10 Things that are saving my life

In no particular order, here are 10 things that are saving my life right now.

1. apple slices and peanut butter. This needs no explanation. It’s the perfect snack and it’s healthier than Reese’s peanut butter cups. And it’s easy to eat at my desk at work.

2. afternoon or evening walks: I live for warmth and sun (I hear Florida calling me). I know fresh air and exercise is good for my physical and mental health. Some weeks I get 5 walks in and other weeks I have to fight to make myself take just one.

3. counseling, therapy, whatever you want to call it. Talking through situations with someone who knows how to ask the right questions, gives good advice, pushes me out of my comfort zone with suggestions, and encourages me when I think I’m losing my mind has been so helpful.

4. Psalms. It is always my go-to when I open my Bible. David’s example of prayer and processing through his struggles has been life giving to me. And no matter how bad it gets, he always circles around until he comes back to proclaiming the goodness of God. I pray I can always do the same.

5. Nature: flowers, trees, skies, and clouds. Sunsets, birds, rivers, and all of God’s creation is so full of beauty, so full of color and variety. Our Creator created us to enjoy all that He has given us, to live life abundantly, and that includes green grass, yellow daffodils, bluebirds, rainbow tulips, white clouds, etc.

6. Hope: Hope that this is not the end of the story. Hope that hurt I have experienced can be redeemed, hope that God is working all things for His glory and for my good. Hope for deeper relationships, better community, iron sharpening iron friendships. Hope that I can be a better human, be more like Christ, full of compassion, courage. Hope that some day I’ll make time to write consistently, to live out the gifts God has given me.

7. My kids. Yes, my kids are saving my life right now. They make me laugh, they make me cry, they make me think, and they make me so proud. Each one of them is amazing in their own way. They can be so sweet and so annoying. I think as they get older and I realize my time with them is so short, I panic that I haven’t done enough, I’ve made too many parenting mistakes, I’ve pushed too hard and not hard enough. but I do know that I am doing my best and I love them so much it hurts, but also I can’t wait to see what they will do as they grow up and move out and begin the next phases of their lives. I’m so thankful for my kids!

8. my morning cup of coffee, almost always made by the best husband. Some may call it an addiction, I prefer a ritual, tradition, a morning liturgy.

9. Writing in my local coffee shop. I don’t get to do it often enough. My schedule and budget do not permit, but when I do get the opportunity, it rejuvenates me. It gets me away from the to-do lists and undone, and gives me a new perspective. It reminds me how much I love writing, how much I need writing, how beneficial writing is for my soul and my mind. The coffee is great too!

10. anticipation… looking forward to upcoming activities gives me joy, helps me to survive the daily crazy of life right now. We are just over one month from the end of middle school forever, so I’m looking forward to 8th grade celebration day. I’ve also already preordered my fresh Georgia peaches from @thepeachtruck and I can’t wait to enjoy those in addition to my local fresh fruits and veggies from farmer’s market. Summer trips planned to visit our families are also on the anticipation list. Travel stresses me out and sometimes relationships (even those that share our genes) can be challenging, but they are still important. And making memories is worth the effort.

I’m a slow processor and life is extremely busy. @emilypfreeman shared what’s saving her life right now on her podcast over two weeks ago and I’ve finally gotten mine down on paper.

What is saving YOUR life right now?

#HopeWriterLife #1000gifts #bestkidsever #myhusbandrocks #writeyourheartout #amwriting #JesusOnlyJesus #Hope #writeitgirl #mynextrightthing

Parenting & Cheering my Teenagers

Once upon a time, I was a mom of 4 children under 5… and I never thought I was going to survive. I was mad at God, irritated with my husband, discontent in my two-bedroom trailer. I was a stay-at-home mom, but I was not present. I had a gracious friend that said, “Julie, you need help. You need to talk to someone.” And eventually I listened. I sought counseling, a sounding board, wisdom from someone who knew how to ask the right questions and point me to the truths of God’s Word and how it applied to my life.

And I survived parenting babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers. And then came primary age and they could do things for themselves and God provided a larger home and we started coasting through life again. Middle school showed up and that was a whole new challenge because the funny, crazy, ridiculous stories you shared when they were babies couldn’t be shared as they transitioned through middle school and into high school. The decisions they start to make hit differently and you can’t share their stories in the same way. Parenting pre-teens and teenagers can be lonely. So when I share the successes, the accomplishments, the highlights (only with permission of course), we can all know that there are a host of good days and bad days that don’t ever get shared.

