Three Secrets to Finding the Gift of Peace

If you’re a long-time blog reader, you know that my husband and I sit on our front porch together every morning. We read  Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and a few verses of Scripture. We talk little bit, and then we pray.

Nothing complicated, but oh, so powerful.

One Saturday in February, he had an early meeting, so I porch partied alone. Normally, being on the porch is such a peaceful experience.

But in less than 60 seconds, I broke one of our porch party rules. We aren’t supposed to say anything negative.

I didn’t actually SPEAK any negative words, but I let a few negative thoughts creep in.

A pale gray sky.

No sun this morning. 

Probably going to rain.

Can’t stay out here long.

Better hurry.

I have a ton of work to do. 

I wasn’t dwelling on problems, but I wasn’t porch partying. I wasn’t worshiping. I had a busy day ahead and zipped right past God.

Then Thelma and Ellie joined me.

Thelma hopped up on the banister and twirled a few Easter eggs. She pawed the bird’s nest and chewed on a twig. She knocked out a plastic egg and watched it spin.

Ellie couldn’t wait for her to jump down so they could play.

Then it hit me.

Thelma and Ellie weren’t hurrying to do to the next important thing. 

This was the important thing.

Celebrating the morning together.

Just like when we spend time with God. 

Right then, I started my porch party all over again. 

1. I remembered God’s faithfulness. 

2. I remembered how much He loves me.

3. I thanked Him, and then I thanked Him some more. 

Before I went inside, the most glorious thing happened. The sun came out. 

When I praised God, the Son broke through and peace replaced every speck of gray. (Click to tweet.)

If you have a minute, porch party with me. If you can’t see the video below click here.

Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, Isaiah 26:3. 

Have you discovered that praise brings peace? 

What are you praising Him for today? 

Love,

Julie

What Does it Really Mean to Dance?

Before I opened my eyes Thursday morning, my husband said, “Happy anniversary.”

Five-thirty a.m., and I started laughing. A terrible time to laugh.

It wasn’t the kind of laughter you can stop. 

You know better. 

You tell yourself to behave and act like an adult. But you’ve lost control. 

“Happy anniversary,” I said, when I finally caught my breath.

“What’s so funny?”

“We’ve had a perfect marriage, haven’t we? Thirty-eight years of sheer bliss.”

(Leaving for our honeymoon, 12.9.78)

“Are you drunk?”

“Just think. We’ve never had an argument. No problems with our children. Always plenty of money in the bank. No sickness. No sadness. No family issues.”

“Yeah, right.”

All of the sudden, it wasn’t funny anymore.

We didn’t say anything for a minute. Probably both thinking the same thing.

During our 38 years together, we’d been up close and personal with mental illness, addiction, divorce, arrests, jail, prison, cancer, infertility, anorexia, homelessness…

Maybe you have a similar list.

I started the coffee. Fixed us a cup.

We went outside to the front porchand I thought about my word for 2016, DANCE.

Deep down, I hoped in 2016 I’d be dancing and celebrating certain things. Most of them haven’t happened. Not yet, anyway. 

I leaned back in my rocking chair. Sipped my coffee. “When you get married, you start out with all these wonderful plans–the way you think everything’s supposed to go.”

“Doesn’t work that way. We’re not in control.”

(We’re dancing at our daughter Katie’s first marriage in 2006.)

But something was nagging at me.

I couldn’t figure out how to fit the word DANCE into the puzzle of 2016, and the year was coming to a close.

“Do you think life is like a dance?” I said, thinking maybe I was getting a little closer.

He looked out into the morning, which was just beginning to wake up. “Yep. Life’s hard. Marriage is hard. Raising children is hard. You celebrate when you can.”

Then the magic happened. I connected the dots.

Truth came together in my heart.

I found what I was looking for–a way to tie our messy lives into dancing.

“You know what? Over the years, it’s the slow-dancing you remember,” I said. “The hard times. The times when you don’t know what to do. That’s what bonds people together. It’s not the fun, loud, happy times.”

“You’re right.”

“That’s the secret. That’s what brings us close to God. Hard times. Times when there’s no possible way you can make it without Him.”

He nodded. “Yep. You nailed it.”

When things gets tough, slow dance. Hang on to God with all your might. Lean into Him. Click to tweet. 

Keep your eyes on Him. 

Stay inside the shelter of His embrace. 

He won’t let you go. 

* When you can’t hear the music, remember, God wrote the song. Click to tweet

Three questions:

1. If you chose a word for 2016, how’s it going?

2. Are you slow dancing with God right now?

3. I’m curious. Do you have a list like mine?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

Two Truths–When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

Yesterday morning at our porch party, everything seemed topsy-turvy. A storm had blown through the day before. I’d received weather alert texts, and the dogs and I stayed in the basement for a while. At the same time, parts of Tennessee were being destroyed by wild fires–so many homes and businesses burned to the ground.

