Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Dear 45.



Dear 45,
In just a short week, we will meet face to face.  I was hoping we could have a heart to heart before then.  Until now, I feel like I've been in a cafĂ© stealing glances at you wondering if we are going to get along when we finally meet.  Here's the thing; I want to get along with you, honestly I do.

When I look back at other birthday milestones, I see a lot of toil and strife.  This year, I am hoping to take a deep breath and relax.  I also want to team up with you and I have a proposal.  I'll be good to you - and you be good to me.  If you go easy on me with all the classic insecurities that crop up with aging, I'll do my part to make it a good year.  I'll eat right and exercise, I'll get at least 6 1/2 hours of sleep.  Maybe 7 hours if good fortune shines upon my pillow.  I won't complain about aging - as much.  I will embrace the process.

When we meet, I don't want to suddenly be plagued by self-doubt or crippling self-consciousness.  I don't want to chase down the best anti-aging-wrinkle-fighting creams or get sucked into infomercial products that will fight or erase signs of aging.  I don't want to continue coloring my grays every 4 weeks, perhaps you could extend this cycle by a week?  If you could you work with me on little things like that, I feel like we'll be a great team and accomplish good things in the year to come.

While we are talking about positive change.  Can we talk about a special monthly time?  I mean, the last 5 years have been; R O U G H.  I mean if you could just lighten up.  Literally, lighten up, for the Love of.  Which leads me to the menopause symptoms. I understand this is the natural order of an aging woman, I accept that. All I'm asking for is a hot-flash-flip from night to day.  That's it.  The night cycle wakes me up out of a dead sleep and keeps me awake for at least an hour.  This interruption in a 6 1/2 hr sleep cycle costs me much during the day.  Just a little flip. Night to day.  Is that really a lot to ask?

What I am hoping you bring to the table is prolonging growing comfortable in my own skin.  Even if it is wrinkled with age spots. I want to sustain owning who I am and apologizing less for who I am not. I want to continue the practice of more grace and less judgement towards myself with the ability to recognize I'm doing my very best.   I want to really uphold being okay with making mistakes and not being ashamed when I inevitably do.  I want to face the days with much less fear and so much more courage.  I forge ahead growing and learning all the things that are important in this short life.  And I'm cautiously looking at you to usher that in for the upcoming year.

45, let's work together this year.  Let's make some great memories.  Let's have some fantastic laughs.  Let's do fun and spontaneous things-before 9:00 p.m. Let's pursue matters of the heart and love fiercely.  Let's focus on things that matter, like people and less on things that don't, like debates.   Let's practice self-care that encompasses mind, body and spirit.  Let's take care of each other and be friends, okay?

BFF,
Julia









Monday, January 16, 2017

Two Faces of Racism & I've been One of Them.


 "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." As I listened to this recording of Martin Luther King Jr. this morning, I was saddened because we are still not there yet 54 years later. 

I've seen two faces of racism that I'm hesitant to talk about for reasons that will become clear.   I'm doing it anyway though because I can't talk about the subject of Racism without being honest about the two faces of Racism that I've seen.  At one time, that face was my parent but later, that face was my own. 

In 1982, I lived in rural Elgin, Texas .  Elgin was a small agriculture town so there were  a lot of homes on acreage lots including ours.  We lived in an area where there were neighbors spread out around us occupying their own acreage but there were no other kids in the area.  In fact, when I walked down the dirt road to the school bus stop, I was the only kid the bus was stopping to pick up.  I was pretty isolated  but I passed time outside doing what country kids do and or inside reading.

Elgin, Texas
While at home one sweltering Summer day, I looked out the window to see a black boy walking down the dirt path passing my house.  I was so excited to see another kid my age, I ran outside to meet him.  He was 10 years old like me and we talked outside for about 20 minutes or so.  I was disappointed when he had to leave and get back to his Aunt's house.  When I walked back inside my house, I was completely taken by surprise and immediately assaulted by my parent.  I was picked up off the ground by the throat and while my head was repeatedly beat into the wall behind me, I received the message why this was happening.  It was because I had been outside talking to a black boy.  It wasn't the first time I looked into the face of Racism, it was just the first time I felt the consequences of it.  It's a memory from my childhood that I can't erase but here's the good thing that came out of  it.  At the tender age of 10, I knew in the deepest corner of my heart that Racism was WRONG.  I knew it was wrong and I promised myself to never discredit, disqualify, or dismiss someone because of skin color. Still, seeds were planted, the soil was fertile and the heart is more malleable than we know.

