“You’re Just Like Your Mother”

Think about this: If someone said, “You’re just like your mother,” would you be embarrassed or delighted? Would you feel shame? Or gratitude? Or something in between? It’s all part of the journey to mother love.

Journeys To Mother Love

Mom's visit Just like my mother: a rare photo of my mother, me and my oldest son, 1996

“You’re just like your mother!” Those words and that fear have been engrained in my mind and my psyche throughout my adulthood. They were like a blemish on my face that screamed for attention every time I got a glance of myself in the mirror. Not literally, but that’s how often the message surfaced.

I didn’t want to be anything like my mother! That comparison brought too much embarrassment, too much shame. After all, she was mentally ill.

My fears started as a teen. Whether you’re an adult (who once was a teen) or the parent of a teen, you know the feelings of embarrassment that can arise. As teens start to separate from their parents, test their independence, and explore who they are, they veer away from parental input and advice. They don’t want…

View original post 427 more words

A New Lenten Journey ~ Allowing God More Access

Here we are two weeks into Lent and I haven’t written a post about this time of year.  No big deal you may think, because you don’t recognize Lent or do anything special to participate in it.  Well, maybe it’s time you considered it.  Let me explain…

lent 40 days

Let’s Consider Lent

Lent is the 40-day period approaching Holy Week and Easter Sunday, usually associated with fasting, repentance, or sacrificial giving.  It is commonly considered a Catholic ritual, but I know of several local Protestant churches and friends who routinely participate in Lenten and Holy Week services, prayer practices, and such, just like they do for Advent (the season preceding Christmas).

This is my 5th year of actively participating in the Lenten season.  I’ve written about it several times: how and why I stumbled onto this practice, how it changed me and what I fasted from, and even about my son’s Lenten journey last year.  This year I was at a loss on how to change my Lenten practices, what to give up, etc.  I am again abstaining from alcohol and sweets.  Although, it seems to be part of an annual body cleanse now more than a strictly spiritual sacrifice.

Yesterday, I got an answer to how this Lent will be different.  It wasn’t about doing something different, it was about being something different.  The only way I can be different is to allow God access to my heart and mind.  And He gets hours of it in our weekly appointment at my sacred space.

He reminded me that after four years of dedicated weekly prayer time, that He has already transformed me from the inside out and made me into something new (yet again).  In our time together, He routinely speaks to me, guides me, and gives me peace.  He convicts me of my sinful ways and points me back to His will and ways.  (Although I do often wrestle with him when it comes to letting go of my grip on things.)

My willingness to enter the Catholic church over four years ago and start my weekly appointments with God have given Him more access to me not just at Lent, but year-round.  He reminded me that I don’t need to do anything different for Lent this year.

Seek Me in this Place

I am to just keep coming, keep seeking His will, keep listening for His voice, and keep writing about His messages to me—either in private or publically on my blog.  He will let me know when and how much to share.

Habakkuk 2:1 says, “I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost.  There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how He will answer.”

Oddly enough, my watchtower is in a Catholic church, and my guardpost is in the sanctity of its small chapel.

Listening for God at the guardpost (local chapel).

Listening for God at the guardpost (local chapel).

It started with the season of Lent five years ago.   I embraced the mystery of Jesus there, a very unusual thing for a Protestant to do.  He was stretching me outside of my comfort zone as He showed up and kept wooing me to seek Him there every week.

It changed me.  It changed my prayer practices.  It has also trickled into my family, has rubbed off on some of my friends, and is modeled in the groups I lead and participate in.

How are you Giving God more Access?

So the message I am sharing today is about doing whatever it takes to give God more access in your life.

Make time in your schedule.  Find a quiet place.  Read the Bible.  Pray.  Listen.  Record what happens.

Lent is a the perfect time to do that, and make this Easter not just one of those Sundays that you have to go to church.  Make it a season and way to give God access to your life in new and mysterious ways.  And you’ll never be the same again.

How are you giving God more access to you?  Where is your watchtower?  I’d love to hear about what you are doing for Lent.

Going Gaga for the Academy Awards

I woke up yesterday morning to see a flood of social media attention to the 87th annual Academy Awards show. That is nothing unusual on the day following the annual telecast. What stood out was not people weighing in on the winners and losers, but on “The Sound of Music” tribute performance by Lady Gaga.

