Turning to the Dark Side

I’ve been blogging for over two years and recently reached a blogging milestone of 100 posts.  I started out slow, blogging when the mood hit me and now consistently post once a week.  That may not sound like much, but at times it has been a chore—to either fit it in my schedule or to force the writing to come out.

100 postsThe Growing Pains of Blogging

My blogging has grown a lot over the last year.  I’m now starting to see that my focusing on Spain for so long was mentally draining on me.  I pushed myself physically while traveling and also mentally to blog while there.  I don’t regret it because at least for me personally I’m glad to have documented my trip in that way—not the standard travel log.

I’m starting to get my writer’s sea legs back now with inspiration that comes from deep within.  That is what led me to writing and blogging in the first place so it feels good.

But blogging isn’t always a feel good thing for me.  I think if bloggers were really honest with themselves, they’d have to admit that they’ve felt some anxiety or tension at one time or another when it comes time to publish a post.  It is a scary and vulnerable position to put yourself out on the internet for all the world to see—especially when you are sharing your personal story.

Then there are the voices within that tell us that the number of followers we have or the number of ‘likes’ on our posts somehow dictates our value or is a true indicator of our writing skill.  (I know I’m not alone in my thinking.)  It happens I’m sure in any creative endeavor.  We have to be sure of ourselves and our message.  That is where my identity in Christ helps me.

Publish IconPublishing Humiliation

In my quest for healing, I recently discovered that my publishing fears were deeper rooted than just the typical “will people accept me” or like my writing.  I was having a particularly hard time releasing my worries in publishing a post, and then it all came back to me.

When I was in college, I turned from my desires to be a journalist to something much more analytical—an accountant.  Sometimes I hung out with the crowd at the college newspaper, never writing stories though.  My first semester communications courses brutally killed that dream.

My extracurricular passion was serving as the music director at the college radio station.  During a period of transition in management at the radio station, I wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper.  I don’t remember what it was about specifically, but it wasn’t a flattering piece.  I got a lot of flak for that letter.  Worse yet, the station manager wrote a rebuttal to the editor in the next publication.  I was publically humiliated in front of my peers.

I could go on and on about how I might have felt justified, or whatever.  The point is that when I publish a post on my blog, sometimes that humiliation is triggered in me—the deep fear of saying or doing something that will be misunderstood or land on someone the wrong way.  Recognizing that trigger has helped me to release that fear.

Getting comfortable behind the mic again at WMCR (25th college reunion)

Getting comfortable behind the mic again at WMCR (25th college reunion)

Writing Crossroads

At my one year blogging milestone, I wrote a piece about writing for “An Audience of One”.  I like to think that audience of One is my heavenly Father.  Realistically though, I sometimes get in the way of that.  I know that my writing serves to inspire some of my friends and family.  I’m very grateful for their acknowledgments of that.  In my darker days, it is just what I need to encourage me to keep going.

Now that I’ve passed my second year blogging milestone, I feel like I’m at a crossroads with my writing.  I enjoy blogging, but realistically I’ve felt more like a blogger than a writer this past year.  I’ve been so busy and focused on Spain that my memoir has sat dormant on my computer since November 30, 2012—the last day of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  It was a labor of love to churn out over 30,000 words in 30 days.  It was also very intense and emotionally draining.  Oddly enough, I’m considering picking up that work in progress in November, but not with that kind of intensity.

I need a writing discipline in my life in order to tackle the huge project ahead of me.  NaNoWriMo was that last year.  So I am preparing myself for the next leg of my writing journey.  If my memoir is ever finished and sees the light of day, I’ll have much bigger fears to overcome.  Until then I’ll keep training that ‘publish’ muscle one post at a time.

Shakespeare blogger

PS.  If you want to know what I learned from my second year of blogging, it is to not be concerned about the length of my posts.  When I started blogging I followed all the suggestions about size, content, etc.  But I’ve noticed that my favorite author blogs don’t publish short posts.  That doesn’t stop me from reading to the end.  I’m not concerned about my word counts any more.  I read for quality and depth of story, so that is what I am shooting for here as well.  Thanks for your interest in my work and reading to the end!

Breaking the Silence & Letting Go

Two months after my return from Spain I still haven’t been able to piece together what to write about how my trip relates to the continuation of my story in “Journeys to Mother Love”.  Over the last few years I’ve openly blogged about it and told my friends how significant this trip was for me.

I was meeting Rosa after three years of waiting, praying, emailing, Skyping and planning.  She learned English to facilitate our face to face communications.  Except for the post I wrote about my first day in Spain, I have been silent about that part of my trip, and the writing in general.

At the Alcala Gate with Rosa, Madrid.

At the Alcala Gate with Rosa, Madrid.

As a writer, that silence on my blog feels deafening.  I had so much expectancy for this trip and so much riding on the outcome.  I even wrote a post on journeystomotherlove.com, A Match Made in Heaven, on my anticipation for this journey.  But now I am struggling with what and how to write about it.  Writer’s block?  Maybe, but I’m inclined to think there is more to it.

