On Becoming a Grandmother and Priorities

I’ve come to my office so many times to write this post, then stopped myself.

My heart feels like pictures I made in kindergarten–the ones with crayons melted by a hot iron inside wax paper–so many colors swirled together.

Becoming a grandmother has changed me.

It took a while to gather the courage to share my thoughts. I’ve missed you. I’ve prayed for you. You’ve become some of my dearest friends. And what kind of friend am I if I’m not honest with you?

I had the honor of being in the labor room with my daughter, Katie, and her husband for two days while they waited to meet their baby boy.

There’s something sacred about birth. Especially when it’s a grandchild.

I‘ll never forget my desperate prayer at the 3/4 mark of her labor.

3:30 p.m. on July the 11th.

She’s so tiny, Lord, and it looks like nothing’s happening. Would You help her? Surely Mary was small when she gave birth, and You were there in the manger…

Caleb James was born at 5:10 p.m. the same day. No c-section necessary!

He weighed 6.3. 19 1/2 inches long.

I’ll never stop thanking You, Lord. Ten years of prayer. 

When I held my grandson for the first time, Awe and Gratitude came together.

Evidence of God’s faithfulness in my arms.

I wanted to slow dance around the room with him. I may have. I’m not sure. 🙂

Oh, the Power and Wisdom of Your timing. You don’t always say yes. And rarely do You answer according to our plans. But look at this beautiful boy…

Peering into Caleb’s blue-gray eyes, I thought about life.

I’m 58. Pushing 60.

Maybe the 3/4 mark.

The final lap.

Like the turning point in Katie’s labor. 

Caleb’s four weeks old today, and I’m in a new, quiet place.

My priorities are softening and shifting. I’ve never felt this way before.

It’s a Holy Hush.

Social media and platform building (as we writers are encouraged to do) doesn’t seem nearly as urgent. Sharing my opinions doesn’t seem nearly as important. More than anything (even publishing), I want to become someone who loves well.

To love well, I must love God first. 

I wrote Him a long apology letter this morning. 

For years, I put becoming “successful” at the tip-top of my list. 

I chased becoming Somebody instead of chasing Him. 

I’m reading Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot for the second time. I skimmed it years ago. 

As I keep a quiet heart, God’s teaching me how to love others, one person at a time, the same way He loves me.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these. Mark 12:30-31 NIV

P.S. Katie and her family are doing just fine. Rilynn (Katie’s stepdaughter–who holds a huge chunk of my heart) is on Cloud Ten. 🙂 So is Grandpa Rick. If you want to find out more about Katie’s journey with infertility, read this and this.


Thoughts? Comments? Have you ever had the Lord rearrange your priorities?

Love and gratitude,

Grandma Jewels

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Life-Changing Truth from Mrs. Betty’s Tea Parties

I’ve always been drawn to quiet, gentle people–the ones content to serve others without recognition.

In May, I spoke to the ladies of Galilee Christian Church in Jefferson, GA  at their annual tea party and wrote about it here. 

But there’s more to the story. 

Once a month, a small group of ladies from Galilee Christian invite women who are new to their church to a tea party. In May, I received an invitation.

The minute I arrived, I felt loved. They welcomed me. Served me. Treated me like I belonged. 

Their kindness inspired me. My sister and I are having a little tea party for Mother on her 80th birthday in July. 🙂

And the ladies invited my mother and me to their June tea party–

So yesterday we headed up Janice’s walkway.

“You’re gonna love it,” I said.

“I already do. Look at her gorgeous hydrangeas. Reminds me of childhood summers.”

“Just wait.”

“How sweet. Two chairs under the tree,” she said.

“One would’ve looked sorta lonely, wouldn’t it?”

Everyone welcomed us. The tables had been set with TLC.

Our table below…

When we sat down, our plates had been prepared, along with handmade place cards.

Mother couldn’t decide what to taste first.

The centerpiece came from flowers in Janice’s yard.

