Jo Ann Alo

writer ~ dreamer ~ bible junky

What’s not to love about it?

When my kids were little we visited the library weekly. In fact my oldest daughter says, “That’s one of my best memories as a child.” (Hallelujah, she has one.)

Their little eyes roaming for titles, Nancy Drew, The Baby-Sitters Club, The Berenstain Bears, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. My youngest remembers none of this because by the time she was old enough to remember we were no longer borrowing books ~ we were buying them from Barnes and Noble.

Little minds melding into the characters’ experience. Imaginations sinking into settings. Hopes rising with the plot. Hearts bracing for the conflict ~ relief resting in resolution.

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I’m running there myself lately. After a long day of writing, reading someone else’s story is a great way to relax. Step out of my story, and sit with a friends’.

When I was a kid, I only read for school, so for me, reading was a turn off. As an adult, I started reading recommended books, but rarely finished. Its title on a coffee table for weeks with a sad bookmark stuck in the same spot until shelved, serving as a constant cut down ~ I don’t like to read.

My daughter, Amanda, bought me a memoir 8 years ago: One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voscamp. Read it 3 times. Until I realized; these memoir’s are all over the place! Where have I been? These are my books! I LOVE reading you! Learning the stories of others who lost some part of themselves in a messed up world only to find Grace and Redemption waiting for them. Your stories are like balm to my brain.

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My enthusiasm got the best of me and I’ve held some rough stories in my hands. Though I found my niche for reading, not every memoir is for my mind. Some stories hit to close to home, some to heavy to follow, others to dark to imagine. As a recovering people-pleaser I found it a strange phenomenon any time I brought an author back to the library without finishing what they had to say. Sliding their personal words across the desk, or worse, ditching them down the drop box, like we couldn’t make it as confidants.

This is all a part of getting to know myself. Opening and protecting my mind all at once. Allowing the unknown a chance but relinquishing what paralyzes my heart. The truth is, I’m sensitive ~ something I have incessantly told myself I am not. There, I said it. I’m sensitive. And I don’t care who knows it. Funny thing is…everyone who knows me…knows this. I had to go to the library to read it for myself.

Reading (like television, video, and music) goes deeper than I once thought. By the time I was a teenager, I’d built a wall around myself. Nothing and no one could hurt me. The problem was the wall only went over my face. Every other part of me was open fire. Now I have the wounds of anxiety to prove it. It’s not all terrible. I am reading myself much more positively. What my mind couldn’t have understood, didn’t know, refused to hear is now coming in loud and clear.

What do you enjoy reading or listening to? What sort of stories or songs relax, open, and reveal something about you? No, really…I want to know. Send them to me!

Maybe you would like a library card?

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We’re waiting to leave for the airport. Our flight was canceled because of the storm and I hoped the trip as well. No such luck. Bumped 8 hours and we’re still leaving. I’m sitting on the couch waiting these last few minutes with toothbrush and tomorrows underwear wondering why leaving home always feels like a one-way ticket.

It’s times like this I wish for the heart of a lion. Fearless strength and determination. Enough power to overcome any external force coming against me.

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Deep abdominal  breathing keeps me calm.

The flight attendant gestures emergency procedures, with a smile. I wonder if I can just ride with my mask and inflated jacket to save time. My husband is digging through the overhead pulling out a red hardhat belonging to the gentleman in 1A. Giggles start their engines and we’re off.

Our tickets were business class, but because of the storm and switching of planes, we are on the front side of the blue mesh curtain. Everyone in the back wrestles with foil between their teeth, while we recline seats, sip drinks, hold warm roasted almonds within a shining, white, delicate dish. We sprawl and sink above the clouds at 35,000 feet, while our old friends rub elbows and squeeze cheeks. It feels grossly unfair.

I noticed the preflight briefing was exactly the same as the economy section. There are no escape pods for first class. No parachute under my seat, just a life vest with a blow pipe and a pull string same as the rear. When you enter the plane you’re special. Exiting in disaster…we’re all equal.

