This Much I Know is True

Something about becoming a grandmother is changing me. God’s peeling back the layers of my heart, asking me to be honest. I mentioned it in my last post.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how I spend my time and what matters most in life.

Am I loving people? Really loving them?

When I stepped away from blogging after Caleb was born, something unexpected happened.

God tenderized my heart in the area of relationships. 

I love connecting with women–through a blog post, at a conference, or in my friend’s cozy den at our ladies’ small group. I love spontaneous friendships that happen in the grocery store, and friendships that last a lifetime.

I strongly feel He’s leading me to spend time in one-on-one friendships–ministering in the moment–and loving my family. 

~I want to visit my mom weekly.

~Katie and her husband moved to the Georgia coast, almost four hours away. I want to get to know my grandson.

~My husband’s business of 41 years is going through some changes. He’s supported my writing dream for a long time. I want to be available to him.

I’m going to let the blog rest for now. This doesn’t make sense for a writer who’s supposed to be busy with social media, building her platform, and accepting speaking engagements.

But this much I know is true:

God’s teaching me to love people. It’s a behind the scenes way to live, but living this way brings me so much JOY.

I just wanted to let you how much you mean to me, and why I won’t be here. At least for a season. And believe me–if He whispers, Write about this, Julie, I’ll be all over it!

Over the past seven years, it felt like you and I were sitting at my kitchen table, talking over a cup of coffee, or porch-partying together.

I’m grateful for every comment, every prayer, and every friendship that bloomed here.

You gave me so much more than I could ever give you. 

Maybe this is what Surrender is all about, loving and letting go. 

Something else~~

What if the things that bring us the greatest joy also bring great joy to God?

And what if these things are quiet, hidden from most of the world?

Maybe life is a lot simpler than I ever thought possible.    

I’m sharing my favorite song with you. The first time I heard it, I forgot to breathe. 

I still do. 

I pray it blesses you. 

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

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10 ESV

With all my heart,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Becoming a Grandmother and Priorities

I’ve come to my office so many times to write this post, then stopped myself.

My heart feels like pictures I made in kindergarten–the ones with crayons melted by a hot iron inside wax paper–so many colors swirled together.

Becoming a grandmother has changed me.

It took a while to gather the courage to share my thoughts. I’ve missed you. I’ve prayed for you. You’ve become some of my dearest friends. And what kind of friend am I if I’m not honest with you?

I had the honor of being in the labor room with my daughter, Katie, and her husband for two days while they waited to meet their baby boy.

There’s something sacred about birth. Especially when it’s a grandchild.

I‘ll never forget my desperate prayer at the 3/4 mark of her labor.

3:30 p.m. on July the 11th.

She’s so tiny, Lord, and it looks like nothing’s happening. Would You help her? Surely Mary was small when she gave birth, and You were there in the manger…

Caleb James was born at 5:10 p.m. the same day. No c-section necessary!

He weighed 6.3. 19 1/2 inches long.

I’ll never stop thanking You, Lord. Ten years of prayer. 

When I held my grandson for the first time, Awe and Gratitude came together.

Evidence of God’s faithfulness in my arms.

I wanted to slow dance around the room with him. I may have. I’m not sure. 🙂

Oh, the Power and Wisdom of Your timing. You don’t always say yes. And rarely do You answer according to our plans. But look at this beautiful boy…

Peering into Caleb’s blue-gray eyes, I thought about life.

I’m 58. Pushing 60.

Maybe the 3/4 mark.

The final lap.

Like the turning point in Katie’s labor. 

Caleb’s four weeks old today, and I’m in a new, quiet place.

My priorities are softening and shifting. I’ve never felt this way before.

It’s a Holy Hush.

Social media and platform building (as we writers are encouraged to do) doesn’t seem nearly as urgent. Sharing my opinions doesn’t seem nearly as important. More than anything (even publishing), I want to become someone who loves well.

To love well, I must love God first. 

I wrote Him a long apology letter this morning. 

For years, I put becoming “successful” at the tip-top of my list. 

I chased becoming Somebody instead of chasing Him. 

I’m reading Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot for the second time. I skimmed it years ago. 