Going Gaga for the Sound of Music

I am not a Lady Gaga fan, but I am a big fan of “The Sound of Music.” Her performance was incredible, giving me new respect for her musical talent. She was a stunning vision of beauty in a shimmery white sleeveless evening gown and long blonde hair that caressed her bare shoulders. (I was a bit distracted by her obvious love for tattoos, and tried to look past that to enjoy the overall performance.) The stage setting was also beautifully choreographed, with a background of white birch trees, surrounded by a virtuoso of violinists, and framed by twinkling lights arched over the stage.

If you missed her performance, you can watch it here.

I’ve written about my connection with “The Sound of Music” on other occasions—once after attending a Sound of Music Sing-A-Long event, and another post during my adventures in Spain. I felt inspired to write a post about this again the night of the Oscars but decided against it.

“How silly to write about the Academy Awards,” I thought to myself.

After all, isn’t it just an awards show geared to the rich and famous, and full of Hollywood hype? Truthfully, that used to be my opinion of it, not really paying much attention to the awards, and rarely seeing the nominated films. That has changed in recent years with my Spanish connection and friendship with Pedro González Arbona, a young film composer.

Going Gaga for Nominated Films

Every year, Pedro sends my family his Oscar predictions and posts them on Facebook. He also sends me personal reviews of which movies he thinks I would like, taking into account my dislike of violence and my Christian values. My front row seat to his blossoming music career has also given me insight to the world of film composing. He shares his favorite composers and film music with me as well.

A few days ago, my family went to see “The Imitation Game,” nominated for Best Picture and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role. It was a great movie. As a writer I was drawn into the way they told the story, interweaving the past and present from the perspective of Alan Turing (played by Cumberbatch). I loved the history, especially having now traveled to Europe. I loved the unfolding of the story and the development of the characters.   And I loved the music!

the-imitation-game-poster

At the end of the movie, I patiently waited for the name of the composer to appear on the screen. As I watched the credits scroll before me and was immersed in the music, I thought how the music sounded like Pedro’s music. I thought, “Pedro can compose like this.” I’ve seen and heard it before. Regrettably, I didn’t do my homework before going to see the movie or I would’ve paid more attention to the music. That is because the film was scored by Alexandre Desplat (also nominated for Best Original Score)—Pedro’s favorite composer.

Going Gaga for Film Music

I only caught the tail end of the Academy Awards show, rushing home from a meeting at church, just in time to catch Lady Gaga’s amazing performance. Pedro was watching the show live (televised starting at 3 AM in Spain) and texted me during the performance. We both have a love and connection to this musical. He played the music in our home the summer we met and attended a live performance of the musical in the mountains near Leavenworth, Washington. It was a very special and memorable evening.

At the end of the performance, Julie Andrews came out on the stage, hugged Lady Gaga, and thanked her for such a fitting tribute to the movie. Julie Andrews proceeded to introduce the nominees for Best Original Score and made some opening remarks about how music cements our memories in the film going experience.

Pedro texted me: “Here is the moment.” He was predicting Alexandre Desplat to win for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Earlier in the day he said to listen for his scream if Alexandre won the award.

Alexandre did win the award! I let out a squeal myself. Moments later my phone pinged his response: “Incredible,” Pedro texted me. “Did you hear me scream?”

“Si, y mi?” I texted back. (English translation: Yes, and me?)

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Alexandre Desplat acceptance speech for Best Original Score/The Grand Budapest Hotel (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Why was I so excited? Why was I so engaged in the Oscars and interested in this award category? Because I believe in Pedro’s dream, and I know how important film composing is to his future.

However, I’m not the only one. After last year’s winner was announced for Best Original Score (Steven Price for Gravity), Pedro received an email from the producer/director of his movie “Tempting Fate,” offering the same kind of encouragement to Pedro. He sees the possibilities in Pedro.

A few minutes after Alexandre Desplat accepted his award, Graham Moore was announced as the winner for Best Adapted Screenplay (The Imitation Game). In his acceptance speech, he mentioned his attempted suicide as a teen because he felt “different and weird.” He encouraged young people watching at home to keep believing in themselves and that one day they would have their moment. It was truly inspiring.

Going Gaga for Our Dreams

For me, the Academy Awards show is about people working hard, believing in themselves (against the odds) and fulfilling their dreams. Just like I believe Pedro will one day. He has the talent and the gift of composing beautiful music. With a little luck, and I believe the Lord’s favor, he will walk across that stage one day, or at least be nominated, if not in America, in Spain for their prestigious Goya Awards.

