So Where Do We Go From Here?

So, where do we go from here? 

Should we keep murdering, polarizing, hurting, hating, and tearing each other down? We are destroying ourselves and each other instead of valuing each life as a gift.

Giving in to the darkness of hate-of anyone- no matter what our political, social, ethnic or religious background is, is the recipe for demise. We do not have to fear a foreign enemy or a virus. We are doing an excellent job of destroying our own selves. The problem starts in the unseen heart of each of us.

So, where do we go from here?

 “Having resentment in your soul is like drinking poison and hoping that your enemy will die”- Nelson Mandela

So, where do we go from here?

“The fastest way to change you is to change me.” -Tony Robbins

So, where do we go from here?

“Three things will last forever- faith, hope and love- and the greatest of these is love.- The apostle, Paul.

Life Is Lived In The Periphery

The Human Genome Project (1990-2003), proved that the life, the activity, the energy of the cell, was ‘lived’ in the cytoplasm of the cell…in the periphery.

As I meditate on that, I think of all of the things in my life where that rings true. Life is lived in the day to day rituals, habits and values I hold as a person, and then in the broader sense, the day to day rituals, habits and values we hold as a family.

What we devote our minds and attention to, when no one is looking, is what is produced, grows and flourishes in our relationships, work and recreation and, in turn, makes us into the best version of ourselves.

I can often bristle against the mundane. The waking up at 5, drinking organic green juice, praying, journaling, listening to Tony Robbins, having prayer with my husband, working out, and practicing guitar for 15 minutes. But that is where my life truly is lived. The out growth of that routine shows up in everything else I do in front of and for others. It is light, it is energy and it is life!

Think about how your life is lived in the periphery? Just like me, if your life doesn’t reflect the values that you have or the way that you want your life to look, maybe you need to change up your habits and routines. It is a bit painful to change and build new ‘muscles’, but you will never regret adding value to yourself by living a better life in the periphery<3

I am walking this journey of wholeness with you and I would love to hear from you today!

Coming Out of The Shadows

Change….it’s hard. There is so much to it. Overriding uncertainty and fear, being courageous, taking a step, acceptance that you may not be where you want to be, but how are you going to get there if you never begin?

I bought myself a curriculum suggetsted by my therapist called, The Artist’s Way. It is written by Julia Cameron, a screen writer, and it is somewhat of a hands-on classic for blocked artists. Cameron suggests writing three large amounts of “pages” everyday to get un stuck. It doesn’t matter if you are a writer, a musician a painter, a dancer, what ever your art form, the writing is a necessary means to a desired end.

The curriculum was suggested because I needed time to, drain my brain, as my therapist said, but it has been so encouraging to me as I have stepped out in many areas of creativity lately- I highly recommend it to anyone who is afraid to develop those deep desired aspirations.

This is what Cameron says to affirm those afraid to take themselves seriously in any realm of creativity.

“In order to move a way from the realm of the shadows into light of creativity, shadow artists must learn to take themselves seriously. With gentle, deliberate effort, they must nurture their artist child. Creativity is play, but for shadow artists, learning to allow themselves to play is hard work.”

This statement is so true of me! On one hand, I take myself way too seriously, on the other, I haven’t taken my desires, gifts and talents serious enough. On one hand, I have spent literal hours and years, alone, practicing, writing, singing, playing, taking lessons to improve, on the other hand, I have so easily hidden in my fear and have not wanted to step onto center stage using the excuse, “someone is always better than I am.”

A lot has changed in my life over the last four years. A cataclysmic event in my life, cloaked in the appearance of a “bad” thing, actually turned out to be an open door of hope and change in my life. I do not want to discount how, in many ways, it was a hurtful event, to many people because it was. But what are we supposed to do with the shadows of our life? Hide in them? Blame them? Avoid them at all costs? I don’t think so. I think we are to, as Henri Nouwen says, in so many ways, embrace the shadows and the light together. Life is full of both and both are intended to be lessons to us.

The event in my life was a glaring signal that something needed to change. Many things infact needed to change…first, me. I was living a false-self life. I had desires and dreams, but I had for years stuffed them so far down to my toes, thinking they were selfish instead of, ‘desires of my heart’, God had perhaps placed there.

Allowing myself to say, I do not want the next 25 years to be the way the first twenty-five were, was very new for me. It was liberating. I didn’t go about it all the right way, for sure. But when we take actions to grow and change, ripples occur and affect those we surround ourselves with.