So much devastation and loss and chaos.

And this was just our area of the world. 

My husband sat down on the porch, and I started cleaning up the mess from the storm. My little white Christmas tree had blown over. I found a pine cone ornament in the corner behind my rocking chair.

The tiny trees on my grandmother’s table were upside down.

The angel on the table beside the door had flipped over, as if she’d buried her face in the ground.

Poor thing.

She looks hopeless. 

I thought about families waking up after the fire, and prayer requests from some of you and from our friends and family.

But I wasn’t ready to pray. Not yet. I wanted to make sense of everything first.

We sat quietly.

Sipping coffee and rocking.

Me thinking too much, the bad overshadowing the good, at least in my mind. 

This is heavy stuff, Lord. So many needs. So many are hurting. 

Just then Clyde, our Labrador, climbed the front porch steps with a pumpkin in his mouth. I’d thrown it away in the woods beside our house–so far back, I didn’t think he could possibly find it.

That’s just what we need. A pumpkin or our porch in December. 

He plopped it at our feet as though he’d retrieved a duck.

“Thank you, buddy,” my husband said, scratching him behind the ears. “Good boy.”

“Good boy? He brought us a pumpkin.”

“He probably thought we wanted it back.”

Right then, something shifted inside me. Rick had spoken words of praise even though the situation hadn’t called for it. What he said touched a placed in my heart. I remembered a Scripture. 

Be thankful in all circumstances… 1 Thessalonians 5:18

When life doesn’t make sense:

1. We’re supposed to be thankful–in all circumstances. 

And something else.

2. Our emotions are a breath away from each other–so close, they’re almost touching. 

Fear cowers inches from Faith. Discouragement trembles at heels of Hope. Click to tweet. 

Now I was ready to pray.

We thanked God for His faithfulness and for being God. We prayed for the families waking up after the fire. And for you. For friends and family members. For so many who are hurting.

We said “amen,” and I hung the ornament back on the tree.

I stood the angel in place.

But I left the pumpkin under the Christmas tree as a reminder. 

Praising God when things don’t make sense is the right thing to do. Always.  Click to tweet. 

Are there situations in your life right now that don’t make sense? Are you close to giving up hope? Want to share them with our group? We’ll pray.

(To donate to the American Redcross of East Tennesee donate online at Redcross.org where you can specify the local Red Cross.)

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) 🙂

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Forget the Dog Hair and Pray!

Sunday night, I was scheduled to speak to a group of ladies at Connection Pointe Church of God in Austell, GA. It wasn’t time to go yet. I got fidgety. Full of nervous energy.

The afternoon sun fell across the hardwood floor highlighting a pile of dog hair.

I really should vacuum. This looks terrible. 

God spoke to me ever … so … gently.

Forget the dog hair and pray. 

“Yes, of course. You’re right.”

I’d gotten distracted.

“I can’t do this without You. Help me. You’re My Strength…” I prayed all the out way the door.

In the car, I couldn’t find the address on my GPS. I get lost in restaurants.

Moment of panic.

What am I gonna do? What if I can’t get there? What if…

My son was at home. He found the address on his portable GPS. Whew…

“Okay, stay close, Lord. I need You.”

I arrived two hours early, so I drove around town. Got a cup of coffee.

Glancing at my props, I had a moment of doubt.

Look at this mess. You’re not a real speaker. 

I’m with you. Don’t be afraid.

Thank You. You’re right. Okay, what next? Too early to go inside.

Pray.

Yes, yes. Pray. Always. Without ceasing.

I parked across the street at the CVS. Left the car running. Listened to David Crowder sing about, “Hope for the hopeless.”

If you can’t see the video, click here

The song melted me. Drew me in close–again. I raised my hands in the car. Opened my fingers wide.

Thank You. You’re my Helper. Shine Your hope through me.

I’m with you. Always.

The women’s ministry leader invited me to speak because they were having a front porch theme. Someone found my blog about porch parties.

This is what I saw when I walked in. Totally blew me away–

Talk about God and His faithfulness–

My husband and I have a  porch party  every morning–

The church even had crickets chirping in the background. 

Happy, grateful tears. Thank You. This feels like home sweet home!  

Before we got started, I heard beautiful music coming from behind the porch–a song from my childhood.

Listen carefully. It’s really soft.

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

Great is Your faithfulness, Lord.

Mabel sat beside me. She’s in charge of the prayer ministry. Can’t you see His strength all over her?!

These ladies did a hilarious skit.

Then it was my turn.

My heart was pound…pound…pounding.

I’m with You. 

