Thank You, Lord, for Celery

The morning after Hurricane Irma hit, I was in the kitchen praying/thinking–talking to myself and to God. With rain still pounding on the tin roof, I wanted to do one thing.

I wanted to cook. 

It’s what I do when I’m feeling unsettled.

I cook.

I decided to make homemade chicken noodle soup, but the lights flickered.  

Any minute now, we’re going to lose power.

Making soup will be a waste of time.

Even if I did, I don’t have any celery.

Can’t make chicken noodle soup without celery.

And the driveway’s probably too bad for me to go to the grocery store.

We live in the woods–at the end of a long, gravel driveway that gets messy when it rains. Sometimes trees fall across our driveway during a storm. My husband made it to work, but I didn’t want to risk leaving home for celery.

I peeked out the window.

So many fallen trees.

Such a powerful storm.

So much destruction.

So many have lost everything.

And it’s not over yet. 

Just like our arbor in the backyard, people’s worlds have been turned upside down.

I walked to the front porch. In preparation for Irma, I’d stripped it bare.

As I studied our bleak-looking porch, a whiff of a thought blew through.

Maybe I do have celery.

I know I don’t. 

Just check.

Why? The power’s going out. 

Look for celery.

Feeling foolish, I opened the ‘fridge.

Buried under a bag of potatoes, I found half a bag. Just enough for soup.

You’d think it would be a small thing–

Finding a few stalks of wilted celery–

But to me, it HUGE.

The same Soft Voice pressed on my heart.

Thank Me for the celery.

Oh, yes, Lord. Yes! Thank You for the celery. 

I had a feeling He wanted me to go deeper.

Doesn’t He always? 🙂

After I finished making soup, the power went out. With the wind whirling around our log cabin, I lit a candle and finally got still and quiet enough to listen.

Sometimes you forget to praise Me.

You’re right. I’m sorry, Lord. 

Praise Me for everything. For celery and for storms.

For storms?

I hesitated. Couldn’t pray. Then I remembered five words I’d memorized in childhood.

Give thanks in all circumstances… 1 Thessalonians 5:18

“All means everything, doesn’t it?” I whispered. “Thank You. For celery and storms. You created them both to draw me closer to You.”

The words tasted soft and sweet and right.

Then I tasted the chicken soup.

The soup I almost didn’t make.

It was so very, very good.

Each time we praise God, we get a tiny taste of how much He loves us. (click to tweet)

What are you praising Him for today? Storms? Celery? Or both?

Did Hurricane Harvey or Irma come your way? 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worshipping at Walmart

Glancing at my last-minute Christmas brunch grocery list, I hurry across the wet Walmart parking lot. It’s damp and cold. I wish I’d worn my coat. Making my way through the crowd of grim-faced shoppers, my thoughts scatter like marbles. I check my list again.

* Find red tablecloth

* Eggs, orange juice, chocolate milk, bacon

*Send Katie mini-cheese blintz recipe 

Taking a short-cut through pajamas aisle, I hear Christmas music.

Is it piped in through the speakers?

People move toward the center of the store as though following The Star of David.

I forget my list and follow them.

Workers stop to listen.

This music.

This beautiful music. 

It’s a little rough, but in a good way. It’s raw.

Full of passion.

And powerful.

So very powerful. 

A form of praise that can’t be contained.

Warmth spreads through me as I pass a small nativity.

Spotting the giant circle of carolers, I’m filled with unspeakable peace.

This kind of worship isn’t planned.

It’s spontaneous combustion.

Not of this world.

So much bigger than me. 

Some drop to their knees.

Wipe their eyes.

A few raise their hands.

I remember yesterday when I heard, “Christmas Cannon,” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This same wonder and awe came over me.

(Click here if you can’t see the video.)

And now, 

Miraculously,

In the middle of a busy Walmart on Saturday before Christmas,

We sound every bit as beautiful as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Glory and honor and praise fill an ordinary building as a ragtag collection of us sing our hearts out.

(Click here if you can’t see the video.)

Unhindered,

Unrehearsed,

We worship Christ the newborn King.

 Have you had one of these moments this Christmas when God’s Gift fills your heart? Please share it with our group! 

Love,

Julie

Robin’s Early Christmas Gift

I’m just now acknowledging a touch of sadness leftover from childhood. After all these years, Mother and I finally talked about it.

“When I was little, you didn’t enjoy Christmas very much, did you?” I said, hesitantly.

“No, I dreaded it–the cleaning and cooking and pine needles everywhere. I’m so sorry. If I had it to do all over again–”

“No, no. No need to apologize. You did all the right things. We had presents and a tree. It’s just…you didn’t smile much. Maybe you were depressed or had autoimmune illnesses back then.” (She has three.)

“I can still see my grim face. It breaks my heart. I wanted to smile, but I was just so tired.”

With this conversation circling my thoughts last week, my friend Robin called on Halloween. We love books, antiques, and we feel things deeply.

