Just to Be Near My Master

sugar door

My daughter Gracie has a cute fluffy dog named Sugar.  Now I know each cute fluffy dog is certainly beloved by its owner.  But, I must make the case: their love just cannot match Gracie’s adoration for her Sugar.  Likewise, Sugar faithfully adores Gracie.

I observed this remarkable devotion when Gracie needed some privacy and shut the door to her room.  Sugar got the idea and gave her space. However, the entire time Gracie was in there, Sugar faithfully stood post outside Gracie’s door. I walked by a couple of times and smiled to myself, touched by the scene. Gracie was in there a while, and Sugar was NOT budging.

He knew exactly who was inside that door and clearly, he just wanted to be near her.  He knew that just behind that door was his beloved Gracie, full of love and patience, assists up onto high places, accommodating trips outside, occasional clean ups, and of course, food!  So there he patiently sat, waiting.


Because he knew his master well.  Time and relationship had proven that the one behind the door loved him well and loved him most.  Where else would he rather be?

This picture reminded me of my own heart, when I am abiding in the profound kindness and grace of God.  When I am seeing God rightly,  I seek his presence.  I get as close to Him as I can.  I can hardly stand a moment when I feel discord with Him.  I just want to be near to the heart of the God I love.

God calls us to draw close. James 4:8 reads, “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”  God is so kind.  If we truly seek Him, He will certainly not leave the door closed for long but will open it, welcoming us into His loving, gracious presence.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; and the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Matthew 7:7-8

But what does this knocking, this drawing close, look like?  For me, it’s about quieting my soul and first remembering that my time with God is sacred. I humbly and prayerfully ask God to still my heart so I can hear from Him.  Is there is anything between us?  As I prayerfully confess my sins, I receive His generous forgiveness once more.  I must choose to believe God’s love and grace is as deep as the sea and that He remembers my sins no more.  “He will again have compassion on us…You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”  Micah 7:19

The door is opened.  As I enter into His warm welcome of love, I die to my own thoughts of unworthiness and I am lovingly, fully restored.  I let the fullness of His love in and my spirit is refreshed by the sweetness of His acceptance of me through the gift of the cross.  It then becomes my joy to seek His face – to pray further, to read and ponder His Word, to sing to Him!  For I know He is loving and He is good – and there is no place I would rather be than in His presence.

What a gift to spend time in God’s presence, to get to know this Holy God even in some small measure.  Oh, the presence of God – surely there is no more sacred and wonderful place on earth!

I’m sure, as moms, we all recall our own sweet kids sitting outside our bedroom door as we tried to have a moment of privacy. Our first thought is “Really? Can’t I just have a tiny bit of time to myself here??”  But thinking about it a little more deeply, how can we blame them?  Our kids know that we moms are that safe place, those safe arms, comfort, security, real love.  I think I understand the “sitting outside the door” routine a little better after watching Sugar faithfully standing post outside Gracie’s door.  We all know where the love is, we know where we are safe and wanted.  If the Source of all this goodness is true and real, we will wait for it just about anywhere, for as long as it takes!

As we raise our kids and they look to us for all of their security, love, safety (and oh, so much more!), may we be faithful to tell them the truth: we are parents who truly could not love them more, but sadly, we will sometimes fail them.  However, there is One who will never fail them, there is One who loves them perfectly and forever.

May we teach them to knock at the door and to seek.  May we show them by the way that we live, that fullness of life is found in drawing close – in just being near the heart of God.

– Julie McGrath


Waiting for Daisies

Thinking about how faithful God is and thinking of each of my unique kids tonight…just thought I would share one of my favorite posts. I hope it encourages you tonight.

Ponder Truth

ImageWaiting for Daisies

I absolutely love my garden.  Every year I look forward to dreaming about it, planting it and finally, watching it grow.  I learn a bit more each year and am proud to call myself a “wanna be” gardener.   Every spring feels like Christmas to me as I roam through the gardening department, taking in all the flowers and vegetables, considering what to plant.

One year I spotted some lovely looking daisies and smiled to myself, thinking about how much my mom loves them.  I almost picked up a plant or two, but then I saw…the fateful moment…just beyond that, were some daisy seeds.  There was a picture of a pretty daisy on the front and I thought to myself, “I’m getting pretty good at gardening.  I think I’ll just plant my own daisies!  How hard can it be anyway?” (Ha!)

When planting time…

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Phoneless on Vacation

I dropped my phone in a lake this summer and was…relieved??