As I keep a quiet heart, God’s teaching me how to love others, one person at a time, the same way He loves me.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these. Mark 12:30-31 NIV

P.S. Katie and her family are doing just fine. Rilynn (Katie’s stepdaughter–who holds a huge chunk of my heart) is on Cloud Ten. 🙂 So is Grandpa Rick. If you want to find out more about Katie’s journey with infertility, read this and this.


Thoughts? Comments? Have you ever had the Lord rearrange your priorities?

Love and gratitude,

Grandma Jewels

 

 

 

Bone Broth for Blessings

For the past few weeks, I’ve taken dinner to my mother and stepfather on Wednesday afternoons. It’s not a big deal for me. They only live twenty minutes away. I love to cook and my mother doesn’t. She’s happy with smearing peanut butter on a banana and eating a bowl of ice cream.

But my stepfather Gene likes to eat–real food

To be honest, I used food as an excuse to talk to him. Nourishment for my soul.

As a retired minister and sociology professor, Gene knows people. And he’s lived long enough to know what’s important in life. He’s 85.

I trust him.

He’s never given me advice unless I’ve asked for it. This time, I had a lot of questions. 

I walked into their kitchen with a crock pot full of bone broth soup, warm cornbread, fresh fruit, and a plate of spice cake. And, of course, Hershey bars for Mother.

(Here’s a recipe for how to make bone broth from Wellness Mama.)

Mother hopped up on the counter and popped a grape into her mouth.

“So, Gene,” I said, trying to sound casual. “What’s life all about? I mean, what matters most? What’s my real purpose? Why am I here?”

He smiled, even though I’d asked a long line of heavy questions that he couldn’t be possibly answer in an afternoon visit.

“What you’re feeling is perfectly normal,” he said. “I wrote a little bit about it.” Opening a drawer, he pulled out a thick stack of papers. “It’s my doctrinal dissertation from June of 1967.”

My gaze landed on the word MEANING in the title. Which is what I’d been searching for. Meaning and purpose. What matters most.

“This is amazing,” I said.

Everything I wanted to know, I could find in Gene’s study.

“Do you mind if I borrow it? I’ll take good care of it. I promise.”

“Sure.”

Before he left to run errands, we talked some more, and I followed him outside.

What happened next was one of those sparkly moments–the kind you know you’ll never forget. 

Standing by his truck, I flipped through his research, hoping to make sense of all his facts and figures.

“You really want to know what’s important in life?” he said.

I moved inside his open door. “More than anything.”

He looked up toward heaven. “Love well.”

“Love well? That’s it? Two words. How can life be that simple?”

“That’s it.”

His hazel eyes met mine, and I remembered how he’d been there for me over the years. Always compassionate. Never judging.

~~How he prayed with me during my two bouts of clinical depression in 1994 and 2012.

~~How he read Scripture at our infant son Robbie’s graveside and at our daughter Katie’s first wedding.

Gene was right.

The answer settled my soul. 

Love well.

Love God and love others. What else matters? Click to tweet. 

“He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Luke 10:27 NIV

What does LOVE WELL mean to you?

Do you have someone a little older and wiser to talk to?

Love,

Julie

The Best Birthday Cake Ever!

When I was a child, I loved playing the game with notebook paper that gave you answers to life’s most important questions–well, important to an eight-year-old little girl.

It looked something like this. Remember?

We’d sit in the floor and ask all sorts of questions:

How many children will I have?

What kind of house will I live in?

What’s my husband’s name?

But life doesn’t always cooperate, does it? It’s full of surprises. Some good. Some not so good.

Last week for my husband’s birthday, I asked him if he wanted to go out to eat to celebrate.

“Nah. How ’bout making ground beef patties and mashed potatoes?”

“Yuck. Don’t you want something fancy like steak and shrimp? Want me to order you a birthday cake with lots of icing?”

“No, thanks. Just make a gluten-free dessert, so you can have some.” (I have Celiac.)

I did my best to cook his favorite meal, but something went waaaaayy wrong with his cake.

It fell.

It cracked right down the middle.

I tried to glue the broken pieces together with globs of cream cheese frosting, but I didn’t have enough, so I thinned it down.

The icing slid off the cake–

Which sunk on one side.

It was the saddest excuse for a birthday cake I’ve ever seen. 

After supper, I sliced a couple of pieces. “I don’t know what happened. I tried hard. I followed the recipe.”