Letting go of Expectations

Early on in my trip, I realized I had to let go of the expectation that I would write about Rosa’s side of the story—what happened in Spain when prayers were sent from America in the midst of her sorrow.  While Rosa showed me places that were significant with her side of the story, like her parents’ home (which was also her childhood home) and the church where her mother’s funeral was held, God revealed to me that the story I am to tell is more about my journey.  Rosa was a conduit for my healing.  We were both blessed by our mutual encouragement and prayers. 

Taking the tram with Rosa from Soller to Palma, Mallorca, for a day of sightseeing.

Taking the tram with Rosa from Soller to Palma, Mallorca, for a day of sightseeing.

When I stepped on Spanish soil I was ready to experience the trip of a lifetime.  I was open to experiencing God in a new way.  I had already let go of so many expectations—like not professionally speaking while there and not having the Spanish translation of my story published in advance.  I decided to trust God for His purposes for this trip.

While I was in Spain, the Lord slowly stripped me of much more.  The biggest thing for me to surrender was how much my identity has been wrapped up in my writing and the publishing of my story.  I went with the expectation that people in Spain could relate to my story, like they have in America.  I was grateful for the few opportunities to give away copies of Journeys to Mother Love.  Outside of those times, I felt very invisible as a writer and in my faith.  A lot of that was also because I didn’t know the language well enough either.

One copy of my book graces the book shelves at my apartment in the Port of Soller, with the best reading view of the Mediterranean, August 2013.

One copy of my book graces the book shelves at my apartment in the Port of Soller, with the best reading view of the Mediterranean, August 2013.

Before I was a published author, I knew God wanted to use my story.  I knew He was making me bold (witness my blog name).  But being in Spain led me to question much of that and my writing.

In hindsight, I think a lot of it had to do with the cultural and spiritual differences between our countries.  They became more real and visible to me.  I know now that the only way I could see that and understand it was to be stripped of that part of me and my voice.  It was a painful process—one I’m still trying to integrate.  I know He is transforming me again.

Moving Forward

42 days is a long time to explore a country.  I had the most amazing escapades while in Spain with my host family.  I had wonderful adventures in Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Granada, Cordoba, Seville and on the island of Mallorca.  I have 5,000 photos that bring my trip and so many special memories back to life for me.

In time some of that will show up on my blog.  I don’t doubt that God wants to use my story or this trip in some way.  He has given me new insights into my journey.  He has given me new insights into the writing process.  Meanwhile, I am clinging to my identity as a child of God and learning to let go (again).  I am grateful for the journey—the good and the bad—and what lies ahead.

Do I want to know what that is?  Am I nervous about it?  Do I want to control it?  Absolutely!  I can only take one day at a time and trust that He’ll use the story He is crafting in me to inspire others to turn healing into hope.  As He does, I know He’ll release me to break more of the silence along the way.

Farewell dinner at my apartment in the Port of Soller, Mallorca, Spain.

Farewell dinner at my apartment in the Port of Soller, Mallorca, Spain.

How This Journey Started

I’ve been asked many times how my story, “Walking My Mother Home”, came to be published in Journeys to Mother Love. I’ve written about that under the category “My Writing Journey”. In this post from journeystomotherlove.com, the blog for the book, my publisher tells the story of how the book was birthed. Thank you Catherine Lawton and Cladach Publishing for following that gentle nudge from the Lord. I’ve been blessed over and over again to be part of such an inspiring book.

Journeys To Mother Love

Hard to believe, but more than a year has passed since the book Journeys to Mother Love was published and the authors started sharing this blog as well. How did these nine women, who live in all corners of this great country, come together in this way? Well, here’s the story.

As publisher and editor of Cladach Publishing, a small Christian press, I was invited to the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park, Colorado, to give 15-minute interviews to authors. At the May, 2011 conference I spoke with three or four women in one day who had heart-wrenching personal stories that they hoped to have published as books. The authors were so passionate and full of the fresh touch of the Lord, and their stories so real and relevant for many women, that I couldn’t get away from thinking about them. By the third or fourth interview the thought…

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Journeys to Mother Love, One Year Later

When my story, “Walking My Mother Home”, in Journeys to Mother Love was released on August 24, 2012 (one year ago) by Cladach Publishing, I had everything in place to position myself and the book for success.  I had attended writing and marketing seminars, webinars, and conferences, and launched a website and Facebook page.  I was ready to dive into the social media marketing blitz.  I held an open house and book signing as well.  It all fed into my hopes and expectations for financial success.  After all, I had a trip to Spain in my future, and no personal source of income to pay for it.  I was counting on the book sales.

Opening my first box of books, August 2012.

Opening my first box of books, August 2012.

Within days of receipt of my first box of books, I was at church in my sacred space with one copy.  I silently read my story and dedicated it to the Lord.  I asked for his blessings on the book, that my story would touch people’s lives, inspire them on their faith journey, and that none of this ‘fame’ would go to my head—the same as I have done for Pedro since his music went online.

