My name is Julie (Jules) Pettee Bates. I am married and the mother of three grown children. Starting this blog coincides with turning 55 this past December (2016), and starting what I am calling my Sabbatical Year. In other words, I’m taking a step back, re-evaluating, spending more time in silence, and practicing the presence of God. Sound a bit goofy? Well, maybe so. There were a number of things that led up to this decision, but I’m only going to share a few here, only so that you might understand the reasons for my goofiness.
I’m something of an odd duck. In fact, I have commented for years that one of my major goals in life is to become the eccentric, old bird lady that lives at 11th and Webster Streets. No, I do not have any pet birds, but my husband and I love to feed the wild birds who come to visit all year long. I didn’t always think of myself as eccentric, but once I started, I rather liked it. Of course, I can’t become the eccentric, old bird lady all at once. I have to practice at it a little bit each day. This blog is one way by which I can do that.
Another reason for writing the blog was my decision to break free from all of the self-fulfilling prophecies other people had put on me over the years. I had taken on wearing many hats given to or forced upon me by several different people for a variety of reasons. I have certainly been blessed through it all, but a series of circumstances led to a melt down, burn out, or mid-life crisis. Whatever you want to call it, I suddenly found myself having relentless panic attacks that I no longer could hide or overcome, at least not on my own.
As a deeply spiritual, but not particularly religious (well, not anymore that is) Christian, I find I can’t find balance, healing, or wholeness anywhere or by any other means than pressing back into God. Although I have had a long relationship within the community of worshiping believers who attend church faithfully every Sunday, these days I find my deepest purpose in life most often when I am weeding in my garden or creating some new project. It’s not that I’m against church. Absolutely not! In fact, I’m quite thankful for my years and the relationships that formed from those earlier times. Yet, at this time in my life, I find that I have a deeper sense of call to be more intentional about practicing the presence of God outside the many walls often called church. I’ll share more about that in my blog posts.
The Gathering Place 55 is something of a dream of mine. If I was able, I’d open a brick and mortar shop with the same name. I used to share the dream with my daughter, many years ago. It would be a safe place for hurting and suffering folks to come and gather, to enjoy a cup of coffee with good friends. You might hear knitting needles clicking, or a prayer being shared. There would be community outreach projects, maybe even a food pantry or second-hand store (much of my career has been involved in such ministry outreaches). Classes would be held in one of the back rooms, passing on the treasures and nearly lost arts of knitting, painting, cooking, etc., to others who wanted to learn. Mostly, I dreamed it would be a place of blessing to everyone who visited; a place where we would encounter the Divine. I believe God is all around us, constantly communicating with us, waiting for us to respond.
After I published my first book, I began to realize that if I wasn’t able to open The Gathering Place in the real sense of a the brick and mortar, why not open it in a virtual sense. The thought of blogging was terrifying however. I believe I mentioned that I had started having uncontrollable panic attacks, right? Did I also mention I consider myself to be a technological dinosaur? Visits to the doctor and therapist confirmed a diagnosis of panic disorder and PTSD, along with other health issues. So what to do? Well, for me, the best way through things is, well, straight through them, with God’s help, of course. I also do a great deal of writing, when all tangled up inside. Surprisingly, I also realized that I have a frenzy of creativity that helps immensely. I figured, why not share those things and others as I discover them with you, just as if we were gathered in the brick and mortar sharing a cup of coffee or tea?
So there you have it, some of the reasons why I decided to start this blog. I do welcome you to my site. I hope you will find something that will bless you. Please invite your friends, and leave me comments. I haven’t done as the professionals suggested, which is getting everything polished up and perfect before launching. If I waited for everything to be exactly as I wanted it, I’d probably never publish anything. Besides, only God is perfect in my eyes, and this way, we can learn together if you are so inclined.
For now, I’ll invite you to come back again and wish you Godspeed! It’s one of my absolute favorite words. It means God’s blessings for your journey.