If only I’d known

As we sat down to dinner at the dining room table, I couldn’t wait to eat. Any meal I don’t have to cook is a good one, and I had picked up Chinese take out for all of us. I got one of my favorite meals- chicken with cashew nuts. Honestly, the only thing I love about it is the cashews- I LOVE roasted cashews! That is absolutely the best part of the meal.

As I ate, I dug around and picked out each cashew. It’s kind of like saving dessert for last- who’s got time for that?! I wanted to eat the good stuff first! And then the saddest moment happened. I searched and searched… and low and behold- I had already eaten the last cashew.

Well, if I had known it was my last one, I would have enjoyed it even more!

All day I’ve been thinking about those little things that “…if only I’d know were the last..” , I would have appreciated it so much more.

-Like the last time I ran a bath for the girls and helped them wash their hair. Oh, the splashing and giggling I would hear!

-or the last time I nursed them as babies

-Or the last time I read my girls a bedtime story and tucked them in

-or tied their shoes

-or kissed them on the cheek

-walked them to the bus stop

-held their hand

If I had known back then that those moments would be the last time I would “get to” do all those little things-

I certainly would have taken the time to remember and enjoy!

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ice cream is a necessity

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Since I was a kid, I have had a love affair with ice cream.

A friend through thick and thin, ice cream was always there for me in my time of need.  Summer heat and need a treat? Ice cream to the rescue.  Boyfriend breakup and need a pick-me-up?  Ice cream always did the trick.   True story… when I was in college, I noticed that the roof of my mouth began to peel.  Thinking I had some sort of disease, I asked the dentist about my issue and sure enough- too much ice cream was the culprit!

Eventually, I realized that moderation was the key when it comes to enjoying my ice cream.  And it’s so awesome that we have tons of great options- even for those who are watching their carbs- like Halo Top ice cream!

 

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My personal favorite- Chocolate Covered Banana 🙂

I happened to be in the grocery store yesterday evening and like always, I bumped into someone I knew.  We chatted for a few minutes and caught up on life, and then I noticed a mom and her middle school aged son hovering around the ice cream.  Mom was looking for the staples- milk, eggs… while son’s eyes were glued to the hundreds of cartons of ice cream.

“Mom, WE NEED SOME ICE CREAM!”

I heard the desperation in his voice.

“Honey- we do not NEED ice cream.  Now come on.”

 “But mom.  We NEED ice cream!”  A brief second later, he looked in my direction and I could see it written all over his face.  He was losing hope.  He needed some help.

I did what any ice cream lover would do…

I looked at the mom and smiled as I said, “I have to agree with your son.  Ice cream is definitely a NEED when it’s 100 degrees outside.”

The mom paused for just a second, and then gave the go ahead.  Junior got him a carton of heaven… umm…I mean ice cream.

I think often about how short life is, and how we have to enjoy the little things.

Ice cream is definitely one of them.

 

crayons and markers

 

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like crayons and markers 

I watched as she drew 

outlined and shadowed 

but before she was through- 

she’d say look this way- 

and with special care 

she’d dab a little here 

and she’d dab a little there- 

transforming me into 

a queen for a day 

how I loved it when

Grandmother 

came to play! 

Today I was thinking about my Grandmother and remembering all the times she used to travel to visit us.  We didn’t see her often- maybe a couple of times a year, but she was a true southern belle and I loved her dearly!  She passed away just a few years after I got married.  As I was putting on my moisturizer this morning, I remembered something special she used to do with us…

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Grandmother kept her make-up in something like this

 

 

 

 

One of the things I loved most when Grandmother came to visit is when she would put her make-up on in the morning.  She would sit on the couch and lay out all of her makeup on the coffee table. And if my sister and I were sitting with her, she would include us in her beauty ritual.  We would carefully watch her apply her blue eye-shadow, and then it was our turn!

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I kept my make-up in one of these! 

