She’s That Kind of Friend

Our ladies’ small group meets in Karen’s home on Wednesday nights for food, faith, and friendship. All twenty-five of us are welcomed the same way~~

With a big hug and a smile.

One night in early December, I noticed sprigs of greenery around her home~~

Above the chandelier~

In the bathroom by the sink~

Nestled in her centerpiece on the coffee table.

Karen’s creativity intrigued me.

She’d decorated her house by cutting branches from her Christmas tree–something I’d never done–or even thought about doing.

But her gifts run much deeper than her decorating skills.

Her relationship with God and others her is alive and real. 

Sipping my coffee, I sat down in my usual spot in her den and remembered specific prayers from this group~~

The Wednesday night in May when they prayed over me and my writing~

In November, I spoke at a women’s Christmas tea~~

Covering in fear, I called Karen that afternoon. “I’m scared. Will you pray for me?”

She started praying, and I dropped to my knees in my bedroom. By the time she finished, I felt calm and fearless. I knew God was with me. 

Then I remembered this summer~~

How a bunch of us from small group met on Wednesday nights to walk and pray.

Karen led the way.

We covered miles of territory, circling schools, neighborhoods, police stations–even the streets of downtown Atlanta. We prayed in the parking deck before passing out goodies to the homeless.

Karen stopped to smell a blossoming tree. 🙂

Karen’s living, breathing faith had spread across our group the same way she’d spread clippings from her live Christmas tree. 

I came home from group that December night and cut pieces of our tree.

I put a sprig in the candy bowl.

And on the coffee table~

On the front porch beside the door~

And draped some on a wall hanging.

Lighting candles, I inhaled the scent of pine and thought,

Karen doesn’t just spread greenery from her Christmas tree~~she spreads life from a Living God!

She’s THAT kind of friend.

When I told her I wanted to write about her, she got choked up and said, “I don’t do anything for y’all that you don’t do for me.”

The best kind of friends draw us closer to Jesus. Click to tweet.

P.S. I’m going to leave my fresh sprigs out for as long as they’ll last!

Do you have a friend like Karen who’ll pray for you on the spot? 

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spread a Little Love–After Valentine’s Day

There’s something special about the friendships that have developed here on the blog. Most of us have never met each other.

Over the past few days, I got valentines from four of you! I felt like a little girl hurrying home after school to dump out my valentine box.

So much LOVE spilled out of each one.

This kind of LOVE is contagious.

When someone spreads a little love our way, we’re stirred to do the same thing–

And love others. 

Thinking about friendship, I wondered, what is the secret of the bond we share?

Later that day, I started making brownies for small group and put the ingredients on the counter. 

Is there a secret ingredient to friendship? Something to be blended together with love? 

Spreading chocolate frosting over the pan of warm brownies, I remembered a relationship tip my husband and I discovered. 

We were training to be small group leaders, and the pastor said something that went straight to my heart.

It’s just one sentence and one word, but I think it applies to all our relationships. 

“If you have a few extra minutes before small group,” the pastor said, “don’t waste time studying your notes. Pray.”

PRAY.

PRAY.

PRAY. 

That struck me as so profound.

You’d think he might have said, “Prepare your notes carefully. Study them diligently. Present your teaching plans well. Memorize your points.”

But he didn’t.

He instructed us to do what matters most in building strong relationships.

And that is to pray–

PRAYER is the secret ingredient to our friendships here on the blog. 

We pray for each other. 

When we pray for people, something miraculous happens inside our hearts. Love grows. Click to tweet. 

P.S. If I ever host a small group for my blog-friends, I’ll make tons of brownies! You can taste the love! I’m serious. Keep reading. The recipe is below. 🙂

Let’s talk about prayer. Have you discovered how prayer is necessary in your relationships

The brownie recipe is from my dear friend DiAnn Mills.

2 eggs

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 sq bitter chocolate *or use 1/3 cup dry cocoa and 1 Tbsp. more butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour (I use Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix. It’s gluten-free.)

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup chopped nuts

Beat eggs very light; set aside. Melt butter and chocolate. Add sugar and beat well. Add to beaten eggs. Fold in flour, salt vanilla, and nuts. Place mixture in 8 x 8 x 2 inch pan. Bake slowly, 40 minutes at 325.

Frosting

1 cup powdered sugar

3 Tbsp cocoa

Mix well. Add enough boiling water to mix (2 1/2 Tbsp). Pour over warm cake.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

What Does Love Have to do with a Fence?