I was grateful.  I was excited.  I was ready for anything.

The Highs and Lows

I have had a lot of amazing highs over the past year, partnering with two other friends who recently published spiritual books, networking at writer’s meetings, and so on.   At times, it was a bit surreal to me.  Yes, there is a bit of notoriety that comes with the territory and interest when people find out I am a writer.  Although I never tire of telling someone the story, if it seems appropriate, or I feel led by the Holy Spirit, I also try to keep it all in perspective.

A friendly book swap between authors, Emiko Hori and me, June 2013.

A friendly book swap between authors, Emiko Hori and me, June 2013.

I’ve had some low points in my first year as a published author as well.   The lows totally caught me off guard and triggered deep feelings inside of me—like feelings of rejection I thought I had already worked through.

Most authors and artists, if they were truly honest, have struggled with that at some point in time.  It is the push and pull of promoting, wanting financial success, and letting go of who buys your book and how many sell.

Paying It Forward

Once I learned to let go of that (and am still learning), I started to have more one on one encounters with people who were interested in the story.  I can remember each and every one.

I try to write a personal note to each person who receives the book and pray for the recipient.  Except for the online sales, I have photos of many people who received the book personally through me.  I photograph many of my inscriptions as well.  They are very personal to me and often feel inspired by the Holy Spirit.

This is but one way I try to pay the blessing forward.  The other is when I give the book away as a gift.  For instance, it resides in the library of Monmouth College, my alma mater—where I graduated with a B.A. in Business Administration, not English.  It is also in the hands of many of the staff at New Life Ministries, out of gratitude for their role in my healing.  I love that I can give something back in this small way.

Paying the blessing forward with Becky Brown of New Life Ministries, February 2013.

Paying the blessing forward with Becky Brown of New Life Ministries, February 2013.

A Year of Gratitude

As I finish this inaugural year as an author, I can look behind me and see God’s hand on each book that was released from my inventory.  I can see how He was chiseling away my inner parts that don’t reflect His image.  In return He has given me the gift of my story and the courage to share it.

Not including e-book sales or those through the publisher or the other authors, I know my story in Journeys to Mother Love resides in the hearts of people throughout the United States in Washington, California, Illinois, Missouri, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, and abroad in England, France, Mexico, and of course, Spain.  I am thankful for that and any future opportunities that the Lord makes available to share His story.

A friend reading "Journeys to Mother Love" while traveling in England, October 2012.

A friend reading “Journeys to Mother Love” while traveling in England, October 2012.

If you’ve gotten this far in the post, I hope you’ll indulge me the opportunity to thank all who have purchased my book, either directly from me or through Amazon.  I don’t have any knowledge of who the Amazon purchasers are (or receive any proceeds from that). I’d love to know if you bought it online though.  You can comment below or privately contact me through the contact form on my site.

Thank you for every purchase through me or my site, as it allows me to freely give it away to those who I sense really need this story.  Lastly, I appreciate the notes I receive, posts on Facebook, etc.  Please feel free to pass on any comments about the book or my story on my site review page, or support my writing by subscribing to my blog or liking my Facebook page.

Muchas, muchas gracias!

The Perfect Gift & A Tribute to Friendship

If you follow my blog, you know that Rosa is my kindred spirit and ‘sister’ in Spain, whom I will meet two weeks from now.  I’ve been busy preparing for my trip to Spain, and while I knew Friday was Rosa’s birthday, I didn’t realize that it was her 60th birthday, or that a big family celebration was planned.

Rosa’s milestone birthday party brought up memories for me of my 52nd birthday party (a delayed 50th birthday celebration because of the events surrounding my mother’s passing as referenced in Journeys to Mother Love).  Rosa and Pedro attended that celebration via Skype.

It was a very emotional day for me.  It was my first birthday since my mother passed away.  Pedro surprised me that day with the first of his compositions written personally for me, Ardis’ Song.  I wept as I read aloud a story I had written about the connection with my Spanish family.

Pedro and Rosa join the birthday celebration via Skype.

Pedro and Rosa join the birthday celebration via Skype.

This story, “The Perfect Gift”, was the first writing assignment I tackled in my memoir class a few months before my birthday.  It was the one piece I wanted to have published.  To date, “The Perfect Gift” has only been shared at my birthday party and at a few Toastmasters meetings.  It is the piece I hope to share in Spain.

In honor of Rosa’s birthday, I’ve decided to post this short story on my blog.  When you’re done, I’m sure you’ll agree why I consider Rosa my kindred spirit and Sister in Christ, and why I am so excited to meet her.

The Perfect Gift

This was the long-awaited day of Pedro’s return to America.  Pedro was the foreign exchange student that our family hosted for a month the summer before.  Many of the past months were spent preparing for his return to our home.  On Pedro’s first night in America he was tired and jetlagged from his day of traveling.  He tried to stay up as long as possible to get his body in sync with the 9-hour time zone difference.  And of course he didn’t want to break with our tradition of exchanging gifts on his first night in America.

