A Christmas Miracle–Healing of a Childhood Memory

Sometimes it takes years to be healed from a lie you’ve believed about yourself. Especially when it began in childhood. Over time, you convince yourself it’s not important because it happened so long ago.

I’d buried that terrible moment from the third grade until last Thursday night.

A friend from church invited me to her small group Christmas party. All women. About ten or twelve of us. We laughed and talked, the way ladies do. After we ate, she cleared off the kitchen table. “Craft time!”

That’s when I remembered the day the lie–THE FEAR–was planted, 47 years ago.

“Ummm, excuse me. I don’t do arts and crafts.”

“Oh, these are easy,” another friend said. “We’re making snowmen ornaments.”

My heart did double time. Please no! Not arts and crafts! Help! Help! I’m stuck! 

“No thanks. I’ll just watch.”

That day in the third grade, the teacher passed out brown construction paper. We were supposed to rip a camel out of our paper. No scissors or pencils were allowed.

About thirty minutes later, the teacher proudly displayed 26 camels on the bulletin board. She wouldn’t hang up my camel.

None of them. I tried over and over.

They weren’t good enough. And I wasted lots of paper. 

All these years, I’ve been afraid of arts and crafts. 

Inside the kitchen, everyone got busy.

Everyone except me.

My new “art teacher” placed a clear ball in front of me. “You can do this,” she whispered. “I’ll help you.”

My heart boom-boom-boomed in my ears.

I was eight years old again. 

Shaky hands.

Staring at a piece of brown construction paper. 

But my friend was nothing like my third grade teacher. She smiled a lot and helped me. 🙂

First I poured something called Gleams inside my ball.

 

I swirled the paint around until my ornament turned white.

What if mine doesn’t work?

How’s this blob going to magically turn into a snowman?  

My new teacher said to let it dry inside a Styrofoam cup.

“Now, it’s time to glue his stocking cap on and draw a face.”

A glue gun? I don’t do glue guns. Or draw. 

But I’d come this far.

So I did the next part carefully. So… very… carefully, and–

Ya’ll–

I made a Christmas ornament! My first arts and crafts project! 

I fell in love with his precious face–almost like he was my own newborn baby. 

Then someone said something I’ll never forget. 

“Congratulations, Julie! You’re now an official crafter.” 

Me. A crafter! 🙂 Who knew? I’d been one my whole life–I just didn’t know it!

Back at home, I found a special place on the tree for my creation. Looking right at me, he seemed to say,

“Thank you! You brought me to life.”

Sort of like what God did for me. 

A single act of kindness can set someone free. Click to Tweet. 

All sorts of miracles happen when we’re set free! Click to Tweet.  

Have you ever believed a lie about yourself? Maybe that you weren’t good enough? 

Lies can cripple us, but their power over us can be broken! 

P.S. Have you ever discovered you had a hidden talent? Awesome, isn’t it!

Snowman ornament from Pinterest20 Dollar Store Christmas Decor Ideas on Browser.net 

Love,

Julie

 

 

A Thanksgiving Miracle–Inside My Heart and Fridge!

Even though I’m a recovering perfectionist, this past Sunday, everything had to go according to schedule. I’m talking, split-second timing.

Our daughter Katie invited us for Thanksgiving. She married in February. Sunday would be a time of celebration! New marriage. New house. New family.

Early in the week, I posted my list on the fridge.

I even bought a thermal container for my strawberry Jell-o salad–

The yummy kind with a crust made of pretzels.

Sunday Morning Agenda:

1. Go to early church.

2. Son Thomas (24) puts dressing in oven while we’re gone.

3. Hurry home.

4. Pack food.

5. Leave!

Before heading to church, I took the dressing out of the fridge and stuck a note on it for Thomas.

350 x 30 minutes!

When we got home at 11:15, I didn’t smell that wonderful scent of dressing baking in the oven.

A bit of the Old Panic Button Julie rose up.

That terrible uh-oh feeling. 

Wool scarf-tightness around my throat. 

But Thomas’s standing in the kitchen. The oven’s set for 350.