I took a bite and stared at my husband.

It was the night of his 57th birthday.

I’ve known him since we were 15 and 16. He’s an honest man.

The cake looked hideous and yet–

“This is amazing,” I said. “I know it looks terrible, but–”

“Better than store-bought. Definitely.”

“I can’t believe it. It’s so tender and sweet.”

“Um-hmm.”

Later that night while I did the supper dishes, I thought about something.

The birthday cake resembled my life–maybe yours too.

Everything hasn’t gone the storybook way I thought I wanted, but my life is a beautiful combination of messy and sweet. 

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. Psalm 16:6 Click to Tweet. 

Has your life gone the way you thought it would? Which parts surprised you?

Right now, today, what’s messy? What’s sweet? 

Are you like me? Did it take a while to be grateful for certain things?

It’s a daily process, isn’t it? 

So much love,

Julie

 

 

 

Love Lessons from an Artist–Part Three

I hoped my friend Yvette might teach me a little something about art. I never expected her to teach me how to love people. Or anything about marriage. I’ve been married almost 37 years. I thought I had it all figured out. 

(Parts one and two are here and here.)

This sentence over Yvette’s bedroom door stumped me.

How can my ordinary life become a fairytale? 

Parts of it are messy and broken.  

Yvette showed me the rest of her bedroom, but I kept thinking about the fairytale sentence.

“On my wedding day, my sister’s mother-in-love gave me a hankie.” 

“She’d embroidered our names and the date on it. My mother started doing the same thing for brides. She made one for my daughter and my daughter-in-love. She even made one for me on their wedding days.”

“Gifts from the heart.”

Yvette’s wedding dress is on display right beside her bed.

“What a wonderful idea!” 

Especially since I threw mine away a few years after we married. 🙁

There was an old Bingo card lying on a chipped Formica table.

“This is one of my favorite things. I found pictures of us when we were five and pieced them together.”

“It’s precious. Have y’all been together since kindergarten?”

She smiled.

“No, but we’ve loved each other for a long, long time.”

In their bathroom, a small shelf held a cross, a white card, and some Scrabble letters.

“We leave love notes for each other here. I used Scrabble letters. He wrote, ‘I love you’ on the card.” 

Something stirred in my heart.

Once again, I couldn’t talk.

Before we left the bathroom, I noticed pictures near the mirrors.

Below them, I spotted a small sign.

Tiny letters.

This is how Yvette loves others–especially her husband.

Maybe it’s how–

 “Love gives us a fairytale right in the middle of our ordinary lives.” 

What do you think? Is it possible to experience a fairytale even though our lives are ordinary and messy and broken?

You can find Yvette here:

The Charm House  on Facebook.

The Charm House on Pinterest.

The Charm House in Instagram.

The Charm House website.

The Charm House on Twitter.

Love,

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

Love Lessons from an Artist–Part Two

“Real creativity means listening to your heart,” my friend Yvette said. (I began sharing her story last week here.)

“Tell me more.” We entered her kitchen.

“This rug, for instance. I found it at a flea market. It was six dollars.”

“Did you know for sure it would match?”

“I didn’t care if it matched. I loved it.”

Oh.

“Creativity isn’t about matching or being perfect.”

Incredible! Yvette’s teaching me the same things God’s been showing me. 

“This was my grandfather’s pipe. And my grandmother’s snuff.” 🙂

We laughed.

“I love it! You keep your grandmother’s snuff on the kitchen counter. You’re breaking so many rules.”

“That’s what art’s all about. Being free. Being yourself.”

Maybe that’s what good writing’s about, too.

“How long have you known this secret?”

“It started when I was a little girl. I discovered treasures under my grandmother’s house–all sorts of bottles and tiny trinkets. I decorate with them because I loved my grandmother.” 

Wow! Sounds so SIMPLE–my word for the year. 

“Oh, look. Christmas candles and it’s not even December!”

Which takes a lot courage. To be different. Christmas candles in September.

We walked into her den.

“When I was nine,” she said, “I found my uncle’s miniature bronze horse–small enough to fit inside my palm. Love at first sight. I took it home with me.  A few years ago, I felt a nudge to give the horse to my cousin. It should’ve been hers all along. I didn’t want to, but I knew I was supposed to. Does that make sense?”