Pedro and the family all gathered in the playroom upstairs—just like last year.  Each family member opened their gifts from Pedro’s family.  I patiently waited as each person opened their gifts.  I had secretly plotted with Pedro over the last few months what to get them.  I was joyful as I watched each person open their gift and genuinely thank Pedro for his family’s thoughtfulness.

I knew as soon as I saw my gift that it would be a special gift—one that would tie our families together but I didn’t know how profoundly God had orchestrated it until later.  Our families had been through so much the last year.  Rosa, Pedro’s mother, and I both lost our mothers.  We had prayed for each other and encouraged each other from across the world—neither one of us speaking the other’s native language but by emailing our communications through an online translator.

The gift was a sterling silver cross pendant embedded with sparkling Swarovski crystals. As I looked at the cross I knew immediately that Rosa had picked it out just for me.  Although Rosa is Catholic and I am Protestant, we both have a strong faith that connects us.  During the several month period when our mothers were dying, Rosa and I sent each other encouraging notes and prayers to help each other through the painful process of watching and waiting for the inevitable to happen.  The cross was a beautiful reminder of how God had brought us together and how our mothers were both at peace as a result of our friendship.

Receiving the perfect gift, June 2011

The next morning as I got dressed and put on the cross, the first wave of its significance hit me.  My thoughts raced back to a visit with my mother in November 2009.  That was my first visit after my mother’s stroke—a stroke that left her partially paralyzed and virtually unable to communicate.  The timing of that trip had been so painstakingly planned as to not interfere with my previous commitments.  I was volunteering to serve at a ministry function and then one week later was my 50th birthday party.  I sandwiched the visit between the two events.  Days before the ministry event my mother had taken a turn for the worst and I feared that I would not make it back home to see her alive.

But my mother miraculously recovered and I was able to complete my ministry obligations.  On the plane ride to St. Louis I couldn’t help but think about what to expect over the next few days.  What state would my mother be in?  Would I be able to handle all of the medical decisions that needed to be made?  Would I be able to emotionally handle seeing my mother after all these years?  I prayed and prayed for God’s guidance and strength to carry me through those next few days.

I recalled how God had abundantly answered my prayers on that trip.  I remembered how after I arrived at my mother’s bedside that God gave me absolute peace about being there and compassion in serving and loving on my mother.  One of those first loving acts was to give my mother the cross pendant that I received for my first communion.  I had treasured that cross for over forty years.  It was a special gift from my Aunt Ardis who was also my Godmother.  My intention was to just let my mother borrow the necklace until I returned home.  I knew I’d never be able to physically part with it.  I also knew that even leaving it on my mother’s neck for the few days while I was there might lead to it getting stolen.  I had learned long ago to never give my mother anything of value because it would always mysteriously disappear from her room at the nursing home.

When the time came to leave, I made the painful decision to stay a few days longer.  There was just too much to do and I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my mother.  It was just too soon.  I knew that staying with my mother meant cancelling my 50th birthday party.  It also meant that I would be spending my 50th birthday away from my family and friends.  As I prayed over my decision, God gave me more peace.  My birthday party seemed like a selfish consideration in light of what my mother was going through.  I knew it would be the best thing to do.

I spent my 50th birthday at my mother’s bedside.  I made the final arrangements for the hospice care to start.  I met with the chaplain.  I fed my mother, bought her flowers, read to her and massaged her feet.  It was a very bittersweet day.  I couldn’t help but think about how my mother brought me into the world and cared for me as a baby and now I was doing the same for my mother.

Mom holding my first communion cross.

Mom holding my first communion cross.

Every day that I was with my mother I would put the pendant around her neck.  Then at the end of the day, I would take it off again.  I didn’t feel comfortable leaving it on her overnight.  Then came the final good-byes.  It was the evening of my 50th birthday.  I felt God pulling on my heart and telling me to let go of the necklace—to leave it with my mother.  After the events of the last ten days, it seemed silly to even think of keeping it for myself.  So my last act of love for my mother was to give her that cross pendant.  As painful as it was, I told my mother that was my promise to see her again.  I prayed that God would honor that request.  That was the last time I saw that pendant.  Thankfully it was not the last time I saw my mother alive though.

So as I put this new pendant around my neck—the cross I received from Pedro’s family the night before—I felt God telling me that He was rewarding me for sacrificing that first communion cross for my mother.  I knew that God had replaced it with one that would have new meaning and special memories attached with it.  I was overwhelmed with joy at this new revelation.  I couldn’t wait to tell Pedro.  I couldn’t wait to tell Rosa.  While Rosa and I had journeyed together over the last few months as we prepared to bury our mothers, Pedro’s family did not know anything about my giving away my cross.  I truly felt kissed by God.  I was grateful for this tangible gift of His love and how He orchestrated these events.

