Life-Changing Truth from Mrs. Betty’s Tea Parties

I’ve always been drawn to quiet, gentle people–the ones content to serve others without recognition.

In May, I spoke to the ladies of Galilee Christian Church in Jefferson, GA  at their annual tea party and wrote about it here. 

But there’s more to the story. 

Once a month, a small group of ladies from Galilee Christian invite women who are new to their church to a tea party. In May, I received an invitation.

The minute I arrived, I felt loved. They welcomed me. Served me. Treated me like I belonged. 

Their kindness inspired me. My sister and I are having a little tea party for Mother on her 80th birthday in July. 🙂

And the ladies invited my mother and me to their June tea party–

So yesterday we headed up Janice’s walkway.

“You’re gonna love it,” I said.

“I already do. Look at her gorgeous hydrangeas. Reminds me of childhood summers.”

“Just wait.”

“How sweet. Two chairs under the tree,” she said.

“One would’ve looked sorta lonely, wouldn’t it?”

Everyone welcomed us. The tables had been set with TLC.

Our table below…

When we sat down, our plates had been prepared, along with handmade place cards.

Mother couldn’t decide what to taste first.

The centerpiece came from flowers in Janice’s yard.

So much laughter…

They made a gluten-free plate just for me…

And my very own gluten-free chocolate chip scone! 🙂

The food was amazing, but the best part came after we ate.

We read Scripture verses inside our place cards.

Simple.

Powerful.

Then Betty Williams (90) told us how she began having tea parties twenty years ago. She wanted ladies to feel loved and accepted.

When she joined Galilee Christian Church eight years ago, she began a Tea Party Ministry.

Mrs. Betty’s below, on the left. Janice is on the right.

Right before we left, one of my new friends gave me a precious gift–tiny spoons, knives, napkins, and a teacup from her own collection–

To help me with Mother’s birthday tea party.

I came home with a car full of goodies and life-changing Truth.

Nothing–absolutely nothing–outshines kindness when it comes from the heart. Click to tweet

Mother Teresa was right. “Do small things with great love.” Click to tweet

…serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13 NIV Click to tweet

Do you see other Truths from the tea party? 

Does this give you any ideas for new ways to love others? 

Love,

Julie

 

Love Lessons from an Artist–Part One

My friend Yvette opened the front door of her home. For a moment, I was so moved by God’s Presence and the open Bible, I couldn’t speak. I did the only thing I could. I took off my shoes.

“Yvette…I’m standing on Holy Ground.”

She just smiled.

Backstory: A few weeks ago, I had lunch with a group of high school friends I hadn’t seen in 40 years. As everyone chatted, I mentioned that I’m writing a novel with a character who’s an artist. I told them I didn’t know much about art. Yvette invited me to see her studio. 

Barefoot in her entryway, I started taking pictures. 

“Meet Vivian. My husband and I found her at a flea market. We couldn’t leave her behind.”

“Well, of course not.”

“Some days, Vivian keeps me company.”

Little more backstory:

You’d never know it by Yvette’s countenance, but she has arthritis and Sjogren’s (the same autoimmune issue as me). Sometimes she slows down, stays home, and takes care of herself. Despite painful joints, Yvette never stops creating beauty.

“I believe we should surround ourselves with things that remind us of good experiences. My bike reminds me of good days I spent at St. George Island.”

Who is free enough to put a bicycle in her den? 

I want to be an artist! 

“This is a shoe nobody wanted. Plain.  All black. Overlooked.”

“You brought her home and loved on her,” I said.

“Um-hmm. She’s my Sunday-Go-To-Meeting Shoe. And these vases are for a sweet couple’s wedding. I already had a few vases, so I went to The Fish (a local Christian thrift store) and found some more and decorated them. Julie, I spent a total of four dollars.”

“So, art isn’t about how much money you spend?”

“It has nothing to do with money. Art begins when you open up your heart and discover the secret. Absolutely nothing and no one is trash. Everything and every person can be restored.” 

The love lessons Yvette gave me are worth more than diamonds and pearls. I found out there’s an artist buried inside of me. 🙂 

Stay tuned. I’ll be sharing more from Yvette’s creativity and wisdom with you. 

Check out her art and heart here:

The Charm House  on Facebook.

The Charm House on Pinterest.

The Charm House in Instagram.

The Charm House website.

How does your creativity show? How do you love on people? Do you see trash in treasures too? 

Love,

Julie

The Day Love Exploded Inside My Heart

Even though my three children are grown, sometimes they still need a little TLC.

Don’t we all?