I nodded.

“A few days after I gave it to her, I found this horse at a flea market. Can you believe it?”

“Julie, it’s an exact replica of the horse I gave away. Only a lot bigger.”

“It’s a miracle.”

“I know. In all my  years of flea-marketing, I’ve never seen another horse like the one I gave away. Except for this one.”

Yvette had just given me another love lesson:

If God asks you to give something away, obey Him. Quickly. Blessings follow obedience. 

Has God ever asked you to give away something you dearly loved? 

Have you discovered art and decorating have nothing to do with being perfect? 

You can find Yvette here:

The Charm House  on Facebook.

The Charm House on Pinterest.

The Charm House in Instagram.

The Charm House website.

The Charm House on Twitter.

Love,

Julie

Bless This Mess

“Come here. You gotta see this,” my husband said Saturday morning. I turned on the coffee maker and followed him outside. “A bird’s built her nest in this wreath.”

I laughed. ” It’s not a real nest. Your mother made that wreath a few years ago.”

“There’s a real nest behind the fake one.”

Way down inside the dark hole, I spotted a pile of something fuzzy and gray. Feathers maybe? “Looks like baby birds might have been here. Hope they didn’t die.”

“Keep watching.”

“Ohhhhhh, you’re right! They’re opening their little mouths, waiting on their  mama to feed them!”

My husband carried on with his Saturday morning routine, but I couldn’t forget the two nests.

Real birds were living right behind a fake mama bird and her plastic eggs. 

So peculiar.

And spectacular.

Of course, I had a feeling there was a message here for me. 🙂

I touched  the  stiff mama bird.

Nothing was out of place in her perfect world. She even had matching, perfectly formed eggs. A spotless nest.

Years ago, I tried to be the perfect mom and raise perfect children. But living that way wasn’t really living at all.

Then I studied the other nest where real life was going on. Two baby birds chirped loudly. And there was probably poop in the nest.

Nevertheless, the birds were safely tucked inside a downy-soft home created with love.

And they were eagerly anticipating their mama returning.

Something dawned on me.

It’s better to be real,

To be someone who  listens and laughs,

Someone with faults who goofs up,

Than to be perfect, but cold and plastic. 

I left the baby birds so their mama would return to her wonderfully messy life. 

And I could return to mine. 

What do you think about the mama bird building her nest so close to the fake one?

Ever tried to be perfect? Exhausting, isnt it?!

I wrote more about breaking free from the trap of perfection here and here.

Love,

Julie


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Mother and Me

A recent phone conversation between Mother and me…

“I dream about my childhood almost every night,” Mother said. “I miss my mother. In my dreams, I’m with her again. As a child, I thought everybody’s mother was wonderful like mine.”

“Goge (our name for my grandmother) went through some hard stuff, but I never heard her complain. Every single time we were together, she made me laugh. She never mentioned herself or her problems. She just loved on me.”

Goge and me--my 34th birthday

“Your grandmother wore a white eylet dress to my daddy’s funeral when I wasn’t quite two. She was 27. May 18, 1938. Back then, widows wore the traditional black dress. That white eyelet dress was Daddy’s favorite. Mother didn’t care what anybody thought.”

“Goge was ahead of her time.”

“She had Wednesday afternoons off from work. When it was pretty outside, your grandmother walked home from work and put on shorts like mine. My friends came over and Goge  walked with us to Sleepy Hollow–a lush green hide-away deep in the woods–amazingly cool on hot summer days. Clear, pure water to swim in. She packed peanut butter crackers and small bottled Cokes.”

“She really wanted to be with you, didn’t she?”

“More than anything.”

“Remember how she peeled an orange?” I said. “She’d sit beside me, laughing and talking the whole time, and take off every piece of skin. Even the yucky white stuff. Then she’d divide it into sections, and arrange it on a plate for me. So much love in everything she did.”

“And cutting a watermelon was like a festival. She’d laugh expectantly, so I did too. It made a marvelous cracking sound as she slicked it open on newspaper. Then she’d say, “Oh Mannie, we’ve got a good one. And she’d cut a chunk right out of the center for me.”

“She gave you all that mattered in life.”

“I wish I could do it all over again,” Mother said softly. “I’d be more like her.”