But there’s something very different about us.

Robin celebrates holidays with her whole heart. 

It’s always fascinated me.

When we were young mothers, she sewed pilgrim outfits for her four children. Everybody made crafts.

I don’t sew or even own a glue stick. And that weird Christmas emotion (guilt? sadness?) creeps in every so often.

Robin and I chatted about everything from hair color to motherhood, and the conversation shifted.

“Jewels, guess what I did yesterday?”

“No telling.”

“I watched my favorite Christmas movies.”

“You watched Christmas movies before Halloween?”

That secret place in my heart clamored for attention.

“I had the best time!” she said. “On November first, I always start planning Christmas.”

What if it’s really okay to love Christmas? 

Something clicked into place like a key unlocking a door.

Robin has the gift of anticipation.

And it’s okay to anticipate Christmas!

Was it too late for me? Could I change?

After we hung up, I made our first fire of the season.

Mother called. “What’re you doing?” she said.

“Looking forward to Christmas.” I told her about Robin’s plans.

“Bless her little Christmas heart. And yours too. I love Robin.”

“I’m washing Christmas mugs, and I’m going to have a Porch Party all by myself with real whip cream, and–”

“Julie, Christmas is spilling into my heart and spreading across my living room. I’m going to get out my nativity right now!

Who knew anticipation could be contagious?

“And even healing,” Mother said softly. “It’s a form of worship.”

What about your childhood? Is there something that needs healing? 

Robin’s blog, All Things Heart and Home, is full of anticipation!

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

Forgetting What’s Broken

5:30 a.m. last Saturday … Our dog started growling. “Stay down!” my husband whispered. “There’s a man on the back porch with a flashlight.”

My heart pounded. Minutes earlier,  the phone rang at 4:39 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

There was no sleeping now.

No peace.

The man wasn’t an intruder. He was a police officer. The two phone calls were from the phone company. We’ve had phone problems for several weeks. The police department returned a second time that morning.

Our broken phone had alerted 9-1-1.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but our phone situation has been getting the best of me.

No dial tone. Horrible scratchy noise. Sometimes the internet goes out.

So frustrating.

The phone company’s replacing the line. For weeks, we’ve had a tiny fiber-optic cable beside our third of a mile-long driveway.

Our communication runs through this fragile-looking cord over tree limbs, pine straw, and gravel.

So many complications.

Living in the woods, deer, raccoons, possum crossing the path, bad weather ….

And they haven’t buried the line yet.

The whole thing was so bizarre. I wondered if God was trying to teach me something.

This past Saturday walking down the driveway, an idea came. It seemed God said:

Forget what’s broken. Focus on the beauty around you. Your troubles will fade into the background.

Is this really You, Lord? I can’t see how shifting my focus will help.

I glanced at butterfly near my feet.

Because I’d been frustrated about the phone situation, I’d ignored her. She’d fluttered beside me for most of my walk.

The black-eyed Susans in full bloom …

And the best part,

The green archway of trees that sheltered me through the steamy July heat.

I’d overlooked them.

“Lord, You’re sorta like the trees, aren’t You? Always above us. Watching over us. Nothing slips past You. Not even barely visible phone lines. Or bad attitudes.”

Are there “phone lines” in your life today? What “trees” are you’re praising Him for? I’d love to hear~

Love,

Julie

 

 

Beneath the Surface

The other day my 22-year-old son Thomas said something he hadn’t said in years. Our grown daughters say this sort of thing all the time, but somewhere around age 15, Thomas stopped saying …

“Mom, come look. You gotta see this.”

So when he said those words, I left my computer and followed him outside to our little koi pond. I couldn’t wait to see what he had to show me.

Just like when he was a little boy.

Is it a frog? A snake? A shiny rock?

We have two koi ponds. The big one has koi in it, but the only thing in the small pond is murky-looking water.

Or so I thought.

(I blogged about the little pond here–“Sometimes You Wade Through Sludge Together.” I wrote about my husband building our koi ponds here for Guideposts.)

When Thomas and I crouched by the water, Kitty Thelma hurried over to check out the situation.

“Look what my new camera does,” Thomas said.

I didn’t even know he had a new camera, something called a GoPro.

He showed me what he’d filmed beneath the surface.

I saw splendor in something I assumed was useless.

As sunlight lit the darkness I spotted lily pads yet to bloom,

Green plants I couldn’t name,

Rocks and hills and valleys formed a magical underwater world.

Even fish darted by.

Maybe the pond holds a life lesson for me.

I thought about people and situations I’d judged–opinions I’d hurriedly formed–times I hadn’t bothered to ask God to help me see beneath the surface.

But God …

He sees the unseen. Past. Present. Future.

He knows no limits.

He creates beauty from ashes–life from dry bones.

And He understands every heart.

Thank You, Lord. You see beneath the surface.

