How To Deal With Anxiety….and Everything Else!

Yesterday I had the privilege of working a long side (my husband, pictured here:), but also, another very gifted and intellectual man, Dr. John Neyman. The seminar was held at Cornerstone Church of Clarion who warmly and authentically welcomed us to share. John wrote a book called; “The Neyman Strategy”, out of his life long career of counseling people with various issues, namely, anxiety. He shared the information from that book and more, in his seminar, “A Day Of Grace”.

If you get the chance to schedule this doctor of Theology, Psychology and Behavioral Specialist in a town near you, which I highly recommend, my husband and I will most likely be supplying the music for the event and sharing a bit about our story.

Dr. Neyman’s over arching theme is; change your thinking, change your life. His passion comes from his own life journey, where he walked in dark trenches himself and met God there. That led him on a path of faith and a voracious desire to become educated in every way so that he could grow and help others.

He shared many stories of the transformations that happened in seemingly hopeless cases. He once asked the City Of Pittsburgh to give him their most difficult behavioral case, and they did! It didn’t happen over night, but freedom eventually came to the tormented person who others would have written off.

God says in His Word in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Science backs up God’s Word for this! In recent years, the neuroscience field has proven that new neural pathways can be created when we meditate on positive, life giving thoughts and subsequent actions.

One of the strategies that Dr. John teaches in his book and at his seminar is, meditating on scripture for 7 minutes a day in 1-minute increments.

We are given second, third, forth, chances when we apprehend this tool! How am I so certain? Well, God did this very thing for me after I came through a great challenge and subsequent failure. I could have been left in depression and in the bondage of guilt and shame, but God lead me by His grace into His path of light and life. I wrote about this journey in my book; That’s Not Who You Are.

The very method of renewal that Dr. John spoke about for hours yesterday, is the same method I used to recover from failure. I spent hours and days, studying scripture, meditation on it, writing it down, writing songs and blogs about it, speaking it, memorizing it, trusting it, and trusting God- not my circumstances. It transformed me. It didn’t happen in a minute, it wasn’t the microwaved, drive-through version, it was deep, wide and continues to sustain me.

I was able to share a bit about that at yesterday’s seminar and connect with people who have been touched by the pain of hopelessness. I share how God is a God of hope, second chances and new life! I share how God made Himself so real and intimate to me in such a dark time of my life. How He brought others to surround me along the way as I surrendered my control to Him.

If that is not the God you know, I invite you to rediscover Him again, through His son, Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and He does not disappoint! No matter what you are going through, addiction, depression, anxiety, loneliness, failure…He has every answer and has given us the tools to illuminate our lives. There is nothing that you could have ever done or do, that He will not welcome you with open arms when you come to Him for help. He delights in mercy.

It is to Him, I am grateful to have the privilege and the honor to work with and along side so many amazing people<3

To inquire about a Dr. John Neyman event, call: 724-712-9449

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:)

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.

What Is Your Drug Of Choice?

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Photo by Gabrielle Allman

I am so thankful, on this fall morning, for the peace and freedom that I am experiencing right now! I have been writing a book and have a deadline for the end of December. It is my story of recovering from an addictive, life altering event.

I have written my journey, in part, on this forum for over three years now. But in the wake of this particular event of my life, I took months off of life, to spend time with The Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  I needed to emotionally heal and I am grateful to my family that I was able to do that. My wish and prayer is that every person could have that space of time to recover from what ever trauma they have experienced and I would love to be a facilitator of that in the future, in a greater way than I am presently.

During that time I wrote out scriptures, some quite artistically, and literally plastered my home with them. They would be in front of my face and I would read them, speak them and meditate on them all day. Yesterday, I had the privilege of reacquainting with a woman who had been at my home during the time of my renewal.  She said she will never forget seeing  those scriptures attached to my walls. She said that she used the bathroom while she was at my home and spent time just reading the verses that were attached to the mirror in there. She too had been entangled in something and God was using the means of renewing my mind, to shed light into her darkness as well. This is the ultimate power that is greater than any other pull of the world, but we have to apprehend it.

Our mind is a magnificent created universe with tremendous pathways that can be re directed. I had built unhealthy ruts in my mind through addictive behaviors and they needed to be rewired and healed.

Romans 12:2  says; Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

I had conformed to the pattern of the world and it was downright painful to pull out all of that construction and rebuild, but God had encouraged me on with every Word that He spoke through His Word to me. Jesus became very real and tangible. During that time He pulled down the strongholds of caring what others thought about me, he delivered me from depression and He showed me, so intimately, who I am in Him.

Another scripture that I wrote down in addition to Romans 12:2, was 1 Peter 1:13.

Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

This passage speaks of doing what ever it takes to focus our thoughts on those things that allow us to serve God successfully, all the while eliminating any thoughts that would trip us up. The Hebrew idea was, to pull up long robes and tie them around the waist so that quick and freeing movement could be made.

