Archives for category: Faith
When I was a girl, I loved the movie The Wizard of Oz!
The movie scared the beejebers outta me but I adored it, I loved Dorothy’s red shoes and often imagined myself clicking my heels while repeating the line “There’s no place like home!” It wasn’t just the bedazzled shoes, although I think I’d still wear a pair, it was the longing of her heart… was just so sad to me.

Throughout the movie there are many life situations and analogies which we could explore but for this article let’s look at the Cowardly Lion.

Wikipedia tells us about the Cowardly Lion as follows:

The Cowardly Lion is a character in the fictional Land of Oz created by American author L. Frank Baum. He is a Lion, but he talks and interacts with humans.
Since lions are supposed to be “The Kings of Beasts,” the Cowardly Lion believes that his fear makes him inadequate. He does not understand that courage means acting in the face of fear, which he does frequently. Only during the aftereffects of the Wizard’s gift, when he is under the influence of an unknown liquid substance that the Wizard orders him to drink (perhaps gin) is he not filled with fear. He argues that the courage from the Wizard is only temporary, although he continues to do brave deeds while openly and embarrassedly fearful.
Hmmm how very interesting and how easily I can relate to this Lion!
How many of us live our lives in reaction to fears – Too many I would suspect!
Do we take enough time to look at the motives for our actions, are we aware of when we’re simply reacting in ways to avoid our fears?
Here’s an exchange from the movie which I love:
Cowardly Lion: Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?
Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman: Courage!
Cowardly Lion: You can say that again! Huh?
Much like the lion, I was very good at presenting bravado in the face of my insecurity. Perhaps I shared the Lion’s outward image of being scary and proud?
 More often than not I researched subjects in order to feel more secure, but never did I truly trust myself or have the confidence in my choices which I should have. What this ended up doing, in my personal life, is to frustrate me to the point where I gave in and truly just followed the flow of life, avoiding the things I feared. I didn’t actually choose my path and seek to achieve it authentically, I took advantage of situations and redefined myself based upon what I perceived as the perspectives of others.
I thank God everyday that this has changed, now I am consciously aware. With each breath of my body I am ALIVE in the knowledge that God has a plan for my life and I am not in control.
Do you ever feel like you’re not in Kansas anymore?
I certainly did when I walked into my first 12 Step meeting, but as with the Lion, I soon realized that within the rooms there were people who understood me.
Until I began doing a personal inventory, I hadn’t realized how much I had been floating through life. When I did, I became ashamed. My feelings of inadequacy all floated to the surface at once!
Talk about overwhelming….I was desolate…sober but desolate.
In time, by becoming reacquainted with my emotions and feeling worthy of them, I learned how to cope. Eventually I learned to recognize my strengths and gifts, while being mindful of my weaknesses.
Through this, my eyes opened to the fact that each of us are adequate in God’s eyes.
This alone gave me courage.
True courage to live and experience…both the “good” and the “bad”, knowing that God is driving my bus and that He loves me is enough.
Courage wasn’t something I had to find, I simply had to turn to God and it was there, ready for the taking.
And so today I lift up my cuppa coffee in toast to the makers of The Wizard of Oz for putting out the message which so many years later I finally understand.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (my 5 year old’s favorite verse!!)
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
As Bill Sees It – AA 
When fear persisted, we knew it for what it was, and we became able to handle it. We began to see each adversity as a God-given opportunity to develop the kind of courage which is born out of humility, rather than of bravado.
I am up north in Muskoka, Ontario enjoying some time away. The girls and I are in cottage country, Hubby will join us next week. This is an opportunity to slow things down, and man it is an amazing blessing for me.
Before my car accident we didn’t take holidays in the summer.
Generally speaking we took a day here or there and we tended to extend long weekends.
With 4 day weekends we could visit lots of friends and do the home renos we loved.
If I had taken a full week, I probably would have gone nuts. Much of who I was at the time, was defined by my career. I took too much pride in my title and my performance. The only time I took a week off was to go to Jamaica with hubby for a week and even with the all-inclusive bar I was struggling. I would head to the lobby every morning, raising a fuss because high tides had knocked out the internet.
And yet here I sit, alone in Muskoka enjoying this peace and quiet.
I have no titles, I have no career to busy me and there is nobody to lose myself in.
