SPIRITUAL BIOGRAPHY of FAITH JOURNEY: Julie Ann Gvillo
Born in Alton, Illinois, I am the oldest of three children. My parents raised us in the church. Daddy was one of the church organists, a choir member, and later choir director, an Elder and Sunday School Superintendent. Mom taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, served as Treasurer and Elder, and both parents were actively involved in the Mariner organization from the local level to the family vacations at National Cruise. Our babysitters were church members. Our social life included church members, and our involvement with the Mariners broadened our sense of community all the way to the coasts of the continental United States. It was only natural that I would sing in the church choir, take organ lessons on the church organ, play the piano for Sunday School, help with Vacation Bible School, marry the handsome young man two pews up on the other side, and eventually take on leadership roles as well.
For as long as I can remember, I have known the people of the church as family. Their consistent presence in my life cannot be described in any other way. In the midst of this family, I grew up; learned about the love and nurture of Jesus Christ; explored my spiritual gifts as I contributed to the family; dated and married my husband, Ray, and raised our children; learned conflict management and hospitality; and felt my calling to ministry.
I was fourteen when I met two very special people who have served as mentors ever since, modeling God's unconditional acceptance and reflecting God's love to me in kindness and compassion. One was my speech pathologist in high school, Janet DeLassus. I babysat for Janet, and she has become a dear friend. Janet has modeled hospitality to me in ways that I can only hope to emulate in the various roles I play. She has unfailingly offered a safe haven for me to be myself, and has freely shared her most precious gifts with me, never once begrudging me the opportunity to love her children as my own. The other was my chiropractor, Dr. Frank C. Bemis. My freshman year, I developed a staph infection that put me in the hospital during the week between Christmas and New Year's. When I was released, the infection was gone, but the residual pain caused by damaged nerves was terrible. Dr. Frank's expertise brought tremendous relief from the pain, but more than that, he kindly and generously provided emotional support, boosting my self-esteem, encouraging me to dream my dreams, and teaching me a great deal about courage and about hope. Not one day has passed in the last twenty plus years that I haven't thought of each of them in various situations and remembered things they said, things they did, things they taught me just by being the people they are, and thanked God for their presence in my life.
Ray and I moved to Waterloo eleven months after we were married, and two weeks before our oldest son was born. We lived there for three years and attended St. Paul's United Church of Christ. It was a time of discovery for us, as we learned what it meant to be married apart from our families and to be parents at the same time. It was also a time of self-discovery, as I sought to better understand who I was and who I wanted to be. Two things stand out for me from our time in Waterloo: the first is coming to the understanding that I had come to know God versus simply knowing who God was, and the second was participation in the Kerygma Bible Study under the direction of the senior pastor there, Rev. Fred Wehrenberg, which helped me put all the stories from Sunday School into the perspective of God's one story. What a revelation that was for me! I began to write contemporary Christian music in response to this new experience of God in my life.
In 1991, my dear friend, Shari B. (who has faithfully kept a tape of all my music over the years, dreaming the dream alongside of me, and encouraging me to record every step along the way), asked me to sing a Christian love song I'd written for Ray in her wedding. One thing led to another, and a month later, I was opening a local concert for a Christian musician who was touring. Ray and I discussed music ministry with him at length, and after prayerful consideration, we purchased an electronic keyboard. With the support and encouragement of my family and friends, and under the watchful eye of Rev. Tony Roberts, I began a lay ministry which focused on message and music, telling my story more in the beginning than of late, and sharing my music in pulpit supply, youth and family concerts, and speaking engagements at various local churches. Over time, and with Tony's continued assistance, I began to return to churches with new messages. In the eleven years since I began this ministry, I have shared with many congregations in witness and praise, and in so doing, have continued to grow in the faith.
Christmas of 2002 brought a dream come true: My parents gave me time in a recording studio. I was overwhelmed and overjoyed. The entire process has been a worshipful journey, and I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to bring this project to you. "I Stand In Awe" is a collection of songs written over the last fifteen years. Where once I only shared my writing with a precious few people, I now offer this collection to the world. May it bring you some small blessing~
© 2012 - julieanngvillo.com