While on our family vacation this summer, my teenage son asked me if I wanted to join him for a cruise on the lake.  When your rising Senior asks, you jump!  Without hesitation I said, “Sure!” and headed for the boat, tossing my phone gently on the edge of the grassy shore.

It was then that it happened.

“Nooooooo!”  My expensive, all-informative smartphone slipped quietly into the lake.  “My phoooone!” I shouted, and stepped right into the water, jeans and all (which is telling!).  I quickly rescued it and everyone scrambled around me.

Questions flew. Is it okay?  Was it under water long?  Do you think it’s….ruined??  We weren’t sure. It didn’t look good. So, into a bag of dry rice it went, in an attempt to pull out the moisture and salvage it.

As I waited to see if the pixels would start to coordinate again and find their way to communicate the droves of information the phone used to, I realized something. Something important.

I realized I was…relieved. Other than fearing the loss of the precious family pictures stored on it, I was a bit glad.

With a quiet heart and some time to think, I began to wonder about it. THAT PHONE.

Questions started to bubble up: Has my heart been painfully distracted by this little, powerfully engaging gadget? Has my mind become satisfied to snack on only small, bite-size thoughts and ideas? On another level, what am I looking for on that phone?  Am I looking for something deeper than this phone can provide?

Hmmmm….I wonder.

And that’s just my experience.  What about those I treasure?  My husband, my children, my best friends – the onlookers.  What do they experience when I am staring at this little black rectangle? Do they enjoy the responsive heart I long to give them?  Do they have the attentive ears I promised I would always lend?  Do they feel the love I carry around in my heart for them?

I wonder.

And what does the Lord see?  A thoughtful daughter? A wise woman?  Or does he sadly see otherwise, head down, fiddling with a gadget?

Does God feel like I do when I see my teenage son’s head down, checking his phone one more time?


If I’m not careful, I realize this smartphone of mine could be making me un-smart in the ways that matter most.  Could it be this little gadget full of information is swallowing up the “Live” version of me?  Am I getting careless with my most sacred priorities, like being fully present with those I love?

Now I know there is a flip side to this discussion:  the communication we enjoy, the worthy thoughts that circulate, the places we can now find, embracing the inevitable wave of social media.  (I know you are likely reading this on your smartphone!) Its a tricky discussion. But somehow we must grapple with it. At least for me, quite frankly, the flip side can wait just a bit. I need some time to sit with my Heavenly Father and hear from His heart. I feel a gentle chastening from the Lord, as if he is tenderly holding my face and wants my full attention.

What is God trying to show me? I ponder. I consider my smartphone.

What might I be missing while on my phone?  What might I be losing while on my phone?  What is it doing to my mental margin? To my family? To the precious, fleeting days God has given me?

The Bible calls us to live a life of love and depth, lived purposefully, joyfully and wisely for HIS GLORY!  Am I?  Is social media and the incessant chatter helping or hurting that call? Am I growing in grace?  Am I living the abundant life Jesus died to give me?

As I begin to thank the Lord for my short-circuited, water-logged phone, I settle my refreshingly undistracted heart in the Psalms.  Themes that have long been familiar to me call out to my soul, beckoning me home.

But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love. Psalm 33:18

Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:3-5

I find my rest in God alone. My salvation comes from Him. Psalm 62:1

In this quiet moment, I see clearly.  This is what I’m made for…or rather, this is Who I’m made for. I need God. I need all that He is to meet the deep needs of my hungry soul.  I need all that He promises to anchor my heart through the storms of life. I need the fullness and the truth and the strong loving grip of Almighty God.

This relationship, this true, sweet communion with the living GOD is what I was made for: REAL LIFE, REAL SATISFACTION. And it is something I just will not find on a smartphone.

As sparks of life return to my phone, I have mixed emotions. I hope I leave this experience changed.

I’m realizing social media is a force to be reckoned with,
and it’s been good for my heart to do some reckoning.

One thing I know I will take from this experience: I will cry out to God more for wisdom and for help with better boundaries!

Now I’m not asking you to throw your phone in a lake – though it has been good for me!  I am asking you to take time today to consider your ways and ponder your smartphone use. Are you struggling with discipline and healthy boundaries?

If you find yourself grieved as I was, lay down that phone somewhere far, far away and cry out to God. Meet with Him in prayer and in His Word. Meet with Him long and meet with Him earnestly. Grapple with your phone use and keep technology in its place, serving you, not the other way around.
Let’s do it for the sake of our families, for the sake of our friends – the dear ones and the ones we have yet to meet. Let’s do it for the sake of God’s higher Kingdom purposes for our lives, knowing that we have people to love and important work to do. Let’s do it for the sake of our wonderful and worthy God!

