What Are Your Memory Stones?

As I age each year and the significance of life events seem to take on more meaning, I am gathering more and more memory stones for my journey.

What is a memory stone?  It is a Biblical reference to a type of marker—usually tangible—that we keep as a remembrance of God’s activity in our life.  One such Biblical reference is in Joshua 4:19-24, about a time in Israel’s history when God did a significant thing—he parted the Jordan River to allow the Israelites to cross into the Promised Land.  The twelve stones that were left on the other side (one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel) were left as a memorial—or spiritual marker—for future generations.

January is of course a time when people often reflect on the milestones over the previous year, make resolutions and rededicate their lives to new areas for growth.  For me, January also comes with bittersweet memories of several significant spiritual markers.

Collecting Memory Stones

I didn’t pay any attention to these spiritual markers until my life hit a dramatic wall in January 2004.  That was when I was demoted from my job.  I am grateful for that life changing event though, as that event led me out of denial and into recovery.  Last night I celebrated that milestone by accepting a 9-year coin (memory stone) at a local Celebrate Recovery (Christian 12-step) meeting.9 year CR coin

But that is not all I celebrated as January came to an end.  I celebrated the one year anniversary of having my story, “Walking My Mother Home”, accepted by Cladach Publishing (exactly eight years to the day after my demotion).  In January I also celebrated the anniversary of the receipt of Pedro’s first song and finding out he was a composer.  I prayerfully remembered the passing of Rosa’s mother.  I celebrated a significant trip to Wisconsin five years ago that led to identity revelations as I poured through the personal effects of my late Aunt Ardis.

New Stones to Treasure

My latest memory stone, a heart shaped stone, was received last week at the end of a 4-day spiritual retreat in California led by Tamara J. Buchan and based on her book, Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You.  I left there feeling energized and renewed in my purpose and more firmly grounded in my identity in Christ.  (I had multiple revelations that in time may surface in my blog.)

Two of my significant memories stones.

Two of my significant memories stones.

As if to wrap all of these January memory stones together with a bow, this week I had yet another reminder of how special the last few years of my journey have been.  During my dedicated weekly time of prayer at a Catholic Church, I wrote my thoughts on the last page of a beautiful leather bound journal.  My first entry in that journal was in that same church after Rosa’s mother passed away. I have reserved it for my times with God.  The journal in itself is a beautiful memory stone that I will always treasure.

The final words God gave me as I finished this book of prayers and meditations were these:  “Your life used to revolve around the payroll calendar (in reference to my secular job and demotion).  Now your life revolves around Me and the liturgical calendar.”  It was music to my ears as the words flowed from my pen.  For this I am grateful.

So you see, memory stones come in all shapes and sizes.  What they have in common is the memory they hold to encourage you on your journey—to never forget what the Lord has done for you.

What kind of memory stones do you keep and what does it represent to you?

Time Out for a Blog Tour

For the past week I’ve been devoting daily time to working on my memoir as part of the 50,000 word challenge of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  However, a few days ago, I was reminded of my commitment to participate in my publisher’s blog tour for Journeys to Mother Love.  Decisions, decisions!

What’s a Blog Tour?

A blog tour is an opportunity for authors to interact with bloggers and readers of their book online.  As part of this blog tour, scheduled Nov. 8-12, Journeys to Mother Love is being reviewed by bloggers across the United States.  Each of the contributing authors in Journeys to Mother Love has been invited to comment on these blogs and engage the readers.  We were also interviewed in advance and our responses have been published on “Journeys to Mother Love” blog.  It’s just one of the benefits that the internet can provide authors and readers—ease of access to an audience from anywhere in the world.

Along with the literary responses and communication, Cladach is offering book giveaways.  You can enter by “liking” their Facebook page, following the “Journeys to Mother Love” blog or commenting on a blog post or the Facebook blog tour event page.  You can also enter (you get 3 entries) by sharing your story on the book blog.  (I’ve heard lots of positive responses to this book and how people are connecting to the stories, so dive right in by sharing yours!)

