This Much I Know is True

Something about becoming a grandmother is changing me. God’s peeling back the layers of my heart, asking me to be honest. I mentioned it in my last post.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how I spend my time and what matters most in life.

Am I loving people? Really loving them?

When I stepped away from blogging after Caleb was born, something unexpected happened.

God tenderized my heart in the area of relationships. 

I love connecting with women–through a blog post, at a conference, or in my friend’s cozy den at our ladies’ small group. I love spontaneous friendships that happen in the grocery store, and friendships that last a lifetime.

I strongly feel He’s leading me to spend time in one-on-one friendships–ministering in the moment–and loving my family. 

~I want to visit my mom weekly.

~Katie and her husband moved to the Georgia coast, almost four hours away. I want to get to know my grandson.

~My husband’s business of 41 years is going through some changes. He’s supported my writing dream for a long time. I want to be available to him.

I’m going to let the blog rest for now. This doesn’t make sense for a writer who’s supposed to be busy with social media, building her platform, and accepting speaking engagements.

But this much I know is true:

God’s teaching me to love people. It’s a behind the scenes way to live, but living this way brings me so much JOY.

I just wanted to let you how much you mean to me, and why I won’t be here. At least for a season. And believe me–if He whispers, Write about this, Julie, I’ll be all over it!

Over the past seven years, it felt like you and I were sitting at my kitchen table, talking over a cup of coffee, or porch-partying together.

I’m grateful for every comment, every prayer, and every friendship that bloomed here.

You gave me so much more than I could ever give you. 

Maybe this is what Surrender is all about, loving and letting go. 

Something else~~

What if the things that bring us the greatest joy also bring great joy to God?

And what if these things are quiet, hidden from most of the world?

Maybe life is a lot simpler than I ever thought possible.    

I’m sharing my favorite song with you. The first time I heard it, I forgot to breathe. 

I still do. 

I pray it blesses you. 

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

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10 ESV

With all my heart,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Four-Letter Word for 2017

When the idea for my word first came to me in November, I shoved it aside. I didn’t think it would be much of a challenge. Nothing like my words from the past:

2016 DANCE 

2015 SIMPLE  

2014 ENOUGH

2013 FOLLOW 

2012 SURRENDER  

I thought I’d aced this particular word a long time ago. But it kept popping up. Everywhere. It’s behind my laptop on an ideas board I made back in August.

It’s on the cover of this Angels on Earth magazine on my desk.

I started reading a book on my Kindle by Sheila Walsh, The Longing in Me: How Everything You Crave Leads to the Heart of God. (Great book!)

The word is in the verse at the very beginning of the book, the command from God:

LOVE each other. John 15:17

I do love people. I’m not mean. 

I got a little nervous when I read the title of my BFF’s blog post, Love is Costly. Robin opens with this picture below and says,

“Love was costly for Jesus. Love was costly for God. Of course, love is costly for us too.”

(photo credit All Things Heart and Home.)

I felt an uncomfortable sensation churning inside. An uneasiness. 

God had a grip on my heart. I didn’t want to give in.

This was getting deep, and I wasn’t sure what LOVE might cost.

Taking the Christmas decorations down, I noticed the burlap ribbon on the tree in the kitchen. Leftover from Valentine’s Day. Covered with red hearts.

I’m not craftsy, but I wondered if I could use the ribbon on the front porch–where my Christmas decorations were.

For Valentine’s Day.

Not for LOVE. 

I wrapped it around a grapevine wreath and tied a bow at the bottom.

I brought my old pitcher outside–the one with hearts on it–still arguing with God about the word.

Okay. This looks nice, but it doesn’t mean I have to pick LOVE for my word.

I get it. 

We’re supposed to love people. 

And I do.

Then the word showed up at the bottom of my prayer journal.

Boom.

An arrow.

Straight to my heart.

The verse nailed me.

Love one another as I have loved you. 

AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.

I don’t do this very often, Lord. I don’t love people unconditionally. Sometimes it’s for show. Or for personal gain. Or because it’s expected.

But to love expecting nothing in return…

This scares me.

Because I don’t know how. 

And I can’t do it without You. 

With trembling fingers, I handed God my heart and said, “Will You teach me how to love others?” Click to tweet

I have no idea what’s next, and yes–I’m still a little bit afraid of my word.

Have you chosen a word for 2017? A theme? A goal? Are you a tiny bit scared too?

Love,

Julie (there’s my word again!)

 

 

 

 

 

My 2016 Word–The Flip Side of Surrender

A couple of weeks ago, one word from a Scripture verse danced off the page, begging for my attention. Can you guess what it was?

“And David danced before the Lord with all his might…” 2 Samuel 6:14 (KJV)

As a child, I loved to dance.

I started taking ballet lessons when I was three. I came alive in the ballet studio–a wide open room with shiny wooden floors and mirrored walls.