Almost two weeks had passed since I had received the cross from Pedro’s family.  My family along with Pedro, were now vacationing in central Oregon.  So much had been going on since Pedro’s arrival that I didn’t have an opportunity to Skype with Rosa and personally thank her for her gift.  Pedro would Skype with his parents every few days, but each time I didn’t want to interfere with his family time.  But on this day, I had pre-arranged with Pedro to have some Skype time with Rosa.  Pedro and I sat on the deck of the condo with his ipad revealing video images of his parents 5,300 miles away in Madrid.

I was, of course, wearing the cross that day—as I had almost every day since I received it.  Rosa immediately made mention of it by pointing to my neck.  I didn’t need Pedro to translate that reference, but he did anyway.  I thanked Rosa for the necklace.  Before I could start to relay the story about my first communion cross, Rosa began to tell Pedro the significance of the cross to her and why she picked it out as a gift.  Pedro translated her story to me.  Pedro explained that Rosa’s mother had given her a similar necklace for her 50th birthday.  I was astonished.  I looked at Pedro with surprise in my eyes.

“Did you tell your mother the story about the cross?” I asked him.  “No, no, I didn’t,” he said.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  It only took an instant for that to sink in.  I grew more excited about her gift and about telling Rosa about the connection.  Pedro knew the story, so I told him to relay the story to his mother in Spanish.

I smiled as I clasped the cross in my right hand.  Again, I was recounting all the events of the last year that had happened between us—the miracles that God performed in the passing of our mothers, our friendship across the world and now this simple yet miraculous connection between us.  The cross was a reminder of our love for each other, our love for our mothers and our love for God.  This cross really was the perfect gift.

As we continued on with our skype talking about the sightseeing we had done and the activities of the last few days, I couldn’t help but remember the verse that God had given me each time He gave me one of these special moments to relish.  It was Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”  That was exactly what I was doing.

Airport goodbyes, July 2011, the last time we physically (not virtually) saw Pedro.

Airport goodbyes, July 2011, the last time we physically (not virtually) saw Pedro.

© 2013 Ardis A. Nelson

The Rest of the Story

This piece went on to birth the manuscript for “Walking My Mother Home.”  In fact, the women at my 52nd birthday party prayed over me that day and anointed my writing.  The manuscript was written and submitted one week later.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

For me, this story is still unfolding.  It’s a lot to keep up with on top of my own family commitments and American relationships.  But this I know for sure, God has anointed this Spanish connection from the start and the next part of the story is just beginning.

The Road to Spain, Update 5 ~ The Writing

When I decided to write my manuscript for “Walking My Mother Home”, I made many decisions on what to include and exclude from the story. In fact, I sat on the fence about even writing it because I was afraid that if I wrote the novella that the full length book would never be written. Sometimes I still have those doubts. Yet when I finally sat down to work on the manuscript and review my journal and emails between Rosa and me, I knew there was more than enough material for a book—and I’m still in the midst of living it out in the here and now.

Spain mapWhile I have a good idea of what parts I want to include from the story, what is uncertain is what lies ahead with my trip to Spain. This trip is a part of the story from several different angles: the spiritual pilgrimage, meeting Rosa, partnering with Pedro’s music projects, or just visiting Spain in general. Regardless of what may ever be published or interests others, the main missing piece for me personally has always been what transpired from Rosa’s perspective of the story 5,300 miles away.

Communicating Online

Although over these two and a half years of emails Rosa and I have used an online translator, there have always been holes in our communications. Some words don’t translate accurately between Spanish and English. There was also a lot of reading between the lines and assumptions that I made in the process. Sometimes we would go back and forth over the course of a week or more to get clarity on something. That still happens from time to time.

From Day 1 of my telling this family my desire to write about our story, they have welcomed the opportunity with open arms. I’m not sure I would’ve done the same had the roles been reversed—having a foreigner I’d never physically met write about me in a book? It sounds kind of bizarre. Yet it isn’t bizarre or strange in any way. It is actually quite beautiful. I have been humbled to try to do this story and our relationship justice by writing about it.

Word for word Rosa translated the manuscript from English into Spanish.

Word for word Rosa translated the manuscript from English into Spanish.

Rosa’s true stamp of approval on this story came even before she finished reading the manuscript. I sent it to her as a gift on the anniversary of her mother’s passing. The manuscript was in English. Instead of having Pedro or Rafa, her husband, read it to her, she spent hours translating and transcribing it word for word by hand. She was only a few pages into it when we heard that Cladach Publishing had accepted the manuscript. Now that was dedication to our friendship.

Communicating Face to Face

So in three weeks, I will finally meet Rosa, after three years of waiting. I’ve played that scene in the airport over and over in my mind many times. Although I’ll be loaded with a new camera for my Spanish adventures, I’m relying on Rafa to take pictures of our meeting. I’ll probably look like a train wreck from my 18 hours of travel and the tears running down my face, but those first photos will be precious to me.

