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

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

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

Renew Gratitude

His mercies are new every morning.

And His gifts are abundant with every sunset.

I used to hate autumn because I was so busy dreading that coming winter. But I have discovered that autumn is actually my favorite when I take the time to enjoy it, when I live in the present instead of worrying about the coming dark, cold, dreary winter. And lately I’ve noticed how much I enjoy the glorious beauty of a winter sunset, even though I long for more daylight. When I focus on the moment and just enjoy the glorious sky as it changes minute by minute, often glowing more radiant just before the sun sets, my heart and soul is renewed.

Paying attention is renewing. When I pay attention, it renews gratitude in my heart. My perspective shifts and I focus on what has me grounded right here, right now. I see what God is gifting me in the little things and the big things.

I am thankful for…
the morning cup of coffee and the man who makes it for me.
My girls who keep me up past my bedtime.
the beauty of the sky and the Creator who paints it different each night.
chocolate.
the Psalms.
My dishwasher.
Pay raises
Pillows and blankets
Tea
Sisters
Counseling
Writing

What are you paying attention to today? What renews you? What are you thankful for?

#hopewriterlife #bestill #renew #chasingoutthedark #Psalms #theministryofpayingattention #gratitude #1000gifts

Rest in Hope

If I don’t write about it, does that mean it didn’t happen? Or does it just mean that I didn’t take the time to process it and learn from it. I received a forced rest last week. The dreaded rest nobody wants, the one where you are holed up in a room all by yourself for a week or so. The one where (if you’re like me) you fret about work and home and everybody that “NEEDS” you. But when you are sick there isn’t much you can do about it, but try to rest.

I’m having a hard time pulling myself out of the slump the last 10 days put me in. It wasn’t a refreshing rest. It wasn’t soul-filling, body-healing, mind-renewing. Well, I suppose there was some body-healing or I’d still be in the sick room.

But this object at rest is having a hard time getting moving again. The brain is slow to connect the dots and return to what needs to be done. There is a place for grace and there is a place for a kick in the pants. And perhaps, I need to give myself a little more grace this week. So as I often do when my brain and body are weak, I stumble my way to the Psalms again and again. And I find His promises in David’s example in Psalm 16.

“I will bless the Lord, who has given me counsel, even at night when my thoughts trouble me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.”

“Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices, my flesh also shall rest in hope.”

Rest in hope.

Rest and hope all tied up in the presence of Jesus. When school goes virtual. When you get sick. When the friendship goes sour. When thoughts overwhelm. When you experience great loss. When you lose your job. When your child is a prodigal. Whatever your circumstance, whatever is causing your thoughts to trouble you, whatever you have no control over, take it to the Lord. Sit in the presence of Jesus. Put your confidence in Him.

Be still and rest.

#hopewriterlife #bestill #Rest #chasingoutthedark #Psalms

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

My Purpose is to Praise Him

“I will praise thee with my whole heart: Before the gods will I sing praise unto thee.  ...  The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: Thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: Forsake not the works of thine own hands.”  ‭Psalm‬ ‭138:1, 8‬

Some days all I can do is praise Jesus. When all I want to do is complain. When I can’t find the words to say. When life doesn’t go according to my plan. When the sun shines strong and everything is going right. When the doctor calls with not-good-news. When you meet a friend for coffee (I miss this). When your teenager makes you laugh. When your teenager makes you cry. When you see evidence of Jesus working in a situation. When you worship with the body of Christ (even with a mask on). When you remember that God is in control and He is not limited by time and space.

I praise God because of WHO HE IS. Creator. Redeemer. Savior. Father. The Way. Psalm 138 is a short chapter… just 8 verses. We praise God because He is love. He is truth. He is our strength. Great is His glory. He respects the humble. He rescues those in trouble. His love never runs out. And He will complete His purpose in my life and in your life.

He hears me when I cry out to Him. He will not forsake the work He has started in my life (and in the lives of my kids). And when I read His word, I’m reminded of His goodness, His purpose in my life, and that He has made me for good works to glorify Him. So when I feel like I’m at the end of my rope, I can’t help but praise Him when I refocus my purpose to align with His. Daily—every moment I need to realign my will with His will.

God’s purpose will prevail. May I continually pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”

#HopeWriterLife #amwriting #writeyourheartout #writingchallenge #faithwriters #HeavenComeDown #GodWithUs #ThyKingdomCome #chasingoutthedark #purpose

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

Write my way to Truth

When I write, I am a better me.  When I write, I take the time to process the hard stuff, to acknowledge what’s right and wrong, to remind myself of truth, and to pay attention to the good God gives. When I stop to write,  my mind does what David’s did when he talked himself out of the stinkin’ thinkin’ and talked to God in prayer.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted in me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him”. ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭42:5‬

The weather has me down in the dumps today… it’s a lovely, dreary, gray March day. Tomorrow’s forecast doesn’t look much better. And it’s easy for my mind to focus on the negative, and when I keep it mental that is exactly what happens.

However, when I take the time to write down and name the negative stuff, I naturally shift toward taking the time to combat the negative with truth. I can’t explain it, it just happens.

So I remember that my soul is cast down, but it doesn’t need to stay there. I can hope in God. I continually use foggy days to remind myself that God came down. He came to earth to walk among us, to show us The Way, to pay the atonement for our sins. I can find the pictures on my phone of last week’s sunrise and remind myself that the sun rises every morning and God created all the seasons for our enjoyment.

I can remind myself and you that Jesus laid down His life for my sins and I don’t have to live in defeat because we already have the victory.

Sunday’s coming!

#HopeWriterLife #HolyWeek #Godwithus #HeavenComeDown #ChasingOutTheDark #writeyourheartout