Jo Ann Alo

writer – rhymer – bible junky

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.

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Looking at this picture can you feel his hands? They’re warm, right? Soft? Maybe a lil clammy? But can you see what it means? I want to see through touch. Move beyond what it appears to be and see if I can spot its meaning.

Touch goes deeper than skin. Whether good touch or bad…it leaves its prints. Touch penetrates our mind and isn’t soon (if ever) forgotten.

I don’t travel well. Motion sickness. Need I say more? Most flights my husband sits with my head in his hands. When my first grandson was born his parents decided to move him to Kigali, Rwanda. I made no promises to visit. I promised myself I wouldn’t. For his first 5 months of life I drove to the north side of Chicago. Kissing, snuggling, singing, rocking, changing diapers ~ anything I could do, I did, to get my fill of this kid before he left. Seven months later I had a boarding pass in my hand. 7, 711 miles. Seventeen hours ~ coach. Curled my body up in airport chairs for something like 9 hours.

Off the plane, I can see him across the ropes, in his mother’s arms. Thunder rolls up in my chest as I remember the feeling ~ the touch of his skin.

There was no exchanging of touch in my family growing up. None. We didn’t sit on laps, or hold hands. Hugging was as comfortable as farting out loud in public. Ya just didn’t do it. When I started dating my husband and met his family…all those people did was hug. I love you’s were handed out like cheap cigars. Those were each family’s traditions past down the tree.

I want to plant a new tree. Where touch is welcome but not mandatory. Can we practice touch? Come together when you want closeness or need comfort, and let’s explore its deeper meaning. I want to know what we were missing. Searching for new insight, I studied this picture.

Then I saw it! Trust!

Paul put both hands inside mine because he trusts me.

Touch was a faculty Jesus used to heal people. If Jesus touched you, you received your sight, mind, or legs. His touch could cleanse your skin ~ even start your heart. At his hands everyone walked away healthy, but not everyone left changed. All were ready to save their skin, but few were willing to put their trust in his hands.

Anyone can touch another ~ but trusting someone is a whole other feeling.

I think about Jesus heading out to touch our brokenness. How far he was willing to walk with our burdens on his back. How long he is willing to wait before we trust him.

When Jesus entered as an infant he came close up. Close enough to touch. First-born of the Spirit ~ he’s able to get closer. Near enough to trust.

With that picture in mind ~ I’ll gladly ride out this turbulence trusting my heart in His hands.

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Corn fields have stood as fences around my world since I was a kid. And they’re standing ever so tall this morning. The sun and season are painting their cool, green, vibrant ~ to warm, glowing copper. Growing up we were told not to go past them. “Don’t go in the fields! You’ll never find your way out”, they warned.

Yesterday was such a surreal day for me. A professional Literary Agent said I was a gifted writer. She used words like compelling, amazing, fantastic, high level writing. I waited for the shoe to drop. It never did.

She is pushing me into the field. The place voices always cautioned, “Don’t go.” “You’ll never find your way.” Well, I’m going. I’m going because of God’s voice. He says he’s got purposes for me ~ gifts he’s given. And I believe Him.

No, I’ve never been in here. Gonna get confused, turned around, probably sit down in the middle of it and cry now and then, but sooner or later the Farmer will be here and all these scary stalks will be for the combine. And my backyard will be nothing but wide-open space.

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No he’s not. But he is in my club. I get private shows ~ sometimes twice a week. Brushing our teeth at night, he takes the stage at the bathroom sink. He (LA), Loves Acronyms. I complain about them, (DYSE) Do You Speak English? This went on for half an hour. Finally, lying in bed he says, “GD.” I assume, “Goodnight Dear?” “No, Goodnight Doll.” Sides split, tears run, and our crowd of 2 roars.

Last weeks’ show I call, Sabbatical. He had lunch with a close friend that afternoon. The friend shared all about his relaxing six-weeks of rejuvenation. (In case you don’t know this, my husband opened his own flooring company 26 years ago.) Knowing full well this dude hasn’t rested in 55 years, I ask, “Can you imagine 6 weeks away from work? What does that even feel like?”

“Oh!” He can hardly hold in his toothpaste. “I’ve had plenty of sabbaticals honey. Every morning after breakfast, I have a 5-minute sabbatical, and if all digests well, I’ll have a second one in the afternoon. Remember the time I fell out of a tree and fractured my T12? I got a ton of rest that month.” He didn’t stop there. Rinsing, flossing, wiping, back extensions, turning down the covers ~ we were (IS) In Stitches. God…I love this man.

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Every other week she races in to rescue. This skilled, dedicated, strong woman enters my home with a recycled, black, burlap bag filled with who knows what and one warm smile.

Bravely she approaches the front door unaware of the blowup that’s intensifying on the other side. I’m overcome by the last 2 days of smoke building inside my chest about what I need to accomplish in order to become a published author. Because, in this building, all that should have been done…yesterday. I’m hiding all of that from her, because, who wants to be alone in a house with a woman who’s about to throw her new MacBook out the second floor window? What do I know about URL’s, domains, and HTML? (Acronyms: my nemesis). Writers now need to have an audience before they publish. The days when good writing just went to print are gone. Now you need a platform: proof that 10 million people are interested in what you have to say. I’m supposed to “brand” myself and promote my name. Have I mentioned along the way that I’m an introvert? Yikes. This place is goin up in flames.

She hands me this cup.

