Keeping a Quiet Heart

After my confession blog two weeks ago about putting my novel at the foot of the cross, God’s been remaking me. It’s moment-by-moment as if He’s forming me at the Potter’s wheel.

I’m talking less and listening more.

He whispers without words through friends and family, and even through simple, everyday happenings.

First, it was the eggs.

Almost every day, my husband puts fresh eggs on the kitchen counter. He doesn’t say anything. He spreads them out on a paper towel beside the sink. These eggs look like where they’ve been. They’re dirty. They’re covered in chicken poop and laying feed.

They’re also fragile and delicate–and on their way to being beautiful. But it takes a quiet heart to discover their beauty. 

Over the past few years, I’ve broken plenty of eggs by getting frustrated and impatient. By having a bad attitude.

Why doesn’t he clean them himself?  He doesn’t even ask if I mind. He just plops them on the counter and walks off.

See what I mean? Ungrateful. Missing the miracle of the moment.

Sort of like two weeks ago.

I felt like God had plopped an impossible assignment on my desk.

I thought He’d called me to write novels. But then He asked me to put all my hard work at the foot of the cross and get to know Him better. But how? I had work to do! 

I felt stranded in the middle of nowhere–with a big mess to clean up. 

Or so it seemed. 

But His ways aren’t mine. Neither is His timing or His plans. 

He let me “break a lot of eggs” before I got desperate enough to say,

“Help me. I need You. I can’t make it a day without You.” 

So, standing at the kitchen sink, I kept my heart still and quiet and carefully washed the dirty egg. Then I dried it and marked it with the day’s date–just like God is doing with me. 

Before I closed the lid, I said a quick prayer. Nothing fancy. Just honest and grateful.

A complete dozen. Thank You, Lord. You provide. 

One tiny prayer.

One giant shift in attitude.

This new path I’m walking isn’t a race. I have no idea where He’s leading me. I’m not in control, and I don’t have all the answers. 

But I can promise you this–

A new life begins with brokenness and rises from a quiet heart. Click to tweet. 

P.S. The eggs were my first lesson in keeping a quiet heart. I’m jotting everything down so I won’t forget to tell you!

Have you kept a quiet heart today?

Are you being broken? Be encouraged. God’s at work.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 


 

Death of a Vision–Birth of a New One

This past Monday, I shared my secret with a close friend. 

Ten years ago, I had a vision to become a novelist. My motives were pure. I wanted to write stories that were beautiful and real and full of hope. But something happened along the way. My motives got all tangled up.

What started out good became an idol.

I wanted to impress people. Write a bestseller. Be Somebody.

And I believed a lie. I thought I had to earn God’s love. 

After writing four and a half novels (with multiple rewrites–probably a million words), I’d lost my joy. I dreaded climbing the 13 steps to my office.

“It feels like I’m climbing an endless ladder to Nowhere,” I told my friend. “But there’s no way out. I have to make this work.”

She gave me a verse of Scripture I’d memorized as a child but never understood.

Take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29. 

Rest? I had work to do.

“Julie, what if you wait on God and see where He leads?”

Wait? I had to hurry up and finish. I couldn’t risk being a failure. 

The next morning, I wrote pages and pages in my prayer journal. Gut-level honest prayers. Another Scripture found me.

“Do you wish great things for yourself? Do not seek them…” Jeremiah 45:5

“Yes, Lord, Yes, yes. Please forgive me. I’ve wished great things for myself.”

Defeated, I climbed the mile-high stairs one more time. 

I didn’t want to touch my desk or my chair, so I knelt in the floor of my office and turned on some praise music. For a long time, I just breathed.

If His love was based on my performance, I’d blown it.

Then the most amazing thing happened. 

While I was kneeling, God showed up. 

He didn’t turn away in disgust. He performed heart surgery and cleaned out all the darkness and lies. When He finished, it seemed He suggested the unthinkable.

Are you willing to let go of your novel? 

I hesitated. One…two…three…four…five long seconds. 

Do you trust me? 

Yes, but how could You ask me to do this? 

There was a long silence.

How could I tell Him no? He’d forgiven me of so much. 

With trembling fingers, I removed all my notes and pictures from my whiteboard–everything I’d thought would make me Somebody.

I put them at the foot of the cross–the one my husband made 40 years ago.

Lord, it’s yours. I’m yours. If You want to resurrect my dream, You can. If not, I trust You. 