“You put the dressing in at 10:30, right?”

He nodded.

I pulled this out of the oven.

“Thomas, what is it…lasagna? No! It’s the Jell-o salad!”

“It was sitting on the counter with a note on it.”

“You’re right! My fault. Ahhhhh!”

I crammed the Jell-o mess back in the fridge. Kicked the oven up to 400. Threw in the dressing. Made a spinach salad.

“Quick! Pack the cooler!”

The dressing didn’t have time to finish cooking. Mush-mush on one side.

“Hurry! We gotta go!”  

We arrived 25 minutes late. Green bean juice had sloshed all over my new carrier. I opened the cooler.

“Where’s the ice?”

“Ice?” my husband said. “I thought you needed the cooler for storage.” 

“Who takes a cooler for storage?”

Right then, something wild and free broke loose inside of me and I started laughing.

About everything. 

Hysterical laughter! 🙂

Turns out, the pumpkin pie and spinach salad didn’t need ice. We ate around the gooey parts in the dressing.

Back at home that night, I peeked at the Jell-o salad.

Something miraculous happened while we were gone. You’ll never believe it! 

The Jell-o did its thing again. The pretzels bloomed into delicious salty-tasting gummy worms. 🙂  

Life becomes a celebration when you learn to laugh at yourself.  

God helps us fix our mess-ups. 

Sunday reminded me of Surrender, Simple, and Enough.

What are your Thanksgiving plans?

Have you ever tried to make a day go according to schedule and everything fell apart? Did you learn anything? 🙂

P.S. I’ll be glad to share my baked Jell-o dessert recipe. 🙂

Love,

Julie

The Secret Ingredient to Thanksgiving Hospitality

Yesterday something sweet and tender happened. My daughter Katie texted me a picture of her four-year-old stepdaughter Rilynn. When I saw the picture, I finally figured out the secret ingredient to Thanksgiving hospitality.

It’s so simple. For years, I’d made it complicated. 

Rilynn’s holding a tea party for her dolls on the bathroom floor.

“Oh, Katie–this picture…”

“I know. Don’t you love it?”

I enlarged the photo.

“I bet she’s talking to each one of her little friends,” I said.

“She is.”

“And serving something yummy like apple pie.”

Katie laughed. “Actually, they’re having Cap’n Crunch with Crunch Berries. She put a Crunch Berry in everybody’s dish. And added water.”

We hung up, but I couldn’t forget the picture.

For years, I thought having people over for Thanksgiving meant you had to create a perfect meal and a perfect centerpiece. 

One year, I went nuts over a wrinkled tablecloth! Can you imagine? Never mind the people sitting around my table. So silly! I blogged about it here.

The secret ingredient to Thanksgiving hospitality has nothing to do with being perfect. Just the opposite. 

And Rilynn’s already figured it out.

The secret to Thanksgiving hospitality is this–

Forget about yourself, serve others, and care more about people than place mats.

There. That’s it. It’s that simple.

And something else–

Last night, I thanked God for you. For your comments. Your prayers. You’ve welcomed me into your home and your hearts. In my imagination, you came to my house–each one of you, and I made my favorite dessert from childhood.

A cherry cheesecake pie.

(Here’s the recipe from Eaglebrand.com. I used a gluten-free crust so it’s GF.)

Oh, how I wish we could share a Thanksgiving meal together!

“…Serve one another humbly with love.” Galatians 5:13 NIV 

Have you ever been welcomed into someone’s home the way Rilynn served her friends? What was it like?

Have you ever struggled with trying to be perfect? Now we know better!

Love,

Julie

 

 

Panic City–How Do You Rescue a Trapped Bluebird?

When this happened last fall, I thought it was weird. When it happened again last week, I wondered if there was a message in it for me. Maybe for all of us.

We live in a log cabin and have a wood burning stove.

This pipe runs from the stove to the ceiling. It’s twenty-three feet tall.

The other day, I heard a banging noise inside the pipe.

Seconds later, a beautiful bluebird sat in a pile of ashes blinking at me.