This past Friday, my daughter Jamie and I planned to meet at Chick-fil-A . Just the two of us. Even though she’s 33, I wanted to spend some time with her–let her know how much I love her.

Words are my love language, but I decided to take her a small gift.

I’m not the best shopper. Usually, I walk in circles and don’t know what to buy. I found three of my favorite baby pictures of Jamie, and headed to Target for frames.

Jamie’s first Easter.

Jamie and her daddy.

I pulled into the Target parking lot.

This should be easy. Three frames. No hard shopping decisions. 

But Target didn’t have any frames to fit my pictures.

Now what?

Almost time to meet at Chick-fil-A.

Help me, Lord.

Jamie’s favorite color is pink.

Think pink. 

I found two soft pink t-shirts and pink azaleas in the floral section.

But the baby pictures–I couldn’t forget about them. And no time to go to another store. 

Circling the frame aisle one more time, I spotted a dark wooden coat rack. Lo and behold, it had a place for three pictures!

Back at home, I put her gifts on the counter and hurriedly slipped the pictures into the frames.

They fit perfectly! Hallelujah! 

When Jamie drove up at Chick-fil-A, I planned to calmly give her a hug, but when I handed her the pictures, something exploded inside my heart. 

God’s love gushed through me. 

Full force. 

I hugged her to me tightly. Her hair smelled sweet–so sweet, I couldn’t get enough of her scent.

Her beauty.

I cried sloppy tears and choked out, “I love you.

“Love you too, Mom.”

Sometimes God nudges you to do something.

And you have no idea how to do it.  Or why. 

Just move forward.

Step by step.

And He does it through you. 

Can anyone relate?

Love,

Julie

Chum-Talk…The Secret to Lasting Relationships

I don’t think my husband actually hates the Hallmark Countdown to Christmas movies. I think he just enjoys poking fun at them. Or at me for loving them.

Friday night we had a fire going. We were sharing a blanket on the sofa, watching The Nine Lives of Christmas

My kind of night.

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

“These silly movies are all the same,” Rick said.

“No they’re not.”

“After the first couple of minutes, you know the ending.”

“They’re romantic. See the pretty white lights on the square?”

“Same setting. Same town. Same Christmas tree lot.”

“Small-town life. So picturesque.”

“Same characters with the same goofy expressions. Look at how they grin at each other.”

“They’re just happy. And in love.”

“Nobody has that many teeth.”

By this time I was laughing, and the drama between Zachary and Marilee came to a climax. There’d been a huge misunderstanding. Although their cats had bonded, the two of them hadn’t.

Marilee teared up, and as Zachary murmured something soft and tender, Rick made another joke. This one was funny. “What’d he say? I missed it.”

“Just chum-talk.”

“What’s chum-talk?”

“It’s what they always say right before they kiss.”

“Their one big moment, and you made me laugh.”

“Don’t worry. It’ll be on 17 more times.”

“Good. I’m watching them all.”

“Now they’re going to hug,” Rick said.

And they did.

After the movie, I pondered chum-talk. “I bet Zachary probably told Marilee how much he loved her. And he was sorry.” I said. “And Marilee told Zachary she loved him too. And she forgave him.”

“You think so?” Rick said, smiling.

“I know so.”

Chum-talk is the emotional glue to lasting relationships.

I’m sorry.

I forgive you.

I love you. 

Do you love these movies? They’re so full of heart.

If you need to have a chum-talk with someone, I’ll pray be glad to pray.

P.S. We watched The Nine Lives of Christmas again last night!

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

Cruisin’ the Coast and Cruisin’ Through Marriage

“You can still change your mind and come with us,” my husband Rick said. It was our final Porch Party before he left town. He and his uncle were driving from Atlanta, Georgia to Biloxi, Mississippi. They were taking a 1988 Chevy truck Rick restored for Uncle David to a car show called Cruisin’ the Coast.

Before restoration:

After restoration: 

They’d be tooling the town looking at 10,000 cars.

I squirmed in my rocking chair. “Thanks, but y’all go on. I’m going to be cruisin’ thousands of words at home.”

I was looking forward to a week by myself, but I felt a twinge of guilt.

Aren’t married people supposed to love the same things? 

But after 36 years of marriage, I probably wasn’t going to develop a sudden passion for cars. And Rick probably wasn’t going to enjoy cruising bookstores.

By the middle of the week, I was getting sorta lonely. Thursday night he called. “Do you miss me yet?”

“Yes. Especially in the mornings when I’m porch partying by myself. Do you miss me?”

“Yep.”

He wasn’t coming home until Sunday, so thinking about marriage and love and porch parties–the things we have in common–I got an idea.