I stared at my spotless whiteboard.

A new vision rose up.

My heart felt full and still. Peaceful.

What if I start small? If You’ll show me one person each day to encourage, I’ll do it. 

I didn’t have to wait long. The first encounter happened the next day–the lady behind the deli counter.

I thought my word for 2016–DANCE — meant I’d finally be Somebody. But dancing means living in rhythm with Jesus. 

I don’t know where God’s leading, but wherever it is, I’m following. Click to tweet

Are you experiencing the death of dream? There’s Life on the other side. Click to tweet. 

P.S.  Lauren Daigle helped me let go. If you can’t see the video below, click here

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

If you need a little more Grace, there’s plenty to go around. Here’s one from Unspoken. If you can’t see below, click here.

If you have a prayer request, feel free to share it in the comments. My blog-friends pray for each other.

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) 🙂

 

 

 

 

A Secret Source of Creativity

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

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

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

To a place where inspiration bloomed.  

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

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

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

“Meet Tassels,” she said.

“How did Tassels get her name?”

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

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

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

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

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

So much life and love here~

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

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

Oh, and I love this–

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

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

I looked around the room and thought,

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

But something occurred to me–

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

One more thing–

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

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

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

I’d never considered the significance of myrrh. 

Everything came together for me in that moment.

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

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

Are you inspired by the creativity of others?

Do you have a Creative Space? 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

The Dancing Queen Has an Aha Moment

Have you ever found the answer to a problem in a bizarre way? That happened to me this weekend. Saturday morning, I was stumped.

My problem just so happened to be about writing, but it could’ve been about anything.

Thinking too hard and drinking way too much coffee, I sat in my office staring at dozens of sticky notes. I couldn’t figure out how to fix the plot in my novel.

By 10 a.m., my brain already felt like this.

A knotted-up mess. 

Ever so gently, my word for 2016 came to me.

DANCE. Why don’t you dance?

Now? 

I can’t dance. 

I have to fix this problem.

Take a break. Dance. Let it go. 

I can’t. 

Work comes before play.

Always.

Those are the rules. 

Then four words came to me. Four one-syllable words.

Do you trust Me? 

Yes, of course but…

Then dance–the gentle thought brushed against my heart.

Don’t laugh, y’all, but I did.

I got out my chair, twirled around in my office (no one was home but me), and I boogied my way downstairs–

Like I was the room monitor, slacking off on my duty.

Then I did something really wild and crazy. I hopped into the car. Drove to the YMCA.

For 30 minutes, I played solitaire on the treadmill as though I had absolutely nothing better to do. 

I acted like a kid during recess and danced–mentally and physically. 

Guess what?

The best thing happened–

When I forgot about my problem, the answer came. I knew what to do! How crazy is that?

Back at home, I moved a few sticky notes around on my whiteboard and fixed my plotting issue. 

Sometimes trusting God means we let go, take a break, and dance. Click to Tweet

Is this an aha moment for you too? Or have you always known about the dancing secret? I bet you have! 🙂

P.S. If you have a minute, watch this video from 1978. “Dancing Queen” used to be my fave song back in the day.

If you can’t see the video, click here. It’s impossible to watch it without dancing!

Love,

Julie–the Dancing Queen 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shy Girl Makes Friends and Learns Five Lessons

I’m an introvert who can fake being an extrovert. When I make a new friend and we click, I always learn something–you know the kind of friendship I’m talking about–

You both love coffee. You laugh at the same bizarre things. You can be together and not talk and it’s perfectly fine. 

Before the Ridgecrest Novelists Retreat last week, I wondered if the magic would happen.

Would I make new friends and reconnect with old ones? Would one of them teach me a life lesson? 

As soon as I arrived, I spotted my friend Vonda SkeltonShe’s an amazing writer, speaker, and teacher. It’s impossible to be with her and not laugh because Vonda laughs at herself. 🙂

Lesson Number 1 came quickly from Vonda:

1. Life’s more fun when you can finally learn to laugh at yourself. 

Later that day, I sat down in a class about social media and novel-writing.

Can I do this? Can I actually learn to speak new languages in social media?

Edie Melson and DiAnn Mills co-taught the class, The Author RoadmapEdie covered the social media aspect and DiAnn covered novel-writing.

Right away Edie smiled. 🙂 I smiled back.

And relaxed.

Maybe I can do this. Edie smiled at me. She thinks I can. 

