Tag Archives: relax

Brilliant Beauty and Being Included

I’m sacrificing the comfort of my own bed and the predictability of my life for a weekend away with friends.

This was the beginning of my journal entry Saturday morning.

When the invitation came electronically through my phone asking for dates that might work, I felt conflicted.

There is always so much going on that it is never a good time, and yet, sometimes space just needs to be created.

I had one open weekend. One possibility. It wouldn’t hurt to try. At worst, it wouldn’t work out; at best we would be away from our daily grinds basking in the joy of friendship.

The date was a go, and emails began to move, making plans.

Stuff began to surface in me that I could no longer stuff down.

What am I going to contribute?

I am gifted at caring for a multitude, how do I care for me?

Is this even worth it?

My husband, ever supportive, reminded me that time away with friends is always worth it, so I persevered.

Saturday morning, looking through the window of my room at the morning sunlight casting itself brilliantly over the colorful leaves of the tree just outside, I felt thankful.

Thankful for being included. Yes, it was absolutely worth it.

Sweet-Smelling Fragrance

Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. . .

Today seemed a good one to talk about fall scent, or in the words of my son, foul stenchBoth are correct, actually.

But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom.
But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.
And who is adequate for such a task as this?
2 Corinthians 2:15,16

The recipe for Fall Scent is found on one of those lost plastic pages in my virtuous cookbook of yore. It involves simmering good-smelling things in a pot on the stove, being careful not to burn all of the water away, thus crusting everything to the bottom of the pot and filling the house with a stench.

It’s a great use for those lemons or oranges or other citrus fruits or even apples that are going bad in the fruit bin. One step ahead of the compost pile.

Fall Scent
1 lemon, cut in half or quartered
1 orange, same
some whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
A bay leaf or two

Squeeze the juice of the lemon and orange into a 2qt pot, dropping the rind in, as well.
Add the other ingredients and fill with water.
Bring the whole thing to a rolling boil, and then reduce to simmer.
Enjoy the scent, adding water as it evaporates.

VERY IMPORTANT! Do not leave unattended. If you smell a delightfully strong scent while you are in another part of the house, RUN to add more water, because the water is almost gone. If you have OCD tendencies, you might want to stick with something safer like diffusing essential oils, because it will drive you crazy wondering if you turned off the stove when you leave the house. Or come up with a ritual for signalling to yourself you have removed the pot from the top of the stove.

Trust me on this one.

I sometimes add apple bits, peppercorns, or other interesting spices to mix it up a bit. This mixture will keep in the fridge for a week or so.

The backstory to fall scent is that when we purchased our yellow house eleven years ago, it was rather run-down and ramshackle. Everything was filthy and old and broken, and the eight appliances that conveyed were from the 50’s.

That’s another story.

There was basic work to be done like updating the wiring and waterproofing the basement and refinishing the floors and cleaning. Oh my, the cleaning.

We would come over to work, and I would brew a pot of fall scent to mask the musty smell and try to make it seem home-y.

The following fall when we were more settled and had lived in the house for several months, I put a pot of fall scent on the stove. My then-little bigs got home from school one afternoon and the first thing child 3 asked was, Are there workers here?

The scent was associated with the work being done on the house. And now you know. . .

. . .the rest of the story.

I’m off to parent four more not-so-littles and move on through the day.

And who is adequate for such a task as this?

Enjoy your fall day, Friends!

Summer Reading

I love to read.

I have to start with that, because as much as I love reading, I struggle to carve out the time for it. Right now there is a stack of five books on my nightstand, not including the Nook holding several more within its memory.

That said, I had the opportunity to select a semi-random book earlier this summer, as Steve and I wandered into a used bookstore while on a weekend getaway.

Used bookstore.

Are you overwhelmed, yet? I certainly was! When Steve told me to choose a book to read, I had no idea where to begin. I had to fight the urge to be completely overwhelmed by the amount of words, thoughts, and facts contained within the pages of the books on those shelves.

I get weird like that, sometimes!

My eyes landed on a thick book by a familiar author, Pat Conroy. Having read Prince of Tides, I thought I would see what his book Beach Music was about. The back cover sang its praises, and I was beginning to feel anxious about the time I was taking, so I selected it and tossed it onto the counter.

Here. This one, I guess.