Me in 1982
Fast forward 19 years when  I lived in Dallas, Texas and worked at Sun Microsystems. It was Tuesday. September 11th, 2001 and the plane that was headed for the Pentagon just crashed in a field.   I remember standing in an elevator and feeling fear crawl up my spine; seeds planted long ago suddenly sprouted in the fertile soil of Racism . I spent the next decade with an intense dislike and distrust for people from the Middle East.  I stereotyped and I judged all Middle Easterners.  I gave myself permission and license to be uncaring, unkind and unloving.  Yet,  God always knows the condition of man's heart and while I didn't see it then, I can see now that God wasn't going to allow my heart to remain this way without shedding some light on my ignorance first. 

There were 3 key events that changed my heart & mind.  First, was when my husband and I relocated from Arizona  to Texas.  We found a house on-line, saw it in person once and bought it knowing very little about the area or neighborhood.  Only later, did we discover,  the majority of our neighbors were Middle Eastern.  In that brief time,  I was friendly with a neighbor who often invited me over for tea.   We would sit on floor cushions drinking tea made with spices from her home country.  We talked about the challenges of raising our babies.  We talked about our Faith, the differences between Islam and Christianity.  We shared humor and laughed together.  It was a good, good thing.  As I would come and go, I would notice the Muslim and Sikh families on my street.  The kids ran and played outside.  The mothers scolded or smiled at their children. Grandparents almost always lived with the family and the fathers worked day in/day out supporting the whole family unit.  Not that different...from us.  Very much the same...as us.

House in Murphy, Texas 2006
We moved back to Arizona after a year and a half and faithfully God kept working in my heart.  As the years progressed, I would often feel very convicted for my lack of love toward people from the Middle East which finally led to the second thing that happened.  There was no catalytic event exactly.  The only way to describe it is to use lying as an example.  Do you know that 'feeling' you get immediately after you tell someone a lie?  It's a very simple feeling; you lied, it was wrong.  I think I'd been carrying that feeling  for some time and I was just ready to unload it.  In October of 2012, I wrote in my journal
 "I confess my prejudice, my hardened heart, my lack of mercy towards Middle Eastern people...While I have known about this sin in my heart I have allowed it to grow, I've joked about it but I've done nothing to change it.  I've accepted it as something that is ok before you.  But it's not. I pray I would love my neighbor from the Middle East.  I pray to treat them with kindness and respect.  I pray that I would have no issue embracing them.  Lord, I have been wrong and I've dishonored you, your message of love and forgiveness.   Please forgive me Father, I've been wrong, I'm so sorry. " 
It's a little embarrassing to share this from my journal but I share it because that's all that happened.  I just came clean with God and admitted I was wrong for harboring hate towards people he created.  I don't think the final event would have happened if I had not repented of my racism.  The very next entry in my journal after coming clean with God is a moment that I still remember in detail.  I was sitting at an intersection watching traffic pass when my eyes rested on a small car with 3 Middle Eastern women dressed in their religious clothing and head coverings.  As I watched them take a turn in front of me, it was like time slowed down.  A sudden wave of understanding  came together through words and emotions.  'It takes greater strength for these women to continue their practices faithfully in a culture that does not understand or accept or welcome their differences.'  I instantly felt genuine compassion flood my heart.  I realized the courage it takes to live in a hostile culture, to learn and understand all that you need to survive in a foreign society, to adapt in ways that are surprising and unexpected, to remain true to your beliefs no matter the opposition you face.  An understanding of everything these women had to endure burst my heart wide open with sorrow and sympathy.  I've never felt the same towards people from the Middle East since that moment, it was completely overwhelming in a very good and tender way.

I have seen two faces of Racism and neither was good.  Racism is ugly and detestable no matter which side you are looking from.  Racism is never right.  It's never noble.  It's never loving.  It's never admirable.  It is not good or praiseworthy.  Racism is always wrong.  Racism will always be wrong.  Now, what I hate more - is hate.  I see hate everywhere and it saddens me how rampant it is.  Even so, I am unapologetic and unwavering in my view regarding Racism simply because of my own personal experiences. Racism is not a subject I will debate over, my position is firm.  If you want to engage in this conversation with me, please expect a short dialog because it's not one I'll debate.  Racism is Hate. Hate is wrong.  I will not participate.  