So much laughter…

They made a gluten-free plate just for me…

And my very own gluten-free chocolate chip scone! 🙂

The food was amazing, but the best part came after we ate.

We read Scripture verses inside our place cards.

Simple.

Powerful.

Then Betty Williams (90) told us how she began having tea parties twenty years ago. She wanted ladies to feel loved and accepted.

When she joined Galilee Christian Church eight years ago, she began a Tea Party Ministry.

Mrs. Betty’s below, on the left. Janice is on the right.

Right before we left, one of my new friends gave me a precious gift–tiny spoons, knives, napkins, and a teacup from her own collection–

To help me with Mother’s birthday tea party.

I came home with a car full of goodies and life-changing Truth.

Nothing–absolutely nothing–outshines kindness when it comes from the heart. Click to tweet

Mother Teresa was right. “Do small things with great love.” Click to tweet

…serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13 NIV Click to tweet

Do you see other Truths from the tea party? 

Does this give you any ideas for new ways to love others? 

Love,

Julie

 

Problems and Praying and Ironing

Last week, a close friend and I had a long talk–the kind where you open your heart and share your soul. We mentioned a few things we’d been praying about for years and decided that certain problems just drag into infinity.

“I remember thinking that by the time I turned 30, I wouldn’t have any more problems,” I said. “Isn’t that crazy?”

“Me too. Definitely by 40.”

“Do you think anyone actually lives that way? Without problems?”

“If so, I don’t want to meet them.”

“Don’t you wish we could take a giant iron and smooth out all the wrinkles in life?”

“Yeah, a wrinkle-free world. That’d be great.”

Later that day, our conversation about a wrinkle-free life gave me a strong desire to iron. My ironing board is upstairs in a spare bedroom.

As I began ironing, I remembered my grandmother’s old wooden ironing board across the hall, in my office.

When my mother was growing up, a teenage girl named Jimmie kept her during the day.

Mother loved Jimmie.

She said Jimmie’s skin was the color of eggplants–so soft and smooth. Jimmie used to let Mother touch her arms while she ironed.

(Jimmie and Mother, May 1938, right after my grandfather died.)

When Mother was six, Jimmy had a baby boy. Being an only child, Mother was thrilled. My grandmother let Jimmie bring him to work. Mother pretended he was her little brother.

The two of them sat under the ironing board while Jimmie ironed.

And every time Jimmie ironed, she sang hymns–deep, rich praise songs from the bottom of her soul. It was a spiritual thing, Mother said.

Jimmie didn’t live a wrinkle-free life. She had problems like the rest of us. 

Almost seventy-five years later, my mother still remembers Jimmie’s faith.  

And then something caught my attention on my grandmother’s ironing board.

A recovery rock.

An Al-Anon friend painted it for me a few years ago.

An unmistakable softness filled me. 

Peace doesn’t mean the absence of problems. Peace means believing God’s in control. No matter what. Click to Tweet. 

“… In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV Click to Tweet. 

Have you ever wondered if other people had problem-free lives?

Is there a Jimmie in your life–someone whose faith helps keep you centered?  

Thoughts on trusting God? 

Love,

Julie

 

The Life-Changing Power of Kindness and a Smile

Last Thursday my 79-year-old mother finally agreed to conquer her iPad fear. She’s had an iPhone for almost two years. An iPad would mean a larger screen. More user-friendly.

But she was eaten up by what-ifs. 

I’ve wrestled with what-ifs a bazillion times. Mother’s always been the one to encourage me.

On the way to Best Buy, we stopped for lunch. I said a quick blessing. “Thank You for our food. Please help us shop.”

And give Mother courage. 

“And Lord,” she added. “Will You please send us a nice salesperson? Someone who’s kind and smiles a lot.”

After I said “amen” she started backpedaling.

“Really, Julie. We don’t have to do this today. I know you’re busy.”

“You’re going to have an iPad. Today.”

“What if I can’t do it? What if I’m not smart enough? What if–”

“Baby steps.” I patted her hand. “Take a deep breath. You can do this.”

