Q&A With Julie the Happy Home Fairy
We asked Julie, a mother, Christian, and author at the Happy Home Fairy, some questions about her faith-filled life in Florida. We also asked her about the men and fathers in her life to go with our November tenet, We value the irreplaceable role of fathers and build interdependent relationships with men. We included both questions and answers in this post.
- Tell us a bit about yourself. If you had a free day to yourself, what would you do?
My name is Julie and I live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where it is 300% humidity 85% of the year. I am married to a Worship Pastor and we have 2 little boys, ages 7 and 4. I am the Administrative Assistant and librarian for a little preschool and love working with children. In my spare time I like to read, write, and go out for pizza. If I had a whole day to myself I would probably sleep in, write in my prayer journal, go for a walk, get my toenails painted, take a meal or treat to a friend, and then end up at Target in the women’s shoe or clothing department. ☺
- What are some things you are passionate about?
I am passionate about helping moms build happy homes. There is a lot of pressure for our homes to look a certain way (thank you, Pinterest!), but the reality is many of our homes are broken and there are serious issues being dealt with – working moms, separated parents, addictions, children with disabilities, etc. With those aside, the typical issues in a home – tired kids, sleeplessness, disciplining, shepherding, homework, chores, etc. – are enough to wear a parent down. I love to provide mamas with simple ways to infuse a little light, a little love, and a little Jesus into their homes. Sometimes I share an easy recipe, or a cute printable to bless others, or a fun way to teach kids about faith, or a bit of encouragement. Whatever I share, my prayer is to help, not to add expectations or pressure to a busy mama’s already full plate!
• Can you tell me more about music in your life? How do you use it in your worship service?
We are a part of a growing Presbyterian Church of America church in Fort Lauderdale. We sing about 4-5 songs per service. My husband usually plans the worship set based on the passage that the pastor is using for his sermon. It is always neat to see how God orchestrates some songs to affirm an overall message He wants to convey to His gathered people. We have about 500-600 people in our congregation.
• How did you get started with music?
I have a very musical family. My dad was the music director at our church in New Jersey and my mom was the organist and a choir director at a local high school. My dad’s big romantic move when courting my mom was asking her to play 4-hand piano with him – ha! I grew up singing in every choir imaginable and I would often fall asleep to the sound of my parents practicing the piano. I met my husband when I moved to South Florida as a high school freshman. My dad had accepted a position as the traditional service music director at a large church in Fort Lauderdale where my husband’s father happened to be the contemporary service music director. Their offices were next door to one another. I saw my future husband sitting in the music offices playing guitar one day and knew that he would one day be mine and we would sing duets! As the daughter of the traditional service music director and the son of the contemporary music service director, we used to joke that we were like the Romeo and Juliet of church music.
For a long time, singing in church was about excellence and performance. I would often sing with my eyes open, carefully making sure to sing each note on key and smile politely at the congregation. As I have grown, the Lord has taught me that worship music is an opportunity to lead others alongside me into the presence of God. I love sharing a good word with our church through the worship, knowing that He can use it to draw others near to Him. Now you will find me mostly with my eyes closed, arms raised, and completely abandoned to the One who is worthy of it all! Worship is not just for Sundays, though. The longer I have walked with Jesus, the more I am realizing that absolutely everything we do is an act of worship – not just when we sing or listen to Chris Tomlin songs in the car on the way to work. When I fold laundry with a heart that is surrendered to the King – it is worship! When I faithfully and lovingly shepherd the hearts of my kids – it is worship! When I rise in His strength through the night to serve a hungry, crying baby – it is worship! It is worship when we hold our hands open to God’s will (not our own) and trust Him to be the good, good Father that He is. All of life can be an act of worship as we seek to glorify the name of Jesus above our own.
• How did you begin doing Random Acts of Kindness? How do you use it in your family?