As a country we are not there yet, Dr. King.  As individuals though, some of us are making progress.




Sunday, October 30, 2016

From Struggle to Surrender



Every aspect of Unify Phx, was intentional to draw women to a place of surrender.  Kristin Pattison, incredibly passionate, spoke about the race we run and how we often get on the circular track that leads no where.  "The track is great...until it isn't".  However, there is a path that has been paved just for us by God.  We need to be on that path and then she said words I needed to hear, "Live Carefree".  I'd fallen back into a familiar pattern; don't make a mistake, don't be embarrassing, don't be so emotional.  When Kristin spoke those words, clarity and conviction washed over me. I know what walking in Freedom looks and feels like, how did I fall back into caring so much about what others might think or say of me? Walking in freedom is like being in a recovery program, you gotta work the steps or you'll relapse. And I had relapsed.

Later we were afforded an opportunity to write something we wanted to surrender.  I wrote "My pride.  So I can I walk in absolute Freedom."  I stepped forward and hung that on the cross with a fresh resolve to walk in Freedom.   Getting back on the path paved for me.

The next morning as I dressed and prepared for the conference. I wore a tie die shirt with leopard print shoes telling myself ' I am not going to care that this does not match. These shoes are comfortable and these are the shoes I want to wear today.'  At the conference, I sang out every song during the worship set, not caring if my voice was off pitch.  I was back on the path of freedom paved just for me.

 

That morning, Cherie Wagner, a truly gifted teacher nailed home points about divisions in the body of the church.  She shared how important and critical unity is among this body of people.  Her message resonated deeply and stirred a fire in me to break down barriers, to be united, to stand as one with others.  I was inspired to be part of bringing people together in Unity. 

As the conference came to a close, we once again sang a beautiful song, Unify, by worship leader and songwriter Dianne Michelle who crafted this amazing song for this conference.  As we sang the first verse, I was inspired to move towards the front row of women and grab the ladies hands on each side of the aisle and stand together, united as one.  But Pride taunted "What will they think?  What if no one follows you?  It'll be awkward.  Don't do it."  I stayed where I was, glued to the ground as we began to sing the chorus.


The next verse came and I wanted to break down barriers,  be united, stand as one with the women around me but the pride of fear stopped me.  I looked behind me, quickly scanning for a familiar face. Maybe if we made eye contact, they would follow my cue.  No one I knew was behind me.  We started the last chorus and a gentle whisper came, "Pride was hung on the cross Friday night."  I was quietly reminded of my actions on Friday night.  I was standing in a tie die shirt with leopard print shoes and singing about unity in a roomful of women spiritually united but physically divided.

I abruptly grabbed the ladies hand on my left, she was surprised but I didn't let that stop me. Like a train I pulled her with me to the other side of the aisle and grabbed the hand of another surprised lady and I stood in the middle of the aisle.  No barriers, united, standing as one, we raised our hands and I sang that last chorus like I meant it.  If anyone had looked closely they would have seen my legs trembling.  When the song ended, I hugged both those ladies for standing with me but I could tell, they felt the unity too, just like I did and they hugged me back.  The lady from across the aisle whispered in my ear "Thank you." 


Days later,  I saw this picture and I cried over it.  I had no idea the row behind me joined hands and stood together too.  I thought I was alone in that aisle standing for unity but I wasn't.  That's what makes me cry whenever I see this picture. Poignantly captured in this picture is a moment that represents the absence of pride and the presence of Freedom through Unity.  So when the next Unify Phx takes place, let's go together, as One.

From Struggle to Surrender,
Julia

Saturday, October 29, 2016

From Fear to Faith



"There's a women's conference in October, would you pray about being a part of it?"

When God puts an opportunity or challenge in front of me, I am like a deer staring into bright headlights.  I freeze and wait because I'm quietly afraid of what is going to happen next.