The Holy Spirit called 911. My cleaning lady showed up with one cup of everything I needed to remember, written on it. That’s all it took. Eight ounces to put out this burning heart. One cup to say, “Trust Me. You are mine.” I hugged her (twice), hugged the cup, grabbed the Puffs and went to my bedroom. I have to get out of her way. She has a schedule to keep, a mess to clean up, and other lives to save today.

She has no idea. Never told her how she frees me to concentrate, work, and refresh my cluttered head. She doesn’t know how her hands are used to clear the air and sweep up the ashes of this past week.

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I’m an introvert.

Gosh, I hate the sound of that. Not because being an introvert is a negative (though, generally it’s considered one), but because it sounds like I am something less than human. I’m a person who happens  to thrive in quiet spaces.

Contrary to Dictionary.com, I’m not shy. Susan Cain, author of, Quiet, says, “Shyness is fear of social judgment. Introversion is more about how you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation”. Learning the distinction between the two is repairing the way I recognize myself.

“She’s shy”, they’d say, because I wasn’t talking. I accepted that. Owned it. OK, I”m shy! I guess I know who I am now. I have an excuse for my failure to find words. That’s not to say I didn’t have fears. Oh, I had plenty of those. Or that I’ve never worried over any sort of social judgement. I have. But, I’m not afraid to interact with reasonable, law- abiding (even not so law-abiding) individuals. In fact, I quite enjoy it at times ~ for a time. I just can’t talk for hours, and the faster the crowd, the sooner my fuel runs out. Can ya hear the difference between the two? I’m starting to.

Susan continues, “Extroverts thrive in social situations. Where introverts feel at their most alive, and their most switched on, and their most capable when in quieter, more low-key environments”. My husband is an extrovert, (sorry, a person who happens to flourish in busy spaces). Activity and volume wind him up. With our grandsons…he plays them under the table. He’s all sticks as swords, obstacle courses, and magic shows. Me, I’m drainin like water from the tub. I’m paper and color pencil. Give me expertly rhymed, perfectly timed Dr. Seuss, and I can rock slowly for hours.

Sitting and writing in the quiet of my office, windows open, birds and breeze the only voices I hear ~ I’m lit like New Year’s Eve.

In my young adult years I had a difficult time sorting out why I didn’t want to go. Ya know…to the party, the wedding, the picnic, the bar mitzvah. (Never been to a bar mitzvah, just wanted to write the words). I always thought; what’s my problem?

Dad was always adamant about space between neighbors. It’s still a family joke that Dad doesn’t like people. I question that now ~ for myself ~ having agonized for years that I must hate people. I never seem to want to be around them. Why do I want to leave the party when it’s just getting started? I can’t tell you how much guilt comes in casting my own self out of society surmising that people are my problem. The only problem was a lack of words, and social bias. Failing to understand and appreciate how I run, respond, and recharge.

Are you an introvert? Have you cast yourself out of the culture because you haven’t the legs for the pace? Or are you still shifting your personality into an extroverts Maserati, dragging your promising potential in the dust?

Y’all know my struggle with words. This is part of that effort to make room in this world for me (for us). Finding new words to clean this single, steady engine, open the wheels, and perform at optimum speed.

I haven’t actually started, Quiet. Amazon is bringing it by today. I’m sure I’ll have much more to say.

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When was the last time you were jealous?
     I know when a woman has eyes for my husband. And what I feel inside isn’t pretty. Fire shoots out every pour and eyes bulge like fists for a fight. I stand for my man. Dare you to bat those eyes even one more time. No one could ever love him the way I do. Ever fight for him the way I would.
     In high school he broke up with me to date someone else. I wasn’t jealous. If he was no longer interested, well, so long loser.                                              
     Rumors started circling that I was combing the halls looking to beat her up. So I found her. Told her, “Go for it. I got no problem with you.” If he wants to date someone else. Later. 
     That flips when someone is after my boyfriend. You think you can compete with me for his attention? Puh, right.
     Once we walk down the aisle this all gets legit. We’ve now got grueling hours invested in this gig. Again, if he wants out, don’t let the door hitcha. But stepin out in front of me and mine will cost ya. I will stab with eyes, snarl with spit, and bump with chest. 
     Reading Exodus, I had forgotten how God names himself, Jealous. It’s in chapter 34. Take a look. It’s awesome. I got to wondering about that. A ton of scriptures backing that up started rattling off in my mind. Felt so wanted, shielded, fought for.  
     No one wants us more than the LORD. 
     But if we don’t want him, He appeases us. Not in a snarky, could-care-less way, but a grieving way. Like loosing a most beloved. 
     If we exchange rings with God, join hands, hearts, and spirits with Him, things get hairy. If you want out ~ forget it. He’s not budging. Yeah, he’ll let out rope, but he won’t let go. 
     For the last year, my eyes have been lingering on darkness. Ya know, like overly occupied with bad news. Attentive to what is going wrong ~ ignoring all that’s moving really well. Darkness keeps dancing right in front of me. But lately, slits of light are penetrating through. 
     God’s jealous. 
     He wants these eyes zeroed in on Light. Enraptured in Us. Taken by his goodness all around. Breathless from the heat of his hand on my spirit. Smitten with the beauty of his creation, provision, and presence. As if to say, Look into My eyes. No one could ever love you the way I do. No one could ever fight for you the way I have ~ will ~ am. 
     Later, darkness. You can’t compete with that.