I am currently parenting 4 teenagers (with the help of their awesome dad, of course). And I have said to multiple people over the last few weeks, “Once again, I am not sure I am going to survive this stage of life.” It may seem overly dramatic, but I’m not young anymore and the schedule of a teenager is very full, and a lot of those activities happen at night and my eyes don’t like driving at night or in the rain… and especially not both. I’m tired. I slept through my alarm this morning. And I still need energy for the hard conversations when the opportunities present themselves. I still need to remember to make the phone calls for the doctor’s appointments and complete the paperwork for the school sports and pay the bills for the church retreats. And sometimes I get selfish and I get tired of sitting around waiting for their activities to be over.

(Lord, I’d love a really affordable housing option, right in town, please???). Just praying for miracles in today’s housing market…

But I would not change it for the world. These kids are awesome and they are smart and talented and work hard and are amazing. So here are some highlights from last weekend.

Indoor Track Meets: have you ever been to a track meet? Event after event after event and your kid runs two… You show up on time just in case things are moving smoothly. You wait an hour for her event and you watch her run, for 8.82 seconds. And you cheer because she took first place in the middle school 55m dash!!! And then you sit around (or stand around as the case may be) for another 3 hours until finally it’s time for the 200m. And you watch her run for approx 30 seconds, which is awesome! And you’re so proud of her and so tired. So I’m bragging on my baby girl for how she’s tackled running and I’m praying now for a mild spring because outdoor track meets aren’t as warm as indoor while you’re waiting.

High School Town Art Shows: I am so proud of my artist. She has submitted work in two local art competitions. That takes bravery. In the first show she won a “silver key” award for a mixed media portrait. Because of current life, there was no award ceremony. The second show was “Our Town” and had a showing with the award ceremony. It was thrilling to see her art professionally framed and hanging on the wall of our local community center.

I absolutely love supporting my kids in the arts, sports, and skills they excel at. I love cheering them on and seeing them live fully into who God created them to be. I am thankful for the opportunities they have. I am thankful for the challenges and the tears and the “growth opportunities.” I am thankful for the lessons God teaches me through parenting. I am thankful for my kids, not perfect, but awesome just the same.

#BestKidsEver #1000gifts #gratitude #running #track #artshows #parentingteenagers

H O P E

How can I stretch myself, I asked?
One whole week of free write poetry
Practice and play
Explore and attempt

Happy little poems
Or awkward stunted phrases
Poetry is what you make it
Endless possibilities

Have a little faith
Open the door of your heart
Pray for inspiration
Express your creativity

His blood
Our redemption
Poured out Grace
Everything according to His will

How deep his love lavished
On us with wisdom
Purposed in Christ
Enlightened to know His calling

Hallelujah!
Our God’s
Power
Exercised in resurrection

#HopeWriterLife #Hope #Writing #Poetry #amwriting #acrostic #writingcommunity #writingchallenge

Explore Poetry

Time to focus, time to dream
Time to step off
the beaten path, And explore

Take it slow. It can’t be rushed.
Dig deep, run far
Leave the familiar behind

Take a walk around the pond.
Look up. Look down.
Explore the woods and wander.

Imagine words and sentences.
Pick up the pen
And write, with boldness, bravely

Write outside your comfort zone
Try something new
Write with hope, anticipation

Deep stretch your writing muscles
Try poetry
And be surprised by what comes

Created in God’s image,
So I create
I explore the depths of grace.

When I write I come alive
Find hope again
And trust that He sustains me.

#HopeWriterLife @HopeWriters #Explore #Writing #Poetry #nature #amwriting #WritingChallenge #Canva

Practicing Rest

I spent my weekend doing just about nothing. I read three fiction books and it was glorious. I sat in the sun, and on the deck, I lounged on the couch, I laid in bed, and sat on a swing. My body aches from lack of movement, but my brain is praising me for the rest I’ve given it.

We spent time with family… listening to the cousins having fun (and also fighting). We feasted on party foods, picnic foods, take-out, desserts. I sat alone, I sat in groups. We went to church. I went to bed on time. I slept in. I rested.

I’ve been thinking a lot about rest and sabbath and how God created us to rest in Him and I haven’t really been doing that lately. Perhaps reading 3 fiction books in one weekend isn’t quite resting in God, but I believe that God did make us for enjoyment too. Psalms and Proverbs have been a part of my resting weekend, too.

I consider this weekend a “practice” in rest. When you try something new it’s not always going to be perfect. We practice as we work toward improvement. This is true in writing, art, baking, education, sports, even in friendships. Life takes work and life takes practice. And so does rest.