So watching Lady Gaga and the 87th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night was very personal to me. My heart has been blessed with the sound of music:

  • Pedro’s simple piano playing of the Rogers & Hammerstein classics,
  • Pedro’s first solo piano compositions (Introducing Pedro González Arbona),
  • Pedro’s movie soundtrack pieces for “Tempting Fate,” and most recently
  • the release of his full orchestral album, Memories.

I went gaga for Lady Gaga’s tribute to the musical that has touched my life, and I continue to go gaga for the future of Pedro González Arbona. (I am his American manager after all.)

Congratulations Alexandre Desplat and all the winners and nominees of the 87th annual Academy Awards. Dream on!

The 12 Days of Christmas & the Gifts from our True Love

Did you know that in many church settings throughout the Western World that the Christmas season extends beyond Christmas Day?  This post-Christmas period was popularized by the old song “The 12 Days of Christmas,” but truly there are twelve days of Christmas that are celebrated on an annual basis as part of the liturgical calendar.

12 Days of Christmas

The Epiphany

In Christian terms, the twelve days of Christmas are known as the season of Epiphany.  It starts the day after Christmas and ends with the Feast of Epiphany on January 6.  I’ve only become more familiar with it in recent years due to my relationship with my Spanish family and then later due to my adopted prayer times in the Catholic Church.  It is in celebration of the Magi’s (wise men’s) arrival to worship Jesus.

What is the significance of the Magi’s arrival (the Epiphany)?  Until that time, salvation was reserved for the Jews through God’s Covenant with Abraham.  The Magi were Gentiles (non-Jews) who followed the star in the sky from the East to worship Jesus.  They were the first Gentiles to worship him signifying that Jesus came to save us all.  We are also the Gentiles, and were excluded from the covenant.  In celebrating the Epiphany, we are celebrating our inclusion into God’s plan of salvation.

Spanish nativity scene (a Belen), photo courtesy of Pedro's family

Spanish nativity scene (a Belen) courtesy of Pedro’s family

Three King’s Day

In Spain, the Epiphany (feast day on January 6th) is called “Three King’s Day” (Dia de Los Reyes) and has traditionally been more popular than Christmas.  Spanish children look forward to this day and celebrate it with the receipt of presents, like on Christmas.  The giving of gifts on this day is a representation of the gifts given by the wise men, or “Three Kings.”

For children the fun starts on the evening of January 5, when the Three Kings are welcomed into the cities in a parade.  (Spain is known for its festive religious parades with ornate floats and statues.)  Children are rewarded with candies thrown out by the Three Kings along the parade route.  Similar to Christmas in America, children anticipate the arrival of the next day to see what kind of presents the Three Kings have left for them overnight.

Floats being prepared for a Spanish feast day parade, Toledo, Spain, June 2013.

Floats being prepared for a Spanish feast day parade, Toledo, Spain, June 2013.

Gifts from our True Love

Since Three King’s Day is celebrated by my Spanish family, I also make a conscious effort to acknowledge that day with them. This year, I’ve been making many observations since Christmas which remind me it is still the Christmas season.  It has been a deliberate slowing down of the season and watching how God is giving me daily experiences of His love, just like in the song, The 12 Days of Christmas.

It has been an amazing opportunity to witness God’s goodness in my life.  For instance, yesterday was the 5th day of Christmas and my True Love brought me three surprise encounters with friends.  The days before that, I was blessed with special family outings and meals, our annual family card game of Canasta, a wedding ceremony, a movie night out, and a Seahawks victory!

These haven’t been physical gifts.  They have all been experiences to treasure.  They are also reminders to me of how God wants to use me by connecting with others. That got me to thinking about the everyday gifts we receive from our Father in Heaven.

He is good; and yes, life is hard. 

With my ADHD, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other health issues, I seem to struggle with it every day.  But when I pause long enough to see the fruit of His love to me, I can see how faithful He has been to bring me through the ups and downs of it all.

Gifts from God

Farewell to 2014

2014 has been another monumental year for me.  I’ve had to normalize that my life keeps getting bigger and that the Lord has called me to go places and do things that I never dreamed possible for Him.