Barajas International Airport in Madrid, Spain

Barajas International Airport in Madrid, Spain

When I settle in and Rosa and I finally have some quiet time together, there will be no more second guessing her words on the computer screen staring back at me. There will be instant responses—verbal and non-verbal. There will be hugs, smiles and tears to guide us through the difficult territory of breaking down the language barrier as we relive those days leading up to our mothers’ passings.

It’s All About the Journey

Although this trip would be a great candidate for a second blog—a travel log—I’ve opted to keep it simple. Aside from any personal writing that I do for the book, I have no idea how often I’ll post, or how much social media interaction I’ll partake in. In fact, I may even fast from it all, in favor of complete immersion in everything uniquely Spanish.

After all, I’m living out everything I want to write about. This is a unique and significant time in my life. It’s about what God is revealing to me on this next part of my life’s journey. It’s about how He is working in me. It’s about walking out of the unknown and mystery of my relationship with this family into the known and reality of it.

Following God’s nudge to write the story put me on this path in the first place. Now this family’s gracious gift of hospitality has made this trip possible. How much and how often I write over the next few months will be dictated a lot more by our daily schedule than by my selfish desires or any other marketing or publishing ‘shoulds’ that are sure to surface.

It's all about the journey.

It’s all about the journey.

This is storytelling—plain and simple. This is memoir. This is His testimony in my life. I’m proud to share my story in any way God leads—whether it is connecting one on one with this family, face to face with the Spanish people I meet, or in the written word that I hope will one day be published.

In any case, it’s all about the journey; and in three weeks, I know I’ll be walking into the next layer of healing that God has in store for me. I know I will come back a changed person. I hope it inspires you to boldly follow Him and turn healing into hope.

The Road to Spain, Update 2 ~ The Year of Waiting

Last week marked one year since I secured the funds for my travel and confirmation of my trip to Spain this summer.  I remember it vividly because I wrote a post about it and Skyped (video call) with my Spanish family on that day too.

A perfect fit and a perfect exchange.

A perfect fit and a perfect exchange.

Last year at this time, my friend Linda graciously helped me by unexpectedly buying my mother’s wedding ring.  While I was planning on selling the ring to get money for my trip, I never expected it to go to someone I knew.  That was more confirmation of God’s hand on my trip.  It was a win-win situation for both of us as she wanted the ring to celebrate the receipt of her mental health license; and it fit her perfectly.

The night before I revealed all of this to my Spanish family over Skype, I went over to Linda’s home to do the exchange—my mother’s ring for my airfare to Spain.  It was a memorable evening as we sipped wine, talked about the journey ahead and the reality of my trip started to sink in.  Linda has been a big cheerleader for me along this journey and I know she will be there in spirit—along with my other prayer partners.

Revealing My Secret

I Skype with my Spanish family about once a month.  Rosa is learning English, but Pedro still does a lot of translating between us.  On this particular video call I asked Pedro to view my blog online and translate this newest post to his mother.  I eagerly watched and waited for their reactions.  He laughed when he translated the part about his music sales not being as much as I’d hoped (to cover my trip costs).  Later as he started to connect the dots in the story he said, “Oh, I know where you are going”.

I'm heading to Spain!

I’m heading to Spain!

As he progressed through his translation of the story, I heard the excitement grow in his voice.  He met Linda the year before and was happy to hear how she was involved in this story.  As Pedro neared the end, Rosa broke her silence by speaking in English.  “Incredible, incredible,” she said with delight in her voice.

Pedro told me they would reserve the summer of 2013 for me.  Rosa, in her excitement, rattled off all the cities in Spain we would visit and said she would go to a travel agent and start planning.

We talked about the core reason for this trip and my desire to continue with my writing.  Rosa agreed to share with me her perspective of our story and wanted to get started on that too.

Still Hard to Believe

That was the start of my planning for this trip of a lifetime—6 weeks in Spain.  Last month, Pedro’s father sent me a calendar of my itinerary including most of those cities we first discussed.  I will share more about my itinerary, etc. over the next few months and hope to post regular updates on my blog from Spain.  My writing is a significant portion of this trip, but I also want to be in the moment.

8 weeks until I arrive in Spain.

8 weeks until I arrive in Spain.

I feel blessed beyond belief at times for this family’s generosity to take me in like this.  They are not only opening up their home to me, they are opening up their lives in a multitude of layers—Rosa for trusting me to write about her side of the story, knowing that it will bring up painful memories—and Pedro for letting me partner with him on his musical pursuits.  I pray I can do it all justice and that God would keep me focused on His will for it.

Unbeknownst to me or my family, the road to Spain started with our opening up our home to Pedro, for a short term exchange program in July 2010.  Now, three years later, it is my turn to be the exchange student.  The waiting is almost over.

How Does Your Story Live?

When I first met Henriet Schapelhouman, author of “The Story Lives: Leading a Missional Revolution” over a dozen years ago, she was the pastor of Adult Ministries at a local church and a fledgling writer.  She invited me to join a small group Bible study she led.  I’d never been in a Bible study, but was at a time in my life when I was unsettled with my faith and seeking Him.