In addition to all that, the Kindle e-book version of Journeys to Mother Love will be free on Amazon.com November 8-10!

Support of my Writing

With this temporary diversion comes the possibility of increased traffic to my website and blog as well as new subscribers.  It’s a welcome sacrifice of writing time to invest in my platform and building relationship with others. After all, that is why I felt called to do this in the first place—to share the story of God’s healing power when we step out of our comfort zone and surrender to His will.

So I am diverted for a few days, but will be immersed in my writing again soon.  It’s all good.  It’s all for God, so I’m ok with that.

I hope you will participate in the blog event over the next several days.  Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter or whatever social media sites you regularly use (click an icon below to share).  If you download the free e-book, please shoot me an email at info@ardisanelson.com to let me know your thoughts or feedback on “Walking My Mother Home” (Chapter 8).  As a bonus to anyone who directly responds to me about the book, I will send links to two music videos based on the story with the music of Pedro González Arbona, the Spanish young man who is also part of the story.

Lastly, if you haven’t already done so, I’d love to add you to the list of people who are interested in following this story or are looking for a place to turn healing into hope.  You can subscribe to my blog by adding your email address and clicking the “Follow” button on the upper right hand corner of this page.  Or click “Like” to follow my writings on Facebook (upper right).

Thanks for your interest and visiting my blog today.  It’s not an accident that you are here.  And please do enjoy the literary event sponsored by Cladach Publishing.  Click this link for more information about Cladach’s “Fall Book Fling”.

Like, like, like, and hope to connect with you on the tour this week.

Reclaiming the True You

Last year at this time, I attended an all-day workshop developed by Tamara J. Buchan, an author and friend.  The material she shared from her book, “Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You” was so significant to me, I ended up partnering with her on the book marketing team for a short time before she moved to California.

The identity breakthroughs I had at the workshop changed my life.  I left the workshop empowered to do the unthinkable—to write a book.  Within a few months my short story, “Walking My Mother Home”, was accepted by Cladach Publishing.  The book is still a work in progress.  You can read about my identity breakthroughs in an interview Tamara wrote on her blog at tamarabuchan.com.

Tamara and I at the book launch for “Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You”, March 2012

Tamara’s book, “Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You” takes readers through an identity journey which starts with our true purpose and moves to God’s invitation to become his adopted child in the  family of God.  Throughout the book, Tamara challenges us to change our minds about our true identity and to not accept the “orphaned” status that we so often cling to in our daily lives.

Each chapter reveals key principles that help to breakdown the internal barriers and lies we believe about ourselves.  At the end of each chapter, Tamara provides reflection topics and hands-on experiences that help to integrate the teaching through our minds and into our hearts.

I love how the last chapter reviews key points from the previous chapters.  It ties all of the identity roles together and ends with a call to action.  When I reviewed the various identities, it was confirmation of how I’ve been walking out my new identity and re-purposed my writing and speaking for Him.

Tamara’s words in the book are not just words on the page.  They are an invitation to living life differently—to not remain stuck in our heads or full of doubt.  It is an invitation to move forward and live our lives as God designed.

Having worked with and been mentored by Tamara has given me a unique firsthand perspective to witness how Tamara lives her life by these principles.  I have seen Tamara cling to her identity no matter what the circumstances might be.  In the face of life’s unpleasant and painful circumstances, I too, want to be able to stand tall and still declare my identity in Christ.

I was blessed to be able to attend one of Tamara’s workshops as well as read the book.  Earlier this year, Tamara moved from the Seattle area to the San Francisco area.  She is a gifted speaker and holds retreats, workshops, and speaking events that revolve around the spiritual truths in her book.

Regardless of where you are on your spiritual journey, as a long time follower of Christ or a new Believer, I highly recommend reading Tamara’s book, “Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You”.  Her book will challenge you to start thinking differently and to break free from the bonds that are holding you back from becoming all that God designed you to be.

