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

Keep Seeking Beauty —the work of His Hands

Never stop seeking beauty…

I’ve had a hard time finding words these days. Mostly because I have not made time or space for the words to come. Partly because the troubles of the world weigh heavy on my mind. And also because I have decisions I don’t want to make, open wounds, parenting teenager struggles, and overwhelming work. Not really the seeds for great writing when you’re in the middle of the mess.

It’s easier to avoid what needs to be done, to stay in the hard and uncomfortable because it is KNOWN. But sometimes you need to step forward in faith, to walk into the unknown, to know and remember that Jesus always goes before you. You will finally move forward when the pain of staying in the mess is greater than the pain of moving forward. I write those words, but I’m still not sure I’m there yet.

“Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”

Tony Robbins

So I sit in Psalms and Proverbs. I lament with David, but remember that God is always good, always just, always faithful.

“My spirit is weak within me, my heart is overcome with dismay. I remember the days of old. I meditate on all you have done. I reflect on the work of your hands.”

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me on level ground.”

I read the wisdom of Solomon and pray for integrity, a teachable heart, a righteous mind, a soft answer, and wise words. Some days I feel so far from who I want to be as a wife, a parent, a friend, a part of the family of God. I have a hard time finding the level ground. I have a hard time finding the beauty. I have a hard time seeing the change and growth in my life. But I also know that God goes with me on the journey. He goes before me. He surrounds me. He walks beside me. I know that I am a work in progress. I know that I have not arrived. I know that I make mistakes. But that does not stop me from celebrating the right choices, the small victories. I come to Jesus with a broken and contrite heart.

And I keep looking for the beauty.

#HopeWriterLife #amwriting #writeyourheartout #chasingoutthedark #lookingforlovely #1000gifts #seekbeauty #theministryofpayingattention

Waiting for the storm

I waited for the thunderstorm to roll in this evening… I’m still waiting. I love the way the sky changes color as a storm rolls in. I love the lightning flashing, the thunder rolling (I much prefer gradual thunder rolls, to startling thunder cracks). I love listening to the rush of rain from the safety of my front window. But I’m not sure the forecast was correct tonight. Some days we are waiting for the storm to roll in… and some days we are waiting for the storm to pass.

I’m not always good at waiting. I try to distract myself. I like to plan and prepare, and know what the next step is and when it should be taken. I don’t like last minute, surprises make me nervous. I like to keep moving forward. I want to make progress. Waiting gives opportunity to rest, which I’m not great at. Waiting reminds me I’m not in control.

We aren’t talking about thunderstorms anymore.

Sometimes in the waiting we get distracted, we get discouraged, we try to convince ourselves that we aren’t waiting. We rush ahead when we should wait. Maybe you’re waiting for marriage, a baby, healing in relationship, a health diagnosis. You might be waiting to finish that degree, or get a new job, buy a house. We wait for answers. We wait for deliveries, the brownies to finish baking, the light to turn green. Or perhaps it’s the wayward child we want to come home, the uncertainty of a housing situation, the reunion of friends and family (on earth or in heaven).

Does anyone ever say that waiting is fun? But it’s in the waiting that our faith is strengthened, our hope is renewed, our love is deepened. So I look out my front door view, I remember that God is in control. I search the Scriptures to remind myself that there is hope in the waiting, strength in in the waiting, salvation in the waiting.

“but they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬

“I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, And in his word do I hope.”
‭‭

Psalm‬ ‭130:5‬
“I waited patiently for the LORD; And he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭40:1‬

“The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, To the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly Wait for the salvation of the LORD.”
‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭3:25-26‬ ‭

What are you waiting for?

#HopeWriterLife #Waiting #Onceamonthspot #juliesmonthlyspot #frontdoorview #hope #JesusOnlyJesus

Vent your Joys, not your Problems

Psalm 113:1-3  

Hallelujah! Give praise, servants of the Lord; praise the name of the Lord. Let the name of the Lord be blessed forever. From the rising of the sun to its setting let the name of the Lord be praised.

I’ve been struggling with being a complainer lately. I also feel that I’ve been surrounded by complainers lately. It is so easy to vent and whine all about the problems and everything that is seemingly going “wrong” in life. And we feed off each other. When one person complains to us, it makes it easier for us to complain about our problems right back. And while there is a time and a place to bear one another’s burdens, I also believe that we would benefit by rejoicing with those who rejoice and continue to give praise to the name of the Lord… because He has done great things for us.

I’ll go first. He has given us great things. I have a job that I love, even if it’s sometimes overwhelming and I sometimes have to deal with cranky people (hello, supply chain issues). I have four wonderful children that are not perfect, but they are mine and that makes them the #bestkidsever. My husband works hard, loves me, serves others, follows Jesus, leads well. #myhusbandrocks

I’m bragging on God because He never fails to meet my needs. I have a roof over my head, we are in no danger of going hungry, (even if the teenagers in my house there there is nothing good to eat) and I have clothes for every occasion. I have a church family that loves Jesus, loves people, and is doing the work of God’s Kingdom here on earth. I have a friend who is not local, but our drive to work is the same time as mine and our almost daily conversations are just another way God spoils me. They’ve  been a lifeline and remind me of the faithfulness of God.

He showers us with sunrises and sunsets, changing of seasons and wild life. He give the gift of thunderstorms and rainbows. So far, this summer I’ve seen the rolling hills of Western New York, the mountains of West Virginia, the Potomac River, zoo animals, a little strip of Amish country, and the flatlands of Ohio. And always, I am thankful when I come back home to the mountain God has blessed me with, with a view of our little city.

He speaks to me through His Word, music, nature, other people’s victory stories. He pursues me when I’m wandering from Him. He shows me He cares about me through bird songs, crickets and peepers, the wind rustling through the trees.

Bless the Lord and forget not all His benefits.

If He had only rescued me from sin and given me life eternal in His presence it would have been enough. But daily He surprises me and overwhelms me with good gifts and spiritual blessings.

How can you vent your joys today? How has God met your needs today? How can you praise the name of Jesus? Let’s encourage one another with good news!

#HopeWriterLife #1000gifts #CountYourBlessings #ChasingOutTheDark #EncourageOneAnother #JesusOnlyJesus #writeyourheartout