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’s Timing and God’s Goodness

We know that God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet. We know that God directs our steps when we acknowledge His sovereignty in our lives. We know that God’s timing is always right.

Yet sometimes God only gives enough light for the next right step. For us, the next right step is moving… and moving next month. I only had to be still and wait on the Lord. It’s causing me all sorts of emotions. I’m so excited about this next step and the opportunities it will make available to us. My heart is rejoicing over the closeness to town and how it fits the stage of life we are in right now with four teenagers. It never ceases to amaze me how God orchestrates the right place at the right time.

And yet, I will miss my front door view and my back door view and the wide open spaces. I will miss the sunrises (the few I’ve seen) 😉 and the sunsets. I will miss the burst of green in the spring, the summer storms, the explosion of leaves in the fall, and even the winter sledding. And so every morning and every evening, and almost every moment in between, I look out my windows and soak in the view and give thanks for this home that we’ve been blessed with for the last 12 years. I’m trying to hold it all close to my heart and stay present in the moment and not start missing it before I’m even gone. I’m trying to remind myself that my God knows me and loves me personally, and He will continue to show himself real to me through His creation, even if it looks different. There will still be love notes from God. He knows the promises from His word that I cling to. He knows how He created me, what I love, what I need, what I enjoy. He knows the desires He has placed in my heart and I can delight in Him and trust Him with great anticipation, because He is always good. He also knows that sometimes I need to be made uncomfortable to move forward in growth.

So He filled my sky with a double rainbow tonight, and I stood outside and tried not to cry again. And I remember that God keeps His promises. He goes before me and behind me and with me and around me. He loves to spoil His children with good things and I take His hand and take the next step.

I will have to find a new monthly spot—a place to stop, take notice and remember that God never changes, but life always does. Maybe it will be an alley, a random spot in town, or simply my front door view, but it will always be something to draw me closer to God, to remind me that He is good, He is God and I can trust Him. And in everything, I will give thanks.

“He brought me forth also into a large place; He delivered me, because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19

#hopewriterlife #Hope #JesusOnlyJesus #justwrite #amwriting #chasingoutthedark #theministryofpayingattention #theministryofordinaryplaces #writeyourheartout #onceamonthspot #juliesmonthlyspot #frontdoorview #rainbow #Godspromises #backdoorview #change #mynextrightthing

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

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

Possibility in habits

For the first time in three weeks, I’m beginning to see possibility in 2022. I often focus on the negative possibilities of the future, all the things that could go wrong… pessimist, realist. But I’m working to renew my mind and change the stinking thinking and see life as God has planned for me… Abundant life. Maybe not “successful” as the world defines successful, but full and overflowing with His faithful love.

When I write, I reflect and I pay attention. Sometimes it’s a simple habit… this year, I started two tiny habits that take me less than 5 minutes before bed. I reflect on the day and write down one memorable moment (or even not so memorable moment) in my new #OneLineADay journal. One day, I simply wrote “another sick day” because that was all that had happened. Will I keep it up every night for 5 years straight? Only time will tell, but I believe it is a possibility.

And I picked up this devotional for writers that my dad gave me over 5 years ago. A quote, a scripture, a reflection on life and writing. It’s just the little habit I need to remind myself that I can be a writer too. That God has given me abilities to use for His glory, to declare His goodness, to praise His name. It reminds me that God is good and He directs my steps.

I see possibility in growth in my marriage, in my relationship with my kids, in being a testimony at work, in living in my faith community, in developing my writing. I see God directing my steps and lighting my path. I see the benefits of baby steps, celebrating small successes, and remembering that I am a work in progress.

#hopewriterlife #possibility #justwrite #amwriting #chasingoutthedark #theministryofpayingattention

What sparks inspiration …

Do you know what sparks inspiration for my writing? Word prompts. Photos. Deadlines. Rhythms.

When life is ideal and I’m focused and not procrastinating, I write with a pen in my journal in the morning, and I pull out my keyboard and type before I go to bed. Rhythms help me write. When @HopeWriters has an Instagram writing challenge, I pull out my iPad and keyboard and try to find inspiration, even if it’s right before I fall into bed (deadlines).

The fall season was very dry for me in writing… and I realized that I had not taken the time to stop, take notice of my #onceamonthspot, and to wax eloquent on the Artist’s paintbrush sometime in the middle of every month. So I took notice this month (3 times in fact) but it wasn’t until I was given a word prompt that I was “inspired.”

My front door view (#juliesmonthlyspot) sparks a whirlwind of emotion for me these days. It’s grounding for me to look out and see the tall strong pine tree, never swaying, always there anchoring my photo. The sky is sometimes a radiant blue, some days a shallow gray, some days a rainbow of sunsets colors, often filled with fluffy clouds, and always a reminder that my God is never-changing and at the same time He delights in giving me a variety of good gifts.