I have decided I want to take positive actions that affect myself and the ones I love in a positive way- those are my perimeters after trying to change in a destructive way. It is not easy, change never is, but it doesn’t have the negative ramifications surrounding it like bad choices to change, have.

Just one aspect of this change is found in our new hobby of playing as a family band in local venues. My family has played in worship settings for years, and still continue to. But we have recently created a set list of music, that is meaningful to us as a family, and stepped out to share our love of music together with the community.

We play rock classics, pop songs, jazz and originals that give a back story of the things we have been through as a couple and a family and it has been met with encouragement and huge support. I, for many years, was a drummer for bands. Although I would still sing from, ‘behind the band’, even lead or sing my own songs, I always had the comfort of the first layer of musicians in front of me to keep me in the shadows. I couldn’t see the faces of those we were playing to very easily and that was fine with me!

Coming out of the shadows right now for me means, stepping out in the courage that I have been given something important to say and share. That my life counts, that I have a message and that there are others who need comfort from hearing it. Ultimately, Jesus continues to use my life, bring me out of the shadows and in to all that He has destined for me to be and for me to do. In the process, I am empathetic to others and can comfort others with the comfort I have received. Ultimately, that is what I think shadows were created for. When shadows are exposed to light, you see all the beauty, life and detail that was always laying quietly there all along<3

Put Your Shirt On! Singing Telegrams, Balloons and Triggers.

I wrote this story last summer and never posted it. The recent heat reminded me of it and I dug it out of my drafts- hope you enjoy!

It may be the heat that is getting to me (It has been relentless in Northwest Pennsylvania), so I want to prepare you! I am a little off topic today and this may not be your cup of iced tea! I am attempting to relay a potentially life threatening and sketchy story in a humorous way. That might sound strange, but with very close friends I naturally present situations that cause me fear and anger with a side of humor. It is how I process some things.  But I understand this material may be a trigger for some readers which is why I am adding this disclaimer.

On to the story…

I had an epiphany today! I realized that guys who don’t wear shirts in public creep me out! Whenever I would  see a man  without a shirt on this summer, I would say out loud; “put your shirt on”!! My family has been perplexed, asking me, “why does this socially acceptable,  lack of clothing bother you so much?”!

It hit me today. I drove past one of those boxy type vehicles like a Kia, Soul, and there was a man driving it who appeared to be naked because all I could see was bare skin from the window up.  Double take!! Ok, Julia, breathe, it’s ok, I said to myself. He is probably really warm….it is 90 plus degrees out and further more, he is probably fully dressed where it matters! Again, I ask myself why this bothers me so. And then it came to me.

I was about 19 years old and my full time job was working for a Singing Telegram Company as a character singer. Funny, huh?! It was a really fun and harmless job. Well, while I thought it was great, my mom on the other hand worried about me constantly. (Just for the record, I would NEVER LET MY DAUGHTER DO THIS JOB!!!) At the time, I was just so excited that I had a full-time job getting paid for singing, danger  never really occurred to me! Every day I got to use my singing abilities, be creative and brighten people’s day with a gargantuan bouquet of over sized balloons and I actually made a very good living at it! It was the late 90’s, before the invention of the cell phone!

Every day, I had a list of addresses to go to, costumes to wear and balloons to deliver. On my list that day was a residential party during the afternoon, dressed as a Modest French Maid.  The middle of the afternoon dressed as a French Maid was a little peculiar, first alarm.   Usually, The Maid, was requested for large weekend parties thrown by wives for their aging husbands!

So, I found the street I was looking for and pulled my car up a little past the house address where this “party” is. I did notice there were not very many cars parked on the street at all. Even for a surprise party, you notice some amount of cars parked down the street. That was the second alarm that I blew through.

I gather my balloons and feather duster, and head off to the front door of the house. I quietly knock on the door because I do not know if this is a surprise party or not. The door opens and there is a very large man filling the screened door. This screen door had aluminum that went up to the chest of this man so I could see his; you guessed it, bare chest and his head, but could not see anything from his chest down.  Again, that was odd, but gosh darnit, I proceeded! (I am shaking my head and rolling my eyes as I write this…just can’t believe I actually continued with this telegram!)

In my French character, I spoke my scripted salutation and the man proceeded to let me in. He opened his door for me in such a way that he hid himself behind it until I walked into the room and he shut the door and was standing behind me at this point blocking the door.