Henriet anoints Ardis' book and future speaking, September 2012.

Henriet anoints Ardis’ book and future speaking, September 2012.

Over a decade later, I can still remember when Henriet shared with the group about the publication of her first article in a Christian magazine.  I was so proud of her accomplishment and remember thinking how wonderful that would be.  I never imagined I’d end up writing myself or ever being published.

Henriet has played a pivotal part in my spiritual growth and ministry since then.  She commissioned me to lead my first recovery and spiritual growth groups at that same church.  She took me to my first Christian writers meeting.  Then at my book launch last fall she anointed my book and commissioned my speaking.

Most recently Henriet and I partnered at our first ministry conference booth to promote our books and speaking engagements.  When things were slow at the booth, I was blessed by opportunities to connect on a relational level.  In those times, we were living missionally.

Living Missionally

Living missionally?  What does that mean?  Disregard those thoughts about selling your belongings, moving overseas and preaching the gospel. That is not what “The Story Lives” is about.

Henriet and Ardis living missionally at the NW Ministry Conference, March 2013.

Henriet and Ardis living missionally at the NW Ministry Conference, March 2013.

We are living missionally when we are living out the Story of Jesus in our lives. We are living missionally when we serve Him in the ways we are wired—not just our spiritual gifts, but our personality types and our strengths.  (Henriet is a certified coach and trainer for Myers-Briggs and StrengthsFinders.   Check out Semper Vita Institute for more information.)  By knowing our own unique wiring, we can determine how best to live a life that abundantly gives back and to serve in our sweet spot (or productively work in secular employment as well).

One of the key principles in “The Story Lives” that has helped me is to not be limited in my thinking of how I can serve God.  It’s not about serving him in the box of a church setting.  It’s about where God wants me to share my story and how can I influence His Kingdom.

Influencing Others for His Kingdom

I know I never would’ve considered sharing my story publically had I not shared my testimony years ago at a Celebrate Recovery meeting as a prerequisite for leadership.  I’ve shared it several times in those settings since then, but I don’t need to have that structure limit my publicly sharing my story.  My writing and blogging are now the primary ways in how I serve Him.   Another way is being open to opportunities like the short interview about “The Story Lives” done at Henriet’s book launch party.

The Story LivesThis summer, my influence and speaking are focused on Spain.  There are no Celebrate Recovery meetings in Spain.  I’m pursuing other avenues to share my story.  I don’t know what that looks like yet.  It may not even be in a structured setting.  I’m trusting God to open the doors He wants opened. I know that by just being there and living my life with the Light of Jesus that I am living missionally.

I’m grateful Henriet persevered all the obstacles and doubts that come with writing a book with such a powerful message.  We can all use a message like this as we grow in our faith and allow God to use us in the ways that He uniquely designed us.  I highly recommend “The Story Lives: Leading a Missional Revolution” as a gift to yourself.  It will ignite your desire to live out His Story in your life in a more tangible way.

Updated 01/20/2014:  Check out the book trailer below with the music of my Spanish host son and protégé, Pedro González Arbona

The Call to Speak, Part 1 – A Toast to the Lord

I recently took a bold step forward on my journey toward Spain.  It started six months ago as I was preparing for the release of my book, Journeys to Mother Love.  I spoke at my Open House and shared with the attendees the desires that God placed on my heart to share my story in bigger ways—beyond the book.  I felt God calling me to publicly speak.  The speaking wasn’t just in what you’d consider normal ministry settings, but it was to speak in Spain.

Qualified to Speak?

I’ve been at ease in front of a podium for many years as my responsibilities in my secular jobs included leading large meetings, training employees and supervising staff.  But I didn’t start out that way.  I had fear and insecurity about my ability to speak in those settings.  In time those fears subsided as I became more comfortable in my positions with those companies.  Quite frankly, I was pretty self-sufficient in those days too, not really seeking God’s help, just doing it on my own—without any formal training.

MicrophoneWhen I started serving in ministry, I had to put aside my self-sufficiency and start relying on God.  I overcame my doubts and thinking I was unqualified and unworthy to lead others in their spiritual growth.  As I stepped out of my comfort zone, He reassured me and gave me increasingly bigger opportunities to point people to Him.  But speaking in a foreign country, where I don’t even know the language?  That feels a bit unbelievable to me at times.  I know that God is going before me though, so I continue to trust that He has the venues lining up in the spiritual realms.

My part in all of this is to write the speeches, build my speaking skills and practice in front of a live audience.  With less than four months before I arrive in Spain, I knew I needed to ramp up my speaking skills quickly.  The best way to do that is in the safety of a group of fellow speaking enthusiasts, the Toastmasters.

Confirmation to Speak

Over the last several months, I’ve received repeated confirmations to pursue speaking in Spain as several Spanish contacts have started to cross my path.  The most recent of those was when I looked into joining a Toastmasters group that was forming in my hometown.  It isn’t a normal Toastmasters club, but is a Christian club known as “A Toast to the Lord”.

