Category Archives: spirituality

The White Light of Grace

The White Light of Grace by Lillie Leonardi

The White Light of Grace by Lillie Leonardi

“Purpose implies a spiritual intention, a goal that helps define why an individual chose to travel to this earthly plane.” Lillie Leonardi

Lillie Leonardi and I go back a few years. My sister Cally was instrumental in helping her with her first book, “In the Shadow of a Badge.” When Cally pitched a story to the Huffington Post about Lillie’s book (during a fourth of July weekend), Lillie’s book took off in popularity. She’s now a Hay House author and “The White Light of Grace” is her second book.

I have had the pleasure of being around Lillie through my sister. My feeling about her is that she is tough on the outside and soft and caring on the inside. We have some core things in common. She was a young mother and my daughter was a young mother. We talked about this once and her sharing was very helpful. Our fathers were key in our lives and we were very close to them. We both have had pasts that were affected by alcoholism the disease.

In reading “In the White Light of Grace” it struck me how much Lillie has pushed herself to grow. She became a police officer at a fairly young age and at a time when not many women were doing such a thing. My favorite story is when she responded to an emergency call for a domestic situation. She found a woman in the home, assaulted and alone. She interviewed her and as Lillie was walking out and onto the porch, the woman’s husband came walking around the corner. Here’s what she says:

“I knew instinctively that he must be the woman’s husband. No words were necessary. His manner and her reaction to his presence said it all. Within seconds, he began screaming obscenities. He was furious at her for calling the police. “Leave the premises or I will arrest you!” I shouted. Without any warning, the man lunged at me and yelled, “Yeah, you and what army?” Before I had time to gather my thoughts, I grabbed him and shoved him over the front porch rail. He landed facedown on the ground. I ran down and managed to cuff him with one swift sweep of the hand. As I lifted him from the ground, a patrol car pulled up along the curb and an officer I did not recognize asked me, “Are you okay? Where is your backup?”

Of course Lillie did not have a back up. She did it all by herself. There were some men sitting across the street, watching the whole thing. All at once they started clapping and singing, “I am woman, hear me roar.” GO LILLIE!

If you believe in angels, this is the book for you. Lillie details her early and repeated encounters with Archangel Michael in many chapters of the book. In her childhood she referred to him as the “Blue Man with wings.” She was reprimanded about her sightings and so stopped sharing them with others. But she did not stop believing and always felt herself channeled to the angels.

“It seemed as if I had an energy that flowed to me, through me, and permeated every aspect of my being. And although my youthful mind was not able to fully comprehend angelic channeling, I was astute enough to recognize that something amazing was transpiring.”

Lillie loved to retreat to her bedroom to write and dream of angels. In her chapter “The Origins of Grace”, she talks lovingly of her grandmother Situ (Arabic for grandmother) who encouraged her to believe and have faith. Situ encouraged her to pass this birthright on to the next generation. Lillie believes this has been a blessing on her family to have these gifts.

I preferred to read Lillie’s book slowly and savor it, rather than hurry through it. It reads like a spiritual reference guide, encouraging the reader to think of their own experiences and how to live a more openly spiritual life. The book is beautifully written and is a lovely example for me as I move forward on my writing journey.

Other chapters contain insight into Lillie’s recovery from PTSD, her health issues, male relationship struggles, mother daughter angst, and deep sharing about her love for her father.

“As I look back on my life, I am amazed at the twists and turns it has taken. In retrospect, I can see that it has been filled with time of pain and sorrow mixed with moments of sheer joy. Each chapter has moved my life towards surrender and grace.”

Lillie, thank you for sharing your book with me.

Click HERE to order Lillie’s book.

Disclosure: This book was given to me free of charge and I am not compensated for my endorsement of it. This review is my personal opinion.

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Graceful Mistakes

“Let us always long to hear the stories of grace in others’ lives. Every conversion is the story of a blessed defeat.” C.S. Lewis

Years ago, I was in a very important meeting. The executive director was there with several key people. There were six of us sitting around a table. I had just poured myself a nice big cup of coffee with cream. You can guess the rest. Yep, I spilled that coffee all over the table.