But with God all things are possible. (Luke 1:37)

So tonight when I celebrate the ringing in of the New Year, I’ve decided to celebrate the gifts from my True Love.  I eagerly embrace the coming of the New Year and what’s in store with arm’s wide open.

Happy New Year to my faithful readers, supporters of my writing, and to those who prayed for or donated to my call to share the gospel in Spain. You have all abundantly blessed me in 2014!  May you celebrate the 12 days of Christmas and the gifts from Our True Love every day in the coming year!

What gifts are you celebrating as you ring in the New Year?

HNY 2015

The Hope of Christmas

I got an early Christmas present yesterday that reminded me of the meaning of Christmas.  It wasn’t a physical gift.  It was the gift of reconciliation and forgiveness.

When we sit in a place of confusion, longing, or hurt for very long, we can wonder aimlessly through our days.  We can easily let our sin and negative thinking start to take over.

It is in those times of darkness that we have a choice to make.  Do we let our physical circumstances define us and dictate our beliefs?  Or do we believe what God tells us about who we are and His promises to us?

Who I am in Christ

The Hope of Christmas

How does this remind me of Christmas?  Because Jesus is our one true Reconciler.  He reconciles us to God.

18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
(2 Corinthians 5:18-19, NIV)

He washes away our sin and makes us as pure as the fallen snow.  Yes, sometimes unbelievably so, He makes us Holy!

18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
(Isaiah 1:18, NIV)

It is because of His birth that there is any hope at all of reconciliation and of healing for life’s hurts.  Jesus is our one true Healer!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7, NIV)

Jesus came into a dark world.  He brought Light and Life.  He brought Hope.

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, NIV)

Christ’s birth is just the beginning of the story.  It is the promise of what is yet to come.

He has come to bring us life.  He has come with a promise for hope and a future.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)

His Kingdom will have no end.  If we believe in Him, we become heirs to that Kingdom.

17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17, NIV)

hope for christmas

Making Room for Christ-mas

It all started with a baby in a manger.  There was no room for Him at the Inn, but that didn’t thwart his being delivered into the world.  It didn’t stop Him from delivering our world from sin.

With reconciliation there always comes hope.  Even if we don’t have the reconciliation or forgiveness we may seek with our friends or family at Christmas, there is a greater reconciliation and healing we can experience through Christ.

Are you making room for Him in your life?  Are you making room for Him in your Christmas celebrations?

Christmas points us to Hope!

May the Hope of the world fill you with Peace and Joy this most blessed time of year!

Giving Up Christmas?

We don’t watch much TV in our home. One of our favorite shows is “The Middle.” We love to laugh at the dysfunction of this family with 3 kids spanning from middle school to college. The holiday episode hit way too close to home as Frankie, the mom, decided she was “done with Christmas.” She decided she wasn’t going to decorate the house, bake cookies, and do a multitude of other Christmas expectations.

No Christmas treeToo Much Holiday Hype

“I’m not going to get sucked into all the trappings,” Frankie declared.

None of this was because she wanted to get in touch with the meaning behind Christmas. She was just overwhelmed by all of the work. What did she do instead? She followed the example set by Axl, her teenage son, and sat on the sofa watching TV with her pants off.

Although my reasons are different, I’ve felt just like Frankie on several occasions over the last several years, except for the pants thing. I’ve wanted to slow down, do less, and have more Peace throughout the season. It seems like a constant struggle to find the right balance between the Season and the Reason.

“No more Christmas,” my husband declared, one year after putting away the Christmas boxes for the season. He recovered though.

The Annual Holiday Letter

The one tradition I wrestle with every year is the annual holiday letter to friends and family. To do or not to do? After I turned towards writing as a fulltime ministry, I saw how the annual letter was one of many ways I was able to use that part of my creativity over the years. Our letters go back almost 30 years.

There were no sacred cows on this episode of “The Middle”, including the holiday letter. Brick, the youngest sibling, in 7th grade, became fascinated by the receipt of Christmas letters and decided to take on this task for his family too. The result was very humorous. When he read his honest letter of what was going on in their family to his father, the letter was quickly criticized.

Brick reads his rendition of the Heck family Christmas letter.

“Brick you can’t say any of that stuff…Christmas letters are just for the good things that happen in the last year,” his father explained.

“Oh, that’s going to be a lot harder, and shorter,” Brick responded.

