Our highest business

This quote from Ronald Reagan marks his tomb at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, July 2004.

This quote from Ronald Reagan marks his grave
at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, July 2004.

“We are involved in a life that passes understanding and our highest business is our daily life.”John Cage

The post that published one year ago today (linked below) is perhaps the one that has the greatest personal significance to me.  Since I wrote that post, one of the three in that picture is no longer with us.  I am all the more grateful that the other two still are.  What I wrote then is more true today than ever before, and as hard as the lesson has been, I’m thankful to have been made increasingly aware of it with each day that passes.

I believe each of us has purpose to our life; we are where we are for a reason, though we may not live in submission to that purpose, or even be aware of it.  Yet acknowledging that we are able to “bloom where we are planted,” whether or not that particular bit of soil is one we would have chosen, is a step toward freedom from the fears and regrets that can hold us back from living fully and abundantly.  No one else is in the position we are in, uniquely equipped to serve and give and live in ways that would be impossible for any other person.

Today is my 500th post on this blog, and as I write this (on March 8, two weeks before scheduled publication) this day seems a milestone in more ways than one.  Writing the 500th post on the same day we cross over 100,000 views of this blog, and most encouraging, the bright sunshine and warm day calling me outside after the snows the past week, all feel as if we have passed through yet another figurative doorway today.  Thus, in the words of the beloved hymn,”here I raise my Ebenezer” and move forward in faith and joy, to embrace the high calling of my daily life.  I hope and trust you will be doing the same!

And speaking of daily life, thanks so much for being part of mine!  Your presence here, comments, prayers and friendship have been a large part of the grace and mercy with which we have been showered these many months.  I had mentioned at my one-year anniversary that I intended to do some things differently, such as re-blogging others’ posts and including different types of photos or writing.  For practical reasons, I need to start doing that (the long winter is drawing to a close, and the days are getting busier) but I found that it was harder than I thought it would be, primarily because I am not able to find a way to schedule a re-blog in advance, and I like to schedule these postings in advance as much as possible.

However, here’s another boundary; another chance to make some changes, so bear with me. I may end up just re-blogging some posts “instantly” but this means they will not appear at 3-5 a.m. as they have been in the past. SO, if you don’t get a new post on any given day, wait awhile; it should be coming up later.  Meanwhile, if you see anything new here that you like (or don’t like) please let me know!  This blog belongs to all of us, and I value your input.

Based in part on many of the comments I have received via email and online, but based mostly on my own joy at being in touch with all of you on a daily basis, I hope to keep posting SOMETHING daily for as long as I can.  Thanks for being with us on this journey!

One year ago today:

Aware of the treasure


  1. HarryS

    We have been visiting each other on your website almost since its inception. Although you don’t hear from me in script very often I know our souls somehow communicate in cyberspace or in other ways.
    Your site has been recommended to several other people and my own personal feedback is quite positive.
    Undoubtedly you come from an old, quite old tradition which promises that you will be blessed and you will be a blessing!

    Thank you! 🙂

    • Harry, thanks so much for your kind words. My younger brother (who never spends any time on computers at all) recently asked me “what is the purpose of your blog?” and I told him truthfully “to keep me from losing my mind.” So, when readers tell me such nice things it makes me very happy to think that my little attempt at keeping my sanity can have some sort of benefit for anyone else. I really appreciate your being here with us!

  2. Judy from Pennsylvania

    Julia, you’ve given 500 posts of encouragement and uncommon wisdom to all of us who have made the 100,000 views of your blog. I thank you for bringing new depths of understanding and insight to me through your photographs and reflections on life. Your posts of today and one year ago are especially poignant. I’ve lived a long life and have learned to treasure those ordinary days that become tomorrow’s deeply missed people, places and happenings.

    Our family is going to have a birthday party this weekend with over a dozen members of all ages. We’ll take some photos and maybe a short video to help us capture a small piece of that moment in time so that in future years some of us can re-live the way we were then. Cameras are a modern day blessing in that regard, aren’t they. The family pictures they capture are precious touchstones to the past. We often linger over them and wish we could somehow crawl back into the moment for just a little while and savor the comforts of that time. Maybe many years from now, this weekend’s photos of our family’s party will do that for my children and grandchildren.

    • Judy, thanks so much for your visits and thoughtful comments. I am very excited for you about your birthday party plans. Those moments together are so sweet and having a camera to capture them will be very important. At many of the funerals I’ve been to, I hear people saying “I wish we would have gotten together under happier circumstances.” So the more times we can get together for joyful celebrations, the better! I wish I had hundreds more photos of my parents and grandparents when they were young, so I know your future generations will be thankful for your visual reminders. Have a wonderful time, and thanks again for being here! I have really enjoyed hearing from you and hope you’ll continue to bless us with your online presence.

