“Didn’t you hate spending the day at the hospital?”

“Oh, no. I loved it. It was a tiny hospital. It had been someone’s home, and the doctor was our good friend. I got to sit on a white, metal stool in the lab and talk to the nurses. Actually, it felt like going to a birthday party.”

This was a good memory for Mother. God was with her at the hospital.

More than that.

Years before Goge went to heaven, she discovered the secret of letting go. 

She let go through the power of love.

Maybe that’s the only way we can do it. 

A tingly feeling came over me–as if my grandmother had a message for me. 

That’s when the miracle happens, Julie. Don’t be afraid of your love for Thomas. Use it to help you let go. God will give him everything he needs. And He’ll take care of your mama-heart too. 

At last, the Thomas-shaped place in my mama-heart stood up and cheered.

I didn’t have to separate my feelings.

The two worked together as a team, love and letting go.

I’d let go just like Goge did–through the power of love. 

When we let go with love, something miraculous happens. God shows up. (click to tweet)

Are you letting go of someone or something right now? If so, I pray this post helps.

P.S. Remember what my word for the year is? 🙂 LOVE.

With so much love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

A Rose Isn’t Always A Rose–Sometimes it’s a Promise

Our daughter Katie’s dealing with infertility. Some days, faith comes easier for her. Some days, she struggles.

April was a hard month–hormones, injections, ultrasounds, and no pregnancy.

One afternoon on my way to cheer her up, I glanced at my rose bushes beside the garage.

They’ve been a big, fat disappointment. Their leaves are dry and crispy. Their spindly limbs look like skinny arms covered in thorns. And there are only two blooms.

I was ready to give up on our roses. Year after year, I’ve watered them, trimmed them, babied them, and fed them Miracle Grow.

Here they are at the end of July.

This is as good as they get–more blooms than they had in April, but still, look at them.

Friends offered advice:

They’re diseased. Get rid of them.

You shouldn’t have planted them so close to the house.

Plant banana peels round them.

They’re climbers. They need a fence.

I was tired of fooling with them. I’d done all I could do. Still no miracle. 

A gentle thought came.

Take Katie the roses. 

Two roses from my ugly bushes? That’s not even a real gift. If I had a dozen, maybe.

I inspected the two blooms. One had opened, but the other was closed like a tight, angry fist. Sort of how I felt.

Why, God? A baby. She just wants a baby. 

Bring her the roses. 

But look at my bushes. 

They’re growing so tall, they’re going to clog the gutters. 

I got into my car saying NO. Absolutely not.

I was NOT taking her two buds because I didn’t have a promise to go with them.

I couldn’t promise she’d have a baby. 

But the Still Small Voice inside wouldn’t give up.

I got out of the car.

Sighed.

Cut the only two blooms I had from my wild, stubborn rose bushes.

Rummaged through the pantry for a vase.

But something happened on the way to Katie’s house. I saw their beauty, their soft petals unfurling in the sun.

Finally, I got honest with God.

Lord, will You take this piece of my broken heart and bless it? It’s all I have to give her. 

Katie opened the door and I stumbled through my explanation. “I brought you two roses from our yard.”

I wanted to say, “One’s for a mama and one’s for a baby.”

But I couldn’t promise that.

She took the vase from my hands, and I said the one thing I knew for sure–the only promise I could make.

“I don’t understand, but I know God loves you. He hasn’t forgotten you.” Click to tweet. 

Her eyes filled with tears.

She nodded and hugged me for a long time, His Grace filling all the empty space between us.

Sometimes the prettiest blooms come from the straggly limbs–from broken places when all you have to offer is His love.

Have you ever brought the gift of God’s love to someone? It’s powerful, isn’t it?

Are you in a season of disappointment? God loves you. He hasn’t forgotten you.

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

September Song, An Old Picture, Some New Insight

When things happen unexpectedly, sometimes I wonder if God’s trying to get my attention. This past Thursday afternoon, I was going about my everyday routine. Clyde (my yellow lab) and I hurried down the driveway to get the mail.

Well, I was hurrying.

Clyde was poking around, sniffing the fall air, and checking out patches of pine straw.

I had a lot to do that day, so I didn’t pause to study the changing seasons.

But what I found buried in the stack of mail got my attention.

It was anything but ordinary.

A plain white envelope from a dear friend.

Inside was an old picture of my husband and me at a wedding.

No note enclosed.

Just a photo  carefully wrapped in a paper towel.

She’d written one word on the back.

“1995.”

I sat on the front porch steps remembering when we were younger–that season in life when I was a new mother, folding diapers, bringing babies home from the hospital.

How fast it all goes. 

Almost twenty years since this picture was taken.

Now the children are all grown. And we’re older. A different season.

We’re middle-aged–no longer in the summertime of life.

Maybe we’re in the fall of our lives? 