I’ve been formulating our annual letter in my mind the past few days. Thankfully, we have the opposite of Brick’s situation.  2014 was a year of so many positive things happening that it struck me that any of my family members could write their own letter of activities. (All of this activity also brought with it a lot of challenges.)

How do I decide what to write? How do I choose which pictures to include out of all the travels we experienced? How do I summarize it all?

Blessed! Grateful! Blown away by God’s goodness! That is my summary.

A note on a birthday card I received last year said, “I know it will be hard to top this past year, but here’s hoping the next one’s just as fabulous!”  I remember thinking it would get better, not really knowing how, but trusting God to keep His promises in the New Year.

He did. 2014 topped 2013 in such unexpected and amazing ways. Will 2015 be more of the same? My calendar and my heart are open to more.  But my body and my mind are looking forward to entering a season of abide (John 15:4).

merry-christmas-1Making Room for Christmas

So how did the show end?  Did Frankie really give up on Christmas?

Late night on Christmas Eve, Frankie and her husband, Mike, were relaxing in front of the Christmas tree.  He reminisced about Christmas in his youth and realized that he never had holiday decorations until he met Frankie.  Enough said!  The next morning when everyone awoke, Frankie surprised them by having the entire house all decked out for Christmas Day.

Her final narrating comments on the episode:  “Every time you think you’re out, it (Christmas) sucks you right back in.”

Gotta wrap this up.  It’s time to jump on the annual holiday letter.  It’s not because I’m being sucked back in.  It’s because I’m making more room for Christmas (the season and the Reason) by celebrating His faithfulness and goodness to us this past year.  And that’s a gift worth sharing with all my family and friends.

How about you? Are you done with all of the holiday hype?  What are you doing to celebrate Jesus this Christmas?

Preparing Our Hearts and Homes for Christmas

I’m not sure why, but this is the first holiday season that I have looked forward to in several years.  I think that started five years ago when my brother, his wife, and me made a cross country trek to visit my mother just before Christmas.  As referenced in my story, “Walking My Mother Home,” in Journeys to Mother Love, it was our final farewell to her.  She survived another Christmas season and passed away in February the next year.  Those two Christmases were the hardest for me, still being in the waiting process.

On Santa's lap, 2001

On Santa’s lap, 2001

Holiday Transitions

It was also during that time our teenage sons were becoming more independent.  The feel of the holidays was changing.  There was no more Christmas wonder, no more believing in Santa Claus, and no more family holiday portraits.  It became harder for me to instill some tradition and holiday spirit into the season.

This year we are preparing for our next layer of parenting and holiday traditions.  Our oldest son Evan graduated from college earlier this year and moved out of state.  We haven’t seen each other since we moved him into his new apartment six months ago.  We already faced Thanksgiving without him.  It was a quiet day with my husband, my youngest son, Cameron, and me.  It was like a super-charged family meal with a small turkey and all the trimmings.

We made the most of it.  The highlight for me was when Cameron asked us each to share what we were thankful for.  He shared that he was thankful for understanding parents (in reference to the challenges he faced adapting to high school with ADD) and that his parents were still together (in reference to his keen awareness of how many of his friends come from broken families).

His response warmed this sentimental mother’s heart.  Even at 17 he gets it!

An Old Tradition

In preparation for Evan’s holiday visit, I am decking the house all out for Christmas, like in years past.  It is a big chore so I enlisted the help of my friend, Stacie, who has spent several holiday meals at our home. While digging through the boxes of decorations, I was reminded of a family tradition of sorts that was handed down from my husband’s father, Ray.

Ray with his new pick-up truck in 1969.

Ray with his new pick-up truck in 1969.

I barely knew Ray.  He never officially became my father-in-law, passing away over 30 years ago, a few months before we were married.  For the next several years though, we were fondly reminded of his sense of humor at Christmas.  Ray had a habit of making a note on the outside of some of the Christmas boxes, posting the year, and maybe what the weather was like outside or some comical tidbit of information.  My husband and I started doing the same, usually making a treatise about the weather or maybe a good-natured ribbing of the other’s holiday attitude.

Continuing the Tradition

Those boxes with their notes from Ray are long gone, but my notes have continued and took a new more ‘writerly’ direction in recent years.  I came across some of those notes while decorating.  Stacie and I had a big laugh over some of my notes and reminisced about how we met.