Why am I so happy?
What changed for me?
Everything frankly.
By finding my sobriety, learning to value myself as I am and following my 12 Step Program my relationship with God had a chance to flourish. My perspective changed, instead of seeing work I should do on myself, I ask what has God got for me to do today?
It wasn’t until I hit the point of desperation that I was willing to admit defeat.
That my busy life wasn’t working.
And after that, my life slowed down, I became humble.
When it was quiet, I began to become closer to God.
In those quiet times I read God’s word, listened to speakers online, listened for His word in my life and prayed.
I have learned that I don’t have to wear a fancy church hat for God to value me.
I don’t have to drive a certain car.
I don’t have to hide my past.
God accepts me as I am RIGHT NOW.
God already knows all the things in my past I am ashamed of.
How amazing is that?
Today as I sit quietly reflecting, I’m awed by the fact that I have been given a gift I don’t deserve. I didn’t earn this.
And yet I am determined to receive it well, I am willing.
This weekend was fantastic, our daughters went to my mother-in-law’s place for a night so Hubby and I had time alone. It has been a long time since the girls were away for the night, of course I blogged about it here with Easy Does It.
So Saturday night we decided to go to a movie, we braved the crowds and went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. We chose the 2D version because the line for the 3D was obnoxiously long. I’m not the most paitent movie goer, believe it or not.
The movie was fantastic, I’m a Harry Potter geek who devoured the books as soon as they were released. I didn’t get into costume for the movie, but don’t think that I didn’t consider donning a black cape. The movie was explosive, satisfying and we walked away commenting on the fantastic effects. I won’t go further with my review because I don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.
Following the movie we had planned to go to dinner but unfortunately my brain was exhausted. One of the issues I have is exhaustion when my brain is overworked. The film was fast-paced and there was lots of information for my brain to process and by the end of it I was done. When this happens I need a quiet room to close my eyes and rest…and recharge.
We had an early night and on Sunday morning we woke at a stupid-early hour for people whose children are away. Why is it that when the kids wake us we’re grumpy and wishing for an extra hour’s rest, yet when they’re gone we naturally wake before the sun rises?
Off we went, I dropped Hubby at church and went to a 12-Step meeting. The venue for this meeting had been rented out for a buck and doe the night before. As I pulled in, I noticed there were the cars left behind by the party’s attendees.
One of my fellow meeting members commented that there were a lot of coffins left that day. That amused me. The cars weren’t exactly parked within the parking spot lines and there was one car with trays of food left on top of it, fermenting in the sun. Someone had left a huge pile of chilli dumped in the middle of the parking lot; between that and the pickels baking in the sun on top of the car it was pretty disgusting.
I stood having a cigarette, listening to a few of my fellow 12-Steppers talking about how disrespectful it was for the people to have dumped a pot of chilli in the parking lot; how gross the food on top of the car was; how embarrassed the people would be when they came to pick up their cars. All in heated, JudgyMcJudgerson tones.
At that moment it struck me, that slogan I have never related to and had annoyed me made sense. “Remember When.”
I was taken back to the many times I’d made the walk of shame to pick up my car; the walks out of houses I didn’t remember entering; not having a clue what happened the night before; my face puffy and my skin pasty in the bright daylight.
I laughed.
Because it had taken me a year and a half to understand the value of that slogan which I had thought was obvious and unnecessary.
My friends looked at my inappropriate laugh and so I explained by saying, “I know that the chilli is gross but it’s a wonderful thing for me to see this morning. I know I left much worse wreckage; if crooked parking and rotting food is the worst damage the party goers left, I applaud them.”
The tone seemed to change. We all agreed; someone swept the chilli off of the parking lot and the conversation changed from the judgemental feeling to gratitude.
A car pulled in and a man got out of the passenger side; he looked akward as he approached us on the way to his car. He mumbled “Good Morning” from behind his sunglasses and a few people greeted him by name. Someone said “looks like you had a great time last night” in a friendly voice and the man responded, “I think it’s time to stop having so many great nights, you know how that goes….”
He walked to his car with his head down, grabbed the trays of food off the top and exited the situation quickly.
This man’s shame was palpable. 
Someone told me that he had been in the program a few times in the past; that brought it all home for me.
The fragility of my sober life kicked me in the gut.