  3. sarvjit

    You are a true inspiration. Your posts have a light but a heart-touching effect that makes a day. Thank you! Always with you!

    • Sarvjit, thank you so much! That makes me feel very happy. I hope you are having a lovely weekend. I appreciate your visits here!

  4. Jim Beavers

    Julia, congratulations on your 500th post! I look forward to your future posts and know that I will enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed all your previous posts. Thank you for all that you have done for us.

    • Jim, I am so happy you have enjoyed the posts. It is a real blessing to me to do this blog as it forces me to stop and focus on something other than the urgent and relatively minor details of everyday life that tend to take up most of my time. I am so happy to think that anyone else might enjoy what I do here; I appreciate your encouragement and your visits here!

  5. Congratulations on inspiring 100,000 people through 500 blog posts! WOW! Keep shining! ♥

    • Thank you M! You are a great example to me of how to do just that. I appreciate your visits and comments here, and all your encouragement!

  6. raynard

    Julia, the usual way , “books, music ,TV shows, Magazines have not motivated and encouraged me more than reading your blogs and devotionals from both U.R and Our Daily Bread and “a few other devotional that are personal “not stuffy “and lectureish””..For the past 7 years since I’ve been married , it’s humbling and a”life lesson of reflection as my wife shares her”vast collection of pictures of family members. I seen pictures of her aunt and uncle the ones I speak of both with dementia and it’s like for me”watching a old reun of that first”Back to the Future movie and”The Star Trek Episode where they went through a time wrap . It caused them to ‘relive the same day 3 times. I went through that flying back from Iraq because of the long 17 hour plane ride and time difference. Hope by now you got the ecard I sent. For all that you are and do for your family and others, I say thank you.Next week working overtime early hours my comments will be later in the day. Be blessed

    • Hi Raynard, I did not get an ecard although I did get an email message from you that said it was sent under your other address. I did an inbox search and then I went back through my spam filter one by one and did not find it there either – would it be too much trouble to re-send it? Thanks for thinking of us, sorry I was not able to find it.

      Thanks so much for your encouraging words about the blog. I think what UR, Daily Bread and other online sites offer is the ability to exchange greetings with people and hear back from them, building an online community where people get to know each other. In fact I really need to make some time to get over to UR and find out what is up with everybody and let them know what’s up with us. I am so happy you were able to go through your wife’s family photos. The first time I ever visited Jeff’s family in Tennessee, I sat in the porch swing with his mother and looked at album after album of old photos, something I just love to do. It is still a favorite memory for me. She keeps a lot of photos too, for which I have always been glad since Jeff is a man of very few words and a picture is often worth 1000 of them! It can feel sort of like a time warp, though. In fact lately I’ve been feeling as if I’m stuck in a time warp because our irregular schedules has left me all confused about what day/week/month it is many days – everything seems to run together when medical stuff is going on. They are calling for snow again next week, why does that keep surprising me? 🙂 Have a great weekend.

  7. michael

    Congratulations on your 500th post. When you said, ” raise my Ebeneezer,” I flashed on a picture of you building a balancing stone tower like the ones in your post a few days on ” Intelligence and fun.”
    Ebeneezer means rock of healing and it’s interesting we use the word milestone to talk of a significant event in time.
    To” embrace the high calling of my own life,”- well I think that says it all.
    And here is a quote from someone- M.L. King?, ” There is no passion in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

    • Thank you Michael, that’s a great quote and sometimes we may actually think we prefer to settle – what we are capable of may not always be what we would choose, as many survivors can testify! I love the Dickinson poem about never knowing how high we can go until we are called to rise (it will probably show up here sometime). I think most of us are confused about what a high calling is – it’s not necessarily a great or powerful or even very appealing thing for some of us — but most of us feel we have to answer the call nonetheless, whether it’s a literal conscription such as the draft so many men have faced in past wars, or just an inner feeling of obligation that we know is ours alone, that will go undone if we do not do it.

      I just love that hymn “Come thou fount of every blessing.” I wish we still sang those old songs more, not leaving out all the verses as they tend to do now. There are powerful messages in those lines.

