Sunday, June 29, 2008

Nothing Special

Our family went on a mission trip this past week to Kentucky. I served in a homeless shelter. Actually, I felt so at home in the homeless shelter.

The first day, I cried through our praise songs. I couldn't believe God's sweet Spirit showed up in a dingy bleak room. His love was so heavy I coudn't open my mouth.

I still cry when I think about this lady I met. She'd just left her abusive husband for the third time. She says this time she's going to stay away and get help. We prayed and talked. I asked her what she liked to do--if she had any hobbies. She said she loved to crochet.

I didn't think it was anything special. No big deal. I ran to Wal-Mart before we left and got her red yarn (God's love) and a crochet needle. I spent about $6.You'd have thought I'd given her a million dollars. She's making a blanket for the winter. I said, "As you crochet, pray. Keep your mind on God's love for you." She nodded and promised she would. Her name is Christy. Maybe you'll say a prayer for her.

I didn't realize that when you show His love even in the SIMPLEST ways, He totally fills you.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Old Fashioned Way

Do you ever wonder why we never read about pioneer women going out for a run or working out at the gym three times a week?

It’s because they didn’t have to!

Lately I’ve taken to making my own bread, partly to save money and the other part because I find it relaxing and fun (I’m weird that way). I don’t do it all the time; only about once a week. Since I never bought a bread maker I do it the old fashioned way. You know, the way that involves softening yeast, mixing, kneading, giving the dough a satisfying punch before dividing it in half? Oh, you don’t know? Then I suggest you try it. It’s great when you need to get some pent up aggressions out. And honestly, if I had to do the job daily, I’d have the strongest arms in the neighborhood.

Today, for some odd reason, Nathan wanted to make butter. He must have seen it done on Reading Rainbow or something. So we now have fresh butter for the bread that I made yesterday. My dad called while we were in process.

“Nate and I are making butter,” I bragged.

“Butter? Like with a churn?”

“No, we’re shaking it in a jar.” I fought to keep my shaking rhythm while talking on the phone.

“Homemade bread, homemade butter . . . all you need is a cow in the backyard.”

As I told Dad, butter is actually very simple. You basically dump a container of heavy whipping cream into a jar, shake it until it stiffens then wring out all the liquid. In the end you also have a tiny bit of buttermilk for pancakes (that’s on the agenda for tomorrow morning). But again, it takes work and if my family’s butter supply depended on me and my churn I’d never have to work my upper body again (not that I do).

I couldn’t help thinking maybe we’re all missing out with so much convenience food. There is something about eating the real stuff, especially after mixing, baking (or in today’s case shaking) fresh ingredients. It smells great and tastes so good! And, I must admit, I get some satisfaction out of making things from scratch. I doubt I’d go so far as insisting that our entire food supply come from our garden and 100-lb bag of flour, but it’s fun now and then. If nothing else I appreciate that I don’t have to do it 24/7.

This summer, just for fun, try making bread, butter, jam, or some other food that you take for granted. Have fun with it! Consider how much easier your daily life is than, say, your grandmother’s. When you’re finished, taste the difference. Thank God for providing you with your daily need for food and for giving us the knowledge to create delicious choices.
If you get stuck post a comment and I’ll send you a recipe.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Love this

I wanted to share this with y'all.


Monday, June 16, 2008


Tomorrow the last in The Dragon Keeper Chronicles hits the bookshelves in stores across the nation.
The first time I received a shipment of books I had written with my name on the cover, I took the box back to my mother's bed, had her scoot over, and opened them there by her knees. I gave her one, grabbed an armload of more, and sat in the rocker next to her bed. I rocked back and forth with tears in my eyes.
Sometimes we have to wait for the delivery of something special.
DragonLight is special.
People will ask and author which book is their favorite. That's like saying which of your children is your favorite. Each book represents a time period in my life, something God was teaching me, and an inner concept that was pulled out of my heart as He directed my writing. Each book is special.
One of the odd things is that now I am deep in the story of the next book. This new tale is the focus of my creativity and each day I endeavor to deliver 2000 words into the computer file. That's a different type of delivery than the one that signifies completion. But without the faithfulness of bit by bit progression, there would be no finish.
I love a good book, especially one that makes me think and feel and grow. I appreciate all those authors who are out their making deliveries, the small daily ones, and that final one shipped off to the publisher, so that they can have their turn getting ready for the release date delivery.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

God Listens

When the phone rang one recent afternoon, I let the machine answer it. A woman's voice stated her name and then why she was calling. Her twenty-five-year-old daughter had been in a car accident, she explained, and had suffered severe brain injury . . .