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

– 2 Corinthians 11:3

Suggested disciplines:

1. Enjoy the golden treasure of the early morning. Make it a practice never to touch your phone before you have quiet time with God.

2. Perhaps check your phone for emails and social connection only at certain times for 10 or 15 minutes. Perhaps: 10am, 2pm, 8pm.

3. Do all you can to lift your face to your family and friends nearby, over your technology.

4. Leave your phone behind whenever it is feasible and safe!

Has anyone seen my Christmas Joy?


Has anyone seen my Christmas Joy?
I fear mine’s gone without a trace.

I haven’t really seen it since Black Friday
when I lost that prime parking space.

I might have left it at the mall
while shopping late at night.

It could be in that 12th box of decorations
or under some tangled lights.

I looked for it in my holiday latte
that promised to fill me with cheer.

I looked for it in that picture perfect catalog
that comes this time every year.

I’m not sure of the exact date I misplaced it,
You see, I lost it quite by surprise.

I never intended to be so careless.
I guess Christmas Joy thieves come in disguise.

They’re dressed in Activity and Endless Doing
It all looks so inviting and unassuming.

What harm could it do, all this that makes me run?
This December craze surely won’t leave me too undone!

BUT WAIT my friend, before you take the bait,
Please STOP the crazy Christmas train, before it is too late.

With so much calling out to me, I need to stop and think.
This hullabaloo and list of “Things To Do” can push me to the brink!

Is THIS what it was meant to be, the arrival of God on earth?
Is THIS what we were meant for, as we celebrate Jesus’ birth?

Sweet Christmas Joy – the Treasure of Treasures!
Its infinite value is beyond human measure.

Oh, what have I done?  What have I lost?
Is this busy-ness worth it?  At what great cost?

Oh, how can I find this Joy that is missing?  I need God’s help indeed.
On my own, I’m a fool once again.  Please help me God…it’s YOU I need!

Help me to find True Christmas Joy and recover Sacred Truths,
like angels visiting a quiet field to herald the Good News!

Help me to consider Mary, who loved you from the start,
and pondered what was WORTHY and treasured YOU in her heart.

Help me to understand and learn, the fullness of Who You Are.
To be wise like those men of old, who followed your heavenly star.

Yes, I YEARN TO FIND this Christmas Joy.  I’ve felt its sweet presence before.
It’s full of LOVE and BEAUTY, like its Maker to the core.

GOD, please help me to retrace my steps, to find where I saw it last.


I do think I hear faint echoes, sweet echoes of JOY from Christmases past!


I remember it at the nursing home, as I held an old man’s hand,
Sharing songs and a candy cane – only the heart can understand.

I remember it on my child’s face as I read and held her close,
cherishing words about Christ’s birth, sharing things that matter most.

I remember it in the shy smiles of gratitude from a family in need.
As we gave, OUR HEARTS were blessed and we were freed from greed.

I remember it alone with YOU, as I sat and read your Word,
A few minutes of quiet just with you, leave my heart so sure and stirred.

Yes, now its all coming back to me; I remember now the pure simplicity.

YOU ALONE bring Christmas Joy and YOU ALONE can give it,
If only we’ll listen and tune in, you’ll show us the way to live it.

Yes, YOU are the Source of Christmas Joy and it’s to You alone I belong.
Forgive me God, for my distracted heart.  You were right here all along!

Please God, now that I’ve found it, keep my heart right here.
Keep my spirit abiding in You… then bring on the Christmas cheer!

Yes, let’s jump right in with gladness, let’s drink it up to the fill,
But may we always remember:  Our Strength is found when we are still…

Cherishing our Savior and Seeking His good pleasure,
Loving and sharing CHRIST OUR JOY, our True Christmas Treasure!

Glorious FALL! Praise the God of all Creation

My son Chris this weekend....“‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool….Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?’ declares the LORD. ‘These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word…’” – Isaiah 66:1a-2

This summer our family enjoyed a wonderful week at the home of our dear friends. They always welcome our big crew with open arms, making everything so special and inviting. They always let us know that they are thrilled to have us. Even so, John and I always give our children a pep talk on the way there, reminding them of how important it is to be a gracious and thankful guest in their home. We want to make sure we honor them with gratitude (in word and deed!) any chance we can!

As I marvel at the wonders of our world and ponder our place in it, I can’t help but feel like we are guests in the vast creation of Someone Else’s design – and indeed we are.

