Me and the Tractor and Trust

“Come here for a minute,” my husband said. “I need your help. But be careful. I could get killed doing this.”

“What kind of man says this to his wife?”

“I need you to push a lever on the tractor.”

On the way to his workshop, I remembered the day he said we needed a tractor.

Fourteen years ago. 

Right before we moved into our log cabin.

I thought a tractor was just an expensive toy. 

We argued about it. 

He won.

“Okay,” he said. “Listen. Here’s what I want you to do.”

I leaned in so I could hear over the sound of the tractor. “This scares me. You know that, don’t you?”

“We need to move this engine. It’s heavy.”

“I can’t help you. I don’t do things like that.”

“The tractor’s going to do the hard work.”

“I can’t drive a tractor.”

“All you have to do is move this black lever. And listen to me.”

I stared at the yellow “caution” sign and wondered if I should run get the neighbor next door, but I didn’t have time. 

Rick moved like a surgeon spreading out his instruments–only I was still wide awake. 

If I mess up, how will you die?  

What if the lever gets stuck? 

How hard do I have to push? 

Will you tell me when to stop–or am I just supposed to know when you’re finished?

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

I climbed on.

“Now,” he said. “Push.”

Gripping the black lever, I pressed it down. The engine slowly dropped.

“Okay. Let off.”

I did.

“Good job.”

“Thanks,” I said, feeling very proud of myself. “Any time.” I hopped off like I knew what I was doing.

Walking toward the house, I watched my husband of 38 years.

He looked kinda cute on the loud, green machine I thought we didn’t need. 

Back then, I had no idea that every few days, he’d have to smooth out the gravel driveway with the tractor blade. Especially after a hard rain.

Or that every spring, the tractor would help plow the garden. 

I didn’t know tractors were like elephants that lifted heavy equipment with their trunks.

Then something beautiful occurred to me.

Although I knew nothing about tractors, my husband did.

Sort of like our Heavenly Father.  

God peers up the road and sees what’s ahead. Then He prepares the way. Click to tweet. 

 I will go before you and make rough places smooth, Isaiah 45:2.

Thoughts? Ideas? Concerns?

I’m praying the tractor will remind us to trust God. He sees. He understands.

For more about our tractor, read Young Love and  a John Deere Tractor.

Love,

Julie

The Dancing Queen Has an Aha Moment

Have you ever found the answer to a problem in a bizarre way? That happened to me this weekend. Saturday morning, I was stumped.

My problem just so happened to be about writing, but it could’ve been about anything.

Thinking too hard and drinking way too much coffee, I sat in my office staring at dozens of sticky notes. I couldn’t figure out how to fix the plot in my novel.

By 10 a.m., my brain already felt like this.

A knotted-up mess. 

Ever so gently, my word for 2016 came to me.

DANCE. Why don’t you dance?

Now? 

I can’t dance. 

I have to fix this problem.

Take a break. Dance. Let it go. 

I can’t. 

Work comes before play.

Always.

Those are the rules. 

Then four words came to me. Four one-syllable words.

Do you trust Me? 

Yes, of course but…

Then dance–the gentle thought brushed against my heart.

Don’t laugh, y’all, but I did.

I got out my chair, twirled around in my office (no one was home but me), and I boogied my way downstairs–

Like I was the room monitor, slacking off on my duty.

Then I did something really wild and crazy. I hopped into the car. Drove to the YMCA.

For 30 minutes, I played solitaire on the treadmill as though I had absolutely nothing better to do. 

I acted like a kid during recess and danced–mentally and physically. 

Guess what?

The best thing happened–

When I forgot about my problem, the answer came. I knew what to do! How crazy is that?

Back at home, I moved a few sticky notes around on my whiteboard and fixed my plotting issue. 

Sometimes trusting God means we let go, take a break, and dance. Click to Tweet

Is this an aha moment for you too? Or have you always known about the dancing secret? I bet you have! 🙂

P.S. If you have a minute, watch this video from 1978. “Dancing Queen” used to be my fave song back in the day.

If you can’t see the video, click here. It’s impossible to watch it without dancing!

Love,

Julie–the Dancing Queen 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift of Improv–in Life and Love

Last week, I called our grown daughters. “Guess what? Your dad and I are going out Saturday night with our new friends Debbie and Todd!”

“Umm, that’s not really a big deal, Mom,” they said. “People go out all the time.”

But to me it was HUGE.

