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

A Bad Case of Chiggers–Stubborn Me–God’s Grace

Last Monday, I did something stupid. I’m a fair-skinned redhead who’s allergic to poison ivy. And bugs love me. Heading behind our house to walk the dogs, I noticed the bug spray.

A gentle thought came.

Better be safe. Use bug spray. 

Nah. I’ll be fine. 

For the first time this year, I entered the woods unprotected.

Like a hardheaded know-it-all. 

Two hours later, I noticed a small bite on my ankle. By the next morning, I was covered in chigger bites. Four days later, I went to the doctor.

In a bad mood. Scratching. 

Annoyed at my stubbornness. My stupidity. 

In the car, I flipped on the radio to my favorite station, 104.7 The Fish. 

(If you can’t see the video, click here. If you have time, it’s SO worth listening to. :))

As Kristian Stanfill from Passion sang, “My Heart is Yours” I heard the word Surrender, but I didn’t want to surrender.

I felt far away from God.

He seemed to say, “If you’ll give me this situation, I’ll work good out of it. “

Now? Chiggers?  

I brought this on myself. I don’t deserve Your help.

Especially now. You are my Child. Don’t run from Me.

Doubting that I’d heard from God, I signed in at the doctor’s office.

They were playing the same radio station. 

That’s nice, but it doesn’t mean anything.

A medical assistant called my name. “Hi, there,” she said. “How are you?” She mentioned her faith and added, “I always invite God into the exam room and pray for my patients in my heart.” 

I swallowed hard.

Okay, Lord. I’m listening…

After she left the room, I felt a gentle nudge to look closely at the pictures on the wall.

What if I get caught walking around the room in my robe? I’ll look like an idiot. 

But I got off the table.

Studied the pictures.

Each one had a small Scripture verse in the bottom right-hand corner.

Meant for me.

Romans 8:28

“…all things work together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Psalms 46:10 

“Be still and know that I am God…”

I went home with healing medicine for my body and my soul.

Thank You, Lord. Even when we mess up, You pursue us with Grace. 

Can you relate?

Has God ever chased after you with unfailing Grace? 

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

 

 

 

Suddenly Spring?

“Time changes tomorrow,” my husband said at our porch party Saturday morning. “I need to take down the white Christmas lights.”

Sometimes I resist change.

Hearing his announcement about daylight savings time, I felt a little unsettled. Out of sorts. It seemed I was late for something important and needed to hurry and catch up.

Weird, I know. And irrational.

Maybe it’s because we’re racing toward spring, and I’m not ready to say goodbye to winter.

And the lights were so beautiful.

I remembered how they looked when it snowed a few days earlier.

Almost magical.

I felt caught between winter and spring–like having children at home and then adapting to an empty next. “Why don’t we just leave them up all year?”

“Because time’s changing. More daylight hours. And if we never took them down, pretty soon, we wouldn’t even notice them.”

Later that day, I walked around the porch and spotted signs of spring.

The wreath tied with pink ribbon.

My rain boots.

The dwindling stack of firewood.

The rabbit under my grandmother’s old table.

Something occurred to me–

A few days ago, I’d noticed a thin layer of ice in the bird bath. The same day, daffodils on the side of the road waved.

Ice and daffodils. 

Like a van Gogh painting, the last hint of gray winter softly blended with the pastels of spring.

Maybe this transition helps us surrender the past and anticipate the future. 

And maybe God, in His mercy, often eases us into the next season of life.

Have you ever felt this way about time changing? Life changes? Family changes?

What season are you in right now?

Love,

Julie

 

 

Our Mysterious Destination (and My 2015 Word)

I’d been considering a certain word for 2015. I didn’t have much in common with it, but I loved it. It’s tiny and tender compared to my last three heavyweights–surrender follow, and enough.

Something unexpected happened Christmas night, and I knew the word was mine.

Six p.m.

“Go get your coat,” my husband said.

“Why? Is everything okay? Where’re we going? Do I need my purse? Let me get my phone.”

“Nope. Just your coat.”

(We re-enacted  for pictures. On Christmas night there were no cars.)

Even though I felt uneasy leaving everything behind, I followed his simple instructions and grabbed my coat. While he drove to our mysterious destination, I asked a million more questions.

He just smiled.

Patted my knee.

Approximately eight minutes later, we parked at the town square.

“Ohhhhh, we’re walking around the square, right?”

He winked.

It’d been a couple of years since we’d walked around the square together. And never on Christmas night. “Wow. Everything’s all lit up.” I hurried toward the first shop to peek in the window.

“Slow down. We’re not exercising.”

Oh.

I felt a tug at my heart.

Something’s happening. Pay attention.

“Look at the Christmas tree lights!” I said. “They’re the big old-fashioned kind, like when we were little.”

“Oh, look at Buckles Hardware all decorated.”

“We might even see Barney Fife!

“Yep,” he said.

photo credit Bisse’s Photostream Flickr link

How had I missed the beauty of small town simplicity?

The beauty of simple things? 

We stopped at a window box full of pansies.

Spotting one simple candle glowing in the window, I finally said yes to my word. One-hundred percent yes.

“Guess what my word is for 2015? It’s the exact opposite of me.”

“Risk-taker?”

“No. It’s Simple. My new word is Simple. Like, ‘K.I.S.S. Keep it Simple, Sweetheart.’‘”

He looked at me and I knew exactly what he was thinking.

But you’re not simple. You’re complicated. You never stop thinking. Or planning.

“With God’s help, I’m going to think simple thoughts. I am–I’m going to simplify and focus on what matters most.”

Maybe simple faith is all we really need.

Do you have a word for 2015? Please share it with our group!

**Reminder** Facebook is changing in January. Be sure to sign up for my blog through my website.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surrender…It’s So Very Daily

I’ve been blessed to contribute devotionals to Daily Guideposts since 2003. The 2015 edition contains a Surrender Series I wrote about my word from 2012. A few days ago, Guideposts featured one of my devotionals from the series on their website.

In this devotional, I mention Al-AnonAl-Anon is a 12-Step program for people like me who have a friend or family member who is an alcoholic.

So many times I return to Step One.

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Surrender, for me, means admitting I’m powerless. Step One affects every part of my life.

I’m not only powerless over alcohol, I’m powerless over everything and everyone except my choices and my responses.

I’m powerless over people I love.

I’m powerless over others’ opinions of me.

I’m even powerless over whether or not the sun shines. 🙂

Moment-by-moment, I’m reminded that I’m not in control–even on my daily walks.

Last week Clyde (our Lab) and I walked the loop through the woods behind our house. We always circle the loop ten times. I noticed Kitty Thelma watching us.

“Kitty, kitty, come on. Walk with us.”

She swished her tail like she had better things to do.

Each time we passed her, the same thing happened. I begged her to come. She refused.

On loop number eight, she sharpened her claws.

Oh, good! Maybe she’s thinking about it.

I waited on her.

Nope. She stayed put.

Which brought me back to Surrender.

I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to change people.  

Just like I’d done with Thelma–I was even trying to control my cat!

On my last loop, I smiled at her, but I didn’t try to change her mind.

Leaving the woods, I saw the sun peeking through the fall leaves.

Thank You, Lord. It’s not my job to change anyone. (Not even Thelma. :))

I’m just supposed to work on myself.

Have you ever tried to change someone? Pointless, isn’t it.

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