Settling in, Paying attention, Giving thanks

It’s 8pm on move-in day and I am exhausted. There are boxes everywhere, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude toward all the wonderful people that helped us throughout the day… We own a lot of stuff. So I take a moment and step outside. I look around at these new surroundings and everywhere I turn I see houses. A far cry from the wide open spaces we just left behind. And then I look up and thank God for the little love note He sends me in a window of blue sky peeking through the forest of trees. Wide open spaces of a different kind.

It’s 7:15am and I am late for work. I may live 5 minutes closer, but it’s only day 2 and I still can’t find the right shoes, or the snacks to pack in my lunch, or which drawer we put the silverware in. I rinse my coffee cup (I can always find one of those) and look out my kitchen window, and there is my first wildlife sighting in the new home. And I stop and just grin big at the deer. I will never get tired of the deer. “Won’t HE do it!”

It’s 4pm on a Sunday afternoon, and we are just returning from a long walk around the neighborhood, getting to know the area. As we come around our front/side yard (we live on a corner and I can’t figure out what’s front, side, or back), I notice ivy everywhere, and a splash of Queen Anne’s lace. And once again I am in awe of God’s creation, the way He meets me where I’m at, and how He connects my growing up memories of flowers and my love of ivy (first married kitchen theme) with present day.

It’s 5pm and in between the sounds of the evening traffic, I suddenly hear church bells ringing. And I smile. Year two of marriage found us living practically in the backyard of an Orthodox Church. I remember those bells. And once again, I am almost in the backyard of a local church, and the 5 o’clock bells are just one of the many blessings I’m counting in this new, unfamiliar place. And as these bells play familiar hymns, I thank Jesus for the gift of music.

It’s 6:30am, I am settling into routines. I take my coffee to the front room to enjoy with some morning Psalms, and the window view shows a soft misty fog and another deer sighting…. This time a doe and her fawn.

It’s 1pm and as I’m gathering pizza ingredients and prepping for Sunday lunch with friends, I look out the window again (I love the windows) and spot a chipmunk finishing his Sunday brunch. Various shells, seeds, and nuts scattered all over the stone steps, remnants of the way my God cares for the little creatures, too.

It’s 8:30pm Labor Day weekend and we settle around the Solo Stove on our new patio and light the fire, enjoy the view, and of course, roast marshmallows, and I smile and give thanks for the little things. The things that are different and the things that stay the same. The way that life is what we make of it and we can choose to focus on the blessings because they are abundant and overflowing and when I focus on the good stuff, when I shout His praises, when I pay attention to the ways He is present in every moment and area of my life, I just can’t believe how much my God loves me.

And how personal He is. Trains rumbling by in the background, sunrises and moonrises through the trees instead of over the mountain, wind chimes, shops in walking distance, the ever present squirrels and chipmunks, the list goes on and on and I give thanks.

#hopewriterlife #Hope #JesusOnlyJesus #justwrite #amwriting #chasingoutthedark #1000gifts #theministryofpayingattention #theministryofordinaryplaces #writeyourheartout #change #skyappreciationpost #startwithhello

Change and Gratitude

It’s been over four years since I chose my #onceamonthspot as an act of faith because the property we live on went up for sale. Four and a half years later and it still hasn’t sold, but other things have changed and God opened doors and we are moving. So this right here is the last photo of this #frontdoorview

I have never taken this gift for granted. 12 years of wide open spaces, country living, beautiful sunrises and sunsets. 12 years of youth events, small group parties, winter sledding out my front door. Walks to the bus stop and mailbox. Sunday afternoon pizza parties, long hikes, and always changing scenery. Deer, bear, turkey, eagle, coyote, porcupine, the persistent possum, bluebirds, yellow finches, robins.

Sometimes we can’t see the light through the heavy dark clouds, and sometimes God parts them and you see glimpses of the truth that He is always working. The contrast of light and dark, of green trees and dead tree trunks, even the grass takes its turn being brown and green. When I look back through my #juliesmonthlyspot photos, I am reminded again of God’s goodness, God’s gifts, abundant life and continuous provision.

And I treasure our last family bonfire—a needed gift after a rough week of packing, and fighting over future bedrooms, of struggling with the coming changes. We enjoyed a long evening outside, keeping the large fire from spreading to the dry grass, watching the stars come out one by one, enjoying the moonrise… and eating hot dogs and s’mores prepared over the fire. And having my daughter capture us all in the glow of the flames.

And I give thanks for “the last Sunday supper” at this place with good friends that are family, of laughter, jokes, and the weekly walk to the reservoir. And long talks and photos of my favorite scenery.