She’d lean over and swipe the blue shadows on our lids.  And then she’d dab a little bit of mascara on our lashes, and then we’d pick a shade of lipstick.  A little puff of nude powder dusted on our faces, and we were all dolled up!  I remember thinking- oh just wait till my friends see me like this! 

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Her favorite powder…White Shoulders 

And then I’d go outside to see our friends who lived next door, and I’d wait for them to notice something different about me.  Inside, I felt like a beauty queen, but the funny thing was that to them- I didn’t look any different!

It is amazing how a little extra attention from someone you love can transform your own thoughts about yourself.

 I am so thankful for those memories-

and for how special and loved my Grandmother always made me feel!

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment such as braided hair or gold jewelry or fine clothes, but from the inner disposition of your heart, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in God’s sight. 

1 Peter 3:4

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a blanket of blessings

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stitch by stitch 

it was frozen in time 

I watched it grow 

and dreamed it was mine 

soft and warm 

like an autumn sky

an afghan brings memories

of days gone by 

 My mom recently and asked me if there was anything in particular that I would like to have that belonged to my Granny.  Oddly enough, something immediately came to my mind- an afghan.  Not just any afghan- it was one my mom had made for my Pawpaw nearly 30 years ago.

So I said to my mom- “Do you remember that old afghan you made for Pawpaw?  I would love to have it if it’s still at the house!”  She remembered it right away, and said she’d try to find it that weekend.

As a kid, I remember sitting beside my mom on the couch each night as she crocheted it.   I wanted that blanket!  It was soo soft, and I remember thinking about how much my mom must love her daddy to spend all that time making it for him!  I believe she gave it to him for Christmas that year.

And every time we went to visit Granny and Pawpaw, I saw that blanket folded neatly on top of his recliner.  I secretly wanted to sit in his chair so I could spread it across my lap and pretend it was mine!

Year after year, Every time I saw the afghan, the memories of those special evenings I spent sitting beside my mom, watching her crochet… those memories would come right back to me.

As I was sitting in church the following Sunday, I saw a text from mom.  They looked everywhere for the afghan, and mom went out to the garage to put something in the freezer- and there it was, in perfect condition tucked beside the freezer.

I was able to pick it up later that next week.  The afghan was a little stiff, and slightly musty from old age, so I carefully washed and dried it.  Now it’s as good as new!

Its not the afghan itself that’s special- it’s the precious memories it brings back to me…of being a little girl, sitting beside my Mommy on the couch…just simply being together.

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

Back in my day…

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“Back in MY day…”

Yesterday I had the joy of sharing one of those “back in my day” stories with my daughters…

While I was looking through some pictures from a trip my husband and I took to Paris-B.C. (before children), I found something from my childhood that I have been looking for for years!

When I was about 10 years old, I wanted a tape recorder for Christmas.  I remember the day I got that red tape recorder and a set of blue “k-mart special” blank tapes, and it was the best present ever!  My sister and I spent countless hours recording ourselves singing and recording songs off of the radio.

Imagine my delight when I found one of those k-mart tapes last night in the box with my old pictures! It was like Christmas all over again!  I patiently waited until the next morning to play it in my mini-van… (yes, we have probably one of the last mini-vans to have a cassette player in it!)

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best.gift.ever!!!!!!

I carefully slid the tape into the tape deck, not even sure if it would still play- but sure enough, I heard the crackly sound of the tape loud and clear.  It was like going back in time 28 years… I heard snippets of songs we recorded from the radio while we played in the background… then my sister and I sang our little hearts out.  We sang “The Greatest Love of All” in perfect unison, a cappella- and the sound was eerily familiar.  It could have easily been my own two girls belting out that tune.  My sister and I sounded just like my girls!

When my girls got into the van with me, I had to explain what we were listening to.

“Back in my day, we didn’t have cell phones with video recorders… or cd’s or youtube or iPods… We had to make “mix tapes”.  We had to actually *gasp*  wait for our favorite song to come on the radio and then time it just right to record it on our cassette tape.  Then we had to be really, really quiet so that we couldn’t hear ourselves on the tape.”