When I stood on that front porch and looked at all the smiling faces, something amazing happened. 

God’s fierce love rose up inside of me and crushed all my fear.  Click to tweet. 

Perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18. NASB Click to tweet

P.S. The next time He asks you to do something scary, don’t stay home vacuuming dog hair!

There’s LIFE on the other side of fear. Click to tweet. 

What scares you?

Have you ever experienced God’s faithfulness on the other side of fear? Please share!

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

How to Stay on Vacation All Year Long

This summer, my husband and I had a stay-cation. We slept late, had long porch parties, and slowed down. I loved stay-cation so much, I didn’t want our simple way of living to end. 

On Friday, we drove to Blue Ridge, Georgia to Mercier Orchards.

I’d brought a stack of books and my journal. “Do you have room for your feet?” Rick said.

“I’m fine.”

Reading was a big part of my stay-cation, and who knows? I might be inspired to write in the car.

Two hours later, we entered Blue Ridge.

“It’s so pretty up here. Wish we could make today last longer.” I decided to jot down every detail so I wouldn’t forget the beauty. I opened my journal. Grabbed a pen.

Instead, an unexpected prayer rose. I began writing. Didn’t stop to edit.

Father,

Thank You for stay-cation.

For being in the car with a man I’ve loved for 40 years!

40 years!

Thank You for plenty of books at my feet. 

I glanced at Rick’s left hand.

His hands–how hard he works–for all the wrenches he’s turned so I can write. 

We stopped at Cheeseburger Bobby’s.

Incredible cheeseburgers, but their fries aren’t gluten-free, and I have Celiac.

Rick ran next door to Chick-fil-A. They have GF fries. 🙂

Thank You for Chick-fil-A fries.

For a husband who’ll get them for me.

Then on to Mercier’s.

When we got there, we sat in the car for a minute, in awe of the mountains and deep valleys.

Thank You for mountains and valleys.

Family problems entered my thoughts.

I paused.

Stopped writing.

A new kind of prayer came.

Thank You for the problems.

For things I can’t change. 

For me having Celiac

Mercier’s is an apple orchard, but they didn’t have many apples.

It was July.

Not October.

Disappointment tried to worm its way in.

Then we spotted summer fruit. 🙂

Thank You for peaches and blackberries and blueberries! 

And fudge.

And kettle corn!

And cider!

 And jelly!

We filled our cart.

And I filled my heart.

Maybe the secret to staying on vacation all year long is to keep saying, “Thank-You, Lord.” For everything.  

Don’t you love vacation relaxation?

What are your va-cay plans?

P.S. Apple pie wasn’t GF, but the fudge was! 🙂

To find out why Rick wears a nine-dollar wedding ring, click here.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comfort, a Clothesline, and a Dog Named Clyde

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m sharing a little secret about my mother. She’s sort of like The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan. She knows what animals are thinking.

Here she is with her husband the day they adopted Thor, their rescue dog.

Last week, I called her to see if she could psychoanalyze Clyde, our Lab. He does the strangest thing when I hang out the sheets.

“Mother, you know how Clyde wants to be with us all the time?”

“Of course. He’s a sweetheart.”

“Yes, but he’s a scaredy-cat. He never wants to be alone. He looks worried after Thomas (our 23-year-old son) leaves every morning.”

“That’s not so strange.”

“That’s not my question. I’m just explaining what kind of dog he is. He stays right beside us during our porch parties.”

(Every morning my husband and I sit on the porch together.)

“He even shares chairs with us.”

“He’s just a good dog, Julie. That’s all.”

“I know he’s good. Here’s what doesn’t make sense. The only time he’s not clingy is when I hang out the sheets. He sits by the clothesline and watches me, and then–”

“That’s not weird.”

“I haven’t gotten to the weird part yet.”

“He doesn’t follow me back in the house. He stays near the sheets.”

“The only time Clyde’s brave is when the sheets are on the line.”

“He even falls asleep out there.”

“So, what is it about the sheets?”

“A dog’s sense of smell is thousands of times stronger than humans. He’s picking the smell of you and home and safety from the sheets.”

“Huh. That makes sense. Okay, so what’s he thinking?”

“He’s thinking, It’s so nice and warm today. And I can smell my people close by, so I know I’m safe. I’m just going to relax a while in the sunshine. Everything’s fine.”

“I bet you’re right.” I paused. “You know, I think God has a message here for us.”

“Me too.” Mother said. “Whenever we’re afraid, we need to stay close to the Comforter.”

As a mother comforts her child, so I’ll comfort you. Isaiah 66:13 MSG

There are a couple of situations in my life that are a tad bit scary. What about you? Let’s cuddle up beside the Comforter.

P.S. Are you like my mother? Do you know what animals are thinking?

Love,

Julie