I was mortified of course but it was over quickly. We all grabbed napkins and they helped me clean it up. I apologized; I was embarassed, but it only lasted a few minutes. I remember thinking to myself, “I am not perfect. Oh well. Get over it.” 🙂

Another time, I ticked someone off real good. I said something (in response to an incident) that started a mini landslide. It was actually pretty stressful. I apologized. She did not. I think she engaged in some behaviors unbecoming, but are someone else’s bad manners my problem? NO. I can’t help how others think or behave.

In this world today, there is no way to live without eventually rubbing someone the wrong way or making a mistake. I am only human, I am imperfect, and so I cannot say and do absolutely the “right thing” each and every time. There is a balance I try and achieve and grace has a whole lot to do with it.

If I believe that I am here on this earth for a purpose, then everything that I do (and everything that happens to me) is a learning experience. I may fall down over and over again, but if I get back up, dust myself off, and keep going, I am a survivor. God’s love teaches me that no matter what, I am important and my contributions to those around me, are valued. I must believe that just about everything I do, is a reflection of God’s plan for me.

And though no one is fond of apologies I don’t mind apologizing, especially if I did something I I truly deserve to say I’m Sorry for. When you know you are truly loved by God, you believe yourself worthy and that makes mistakes ok. Giving heartfelt apologies is a gift, a sign of character. I honestly believe most of world’s psychiatric problems would go away, if we all would admit once in a while that we are not perfect.

How spectacular it is that every day unfolds before us, a clean slate, a white page that we can color and paint and sculpt any way we want. The best thing I can do for myself is go forward, trusting that I’ll do the best I can to make good choices and affect others in a positive way. That’s how grace works. It gives me the confidence to make decisions I can live with.

One of those paint classes. I did it my way!

One of those fancy paint classes. I did it my way!

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Sustained By Song

My beautiful sunshine-y daughter Michelene and I at her conference

My daughter Michelene and I at her conference

Look at the stars, look how they shine for you, and everything you do, yeah, they were all yellow. From the song, Yellow, by Coldplay.

Have you ever had a song that was stuck in your head? That was me, last week with two songs that just fit perfect. Perfect that is, for exactly what was unfolding. For you see it was my Holy Week, leading up to Greek Easter, and I was assisting my daughter with her work conference.

The first song was Yellow, by the band Coldplay. When I initially heard it last year I was doing a wedding coordination. I went straight to the DJ and asked him what the song was. He told me; I went home and looked it up. I have been listening to it on and off ever since. Last week, wow, I was obsessed. It was stuck like something fierce in my head.

So out of curiosity I looked up the lyrics, then I searched to see if Coldplay had ever talked about their meaning behind the song. I thought initially it might be about jealousy (you know, yellow) but it turns out they say it is about devotion, pure and simple. I loved that. It made complete sense. I wondered of course if it was possible the song was a reflection of my devotion to Holy Week, and also to my daughter? If you click on the word “lyrics” above, you’ll see the words to the entire song. Tell me what you think.

So all week, I allowed that song to float through my head. As I was helping my daughter I stayed in tune to the Holy Days. I thought of my church and knew I would get there on Friday. The conference was (magically) on diversity and there were very inspirational speakers and people there. It was truly amazing to be witness to this amazing group and their message. And I got choked up a couple of times seeing how beautiful my daughter was; a true professional and a stellar coordinator. She was just like the stars that shine, in everything she does…..exactly like the song said.

My church on Good Friday. Thank you to Christina for this picture.

My church on Good Friday. Thank you to Christina for this picture.

When the conference was over, it was Friday around 1pm. A different song slowly crept into my head, replacing the former. It was an ancient hymn, a huge part of Good Friday services. My cousin Christina and I went together to my church that evening. As soon as the Metropolitan and the choir began to sing, I got chills. I’ve sung this song over and over since I was a child. It was so beautiful and it struck a chord deep in my heart. Thank you to my sister Mary who found this rendition of the hymn on the internet by Glykeria.

So two songs and deep faith got me through the week. I am forever grateful to have had them fixed in my mind to remind me what a precious week it was. Not only for the love of my daughter, but for the everlasting love of my faith and Savior.

Christos Anesti!

 

 

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Peace on the Farm

NC Mist

How have you been? Here in my neck of the woods, the days are slowly getting shorter. It is dark in the morning until after 7am and the leaves are slowly falling from the trees.