“But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.” – Jeremiah 10:12

When I consider the beauty and order of this world, I stand in awe of our awesome and gracious host – God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Does your mind and heart rest in this reality?
– that the universe and everything in it belongs to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?
– that we are not the Creator, but merely His creation?
– that we are simply the guests He has graciously welcomed into His world?

Every detail, every design, from the way our bodies function to the way the tides ebb and flow are all His doing – and He owns it all.

As owner of it all, God naturally and lovingly sets the rules and the boundaries in place on every level of life – both physical and spiritual. He created it for His pleasure and for His purposes. This world and everything in it are under His sovereign control. Am I a humble and grateful guest in this world of His?

What a difference I see in people who live joyfully in the knowledge that God is the ultimate Creator and we are His lowly (though dearly loved) creation. When we see life from this true perspective and clearly understand our humble place in this world, it sets everything in its proper place. It sits well with our souls.

Just as we can’t fathom going to a friends’ home and ignoring them, enjoying the blessings of their thoughtfulness and generosity without ever expressing love and gratitude, we need to be aware of our Kind Maker all the time. It saddens me that we live in a time when many do not acknowledge the Hand that has given us life and every good thing.

We were designed to live in grateful praise of this gracious God, so it’s no wonder that so many people who live without any reference to God, wrestle with the meaning of life and lose their bearings. A little perspective of His greatness and our relative smallness, does our hearts a lot of good.

How can we cultivate this perspective of humility before God in ourselves and in our kids?

Consider just a few of His countless attributes…

His Power – His power to create life – both physical and spiritual, His power in the forces of creation, His sovereign and powerful rule over all the earth, His power to change hearts, His power to raise Jesus from the grave! (1 Chronicles 29:11)

His Wisdom – His profound wisdom which he so lovingly gives us in His word, which has guided and transformed millions in every generation; His wisdom He imparts to all who ask Him. (Job 12:13)

His Artistry – His stunningly beautiful artistry which graces every flower, every mountain, every meadow, every rocky shoreline, every new baby’s tiny fingers. (Psalm 139:13-14)

His compassion – His compassion for His creation, expressed through His new mercies every day, both seen and unseen, and most vividly expressed through the gift of His Son, Jesus. (Psalm 111:4)

Considering these attributes fills me with awe and brings me to a quiet and simple understanding of who I am and who God is – that I am infinitely small and God is infinitely huge and vast.

How crucial it is that we constantly remind ourselves of this and teach our children this humble perspective of our place before Almighty God. He is our great and awesome Maker and Host of all of His creation, and it is our privilege to honor Him and thank Him for every beautiful thing and every sweet moment we enjoy!

How right and good it is to GIVE HIM THANKS AND PRAISE!

– Julie McGrath

“Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.” – 1 Chronicles 29:11

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” – Hebrews 1:3

Going Deeper…

1. Practice tuning into the wonderfully intelligent designs of God all around you. Speak of God as Creator often to your children, pointing out the details that make our world so stunning. For example, my daughter recently did a report on grasslands and we marveled together when we discovered that different grasses taste better or bitter to various animals so they can all share the same living space. Together we said, “Isn’t God Amazing!!”

2. Just for FUN! In the fall, we all go outside and try to catch a leaf. When my kids catch a leaf falling from a tree, they get a dollar. One per month in the fall! It can’t be blown off the ground. This is harder than you think! Have fun!! 🙂

Teaching Devotion for your kids – Yikes! It’s Dark Out there… Let Your Light Shine!

images-11Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Yikes! It’s Dark out there…So Let Your Light Shine!

People are afraid of lots of things. Some people are afraid of heights, some people are afraid of spiders or snakes. Are you afraid of anything? I mean really afraid??

Well, I am afraid of something – THE DARK.

One time we went to a museum that had a DARKNESS tunnel challenge – a short maze you were invited to crawl through to experience what it would be like to live in COMPLETE darkness. That’s really neat, I thought. That looks like fun!

So one by one, I watched my kids scramble ahead of me for a chance to crawl through the dark maze in the tunnel. They entered on their hands and knees, lifting up a black sheet and then closing the sheet behind them. I was assured that this tunnel was completely carpeted, not very long (although it did have some turns along the way), and that they would flash lights inside if I got in trouble.

