Building a Relationship…With Love

Sometimes, even after 36 years of marriage, I forget that my husband and I express love differently. I show it verbally. Rick creates things with his hands.

In February, our daughter Katie married and became a stepmom to a beautiful little girl named Rilynn who turned four this month. In April, Rick offered to build her a dollhouse for her birthday.

Katie and Rilynn picked this one from Hobby Lobby’s website.

After putting it together, Rick stained the shingles and glued them in place one a time. 

He painted the toothpick-sized banisters the same way–one by one. 

“Can’t you dump just everything into a bucket and paint it all at once?” I said, late one night.

“Nope.”

“Aren’t you tired?”

“Nope. I like doing this.”

For days he deliberated about what color to paint the steps. Finally, he decided on pink and purple and made another trip to Home Depot for an itty-bitty can of pink paint.

He even installed hardwoods.

I couldn’t identify with his steady determination, but I was fascinated. 

This past Saturday, we had a small birthday party for Rilynn.

She loves Frozen and anything princess related.

And purple. 🙂

Saturday morning, Rick added the finishing touches and covered the dollhouse with a sheet.

Later, after cake and ice cream,

Long drum roll ..……………

He slowly unveiled his gift.

Ta-da!

Rilynn twirled around and clapped her hands. Bending close to miniature front porch, she carefully touched the window panes.

“Let her have fun with it,” Rick said. “If she breaks anything, I’ll fix it.”

Smiling, she ran her finger along the railing.

(Her daddy and my mom are on the left.)

Then I had quite a moment.

Rilynn walked her little fingers up the steps and started setting up her new home.

Just like me. 

Almost 12 years ago, Rick led me up the stairs of the log house that he’d built for us. Pausing on the top step, he said, “Open your eyes.”

He made me a writing loft.

With his own hands.

Thank You, Father. What love!

“Your hands have made me and fashioned me” Psalm 119:73  ESV.

How do you express love?

(For more about Katie’s story, click here.)

Love,

Julie

 

 

Real Women Talk

I’d been toying with the idea that perhaps–just perhaps–my phone had gotten too important to me. Then–BOOM! Something happened Saturday night and there was no denying it.

I had a problem.

My husband Rick and I were invited to a friend’s birthday party. We knew two of the six couples. Most of them had been in a small group together, led by the birthday boy Todd and his wife Debbie.

From left to right: Fay, Dana, Leslie, me, Nikki, Debbie, and Denise.

When the ladies started talking, wouldn’t you know?

The conversation went straight to phones.

How, when we were children, people talked. 

Face to Face.

We had real relationships.

I wanted to hide under the table.

Every time Rick and I get in the car, the first thing I do is grab my phone to check Facebook and catch up on emails.

Honestly, I’m not with him. I’m in another world.

The phone-world always seems so URGENT.

Up until Saturday night, I pretended I didn’t know any better.

Snippets of our table conversation from the ladies:

“My kids invite their friends over and text rather than talk.”

“We went to a party and were instructed to leave our phones by the door.”

“My kids got panicky in the car on vacation when their batteries died.”

“We should make new rules. No phones during mealtimes or on Sundays.”

I’m thinking, no——–please, please, please don’t take my phone! 

I can’t live without it! 

Uh-oh. 

I have a problem.

My phone is WAY too important to me.

The thing is–

At the party, I forgot about my phone. I was having so much fun getting to know people. 

Through expressions.

Through honesty.

Through humor.

Which doesn’t happen from typing words into a screen.

One of my new friends suggested we sneak up on the men to see if they were on their phones.

Four of the six were.

Then something life-changing happened.

Leslie broke out in a birthday song to Todd!

LAUGHTER. 

COMMUNITY.

FRIENDSHIP.

Things I’d have missed if I’d been trapped in the phone-world.

Because real women talk. Sometimes they even sing. 🙂

You gotta watch this! If you can’t see the video below, click here

From now on, I’m living life instead of letting my phone control me.

Can you relate?

Has anything ever gotten too important to you? 

Love,

Julie

The Day Love Exploded Inside My Heart

Even though my three children are grown, sometimes they still need a little TLC.

Don’t we all?

This past Friday, my daughter Jamie and I planned to meet at Chick-fil-A . Just the two of us. Even though she’s 33, I wanted to spend some time with her–let her know how much I love her.