But eight years later when I got my first pair of toe shoes, a fearful thought took root.

You’re never going to learn how to dance in these pointy shoes. 

So I quit dancing.

My mother spray-painted my toe shoes red. They hung in my bedroom for years.

Untouched but never forgotten.  

Yesterday while I thought about 2016 word possibilities, my husband dragged the Christmas tree outside and moved my pie safe back into place.

After days of rain the sun came out, and my wedding dishes sparkled. So pretty. Closing the doors to protect my china, I noticed my oldest child’s handprint.

She’s 34 now.

My hands used to be this small–

When I was a tiny ballerina–

Who stopped dancing because of fear.

Can I actually choose a fun word for 2016? Like  Dance

I always pick stoic words like Enough, Simple, Follow, and Surrender

What if the flip side of Surrender is Dance? 

Maybe when we let go of control, we’re free to dance. 

I bet when David danced before the Lord he didn’t say, “Don’t watch me. I’m a terrible dancer.” He probably danced with his heart and soul–with everything inside him. 

That’s when my word came to me with absolute assurance. 

My 2016 word for the year is DANCE.  

I danced to the pie safe, flung open the doors, and grabbed some dishes. 

Breaking all sorts of decorating rules, I mixed wedding china with my grandmother’s depression glass and set up a coffee station.

I filled an antique container with Sour Patch Kids. I love Sour Patch Kids! 🙂

I even lit a pink candle in the middle of the day.

In 2016, I’m going to:

* Use my wedding china.

* Light more candles.

* Bathe with decorative soap.

* Love people with my whole heart. 

* Most of all, I’m going to dance–not just with my feet, but with everything I do. 

When we surrender and live fearlessly, others are set free! Click to Tweet

Do you have a 2016 word? Do tell! 

Are you gonna dance next year?

For the full experience, watch this video below. If you can’t see it, click here.  She’s even redheaded!

** Let’s remember to pray for those in Texas and the Midwest who’ve been affected by the storms. My heart is with them right now.

P.S. Ballet pics from Pixaby. 

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

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

Peanuts, Peaches, and People

The other day, I broke our porch party rules and brought up the subject of so-and-so’s behavior. The longer my husband and I talked, the more  judgmental I became–at least in my heart.

For a while that day, I thought I knew everything. 

We headed to  Thompson Family Farms to buy fresh peaches, my mind still analyzing someone else’s business.

“I love this place,” I said when we got out of the car. “I know all about Georgia produce.”

Finally! A place where my expertise can shine!

“I grew up shelling butter beans.”  I grabbed some frozen field peas. “Daddy had a garden every summer. ”

“We even canned tomatoes when I was little,” I said.

Of course, I knew everything there was to know about sweet Vidalia onions. I’d lived my whole life in Georgia.

“Oh, look! They have yellow meat watermelons.”

That’s what you call a yellow watermelon down South–yellow meat.

Feeling sorta smug, I sniffed the cantaloupes until I found a perfect one.

Then something unexpected happened. 

I spotted a bucket of peanuts.

Strange, because they weren’t boiled peanuts, like you find in Georgia.

They were shelled and put into baggies.

“What are these?” I said to the cashier.

“Fried peanuts.”

“Never heard of them. “

“They’re delicious. Try some.”

I bought a bag and told her I was making homemade peach ice cream the next day.

“If you want your peaches to ripen in a hurry, put them outside. Spread them out on a table, so they aren’t touching each other.”

“Huh. Never knew that.”

Back at home, I tasted fried peanuts for the first time.

Amaaaaaazing.

I put the peaches outside in the heat. A few hours later, they were soft.

Just like she said.

A thought hit me.

I bet there’s something I don’t know about the person and the situation I’d been so quick to judge.

Forgive me, Lord. Help me keep it simple. 

I don’t know everything about peanuts, peaches, and especially people.

Can you relate?

Have you been humbled lately?

Or learned something new?

If you chose a word this year, how’s it going? It’s already July!

Love,

Julie

For my homemade peach ice cream recipe in Guideposts magazine, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

An Old Purse–A New Me!

My sister Jennifer has the gift of organization. She can simplify and beautify anything. Not me. Take our purses, for example. Last week, we went to lunch. I was driving.

“Will you hand me my sunglasses? They’re in my purse.” I cringed.

So much junk, it wouldn’t close. Ahhhhhhh!

“Where are they?” she said.

“They’re there somewhere. Just keep looking.”

My purse was totally out of control. I hated digging through it for my  YMCA pass, my lipstick, a pen–ANYTHING! 

Jennifer dumped out my bulging makeup bag, an empty pack of chewing gum, and a handful of wadded receipts. Her gray leather envelope of a purse lay neatly at her feet.

“How do you get by with such a small purse?”