“Journeys to Mother Love” Book Launch

The last month has been a whirlwind of activities, culminating with the launch of Journeys to Mother Love, Cladach Publishing, at my Open House last weekend.  The emotions and the stress have been pretty intense.

Also during this month my son transitioned to a new high school, I began a new treatment plan for my ADHD, covered staff vacancies at my husband’s office, and bid farewell to the ministry leader I’ve served with for the last year.  No wonder my body is tired and my mind seems a bit mushy.  So it shouldn’t be a surprise that my writing, including this blog, has been on hold.

The Open House and Book Signing was truly magical for me.  As odd as it may sound, it reminded me of my father’s memorial service a few months ago.  I gave the eulogy and felt wholly unequipped to do so.  But somehow God showed up and anointed my words.  And that is exactly what happened last weekend too.

I spent hours creating the publicity documents, personally inviting friends and creating audio/visual segments for the program.  But when my head hit the pillow in the early morning hours on the day of the event, I didn’t know what I was going to say.  I do work well under a deadline, but that was really cutting it short.  I prayed and trusted that God was going to make it all work out, and He did!

When I awoke, I felt surprisingly alert, fresh and ready to write the program.  My prayers were answered that morning as God seemed to piece it all together in my mind.  There was no time to type it up or to practice.  I jotted some notes down on paper and made a B-line for the event.

I felt calm and at ease as I shared with everyone the key pieces of this story—interwoven with videos accompanied by Pedro’s original piano compositions.  (Pedro González Arbona is my Spanish son who is a key character in the published story.)  The response to the event was extremely positive.  I felt blessed and affirmed to start on this next season of writing and speaking.  I know that these things wouldn’t be possible without the love and encouragement I have received from friends and family along the way.  I am very grateful to them.

My mother has been physically gone for almost two years, but as I wrote in “Walking My Mother Home”, I lost her emotionally over forty years ago.  I still have a few moments when I get caught up in the loss of never really knowing my mother as a person—like when I see or hear about my friends connecting with their daughters—but the journey I’ve been on to wholeness these past two years has led to such amazing peace and joy in my own identity.  And it was with that sense of awe and wonder at how God can turn our healing into hope that I celebrated the launch of Journeys to Mother Love last week.

Since many of you couldn’t attend the Open House, I’m including the video below I created from the event.  I think you’ll agree that it was joyful.  In time I will share the other videos and soundtrack to the story.  Pedro surprised me with the song, “The Launch,” a few days before the event.  I hope you enjoy this lovely composition used with the video.  Thanks for following me on this journey to wholeness.

Where has God turned your healing into hope?  Where has God redeemed your pain and made you whole?  I’d love to hear your story or comments on the video.

Sharing Our Stories in Community

Journeys to Mother Love was released a week ago and I’m already starting to get responses from people who have read my story, “Walking My Mother Home”.  At times it is overwhelming to hear how friends cried as they read it or couldn’t put the story down.

Sharing the blessing with Janet.

I’ve been so stressed with preparing for the launch, that I haven’t had much down time or time to reflect on all of this.  Then in the midst of my day I get a call, text or email from someone I know that puts it all into perspective for me.

It is a blessing in so many ways.  First, it is a privilege to write what I believe God has called me to write and have people respond to it.  Second, writing the story was very healing for me personally.  Third, others are being inspired or touched by the story as well.

When I found out that the book was going to have a blog, journeystomotherlove.com, for the authors to contribute and to connect with readers, I was thrilled.  I know the value of sharing our stories in community, as this is a vital part of Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-step program where I serve in ministry.  Testimonies are inspiring and leave me with a desire to spread the word of hope and healing through Jesus Christ that this program offers.

The blog that accompanies the book is a great way for readers to connect with the authors stories or to share their own stories.  It brings a whole new dimension to reading the book—hopefully inspiring people and providing a positive place for connection—and to multiply the blessings.