Words are my love language, but I decided to take her a small gift.

I’m not the best shopper. Usually, I walk in circles and don’t know what to buy. I found three of my favorite baby pictures of Jamie, and headed to Target for frames.

Jamie’s first Easter.

Jamie and her daddy.

I pulled into the Target parking lot.

This should be easy. Three frames. No hard shopping decisions. 

But Target didn’t have any frames to fit my pictures.

Now what?

Almost time to meet at Chick-fil-A.

Help me, Lord.

Jamie’s favorite color is pink.

Think pink. 

I found two soft pink t-shirts and pink azaleas in the floral section.

But the baby pictures–I couldn’t forget about them. And no time to go to another store. 

Circling the frame aisle one more time, I spotted a dark wooden coat rack. Lo and behold, it had a place for three pictures!

Back at home, I put her gifts on the counter and hurriedly slipped the pictures into the frames.

They fit perfectly! Hallelujah! 

When Jamie drove up at Chick-fil-A, I planned to calmly give her a hug, but when I handed her the pictures, something exploded inside my heart. 

God’s love gushed through me. 

Full force. 

I hugged her to me tightly. Her hair smelled sweet–so sweet, I couldn’t get enough of her scent.

Her beauty.

I cried sloppy tears and choked out, “I love you.

“Love you too, Mom.”

Sometimes God nudges you to do something.

And you have no idea how to do it.  Or why. 

Just move forward.

Step by step.

And He does it through you. 

Can anyone relate?

Love,

Julie

SIMPLE–How My Tiny Word for the Year Rescues Me

One day last week the simplest thing caught my attention–a single tiny flower poking her head out from under a log. She was the only violet in the woods near our house.

How peculiar. 

Maybe since my word for the year is SIMPLE, she caught my attention.

God seemed to whisper,“Pay attention, Julie. There’s a message here for you.” 

A few days later, something happened between loved ones. Years of buried pain came out in strong emotions and words. Now there’s distance between them. It bothered me.

I woke up at 3:15 Easter morning, my mind exploding with ways to fix it.

Maybe if I think hard enough, I’ll figure out how to…

Soon I moved into dangerous territory and wandered down the path of WORST CASE SCENARIO thinking. I knew better but tried to rationalize worrying.

“Lord, surely You see this broken relationship. Surely it bothers You too. What if I try to–”

He pressed something into my heart. Something I wasn’t expecting.

It had nothing to do with the others. 

It was about my relationship with Him. 

Never mind them.

He seemed to say: “Julie, don’t let troubles in life separate us. I am God. Keep your eyes on Me.”

I wanted to explain how I felt–how if only I could say the right thing and encourage reconciliation, I could fix the problem.

Then I remembered the violet.

Surrounded by busy-body squirrels, hoot owls, and squawking blue jays she captured my attention.

Peaceful. Serene. Illuminated by sunlight. 

I’m supposed to live that way. Like the violet.

With SIMPLE faith.

Peaceful.

Focused on the Son. Not on problems. 

Thank You, Lord, for one tiny violet. 

Is there an area in life that trips you? It helps so much to acknowledge it.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chum-Talk…The Secret to Lasting Relationships

I don’t think my husband actually hates the Hallmark Countdown to Christmas movies. I think he just enjoys poking fun at them. Or at me for loving them.

Friday night we had a fire going. We were sharing a blanket on the sofa, watching The Nine Lives of Christmas

My kind of night.

If you can’t see the movie trailer below, click here.

“These silly movies are all the same,” Rick said.

“No they’re not.”

“After the first couple of minutes, you know the ending.”

“They’re romantic. See the pretty white lights on the square?”

“Same setting. Same town. Same Christmas tree lot.”

“Small-town life. So picturesque.”

“Same characters with the same goofy expressions. Look at how they grin at each other.”

“They’re just happy. And in love.”

“Nobody has that many teeth.”

By this time I was laughing, and the drama between Zachary and Marilee came to a climax. There’d been a huge misunderstanding. Although their cats had bonded, the two of them hadn’t.

Marilee teared up, and as Zachary murmured something soft and tender, Rick made another joke. This one was funny. “What’d he say? I missed it.”