I’ve prayed for that man many times since, and for myself and my friends in my 12-Step Program.
At the close of the weekend I was grateful a mountain of little things, but spending time with Hubby and being reminded that I’m on the right path were at the top of the list.
When I write this blog I often struggle to find balance. I am a Christian, alcoholic, mother, wife, speaker…….and I tend to write about all of these aspects of my life. My readership is quite varied, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m a pious, legalistic person…..and yet I want to run up to everyone and share my faith so they can feel the love and purpose that I have found.
I have been praying about this balance and how to present myself here well. 
Last week, while I was away I feel that I found my answer in the form of a God-slap.
The retreat our family went to offers chapel services twice a day.
Two years ago when we visited I was aghast, who the HELL would ever want to go to chapel that much??? Keep in mind there’s a gorgeous beach there to enjoy, add in my self-centered state of mind and I’m certain you’ll have the feel of where I was coming from.
This year I was eager to go to chapel, the children were in program so I headed out with my notebook in hand. The speaker for the week was Dr David Earley who is by appearance, an unassuming, quieter man. He has a kind and friendly face….on his site he is described as “He is a quietly effective author, professor, mentor and pastor.”
This guy isn’t quiet…he’s a powerhouse!
Generally speaking, when I go to listen to a speaker I bring a notebook and take a page of notes. During Dr. Earley’s talks I took 3+ pages of notes each session. Seriously folks, when you pray for guidance from God be prepared for Him to smack you in the forehead with the answers. In this case, Dr. Earley was God’s conduit for me to hear the response.
I had been struggling with the dilemma of how to project myself on my blog, and also my insecurity regarding my “newness” within my faith. I don’t mean that I had doubts about my faith, quite the opposite. My life IS changed, my foundation for my life in Christ is solid.
There is no turning back for this girl, I have truly received the Grace given to me by God and had been struggling with fears of how it will be received by others.
That black box within my mind had been spewing negative, doubtful thoughts about myself. I was feeling that people who had been in the Christian faith for some time wouldn’t be open to hearing me. Again I’d fallen victim to my past behaviors. Without me realizing I was shooting myself in the foot before beginning. I have acknowledged this character defect, prayed diligently about it and yet it still exists.
And so when I heard Dr. Early speak about how it’s our mission to stand in the victory that Jesus has already won for us, I felt smacked in the head by God.
Ephesians 2:4-6
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus
God hasn’t been saying to me to wait, to learn more and become “mature” in Christianity. I am already living “in Christ”, and by living “in Christ” everything that is true of him is true of us. 
Dr. Earley used this as an example:
Fact: Jesus was, is and always will be victorious.
Fact: I am living “in Christ”
Fact: Therefore I am already victorious.
See what I mean about the God-slap?
Today I am claiming the victory!
I am claiming the confidence that is mine because God loves me. By focusing upon God’s love for me I can continue to kindle my love for God and share that with others.
What does this mean to my life?
Well first off there is nothing like starting your day knowing you’re truly loved for everything you are. 
It also means that I will continue to develop my outline for the Women’s Ministry I have been working on.
I will also publicly offer myself as a speaker, I have begun to do this but now will actively contact local organizations and groups.
That’s a big deal for me and I’m thrilled to begin this branch of my journey.
1 John: 1-4
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our complete
A.A. 24 Hour a Day: Thought for the Day
We in Alcoholics Anonymous do not try to chart the path for the human soul or try to lay out a blueprint of the working of faith, as one might plan a charity drive. We do tell the newcomer that we have renewed our faith in a Higher Power. In the telling, our faith is further renewed. We believe that faith is always close at hand, waiting for those who will listen to the heartbeat of the spirit. We believe there is a force for good in the universe and that if we link up with this force, we are carried onward to a new life. Am I in this stream of goodness?
Meditation for the Day 
God will protect you from the forces of evil, if you will rely on Him. You can face all things through the power of God, which strengthens you. Once God has set on you His stamp and seal of ownership, all His strength will serve and protect you. Remember that you are a child of the Father. Realize that the Father’s help is always ready and available to all His children, so that they can face anything. God will do all that is necessary for your spiritual well-being, if you will let Him live His way.