I know this story is going from humorous to scary and I understand if you need to leave. These are traumatic memories, but this one ends on good note for me. 

So, when I get into the house, I am in a living room with two large couches, a few chairs, a TV and NO OTHER PEOPLE. Nothing that says, there’s a party goin’ on right here! There was a surprise and that is for sure, but the surprise was for me! So, that man that let me in… he is still behind me. Still naïve and hoping for the best, I turn around to see why the guy didn’t enter the room. And what to my wondering eyes should appear? But a 6’2”, 350 pound man and ….reign deer?…no, they would have been great! No, no Reign Deer…just a diaper. That big naked man was wearing, a diaper!

OH, my mother was so right. This will be the day that I die! This is what she was talking about; I totally get her right now! Seriously, my life started to flash before my eyes…that life flashing before your eyes stuff really happens! My throat started to close and my heart started to pound and I was like, I am going to freakin’ (we didn’t say “freakin’ back then, but if we did, that is what I would have been saying!!) pass out and no one is going to ever find my body.

PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW, because someone who I choose to call THE HOLY SPIRIT slapped me across the face (so to speak) and said; Julia! Think quickly, do not get out of character and arm yourself! My mind quickly started to think of what I had on my 119 pound person that I could harm this 350 pound man with. Back in the 90’s we wore shoes called “spikes” and I had them on my feet and I thought, if I need to, I will take this shoe off and stick this heal in the temple of your scum bag head! As I was plotting his demise, I kept on with my French accent’. Oh monsieur….why don’t you sit down on the couchI would like to sing a song to you! He started to move! He headed for the couch, it was working! I kept up with my nasal oh’s and monsieur’s and my name is Fifi! He was buying it and settling in for some entertainment. No, fast moves were going to work; he would have only had to grab me with one arm to overpower me. After giving him his balloons and waving my feather duster around a few times, I slowly started backing up toward the door. I got right in front of the door and I told him I had a present for him. When I was sure he wasn’t going to get out of that couch quickly, I said, “Oh, monsieur! I left your present right outside!” Before he could move, I opened the door, closed the door, ran down the street, got in to my car and locked the door. Heart pounding, I started the car and sped away, not looking back.

I said; “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” all the way to a Convenience store. After I parked and breathed and thanked God for sparing my life, I called my office on a payphone and told the dispatcher what had happened. The secretary was mortified and concerned for my safety, called the police and told me to go home for the day.

A few weeks later while I was watching the news one evening, I saw a story on that diapered man! He was arrested for inappropriate behavior at a school playground. Do you think?!  When I saw that news story, I reflected on how grateful to God I was that nothing harmful happened to me, that day, while I was at his house.   I was also grateful that no harm came to the  school children and that he eventually got caught and was put in jail.

In regards to Singing Telegrams, I changed how I did things after that day! I no longer went to any residential parties alone. Period.  And even though my costumes were modest ones, I did not wear the French Maid or the Mae West costume anymore!! I stuck to clowns, tuxedos, viking women and 7 foot bananas! I became much more prepared and aware of my surroundings and much more discerning over all. 

I am glad that I have finally made the connection between shirtless men and the traumatic event that happen to me so many years ago. In writing this story out, it seems to me that the connection should have been a no- brainer. But many times a day we can experience things that we strongly react to because they have some kind of tie to a past experience. I believe that we should pause and get curious with God about why we respond the way we do sometimes and what is at the root of it so that we can work through it and experience freedom.

There are always lessons to be learned and ways to grow through every encounter in life. Now that I have worked through the thoughts and feelings that surround shirtless men, I experience less shock and frustration when I see one! I can talk myself through the situation instead of being stuck in the temporary emotions …and maybe even chuckle a bit:)

Clothe Yourself With Love

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony, and let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.

Colossians 3:12-14

As I was thinking about Valentines Day this week with all of it’s chocolates, roses and love, is it just me, or do you find that the world, in all of it’s tolerance, is less sweet, less loving…less tolerant? The man who wrote these words, was himself, in chains in a prison. He is imploring a church in Colosse to forgive and make allowances for other’s faults and offenses. He is showing, with word pictures, how to walk in love toward a fellow human being. I think if he was able to do this, we must have something we can glean from it.