Lesson number 2 from Edie:

2. For me, smiling and having a positive attitude became the first step to learning. 

Next I met Torry Martin.

Oh. Wow. Torry’s a speaker, writer, comedian, and actor. He’s also free-spirited and hilarious. Give the man a sentence and he can write an entire screenplay–in just a few hours!

Lesson number 3 from Torry.

3. Don’t doubt yourself. Be fearlessly creative. 

I met Bea Fishback, another writer, speaker, teacher. We introduced ourselves and discovered we both love coffee. 🙂 On the way to Starbucks, we laughed because we couldn’t find my car in the parking lot.

Kindred spirits.

I told her how much I loved her scarf. A few minutes later, in the conference room, she handed me a neatly folded, bright orange square.

Her scarf.

Spontaneous giving always undoes me. It’s how Jesus gives.

Lesson number 4 from Bea:

4. Give joyfully and unexpectedly.

And DiAnn.

DiAnn and I’ve been friends since the day she approached me at a writers’ conference in 2006 and said, “You look shy. Do you need a friend?”

Lesson number 5 from DiAnn.

5. Keep an open heart for new friends. They’re everywhere! 

Driving home, surrounded by the changing leaves, the scarf around my neck felt almost like an encouraging hand on my shoulder.

Thank You, Lord. The magic happened all over again. A shy girl made friends.

Does this stir your thoughts? Have you made a new friend lately? What about when Bea gave me her scarf? Whew…

Has God ever surprised you with an unexpected friend?

Love,

Julie

Our Creative Best–What if?

When our son Thomas was fifteen, he stopped showing me things that impressed him. He’s twenty-three now, and a couple of years ago, he said, “Mom, come here. You gotta see this.”

I hightailed it up the steps.

He was in my office watching a video. “This guy’s incredible. Look.”

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

Bending over Thomas’s shoulder, I studied the guitarist. He was young. Amazing. Played from his heart.

I remembered Thomas and his first guitar.

Tiny tears came.

Happy tears.

Around the time we watched the video, Thomas started playing the guitar again.

Wonder why when I see someone doing his or her creative best, it lights a fire in me?

My husband Rick’s passion is cars. The other night, he was watching TV. I was reading.

“Wow,” Rick said. “Look at this.”

(If you can’t see the video below, click here. It’s less than a minute long.)

Watching Chip Foose draw, I spotted the fascinating tools in his office. Markers, brushes, pencils.

Did he draw as a child? 

I thought about my own office, my clothesline full of characters. Sometimes I talk to them.

I ask about their lives. What brings them hope? What inspires them?

And I absolutely love notebooks and colored pens. If I don’t have any paper, a chewing gum wrapper will do.

My attraction to words started when I was young.

I’m eight, reading a Redbook magazine.

I’ve been thinking.

Surely God inspired passion in each of us when we were children.

Maybe it was to knit.

Grow gardens.

Organize stacks of chaos.

Do math problems with ease.

Bake cakes.

Perform science experiments.

Be kind to outsiders.

Sometimes the joys of childhood get buried. We forget what we once loved. 

What if He’s calling us to play from our hearts again?

 “…take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” Galatians 6:5 The MSG

Love,

Julie

Pret-ty, Pret-ty, Pret-ty–A Love Song From My Father

What happened this weekend must’ve been a preview to Heaven. I visited my dear friend and best-selling author DiAnn Mills in Houston, TX.

Before we worshipped together at her church …

We sat in this cozy corner near her pool and had a porch party.

Everywhere I looked I saw beauty.

Maybe God has a special message somewhere out here for me today.

“Ohhh, look at my coffee cup,” I said, thinking surely this was it.

She smiled. “That’s why we write.”

Nice words, but the quote wasn’t what I needed.

“Your flowers are gorgeous. Are you the gardener?”

“Yes. When I need inspiration, I get on my knees in the dirt. I plot and plant and pray. And pray some more.” A cool breeze blew. “Smell that sweet scent?” she said. “That’s alyssum.” (Her white flowers.)

The aroma was so lovely, for a few moments, we didn’t say anything.

We sat still and quiet, worshipping.

And then we heard the first bird of the morning.

“Did I ever tell you what my daddy said when I was a little girl?” She sipped her coffee.  “We were outside–just the two of us. He whispered, ‘Listen. Do you hear that bird? She’s saying, ‘pret-ty, pret-ty, pret-ty. She’s singing to you, DiAnn.”