Yesterday I was on fire in the morning, I was consumed with the idea of helping someone else. This is a normal thought for me in the mornings, through helping others I’ve found that my serenity is easier to achieve.
Yesterday however I was inclined to shout it out, on both my personal Facebook page and my SoberJulieDoingLife pages I wrote the following status:
 Grab this day by the throat and shake out all of the happiness possible by helping someone else.”
 I also tweeted it and received quick responses supporting the thought.
Earlier in the week, I had heard that two ladies from my 12 step program were in the hospital. I don’t know these women very well but planned to go and spend some time visiting them.
Amazingly my husband was off work for the day (as is typical I’d forgotten this) and so I didn’t need a babysitter.
I had been entertaining visions of my 7&5 year daughters having wheelchair races up the halls and creating general havoc during our visit.

Off I went, very relieved that I would be able to focus, and I decided to stop along the way at my friend’s florist shop. I picked them up the cutest Gerber daisies with a happy face on them, they use berries, googly eyes and pipe cleaner. When I was in the hospital years ago someone brought me one and it brightened my day, so now I bring one to each person I visit.
**names have been changed**
When I arrived at the hospital I headed to the wing of the building I had been told they were in. I approached the nurse at the desk and asked to see Gail and Mary. The apparently very busy nurse stared me directly in the eyes and asked for their last names in a very snotty voice. I wasn’t being defensive here folks, she was seriously irritated by me. There I stood, holding the flowers with my enthusiasm deflating in the face of this nasty response and I realized that I had no idea what their last names are.

Politely I told her that, I offered to tell her what their ailments are and their arrival dates but alas this uber condescending nurse didn’t think that could help.
In that moment I was livid inside, didn’t this nurse know that I was trying to help another human, that this was my serenity she was messing with??? How bloody dare she act as thought she couldn’t help me!!!

Taking a deep breath and offering a tight smile, I began to thank her for her time and head to the information station when a cleaning woman came over to me and loudly informed me that there were no patients in that wing named Mary or Gail. She suggested trying the G wing.

In the G wing the nurses were super helpful, they also wanted a last name but when I explained that I didn’t know them there was no ice wall in my face. They simply checked the roster, there was no Gail but they directed me to Mary’s room.

I was beginning to feel a bit better, my helping another person vibe was back! Mary wasn’t in her room, her roommate told me she was in the dining room and that she would love the flower. That she didn’t have visitors and it would make her day. I decided not to wait for her and left it on the window, asking her roommate to let her know I hoped she was feeling better.

On my way out a nurse gestured to a woman slowly making her way down the hall in the wheelchair and said “there’s Mary now”. I went over to Mary and as I got closer to her I was thinking how changed she was. She has Lou-Gehrig’s disease and I hadn’t seen her in about a month so it wasn’t until I heard her speak that I knew it wasn’t the Mary I was looking for.
GASP right???
Now what?
I greeted this Mary and let her know I hoped she was doing well and that I hoped she had a great day.

And I bolted outta there!

I wasn’t about to take back the flower that the nurses and her roommate had seen me put in her room. Just because I’m a dumb ass doesn’t mean that I want everyone to realize it.

And so I went to the last wing, found the correct Mary and Gail and had very nice visits with each of them.
When I told Gail the story she laughed her head off. She has heart issues and I was frightened she was going to blow a valve or something when she spit her water out, laughing at me.