ToastmastersI first heard about Toastmasters several years ago when a staff member told me about their participation in a group meeting over lunch.  I declined his invitation then, but it must’ve struck a chord with me at some level to remember it all these years later.  Then last summer when I started to work on my branding and platform, my publishing coach, Athena Dean from Book Jolt, recommended that I join Toastmasters.  When I found out that by joining this group I would also be welcomed to speak at Toastmasters clubs in Spain, I eagerly began working on my first speech and joined the club.

The first speech in the training program is the icebreaker.  In less than a day, I wrote the speech, rehearsed it, recorded it and listened to it several times—no nervousness or anxiety.  I took that as a good sign that the story is becoming more integrated into my life.  On the way to the meeting I prayed for confirmation of these next steps on my journey.

One of the benefits of belonging to a Toastmaster’s club are the evaluations received by other Toastmasters.  The written evaluations were definitely confirmation of my next steps as they were full of adjectives that encouraged me to share this inspiring and emotional story.  I won’t share them here, lest you think I am boasting.  As the title of my blog indicates though, He is Making Me Bold.  Any boasting that I do is out of my love for the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).  Now with my new role as a Toastmaster, I can boast and toast to the Lord at the same time.

Habla Espanol¿Habla Español?

What about not knowing the language?  I’m focusing my speaking engagements on English speaking venues or those with translators available.  If necessary, I know I can rely on Pedro or Rosa to translate as well.   I’ll also cram in a Spanish refresher course before I step on the plane in June.

Do I still question my qualifications to speak in Spain?  From time to time I do hear that little voice in my head trying to tell me I won’t be ready or that this is all a crazy dream.  But to keep me humble and leaning on Him, I like to recall something I heard when I first started serving in ministry: “God doesn’t call the qualifed, He qualifies the called”.

So while I’m still on American soil, Toastmasters is my next step of obedience as I become more equipped and qualifed to speak in Spain and beyond.  I’m proud to share the microphone, podium, stage or stump with Him.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the series to read my speech and evaluate it for yourselves.

A Tribute to Mom, Part 1 – Answering the Call to Write

Today marks the second anniversary of my mother’s passing and with it come the bittersweet memories of the events that led to her death.  My healing took a huge step forward the days immediately following her passing.  The identity revelations and significance of that healing were painstakingly shared in my mother’s eulogy.  (See Part 2 of this series to read more.)

While flying home later that day, the Lord nudged me to start writing about all of these miraculous things.  And so my manuscript, “Walking My Mother Home”, published in Journeys to Mother Love, was born that day in my journal on the flight home from St. Louis.

My Mom, circa 1955

My Mom, circa 1955

Fast forward one year later to January 2012.  When my grief was still fresh, I wrote and submitted my manuscript to Cladach Publishing.  As a new writer, I had many doubts about my ability to write that piece. Yet I knew when I submitted the manuscript that this story had to be told.  I released the outcome of that submission, as I had the timing of my mother’s death the year before.

Confirmation of the Call 

The day I received notice from Cladach Publishing that my story was accepted was like a kiss from heaven above and confirmation of the call to write.  The timing was perfect, January 30th—sandwiched between the anniversaries of both Rosa’s and my mother’s passings.  It was a gift from God to be able to honor our mothers in this poignant way with the publishing of our story.

I never dreamed any of these things were possible.  In fact, as I prepared for my mother’s passing, one of the main things I somewhat selfishly desired was for my life to get back to normal.  Earlier this week while in a period of self-care and reflection, it all seemed to hit me, and I let the tears flow.  The death of my mother brought nothing close to normalcy in my life.  I was radically transformed from the inside out.  My family and I have both had to adapt to these changes.  Quite honestly, as glamorous as it may seem at times, it hasn’t been easy.

A New Normal

I have accepted that the writing, the speaking, the sharing of my story and my Spanish connection are part of my new normal.  It was a gift that I was open to receiving when I released my mother’s life to the Lord two years ago.  So I blindly answered the call to write in honor of my mother and in obedience to Him.

My Mom, a silver haired beauty.

My Mom, a silver haired beauty.

I never take for granted that the Lord put all these steps in motion on my journey.  He placed the desire to write on my heart many, many years ago.  When the timing was right, He gave me a story that would touch the lives of others in similar situations.  I have received many comments and feedback on how this story (and the book in general) has touched people’s lives.  When the times are rough, that is what I remember most.  It reminds me that God is using my pain for His glory.

Whether our stories are publically shared in print or privately amongst friends, our stories of faith are a gift from God.  Be ready to share your story of healing, never forget, and watch God redeem it.  You never know how He will use it or when.

  • WELCOME to my site!

    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

  • Returning to Spain

    Arrival on Spanish SoilApril 29, 2018
    Vamos a España!
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    © Ardis A. Nelson and MakingMeBold, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ardis A. Nelson and MakingMeBold with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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