I am not a Joshua charging for battle.
I am a Gideon, hiding and threshing wheat, in a winepress.
God, I'm from a weak family and I'm to weak a person to do this task.  Can you confirm that you really want me,  show me a sign maybe?
Phone rings. "We thought you would be a good fit to facilitate the panel at Unify Phx but we'd like you to actually be a part of the panel."
God, I'm not a public speaker.  I shake, I get nervous, I get emotional.  Then I'm embarrassed.  I wish I could erase those embarrassing moments.  Are you sure God?
Phone rings.  Hello daughter, it's your Dad.  Unbeknownst to either of us, we are gonna to have a conversation where I am going to reverse the message of shame I planted in you so many years ago.  I'm going to tell you that your soft heart is a good thing and don't ever change it.  You'll hang up the phone sobbing and then marvel that this call occurred exactly THREE days before you sit on stage at the conference.
God, I barely know any of the people running this conference, who am I to stand among them?
Email received.  Can you come to a meeting for the lead team?  You'll meet everyone running this conference.  You'll  find you are among women who are like-minded and as sensitive as you.  You won't feel like a stranger in a strange land.  
Okay God.  Messages received.  Help me to do what I'm afraid of doing.
On Saturday at Unify Phx, Christina Lang said "When God knows you are ready, he entrusts you with the next part of the story."

I didn't feel ready but everything that happened Friday at the conference prepared me not to just sit as part of the panel but to also stand in Unity as One.

From Fear to Faith,
Julia

Friday, October 28, 2016

From a Shirt to a Stage.

This weekend I participated in Unify Phx; a conference that brought together women from over 40 different churches across Phoenix. The theme of the conference was to reflect Unity among the people of Christ; the Church. This conference was not for a religious organization or a set denomination or a certain culture or any of those types of variables. It was for 2 groups of people; those who follow Christ and those who don't and both were present.

My friend Christin, called me out of the azure-blue and asked if I would be willing to participate. Christin and I met through Mending the Soul and she suggested my name to the lead team for this conference. A different gal, Erica, supported the idea because she was also in one of my Mending the Soul classes. That's how I got involved; 2 nearly new friends, from 2 different churches connected through 2 different MTS classes. Different people, different backgrounds, coming together to share what we have in common. Pretty much the premise of the conference.


Shirt By: Radiance on Fire


The conference began on a Friday night and as I moved about the building, helping to set up before the doors opened, I kept passing a vendor table that had this shirt on display. I walked by this table at least 20 times. Each time I passed that shirt and read the message, my eyes filled with tears and I would almost lose it. Somehow, I kept myself in check but literally every single time I'd walk by, my eyes were drawn to that shirt and message.

Worthless. For so many years, Worthless is exactly who I was. It was my name and my label. I was Worthless to my family, worthless in school, worthless in every job and worthless in every relationship. I was worthless in every interaction, every encounter, every meeting. Worthless permeated my every thought, every emotion, every action. I couldn't get away from being Worthless.

Then Jesus happened. Jesus drew a line through Worthless and wrote Priceless. Over time, I began to understand He changed my name and my label long before I was ever aware of it. He convinced me Worthless was never who I was to begin with. My testimony was on a shirt and I could barely handle it.

The following day, I sat on the stage, with nerves like spaghetti. I wished I had the shirt I had just walked by again. I would have worn it on stage, pointed to the message and said "This is it, this is my story. Love you, mean it, peace out." Drop the mic.



Brene Brown wrote in Daring Greatly, "Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up." I didn't feel brave, I felt shaky and sweaty but I showed up alongside 4 other women and together, we owned our stories. Together, we allowed ourselves to be seen and known. Together, we showed courage through vulnerability. Together we stood as One. I don't think I could have done it any other way. One thing for certain, the deep bond the 5 of us experienced will be remembered for a lifetime.



There's this myth that life becomes stagnant and stifling when you commit to Christ. I have found nothing to be further from the truth. What I did last weekend was the equivalent to riding white water rapids down a roaring river. It was crazy and scary and intense. It was also fulfilling and satisfying to allow God to take my ashes and use them for a good purpose.

That said, I'm ready for a paddle board and maybe a lazy river, ya know? There is another story to tell from this conference but I'll share another day.

From a shirt to a stage,
Julia

Friday, October 21, 2016

For Middle Aged Women Like Me


My heroes are often everyday people who do something extraordinary, in my humble opinion.  Extraordinary by definition means very unusual or remarkable.  Such is the case with Annick Rbsn from Canada.  I do love the Canadians and I am so glad we are neighbors. : )
If you are a middle aged women like me, I will be 45 in February, then you will very likely love Annick response to a salesperson selling some products guaranteed to make her look 'younger'.