That's as far as she got before I picked up the phone.

We get these calls from time to time. I understand completely, because I was the one making these calls twelve years ago. As she told me her story, I identified with so many of the details. The doctors who offered no hope. The endless decisions that have to be made when you have no clue what to do. The joy that rises with each good sign. The waves of grief that swamp you the very next moment.

Like Jacob, her daughter has defied all predictions and made amazing progress. But now she's coming "home" to live with her parents, and they've turned a corner into new uncharted territory. I offered a few practical suggestions, but mostly I listened and encouraged her not to give up. The longer we talked, the deeper we went, and soon our conversation shifted from medical realities to spiritual ones. That's when she shared this story.

The day before the accident, she and her husband decided to discontinue their land line service and use only cell phones. As a result, emergency personnel had trouble tracking them down. The hospital finally reached their older daughter who called them. Then they had to drive to a hospital in the next town. When they arrived around 4:30 AM, they were instructed to call the doctor, who told them their daughter's injuries were fatal and offered no hope for her survival. However, since no one had been able to reach them, she'd been hooked up to life support.

Miracle number one.

After receiving the devastating news, her husband went back to their daughter's bedside, but a nurse took the wife aside. "The doctor has to say that, because that's what he believes," the nurse said. "But he doesn't know God's plan."

Miracle number two.

They checked into a hotel to try to get some rest before facing the doctor the next day and making their first round of decisions. The wife took a hot shower to clear her head, and when she stepped out, the mirror was fogged over. Whoever had stayed in the room before had written a message on the mirror, and the fresh steam had made it reappear.

"God listens."

Miracle number three.

By the end of this story, her tone had changed. Fear of an unknown future gave way to trust in the One who's brought them this far. She still doesn't know what to do, but she knows God is near. He's not asleep. He sees. He cares. He has a plan.

And--oh, the joy!--when our hearts are broken into a thousand jagged shards, and we don't think we can take another breath, much less another step, He sends messengers in the form of whispering nurses or steamy mirrors or talking donkeys or stones that cry out. One way or another, He speaks.

And then He listens.

Monday, June 09, 2008

A Rescue

Today a young mother called me, excited about what God did to encourage her family. Her husband has a good job, but they have four little ones, and they live in an expensive area of California. Within the last week, they ran out of money, even for the basics.

A neighbor asked my friend for help packing for a move. She agreed. Then she discovered that what her neighbor most needed was someone to take the food that would otherwise go to waste. She took home ten grocery sacks of food—most of it exactly what she would buy.

This morning her husband went out the door to go to work. Someone had left a card on the windshield, which included a $100 gift certificate for a nearby food store.

God was at work providing for this family’s needs, and as my friend emphasized, in answer to their prayers. Her oldest daughter, a six-year-old, said, “I knew God did that for other people, but I didn’t know he would do that for us.”

Boy, that felt familiar. I’ve thought the same thing. Too often.

Yes, God does that . . . but will he do that for me?

I got off the phone and considered how I might be caught in that kind of thinking right now. It didn’t take long to identify a few areas of shaky trust: a ministry opportunity, a relationship, a miscommunication, a fear.

During our conversation, my friend had also shared this verse:

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

“Save” in the first sentence is the Hebrew word, yasa, a verb which means help, deliver, defend, or rescue. Its root word carries the idea of wide open freedom.

God is always available. He will meet me in my struggles and be the warrior God fighting for my rescue and freedom—from anything that traps or binds me. And when I’m faced with circumstances that make my heart pound with anxiety or worry, he is there to quiet me with his love.

Think I’ll go spend some time with my Warrior God. Want to join me?


Friday, June 06, 2008

Welcome to the World

Big and exciting things are happening in my life right now. My sweet baby girl entered the world on Saturday, May 31, at 7:56am. Sinclair was 7 pounds 3 ounces and was 20.25 inches long. She is absolutely perfect and adorable. I was overwhelmed with joy in meeting her. All I can think about is Psalm 139. She was fearfully and wonderfully made. Her little frame was hand sculpted by God Himself. I wanted to introduce to you Sinclair Natalie Bragg.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

So Proud!