We were going to an improv comedy show, something we’d never done, with new friends, at the Aurora Theater in Lawrenceville, GA a place I’d never been.

Sometimes I’m a little slow to make friends. And when a new friendship forms, I let the other person initiate the first invitation. And Debbie had invited us! I was so excited!

I even looked up “improv” to make sure I understood.

Wikipedia:

“Improvisation or improv–a form of theater where most or all of what is performed is created at the moment it is performed.”

The actors can’t practice ahead of time. Holy cow.

Before the show started, the empty stage gave me goosebumps.

Nothing but three boxes and a couple of chairs.

Talk about faith–

To walk out on stage and not know your lines! 

Even getting coffee and M&Ms was exciting–the list of shows, the atmosphere. And $10 for our tickets, $4 for snacks.

After the theater company introduced themselves, they asked the audience to toss out clues.

The cast had to totally wing it.

Zero control.

Free falling. 

They nailed it, too! The show was hilarious, and clean :).

Laughing with new friends–such fun.

Sorry for the photo quality–improv phone pictures.

Todd and Debbie.

And us.

We talked on the way home.

“I had such a good time tonight,” I said. “I think I’m supposed to live more improv.”

“How so?” Rick said.

“Have more fun. Take more chances. Roll with whatever comes my way, even if I haven’t memorized my lines.”

“Yep.”

“Totally trust God.”

Have you been to an improv show? Live theater?

What about friendships? Do you trust easily?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

Encouragement from a Squirrel’s Nest

Saturday morning at our porch party, the wind whipped around the house, bending the frail-looking Georgia pines. My husband and I wore heavy coats and were covered in blankets. We sat rocking and drinking coffee together.

Of course I was thinking about lots of things.

Some family issues.

The small group at church we’re going to be leading soon.

Writing ideas.

And I was drawn to the strangest sight–

A clump of leaves way up high in the top of a hardwood.

I’d noticed them several weeks ago.

“Look at those leaves in the middle trees. Why are they there?”

“It’s a squirrels’ nest.”

“Isn’t that weird? It didn’t fall–even with all the wind and rain.”

“Yep.”

“And the poor squirrels had to build it with the only things they had. Leaves and twigs.”

“Um-hmm.”

“I bet they didn’t worry or complain. They probably didn’t say, ‘I wish we had a nice box lined with a soft blanket instead of these dumb old leaves’.”

Rick looked at me like where do you come up with this stuff? 

I didn’t care. I had that sweet, warm feeling God was talking to me. 

Later that day, I did some research on squirrels’ nests.

They build their nests with green leaves in the summer. After packing them in tightly, the leaves die and turn brown, and their nests grow even stronger in the winter–just when they need them the most. (Here’s more info on Wikipedia.)

You wouldn’t think squirrels’ nests could possibly work.

A pile of sticks and some leaves.

But they do.

It’s exactly the way God planned it.

When He calls us to do something seemingly impossible–a job, a dream, or even to love someone–He gives us everything we need at just the right time.

And not a moment sooner. 

Have you ever experienced one-leaf-at-a-time kind of faith? Tell me about it! I’d love to hear.

Love,

Julie

Trusting God and Letting the Pansies Go

Mother called late Thursday afternoon. “Julie, your brother (Jeremy) is making me a pansy garden. You’ve gotta see it. He bought special fertilizer, planted them in a big dirt mound, and covered them in mulch. He even pressure-washed my angel birdbath, and put out my ‘Trust in God’ sign.”

Friday, she met me at her carport door, sad-faced. “Early this morning, a neighbor saw a 10-point buck eating all my pansies!”

She showed me a picture. “I took this before everything was ruined. Jeremy built the wall by hand with a mallet and hammer. All that’s left now is his rock wall and my sign.”

“Can’t he replant your pansies?”

“Well, he could, but I’d have to stand guard and watch for the deer.”

“That’s a lot of work.”

“Yep. I thought about artificial pansies, but Gene (her husband) said no.”

Monday afternoon she called. “Jeremy’s replanting the whole thing. He’s spreading mothballs to repel the deer.”

“You don’t sound excited. Have you seen it?”

“No. I’m afraid to look. I feel so sorry for the pansies. I can’t stand it if they get eaten again.”

“They’re my favorite flower.”

“Mine too.”

“They’re so brave,” I said.

“They’re survivors. They make it through bitter cold winters.”

“Well, you can’t be afraid to look at them. Let me know when you gather your courage.”

Later that day, she called. “I haven’t looked yet, but I visualized each pansy and prayed over them.”