I bought two new mugs and made pumpkin bread.

Before baking.

With yummy topping.

All done minus one piece. 🙂  

We’d have a Welcome Home Porch Party Sunday night!

Here’s a marriage hint that took me forever to learn:

Marriage isn’t about becoming clones of one another.  

It’s about encouraging each other to become the incredibly unique person God created us to be. 

*Click here for Pamela’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Loaf Recipe. (Just use self-rising flour if you aren’t eating GF.)

*If you’re into cars, here’s an article from The Sun Herald about the record-breaking numbers who attended Cruisin’ the Coast.

Love,

Julie

P.S. Did you marry your exact opposite too?

Pret-ty, Pret-ty, Pret-ty–A Love Song From My Father

What happened this weekend must’ve been a preview to Heaven. I visited my dear friend and best-selling author DiAnn Mills in Houston, TX.

Before we worshipped together at her church …

We sat in this cozy corner near her pool and had a porch party.

Everywhere I looked I saw beauty.

Maybe God has a special message somewhere out here for me today.

“Ohhh, look at my coffee cup,” I said, thinking surely this was it.

She smiled. “That’s why we write.”

Nice words, but the quote wasn’t what I needed.

“Your flowers are gorgeous. Are you the gardener?”

“Yes. When I need inspiration, I get on my knees in the dirt. I plot and plant and pray. And pray some more.” A cool breeze blew. “Smell that sweet scent?” she said. “That’s alyssum.” (Her white flowers.)

The aroma was so lovely, for a few moments, we didn’t say anything.

We sat still and quiet, worshipping.

And then we heard the first bird of the morning.

“Did I ever tell you what my daddy said when I was a little girl?” She sipped her coffee.  “We were outside–just the two of us. He whispered, ‘Listen. Do you hear that bird? She’s saying, ‘pret-ty, pret-ty, pret-ty. She’s singing to you, DiAnn.”

I swallowed the knot in my throat.

“I didn’t think I was pretty,” she said. “But my father did.”

What a gift her daddy gave her.

The next thought came before I could stop it.

My father never told me I was pretty.

What a silly thing to remember. I’m a grown woman.

In an instant, a wooden cross caught my attention–at the center of the wind chimes.

Keeping my eyes on the cross, an unexpected healing prayer rose.

Thank You, Lord.

When earthly fathers (and others) fall short, You will … “rejoice over me with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

I’m praying this Scripture for you, my friends.

Love,

Julie

 

A Skinny Cow… and Love Somehow

To me, there’s nothing more fascinating than people. What makes them laugh and cry? The other night our son’s girlfriend Brittany and I had a good time talking. She’s an animal lover and told me all about her cows. Toward the end of our conversation, we had quite a moment. When Brittany was younger, she went to cow auctions with her daddy and brother. “We’d look at all the cows for sale, probably a hundred of them, and I could only choose one. I’d always pick the skinniest most pitiful looking cow.” “Why?” “Because I knew what she could become. Like with Strawberry. When I saw her, I told Daddy, ‘That’s the one I want.’ He just laughed. ‘What for, Brittany? Look at her.'” “Her coat was dull and she was skinny, but I fell in love with her. I wanted to rescue her. Same thing with Texas.”   “And Colorado.” “And Gypsy.” “When you brought them home what happened?” I leaned forward, could hardly wait to hear. It took her a few second to speak. Her eyes brimmed with happy tears. “They became the beautiful cows I knew they could be.” Her words stirred my heart. I thought about hurting people, friends and family, myself–my faults. “What’s your secret with cows?” “We put them out in the pasture to graze. I gave them sweet feed and loved on them. Before long, they’d get fat and pretty and happy. And they’d have babies.” Strawberry a few months later… And Texas. And Gypsy. And Colorado. Seeing the miraculous change in Brittany’s cows, holy goose bumps covered me. “The same thing happens to people,” I said. “God sees us as we are and rescues us.” She nodded, her brown eyes shining. “He knows who we can become.” If you and I were  sitting at my kitchen table, what would we talk about? What stirs your heart? Love, Julie

3 Messages of Truth to My Little Girl Self

My mother has an artist’s soul. One day when I was six, she used her creative skills on my long hair. “Let’s cut your hair into a pixie. It’ll be fun.” She promised me that short hair was all the rage and grabbed the kitchen scissors.  She clothes-pinned a sheet around my shoulders and we headed to the backyard. Playing beauty parlor, she snipped here and there and spun me around in the grass. “You look adorable. Just wait! You’re gonna love it.”