We will make new memories and find new treasures from God, because life will still be abundant even when it looks different. His promises are ever-faithful, His love is never-ending, and He gives joy unspeakable as we wait with Hope.

So here’s to continuing #theministryofordinaryplaces in a new place, of #trustinggodsplan #ministryofpayingattention with @shannanwrites and remembering #itssimplytuesday with @emilypfreeman

#hopewriterlife #Hope #JesusOnlyJesus #justwrite #amwriting #chasingoutthedark #writeyourheartout #change

God is good, all the time

I already shared this on my social media, but wanted it here on my blog as well.

God’s goodness doesn’t fit in Instagram squares and facebook paragraphs. God’s good works cannot be contained in all the books in all the world. God’s goodness is deeper than the ocean and higher than the mountains.

And if the outcome of last Wednesday night’s experience had been any different—God would still be God and God would still be good. His name is still to be praised.

Nothing changes the trauma we experienced, or the feelings and emotions we are still processing through. Each one of us feeling it a little bit different. No right or wrong way to process and grieve and give thanks, in all things give thanks.

On Wednesday night, I was waiting in the car parked on the busy city street where I always wait for my girls after youth group, scrolling facebook memories, sending one memory text of a few years ago to my son, and re-sharing the following verse:

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:” ‭‭

Isaiah‬ ‭26:3-4‬

Not 15 minutes later, I lived in that perfect peace, the peace that passes all understanding, and leaned on His everlasting strength. Yes, the timeline is blurry, the events are foggy, but I heard someone shout my daughter’s name. I looked up and saw a vehicle stopped in the road and then I heard my baby girl screaming. I moved so fast and so slow, and I ran over to her, on the side of the road, obvious facial abrasions, sitting all curled up and rocking. My eyes looked up and around, and I dashed back into the middle of the road and gathered her Bible, her homework, her glasses spread across the pavement as I was shouting the church address to the man making the 911 call, and then I was back by my girl’s side.

Her first words to me were, “But mom, what about track season?” And I laughed and cried and felt more of God’s perfect peace, even as I was sure there must be a broken elbow, a messed up knee, a dislocated hip—something out of alignment.

The first responders showed up so quickly, they did their jobs and I am so thankful. I answered questions, they put her on the stretcher and immobilized her. It was just a precaution, but it doesn’t make it any less scary and traumatizing.

I see the faces of her youth group friends, her sisters, some parents, our youth pastor, the EMT’s, the police, the young driver, and the helpers—there are always helpers. Jesus is always there.

The ambulance ride, the entrance to the ER, all the medical staff, the chaplain (who couldn’t hold a candle to my Jesus or the pastors I have known in my lifetime). Long story short, she had cat scans and X-rays and then we sat together and waited for results. They checked her vitals again—and then just like that, they were removing her neck brace and telling her she was being discharged, all the tests came back fine. No injuries, no abnormalities, no concussion, no broken bones. Just some bumps and scrapes. And we were home before midnight… not that we got much sleep that first night.

To be honest, the emotions and bruises and struggles were harder on days 5-6 than they were on days 2-3. We are still a little tender. She tried running—it hurts and she feels slow. Taking stairs is slightly awkward and the healing skin feels tight. I feel like I could still sob with relief and scream in grief, if only someone would pinch me. She and I are both perpetually tired.

But God is good and my sweet girl is healing and we give thanks for miracles and for God’s protection. We will take one day at a time. Sisterly love seemed to flow a bit more for a few days, but they will still fight and take each other for granted. But also, they will hug a little bit more and crack silly jokes. And we will remember that God is good.

#HopeWriterLife #trauma #accidents #Godisgood #allthetime #peace #healing

When God Gives New Dreams

Some writers have known that they wanted to be a writer since the moment they first held a fat crayon in their tiny fingers and learned to scribble out the first initial of their name. I am not one of those people. I went 35 years with no interest in being a writer. Creative? Yes! Artist? Definitely! Writer or author? –Not so much.

My creative journey took me from acrylic painting in high school, to scrapbooking, and photography in my 20’s, to blogging, paper-crafting and even kids’ crafts in my 30’s. Blogging brought new opportunities. I recognized I had a desire to be affirmed through comments on my posts. I know I have a struggle with prioritizing. My family, my home, my time with God, and local relationships all needed to come first; but I began to put more time and effort into writing blog posts and fostering online friendships. I still did not consider myself a writer. I kept hearing; “Your voice matters.” “Everyone has a story.” “If your writing impacts just one life, you have made a difference.”

I joined an online community of writers. There I received affirmation and encouragement. But life interrupted and the doubts crept in. The daily battle in my head began. “You’re not good enough. No one wants to read about your struggles.” “Someone needs to hear how God encouraged you.” “Writing is a waste of time, you are supposed to be a wife and a mom.” “You create to honor the One who created you.”