I could feel her peace through the phone.

“Okay, I’m walking to the window now. Oh, Julie. They’re gorgeous. He planted them not once, but twice, so I love them twice as much. I’ll let you know what happens, but I’m trusting God. I can’t live in fear. Not even about my pansies.”

“Wonderful! Now, send me a picture of you smiling.”

P.S. This week the “pansies” in my life are something I’ve been writing for a long time. Soon, I’m pressing send, trusting God, and letting go.

What are your “pansies” right now?

P.S.S. I just talked to Mother. So far, so good. 🙂

Love,
Julie

 

Sometimes Faith Means Taking a Break

When you read this, you’re probably going to think, well, duh, what took her so long? The other day, I got stuck. It had to do with writing, but it could’ve been about anything.

Here’s my not-so-pretty pattern:

I try too hard. Drink too much coffee. Focus so intently on the problem, I shut out the rest of the world. Sometimes … even God.

A tiny thought came to me.

Why don’t you surrender this?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! That word again. Surrender was my theme for 2012.

For me, surrender means saying, “Help me, Lord.”

“Okay,” I whispered, opening my hands and lifting them. “I can’t fix this by myself.”

And then I got a crazy idea.

I decided to stop working, take a break, and make a cheesecake.

I shut down my computer and left my little loft office.

At the grocery store, I didn’t rush around like a madwoman. I smiled at small children and didn’t get annoyed because I got in the slow lane.

Back at home, the football game was on. I even asked the score. 🙂

(Use these cookies and your cheesecake will be gluten-free.)

Because I wasn’t obsessing, my mind was free to think gentle thoughts.

I didn’t lose count with my eggs. My meringue turn out just right.

I’m discovering (after 50 years!) it’s okay to have fun–even when your work’s not completely finished.

I’m finally beginning to understand …

It honors God when I let go  of my problem(s) and take a break.

The answer to my writing problem came a couple of days later, after I stopped trying so hard.

“Do the things that show you have really changed your hearts and lives.” Matthew 3:8 NCV

Have you ever struggled with pushing too hard like me?

What do you do to chill out?

Click here for the cheesecake recipe.

Love,

Julie

On Friendship … When You’re an Introvert

“Strangers are just friends waiting to happen.” Rod McKuen Looking for a Friend

I try to cover it, but I’m an introvert. I have friends–really, I do–I promise, but I love days of solitude, writing in my cabin in the woods–so much that sometimes I overdo it.

A few weeks ago Robin called. We’ve been best friends for forty years.

Oddly, or maybe miraculously, we have the same autoimmune illnesses, Sjogren’s and Celiac disease.

“I’ve never met Heather,” Robin said, “but she reads my blog. She was diagnosed with Celiac a year ago and is inviting a few friends over for coffee. Everyone who’s coming has Celiac.”

Hmmm. “And you’ve never met her?”

“No, but she’s so sweet. You’ll love her. She wants us share our experiences.”

I felt the familiar tug to do what comes naturally, but for some reason, I didn’t.

I said yes.

Walking into Heather’s home, I never expected to feel so welcomed.

So instantly connected.

See what I mean?

A Celiac celebration.

Everything was gluten-free, and she had coffee and hot tea–lots of flavors.

Sometimes when you have Celiac (or anything about you that’s a little different) there’s that awkward moment when you have to explain.

But that didn’t happen at Heather’s. 🙂

We laughed about it.

Because we all understood.

Heather on the left and Robin on the right …

Robin and me …

My new friends … and sorry, I didn’t take my good camera that day. 🙁

Here’s the best part …

We bonded the way it happens in childhood.

And in novels.

We even prayed together.

See the Scripture on Heather’s chalkboard?

“God will meet all your needs…” Philippians 4:19.

Sometimes, God meets my needs when I’m in community —

When I break out of my routine, let go, and trust Him.

Sounds like SURRENDER, doesn’t it?

Are you somewhat of an introvert too?

Have you ever been surprised by unexpected friendships? Aren’t they just wonderful!

P.S. If you haven’t visited Robin’s blog at All Things Heart and Home, please do. You’ll love her too.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

Help! My Phone’s Been Stolen…And My Peace Too!

The other day, I did something stupid. I was grocery shopping. I checked my list which I keep on my phone. Putting my phone back in my purse, I thought, zip your purse.

But I didn’t.

I left my purse in the buggy (that’s Southern for grocery cart) while I looked for chocolate chips.

Seconds later, I reached for my phone.