I am extremely passionate about doing small acts of kindness for others as often as possible. God’s greatest commands for us were to #1 – Love Him, and #2 – Love Others, so I really want to live that well! What’s great is that when you love God, His Holy Spirit stirs a love for others in you that will spur you on toward love and good deeds for others. I want my kids to see that in action, so we regularly try to be kind to one another in our home, as well as find small ways to bless the people in our world. Something like waving at the crossing guard, bringing a treat to the boys’ teachers, baking bread for our neighbors, writing snail mail to a family member, etc. Random Acts of Kindness don’t need to be crazy complicated or expensive – in fact, the simplest ones are the most effective! Once we took a bunch of pennies to a fountain at the park and left them on the ledge of the fountain for people to make a wish. Once we went to the hospital to pray for someone in our church who was sick. We like to take meals to new moms or those that are ill. When my family is facing a particularly challenging season or when I see a lot of others who are suffering, I know my response must be to look for an opportunity to be a helper. This helps me get my focus off of me and onto using the gifts I have been given to bring light into someone else’s darkness. Honestly, this is all we need to know in life! I wrote an entire book about it called The Kindness Antennae, which you can purchase on my website.
• How did you meet your husband? What is your courtship story?
We were friends through high school but didn’t begin dating until he graduated and left for college at Florida State. I still had one more year of high school left, so we played the long distance game. Which, holy cow, is N-O-T easy. But it was good for us to be more intentional with our communication during that season instead of letting the thrill of one another’s physical presence distract us from learning how to be a team. As soon as I graduated high school, though, I high-tailed it up to Tallahassee to join my man and we spent lots of time doing our studies, you know. 😉 We got married my junior year and just a year later we were called back to Fort Lauderdale to serve at a local church we both loved. We have been there ever since! It has not been easy. We have completely opposite personalities and have often had to struggle our way into remembering that WE ARE ON THE SAME TEAM. This involves thinking the best of one another, showing one another grace, being humble and willing to apologize, and also being courageous and willing to communicate – even when it might be challenging subject matter.
• For me, the greatest support from my husband comes in the hardest times. So far, these usually revolve around pregnancy and birth. The strength and gentleness of men can be very powerful. How have the men in your life supported you in times of personal challenge/vulnerability?
I will never forget when my doctor told me that I needed to have a C-section and I was so afraid. I had been planning my whole life to have a natural birth. The first thing my husband did was pray with me. Then the night before the surgery, he got out his guitar and led worship for us. We just sat on our bed and sang our hearts out to Jesus. It was exactly what I needed in that moment – I needed someone to help me completely surrender my will and have a partner to face the scary unknown with.
• Can you think of a life challenge that you worked on together as a marriage “team,” where it was especially helpful to have your man by your side?
As I have said, our marriage is not perfect. I feel that we still have so much to learn in the way of communicating and loving one another well, but the important thing is that we’re sticking it out. We are committed to the long haul. I think the best thing that our kids have seen from our marriage has been our apologies to one another. When we are short with one another or speak in a way that does not honor one another, then we humbly come together and ask for forgiveness. And in our home when someone asks for forgiveness, we apply the It Is Finished rule. There is no more bringing back up past mistakes. There is no grudge to hold. It is finished. We can move forward in love. When you take 2 sinners, there are always going to be moments of weakness. We need to be ready to apologize well, forgive well, and move forward well.
• As you work together, which of your husband’s traits do you find the most valuable?
I love that my husband is so funny and fearless. He is able to insert a witty comment into the heaviest situations, and it helps us take a step back and see that things aren’t really that bad. Even when things ARE really, truly bad, we have found laughter to be a powerful union between us. When our newborn was in the NICU for 3 months, my husband and I had an opportunity to leave our other son with the in-laws for the night so that we could be with our baby for an entire evening. Our baby was hooked up to 300 machines, had a billion wires, and a CPAP oxygen mask that made me want to just melt into a puddle of despair. I was so upset and frightened by it all. My husband, on the other hand, sat in the hospital room cracking jokes and quoting funny movies. He did the same thing after I had my C-section surgeries and several years later when I was struggling with difficult coworkers. He always balances humor with serious compassion, but, as the Proverb says, a cheerful heart is good medicine, so I appreciate the way he leads me in that!
• Will you describe a time when your father and/or father-in-law have been a support to you?
I remember a few years ago when I was having a rough time – I had an energetic, needy toddler and a baby with a feeding tube and other health issues. I was exclusively pumping around the clock and doing my best to survive. Mother’s Day rolled around and my dad showed up on my doorstep with a small gold statue that looked like an Academy Award and at the bottom it said BEST MOM EVER. He didn’t just hand it to me, he made a whole show of it with a lengthy speech pointing out specific ways he thought I was doing a great job as a mother. It gave me so much strength and encouragement. I still have my little statue and it is a reminder that my dad believes in me and sees something good even when I don’t feel it!