They looked at me like I was an alien. They were not impressed.

We continued to listen to the tape, and I had to stifle my laughter as I heard my sister and I telling each other “Shhh!!!”.  And then we couldn’t help ourselves… as soon as the chorus to a song we were trying to record came on, we belted it out.  The funny part was that we never, ever knew the words to the verses- we just made them up.

And while I was deep in nostalgic thought, listening to my childhood mix-tape, my own girls were bickering and belting out their own favorite tunes in the back of our mini van…

plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

 

the fog lifted…

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perspective changes 

when the fog lifts- we see what 

was there all along

Speaking of fog…over the summer I got to “view” this gorgeous place-  Swannanoa Palace … and it just so happened to be under a heavy blanket of fog that day- adding to the mysterious but still lovely atmosphere.  I had the joy of going back to Swannanoa with my sister and a dear friend recently, to catch a glimpse of the clear mountain views and to take a few more pictures.

I am so thankful for the visit with my sister and our childhood friend!  It doesn’t matter how much time has passed between seeing each other- it’s like no time has passed at all when we are together…and it’s just like we’re kids again!

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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panoramic views from the Palace tower

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crystal clear view from the palace tower

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panoramic views from the tower

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the overgrown, but still beautiful pergola

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the pergola on a perfect fall day

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I found this little ivy covered bridge in the garden

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can you imagine waking up to a view like this every day?!

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a view to remember…the Blue Ridge Mountains

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The stunning foliage around the water tower

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Have you ever seen a hydrangea bush this big?!

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The best view of all… my girls and their cousins!

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The water tower (or Rapunzel’s tower… as I like to call it)

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the view of the gardens from the stairwell

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The best view of all… my sister, my dear friend, and our wee ones 🙂

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Swannanoa Palace

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The stained glass TIffany window

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The magnificent stairwell

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The only way to have a friend is to be one

– Ralph Waldo Emerson  

We’ve all got stories

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a GREAT story-telling spot in the Blue Ridge Mountains…

We’ve all got stories

stories that need 

telling 

but every story worth 

telling 

needs

someone who will

stop

and listen

Have you seen the movie “The Wedding Singer”?  Drew Barrymore’s character is named Julia, which I can identify with- because even though my name is Julie- my grandfather (and several other people) have always called me Julia!  Well, my husband likes to joke that I’m the “funeral singer”.  I have sung at many funerals and while it may sound strange, it has been one of the greatest blessings to be able to minister to families in this unique way. 

I sang at a recent service, and when it was over, I gave my condolences to the family members. It was drizzly outside, and so I began to head up the hill to where my car was parked. I had several things to get done that afternoon and I was mentally going over my to-do list. I noticed an older gentlemen standing tall, nicely dressed, looking out over the cemetery. I felt the Lord nudge me to go talk to him.  I walked up to him and stuck out my hand and introduced myself. He gave me the biggest smile and began talking about his family and sharing all sorts of stories about them. He was close to 80 years old, and his memory was impeccable.

As I stood there, the Lord impressed upon me how important it was for this gentleman to have my time-my full attention– and just how much he needed his story to be heard. Nothing I had to do was as important as giving this gentleman my listening ear in that moment. 

He shared many stories, and at one point, I wondered if the stories would ever converge. After a few minutes, he told me that God has always been so good to him and that God’s grace had followed him all the days of his life, even before he was born- even in uniting his parents.  As he continued to talk, I thought about how special it is to hear these stories and to realize that this complete stranger suddenly seemed like part of my “family”.  And in that moment, I realized that we were “family”- both having the same Heavenly Father.

God reminded me that as a minister, being present and listening to others is one of the most valuable things we can do, and how sometimes He asks me to not say a word

to just listen and shine His light. 

My Christian brothers, you know everyone should listen much and speak little.  