I took a quick trip to my sister Mary’s house (farm, really) last week and spent two lovely days in North Carolina. One highlight of the trip was Starr’s food. Dinner on the first night was black eyed peas, collard greens, carrots, homemade mac/cheese, and fresh baked bread. If you think this was amazing you are right.

Dinner on day two was homemade pizzas and salad. Delicious.

I got acquainted with the six dogs of the farm but I have to tell you about my absolute favorite. It was Emma- the Emmanator– as Mary has fondly dubbed her.

Emma 2Mary rescued Emma as a pup from a hot car (Go Mary) and ended up being her new owner. Emma has doubled in size in a few months and is just a ball of energy. From the moment I walked into the farmhouse, Emma squealed to visit with me and I couldn’t help but indulge her in as much attention as I could.

It was a tempting thought to stash Emma in the car with us and bring her on home to PA. But Mary loves her and I’d never argue with a dog to owner kind of love. Plus, Emma would likely exhaust me as she has a way to go before some of that puppy wears off!

Other things I did in NC…. two trips to the best Goodwill store ever (in Mocksville, NC) yielded me two new comfortable tops, a Christmas red tablecloth for $3, a gorgeous fall scarf for $1. What woman doesn’t love a bargain?

I had a great lunch with my webmaster Susan at my favorite Winston Salem restaurant- Sweet Potatoes. I chose the grilled turkey burger with cranberry mayo and of course, a side of sweet potato fries. Susan and I kicked a few ideas around and got to chat like good friends!

On the morning of our departure, Mary and I walked the dogs down a long path that runs adjacent to her property. Corn stalks had recently been cut down and the field was wide open. The sun was coming up and it was a scene right out of a movie. A glowing sky, the multiple colors of a sunrise, and even a cloud formation that evoked a bit of a spiritual presence filled my heart with a calm and serenity. I knew these blessings were a good reason to live on a farm.

Cloud Cross

So I’m back home now, reminiscing about my time in North Carolina. Even when it’s only for a few days, it’s great to just get away….

Horse NCHow are things with you? Are you busy, slow, doing anything autumn-y with yourself?

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Rocky Mountain High

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I don’t know about you but sometimes I can really get a committee going in my head. The committee sometimes makes good sense or helps me through a problem in a loving and encouraging way. But sometimes the committee speaks too loudly and makes no sense.

It likes to go on and on about dumb stuff and I just follow along, wimp like, victim like while it chastises me for various things. I didn’t do this or that good enough, or wow, how could I have reacted in that situation like that. On and on it goes, just making me feel bad.

Until I got the bright idea one day that I could just change the station in my head. Just like turning the knob to another radio station, I can switch off the bad thoughts and tune into another station. I mentally try one station- soft music- and in my head suddenly I am singing an old familiar 70’s song like yep, Rocky Mountain High. I saw John Denver in person once, the year before he died, and he performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. That was the first song he walked out on stage singing and I still get chills just thinking about it.

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So now my head is filled with glorious music and a stunning mountain vista, instead of those pesky, bothersome committee members.

If the song ends in my head, I can again switch the station. This time, I switch to the spiritual station. In the background I can feel the warmth of soft candles. My Higher Power is there, s(he) is engaging me in loving thoughts and encouragement. I am again bathed in a wash of light and happiness, grateful to be alive and ready for my next destination.

This takes some practice, but I am getting pretty good at switching stations. The committee is learning that it can’t sit there and complain and give me a hard time or the door will close to its room. I’ll be off and in another direction, content to find another, more happier place in which to hang out.

Thanks to my daughter Michelene for her stunning photos!

Where do you go (in your head!) for a change of scenery?

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Does Prayer Work?

But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. Luke 22:32

I happened to type “Prayer” into my Pinterest search bar this morning and boy did I get a spiritual eyeful. I’ll give you the link at the end of this post but suffice to say there was a whole wide range of pins on the subject.

Evangelist Luke writing, Byzantine illuminatio...

Evangelist Luke writing, Byzantine illumination, 10th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This got me thinking about prayer. How do you pray? Or do you even pray? My prayers have changed over the years. When I was young they were the prayers of church, whispered along with the priest’s words or out loud during the liturgy. During the kneeling down part of the service, I was either paying attention or not, fidgeting or wondering what I was going to do later that day, like riding my Schwinn bicycle around the neighborhood with my girlfriends.