I have so much to learn and relearn about LOVEmy word for 2017.

Monday, I hurried into Target with my list, but my mind wasn’t on shopping. I wanted to figure out what Real Love means.

I wanted to tuck Love into a box. Tie a bow on it.  Move on.

I stopped at the front of the store where they put seasonal things on sale and came home with three Valentine’s Day items that weren’t on my list:

Heart-shaped lights to go over the kitchen table–

A pack of Valentines.

A notepad decorated with conversation candy.

After I hung the lights, I lit three red candles in the kitchen.

But it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t satisfied.

Love is more than Valentine’s Day. It’s more than red hearts and white, lacy doilies.

What is Real Love? 

Does Real Love always mean giving, giving, giving and saying yes? 

Maybe it would help to define what Real Love isn’t. 

I usually think better in the woods, so I took the dogs for a walk. The trees were bare, and I noticed something.

The fence. 

It runs horizontally, and you can only see it in the winter. 

But it’s always there. 

I crunched my way through the dead leaves and stood beside it.

It’s just a fence. A useless fence. 

But for some reason, I was drawn to it.

The fence doesn’t even keep the dogs in the backyard. 

It marks our property line

What difference does the property line make? 

With the dogs standing quietly at my side, I stood there praying, thinking, wondering. 

The fence matters. 

The thought came softly, but it startled me.

I remembered a book I’d studied in a ladies’ small group, Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John TownsendWe even did the workbook. 🙂

Back in my office, I found my copy of Boundaries. 

Chapter One–What Does a Boundary Look Like?

In small group, we talked about how fences are physical boundaries, and how physical and emotional boundaries are necessary.

I skimmed my notes:

1. Boundaries (fences) define our personal property. Our space.

2. Boundaries show where one person ends and another person begins.

3. Boundaries protect us. They keep the good in and the bad out.

4. Boundaries aren’t selfish. They’re loving and kind.

We discussed the power of the word NO–

The importance of keeping emotional and geographical distance when appropriate.

How to back up our boundaries with consequences.

Whew…

Real love includes fences. 

Real love doesn’t always mean, YES. Of course. Let me do that for you. 

Real love isn’t about red and pink hearts. Sometimes it means loving yourself enough to say, “No.” Click to tweet.

Does this side of love stir your emotions?

It does mine. I’m reading Boundaries again. 

Love,

Julie

 

 

Thanksgiving–Speaking Gratitude to God and Others

I’m the kind of person who feels deeply. And I love words. But I don’t always express my gratitude to God and others.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend in small group posed a question.

“What if all we had tomorrow was what we’d thanked God for today?”

Whoa.

My heart stretched uncomfortably.

I fidgeted in my chair and glanced around the room and wondered if everyone else felt the same way I did.

Sometimes I let problems overshadow my gratitude. I doubt God’s goodness. His faithfulness. 

I focus on the physical world and forget the supernatural world. I forget we have a God who is Lord over all, and He knows best. 

I withhold gratitude. 

The next morning, I filled pages in my prayer journal. I had a lot of catching up to do. I thanked Him for my coffee, my Bible, my reading glasses, 56 years of life.

I thanked Him for “blog readers who’ve become my friends.” It’s miraculous when God brings people into divine relationships, isn’t it?

I thought about how my husband Rick and I’ve been married for almost 38 years.

Later that day, I made a list for Thanksgiving. Could I praise God with our table decorations? I wanted something rustic and woodsy. I found an idea on Pinterest. It’s here.

Last Saturday, I asked Rick if he had time to make it.

He stopped what he was doing, and we headed for the woods.

“First, we need a log,” he said and pointed out three possibilities. “Which one do you like best?” 

I picked out my favorite, and he chopped off the ends.

He cut holes for tea candles–just the right size.

We gathered pine cones. I already had pumpkins and plenty of leaves.

After I decorated around the log, Rick lit the candles.

I stood back, fresh gratitude rising, and spoke the words I was thinking.

“I can’t believe you made this. It’s beautiful. You didn’t even read the directions.”

He nodded.

“Really,” I said. “Thank you. You did it just for me.”

“Anytime.”

I reached for him spontaneously and he held me.

A prayer formed.

Thank You, Lord.

I love You.

You’re always here for me. 

You listen and You love me. 

Then it hit me.

Sometimes expressing gratitude to others ignites fresh gratitude to God. Click to tweet. 

I will give thanks to You, Lord, with all my heart… Psalm 9:1 Click to tweet.