Are there things that are tripping you up? Do you feel as if you can never get free from the things that bind you and set you back? Do you have dark corners of your heart that you hide from everyone in the world? I did too. God knows, He sees, and His response is always love. No one loves or cares about you more than Him. His plan is for you to reflect His glory and be His light to others in the darkness of the world. Jesus offers Himself to you right now. He is the way, the truth and the life. I did not only say that, He said that about Himself. (John 14:6) Whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness but have the light of life. (John 8:12) It is the most freeing, spiritual and adventurous journey you can ever take.

He cares about your life, your soul, your spirit  and your eternity and so do I.  He is here for you right this minute, again, no matter how many times you have tried and failed. Ask Him to forgive you and renew your mind and set all of your hope on His grace to you. Make Him your obsession and aim. I am right here with you walking this path of wholeness and I am so thankful for the opportunity.

 

 

Meet Me In A Forgotten Corner Of My Heart

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Be Still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I love you…that I hold you in the palm of my hand…that I have counted the hairs on your head…that you are the apple of my eye…that your name is written in my heart…”Do not be afraid it is I.”

There is nothing in us that needs to be hidden from God’s love. Our guilt …our shame…our fear…our sins…He wants to see it, touch it, hear it…and make Himself known. There is no other God than the Lord of Love.

Be still and know that I am God. God is not in the storm, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the still, small voice , the gentle breeze, and the sheer silence…

Be still and know that I am God. Take these words with you in the week to come…let them be like a little seed planted in the good soil of your heart and let it grow…

Be still and know that I am God.                                                                  – Henri Nouwen

Develop A Spiritual Practice

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I get a lot of feed back from people in regards to their seeming inability to be able to carve out quiet time for themselves. Taking that another step further, I had the opportunity last week to present a holistic health message to nurses and managers in the skilled nursing facility setting, and self-care is a big concern. We can all struggle with making space or creating margin in our lives, but it is imperative for over all physical and emotional health. Even beyond that, we are spiritual beings who need to be connected to the source of our strength and to know what to pursue and what to relinquish. The development of a spiritual practice helps us to navigate those questions so we can live fully in our humanity.

I have been a long time fan of Henri Nouwen. Henri, who is now deceased, has been a beloved author, priest, and world famous spiritual counselor and guide, who’s writings continue to inspire and re align his readers in profound ways.

I am re- reading his book Spiritual Direction and I was struck by this;

Developing ears to hear God takes time. We all have strong resistances to listening. First of all, we find it very hard to create empty spaces in our lives and to give up our occupations and preoccupations, even for a while. We suffer from a fear of the empty space. We are so concerned with being useful, effective, and in control that a useless ineffective, and uncontrollable moment scares us and drives us right back to the security of having something valuable to do.

I know that for myself, when I am taking my daily morning time to be alone and meditate, I can feel as though I am “wasting” time and my mind will begin to fill with chatter. Thoughts of my to do list, the kids activities, the bathroom that needs cleaned….whatever, will start to infiltrate my mind until I push them back and give myself permission and encouragement to be still. The truth is, I cannot go very many days with out long periods of alone time to start my day.

The morning spiritual practice is so integrated into my life, it is as if I am cutting off my right arm or not drinking water when I defer it at all. The more you are intentional about it, the more deeply it embeds into who you are. The Bible says that Jesus retreated often  and the New Testament talks about “praying continuously”. For me this looks like at least an hour in the morning of reading the Bible, in my head or out loud, and writing my prayers out. I have a designated space in my bedroom where I do this. When I am exceptionally pressured, I set my alarm and do not allow my self to get pulled away into a different direction. I often times write one scripture or a short theme out on a post it note and refer to it through out the day. Any time I start to get anxious about any situation, I pause and read it and it puts me back into The Vine (John 15:5), the source of strength. As you are intentional about creating this time for yourself, others will begin to understand, respect and give you your space- but that will only happen after you show consistency in guarding it and making it a priority.

Do we want to see the truth in our lives? Maybe we don’t….maybe it is easier if we don’t. Henri went on to say this in the same chapter; Resistance in the form of preoccupation and distraction often prevents us from seeing the truth of our lives, hearing God’s voice and living a spiritual life. To listen with obedience to the voice of God requires building up a resistance to all the other voices that compete for our attention.

I know for myself, the spiritual practice continues to be a persistent intentional routine, but it has also become a deep place of peace that no other thing or person on earth can replicate. I have had times where I knew I was running, so to speak, from hearing the voice of truth in my life. It leaves one empty and shallow. If we are going to tap into who we really were created to be and tap into the things we were expressly created to do in this short time called life, we are going to have to spend time with The Creator.

I encourage you to create empty spaces in your life. Decide to swim against the water of culture and abide in the place you were designed to be. This is not time wasted, it is value added. Do not be afraid of the quietness, be intentional and begin your spiritual journey<3

 

* Honest Aromas offers  Christian Life Coaching! If you would like more information on this idea, visit  juliaallman.com