One time as a young child, we missed church because it had snowed heavily. I remember being worried about the consequences and what God would think if I wasn’t there. So I took a cross I had in my room and prayed, maybe on my knees. I don’t remember what I prayed about but I remember I had a really good week, getting an “A” on a test and other assorted awesome stuff. That’s when I knew God had some serious pull.

Jim, my SO, doesn’t believe in praying for specific things. He thinks I do but honestly, my prayers are of the general variety. Does prayer work? I used to think it was silly stuff but the older I get the more I believe yes, prayer definitely has its potential.

It is amazing sometimes that I will pray for assistance for someone or some issue, again the prayers not being specific, and help will arrive in some shape or form. Honestly, if I leave well enough alone and not give God directions on how I want it done, s(he) will do a fabulous job. After all, it’s God we are talking here.

What doesn’t work is praying and then using my own control devices. Or praying and expecting immediate results. Prayer works fast sometimes and other times it does not. Maybe God wants us to practice a bit of patience.

Letting go of results is probably the hardest part of prayer for me. Maybe this surprises you- is there really a letting go part? Yes, I think this is the most powerful part of prayer- surrender. There in lies the freedom, the relief I have been seeking. That moment when I can lay my head down and feel a peace come over me that just wasn’t there before.

The results of prayer are often solutions I hadn’t thought of. Imagine that. That is when I know God is really good.

Click HERE for the Pinterest prayer board link.

Do you believe in prayer? What’s your favorite prayer or tell us how prayer has worked or not worked for you….

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My Daily Bread

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Have you ever found a hidden jewel? An amazing place you just could not keep to yourself? Well I found one recently and I can’t wait to tell you about it.

It’s called Mediterra Bakehouse and I am in love with it! Since I made a recent commitment to eat healthier, I have tried to find new and exciting ways to enjoy good grains. So when a friend told me Mediterra had a local location, that was all I needed to hear.

Bread 4The first thing I noticed when I walked in the door was the row of Greek Orthodox icons along the wall. When I asked the owner’s daughter about this, she confirmed her father is from the same place in Greece as my mother’s family- the island of Chios. I have to say, I instantly felt at home.

It was difficult to make a decision at Mediterra. I saw kalamata olive loaf, peasant bread, Mt. Athos Fire Bread, and a delicious looking pecan raisin bread. I couldn’t resist the latter and actually tore into it on the way home in the car! (A day later I bought some Tzatziki just to dip it into!) I also chose the chile cheddar loaf, ah! with its chunks of vermont cheddar and petite slices of jalapeno pepper.

I headed back a week later and this time I bought the Sunflower Honey Whole Wheat. I can’t wait to try it with a bit of Jim’s honey.

The trip to Mediterra got me thinking about the similarities between daily bread and spiritual bread. Daily bread nourishes my body but spiritual bread nourishes my heart and soul. I have been trying to start my morning off with a good meditative reading, something that fills me with gratitude and awe for this wonderful life. That is my spiritual bread.

Here’s what I read today: Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. John Muir

Bread 5

May you be blessed today with your favorite daily bread! What’s your favorite loaf or spiritual saying?

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Coming Into Grace

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Reinhold Niebuhr

Cook Forest 2Years ago I would have completely dismissed the above quote, thinking I didn’t have time to contemplate such nonsense.

Now, it sums up my journey of the past decade or so. Finding serenity, searching for grace, deciding what can be changed and what cannot.

My journey has led me over tall mountains, in deep valleys and down the road less traveled. It is not a physical journey but a spiritual one.

Occasionally I tire and stop to rest. But then I pick up my walking stick and begin again.

I remember what I have to be thankful for. My family, my friends, the moon, the stars, heaven and earth.

I remind myself what I have no control over– all of the above.

If I think I can control other things, living or otherwise, I am a fool. I can only control myself and my reaction to people, places and things. This is the secret of serenity- minding my own business.

The journey has been a difficult one at times and it is not over. It is continuous. If I remember every day to have gratitude for my life, my serenity will be easier to maintain.

Thank you to WordPress for an inspiring word today- Journey!

How do you find daily Grace?

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Greece…and a Very Special Place

The Path to Faith

On Our Way Down – Photo by Mary Jamis

In an ever changing sequence of events, my mom’s recovery saga took yet another turn last week. After a few days in outpatient rehab mom was back in the hospital, tired and exhausted, and apparently in need of a good rest. At first we panicked, thinking it was a turn for the worse. Finally she woke up from snoring sleep sessions to tell us she was fine. She has a couple more hurdles to clear, but thankfully she is growing stronger every day.