Her amusement was fantastic, she’s a very special woman to me……just the type of gal who can get away with telling me I’ve had lipstick on my teeth for an hour, but she hadn’t told me because it was entertaining to her.

As I’ve said, my intention yesterday had been to Grab this day by the throat and shake out all of the happiness possible by helping someone else.”

Instead God grabbed me by the throat and shook out all the happiness I could give to someone else by using a stranger. Unintentionally I’d put a smile on a strangers face, given someone a lovely flower to enhance her hospital room, been polite and friendly to a nurse having a bad day, chatted with a cleaner and expressed my gratitude, spoken with a woman who is a very friendly roommate, spent time with Mary whom I didn’t know well and finally given my friend Gail a reason to laugh her head off at me.

That’s what I call a GREAT day.

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

AA 24 Hour A Day – Meditation for the Day

Learn daily the lesson of trust and calm in the midst of the storms of life. Whatever sorrow or difficulty the day may bring, God’s command to you is the same. Be grateful, humble, calm, and loving to all people. Leave each soul the better for having met you or heard you. For all kinds of people, this should be your attitude: a loving desire to help and an infectious spirit of calmness and trust in God. You have the answer to loneliness and fear, which is calm faith in the goodness and purpose in the universe.

Today I am returning to the topic of our thoughts and how they are the instigator to our behaviours. I wrote about this in late March with my article titled Black Box of my Mind. This article quickly became very popular; it was spotted by a representative from BlogHer and was syndicated to be published under the title Learning to Trust Your Mind.
That was exciting to me, but what has really resonated with me were the responses I received via comments, emails and conversations with friends. Everyone shared the same message with me; that they have been been living daily life unaware of their thoughts and the impact they have upon their lives.
This has spurred me on to developing a workshop for women, one which will help them be aware of their thoughts and assist them in making the changes which will shatter the behaviours which are holding them back.
This process, like many others in life, is simple. It’s simple but not easy.
Retraining ourselves to be open and aware takes effort. Changing years of patternistic behaviours take time and energy ….and most of all a true willingness.
So let’s assume we’ve all gotten humble and are willing and begin by talking about thoughts in general.
Thoughts come into our minds like the wind blows. We don’t consciously initiate a thought. If we were to think “I will think right now” the thought would already have begun. The same goes for the reverse, we cannot consciously decide not to have thoughts.
Realizing that thoughts are not initiated by our conscious efforts; if a typical person experiences upwards of 50 000 thoughts a day imagine, how we are affected over time by them.
Thinking, both reflexive and reflective, is what the brain does. It reflexively maintains and protects the body, without which it could not survive. This involuntary brain activity is a form of thinking, albeit at the subconscious level. All forms of thinking, even conscious reflective thought, is really nothing more than electrical and chemical energy combined and arranged in certain ways. These thoughts signify nothing in and of themselves.
Why then, are we affected by our thoughts? A thought is really an innate experience; it is harmless and holds no meaning in its entirety. It doesn’t actually affect us at all when it stands alone. It is only after we attach emotion to the thought that it holds value to our behaviours.
The fact is that we are rarely aware of our thoughts; they affect our perceptions, choices and reactions. This inner self-talk affects how we interact with others, and how we respond to situations. This internal “noise” can be used to make significant changes in our lives and bodies.
Rather than carrying on as we have I the past, if we are determined, we can begin to be conscious of these thoughts. I’m not suggesting that we should be aware of each thought and analyze it; that would be a ridiculously huge effort.
What I’m suggesting is that we focus upon the thoughts which have negative emotions attached to them. If suddenly you are irritated by someone or something, pause and take the time to identify the thought which brought this feeling to the surface.
By learning to identify the thoughts we experience these negative emotions with we will begin our journey to changing our thought patterns and the behaviours which result from them.
In the next week take the time to begin this process, next week I will continue with the next portion of this process.
It is only once we become truly aware we can take the steps to experience this journey fully and receive the gifts which are available to us.