Does the question my friend asked stir fresh gratitude? 

“What if all we had tomorrow was what we’d thanked God for today?” 

So much love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

The Big Blue Blob–Ruining My Friend’s Carpet

Have you ever done something really stupid? After your mistake, you wanted to crawl in a hole and hide.

Last Wednesday night at small group, Karen, our leader, welcomed me into her lovely home and asked me to put on a name tag.

It was our first meeting. Fourteen ladies. Some of us had never met.

I popped the cap off the blue PERMANENT Sharpie and dropped the marker onto her spotless, cream-colored carpet. The stain bloomed, deepening in color.

Panicky heat rose up my neck. “Oh, Karen, I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I did that. I’ve ruined your carpet.”

This is how the stain looked (and felt!) to me.

 

“Julie, don’t you worry about a thing,” she said. “I have grandchildren. My house isn’t perfect. We’ll clean it up later.”

What else could she say? I’d ruined her Berber carpet! 

“Let’s work on it now before it sets,” I said.

Because if it doesn’t come up, I’ll never forgive myself. 

“We’ll do it later, after the meeting.” She hugged me.

But the one blue eye stared at me.

I couldn’t leave it alone. “Do you have any carpet cleaner?”

“Let me go check, sweetie. The carpet’s going to be fine and you are too. I promise.”

But it’s a permanent marker. 

She found a bottle of rug cleaner, but it didn’t help. She gave me a quick wink as the doorbell rang.

More faces. Multiple explanations. Gentle laughter.

The spot and I had become the center of attention.

Everyone offered suggestions on how to get THE PERMANENT BLUE STAIN JULIE MADE out of Karen’s carpet.

“Try hairspray or rubbing alcohol,” someone said.

Karen didn’t have either one.

Another lady offered to put her foot over it.

Such a big to-do about my accident.

A friend texted her husband and asked him to bring cleaning supplies. He showed up while Karen was teaching.

So… I … had … to … keep… waiting. I couldn’t absorb any of the teaching for stealing sneaks at the big, blue, blob.

Then Karen closed in prayer. When she finally said “amen” I dropped to my knees. With my right hand on the hairspray, I held up my left hand. “Please, Lord. Help me.”

Everybody watched expectantly.

Slowly, with alcohol and hairspray, the ugly thing lost its battle.

Glorious relief!

None of my new friends condemned me with words or looks.

Not one.

Two hugged me.

Have you ever known the sweetness of instant forgiveness? Click to Tweet. Please share what happened!

When others graciously forgive us, we’re able to forgive ourselves. Click to Tweet. 

Thoughts? Feelings? Comments?

Love,

Julie

 

 

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

 

 

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

Friendship…Served With Love on a Paper Plate

A couple of years ago, my husband was all gung-ho about joining a small group at church. Not me. You can’t just throw people together and say, “Wa-lah! Make friends. Form bonds. Trust each other.”

Friendship takes time. 

And it’s risky. 

Being vulnerable enough to experience community brings the possibility of getting hurt.

Yes, of course, I’ve been hurt. I bet you have too.

And I’m embarrassed to tell you, but I wondered if I’d reached a stage in life when you don’t make many more new friends.

But my word Surrender wouldn’t leave me alone.

After days of running scared, I let go of control (again!), and we joined a small group. We knew Rick and Kim, our leaders, and one other person, but the rest of them were strangers.

That first night, my heart went thumpety-thump as we introduced ourselves.

Over time, we shared our struggles, our prayer requests, our joys. Something spread between us like warm caramel.

We were no longer strangers.

We became friends.

Since we ate together, I told them about having Celiac disease, an autoimmune illness, meaning I have to eat gluten-free.

After eighteen months, my husband and I became small group leaders.

Guess what else?

Rick and Kim invited us to their small group party last week!

Kim texted me: CAN YOU HAVE JELLO INSTANT PUDDING?

YES! 🙂

She made two gorgeous orange pineapple cakes–one regular and one gluten-free. For me. 

I nearly cried!

It had been almost eight years since I’d had a layered cake. I didn’t even know it was possible! And my cake looked exactly like the regular one.

Kim reached out with love and helped me feel like a regular person!

The next morning, I had two pieces for breakfast. 🙂

When we relinquish control, sometimes God brings the sweetest surprises. And friendships! 

(Kim used Pamela’s GF vanilla cake mix for mine.)

Thoughts on friendships? 

Share a time when someone’s kindness blew you away. 

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