NO PROBLEM, I thought. I love museums with things to try! I lifted the sheet and crawled on in, letting the sheet close behind me. Once inside it was BLACK, BLACK, BLACK – completely dark. I felt around…carpet. Carpet beneath me, carpet to my sides and carpet above me. I slowly started to crawl. YIKES! This was strange. I felt around some more, more carpet, nothing to touch in front of me. I widened my EYES to help me out…no help. YIKES! This was SCARY. YIKES! I’m done!!

I turned around and got out of there fast!! NO MORE DARK TUNNELS FOR ME!!

I never really realized until I was in that scary, COMPLETELY DARK tunnel, how precious LIGHT is, what a GIFT it is to be able to enjoy the security of knowing how to SEE. Just one little candle, just one tiny flashlight would have made all the difference!

Did you know that our love for Jesus can be like LIGHT to a DARK world? Jesus said that when we do good things for Him, our WORK (if we do it because we LOVE Him and want to show the world we are His children) is like PRECIOUS LIGHT to a DARK world!!

His LOVE shining through us is like LIGHT to someone sitting (or crawling!) in the dark, all alone. We can be that one little candle, that one little flashlight to someone who finds themselves there, in the dark. How desperately this dark world needs that little bit of light!

If we SHINE like that, the best part is this: When we carry God’s love in our hearts, and do our works because of that great love, we draw attention to the GIVER of all LIGHT – GOD Himself. He is the GIVER of the LOVE and SERVICE we have to offer others and HE is the reason we serve! When we do our good deeds in the name of His Son, our LIGHT is truly beautiful because it brings praise to the One who deserves it.

What a beautiful thing to be able to shine the love of Jesus into the lives of others. May we all live today, looking for ways to let our light SHINE before men so that they may find (and praise!) the GIVER of light and every good thing, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

– Julie McGrath

Going Deeper:

1. Try this DARK tunnel experiment at home. Find a place with NO light with your Mom or Dad. What do you feel in there? Now bring in a little flashlight and see what a difference a little light makes!!

2. Brainstorm and plan something TODAY that will intentionally show God’s love to a hurting and dark world!

25 Random Things about me

25 Random things about me…

1.The forgiveness and freedom I have found in having a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation and meaning of my life.  I am eternally grateful for His Truth, His Spirit and His Kindness.  He is Faithful and True.

Okay, so that said… on to the lesser things…

2. I was born in Ft. Lauderdale and spent the first six years of my life barefoot and brown as a berry (as my dad calls it) running around a neighborhood full of kids playing outside! Fun! You might have found me in a Miami dolphins bikini singing their fight song at the top of my lungs…picture pot belly and white cotton hair on my head.

3. I love clocks…cuckoo clocks, Grandfather clocks, old clocks that tick…I can still hear my grandpa winding the cuckoo clocks each morning.

4. I love music boxes of all types, but especially big ones (my dad has a beautiful one)

5. I looooove big band music and anything old-timey.

6. I often think I was born in the wrong era…I belong more in the 1880’s to the 1950’s. But I know God made me for this time…

7. I absolutely love my garden and dream about it starting about now til the threat of frost is gone. Then it’s like Christmas for me at Lowe’s – all those baby plants ready to grow! Woo hoo! I have a lot to learn about gardening.

8. I love to go on dates each week with my husband and cuddle in a booth. I seriously think it has kept us from counseling.

9. I prefer the simple stuff of life – picnics, blowing bubbles, holding hands…

10. I love to eat, salty over sugary.

11. I love long hot showers and usually take a quick one at night too…sorry fish!

12. I don’t like public bathrooms and when I’m pregnant with that bionic nose, I am almost phobic!

13. I can’t stand the smell of those tar trucks . I feel so sorry for those guys! 😦

14. I love cooking and am very happy in my kitchen, especially when surrounded by kids doing crafts while I cook. Heavenly!

15.  I have six kids and didn’t plan on having a big family…though I love it.

16. I am thankful my parents took us many places around the world growing up. I often think about those travels.

17. I’m named after my great grandmother Julia and my grandmother Julia. My middle name is Alice after my other grandmother. I really like my name because of that!

18. I like to collect heart shaped rocks while we are hiking. ( I have four really good ones!)

19. I absolutely love the Sound of Music and dreamed about being Gretel when I was a little girl.

20. I love wood burning fires and make one nearly every morning and every night of winter.

21. I take naps still.

22. I love watching sports, but…

23. I love a good tea party with lots of pink, good girl talk and strappy sandals.

24. I danced at Disney when I was 16. I was the Two of Spades.

25. I worked at the White House when I was 19 for President Reagan.

26. My life really started when I met my husband John when I was 20. 🙂