It is officially Summer!
My 5 & 7 year old daughters were awfully excited to inform me and share all they have learned in school about this season. 
We sat over breakfast talking about it being the longest day of the year and all the plans they are making for their days with no school. It was seriously cute when 8pm rolled around and I was tucking them into bed; Chelsea(5) told me not to worry about it being so bright outside; Mr Sun hadn’t forgotten to go to sleep, he’s allowed to stay up later that day because it’s Summer.
Two weeks ago Chelsea, who is in senior kindergarten, brought home a bean plant. For our family this is somewhat a marker of time, each year the kindergarten classes learn about plants and grow a seed.
Chelsea explained to me how they had taken these plastic cups, placed folded up paper towel in the bottom and put in a green bean seed in the bottom. Each day the kids were responsible for giving their plant a bit of water and watching them grow.
When the teacher gave me the plant to take home a few weeks ago I was shocked. Sydney’s plants have never looked like this one, it was HUGE. It already had multiple shoots and looked extremely healthy. When we got it home we decided to keep it next to the kitchen sink, hoping this would remind us to water it.
Chelsea has forgotten all about her plant in the last two weeks, it has been pushed out of the way more times than I can count and frankly the feeding routine has been lax.
And yet… it is today.
This beautiful plant has grown without proper nourishment or attention. Without us realizing, it has gotten large enough to be planted in the ground. Because Chelsea tended to it well at the beginning of its life, it now can provide nourishment to us with its beans.
This caught me off guard, and of course my mind associates this with God’s grace.
For years there were people around me who had exposed me to God and this grace of His.
There were many people who lived their lives as a journey, in a relationship with God.
People who chose to be sober to experience the journey with a clear head.
People who I didn’t turn to, people who I didn’t seek out and yet they were people who were praying for me.
Seeds had been planted all over my life, I had seen what it could be like journeying with God and what a sober life could be for me. I wasn’t even aware those seeds existed, and yet they grew within me.
We planted little clematis vines in our backyard 5 years ago. I babied these plants, dreaming of the day I would see them trailing over our chain link fence. That day didn’t come, much to my dismay, they withered and died in our acidic soil.
Then 3 years ago we decided to put in a pool.
We ripped out that chain link fence and the construction machinery used a path directly over where I had planted those clematis vines.
Over the last 3 years since the pool was installed, we have planted gardens, laid a patio and this year we were planning on planting vines again.
In May hubby and I were out back planning what to plant when he called me over to the fence line.
We couldn’t believe it, 3 out of 5 of the clematis vines were growing!!
There they were, rising out of the sandy, rocky, untended soil!
I have no idea how or why they survived. I thought they had died, I thought I had pulled them all out, but apparently I overlooked 3 of them.
You can see in the photo that they are amazingly healthy and beautiful, growing there in my rock garden.
When I bring you closer you can see that they are about to flower, that day I had been hoping for is soon to come. All with no help from us.
Isn’t life amazing?
How from just one little seed or one little plant such beauty can grow?
That bean plant has thrived after being left alone, those clematis vines have survived beautifully through abuse, neglect and horrific environments.
Each moment in life we have the opportunity to drop seeds, to influence our surroundings and the people around us in a positive way.
If we are aware of things greater than ourselves in life, trust in God and plant these seeds the outcomes can amaze us.
The people who dropped seeds around me in my life did it by example, by sharing themselves openly with me. They didn’t push, they didn’t demand anything, they simply responded to me with love.

 By understanding that we cannot control people, places or things we are free.
Freedom grants us the opportunity to affect change from a place of love, rather than a place of personal gain.
We may not be able to control people, or directly affect growth but we can plant the seeds.
God will ensure they get the nourishment they need.
Matthew 13:31–32
He set another parable before them, saying, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field; which indeed is smaller than all seeds. But when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches.”
AA Big Book – pg 100
When we look back, we realize that the things which came to us when we put ourselves in God’s hands were better than anything we could have planned.