My father-in-law is a man of great wisdom. He always has amazing counsel for me when I am wrestling with something. He is very matter of fact, black and white, and relies on the Word of God to lead and guide his words. When my husband was a boy, his dad often taught him about the book of Proverbs. I love that he was committed to training his son in wisdom. Proverbs 3:13 says, “Blessed are those who find wisdom!” and I feel that my husband has benefited so much from that intentional teaching. I was struggling with a lot of fear over what to feed my kids (thank you to all the posts about GMOs and hormones and chemicals and pesticides BLAH) and my father-in-law grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “Julie. Everyone is going to die one day. GOD knows that date and what you feed or don’t feed your family is not going to change that date. You do the best you can to eat a balanced diet, and then you trust that when you pray before a meal – He hears it. He is in control. He loves you. The end.” Talk about an awakening! His wisdom was like manna for my soul!
• What are some ways that your husband, father, and father-in-law influence your children for good?
I love the way my father-in-law encourages my boys to be strong men. He is authoritative but loving and challenges the boys to take ownership of their choices. My dad is super generous with his time and resources. He will play basketball outside with my boys in the 1,000 degrees for hours. He is encouraging and always willing to put together a new toy or fix a broken one in their room. My husband is the one who can make our boys laugh until their sides hurt. He picks out all the music for our impromptu family dance parties and he loves to indulge the boys’ sweet tooth every so often (while I can sometimes be a little too overprotective in the dessert department). My husband also has a heart for teaching our boys the Westminster Catechism and will pull out the kid’s version during dinner every so often. These men are all good men. Imperfect men, but good men. I am so thankful for what each of them bring to our family!
• What is the best way that we, as women, can support the men in our lives as fathers, and as good men, in our homes and community?
I think a message our men need to hear more often is that they are good men. I see a lot of men today overwhelmed, pressured, distracted, and feeling like they can never meet anyone’s standard. Listen, I know your husband is not perfect. I know you could probably rattle off 100 different reasons why they don’t do things the way you would (which is the root of it all – isn’t it?). But what if we could choose to see our husbands the way God sees us? God looks at you, dear daughter, and says you are loved, forgiven, chosen, treasured, redeemed, beautiful, wonderfully made, and He has a good plan for you. Let me tell you a secret – God feels THE SAME WAY about your husband. And we should too. I know it’s hard to see past the layers of sin that so easily ruffle our feathers, but at the heart, because of Christ, your man is good. What if we told him that more often? Last week we had the threat of a hurricane and my husband spent 2 days prepping our home and buying the necessary supplies. This was an opportunity to say, “Honey, you’re a good man. Thank you for working so hard to protect our family.” When my husband drives through an hour of traffic to get us home safe, “Thank you for driving us, baby. You’re a good man.” When my husband resists temptation to look at the beautiful woman walking by, “I know that must have been hard for you. You’re a good man.” Even just him faithfully rising each day is an act proving that HE IS A GOOD MAN. There are so many opportunities where you can ask the Lord to give you HIS eyes and then let your words be a healing balm to your husband’s soul.
On the other side of this, however, needs to be an acknowledgment if your husband is truly struggling with something like an addiction or if he is being abusive toward you in any way. This is where being committed to communication – even the tough subjects – is absolutely critical! Be able to confront him in love and with respect, remembering that yes, he is a good man, but also acknowledging that he needs help. And if your husband is not willing to listen, then seek help from your church right away. And remember that you are not alone. This is not your fault. Pray, pray, pray.
• What are a few ways we can teach our sons to be good men?
I want to teach my boys to work hard for the Lord, not for men. When we strive after man’s approval, we can end up feeling weary and unsatisfied. We lose sight of life’s greatest mission – to bring glory to God and enjoy Him forever. This can be done whether you are a doctor or a janitor. I just want my boys to do their work for God. That will be their act of worship!
Give your kids chores. Help them have a healthy attitude about their responsibilities and contributions to your family. Encourage thanksgiving instead of whining. Teach them to discern the things that are good and the things that are not. Shepherd them to love God and love others by doing this yourself. And then pray your little heart out! I find that prayer is my most powerful parenting tool!