So I began to pray the words of Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord.” And I kept creating. I kept writing.

My dad praised my writing, and any little girl knows how much that means. My husband encouraged me to go back to school for a writing degree, and any wife knows how huge that is.

But still I struggle. I work long on a blog post that means so much to me, and it gets a total of two comments, one being my mom, and I wonder why I bother. But then God reminds me that it is not about the praise of man, but about obeying God and following the dream He has placed on my heart. I read the verses in Colossians 3:23-24, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; … for ye serve the Lord Christ.”

God keeps showing me that my story has value. It scares me, because my story isn’t finished yet, and there are some parts of my story that I’m afraid to share, because they are not all pretty. Then I read in Job 19:23-25, “Oh that my words were now written! Oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever! For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:” It was supposed to be a study on hope, but God used those verses to remind me that everyone has a story, and just as I learn from Job’s story, my story may be just what another young mom may need to read someday.

I am great at starting projects, but I have a hard time with finishing well. I do not know where God is taking me on this writing journey. I just know that He is asking me to try new things, to embrace the unknown, to trust Him. So I will continue my education, even when it gets hard. I will attempt publication, whether on a blog, in a magazine, or writing a book. I will “create to honor the One who created me.”

 

Bio: Julie Wilson is a wife and mom of four kids, whom God uses daily to teach her lessons about life. Recently, she returned to school to improve her writing skills to be better able to share these lessons to bring glory to God.

Beyond my Backyard

The possibilities were endless in the field behind my house, although it was more than a field. There was the field, sometimes mowed completely, sometimes just a path around or through it. In addition, were the woods; as a child they seemed endless, also with paths mowed through and around them. The paths came to an end when you hit the backyards of the street a half-mile down. Then there was the creek, and the numerous paths we ran down to get there. Every season brought new adventures.

I spent many summer days riding my bike along the paths, sometimes with my sisters or neighborhood friends, but most often alone, lost in my own little world of thoughts. I climbed pine trees, which resulted in sappy messy hands. I built and discovered forts, filled with adventures to imagine. And there were wild black raspberries to pick and eat and stain my fingers purple.

The creek brought a whole new set of adventures. I was cautious, never getting too wet or muddy, so I walked along the edge, crossing over on rocks and coming back again; studying the water spiders and minnows.

I remember one day that we had guests, and I was out exploring with Johnny, we were probably ten. He was braver than I, and he convinced me to wander farther past the creek then I had ever been, exploring new territory. We came upon a swampy area with green sludge covering a large-to-me stagnant pond. Suddenly, we were in alien territory and on the lookout for little green men and funny little spaceships. The adventures were as endless as my imagination.

When the weather changed and the air turned cold and the snow fell, it was a whole new playground. We would layer the clothing; stuff our feet into snow pants and boots, and add our hats and gloves, and go exploring again. And ooh, the excitement and risk that came with sledding down the hill straight toward the half frozen creek! I flew down the narrow path, bumping over a tree root or two, landing in a heap with my sisters at the bottom, and then hiking back up through the trees, using them as leverage to get up the steep hill.

Oh the memories of the adventures and explorations as a kid growing up without a television!

Five Minute Friday: Trust

 “But I have trusted in Thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.” 

Psalm 13:5-6

It’s easy to trust God when things are going well, and life is flowing smoothly, and you are getting along with all the people in your life, but do you still trust Him when life gets a little uncomfortable?

It has been well documented that David’s prayers tell it like it is. He does not hold back on his feelings when he talks to God about life’s situations. He comes boldly before the throne of God and petitions Him regularly.

However, it is important to remember that he doesn’t stop there. The Psalms of David always come back to the truth that God is good and He can be trusted.

When your friend turns against you.

When your enemy is working hard to trip you up and cause you to fall.

When you lose your job.

When your kid gets sick.

When the money runs out before the month does.

When it seems like your hopes and dreams will never come to pass.

God is still good. God is still trustworthy. You can choose to trust Him and rejoice in His rescue plan, even when you don’t know what it is. This is possible because we know God’s track record. He has dealt bountifully with His people in the past and He will continue to do so in the future.

God can be trusted.

David gives us a model of prayer when we just want to complain.

  1. Get it off your chest—You can complain, tell God exactly how you feel.
  2. Ask for your request—Ask Him to hear you, tell Him what you want.
  3. Choose to give thanks—Make a choice to rejoice anyway. Take confidence in His lovingkindness.

Trust God with your cares and worries.

Joining in with the ladies of Five Minute Friday today with the prompt: Trust