Won’t you please help me? I’ve gotten myself into a terrible mess! 

I opened the glass door, but couldn’t catch her. She was covered in ashes.

I know, sweet girl. I know how you feel. I’ve been trapped before–in fear, worry, control, perfectionism. 

I called my husband. “Help! There’s another bluebird stuck in the wood burning stove. I can’t get her!”

“Sit tight. She’ll be okay ’til I get home.”

My husband Rick’s a bird-man. He raises chickens in our backyard.

Once, he rescued a hummingbird. He gave the miniature bird sugar-water and set it free.

Rick has an outdoor atrium full of parakeets.

In the winter, he covers their home in plastic and turns on a heat lamp.

He loves birds.

He understands them.

He’s not afraid to hold them when they’re sick.

A couple of hours later, he came home and knelt by the stove. The bluebird looked up at him.

Thank you! You came! I’m still alive! You didn’t forget about me!

“It’s okay, girl.” With confidence and compassion, Rick reached inside her dusty prison. “I’ve got you now.”

Gently, he rinsed her off in the sink, patted her dry, and set her free.

Whatever you’re struggling with today remember, “He holds you in the palm of His hand.” Isaiah 41:13

And something else–

“He will give you beauty for ashes.” Isaiah 61:3.  

Have you ever felt like a trapped bird with no way out? What held you captive?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Lessons from an Artist–Part Two

“Real creativity means listening to your heart,” my friend Yvette said. (I began sharing her story last week here.)

“Tell me more.” We entered her kitchen.

“This rug, for instance. I found it at a flea market. It was six dollars.”

“Did you know for sure it would match?”

“I didn’t care if it matched. I loved it.”

Oh.

“Creativity isn’t about matching or being perfect.”

Incredible! Yvette’s teaching me the same things God’s been showing me. 

“This was my grandfather’s pipe. And my grandmother’s snuff.” 🙂

We laughed.

“I love it! You keep your grandmother’s snuff on the kitchen counter. You’re breaking so many rules.”

“That’s what art’s all about. Being free. Being yourself.”

Maybe that’s what good writing’s about, too.

“How long have you known this secret?”

“It started when I was a little girl. I discovered treasures under my grandmother’s house–all sorts of bottles and tiny trinkets. I decorate with them because I loved my grandmother.” 

Wow! Sounds so SIMPLE–my word for the year. 

“Oh, look. Christmas candles and it’s not even December!”

Which takes a lot courage. To be different. Christmas candles in September.

We walked into her den.

“When I was nine,” she said, “I found my uncle’s miniature bronze horse–small enough to fit inside my palm. Love at first sight. I took it home with me.  A few years ago, I felt a nudge to give the horse to my cousin. It should’ve been hers all along. I didn’t want to, but I knew I was supposed to. Does that make sense?”

I nodded.

“A few days after I gave it to her, I found this horse at a flea market. Can you believe it?”

“Julie, it’s an exact replica of the horse I gave away. Only a lot bigger.”

“It’s a miracle.”

“I know. In all my  years of flea-marketing, I’ve never seen another horse like the one I gave away. Except for this one.”

Yvette had just given me another love lesson:

If God asks you to give something away, obey Him. Quickly. Blessings follow obedience. 

Has God ever asked you to give away something you dearly loved? 

Have you discovered art and decorating have nothing to do with being perfect? 

You can find Yvette here:

The Charm House  on Facebook.

The Charm House on Pinterest.

The Charm House in Instagram.

The Charm House website.

The Charm House on Twitter.

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


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Regular Old Southern Self

“Oh, Julie,” my mother said in a somber tone. “New Englanders are a bit different than we are.”

I’d called to tell her I’d be leading a women’s Surrender Retreat at New Colony Baptist Church in Billerica, Massachusetts.

“What do you mean different?”

An incredibly long paused formed.

“People in the New England area are … ”

“Are what, Mother?”

“Well, they don’t eat grits or drink sweet tea, and they never say, ‘I’m fixin to’.”

Uh-oh. What have I gotten myself into?

How can I stop being so Southern and be more polished? More New England-ish?