James 1:19

Piece by Piece

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putting together

history- and His story

one piece at a time

I picked up the tattered puzzle box off my bookshelf and carefully dumped out the pieces.  Little parts were stuck together, weathered from age.  Would all the pieces be here?  I thought this phrase in my mind many times as I carefully sorted the edge pieces from the rest of the bunch.  I wouldn’t know until I actually made an attempt to finish it.

It’s pretty awesome how I ended up with this puzzle.  I have always enjoyed putting puzzles together, and my husband and our girls have started a tradition of doing puzzles when we take vacations to the beach.  Well, I had written a blog post about how our family enjoys doing this, and one of my family members happened to read it.

Several months had passed, and I had taken the girls with me to visit my granny.  My aunt was also there when we arrived and she said she had something for me.  My granny had been cleaning out the attic, and she had found a bunch of things she wanted to give to the Salvation Army.  This Last Supper puzzle was one of them.  It sat in the trunk of my aunt’s car for months.  Then she read my post, and thought I’d like to have it.

When she handed it to me, I immediately looked at the box, and it was marked with the exact year I was born- 1977! How cool was that?!  My granny couldn’t remember how she got it, but it was like the puzzle had been waiting for me all this time.

What my aunt didn’t know was that I have always wanted a picture of the Lord’s Supper to hang in our dining room!  Isn’t God the coolest gift-giver?  Not only was I given a Lord’s Supper picture- but one I could spend hours of quiet time with Him putting together.  A double-blessing for sure!

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I finally took it out of the box the Saturday before Easter to work on it.  It looked like someone had put it together before- little groups of 4 or 5 pieces were stuck together- just enough to help me get going.

I kept hoping all the pieces would be there. After all, it was 37 years old! I finished putting together the jug and there was one missing brown piece. I didn’t give up.  I started on another section and kept going.  The next day, I looked under the tablet to pick up a napkin, and sure enough- there that little brown piece was- resting upside down on the floor!

I thought about how easy it is for me to give up.  Sometimes I can visualize my goal, but can’t see all the little steps in between.  I think that really is God teaching me to turn to Him- every step of the way.  As silly as it might sound, I trusted that these pieces would all be there.  They just had to be!

As the evenings passed, my youngest daughter sat with me for short bursts of time, fitting little pieces together.  We cheered a good “woohoo” every time we got another part finished.

I thought about how every single piece matters.  Every little piece- an important part of the whole. God uses all the pieces- even the seemingly insignificant piece of our lives to teach and mold us.  And we wouldn’t be complete without them. Every acquaintance, every relationship…every situation, every circumstance…all these little pieces make us who we are.

FullSizeRender-3And when we got down to the last few pieces, I asked my youngest daughter to help me.  I wanted her to have the joy of putting the last piece in place.

Every piece was there. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was.  I was grateful. Grateful that every piece was there- and grateful for all the little pieces of my life that have made me who I am.  I am thankful for this beautiful picture, and even more thankful for the time I spent praying, thinking, and spending time with my daughter putting it together.  God sure is awesome 🙂

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you. Psalm 139

 

Memories…like the corners of my mind

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my oldest playing her flute as I play piano…

I think of all

the things I thought

and how I used to feel

Remembering all my

childhood angst

the moments

 become real

connecting through our stories

sharing thoughts

and spending time

I’m reliving my own childhood

as I watch these

girls of mine!

I did something out of the ordinary the other day- I gave my daughters my undivided attention.  It would be fair to say that most days my attention is split in a thousand different directions- but the rare afternoons I give them ALL of me are ones I never regret.

My older daughter was under the weather and stayed home from school, and much to my delight- she is so loving and pleasant when she is sick.  She spent most of the day laying in my bed as I cleaned and did laundry.  We talked about life and school and all sorts of pre-teen things.

When my youngest one came home from school, I devoted all of my time to her.  We began with a piano lesson where she confessed that one day she wanted to play just like me.

“Can I play piano for church someday?” she asked me during our lesson.