A couple of days later, I showed my husband the picture. “What do you think?” I said.

“About what?”

“About us. How young we looked. About life. About everything.”

He studied the picture. Didn’t say anything.

“Well?”

“Your hair is shorter in the picture,” he finally said.

“And yours is longer, but don’t you get it? We’re not young anymore.”

“So what. We’re still us.”

I taped the picture to the refrigerator and smiled.

It’s good to remember the past, anticipate the future, and always be grateful for the present.

Willie Nelson sings about the seasons of life in an oldie but goodie.

Take a break and listen. I think you’ll love it too.

What life season are you in right now?

Are you anticipating something in the future?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ridiculous Lie I Believed About Motherhood

While my children were growing up, I believed a lie.

I thought if I could be a Perfect Mother, I could raise Perfect Children.

Have you ever heard of such nonsense?

On my first day at home with baby Jamie (our first child), my mother stopped by.

Jamie started screaming. I couldn’t do anything to make her happy.

She’s less than a week old and I’m already failing!

Crazy, I know.

I thought it was my job to make sure she never cried.

Or got sick. Or dirty. Or hurt. Or sad. Or lonely.

Or misbehaved when she got older.

While we ate supper, I laid her on the sofa. Somehow she wiggled toward the back of the sofa.

What kind of Perfect Mother does things like this?

Before Mother left, we snapped a few happy pictures.

 

I’m smiling (a Perfect Mother always smiles) but on the inside,

I was a Nervous Nellie.

Two and a half years later Katie was born, 30 years ago today, April 30th. 🙂

Happy birthday, Katie!

What pressure! Now I had two little girls to make Perfect.

I tried so hard to be a Perfect Mother.

Which was exhausting.

Cheery notes in lunchboxes, ribbons in hair, matching outfits, plus I never screamed (on the outside).

Then something happened that began to change me.

Our third child Robbie was born with anencephaly.

He lived twenty minutes.

Life and death can rearrange our thinking. Shift priorities.

We had another son two years later.

Slowly but surely, (and definitely while raising teenagers!) I discovered how wrong I was.

It was never my job to be a Perfect Mother.

And something else.

The root of my desire for perfection was control.

I wasn’t in control then.

I’m not in control now.

God is.

He’s my Perfect Father. And my children’s Perfect Father too.

Did you believe any crazy lies about motherhood?

Wishing you a happy and relaxed Mother’s Day.

Love,

Julie

 

Two Unexpected Gifts from Gratitude

When I bought my GRATITUDE JOURNAL  a couple of years ago, I wondered if I’d ever fill it up. Would keeping a journal like this really make a difference?

 

 A few of my entries…

 

# 416. Thomas doesn’t have CELIAC. (My son Thomas and his girlfriend Brittany below.)

 

 

# 585. Katie’s perseverance. (My daughter Katie doesn’t give up.)

 

 

# 787. The way You blend the colors of the sky.

 

 

# 95. Laughing with Jamie. (My daughter Jamie isn’t afraid of anything or anyone!)

 

 

# 136. The sunrise–oh, the sunrise!

 

 

# 400. Laughing with B.J. last night.

 

# 211. Talking to Lynne and Kellie.

 

 

# 345. I’m not afraid! You’re with me wherever I go.

 

 

#1545. Lisa and me … praying for each other.

 

 

#667. Going to Lisa’s cabin today! (Friends Leigh Anne, Dayna, and another Lisa.)

 

 

# 1544. Robin. She understands.

 

# 503. Sweet talks with my sissy (Jennifer) and Mother.

 

 

# 580. DiAnn’s honesty. (She’s just as kind as she is honest.)

 

 

# 1165. Roses from Mother’s yard.

 

 

# 1190. The tiny sound of  Kitty Thelma drinking water.

 

 

# 1466. Still being in love after all these years. (35 in December!)

 

 

# 1331. My blog readers and their precious responses. This means you! Each one of you! I’ve written about you so many times, I started my second journal. 🙂

 

Writing down things I’m grateful for like Ann Voskamp does in ONE THOUSAND GIFTS changed my life in two unexpected ways: 

1. Re-reading my thoughts brought a second wave of gratitude even bigger than the first.

2. Whatever I choose to focus on–good or bad–seems to grow.

If you have a gratitude journal, share some of your entries. I’d love to hear about them.

My friend’s sites:

Robin’s ALL THINGS HEART AND HOME

KELLIE COATES GILBERT

LYNNE GENTRY

DIANN MILLS

LISA BUFFALOE

B.J. TAYLOR

Love,

Julie

The One Sentence I’ll Never Forget

It’s so strange. When you’re a young mama, you think your children will always be little. At least I did. I was positive I’d be putting band-aids on skinned knees, making school lunches, and answering questions forever.