Spoiled by having both Booksavers and Green Valley Book Fair close by, the “deal” of half off the list price still seemed steep. $8.00?! Ok. I need something to read today.

Returning to our hotel, we took our books to the pool and began reading and relaxing, something that had become foreign to me.

Beach Music begins tragically, then wisks the reader to Rome, a bonus, seeing as how I have actually been there. I could experience the scenes, sights, smells, and sounds even more vividly with the help of the author’s descriptions.

What I enjoyed most about this book was its richness of writing and its focus on story. The story of the characters. The back story to the tragedy. The way stories intertwine and weave together. The way that how we choose to reject, rewrite, or embrace our story affects us and those we love (and hate!).

All of this is covered in Beach Music.

Family. Friendship. Love. Loss. Betrayal. Redemption. Grace. Understanding. Life. Sickness. Death. Grief. Joy. It’s all there.

Passages like this are what draws me in to this writing. . .

American men are allotted just as many tears as American women. But because we are forbidden to shed them, we die long before women do, with our hearts exploding or our blood pressure rising or our livers eaten away by alcohol because that lake of grief inside us has no outlet. We, men, die because our faces were not watered enough.

And this. . .

In the house Dr. Pitts (the stepdad) exploded after I had taken Lucy (the boys’, now men’s, mother) to her bedroom and she had recovered strength enough to take a sip of water and change into her nightclothes before she fell asleep. (Lucy is dying of Leukemia and has just had a collapsing episode on the beach.)

“I have something to say to you boys,” Dr. Pitts began as he poured himself a tumbler full of scotch. “I know you love your mother and I know she loves you. But you’ll kill her faster if you don’t get control of yourselves. All of you need to learn to be part of a room without filling it up. You need to learn to be in a scene without being the whole scene. You don’t need to be the funniest, the wildest, the craziest, the weirdest, or the loudest person on earth to get Lucy’s attention. She loves all of you. But there’s too much commotion around you boys. I demand that you quit turning every single thing into an event. Everything is over the top when you guys are around. Learn to relax. To muse things over. To look at things calmly and at a normal pace. Why is that impossible with you McCalls? Why must every day seem like a home movie from the Apocolypse? Your mother needs rest from all of this. She needs quiet. . .Things move from an event, then a spectacle, then an extravaganza. You attract noise and disorder. You’re all in love with what’s bad for Lucy. You’re killing her. You boys are killing what you can’t stand to say good-bye to. . .”


So that is what I was reading in the backyard as I rested in my mess.


Sometimes hospitality looks like, “If you’re willing, we’re willing.”

It looked like that wedding weekend at our house when my son’s girlfriend spent the night with us. It looked like that getting ready for the newlyweds to spend a weekend here watching the little sibbies. It looks like that whenever my son gets a weekend off to come home.

I struggle with hospitality. Having people into my home does not come easily or naturally, and it has only been recently that I have even felt comfortable here myself.

It’s hard for me to believe that people would want to be here. Add to that the stress of a mess and crowded quarters, and it becomes pretty difficult for me to imagine having house guests, let alone doing it.

And yet . . .

We have had many house guests over the years. I’m sure of it. There have been seasons of graciousness and seasons of grace. We are in one of grace, these days.

These days, hospitality looks like clean sheets and towels with a package of cleaning wipes on top just in case.


Of course I dream of gracious guest rooms and cozy quarters and scrumptious breakfasts, and that may happen one day. For now, though, if you’re willing, we’re willing, will have to do.

And that’s okay. So, Come on over!

If you’re willing, we’re willing.

Hello, June!

You have arrived, bringing with you pause from the school year and wedding planning and preparation for summer and all that it holds.

I hope to enjoy you, and the moments you bring.

I tend to stress out.

You bring my birthday, and that of Little Mae.

Preparation for camp.

Stephen Ministry teaching, recruiting, and leadership preparation.

Catching up on things around the house.

Revamping the porch.

Caring for my children.

Scheduling appointments.



The resting is the hard part. There will always be more doing.

I begin this month curious as to where it will take me and what I will learn from it. Feel free to join me and to share where you are and what you are learning, as well. Life is a journey, Friends. Let’s try to enjoy it!

Grace Enough

I am wrestling the notion of good enough these days. I’m taking measurements, self-assessments, and coming up short. I’m feeling the failure. Inadequacy.