  8. You have graciously asked readers what we think about such-n-such. But most do not take you up on it, offering well-deserved praise for your 500 blogs. Today is a special one for me, as well. In my reflections, I think of a line from Karen Carpenter: “. . . let’s take a lifetime to say ‘I knew you well’ . . .” I ask you: within this context (and it does mean a lot to me today) What is a lifetime?

    • Well, I’m not sure if you’re asking what the lifetime of this blog will be (I have no idea) or what a lifetime is for any one of us (ditto). I think the title of the song you quote is “For all we know” which suggests that we don’t really know anything about the longevity of anyone or anything – “for all we know” we could live 100 years or die tomorrow. I like the idea of taking a lifetime to say “I knew you well” (“for only time will tell us so” the next words say) and to me it suggests that we should never take another person for granted. No matter how close to them we may be, there are depths of them that we have never glimpsed, and we (and they) grow continually, so that no one should presume to know what another is thinking or intending. I’m a big fan of “beginner’s mind,” the practice of seeing each day and encounter as something very new. This is how mercies can be “new every morning” and also how we can maintain a degree of humility about whatever we may have learned along the way.

      • singleseatfighterpilot

        And when you consider some of the facts of Karen, herself, there is even deeper meaning.

        • Yes, as with so many brilliant artists, her life was painful and difficult. She left us some beautiful music though, a lot of which I still sing and enjoy regularly.

  9. It’s hard to lose a beloved animal, Julia. My heart goes out to you. At the same time, I’m so glad you’ve all weathered the storm and that Matt and Jeff remain with you today.

    Congratulations on your 500th post. That is an amazing milestone. Congratulations as well on over 100,000 views. Wow! That is really something. I’m glad you’re here.

    • Thank you so much Alys, I would not be here without the steadfast encouragement of you and others who have welcomed me to the world of blogging. Not a day goes by that we don’t still miss Pasha, but the happy memories of his funny, indomitable personality bring us lots of joy. When things calm down a bit and some of the medical issues are behind us, we hope to adopt another dog, but want to wait until we have enough time to give it – not quite as demanding as a new baby, but still a big responsibility! Thanks for being here with us!

      • You are wise to wait, since dogs need lots of socialization to settle in. I’m glad to hear that another dog is on the horizon though.

        I grew up with cats (and we have three…or four) but I love all animals. I walk with my friend Karen and her dog once a week and enjoy every minute of it.

        • I grew up mostly with cats, too – at one point we had six (a mother cat and her kittens from a couple of different litters). Those kitties were such a huge part of our world! But I love all sorts of animals too. It amazes me how wonderfully different and differently wonderful the various kinds of animals can be.

  10. Julia, congratulations on a beautiful, well written blog. Enlighten by your lovely and thought provoking pictures.
    Advice is easy to give but hard to take…so I’ll only say, do what works best for you. I enjoy your blog and would miss you. Life happens…
    Blessings, my dear.

    • Thanks so much, Merry. I get so much joy from doing this blog that I will continue it as long as I can. I really appreciate your presence here!

  11. MaryAnn

    Keep on posting, my Dear, as you see fit! We will eagerly await your special dose of uplifting input at anytime!!!

    • Thank you Mary Ann! I know we will always stay in touch, but it’s a special joy to meet with you here!

      • MaryAnn

        Yes! This is a special vehicle connecting us across the miles. I feel blessed to have such a principled lady sharing your high values with me!

        • Mary Ann, it’s a blessing for us to know you too. You have always been so kind to Matt and we all love you for it!

  12. Jenelle

    Congrats on this day! I’m so glad that the one comment I read of yours of Laube’s agency site resonated with me so much as to reply to your comment and then follow you here. God works in mysterious ways indeed! Your blog has been uplifting and inspiring in so many wonderful ways. And your pictures! I travel through you, haha 😉 One thing I appreciate about the internet is the ability to stay connected with anyone anywhere in the world. As you CA pal, I will follow your blog always. I wish you all the best in your next chapter of defeat despair! And I believe that one glorious day despair will be defeated once and for all. What a day that will be! Have a lovely weekend, Julia. Keep making a difference 🙂

    • Thanks so much Jenelle, I too believe despair is ultimately doomed, and want to be there when it vanishes forever! 🙂 Hey speaking of Steve Laube – I just read that he is going to be at the Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference. WOW, I didn’t think he ever came to that one. I could never afford to go to Mt. Hermon, much as I’d love to. Have you ever been to BRMCWC? It’s very reasonably priced and a WONDERFUL location for a conference. A close-knit, congenial atmosphere despite big numbers. I wish I could somehow go this year, I’d love to meet Steve Laube, but with Matt’s surgery in April it doesn’t look as if it will be possible. But even if I never meet Laube, at least he connected me to you! 🙂 So I’ll always be grateful to him for that. Hope you are having a lovely weekend too. The weather has been PERFECT today!