So a few days ago, when I read and was touched by Catherine Lawton’s story, “When I Feel Forsaken”, I was compelled to pay the blessing forward.  Click this link, “Journeys to Mother Love” to read that blog post.

I hope you will join me in community at journeystomotherlove.com.  It’s going to be a great place to garner encouragement and be blessed on your journey to relationship healing.  Or if you’ve read “Walking My Mother Home”, you can comment below or contact me privately at info@ardisanelson.com.  In any case, let us know what you think.

It’s Time to Celebrate!

Today is a day to celebrate!  The countdown has ended!  It is the official release date of my book, Journeys to Mother Love.

It is a day I hoped for ever since I received the email seeking submissions to this compilation from Cladach Publishing.  Some thought it was a crazy notion since I had never written anything like this before.  But I knew this story was incredibly unique, compelling and inspiring.  I knew I HAD to write this.

When I sat down to write this 10,000 word novella on a personal writing retreat last fall, the events of this story were still fresh in my mind.  It was painful at times, but the writing brought about more healing.  And then with each publishing milestone along the way, the healing, transformation and joy seemed to integrate more fully into my soul.

As my writing journey started last year, a dear friend of mine often heard me say, “I don’t know what I am doing”.  I seriously believed that.  After all, I was a beginning writer.  It took months for me to retrain my mind and my tongue from thinking and saying those words.  I had to pray my way through the doubts, seek encouragement and ask for lots of prayer too.

And then I had to overcome a steep learning curve into the publishing industry.  Don’t think for a minute that this is all glamorous or that all one has to do is “write”.  That is generally all a writer wants to do.  But in reality, most writers today need to be their own publicity agent, financier and marketing guru—or hire someone to do it for them.  I blindly walked into this—following God’s leading down this path.

A few days ago I got an email filled with congratulatory comments and calling me a professional writer.  It felt very awkward.  That’s a lot to live up to.  In time that will feel more comfortable too.  For now, I’m excited to see what God has in store.

So today I celebrate what He has done in me and through me.  I celebrate what He plans to do with this book–not just for myself, but for the other eight women who so bravely bared their souls in this compilation of healing and forgiveness.

I celebrate our victories.  I celebrate the blessings and inspiration that this book will provide the readers.  I celebrate the connections that will be formed through the “Journeys to Mother Love” blog.  I celebrate God’s gift of mothers and daughters in our lives.  I celebrate Jesus!

How about you?  What are you celebrating today?  Will you celebrate with me?

Saying Goodbye to My Father, Part 2 – Relationship Healing

My father and I had several memorable conversations over the last few years as I tried to prepare myself for his passing.  My parents divorced when I was nine.  My mother, two brothers and me moved 2000 miles away so we could be near my mother’s family.  My contact with my father was very limited after that day.  My husband and I moved back to the Pacific Northwest many years ago and started to have more regular contact with him.  Even as an adult, I still longed for his acceptance and love for me.  I knew I had that as I watched him leave this earth last week.

It was a painful and surreal experience to watch my father pass away before my very eyes.  My mother passed away a year ago.  I had a strong desire to be there when she passed, but it wasn’t meant to be.  I had no such expectations or hopes with my father.  Interestingly enough, the emotional healing I received as a result of my mother’s passing was what I needed to help me prepare for my father’s passing.

It was a long road to this place of peace between us.  I’ve done a lot of emotional and spiritual healing work over the last ten years and am a strong advocate for Christian 12-step programs, like Celebrate Recovery, that helped me to face my brokenness and to forgive.  My relationship with Christ gave me the strength and courage to journey into the painful places that I needed to deal with in order to free myself from the unmet expectations I still carried with me.  In doing so, I learned to love my father as he was—with all of his imperfections.