I just finished a memoir, Sober Mercies, by Heather Kopp. She wrote something I keep having to repeat to myself, “Life on earth is nothing if not unfair.” Somehow I’ve known this, but today I’m forming an agreement with it. I want to stride alongside the truth of it, instead of it always tripping me up. I want to stop measuring who’s winning and losing. Instead, acknowledge…earth is an unfair race.

My grandkids are growing up 5 hours away, and sometimes it doesn’t seem fair. Without a dose of medication my nervous system takes off like a Boeing 747 emptying me into depression, and I feel gipped. My husband and daughter suffer with chronic pain and it’s so unfair. When my brother-in-law died of mental illness at 20 years old, that wasn’t fair. My husband works at the Cook County Jail where a man is serving 16 years for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Does that sound fair to you? In Africa, at this very moment, Mothers carry their babies in search of clean water. Life on earth is nothing if not unfair.

The older I get, the more clearly I see the scribbled lines of unfairness. In my 20’s and 30’s I ran with blinders on ~ keeping the pace ~ running the race. My 40’s I swept out the nest and tried rebuilding the figure the kids tore down. Now 55, weakness is improving my perspective. It’s closing in and I’m winding down. Heather’s right. Life on earth is not fair, and much to my passive surprise, it never was.

I’m not going to resolve times crashing plane of injustice. I’m going to trust in a just God. He said he would bring justice to the poor and save the children of the needy…and I believe him. He said he would not forget the cry of the humble, prayer of the destitute, and the oppression of the weak. He promises to heal the brokenhearted, save what was lost, make all things new. He calls himself the Lion of Judah ~ the King of Kings, and as his daughter, he crowns me a runner in that race.

Infant in a manger? More precisely…Savior from sin.

Who wants to open a sack of sin at Christmas? Look, I like jingle belling as much as anybody, but Christmas is not all Nat King Cole and slippers under the tree. We pine for love, joy and peace, not to mention kindness and gentleness, but when was the last time we wished (prayed) for self-control, faithfulness, and long-suffering? Christmas is about the sin God came to slay. I’m not talking about beating ourselves up, (which, by the way, is a most deceptive sin) but rather…letting sin go. 

You think I’m trying to crush your chestnuts? I’m inviting you to receive a gift. The Gifter~takes away the sin of the world. One who came as a crying baby, is the answer to all our cries.

We don’t want God telling us what to do, until darkness falls so heavy we don’t know what to do. No one wants to spend their Christmas on the realities of sin, but dark is real as light. I’m writing about receiving a Light so bright darkness loses its power over you.

Is it any wonder God used a star to point out the light of the world?

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The Prince of Peace got up in the grill of the prince of the air, and He’s killin it, for you. This is why we fall on our knees, praise His holy name~why all is calm, how all gets bright. The innocent comes to take on the guilt, so the guilty stands innocent. He comes to make His home in us~His home ours. Let’s fa la la la la longer than 31 days. Let’s admit our grinchyness, so He can illuminate our hearts. Believe in the Deliverer from all our burdens, so the devil, who hovers in darkness, will daily flee out of sight. Let’s tear up our lists and lay our weary world down.

Christmas was born 1,000 years after Mary birthed salvation on the earth. God has seen all the naughty~it’s why He gave the Christ.

I’m dreaming of a right Christmas,

with every God-given word I write.

May your ways be innocent and wise,

and may all your Christmas’s be life. 

John chapter 6 the Jews ask Jesus, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” I love this question ~ because it’s always been mine. My religion propagated work. (As is the case for most.) It was about building a moral platform from which to safeguard your future. How can I secure immortality?

When I first read it I thought people were asking out of goodness gushing out their hearts. Volunteers wanting to work for God, save the world, change the status quo…blah blah blah. Then it leavened. These people were hungry, living under the oppression of Roman rule. They wanted to get done what God was known to do: save. Tell us what we have to do in order to survive. If this were not their motive Jesus would not have answered what he did.

“This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” John 6:29 (Emphasis mine.)

Prior to this exchange Jesus was warning them they needed to stop plodding for food which perishes (their temporary life), and direct their efforts toward food (Himself) enduring to the everlasting one.

