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

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

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

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

Jesus—in the middle of it all

My dear friends @Hopewriters had a weeklong instagram writing challenge. I had great intentions and shared my writing on my blog and on Instagram four of the days, which is pretty good. So I decided to go back to the word prompts I missed, because word prompts help me think and help me focus.

Another thing that helps me in my writing is my middle of the month pause to reflect and pay attention to my #frontdoorview. (#frontwindowview) I snap a picture when it catches my eye, or when I realized it’s the middle of the month and I forgot. I take special notice of sunrises or sunsets, storms rolling in or bright blue, cloudless days. And in the month of May, I wish there was a way to better capture the few lilac bushes that hedge the yard. And I wish I could share the burst of lilac scent that catches me when I leave my house. And always I’m reminded of the goodness and faithfulness of my God.

We’ve been smack dab in the middle of a little bit of chaos. Life has thrown a few curve balls in the last year or so. There has been a lot of loss, some changes, heart work, relationship struggles, ups and downs in parenting, doubts, questions, pruning. And in the middle of it all, when I’m tempted to claim a crisis of faith, I can’t. I am constantly reminded that Jesus has the words of life and I go back to my favorite Psalms and remember how David prayed honest prayers and refocused and realigned his heart with the truth of God’s Word.

David’s relationships were a mess, his parenting was less than ideal, he made lots of mistakes as king. But always he turned to God. He confessed his sin, he focused on the goodness of God, he reminded himself that God was in control, he continually asked God for direction and next steps in his life.

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”

Psalm‬ ‭25:4-5‬

So when I’m feeling overwhelmed in the middle of my week, the middle of parenting teenagers, the middle of the chaos of life, I ask God to lead me in truth, I pray for wisdom and for Him to direct my path. And I praise the God of my salvation.

#HopeWriterLife #amwriting #writeyourheartout #writingchallenge #faithwriters #juliesmonthlyspot #onceamonthspot #ministryofpayingattention #middle

Jesus Makes All Things Possible

Do you know what is possible with God? Stubborn people can be saved. Relationships can be restored. Healings happen. Blessings come in abundance. All things.

Psalm 103 reminds us that Jesus forgives my sins, heals my diseases, redeems my life from destruction, crowns me with loving kindness and tender mercies, satisfies my mouth with good things, renews my strength, executes righteousness and judgment for the oppressed.

Sometimes I just need to write that list out and personalize it for myself. Perhaps you need the reminder, too. Writing it with actual pen and paper settles it into our hearts and minds in real way. Writing out Scripture, writing out prayers is something that I’ve gotten away from in the busyness of this season. But I’ve been reminded.

Because that’s what God does. He lovingly, tenderly shelters us as a mother. He teaches us the same lesson over and over (Hello, Israelites and disciples). He shows up and shows off and shows me that He loves me personally. He created me intentionally. And He has a plan for my life (and it’s better than my plan).

This weekend was full of a variety of situations that didn’t fall under “my plan.” I didn’t respond well in most of those. I may have had a minor breakdown. If I’m being honest the whole past year has been quite the drift from my plan. But God is not surprised. And He uses all these things for His glory and for the good of those who love Him.

So as I look at this photo I snapped Sunday morning, with the intention of writing that day, I’m reminded that God brings beauty in the starkness of winter. The sun still shines. The sky is brilliant blue. The shadows and highlights display His creativity. That tall pine tree stands tall and firm. Even dead trees have an odd stark beauty about them.

I’m reminded that He gives me words when I take the time to sit still and listen and write. He gives me sunrises and sunsets. He gives me laughter with my kids and the hard conversations. He forgives my impatience and helps me seek forgiveness of others. He gave me a place of employment that talked me through my oven connections (I think I even learned something about flare union adapters and NPT threads). He gives me delicious take-out options on the days I live in my car. He provides neighbors willing to help and give me tea. Phone calls with friends, dark chocolate, coffee. Good books to read. Hot showers. Chiropractic care. Rest. And all of this is over and above the gift that is all I need.

Jesus. He makes all things possible. What do you need to ask God to show you today? What has God done for you that you need to acknowledge and give thanks for?

#HopeWriterLife #FiveMinuteFriday (on Tuesday) #fmfparty #writingprompt #writingcommunity #possible #JesusOnlyJesus #juliesmonthlyspot #onceamonthspot #frontdoorview

Finding Creativity in the Winter Blues

Today, my creativity is all dried up. I’m seeing the world in dusty grays and faded whites, and the dreary weather matches my mood. I have good intentions in my writing challenge, in writing to find my voice. And then I procrastinate and scroll social media, I go do more laundry, I read the same paragraph three times in a book I want to read, I snack because I’m bored.


And none of it helps my creativity, none of it inspires me to write. So I stop and look out my front door view and take my monthly picture. A moment in time to pause and remember and reflect. And I stare at what looks like a black and white photo because the sky is so gray and I can’t find the sun—in my days or in my heart.

I know the season is just that—a season, and the sun WILL shine again, the clouds will give way to blue skies, and some of the trees will grow leaves again. The snow will melt, the grass will be lush and green, and the birds will perch in the branches of the tall pine tree. But part of the routine of taking a monthly photo is to be present in the moment, to appreciate the ups and downs, to find the creativity even in gray, even in the sadness.

Sometimes art is quiet and subtle. Sometimes beauty is barren tree silhouettes against a gloomy winter sky. We give thanks for the snow as we watch from our warm windows. We remember that even gray winter skies can be pretty. Creativity is the landscape of sloping hills, rocks, and trees.

When you don’t feel creative, it’s okay to read a lighthearted fiction when you can’t get through the philosophical non-fiction, or watch a movie with your kids. Creativity is remembering that God is with me when I can’t shake the blues, and every day is not wrapped up in a pretty bow. His mercies are new every morning, and sometimes the mornings feel as dark as the nights. But still He is holding me. 

Sometimes beauty is barren tree silhouettes against a gloomy winter sky. #write28days #creativity


#Write28Days #Creativity #FrontDoorView #onceamonthspot #juliesmonthlyspot #ministryofpayingattention #ministryofordinaryplaces #JesusOnlyJesus #winterblues #soulstruggle