These words are every bit as important today as they were in Rome, back in 60 AD. This is easier said, than done, don’t you agree? Every day I have opportunities to forgive and not be offended, but because living Christ is my core value, I find ways to lean into the pain and align myself with the truth that Paul wrote here.

I have found Brene’ Brown’s books to be so helpful and practical in areas of vulnerability and relationship. We all, ultimately, want to be understood and want to keep communication going- it’s loving, it’s kind. In Dare To Lead, Brown write’s about recognizing when you are emotionally hooked by something. You know, the times where you feel like you are coming out of your skin, the times you cannot get the conversation to quit playing in your mind, the times when you are hurt, angry, confused, pissed, scared, etc, and times when you even feel sick or have other physical manifestations.

She states in her research that: knowing when you are emotionally hooked and then getting curious about it is the important first step. The getting curious piece is about asking yourself questions concerning the irritation. What is underneath my response? What am I really feeling? What part did I play?

She uses tools like, slow, metered breathing and writing in the process to slow the winds and calm the seas. I have been a long time journal- er and I have learned the value of deep breathing in vocal lessons and singing, but combining these two things in times of emotional confusion have been empowering to me.

When I combine these practical tools with wanting to do the best I can as a human, I find I am drawn to the image of clothing myself in love and tender hearted mercy. I believe we must have necessary, difficult discussions, but leaning into the pain and doing it right not only strengthens us, it sets others up for success in the process.

We are often so rushed, we do not take time to consider how we can clothe ourselves with gentleness and love. Just as you take time to pick out your clothes for the day and look at yourself with them on, ask yourself what being clothed in tender hearted mercy and love would look like on you and how you can wear them today. Maybe it is simply smiling and being cheerful. Maybe it is thanking the person who makes your coffee. Maybe it is telling your co worker when they do a good job. Maybe it is telling your spouse thank you for the little things they do everyday. Maybe it is taking care of something that someone else forgot to do and not telling them about it. Maybe it is buying groceries for a single mom working her tail off trying to make ends meet. What ever the situation, love covers and has an extraordinary, self- less aroma!

I am right here walking this road of wholeness with you and I would love to hear from you today<3

A Letter Written To A Student With Cancer and The Meaning of Christmas.

The other day I got a call from the teacher’s aide in my son’s English class. Mrs. Allman, this is a good call, she began. Whew, I said! After several years in a formal school setting, we have had our share of bad calls concerning our autistic son.

She proceeded with the intent of her call which was to read me a letter our son wrote that day in class. The class was given the assignment of writing letters to a local student who has terminal cancer and whose Christmas wish it was to receive letters from other students. She told me how our son eagerly grabbed his paper and pencil and began writing away, when other students were at a loss for where to begin.

The above image is a sampling of that letter. After I sat listening and crying, I thanked the aide for the call and encouragement that she said she gave to our son. Our son, who struggles with his relationship with God, who struggles with, “why doesn’t God always answer my prayers?” Who struggles with the unseen and intangibles. This son, wrote a letter of faith and hope to another young man, about an unseen God who heals and cares, exposing his own tender heart in the process.

His faith, as faltering as I have witnessed it to be, is still extended as hope to one who is in need of it. I guess my son and I are more alike than I was aware and I see myself in this recent scenario.

This is the true meaning of Christmas even if we cannot understand it fully. Jesus was born, God’s gift to humanity, extending the light of the world to dark places and broken people.

“Do not be afraid, I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior, yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”

“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace to people on earth” Luke 2:10,14

It is the now and not yet kingdom that God set up on the shoulders of Jesus Christ. We bear witness to some of it while we live this life, but we wait with expectancy for the day when He will reign and rule with loving kindness and justice. We look for the day when light will over power the darkness, when broken things will all be made whole and when sickness and cancer will be forgotten terms.

Until then, we extend hope and faith to ourselves and others even when we fail to see the witness of it. No fear, good news, great joy, glory and peace to you all today, amen.

God Delights In Mercy

I have been some what quiet on Word Press for a while because I have been writing a few books! This excerpt comes from my devotional book which will be published early in 2019. As I was proofreading today, I thought I would share this rich truth with you. 

Who is a God like you? Pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He doesn’t retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on you and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.  Micah 7:18-20

Other people may retain their anger toward us until we die, but God does not. God delights in mercy. Let me say that again, God delights in mercy. Say that to yourself over and over, let its truth wash over you. He will have compassion on you and subdue your iniquities. And when you ask for forgiveness, He will cast all of your sins into the depths of the sea and envelop you in His love.