Except for reading my mother’s eulogy and memorial program from a year ago, my father had not seen any of my writing or knew of my desire to write.  I visited him in February shortly after my first manuscript was accepted by Cladach Publishing in the compilation Journeys to Mother Love.  I feared that he wouldn’t live long enough to see it in print, so I wanted him to know about this story.  Even though it was difficult for him to read or to hold his concentration for very long, he asked to read it.  I was shocked when he sat at the computer with its enlarged print and read the whole story in one sitting.  “Very, very good writing,” he said.  His words were a precious gift.

Last picture with my father, April 2012.

Then a few months later when I needed help with more information for the final edits, he filled in some of the gaps in my memory.  Those edits were accepted in the final proof of the manuscript hours before rushing to be by his side in the hospital at 2 AM.  My story, “Walking My Mother Home,” about the healing I received as I prepared for my mother’s passing, was the topic of our final conversation together.  He agreed to tell my mother “hello” when he got to heaven.  And he agreed to tell her I was ok and that I love her.  I was also able to thank him for his help with the manuscript.

My conversations with my father after that were brief in nature and geared toward his health care.  Our final private time together was in my brother’s home the following day.  He was resting in his new recliner.  I sat at the desk next to him writing his eulogy on my laptop.  Hours later he passed away.

I never did finish writing his eulogy.  In the days that followed his passing, my time was torn between family obligations and other preparations.  I gathered my thoughts though and jotted down some notes.  I trusted that the Holy Spirit would give me the right words to say.

The hours leading up to his memorial, I was stressed with last minute logistics.  I was nervous too.  I’ve spoken at church functions and shared my recovery testimony several times, but except for my husband and my younger brother, my family had never heard me speak.  This was a whole new arena to step out of my comfort zone.

Strangely enough though, as I stood in front of family to share the final reflections that I felt God led me to say about my father and his legacy, I was in total peace.  The healing I received with my mother’s passing the year before made me whole enough to face this new challenge.  God had miraculously connected the timing and significance of these two events.

I know that my true identity is ultimately in Christ.  But for me and the orphaned spirit I often felt throughout my life, I can now see my additional identity as a woman who was uniquely loved by two very different parents, each with their own brokenness and burdens.  They both left me with a legacy of healing.  And for that I am eternally grateful.

Writing: My First Year, Part 4 – Finishing Strong

Almost two months to the day I submitted my manuscript to Cladach Publishing, I received an email that my story was being accepted for publication.  It was the biggest confirmation possible that I really was on the right path with my writing.  Not only was I a writer, but technically I was now going to be an author.  This was such exciting news for me and worthy of a celebration.  (See “Waiting on Pins & Needles” for more information.)

Once the initial shock wore off, my mind was filled with a hundred questions and a new fear sunk in—fear of the unknown.  Thankfully I had a dedicated group of friends supporting and praying for me.  I also knew three authors, Tamara J. Buchan, Henriet Schapelhouman and Michelle Hollomon, who provided wisdom as I ventured into this unknown territory.

I nervously negotiated my contract with the publisher including the retention of the foreign rights in hopes of someday publishing it in Spain.  Over the last five months, I’ve had several conversations and emails with my publisher and been faced with numerous decisions along the way.

I’ve done multiple edits to the manuscript, had photos taken for the book (thanks to a friend’s time and talent), written a one-sheet (publicity document), sought endorsements (Steven Arterburn accepted!), and navigated my website set up.  With less than two months to go before “Journeys to Mother Love” is published, my attention will turn to marketing and promotional aspects of the book and facing more fears.

Over the past year, my writing has definitely taken me into uncharted territory and stretched me outside of my comfort zone.  There was a lot of time spent in prayer and physically spent writing.  The pain in my right arm and shoulder is a reminder of my devotion to this new direction in my life and my need for some self-care.

When I tell people about the events of the last year or that I am going to be published, I am often met with surprise and excitement for these bold changes in me and what God is doing in my life.  I’ve been told that my path to publication is not typical and that it generally takes years to be published.