“Just chum-talk.”

“What’s chum-talk?”

“It’s what they always say right before they kiss.”

“Their one big moment, and you made me laugh.”

“Don’t worry. It’ll be on 17 more times.”

“Good. I’m watching them all.”

“Now they’re going to hug,” Rick said.

And they did.

After the movie, I pondered chum-talk. “I bet Zachary probably told Marilee how much he loved her. And he was sorry.” I said. “And Marilee told Zachary she loved him too. And she forgave him.”

“You think so?” Rick said, smiling.

“I know so.”

Chum-talk is the emotional glue to lasting relationships.

I’m sorry.

I forgive you.

I love you. 

Do you love these movies? They’re so full of heart.

If you need to have a chum-talk with someone, I’ll pray be glad to pray.

P.S. We watched The Nine Lives of Christmas again last night!

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

So Much More Than Chicken Salad

Have you noticed that when girls get together to celebrate, it doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re eating, we share one thing in common.

We love laughing and talking–just plain being silly and having fun.

Maybe you do too. 🙂

This past Friday, we had a birthday luncheon for my mother and sister at a quaint little tea room in Atlanta called The Swan Coach House. We’ve always just called it The Swan House. This picture is from their Facebook page.

They specialize in Southern yumminess like as cheese straws, chicken salad, and frozen fruit salad. The chicken salad is to…die…for!

Here we are from left to right–minus my other daughter Jamie and our son’s girlfriend Brittany who couldn’t make it.

My daughter Katie, my sister’s daughter, Libby, me :), my sister Jennifer, and Mother.

Right before this picture was taken, Mother had been craning her neck to check out everyone’s shoes.

“I don’t get out enough,” she said. “I can’t stop staring at people. Look at the hostess’s shoes. Aren’t they adorable? Beige and wheat colored flats with black trim. They match her dress perfectly. And I’m wearing a very brave shade of bright yellow today. Want to see?” She raised her foot slightly. “I’ve never had yellow shoes.”

“Y’all know I don’t know about colors, or clothes, and I hate to shop,” I said.

“We know, Mom,” Katie said. “That’s why I shop with you.”

After lunch, we went to my sister’s house to open presents.

Mom hugging Libby and me …

Libby, our matriarch, and Jennifer …

I felt a touch of anxiety as they opened their gifts from me, but bless their hearts, they oohed and ahhed over them.

Sitting there on Jen’s back porch, I said, “This has been so much fun. We should do it more often.”

We talked about going to the Fox Theater in Atlanta, or maybe even flying to New York to see a Broadway play.

“We could, you know,” Mother said.

“We should,” Jennifer added.

Driving home I thought about something.

At The Swan House, everyone feels like a beautiful swan. And if you ask for a box for left-overs, they return with your carry-out tucked inside heavy tinfoil fashioned into a perfect swan.

But we left with so much more than swans.

In our hearts, we carried out sweet memories.

My sister’s amaaaaaazing chicken salad recipe (gluten-free!)

Jen’s Jenerous Chicken Salad

3 or 4 boneless chicken breasts

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped

A stem of grapes, red or green, cut in half–a good handful or so

Slivered almonds, about half a cup

A big spoon of mayo (start with maybe a third cup)

Sour cream, (optional) about a teaspoon or two

Salt and pepper to taste

Thyme (optional) about a teaspoon

Boil chicken breasts in water sprinkled with salt, pepper, and thyme. Boil for about 45 minutes. Let cooked chicken cool. Either shred it with a fork or chop it really small. Stir in other ingredients. Delish!

Love,

Julie

 

An Oh-So-Simple Relationship Secret

I did a little experiment and was so moved by my findings, I wanted to share them. I decided to notice everything good my husband did over the weekend.

First thing Saturday morning, he went to his parents’ house to visit his mother. She had a quadruple bypass a few days ago. When he got home, one of our daughters called. Car trouble. He diagnosed the problem over the phone and sent our son to install a new battery.

Next I found him working on our squeaky dryer.

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Needs a new pulley.”

“How’d you figure that out?”

“Took it apart.”

“Now what?”

“Parts store is closed. I got a brass bearing from Ace Hardware and cut it to size.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about but that doesn’t matter.” I smiled.

He peered at me over his glasses like woman, I’ll never understand you.