Read and enjoy her Facebook post regarding this encounter:



So. I was kind of a brat yesterday. And I don't regret it one bit.
I was in the hallway at the airport, headed to my gate, when a man from a spa suckered me into a conversation by handing me a free bar of natural soap. NOTHING IS FREE PEOPLE! At least, not in airports, am I right?
This is basically how the conversation went, although I admit, this is not verbatim.
Man: "your skin is so natural looking, you aren't wearing any make-up, right?"
Me: "Um, nooooo?"
Man: "Let me guess your age..." Proceeds to pull out a number 12 years younger than I am.
Me: "I look my age and that's ok actually."
Man: unsure how to handle that.. "let me show you our face serum, because if you aren't careful to maintain your skin now, these wrinkles on your face will get much deeper, by 45, creams won't help anymore."
Me: "what's wrong with a woman looking 40?"
Man: "Well let's talk about the bags under your eyes, and smile lines, my eye cream could improve those in 15-minutes."
Me: "What's wrong with my eyes? I have a miracle baby at home and haven't slept in 2 years, so if I have bags I am grateful to have them, and my husband and I laugh a lot. Those are his fault. He loves how I look... I don't think I need your cream."
Man: (nervously) "They may be manageable now, but by 50, it's too late to correct sagging skin and deep wrinkles, unless you act now, only surgery can correct those."
Me: "what's wrong again with a woman aging? You know, my husband and I can't wait to grow old together, we talk about it all the time, how we'll be this funny wrinkled old couple. My husband is going to age too, we all are. It's kind of how life works."
Man: glancing nervously at other customers in the store who are listening in... "Wait, if it's the price that's an issue, I can offer you our special this week, all three creams for $199 - that's cheaper than Botox!"
Me: "I look fine now, and when I'm 45 I will look fine, and when I'm 50 I will look fine, because there is nothing wrong with a woman aging. Old age is a privilege denied to many, and I don't appreciate you marketing youth instead of your products, and denigrating aging women as a sales tactic. Thank you, but I don't want or need your cream."
I was so horrified by the normalcy of his sales pitch, and the sales ringing up at his cash register, that I took a picture of that wrinkled baggy face he was selling to, right on the spot.
This is the face my children and my husband love. I think I'll keep it.

UPDATE *************
I am shocked that this post has been shared upward of 12k times to date. I was really excited for a couple of minutes (that was my ego talking) until I realized what that meant. It means that in 2016, refusing to accept self-loathing as a beauty standard is a radical concept. And that is just depressing on a whole other level.
I have been reading some of the comments and wanted to clarify that this wasn't a post about natural beauty over those who wear make-up, its not about being insulted by a salesman. Its not even about the salesman, who I am sure is very good at his job and following a script. Its about a billion dollar industry that depends on women hating themselves.
And its not about how pretty or not I am. According to whose standards can we decide what is beautiful anyway?
I could have been a supermodel, but I still would have been told there was something terribly wrong with my face. And odds are, I would have believed it. Its hard-wired into us from the cradle that our main value as a woman is beauty, and a standard of beauty that we can never actually attain. Even our supermodels get photo shopped.
Let's start a movement peeps, let's end predatory marketing practices that sell self-loathing to women from cradle to grave. Women have more important things to do in 2016 than spend a single other minute worried about our wrinkles or the acceptability of our thighs.
Flip the script when you hear it. Every time. Until it loses its power. The next generation needs you to change the game.
There is nothing more powerful than how you spend your money, way more powerful than FB views and shares.
Let's start a movement that says no to brands that require you to hate yourself in order to sell their products. Don't give them another one of your dollars.
*And for those of you worried I was too hard on the salesman, don't worry, tone doesn't translate well, but I'm Canadian after all. I was very, very polite. ;)
Extraordinary.  My hero.  Women, we need to flip the script.  Today, I'm starting with myself.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

DaBrickaNate YouTube Channel


Nathan has started a YouTube Channel, DaBrickaNate, reviewing Lego sets.
We have now posted 2 videos and he's already planning to review some custom builds.
He is so cute, I can't even handle it. And I'm partial to the user name he used; DaBrickaNate is a variation of DaBrickaShaw, which is what we called him before giving him the name Nathan. I love it but the challenge will be keeping up with his videos and getting them posted!