“Lord, make me know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am.” Psalm 39:4

I’m it. I’m your bread. I am how you survive, Jesus says without blushing, hesitation, or question. The bread I give (my life) feeds the world. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” That is hard to swallow. This requires steel-toes. Especially when your stomach is growling most days.

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Live on Me.

Eat what you’ve never really tried. Sit at the table of My extravagant love, and you won’t worry how you will survive ~ you will sing knowing you’ll never die.

“He who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” John 6:57

It is as simple and laborious as fine bread. Believing it, is the work.

It’s like waiting in line for your life. Everyone ahead of you is pushing a full cart. Those behind, balance to keep from dropping necessities. The hour is late, time is short. You can’t stand their predicament, they don’t recognize yours. You never seem to get anywhere, except in the way of progress. Apologies are your specialty. You won’t call because they’re busy. They stop calling because you never do.

Branding yourself a burden is an ingrained imposition.

I just bought 2 blouses and wanted a couple buttons moved. The seamstress talked me into altering the sleeves instead. I left. Wrestled all the way home, afraid those long sleeves I couldn’t wait to wear would never come home. I wanted to turn around but couldn’t. She made it clear; this was smarter. I would look the fool. Going back, knocking on her overworking door, interrupting her business, calling her up those basement stairs again, undoing what’s been done. I’d be an imposition.

I paid $120 for 2 more shirts to hang with the crowd of short sleeves loitering in my closet. And to top it all off, when I called the women with the quick scissors, asking if it were possible to re-lengthen them, I blamed myself. “My fault. I should have kept to my guns and done what I came to do.” No admittance on the other side. No…sorry for my part. She kindly offered a credit toward my next needling.

Being an imposition is tiring. (Not to mention expensive). It’s not anyone’s fault I don’t speak my thoughts, can’t open my mouth, can’t believe in myself. No one has ever told me: You are an imposition. Ever. It’s a shameless voice that comes as a kid. A big tall bully behind your mind.

The trap of beating yourself up is hard to break. It only took 20 minutes to escape this time, but it still ran away with valuable energy. I’m learning to forgive myself. It’s hard being patient with a recovering imposition.

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My husband brought me flowers today. No, he did nothing wrong. He’s reminding me how Christ makes everything right ~ everything beautiful in its time. Including me.

I wanted to sing.

When we were little, sister and I had twin beds next to each other. Between them was my walk to the stage. Carefully placing the needle on a spinning 45, I strutted to a wobbly wooden chair. Hair brush in hand singing Crocodile Rock and Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog. It was my 15 minutes of fame. Swinging hips, snapping a finger, the entire auditorium filled with music and admirers.

It’s lonely living a life you only wish for.

Last night I heard Lauren Daigle sing her heart out to the Lord. She worshipped Him with her voice. I do that to. But no one besides God wants to hear me sing. She has gifts ~ and all God’s gifts are for all the world. I write my heart out to the Lord. I worship Him by writing. Believing His gift of composing words reinvents the spotlight.

Everyone has gifts from God. Everyone.

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Gifts can be used for His glory or ours. The difference lies in fullness.

There are many dreams to chase. Selections are endless. But gifts are preeminent and Hand-picked. Given, but not always opened. Powerful, but rarely appreciated. Manifest, therefore minimized. The shadow over our gift is us. Not catching myself made in the image of God blinds me to the glory of God ~ which is me. You.

Snapping our pictures in front of city sites, mountains, canyons, oceans, and Lauren Daigle’s we frame ourselves in a worthier view. But there was nothing created more beautiful than you, to God. The Creator of all created you ~ using His triune self as the model.

Voices have labored long robbing our richness. There is One mightier than they. Speaking in our ears ~ that our heart would be broken, open, to hear truth; the one that sets you free. Free to live, grow, thrive, give, spill the light of His glory over every little corner of the globe.

At the concert we had the opportunity to sit with a crowd of 50 and ask Lauren questions. Raising her hand, a woman marked how she’s been one of her “followers” since Lauren had less than 1,000. Laurens’ got 6 digits now, so that was pretty impressive. That envies in my ears until the truth ushers it out: my worth has nothing to do with how many follow me, and everything to do with the 1 I follow. Freedom feels good. I wish it for the world.