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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Willing Heart

Confession.

For years, I hid in my loft office upstairs and wrote the days away, trying to make my life count. Trying to be somebody.

But God’s been messing with my heart lately. Big time.

On Saturday, November 4th, I went with some friends to downtown Atlanta. We took goodie bags to the homeless.

This pastor happened by.

He said he’d just walked his 6,000 steps for the day and ended up at same park where we were.

“There’s a reason God brought me here,” he said. “Now I know why.” He smiled. “To pray for you ladies.”

He didn’t say a quick prayer and hurry on his busy way.

He spent some time with us. He thanked us for what we were doing, and then he began to pray–the kind of prayer that stirs your soul. He asked God to protect us and to shine His Light through us. 

There was something special about him.

Something unforgettable. 

The man depended on God for every step he took. Every word he spoke. 

We said goodbye and headed to our next stop.

I want to live that way, I thought. Like that man. Totally free to be myself. Free to share God’s love anywhere and everywhere.

Two days ago, I met Missy for lunch.

She attended a women’s retreat in October where my mother and I spoke.

Missy and I chatted and laughed while we ate. Then we got gut-level honest.

“Missy,” I said. “I’ve been speaking to ladies’ groups for years. Usually it takes me a few minutes to feel comfortable in front of a crowd. But something happened when I spoke to your group. I’m not sure what it was, but I had so much fun. No fear whatsoever. Wonder what made the difference?”

She leaned forward and looked right in my eyes. “You were real with us, Julie. Every woman in the room could relate to you.”

Holy goosebumps covered me.

That’s how I make a difference in the world?

I take off my skin and be myself?

It sounded too good to be true.

Then I remembered the pastor. His compassion. His easy manner. The way God drew near when he prayed for us.

I want to live that way, every day.

And for a few precious minutes at the women’s retreat, I did.

When you surrender everything to God–even for a few minutes, He never wastes a willing heart. (click to tweet)

Can you relate? Have you had moments when you completely surrendered your heart to God? What happened? Please share with the group! It’s an exciting way to live, isn’t it?!

P.S. I’ll be speaking Thursday and Friday nights, November 16th and 17th. Say a prayer. 🙂

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Regular Old Southern Self

“Oh, Julie,” my mother said in a somber tone. “New Englanders are a bit different than we are.”

I’d called to tell her I’d be leading a women’s Surrender Retreat at New Colony Baptist Church in Billerica, Massachusetts.

“What do you mean different?”

An incredibly long paused formed.

“People in the New England area are … ”

“Are what, Mother?”

“Well, they don’t eat grits or drink sweet tea, and they never say, ‘I’m fixin to’.”

Uh-oh. What have I gotten myself into?

How can I stop being so Southern and be more polished? More New England-ish?

I tried to stop saying “I’m fixin’ to.”

But I couldn’t.

I thought about giving up sweet tea.

But I didn’t.

Instead I made a scary decision.

To go to Massachusetts and be my regular old Southern self. 

To share my heart with the ladies.

The real me.

Weeks later standing at the podium, I told them what my mother had said. 🙂

They just about died laughing.

So did I. 

I began teaching, as I sometimes do, wearing curlers and a bathrobe. 🙂

I used my Barbie dolls like always.

I even brought out my chain to share how fear and perfectionism had bound me for most of my life.

Some of my new friends …

At the end of the retreat, I carried balloons of SURRENDER to the middle of the parking lot.

I’m laughing because the wind is blowing so hard.

So beyond my control.

So much bigger than me.

So … God.

When we released them–

Up, up they floated–

And landed in a tree.

But one lone yellow balloon broke free. When she did, Truth rose in my heart. 

People are just people. We all laugh and cry and struggle.

Best of all, God is still God. 

And I get to be me.

 So much love,

Julie

Do you ever struggling with being yourself?

P.S. Thank you for praying for us!

 

The Fear/Faith Principle

I’ll never forget what my mother did when I was twelve years old. She volunteered me to teach a ladies Sunday school class. She thought it would be fun. She was in the class. 🙁

It was youth Sunday, but still …

I was furious. And scared to death.

On the way to  church I felt like throwing up. My hands shook as I clutched the fear/faith poster I’d made. The poster was half black and half yellow. The yellow part represented faith. The black part meant fear.

At the bottom I wrote:

“Faith means walking to the edge of all the light you can see and taking one more step.”

That day in 1972 when I taught the semi-circle of ladies, a miracle happened.

My poster worked!

I didn’t pass out. My heart slowed down. My words flowed.

I saw a softening around their eyes, a tenderness, a look of understanding.

We experienced the awe and humility of God’s Presence.

This weekend, I’m flying to Massachusetts to lead a ladies retreat on Surrender.

I’m packing my carry-on now. The goofy shoes and hat are part of a skit.

I’m bringing the Daily Guideposts 2015 . It contains a Surrender Series I wrote.

On the inside, I’m still the same little girl. Forty-two years later, right before I speak, my heart does that same skippity thing, and my hands turn clammy.

But the fear/faith principle still works.

When you take one tiny step out of all the light you can see, and your foot is coming down into darkness, you don’t realize it, but you’re landing in faith.

Are you stepping out into faith about something?

My church lady shoes for the skit–my mother wore them 27 years ago at her second wedding.

Please say a prayer for us this weekend.

Here’s my blog about the Ladies Surrender Retreat in South Carolina.

“Fear not, for I am with you.” Isaiah 41:10 NKJV

So much love,

Julie