Peering into her bedroom mirror afterwards, I thought I might faint. Who is this strangle little girl with too-short bangs and stick-out ears?

Then she painted a picture immortalizing my new look.

I hated my new “do” and I hated the portrait even more. I looked like a scared unloved waif.

For months, I tugged on my stubby ends hoping they’d grow back magically like my Crissy Doll’s hair.

A few years ago, I found the painting in my attic. I dusted Little Julie and decided to splurge and have her framed.

The picture I once despised now hangs in my kitchen–her shy smile reminds me of the Truth.

1. The One who made me loves me. (And I’m free to love me too!)

2. I can’t do anything to make Him love me any more…or any less.

3. I am precious in His sight.

“… I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal 2:20 NIV

Do you have a message of kindness and truth for your younger self?

Love,

Julie

Love and a Lab Named Levi

I grew up going to church every Sunday and memorized lots of scripture. Who would think Levi, my daughter’s Lab, would refresh my understanding of God’s love for me? Here they are a few years ago–Katie and Levi.

We kept him over the weekend. He stayed at my heels, and sat under my desk while I worked. He’s so sweet, but he missed Katie and wouldn’t eat.

“Levi, please eat.” I held the bowl near his face. “Yummy. Don’t you want some?”

Years ago, I worked for a vet. I knew the rule. If a dog doesn’t eat, take the food away. He’ll eat when he’s hungry. 

Looking into his chocolate-brown eyes, I just couldn’t do it. I decided to try another method.

Unconditional love.

I sat down beside him on the kitchen floor. Petted him. Talked to him. “If I stay down here with you, will you eat?”

No matter how he responded, I’d still love him.

He looked at me. But I miss Katie.

Love flooded me. “I know you do, buddy. And I won’t leave you. I promise. Come on. You can do it.”

Slowly, he put his face near the bowl, sniffed his food, and began eating. 🙂

“Oh, you’re such a good boy! I’m so proud of you.” He smiled at me and finished all his food.

Putting his empty bowl away, I sensed the Still Small Voice.

That’s how I love youGod seemed to say.

My love isn’t measured by how well you perform. 

Nothing you do or don’t do will change my love for you.

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I hugged Levi. Thank you, sweet boy!

God loves me. He loves us. He really, really loves us! He’s a gentle Master.

Love,

Julie

Remembering the Good Stuff–Only the Good Stuff

Saturday night, my sister Jennifer celebrated her 50th birthday. After dinner she said, “As I reflected on turning 50, I realized I didn’t want a big blowout party. I guess there’s something about aging that makes you grateful for your family, your health, your marriage, your children, and your dearest friends.”

Uh-oh. My heart pounded triple time. She planned to say something about each of us. I was the bossy older sister. The tattle-tale. I organized neighborhood plays and always got to be the director.

One night in the tub, I convinced Jennifer to take a bite of Dial soap. I told her everybody ate soap.

I told her if she’d put her Popsicles in my mouth, they wouldn’t melt so fast because my mouth was just like a refrigerator.

I told her to never say the words VENETIAN BLINDS. 

VENETIAN BLINDS  means something dark and scary, and you’re way too young to understand.” Bless her heart. She believed me.

Would she remember all the ugly stuff I’d done? Would she tell everybody at the party?

Flash back to 1968. Mother’s folding diapers. Jen’s twirling her hair. I’m smiling at the camera with my hands on my hips, probably telling Jen to behave and smile too.

Okay, back to Saturday night, Jen’s words…

“As my sister, Julie, you truly know me better than anyone, next to Charlie, Libby, and the Lord! It’s hard to put into words the gratitude I feel for you.” (Charlie’s her hubby. Libby’s their daughter.)

Gratitude? Did she say gratitude?

“From the time I was a little girl to now, I’ve looked up to you and admired you. We had such fun as sisters.”

Me? Fun?

We were both crying, but somehow she continued.

“Playing in the sprinkler in matching bathing suits, groove-ins on Nancy Clutter’s porch, cereal and cartoons on Saturdays, me, jumping in your bed with you at night because I’d heard something and was terrified. You let me put my cold feet on your warm ones. You’ve always been there for me. I know I can confide in you.”

Oh, wow. She only remembers the good stuff.

How can it be? She’s let go of all the mean things I did to her.

(Jen, me, and Mother–44 years later–the night of the party!)

Staring at her 1960’s groovy cake, I thought…

What if I could live like Jennifer?

What if I “kept no record of wrongs?”  1 Corinthians 13:5

And dwelled only on the good stuff.

Help me, Lord.

Love,

Julie~ Was anyone else a bossy child?