Inside Best Buy, a friendly-looking salesman approached us. “Hi. My name is Jeremy. How can I help you?”

I have a brother named Jeremy. Mother and I looked at each other. 

See. It’s gonna be fine. His name is Jeremy. And he’s smiling.

Jeremy helped us choose a gold iPad with a cute little stand. He didn’t act like Mother was a bother. Or stupid. He answered all her questions.

“Well, you ’bout ready?” I said. “Time to check out.”

She looked at me, big-eyed.

“What if I can’t–?”

“What if you can?”

“Mother, you’ve come this far by faith. No turning back.”

Jeremy, bless his sweet heart. 

He acted like it was perfectly normal for customers to talk about fear and faith at the check-out counter. 

He surprised her and downloaded three free apps — Kindle, YouVersion Bible, and AccuWeather.

Aren’t people like Jeremy at Best Buy THE BEST!

On the way home, we stopped by Starbucks for a quick lesson.”Look at you! Sitting in Starbucks with your iPad!”

“I’m faking it. I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“Pretty soon, it’ll make sense.”

Her dark brown eyes met mine. “Okay. I think I can do this.”

She called the next day. “Guess what? I’m listening to Patsy Cline, The Plattersand Jim Reeves. They’re singing whatever songs I ask them to.”

Mother wants you to hear her favorite song, “Only You” by the Platters. Click “The Platters” above if you can’t see the video.

So many people have helped me do scary stuff–including YOU! 🙂 

What have you been afraid of? Was there a kind person like Jeremy who led the way? 

Fear shrinks our worlds. Faith does the opposite. Click to Tweet. 

Speak the words, “I can do this.” Faith soars and fear flees. Click to Tweet

Love,

Julie

The Heart of Christmas

This year, the heart of Christmas tiptoed in unexpectedly. Does that ever happen to you? You’re hurrying through your day, checking things off your list, and something soft and gentle happens. And you remember.

Three weeks ago, my mother called and made an announcement.

“I’m not putting up a tree this year. I hung my red wreath on the front door and tied a bow on the mailbox. And I’m perfectly content.”

She’s said this before and changed her mind.

“Oh, come on. I’ll help you. We can decorate it together. It’ll be fun.”

“That’s real sweet, but no thanks. I remember when my mother stopped putting up a tree. There comes a time when you–”

She kept talking, and I couldn’t decide how I feltMy thoughts scrambled back and forth from the past to the present.

Bittersweet. 

I remembered Mother’s beautiful Christmas tree. Gold decorations and angels. So many angels.

But I could hear it in her voice.

She wasn’t changing her mind. So I probably needed to let it go, too.

A few days later, I ran to Home Depot for a string of lights. A certain tree caught my attention. Tiny. Pre-decorated. A simple tree.

Definitely not my mother’s style but it was portable. Light-weight.

I brought it home with me.

It looked even smaller in my kitchen. 

I’d bought my mother a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

No glitter. No sparkle. No gold.

What was I thinking? How could she possibly like it? 

It’s so…plain. 

No turning back now.

I called her. “Hi. I’m bringing you a little something.”

Please don’t ask what it is. 

When she saw me coming in her back door, she took a deep breath to say something.

Then she paused.

“I know it’s small, but it’s not heavy. You can lift it. We’ll put it on the front porch if you want to. We can hang some of your gold–”

“Oh, Julie.” She touched one of the pine cones. “I absolutely love it. Let’s put it in the den by my chair.”

“Wish you could’ve seen your expression when you came in with it,” she said. “You looked like you were five years old bringing me your hand-print from kindergarten.”

Fifty years flies by in an instant. 

She called me this morning. “My tree grows sweeter every day. I can’t imagine Christmas without it.”

I’m so glad I decided to get it. 

When you’re not sure what to do, you can’t go wrong with kindness. Click to tweet.

Kindness is at the heart of Christmas. Pastor Kevin Myers. Click to tweet.