Let’s Pray! O Lord God, you truly are beautiful. Who is like you, O God?? Pardoning and passing over my sin, washing it clean in the blood that Jesus died for me. Thank you that you delight in mercy. Thank you that you have compassion on me, knowing me as but a man, human and faulty. You have compassion, because you walked as we walked and were tempted in every way that we are. You are sinless and transparent, Holy and approachable, High and lifted up and lowly. Thank you that you chastise me with the love of a Father. Thank you that you cast every last sin in to the sea of forgiveness that envelops me in love. Thank you my loving Father, Holy Spirit that leads me into all truth, and merciful Savior, friend,  Amen.


Writing, You Have Become A Close Friend.

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I wrote out scriptures and quotes for months. On walls I pasted them, I walked by them, looked at them, spoke them, swallowed them and thought on them. God uses people to change the course of your life.

Shut up and off from the world with the truth surrounding me.

The day came when I took them down, I was ready to fly on my own. As each one came down, I said, this is a book waiting to be written.

And write I did. Here a little, there a little. Then the day came when people started asking me if I had a finished book to read. Taking notice, I said not quite yet. God uses people to change the course of your life.

Then the day came when exposed pain emerged and I was aware that it became a useful tool for me. The writing flowed out of it, the date was set to finish the writing. God uses people to change the course of your life.

There have been days lately, that I cannot get to my keyboard to write. It has been 4 days now and I find myself being agitated and single eyed in my pursuit to get to my file and start a fresh page. I have missed you. You are warm, creative and inviting and let me be my complete, true self. Writing, you have become a close friend.

Autism, Birthdays, Mistakes and Inhalers

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My son is autistic. It has been one heck of a ride! Mostly the ride has been within myself, learning to accept, be flexible and be open to a new normal. It has taken almost fourteen years and I have by no means arrived.

 Having a birthday party for him was something I swore off a few years ago…and Oh Buddy, how I did swear!! One does not always know what is going on in that beautiful mind and if you go left when he wants to go right, watch out!  I couldn’t take any more tantrums in front of friends, leaving his friends sitting at the table because they ate their cake before he had the first bite or rude comments about the presents he didn’t like and the list is endless.  It is just too stressful….for me. Does that sound selfish? Maybe it is but I think I have a better grasp on my humanity and what I am able handle peacefully.

He started planning his party 2 months ago. I see him maturing in many ways. He has no problem communicating his need for more freedom and less parental control. I didn’t handle that very well when our oldest son communicated the same things to us at the same age, but I see my error in that now. I want to help raise confident, think for your self, respectful and God fearing men-so I can appreciate his hormones and intrinsic make up better than I used to appreciate his brothers’!

No person on earth has more tested, tried, exasperated or challenged this writer, than this particular son. He makes me want to hit the escape button on my emotional hand held and I sometimes  ponder if space from each other would’n’t be a good idea. I don’t know the answer to that but I do know, he is exposing many things within myself.

As I grow deeper in union with Christ, I have found this to be true. That the people and the situations in our lives that are cataclysmic to us in someway, are the very doors of hope that God has purposed. That can look a lot of ways, can’t it? It can look like the accident,the unplanned pregnancy, the lost dreams, the divorce, the illicit relationship, the addiction or the communication break down, just to name a few. God is standing there, purposing good through it, what ever it is. His hope and future for our good, in the pressure, in the refining and in the heat.  When you are aware of it, your eyes are opened! He wants to do something in us and through us. Ultimately, He wants us to so know how loved, accepted, forgiven and pleasing we are to Him- so that knowledge is given freely to others no matter how they behave, acknowledge or appreciate us.

I am getting ready for a big Aromatherapy event this weekend and in my busyness,  I made a mistake while blending some inhalers. I see that I am maturing a bit too. I just looked at the cartridges and asked, what shall I do with you now? Ginger, Lavender, Frankincense and Bergamot…. the blend lent itself to calming anxiety and reducing stress…perfect! I will give one to each of the special boys who are coming to the birthday party tonight and give one to my son and myself! A mistake turned into a blessing! That is what they are all intended to be. Not just for ourselves, but for everyone who surrounds us as well.

Thank you for reading, I really do appreciate it. I am right here walking this path of wholeness with you and I would love to hear from you today.

The What and Why Video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hm5Gx1NfWmo

 

 

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