Be still my beating heart!  There is nothing that would make me prouder than seeing my children give their gifts to the Lord- whatever those gifts may be! And she continued to ask me all sorts of questions about my childhood…

“Momma?  Do you remember who your kindergarten teacher was?”

“I sure do! She even had a dress that looked like one Caroline Ingalls would have worn from Little House on the Prairie!” My older daughter, in the next room, couldn’t resist joining our conversation.

“What about your first grade teacher?”

“Yep- I remember being so sad that I cried for the entire first week of school.  I wanted to stay home with my mom and was sad to leave my sister.  I cried so much that my teacher put an entire box of tissues on my desk!”

We had a good laugh about that one.  As I recalled each of my elementary teachers, I also remembered little stories that connected me with my girls, allowing me to remember just how big those “little” things seemed to me at the time.

I remembered being asked to create a still-life drawing by my art teacher in the 5th grade.  She wanted to submit my artwork for a chance for me to attend a special art program in our city. With utmost care, I sketched the encyclopedia bookcase in my dining room- carefully drawing the many potted plants my mom had surrounding it. I thought it was the best thing I had ever created.  I was so proud of that drawing!  I remember handing it into my teacher, sure that I would be picked to be in this elite group of artists… but my dream was crushed.  I wasn’t chosen.  I didn’t think I would ever draw again after that day.

My youngest daughter loves to draw, and she was especially touched by that story.

“Why don’t you draw anymore?” my daughter asked me inquisitively.

“Well, I really loved music, so I spent most of my free time playing piano instead of drawing.”

I remember the day I found out I didn’t make it into the art program.  I was devastated, and felt like I would never be good enough at anything.  That feeling was as real to me as I shared the story with my girls as it was 25 years ago.  Something I was so proud of was just not good enough.

I thought about how different my life could have been if I been accepted into that art program…it was later that year that I began taking piano lessons…

But perhaps He knew I’d have no time to sing

and no time to play piano

Perhaps I would have never written any poems

or any songs 

And in that moment of sharing my memories, He opened my eyes to this- it has taken me 25 years to see the blessing in being a “rejected” art student… because just maybe He knew He had something far better in store for that 10 year old girl!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

 

One day that’ll be me

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one day

we’ll look at our 

wrinkled skin 

our weathered lines

and wonder where 

the time has gone

One day 

we’ll remember 

the dreams of our past

and see the gift of our

present-

unwrapping 

and sharing

our memories-

one by 

one

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

We celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary this past weekend.  It was a beautiful day- much like the day we got married. As we got out of our car for our lunch date, I noticed an elderly couple making their way up to the restaurant door.  He leaned on his walker and pushed it forward inch by inch. She followed closely behind him- watching to make sure he didn’t stumble.  Any other day, I might have sped up my walk to get to the door ahead of them.  Not that day.

“One day, that will be us,” I smiled as I told my husband.

Then just yesterday, I was with a friend in a coffee shop, and an elderly man came up to us. He was dressed nicely and had a pleasant way about him.  He was looking for a flier, and then began to talk to us. He told us he had been married for 61 years.  61 years!!

I couldn’t believe it-  because he didn’t look old enough to have been married that long.

“But, you couldn’t be more than 70,”  I said to him in protest. “There’s no way you could have been married that long!”

“Oh yes, I am 90 years old!”  He smiled, proud of the years he has experienced in this world.

“You want to know the hardest thing about being 90?”  His eyes were glistening as he spoke, and I leaned in close as he talked.

He clenched his fist and brought it up to his ear- as if he was holding a phone receiver.

“There’s no one for me to call anymore.  They’re all gone.”

My friend and I listened as he shared his random memories…of the passing of his wife, of friends who have experienced loss and hardship, and all I could think about was how important it is to be connected, to be present, and to take time out of our busy lives to listen.

Life, our memories, and our relationships are precious gifts- and our days here are numbered.

One day, that will be me.