“Simple. I only carry what I need.”

This idea intrigued me — freeing myself up to only carry what I needed. My shoulders wouldn’t get tired. I wouldn’t get annoyed trying to find my wallet. 

And the word SIMPLE. 

My word for the year. 

Jen said “simple.” 

Perhaps this went deeper than my purse. 

Sometimes I carry thoughts that clutter my peace. I can be too sensitive. Someone says something that hurts my feelings and I hang on to it. 

But could I possibly change? I’d had a messy purse forever. Could I toss unnecessary stuff? And thoughts too?

Maybe a small purse would help me remember to keep life simple.

 I  found a tiny one in the back of my closet.

And said goodbye to my old heavy, burdensome bag.

I got rid of all manner of clutter–cuticle oil, Band-aids, a broken nail file,

And decided to keep only useful things, 

And useful thoughts.

I even found a nifty spot for my YMCA pass. 🙂

The new me! 🙂

With God’s help, daily, I’m being made new!

This song sums it up beautifully, especially the “lay down your burdens” part. If you can’t see the video below, click here.

Do you have a neat purse? I bet so!

Are there any heavy thoughts dragging you down? Lay down your burdens! Let’s get freed up together! 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chipped Rooster Dishes and Rules for Fine Dining

We’re rooster people–we have them all over our house. It’s who we are. My husband raises chickens in the backyard. I’ve written about it here. I even have a set of rooster dishes.

But last week before our Small Group meeting, I decided to use my wedding china.

Because some of my rooster dishes are chipped.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using wedding china, but I wanted to impress people.

And chipped rooster dishes aren’t very impressive.

At the grocery store, I thought about buying long-stem pink roses as a centerpiece for my wedding china. This tiny voice inside said,

Be who you are. Use your chipped rooster dishes.

I pictured all the roosters in my house. It’d be hard to hide them. They’re everywhere.

My Small Group would be greeted by one on the front porch–

One on the old church pew–

The wind chimes by the back door–

All over the kitchen–

At the entry from the den to the kitchen–

In the guest bathroom–

Along the floors–

In the upstairs bedroom–

By the front window–

Then I remembered my favorite picture. We’ve had it for years.

It still stirs my heart.

In the painting, the morning sun is streaming through the window. The woman is gathering eggs. Maybe she’s praying about the day ahead.

She looks so content.

I put the long-stem pink roses down.

Decided to use my rooster dishes.

It felt like the right thing to do.

What about a centerpiece?  

What goes with chipped rooster dishes?

Be who you are. 

I remembered a tin rooster cock-a-doodle-dooing on the kitchen counter.

Back at home, I set the table.

Right before everyone arrived, I lit the red candles.

I stood there looking, surprised by joy.

Oh, the contentment of using our chipped dishes–

And letting God use us–

Just as we are. 

Thoughts?

Do you have something imperfect you love dearly?

Are you a rooster person too?

What do you collect?

Love,

Julie

 

 

Fudge for Breakfast

Growing up the oldest of four, hard work came before fun. Always. There were little brothers to chase, dishes to do, and I edited my mother’s writing.

Lots of rules to follow. 

Having fun sometimes seemed like a no-no. 

Last week I went to Mother’s house so we could edit each other’s devotionals for Daily Guideposts. She surprised me with homemade fudge. She and my sister Jennifer made The Best Fudge. (Here’s their recipe. It’s GF.)

I put a piece of sweetness in my mouth. Let it melt on my tongue. “Your fudge is…”

“Pretty wonderful, isn’t it?”

Our work forgotten, we just sat and talked.

“I’ve started wearing aprons again,” she said.

“Here’s my kitty-cat one.”

“Jennifer gave me this one.”

I loved what was happening.

We’d never played before work.

It felt amazing!

Like we were actresses on a movie set!

“Women wore this kind in the fifties,” she said.

Who could see this and not laugh?

“Oh, we need to run to the post office,” she said. “And let’s eat lunch out.”

“Now? Before we work?”

“Sure, why not?”

When we got to the post office, she insisted we take a selfie.

Our first mother/daughter selfie. 

“You know, people are staring,” I said.

“Who cares?”

Later, in her office, we laughed while we worked, making our task a joy. 

The next morning, I wanted to keep the memory alive, so I broke the rules (again!) and had fudge for breakfast!

Something I’d never done.

Mother called.

“Yesterday was so much fun,” I said.

“Yeah, sometimes we think fun has to be a trip to Disney World.”

“I know. We even broke the ‘work before play’ rule, didn’t we?”

“We sure did.”

“Mother, what’s your definition of fun?”

“Fun means doing simple things in life with someone you love.”

Ta-da! 

SIMPLE. 🙂

My word for 2015. 

What simple ways do you have fun? How’re you doing on your word for the year?

Love,

Julie