Our children, 21 years ago…Katie’s in front. Jamie’s holding baby Thomas. Our other son Robbie lives in heaven.

A few weeks ago, Katie called on her way home from work. I had some sort of decision weighing on me. I can’t remember what it was or I’d tell you.

(Katie now, age 28.)

This time, I was the one asking tons of questions. By the end of our conversation, I knew what to do. Dilemma solved.

“Wow,” I said. “Thank you. Did you realize you’re an incredible listener?”

“Awww, thanks, Mom.”

“Seriously. You didn’t interrupt me. You didn’t tell me what to do. You had the sweetest tone and you didn’t act bored. It means a lot.”

“Just think,” she said. “You’ve listened to me every single day of my life.”

Her sentence was a lacy pink Valentine to my heart.  A gift I’ll never forget.

She remembered.

Images of my children passed through my mind.  A lifetime of words.

Maybe there’s no greater gift than to listen. 

To really listen.

Love,

Julie (Mom)

Part Two On Aging, Motherhood, and Marriage

Last week, I reposted parts of my friend Robin’s blog. Almost three years ago, Robin asked my mother how she felt about aging. Mother talks about that and a few more things below:

Thoughts on my feelings…

I’ve come to believe that our thoughts create our emotions. We only have eight seconds to refuse a thought. This has taken me a lifetime to even start to learn. I guard my thoughts like a mother lion guards her cubs. I’m allergic to fearful or worrying thoughts. They are not permitted to trespass in my mind. This discipline helps me every day.

Worry is a waste of time. I never thought I’d be free of worry and fear. They were constant companions. Not anymore. I give God praise for all He’s allowed to come into my life that’s allowed me to relinquish those two bothersome tag-alongs. Worry and fear. It’s never too late.

Thoughts on my grown children…

I’ve learned we can’t force a grown child to choose life. I don’t believe this is ever learned quickly or easily. Pain after pain after pain brought my solution.

I can’t do this, I told myself one day. I thought God smiled and said, Of course not, child. You were never supposed to.

Grown children make their own choices. Sometimes all we can do is stop trying to fix them and pray hard.

Thoughts on friends…

I have friends of all ages now. From teenagers to seniors much older than I am. Age isn’t a consideration at this time in my life!

I’ve learned not to say everything I think.

Sometimes I see a need that deserves to be met and there’s no one around but me. I meet it and my joy is explosive. People all around us need compassion (not pity). Some need a little money. Some need to laugh. And some need a Savior.

Thoughts on love…

When my husband of 25 years died of brain cancer in 1983, I knew my life was over. I couldn’t imagine going on. My greatest battle with fear ensued. God won that battle for me. It was moment by moment agony though. I was 46 when Jerry died and after a year or so, I began to talk to God about being a wife again.

I like being the other half of someone. After four years, He brought a Guideposts reader into my life and we fell in love through letters and phone calls.  In a four-month delicious courtship (in which we never met until becoming engaged) my life began over. I was so in love I couldn’t eat or sleep or concentrate. Gene Acuff and I have been married for 25 years this August. Sigh!

Gene made me feel like Cinderella–and still does occasionally! Life is good…welcome every day, every year, with an open heart.

(Here’s Mother story in Guideposts about their marriage.)

It’s Julie again. Lots of good stuff here. Thoughts?

Love,

Julie

 

 

Folding Clothes…Finding Comfort

A recent phone conversation…

“What ‘cha doing?” Mother said.

“Folding clothes. I wish Thomas would pick up his stacks of clean clothes off the steps.”

“I always folded clothes sitting on our steps, remember? I sat there folding clothes in hopes that my four children and husband would pick up the correct pile and carry them upstairs. It seems reasonable, but no one did it–not even when I placed a polite note at the bottom step.”

“Yep, we ignored your note. His clothes keep getting knocked over. Why can’t he just pick them up?”

“When your daddy was dying with a brain tumor, only two things in life made sense. Giving  a signal to turn left or right when I drove and folding clothes. I loved getting an armful warm from the drier. The warmth was a comforting spirit.”

I sensed something sweet was happening.

“On good days, I would pray for each of you as I folded your clothes instead of grumble,” she said. “Sitting on the steps, I could see who was coming home out the living room window. Usually, at dusk. In retrospect, it’s good when people come home, even if you have to carry their clothes upstairs.”

She’s so right.

“Don’t look at his clothes when you walk up and down the steps. It’ll be over soon,” she said softly.

I folded a pair of Thomas’s jeans, slowly, lovingly, as though I’d never seen them. I placed the stacked clothes on the steps. “Lord, overshadow him when his wears these jeans. They’re his favorite ones.”

One day there’ll be no more clothes on the steps. I’ll miss them.

Thomas 18 years ago

 

Thomas high school graduation

“For this boy I prayed….” 1 Sam 1:27 (NAS)

 

Love,
Julie