So this weekend I was given the gift of time and I used it to practice rest. Next week will be overwhelming again, the to-do list is already growing but for this moment, I breathe deeply and I give thanks for rest.

How do you practice rest? I’m learning that it is something that needs to be intentional… scheduled. And while we may not have time for a 24hr period every week, we should aim for moments or hours each week. How are you intentional about scheduling rest in your busy life?

#HopeWriterLife #Rest #Sabbath #amreading

Writing—A memorial of Words

I need to remember why it is I wanted to be a writer. I write to remember the good things God has done for me. I write to remember Scripture. I write to remember that God uses the good and the hard for His glory. I write to remember that I am not alone, and to remind you of the same.

Writing helps me refocus my thoughts, my emotions, my swirly whirly chaos. It reminds me that I’m supposed to live life in community. Writing reminds me that I’m supposed to be relying on God every day, every moment for every thing. He doesn’t want to be my emergency contact (I heard that on a podcast, but I can’t remember which one).

He isn’t just a contact on my phone that I reach out to when I need help. He is right beside me all the time, He goes before me, He walks beside me, He surrounds me. And I want to remember that He is with me. I want to rely on Him in every moment of my day, to be truly and fully aware of His presence in the daily, in the mundane, in the joy, in the tears.

It’s easy to remember God is with me when I’m outside surrounded by beauty of His creation, and the colors of all the flowers, and the flittering and singing of the birds remind me. It’s harder when I’m snapping at my teenagers, drowning in files at work, getting stuck in traffic, or have my plans interrupted.

These posts are essay cairns (a memorial of words instead of rocks) to myself and hopefully a witness to those who cross this path, that God is good, and God is truth and life, and there is always hope.

How have you experienced hope that helped you remember the goodness of God?

#HopeWriterLife #amwriting #writeyourheartout #writersofinstagram #writingchallenge #faithwriters #Hope #Remember #chasingoutthedark

In the middle of the messy story

The story is this… I thought I wanted to be a writer. I think I may still want to be a writer. But some days I can’t figure out what my story is, I can’t figure out why I want to share it, how, where, and when I want to share it. I can’t even figure out who needs to hear it.

When we tell our stories—humbly, authentically, with the intent to glorify God—it can encourage others. I always want my story to have a happy ending, I like it when it wraps up neatly with a bow. But tonight, I’m smack dab in the middle of messiness. And that’s not usually the best time to share. But here is what I do know.

Always, I want my story to remind myself, my kids, my circle of influence, that God is good, God is love, and God is in control . I know that when I have a breakdown, I can respond like David and go to the loving arms of my Father. Sometimes I ask Him, “How long, O Lord, will you forget me forever?”  Or “why do the heathen prosper?” Or “why is my soul cast down?”

And I ask these questions until He reminds me, that … “He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul” and I can experience peace because “You LORD, make me dwell in safety” and “He rescued me because He delights in me.”

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭13:5-6‬ ‭‬‬

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭16:11‬ ‭‬‬

What story are you telling? How do you combat the questions and doubts with truth? What encouraging truth in your story can you share with us today?

#HopeWriterLife #amwriting #writeyourheartout #writersofinstagram #writingchallenge #faithwriters #Psalms #JesusOnlyJesus

Speak truth, speak life, speak hope, speak Jesus.

We all have a voice. We’ve been given a circle of influence, our family, our community, our social media following, our church or neighborhood. How are we using our voice in that circle of influence? Are we speaking life into those with whom we come in contact? Are we using our voice for good or for evil? To build up or tear down? To encourage or cause harm?

I don’t think many would say they are intentional in being harsh and critical, in causing heaviness or anxiety to those around them, but out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. What do your words, your actions, your social media posts promote?

Sometimes I go silent on my blog and social media because I don’t know what to say, I’m too busy to sort out thoughts, or I just need a break. But sometimes, it gets quiet because I’ve been taught—“if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Often it’s my heart that needs a readjustment, some hope, the truth of God’s Word, a good dose of Jesus.

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” 
Proverbs‬ ‭12:25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The grass grows where it’s watered, the plants that are fed are the ones that prosper, and the thoughts you rehearse in your head are the ones that take root and grow and repeat. So when I feel the negativity taking over, when I find myself easily irritated by the little things, when I can’t seem to find the beauty in my everyday, I go back to the Psalms, I go back to the words of Jesus, I write the words of encouragement that I need to hear and I share it with others in hopes that I’m not the only one.