It wasn’t there. Was it stolen? Did I lose it?

Nooooooooooooo! I need my phone! I love my phone!

My rational self left. Crazy took over.

I squatted on the floor, dumped everything out of my purse, and searched through my groceries like a madwoman.

Calm down. Stop being such a panic button.

I ran to customer service.

“No, ma’am. No one’s turned in a phone.”

Of course not. It was stolen.

I left my groceries, hurried to our service provider, and called the police–the whole time, my word for 2014 softly tapped my heart.

ENOUGH. 

Almost every morning this year, I’d written “God, You’re more than enough for me” in my prayer journal.

What about when someone steals your phone? Or when anything and everything goes wrong?

Is God enough then?

Every few minutes I stopped fretting long enough to pray.

Lord, whether or not I find my phone, You’re more than enough for me.

Each time I prayed my peace returned.

Five hours later after driving to another city for a replacement phone, I received a call.

My phone was turned in at customer service twenty minutes after being stolen. Some kind soul found it in the grocery store parking lot. When I erased my data, the thief probably tossed my phone.

I’d wasted a lot of time hurrying and worrying. But maybe it wasn’t a total waste.

Maybe it was worth the drama to grasp this truth.

No matter what happens, no one can steal our peace.

“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You…” Isaiah 26:3 NKJV

Can you relate? If you chose a word this year, how’s it going?

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing With My Eyes And My Heart

I had no idea a new pair of glasses could teach me a life lesson. Last week, I decided to get progressive lens — a fancy name for no-line trifocals. My first pair. I kept losing my readers. When you advance to progressives, you don’t take them off and on.

Picking out my frames, I texted pictures to my fashion savvy daughter.

 

After a bunch of “MOM, NO!!!” texts, I finally chose the pair on the left.

 

Friday night, I was so excited. My new glasses were ready. I slipped them on in the store. Ta-dah!

Then I tried to walk. My hands got clammy. I thought I might throw up. “Feels like my head’s stuck in a fishbowl,” I said to the saleslady.

“Point your nose toward what you want to see. The more you wear them, the quicker you’ll adjust.”

Adjust? To walking and moving my head? “How long does it take? A few hours?”

“Anywhere from a week to a month. Don’t shift your eyes, honey. Turn your head.”

This is ridiculous. I shouldn’t have to change to see.

As I baby-stepped to the door, she called out, “Look down when you step off the curb.”

I didn’t trip walking to the car, but at home, I bumped into plenty of things.

The first two days, I considered asking for a refund.

And then on day three, I remembered the saleslady had worn progressive lens. Maybe she knew what she was talking about. I decided to follow her instructions.

Eureka!

By the afternoon, I became Alice in Wonderland. I noticed what kind of birds were at the feeder, tiny drops of rain, and even dirty spots on my  cabinets. Because of my stubborness, I almost missed out.

To experience a new way of living, I had to:

1. Listen to the truth.

2. Trust someone who knew more than I did.

3. Let go of my old ways.

Anyone working on changing? I understand. I hope this helps.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clutching Church Pews and Steering Wheels

The other day I was in the car hurrying to go nowhere, thoughts flying all over the place. I’d slipped back into stinking thinking. Into trying to control certain situations. Into assuming I knew better than God.

My worries felt so…

Necessary. Justified.

Deep down, I knew my behavior didn’t match my one word for the year Enoughas in, God is more than enough for me.

And then this song came on the radio. When Matt Maher sang the phrase, “Lord, I need You, oh, I need You, every hour I need You…” I went back to my childhood, to a song we sang in church.

All of a sudden, I’m eight years old again singing,I need Thee every hour” in my shaky voice. My small clammy hands cling to the wooden church pew.

To the illusion of control.

Because even as a little girl, I was afraid to let go.

In my car, my grownup hands clutch the steering wheel like an ambulance driver heading to the next crisis.

And bless Matt’s heart. He just keeps singing…

“Lord, I need You, oh, I need You…”

A soft voice inside says,

Let go. Unclench your fingers.

I stop at a red light and stretch open my hands.

I’m telling you the truth.

In an instant, the sweetest peace filled my car.

Just by loosening my grip on life.

If something (or someone) is weighing you down, take a couple of minutes to listen to this song, watch the pictures, and open your fingers.

I’m praying for you.

Thank You, Lord.

You’re my ONE DEFENCE. MY RIGHTEOUSNESS. OH, GOD, HOW I NEED YOU.

Love,

Julie