I don’t say this to boast.  I have to remind myself of this because I know that it is God who has made all of this possible.  I’ve had to do my part, but I believe that He has put these dreams in my heart.  I believe He has given me these confirmations so that I will continue down this path.  He knew that I would need them to continue facing my fears.

Even though I totally sense God in the midst of this, that doesn’t mean it has been easy.  There have been lots of challenges and times of doubt.  When my doubts surface, I remind myself of His faithfulness and His promises.  (Jeremiah 29:11)

So from that day one year ago that I voiced my desire to be a writer, I’ve had to consciously choose to step into this new role in my life.  As I did I was also accepting my identity in Christ more and more.  In doing so, I have found freedom to write what God lays on my heart to write.  The foundational truth that I cling to is that God accepts me unconditionally even if and when my writing is rejected.  I’d have to characterize that as a pretty strong finish to a whirlwind year of writing.

Are you open to following God’s path for you?  Where are you partnering with Him in your life or where are you fighting Him?  What has He revealed to you along the way?  What’s stopping you from finishing strong?  I’d love to hear your story.

Writing: My First Year, Part 3 – Getting Side Tracked

One of the first emails I received after becoming a member of the Northwest Christian Writers Association was a request to submit a story on healing in mother/child relationships.  Although I knew it was tailor made for my story—the reason I felt God calling me to start writing—I didn’t act on it immediately.  Writing a 10,000 word story about my healing with my mother seemed like a luxury.

I had just started blogging, was writing e-devotionals for my church, committed to help launch Celebrate Recovery at my church and took a part-time marketing job for friend and pastor, Tamara J. Buchan.  Tamara was ramping up her team to promote her new book, Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You.

While I’ve done lots of marketing for my husband’s business over the years, I had never worked in the publishing industry.  I had a large learning curve to overcome in this position.  What appealed to me with this job was that I knew what I learned would be used someday for marketing the book I wanted to write.  I was also drawn to working with Tamara and being so closely mentored by her.

As the deadline for the story submission approached, God kept nudging me to write the story.  My biggest fear was if I wrote the story and it was published that I would never write the bigger book.  One night as I was journaling, I noticed that since my mother died and my writing started, nine months earlier, I had already written 114,000 words in my journal.  That was more than enough for a 200-page book.  That was all I needed to confirm that I have enough material for a book.

But there was one problem still remaining—I needed dedicated time to write the story in the next three weeks.  God was making it pretty clear to me that I couldn’t write this story or my book and also work for Tamara.  It was a painful decision that weighed heavy on my heart.

I loved working with Tamara.  But I realized that continuing down this path was asking God to sanctify my disobedience.  So I quit.  The irony in the situation is that the revelations I discovered about my identity directly correlated with the message in Tamara’s book.  Working for her and reading her book took my faith and trust in God to a higher level—despite the consequences.  It was a big blessing.

I booked a few days away at a camp over Thanksgiving weekend so I could devote quality time to writing the story.  Since I never wrote anything this big or submitted a story for publication, I also hired my writing teacher, Candace Wilson, to coach my writing.  Armed in prayer covering by my friends, loaded down with a huge stack of papers that I’d accumulated over the past two years and my new laptop, I dove into the story.  (See Counting Words for a summary of my writing weekend.)

On December 1, 2011, I submitted my story, “Walking My Mother Home”, to Cladach Publishing. I met my deadline.  I was relieved.  I released the outcome to God.

Have you ever gone down a road that seemed so right, only to find out later that God had other plans?  How did you respond?  Did you fight God, bargain with Him or relinquish control and trust His plans for you?

Writing: My First Year, Part 2 – First Steps

I’ve had a burning desire to be a writer ever since my mother died about 1½ years ago.  But it wasn’t until I voiced that desire in a support group meeting one year ago last week that my desire started to become more of a reality—emotionally on the inside and visibly on the outside.

Since that day, I have received one confirmation after another.  Coincidence? (more…)

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    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.

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