I plant my feet in the grass. I look at God’s creation. I beg Him to show me His daily presence. I give thanks for the wildflowers, I find beauty in the sunrises and sunsets, I marvel at the cardinals and bluebirds in my yard. I immerse myself in the Psalms and Proverbs, processing my emotions like David and seeking wisdom like Solomon. And then I use my voice to praise my Creator. I give thanks for the way He carries me. I believe and shout like Peter… “where else would I go? You, Jesus, have the words of Life.”

Speak truth, speak life, speak hope, speak Jesus.

How does being grounded in truth help you find your voice?

What good word can you share with others today?

#HopeWriterLife #Voice #JesusOnlyJesus #amwriting #writeyourheartout #writersofinstagram #writingchallenge #faithwriters #YourWordsMatter

She is more precious than rubies

“Wisdom has built her house; she has carved out her seven pillars.”

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Proverbs is full of wisdom and it is always referred to as “she.” She calls out to those walking by, she builds her home, she gives long life, she will protect from you from the foolish woman, she is more precious than rubies. She is a tree of life.

She seems like a mystery, but is fully available to any and all who seek for her, who ask God for her. And in the area of parenting and motherhood, she sometimes seems illusive. But God gives wisdom generously, if only we would ask.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally.” “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” James 1:5, 3:17

I read that verse and am reminded that this is what my parenting to be —pure, gentle, full of mercy. Daily decisions, the guidance I need to give them when they are little, and the wisdom to know when and how to let go as they grow up and become adults, completely responsible for the choices they make.

And I go to God and ask Him to give me the wisdom that I need to parent well, to love well, to live all of life to the fullest.

Join other Five Minute Friday writers as they share on the writing prompt, SHE

#FiveMinuteFriday #She #Wisdom #HopeWriterLife #amwriting #writeyourheartout #writersofinstagram #writingprompt #faithwriters #MothersDay

Processing and Praising Jesus

I am a slow processor. Sometimes I overthink things, sometimes I avoid thinking on all the things, sometimes I’m just procrastinating. But one can only procrastinate for so long before the words just need to come out.

I’ve been reminded time and time again this week (and last week) that my God is a personal God, a personable God, and a Sovereign God. Salvation does not lead us to need to do more, but it is an opportunity for God to shower us with even more gifts. My relationship with God is not based on anything I do right, or wrong. It is based on His faithfulness, His righteousness, His goodness and mercy.

And while my life sure has not been perfect this week (hello, parenting teenagers… hello, selfishness… hello, over-scheduling… hello, anxiety), time and time again, Jesus shows up and shows off. It started with these random flowers in the middle of a pile of dead weeds in my yard, blooming way in advance of any of my purposefully planted daffodils, and completely different. Showing off in their tiny size and stunning, two-color display, just smiling at me. I don’t know where they came from, but they sure put a smile on my face and reminded me of my Creator, who loves me and gives me good gifts—He created all things and holds them together, even in a seemingly random way in my backyard.

When I look back on my week, I see the gifts in abundance and I am reminded of the importance of remembering and giving thanks. I’m thankful for a walk with a friend, for a view of the city, for trees in bloom in the valley, for a perfectly timed sunset, wild turkeys up close and personal, for homemade iced coffee drinks, for endless supply of books (libraries are a wonderful thing), for hugs from my kids, good conversations, hard conversations, loving correction from my other half, homemade pizza, fellowship with the body of Christ, the opportunity to pray on behalf of others’ needs, Jesus—always Jesus.

My friend encouraged me to “Stop and smell the flowers,” so I picked up a $4 bouquet at the grocery store. One of the great podcasts (#HumanHope with @loswhit) I listen to reminded me to “Lower the volume of life,” so I’ve chosen silence while driving more often these last few days.

And when I make space, and read God’s Word, and pay attention to the gifts around me, I give thanks. I give thanks for the the way God is gracious. And faithful. And holy. And just. And full of loving kindness. He gives His children many good things, we just need to keep our eyes open to see them.

So when I’m overwhelmed by my sin and by the sin of the world around me, I run to Jesus and I rest in His forgiveness. I look for the ways He shows up. I count my blessings. I repent. I accept His grace. And I shout His praises to those around me.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name.

Psalm 119:132

#HopeWriterLife #SoulStruggle #amwriting #writeyourheartout #justwrite #JesusOnlyJesus #1000gifts #ChasingOutTheDark #TheMinistryofPayingAttention