On Tuesday my son Nathan graduated from kindergarten. As you can see from this picture he gave the valedictory address. Just kidding! Actually, every child read from a book that highlighted there year, what they learned, special events, and what they did each day. They sang inspirational songs like “First Grade, First Grade” to the tune of “New York, New York” (complete with kick line) and even threw their caps at the end of the ceremony. I sat back and marveled at how quickly the year had raced by, knowing that it wouldn’t be long before his dad and grandparents and I sat in an audience watching him graduate from high school. I tried not to get too caught up in the melancholy side. Instead I focused on how proud I was of my little scholar. That was my little boy up there, reading into a microphone (and very well, I might add), receiving a diploma, and moving on to a new grade. Some might say, “A kindergarten graduation? How ridiculous.” But hey, for 5 and 6-year-olds it’s a very big deal. They can read, count to 100, add and subtract a little, and write short sentences. How many of them could say that in August? They are officially in a “grade!” Our Nate the Great has a lot to be proud of and so do we.

Many of you are probably graduating this month. Let me just take this moment to encourage you to be proud of your accomplishments. You’ve made it through high school! Whether you got straight A’s or not you made it through and are ready to move on the next phase of God’s plan for you.

Oh, and whether they vocalize it or not, your parents have a lot to be proud of too. So maybe you can thank them for being part of the process of getting you to this point.

Happy Summer!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


I have one son. Thomas. Thomas has two older sisters. He's number 7 in the picture and he's an upcoming high school junior. He's played baseball since he was four--shortstop, sometimes pitcher or catcher, even center field. He's quick. On the baseball field, he moves fluidly--smoothly. Now, for the very first time, he's going out for FOOTBALL. They want him to try out for quarterback.

I'm not thrilled about it. Football doesn't make sense to me. Why would anybody want to get knocked around on a dirty field? My husband and son don't pay attention to my smothering/mothering thoughts. They're all into this football thing. So, I divided my feelings into two piles.

1. My fears. He's my baby. My only boy. I don't want him to get hurt. I don't want other players knocking him down. Yes, he's doing weight lifting this summer, but some of those guys are HUGE. How do you become a QB when you've never played football? What if he......can'

2. My small faith. I prayed a teeny-weeny prayer. And I sensed God's still small voice, thought I didn't really want to. I wanted my way--for Thomas to say, "Never mind, Mom. I changed my mind." God gently reminded me to let go (again--He tells me that all the time). He said that he loves Thomas even more than I do. He reminded me that He is Thomas's God. He put the thought in me (again) that His ways aren't my ways. Maybe, just maybe, there's a plan other than Julie's.

Deep down, you know, I really admire Thomas. I would have never attempted a sport or anything new like that in high school. I would have been afraid of failure.

With God's help I'm slowly changing. I'm asking God for guts these days too, just like Thomas.


Monday, June 02, 2008


I think this is a good topic for me since I procrastinated myself right past my last four blogs. Yep! that's right. FOUR blogs. You would think that the guilt after two would corral me into fulfilling my obligations on number three and four. But, no. **sigh**
So here I go. Procrastination: Seven times Seventy Ways to Break the Habit of Procrastination.
Number One: Stop reading this blog and go back to work.

Still with me?
Then you are cut out of the same cloth as I am, dear reader.

It is not a coincidence that I used the phrase seven times seventy in the title. Although the Biblical reference is different (Jesus is indicating how many times we must forgive.), the principle of breaking a habit is the same. First you must forgive yourself for succumbing to the old pattern. Actively forgive yourself. If you don't, you power up the urge to do it again. That's right. The negative attention you give to the behavior you want to eliminate, actually keeps the behavior active. Forgive yourself. Don't dwell on the circumstance where you have fallen. OUCH! Get up, dust yourself off, and get moving.
Then, say no the next time, and the next, and the next. In fact, if you have to, say no seven times seventy times.
It honestly won't take that long. You should be able to establish a new pattern of behavior in less than a week.
REMEMBER: #1 replace the bad behavior with a good one. In this case, instead of procrastinating, deliberately achieve one of your goals for the day.
#2 don't become complacent. After you have established the new behavior, don't be surprised if much later you slip and return to the bad. Tsk! Tsk! naughty, naughty.
Shall we dwell on it? NO!
Shall we begin the regime of no, no, no again? YES!

Now let's see if it works. I should post again on June 16th. Watch for that day and keep me accountable.