When I slowed down long enough to study my husband, I was in awe.

I couldn’t fix a dryer. Not in a million years.

I told him so.

Sunday afternoon, he took down the Christmas lights from our wrap-around porch. He has this system of unwinding the strands and wrapping them in tidy circles. This process takes hours, but he never complains.

Since we moved into our log cabin ten years ago, I’d never thanked him for handling the lights, so I did.

When I focus on the good in my husband (or friend or family member) guess what?

Something amazing happens.

Our love grows.

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other…1 Thessalonians 3:12 NIV.

Have you discovered this secret too? Tell me. I’d love to hear!

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Unexpected Gifts from Gratitude

When I bought my GRATITUDE JOURNAL  a couple of years ago, I wondered if I’d ever fill it up. Would keeping a journal like this really make a difference?

 

 A few of my entries…

 

# 416. Thomas doesn’t have CELIAC. (My son Thomas and his girlfriend Brittany below.)

 

 

# 585. Katie’s perseverance. (My daughter Katie doesn’t give up.)

 

 

# 787. The way You blend the colors of the sky.

 

 

# 95. Laughing with Jamie. (My daughter Jamie isn’t afraid of anything or anyone!)

 

 

# 136. The sunrise–oh, the sunrise!

 

 

# 400. Laughing with B.J. last night.

 

# 211. Talking to Lynne and Kellie.

 

 

# 345. I’m not afraid! You’re with me wherever I go.

 

 

#1545. Lisa and me … praying for each other.

 

 

#667. Going to Lisa’s cabin today! (Friends Leigh Anne, Dayna, and another Lisa.)

 

 

# 1544. Robin. She understands.

 

# 503. Sweet talks with my sissy (Jennifer) and Mother.

 

 

# 580. DiAnn’s honesty. (She’s just as kind as she is honest.)

 

 

# 1165. Roses from Mother’s yard.

 

 

# 1190. The tiny sound of  Kitty Thelma drinking water.

 

 

# 1466. Still being in love after all these years. (35 in December!)

 

 

# 1331. My blog readers and their precious responses. This means you! Each one of you! I’ve written about you so many times, I started my second journal. 🙂

 

Writing down things I’m grateful for like Ann Voskamp does in ONE THOUSAND GIFTS changed my life in two unexpected ways: 

1. Re-reading my thoughts brought a second wave of gratitude even bigger than the first.

2. Whatever I choose to focus on–good or bad–seems to grow.

If you have a gratitude journal, share some of your entries. I’d love to hear about them.

My friend’s sites:

Robin’s ALL THINGS HEART AND HOME

KELLIE COATES GILBERT

LYNNE GENTRY

DIANN MILLS

LISA BUFFALOE

B.J. TAYLOR

Love,

Julie

Marriage is like Shifting Gears…Together

I never learned to drive a stick shift but my husband sure can. He used to pick me up for school in his white 1965 GTO.  We were high school sweethearts, and I loved watching him drive that car. He knew the exact second to push the clutch and shift gears.

Last week, we were headed to the YMCA in his old truck. While he drove, I watched him shift gears, still fascinated. “Will you show me how again?” He’d tried to teach me when we were teenagers.

I put my hand on his.

“Okay, listen for the engine to whine. Hear it? Now go to second.”

“I forgot. Where’s second?”

“Remember the H?” He took his hand off the shifter. “You can do it.”

“Ahh! No I can’t. I don’t know which–”

“Sure you can.” He grinned at me.

He thinks I can. Maybe I can.

My heart kicked into high gear when I found second. “I did it!” And then I shifted into neutral by mistake.

“No big deal.” He put his hand on mine and slipped it into third. “You got it.”

“Thank you,” I said staring at his right hand, remembering.

 My husband knows cars, but he knows me even better.

“You’re too quiet,” he said. “What are you thinking?”

“Just…well, just that I’m grateful.”

“For what?”

Filled with emotion, I didn’t dare look at him. “You’ve turned a lot of wrenches so I can write. Thank you.”

He nodded.

I’ve almost finished the novel I’ve been writing. “You never doubted I could do it, did you?”

“Of course not.”

I squeezed his hand one, two, three times.

He squeezed back four times. I love you too.

 

Love,

Julie