Contempt seeps into my brain, whispering accusations and reminding me of where I lack. I see it everywhere. Even though . . .

Even though I have worked hard this year at my job as teacher and working mother.

Even though I have loved my husband, children, students, co-workers in the midst of my struggles.

Even though I have learned much about flexibility and taking one day at a time.

Even though I have walked through a school year not knowing at the beginning that a wedding was awaiting me on the other side. Would I have taken that first step had I known?

I can still see so many shortcomings.

I’m NOT good enough. 

That’s why there is grace enough.

There has been an abundance of grace, and today’s was no exception.

Inspired by my homeschool-mama friend, Davene, I planned a field trip to the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace in Staunton. The planning began weeks ago, and today was the day of the trip. I was feeling woefully inadequate.

Had I prepared my students well for the experience? Would they learn from it? Would it count in their minds as something fun while at the same time holding lasting educational value?

As we sat in the parlor of the manse, not touching, only listening, and our guide explained the serious nature of the parlor and the importance of the family Bible, I was reminded of yesterday’s conclusion of Caddie Woodlawn

One of my favorite childhood books, I had chosen to read it to the class, and yesterday we finished the last two chapters. Not wanting to be a spoiler, I will simply say that Father received an important letter from England and called Mother to the parlor where they shut the door to discuss its contents. Later, a family vote was taken on a serious matter with each member casting their ballot in the family Bible.

I hadn’t set an agenda in the timing of the chapter, yet it fit perfectly with our experience.

Later, when asked questions about Woodrow Wilson, my students knew answers due to a crash course we had that morning and on the way riding on the bus. I brought some books along, and we discussed some random facts, and I let students read the books, or be read to, if they wanted something to do.

I hadn’t planned out a big unit, but the time spent riding the bus was productive.

It was grace enough.

This is what I need to remember. There is grace enough for each day, and when I recognize it, it’s breathtaking. And I can breathe.

Coffee Corner

Favorite Place

It’s my favorite place, my Pinterest corner. The place where, my eldest points out, I can take a picture and make it look like life is perfect.

Coffee with my love. Drinking from our fall mugs. Knowing that whatever this year brings, we will face it together, like we have for the past 21.

Pinterest Corner

It seems I am not the only one who finds refuge and creative energy here.

Where is your favorite place for creating heart space?


Weekend Walk

One thing that I love about living close to downtown is that there are so many great places within walking distance.

After a lazy morning of sleeping in until 7:15, my man and I woke and had coffee, then decided to take a walk alone (courtesy of an adult child who is home for the weekend and agreed to supervise littles during their episode pick) to such a spot.

New Leaf Pastry Kitchen  was this morning’s destination. It’s where all sorts of deliciousness is prepared.

My luvvah went in to select treats, while I sat outside on a stone wall gazing at a stone fountain and grabbing some solitude. It’s hard to come by these days.

The walk home found me agitated and restless, actually dreading returning. I wanted to just walk and walk and walk and maybe even run and not look back, but alas, that is not a choice right now.

My insightful partner helped me process those feelings and longings and got the plates and fresh mugs of coffee while I sat in silence on the porch.

Then we shared the entire box of goodness.



I am learning to relax and enjoy the weekend, and, yes, it is something some people have to learn. I am grateful for such a patient partner and teacher.

My Sweet Grace on Labor Day

There’s more to the Labor Day story.

Steve and I were in the kitchen cleaning up. He was cleaning up, at least. I was hanging out.

His phone dink-a-doo’d a text announcement. I see that it is our (female) friend, M.

Why is M texting you? I ask.

He has no idea, reads it, then reads it to me.  “Want me to pick you up at 1:00 for some me and you time at my niece’s pool?”

Immediately we know that she has mixed up our numbers which are only one off. We laugh, and I tell him to respond, and he does.

 “I don’t think Julie would appreciate that, though I’m flattered!” 

My phone then lights up, and my friend and I make plans for an afternoon together at the pool where we swim and relax and talk and bake in the sun.

What sweet, hilarious, Labor Day grace.

Do You Haiku?


Did you figure out
that I was on vacation
and mixing it up?

Writing in Haiku
just because I wanted to
do something different?

It’s been a fun week
full of the usual stress
that vacation brings.

But I got to go
and spend time with my family
on familiar turf.