“…even darkness isn’t dark to You.” Psalm 139:12 NIV

Can anyone relate?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop Washing Dishes–You Don’t Want to Miss This

Have you ever been so busy you almost missed something special? Last week, our son Thomas (22) came home while I was doing the supper dishes. “Mom, Sammy’s gonna eat, then we’re gonna play guitars.”

“Hey, Sammy,” I said. “Come on in.”

Sammy’s been teaching Thomas how to “pick” songs on their acoustic guitars. After supper, I figured they’d go down in the basement to practice, like usual.

But they didn’t.

After they ate tacos, Sammy sat in the den strumming his guitar, and I started doing the dishes again. Thomas stood beside me. “Mom,” he whispered. “Sammy’s going to play.”

“Okay. I can hear him from here.”

“You don’t want to miss this,” he said. “Come in the den with us.”

This wasn’t like Thomas. He’s not the kind of son who says, “Mom, come look.” And he’d never invited me to listen to them play.

Until that night.

I glanced at dirty dishes.

I almost reached for an empty Coke can to toss it. Almost rinsed out the sink. Almost scraped one last plate.

You don’t want to miss this. Stop washing dishes.

(Thomas is on the left. Sammy’s on the right.)

I sat down in the red recliner and Sammy looked at Thomas. “What do you want me to play?”

“Play ‘The Old Rugged Cross,” Thomas said.

Oh, me. I had no idea…I almost missed this. Me and my busy self. Doing the dishes.

As Sammy played, God filled the empty space in my busy heart.

He slowed me down.

Reminded me of Who He is.

What if my dirty dishes had been too important? What if winding up the day and getting out of the kitchen had held me?

What if I’d hesitated?

I would’ve missed the Majesty of the moment.

Lord, bless Sammy and Thomas. They still have no idea how they blessed me.

And maybe they blessed you too.

Love,

Julie

 

 

The Driveway to My Heart Part Two

Saturday morning, several people were heavy on my heart. Walking down my DRIVEWAY, I thought about their situations. A broken sobriety. Possible jail time. Infertility. Divorce. Someone feeling beaten down in her job. A young mother, 36, died unexpectedly.

My prayers quickly shifted to, God, hello? Where are You? Have You forgotten?

He didn’t offer any explanations, so put my iPod on and hushed my thoughts.

This song came on.

It was as though I’d never heard it.

As the music played, a feather-soft suggestion landed in my heart.

It seemed ridiculous.

Unnecessary.

Awkwardly humbling, actually.

Open your fingers.

I glanced at my hands. They were tight like a boxer’s hands. Why should I open my fingers?

I didn’t feel like it.

Open your fingers and stretch out your hands.

Such a silly idea. A tiny act that couldn’t possibly amount to much.

I ignored the thought for a few seconds.

And then that music–those sweet words–their gentle persistence filled me.

When I said yes, when I unfurled my fingers and slowly turned my hands over, opening them toward heaven, I’m telling you the truth.

I felt the Power and the Presence of The Great I Am.

The Great I Am!

The Great I Am!

There was something supernatural in the unclenching of my fists.

And my will.

The power of the song was so much stronger than my concerns. My worries floated up, up, and away.

 

Here’s where it happened.

This is the very spot where The Great I Am met me.

The place where I opened my hands.

And let go. Again.

Praying for you, my precious friends.

Love,

Julie

 

Pride and Parakeets

I bet none of you have ever withheld praise from someone you love. I’m embarrassed to say, I did this recently. Just plain ugliness. My husband Rick is a man of many hobbies. I have three: reading, cooking, and going to the YMCA.

One of his hobbies is raising outdoor parakeets. Last summer, a virus struck his birds. All forty of them died. I found him in the backyard burning his bird atrium to the ground.

“I’m really sorry,” I said.

“I’m starting over. Building a new one. Some boards were rotten.”

“Why don’t you buy a couple of new birds and keep them inside?”

After he burned the house, I found him mixing cement–for footings and a new floor, he said.

“You mean, like a real house?”

“Yep.”

“Seems like a lot of work to me.”

Over the next few weekends, I pretended to read a book, but really, I sat outside studying my husband.

Trying to figure him out.

As the new house started coming together something came over me, but I didn’t tell him how I felt.

That I adored his eye for detail. His creativity.

Mostly, I admired him for not giving up.

For not taking the easy way out.

I would have.

Then one day he finished.

He’d stained the log siding to match our log house–even used the same tin roof!

What happened next completely undid me.

When he put Mr. and Mrs. Parakeet inside their new home, they scooted close together and kissed.

They weren’t shy about expressing their gratitude.

Clearing my throat, I walked toward my man and his new birds. “You amaze me. You did a beautiful job.”

“No big deal.”

“Yes it is. I should’ve told you sooner.”

We kissed like happy parakeets.

Me and my foolish pride.

Pride prevents praise.

Have you ever held back from praising someone? Please…somebody say yes.

Love,

Julie