I tried to stop saying “I’m fixin’ to.”

But I couldn’t.

I thought about giving up sweet tea.

But I didn’t.

Instead I made a scary decision.

To go to Massachusetts and be my regular old Southern self. 

To share my heart with the ladies.

The real me.

Weeks later standing at the podium, I told them what my mother had said. 🙂

They just about died laughing.

So did I. 

I began teaching, as I sometimes do, wearing curlers and a bathrobe. 🙂

I used my Barbie dolls like always.

I even brought out my chain to share how fear and perfectionism had bound me for most of my life.

Some of my new friends …

At the end of the retreat, I carried balloons of SURRENDER to the middle of the parking lot.

I’m laughing because the wind is blowing so hard.

So beyond my control.

So much bigger than me.

So … God.

When we released them–

Up, up they floated–

And landed in a tree.

But one lone yellow balloon broke free. When she did, Truth rose in my heart. 

People are just people. We all laugh and cry and struggle.

Best of all, God is still God. 

And I get to be me.

 So much love,

Julie

Do you ever struggling with being yourself?

P.S. Thank you for praying for us!

 

Four Crazy Lies I Believed

I was well into my thirties when my best friend, who’d worked for a dentist, informed me that, yes, you’re supposed to brush the backs of your teeth, not just the fronts. As a goody two-shoes, rule-following nerd, I was HORRIFIED! My whole life, I thought you only had to brush the parts that showed.

Lie number two.

I discovered this truth at sixteen while learning to drive.

What a nightmare.

1976. Mother and I were in our ’66 Chevy Impala, “The Blue Goose,” with me hunched over the steering wheel like an old woman. Clamped on in the ten and two position exactly like the manual instructed, sweaty palms, my heart about to beat out of my chest, I tried so hard to keep the car the middle of the road.

“Julie, what in the world are you doing?” Mother said. “You’re staring at the nose of the car.”

“I’m keeping it inside the white lines.”

“No, no, no. Don’t look at the car. Look way off down the road.”

Who knew?

Lie number three.

I thought if I could somehow become a perfect mother, I’d raise perfect children. 🙂 Ha! Double ha-ha on that one!

Number four.

I believed the more committees I served on, the busier I stayed (never mind my heart or my motives), the more God would love me.

I thought His love was based on something I did or didn’t do. Have you ever heard of such nonsense?

Now in my fifties, I brush the backs of my teeth, keep my eyes on the road, and I’m learning to relax in His unfailing love and grace.

Sometimes we have to admit we’ve been mistaken in order to grow.

What crazy lies have you believed?

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

 

Have You Ever Hated Your Can Opener?

Hint: This post is about more than a broken can opener so hang  in here with me.

The other day I turned the twirl-y thing on my can opener around a can of green beans 42,000 times, but nothing happened.

So I bought a new can opener. Real modern-looking. I figured it would last longer. That afternoon, I tried to open the green beans again. I held the can opener every possible way, but I couldn’t get the stupid thing to work.

Wouldn’t even poke a hole in the can.

When my husband came home from work, I handed him the can opener. He’s a mechanical genius.

It took him about thirty minutes to open the green beans. “Yeah, it works. You just have to hold the can opener at a forty-five degree angle.”

“That’s crazy. I should just use my teeth.”

I’d already tossed the receipt. I was stuck with it.

Every time I saw the new can opener peeking at me from the drawer it annoyed me.

You’re not getting the best of me, Mr. Can Opener! I’ll show you who’s boss!

For the next few days, I cooked without any canned goods.

Then God slipped a truth into my heart. He’s so good at that. Especially when I’m being ridiculous.

Sometimes you do this with people. You shut them out and hold onto bitterness.

True.

That takes a lot of energy.

True.

I’d been pouting with people and can openers.

The next day, I picked out another can opener. The new one has a simple design, but it works beautifully.

I celebrated by making a big pot chili with lots of canned tomatoes.

I’m tossing the other can opener–along with my bad attitude.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice…” Eph 4:31 ESV

Love,

Julie