The trees change with the seasons and show me the beauty of new life in spring, the depth of color in the summer, the goodness of letting things go in the fall, and the crispness of hibernation in the winter. It reminds me that my life is seasonal and each season has its gifts to notice and appreciate. The season of teenagers is so hard and so delightful. The season of working almost full-time means less time baking for the fun of it. The season of processing past hurts and digging deep for the fruit of a healthier self. The season of giving myself grace. The season of sitting in the Psalms.

I don’t know how much longer I will have this front door view, and more this year than in years past, I look out the window and wonder if this is the last January sky I will see from this perspective. I wonder, and then I rest in the confidence I have in Jesus, in a God who gives good gifts and delights in abundant life. And I know the next season and the next front door view will have its own delights and beauty.

And there is a spark of anticipation in me.

#hopewriterlife #spark #justwrite #amwriting #chasingoutthedark #theministryofpayingattention

Slow — How Long, Lord?

Often I think that God is slow to answer the requests I bring before Him. How long, O Lord?

But is it that God is slow?

Or is it that I’m not looking for His answer?
Or as often is the case, I don’t like His answer so I pretend I don’t see it, I brush it off, I try to reinterpret.

I’m moving very slow these days. Can’t seem to find my footing, any energy, the right motivations. The mind numbing scrolling of social media, and silly games on my phone just keep pulling me in…

How long, Julie? How long will you waste your time? How long will you let anxiety dominate your thoughts? How long will you choose junk food over veggies and protein, Netflix binging over outdoor walks? How long will you procrastinate from writing, when you know that writing is what helps you process, writing is what slows the anxious thoughts and reminds you of the truth of God’s Word.

Psalm 13 hit a bit different for me this morning. So I make myself slow down in different way. I remove the distractions. I pull out my keyboard and reflect on my morning notes and I thank God for new mercies. For the gift of the Psalms when I don’t know where else to turn. For showing me that God’s slowness is an example of his long-suffering toward His children, His patience that never runs out, His faithfulness. That he delivers me and is generous toward me. That my slowness, my stillness, my weakness is God’s opportunity to deliver me and shower me with His faithful love.

#hopewriterlife #bestill #slow #1000gifts #chasingoutthedark #Psalms

Quiet —In Poetry Form

When it’s quiet I catch my breath,
I soak in the stillness, the silence
I notice the trees and the clouds

In the quiet, I ponder
I give thanks
I remember

Be still and know…

Know that the rushing and the busyness
Does not feed your soul
Know that the noise and chaos
Begets more noise and chaos
Know that being too busy
Is a distraction from the kingdom of God

Be still and know…

Know that He is God.
Know that He is good.
Know that He gives His children rest.
Know that quieting your heart before Him brings peace that passes understanding.

In quietness, I am renewed.

“For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭30:15‬ ‭KJV‬‬

#HopeWriterLife #Quiet #Poetry #BeStill

Clouds —God With Us

The sun was so bright this morning, I was blinded on my way to work. I feel like it’s been a long while since I’ve seen the sun in the morning on the way to work. I was almost too distracted to notice it. I mean, my eyes sure noticed it when it struck the windshield and I lost my bearings briefly. But my heart didn’t soak it in. My mind forgot to appreciate the goodness of the sun, the beauty, the benefits.

Like so many things, I quickly focused on the negative, I dwelled in the depths of despair, even in the overwhelming presence of the light.

On the way home, the sun was in a much better position and I caught glimpse of the clouds. I’ve been reminded lately to look at the clouds… to pay attention (I think it was @kaitlyn_bouch, or @shannanwrites —I looked, it was both). So I snapped a quick picture because I want to remember.

Pictures, even quickly taken ones, help me remember. I remember that the sun will shine again. The clouds are a part of creation and each one tells a story. Today may feel like the storms (the hurricane, the conflict, the battles, the pain, the grief) are never going to cease. And while the fall-out and clean-up from each unpleasant situation cannot be avoided, the sun is still going to shine. The blue skies are going to display the glory of God. The white fluffy clouds are gonna show up and show off.

God shows up in the clouds. Time and again in the Bible we see where God shows up—in a cloud. Clouds represent His presence and his faithfulness. He is coming again, in the clouds.

“Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; And your faithfulness reaches unto the clouds.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭36:5‬

And we just need to keep looking up, to notice the beauty, to keep our eyes on Jesus, to hold an eternal perspective. To remember that we all live under the same beautiful sky. We live a hard and beautiful life and it’s better together. And He is with us.

#HopeWriterLife #theministryofpayingattention #cloudappreciationsociety #HeavenComeDown #GodWithUs