  13. Sheila

    Julia, the most important thing is the joy this blog brings to YOU! “Defeat Despair” means so much to so many that read and enjoy your daily words and photographs and sharing your life. We must understand if, at any time, your blog can’t be daily, or maybe appears different,
    or not as structured (5:00AM). Never let it be a chore, my friend. You are such a special person and a blessing to me. 🙂

    • Thank you Sheila, your friendship means so much! You are one of the many reasons I want to keep blogging every day for as long as I can. Thanks for being here with us!

      • Sheila

        Thank you Julia, your words are so kind. I just read an article regarding long distance friends and “knowing” someone without ever meeting in person. Our paths have crossed here and I’m happier for it! 🙂

        • I feel the same way! Thanks so much.

  14. michael

    As per a previous question, someone asked Hemingway why he writes. Why do you write? His answer was, “I have to.” To some people writing is as necessary as breathing, and it seems to help me actually figure out what I think on a particular subject. I agree with a previous comment that if it- the blog- becomes a chore–etc.
    Did you happen to see the UR article on writing the Psalms a couple of issues back by a hospital chaplain? I would like to try that.
    Sad note on the author of the hymn- that he fell away from the faith and ended up very far from the original sentiments of his hymn. Perhaps his real life destroyed his faith as sometimes happens. I have seen this happen before.

    • Michael, I do think there are some of us who are going to write in some form no matter what. For me, it is tremendously helpful in processing all that I take in and how that affects me. I am not sure whether talking with a trusted friend or companion does not accomplish the same thing more efficiently, but talking is far more exhausting for me than writing. And no doubt it’s more exhausting for anyone who’s listening to me! The nice thing about writing is that nobody has to read it unless they want to.

      I didn’t see that UR piece; it sounds interesting. I knew that the author of that hymn was said to have left the faith. I guess he knew what he was writing when he wrote “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” I think there is always the danger that “real life” can destroy faith if we get confused about what is “real” — as we often do. C. S. Lewis has written brilliantly about this. The first chapter of The Screwtape Letters, among other passages, nails it precisely.

  15. michael

    OK- Screwtape letters- first chapter- got it. I will put it on the burgeoning list.

    • The whole book is amazing, one of my favorite books of all time. Maybe my very favorite. You might find it hard to put down. I assume you know the premise? (A “senior demon” advising a younger one, who is assigned to a particular young man, how to ruin a person’s life and wreck his soul). It’s a sort of variation on the old Faustian themes, I guess. But it’s quite well done.

  16. michael

    The article on Psalm Writing is by Jane Herring in the September-October issue. She uses it with patients- she is a hospital chaplain- and she has them write psalms based on their experience in the hospital.
    I think I know the premise and will have to check it out.

    • Maybe I should try that with Matt’s upcoming surgery. Sometimes at a very quiet hour I have left notes in journals at hospital chapels or rooms at the Ronald McDonald house that were probably my own version of such Psalms. I could never remember exactly what I wrote. The roller coaster of emotions in the hospital is very similar to what is found in many of the Psalms. The agonizing anxiety of waiting through hours of surgery, followed by the elation of hearing reports of successful procedures, only to be consumed again with fear when complications develop hours or days post-op. I never thought about it before but the parallels between hospitalization and the travails described in the Psalms are pretty striking.

  17. michael

    Yes definitely. Unfortunately, medicine is not always an exact science. Yesterday I talked with an acquaintance who had a pace maker placed and they ended up nicking a lung and there are all kinds of complications now.

    • Oh, how awful! It seems that I keep hearing more and more scary stories about what happens to people in hospitals. I have heard recently of several people who died of infections contracted while in the hospital for something that was not immediately life-threatening. One of the things they will be doing for Matt is replacing his pacemaker and some of the leads. Since he has a Glenn shunt in his heart, his pacer box is at the base of his heart and due to extensive scarring from all the other surgeries, finding places that the leads will conduct effectively is a challenge that might take several hours. This is in addition to replacing the bioprosthetic tricuspid valve that has been non-functioning for about 5 years now, and doing a surgical maze procedure to try to get the arrhythmias under control. So it’s going to be a high risk, all-day surgery and I’m trying to just leave it all in God’s hands and not think too much about it, especially in terms of what he will have to endure. Easier said than done, of course.

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