Is God whispering someone’s name to you?

Has an unexpected act of kindness ever melted your heart?

Love,

Julie

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s Something about a Tenderhearted Man

I guess you’d say my husband Rick is a man’s man. He drives a truck, works with his hands, and has always had big dogs–Labradors–dogs that serve a purpose–never a little frou-frou dog.

Katie, our 31-year-old daughter, went through some life changes this year. She remarried, became a stepmom, and their house is on the market.

A few weeks ago her husband, a police officer, began training a new dog for the K-9 department–a German Shepherd who just so happens to be an alpha dog.

And Katie has an itty bitty Morkie named Ellie. 

(Morkie = Yorkie plus Maltese)

Ellie’s scrappy and determined, and she’s also smart. Every time the new dog came near her, Ellie trembled and hid behind the furniture.

We’ve kept Ellie a few times over the years. Each time Katie picked her up, Rick said, “If Smelly ever needs a new home, I want her. I love those little black eyes”

I thought he was kidding until two weeks ago when Katie made a really hard decision–

To let Ellie come live with us.

For now, she’s ours.

Or rather, she’s Rick’s.

Katie’s house, homecoming day.

“Here. I”ll hold her,” I said on the way home.

“She’s fine. I’ve got her.”

I fell in love all over again. 

Laid-back Clyde said, “Come in, Ellie. Everyone’s welcomed here.”

Ellie found her spot at  porch parties.

According to the Great Dogs website, “Morkies are lapdogs to the core and try to please their owners.”

But Ellie doesn’t have to work to please Rick.

He fell in love the first time he saw her.

Keep your heart open. 

Sometimes love strikes unexpectedly like a summer storm.

A 30-second video. Ellie’s checking out her new home. You’ll hear one of our roosters welcoming her. 🙂

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

Have you ever fallen in love in an instant?

What is it about a tenderhearted man? 

Big dogs or little dogs? 

Love,

Julie (and Rick) 🙂  

I Can’t Possibly Do This!

I was in full-blown panic mode. My husband and I volunteered at our church’s Fourth of July fireworks celebration and were assigned to serve on the parking team.

Me.

On the parking team.

Including cars I’ve hit in my own driveway and the mailbox I took out, I’ve had a total of nine wrecks.

I can’t parallel park and I’m terrible at directions.

When I told my mother and daughters the news, Katie laughed until she cried. Mother said, “Julie. No. It’s too dangerous.” Jamie only said one word. “MOMMMMMMMMMMMM!”

When Rick and I arrived for duty, we were given official Walkie-Talkies, neon-green vests and lanyards, and flashlights.

I’m not doing this. I can’t. I don’t know how.

During our training session, my heart pounded so hard that I couldn’t speak.

After we prayed, I raised my hand.”Um. This is way out of my comfort zone. Please fire me. I’ll do anything else but–”

“We aren’t firing anybody.” The man in charge smiled. “I’ll find just the right spot for you.”

Trapped, I hopped on his golf cart, and we zipped to a driveway blocked by cones.

“All you have to do is keep cars from turning in here.” He gave me his umbrella and a couple of bottled waters. Then my father-in-law brought me a chair.

About an hour later, an elderly gentleman asked for help. He had a bad leg and couldn’t keep walking.

I felt God’s fearless love explode inside me.

I knew exactly what to do.

I gave the man my chair, a bottle of cold water, and radioed for a golf cart. 

Then something even better happened.

During the fireworks, Katie texted me this picture below and these words:

“Our first Fourth of July together.” 

Blinking back happy tears, it hit me.

ONLY when you step out of your comfort zone do you get front row seats.

And God’s standing right there with you.

That’s where the magic happens. 

(Katie’s holding her stepdaughter. For more of their story, click here. )

(blog idea came during this sermon, “Fearless, by Miles Welch. 

Can you relate?

Some of you’ve recently stepped out of your comfort zone. How’s it going?

Are you thinking about doing something a little scary?

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