When this latest challenge presented itself last week my mind and body had a few bad days. I was worrying constantly and having trouble sleeping; all the usual reactions to stress. In a moment of clarity, I remembered a special place from our trip to Greece five years ago. During that divine excursion my mom, sisters and I were privileged to witness something that still stays with me to this day.

We were all in a rental car with our native cousin Stavros. He took us for a ride up a mountainside, parking along the berm of a twisty road. I got out of the car and could only see trees, rocks and gorgeous sky. Stavros told us to follow him. My mom held onto us as we descended downward on a simple path of stones. I remember the dirt ground was littered with olive pits. I silently wondered if the birds ate lunch there.

Church in the Hillside-Photo by Cally Jamis Vennare

Church in the Hillside-
Photo by Cally Jamis Vennare

A small white washed church came into view at the bottom of the stone path. It was so beautifully unexpected, so hidden, so precious. We stood in awe while Starvros retrieved the key and opened the small wooden door.

Inside it was tiny, simple and just as special. There was a small altar with icons. We lit candles and Starvros said a prayer. We stayed awhile to bask in the glow of being in such a holy place.

Can you imagine how this memory grounds me? Perhaps it was the beauty, or maybe it was the sacred holiness of such a special place. All I know is it was a huge gift. In my mind, I can run back to that little church any time I want and light a candle for me, my mom, anyone.

I leaned on that little church last week when every last bone in my body was tired and weary. Having a special place where we can go, even if only in our mind, can sometimes make all the difference in the world.

Hear ye!

Beautiful Bell – Photo by Cally Jamis Vennare

Do you have a special memory or place that grounds you? Tell me about it!

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On Heaven, Faith…and Love

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I’ve been reading a lot of books lately. Many books, mainly on Heaven and Faith. It has given me much food for thought.

In the last six months or so, I’ve read “Heaven is for Real“, “90 Minutes in Heaven“,  “In the Shadow of a Badge” and I just finished “Proof of Heaven“. Lest you think I am completely off my rocker, I’ve also read “Explosive Eighteen” (I love those Stephanie Plum novels!), just to give my brain a break. And…I’m in the process of finishing “Everything Matters, Nothing Matters” by Gina Mazza and “Help Thanks Wow” by Anne Lamott. Yep, I am steeped in Heaven and Faith lately.

Here’s the hodgepodge of thoughts running through my head about Heaven, Faith and Love.

DSC_00041. It’s all about Love- Unconditional Love. The Universe (God, your Higher Power) loves and cherishes you and me unconditionally. Literally, we can do no wrong. We are forgiven.

2. You and I can have a deep relationship spiritually with the Universe (again God, HP) if we but take some bits of time to connect and feel the spirit deep in our soul. Prayer and Meditation help with this.

3. At the very least, we can have a kitchen sink of faith; the kind that doesn’t answer to any real organized religion. It can be a belief system of our own creation. I think God isn’t really picky. S/He just wants you and I to be happy.

Now, this may not sit well with everyone reading this and that’s ok. I am not aiming to stir up controversy (well, maybe!) but I just want you to THINK a bit.

IMGThat’s what I’m trying to do. THINK a bit. And keep myself open to all that I can learn and feel about God and Faith. There was something I read recently, something that seems too well placed to be just a coincidence. Here it is:

“Once I knew that I wanted to be an artist, I had made myself into one. I did not understand that wanting doesn’t always lead to action. Many of the women had been raised without the sense that they could mold and shape their own lives, and so, wanting to be an artist (but without the ability to realize their wants) was for some of them, only an idle fantasy, like wanting to go to the moon”. Judy Chicago

What do you really want? Do you have the courage to ask for and then receive and accept your dream?

I am beginning to realize that I can truly dare to dream on a higher level and a wish can become reality. Or better yet, I can have no idea what would be right for me and dare I stand back and let God choose for me?

Yes, it is a huge leap of faith. And it is not about taking the bull by the horns. It is about stepping back, letting go and allowing Faith to step in and assist.

(Thanks again to my daughter Michelene and my sister Cally for these photos!)

What’s your brand of faith? Share it with me…I’d love to hear about it!

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