I swallowed the knot in my throat.

“I didn’t think I was pretty,” she said. “But my father did.”

What a gift her daddy gave her.

The next thought came before I could stop it.

My father never told me I was pretty.

What a silly thing to remember. I’m a grown woman.

In an instant, a wooden cross caught my attention–at the center of the wind chimes.

Keeping my eyes on the cross, an unexpected healing prayer rose.

Thank You, Lord.

When earthly fathers (and others) fall short, You will … “rejoice over me with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

I’m praying this Scripture for you, my friends.

Love,

Julie

 

Perils of People Watching

The other night, my hobby of people watching brought out the ugly in me. Maybe because I’m a writer with a big imagination, I like to spy and figure out what might be going on in other people’s lives. I study mannerisms, reactions, and outfits. I’ll think things like…

He’s watching football and not listening to a word she’s saying. Now she’s texting. She looks mad. He’s gnawing on hot wings. Maybe she wants a baby and he doesn’t.

Restaurants and malls are great for people watching.

Crowded

 

So last week, my husband and I went out for pizza. (Incredible gluten-free pizza from Your Pie.)

I spotted a group of college-age girls. Boots tucked in designer jeans. Long sweaters down to their hips. I tried to create a storyline but they were chitty-chatting way too loud about nothing.

Wish I could say I came up with sweet scenarios.

But I didn’t.

In my heart, I moved past observing.

I judged them.

It happened so quickly. Less than 30 seconds. Mean thoughts…

You’re not all that funny. Do you have to be so loud? You’re just trying to get attention.

And then guess what…

Their pizza came and the girl with shimmery blonde hair said the blessing. It wasn’t a hurry-up-let’s-eat kind of blessing.

She prayed passionately. Honestly. Not for show. 

They even shut their eyes.

I wanted to crawl under the table. Ahhhhhhhh! They’re talking to You, Lord. Like I should’ve been doing instead of judging. Forgive me.

I was wrong. Way wrong.

After she prayed, she looked right at me and smiled.

I smiled back. From my heart. I’m so sorry.

I’m adding “people praying” to my “people watching” hobby.

Have you ever done what I did? Pleeeease, someone say yes…

Love,

Julie

 *above photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/davefayram/6485360921/

 

 

 

Free to Be Me…Finally!

I’ve wasted way too much time trying to be like everybody else. Even with writing. For a while, I tried to copy my techno-gifted friends and use a computer spreadsheet program.

I couldn’t do it.

Before teaching at a conference one time, I rigged a fancy-dancy PowerPoint presentation hoping to impress people.

I didn’t use it. I was afraid of it.

Little did I know, but novelist Julie L. Cannon had quite a life lesson in store for me this past Saturday.

Mother and I attended Julie’s class at the EMAC writers’ conference. We adored her latest novel, Twang, and couldn’t wait to meet her.

Who could refuse reading the story behind a cover like this? It’s about a wanna-be roaming the streets of Nashville whose dream comes true, but the price tag is hefty.

Mother and I’ve had fun quoting our favorite sentences from Twang. (Abingdon Press, 2012)

“That poor child’s words got all clotted in her throat like spoiled buttermilk.” pg 222

“I knew as the words leapt out of my mouth, they WAS a tad on the mean side.” pg 130

“I played with the sweetener packets while her words rattled in my head like marbles in a cigar box.” pg 182

“You’ve got to make peace with your past so it won’t screw up your present.” pg 264

Julie Cannon’s secret to success isn’t at all what I expected.

You won’t believe her method! She begins by writing scenes in notebooks. By hand Don’t you love that?

And her notebooks aren’t all neat and tidy-looking. Made my day!

Best of all, wonderful Julie Cannon used the quote below written in Magic Marker on a wobbly poster board.

I’m a little pencil in the hand of God, who is sending a love letter to the world.” Mother Teresa

No PowerPoint presentation. Just Julie Cannon holding her poster.

Being her real self. Which was a gracious plenty.

To find out how Jennifer Clodfelter who stars in Twang finally becomes real, you’ll have to read the book. 🙂

I’m not wasting another second trying to be someone I’m not. I’m going to be exactly who God created me to be.

Maybe that’s the only way to become a pencil in His Hands.

For more scoop on Twang and Julie Cannon’s other novels, visit her website book section.

Love,

The other Julie  🙂