In a phone conversation a few days prior, we pondered what year we met…and there it was in black and white in my entry for January 12, 2007.  We met in one of the classes that I was leading at church, and I had noted that I was preparing the curriculum.  (It was my first class of this nature, so it was a big deal to me.)  We got quite a chuckle out of that.

Meeting Stacie in a spiritual growth class, 2007.

New and old friends from a spiritual growth class at church in 2007.

I went on to read my notes getting a glimpse into our holiday preparations.  Stacie showed up in my notes indirectly again two years later.  I wrote that I was preparing for the women’s retreat at church.  She was at that retreat and mentioned the significance of it to her.  I remembered it very clearly.  Stacie was in a period of transition and heartache at the time.  In a moment of divine intervention, a group of women gathered around her, and laid hands on her in prayer.  We witnessed the Holy Spirit minister to many women at that retreat.

Ministering to Others

Stacie and I worked hard tending to all the decorating details around the house this year.   We laughed and we got a bit teary eyed a few times.  We turned a chore into a celebration of God’s goodness to us over the years.  It all started with a simple holiday tradition of writing a short note to include with my Christmas decorations.  It ministered to us both that day, not only preparing my home, but also our hearts for Christmas.

Thank you Ray!  Maybe the grandsons whom you never met, will carry on that humorous habit.  If not, you left us a legacy through the notes that are tucked away in our Christmas boxes.  Some day when I pass those boxes of decorations on to my kids, maybe it will minister to them too.

What are you doing to prepare your heart and home for Christmas?

Coming Down From the Mountaintops, Part 2

In Part 1 of this post series, I wrote about how I am adapting to the changes in my life since returning from my mission to Spain.  In this post, I’m turning more to the biblical undergirding that I’ve been processing after coming down from the mountaintops of serving God across the world.

For Such a Time as This 2Esther’s Moment in History

The book of Esther is the story of how Esther was taken out of her Jewish heritage and community to live as a queen in the palace at Susa (present day Iran).  Esther 4:14 is often quoted when studying this book of the Bible: For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Esther’s presence as queen put her in a unique position to boldly speak to the king on behalf of her people.  She could’ve been killed for her reproach to him.  Yet she did it; for she knew that she was called by God ‘for such a time as this.’

I’m no Esther, but I have at times felt like my boldness for Christ has put me in ‘for such a time as this’ situations where I have to make a decision on how much I share and in what venues.  (Case in point, all my recent speaking for Celebrate Recovery and while on mission in Europe.)

Have you ever wondered what happened to Esther after saving the Jews from annihilation?  I have.

I’ve wondered how she lived her life after being such a catalyst for the survival of her people.  How did she keep it from going to her head?  How did she humble herself in the aftermath of such a major event in the history of her people?

I wonder because I want(ed) to learn how to live in the aftermath of living on the mountaintops for God (now and at other times in my life).  I know it’s possible.  Moses did it.  David did it.  They were not perfect people.

Social MediaWhat if They Lived Today?

If Esther lived today, she would have media breathing down her back.  Her image and story would be all over the news and fodder for social media.  Hmmm, would she have her own Facebook page or be posting what she had for dinner or who she was with?

Thankfully, they didn’t live in the social media frenzy that we live in today.  (What would they think about it?  I won’t go down that rabbit trail!)  Since the heroes and saints of the Bible didn’t have to face these types of pressures or intense social media saturation, does that mean the Bible is not relevant?  Of course not!  We are to live grounded on the Word of God.  We are to live humbly and morally, giving praise to God in times of success and in times of defeat.

I think that how we live in the valley, after a mountaintop experience is a much bigger testimonial for God’s work in our lives.  How do we carry on?  How do we face the trials and tribulations that follow?  Do we cling to Him or do we grow angry and bitter?

trust-godFor me, I persevere knowing that as Paul says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  I’ve seen it time and time again in my walk of faith.  I know God’s character and I trust Him.

My Humble Perspective

My perspective from being on the mountaintop for what seems like an eternity (on and off since my mother’s passing almost four years ago), is to not let my past dictate my future.  And my present circumstances, grappling with a new routine and change of focus post-mission, is not where I will be forever.

So I am re-thinking my priorities and once again adapting to a new normal in my life.  I’m backing off from the social media frenzy.  I’m trying to silence all of the ‘shoulds’ in my mind related to writing and publishing.  That even meant not writing about Thanksgiving and letting other November milestones like my birthday go without comment.

I’m living in the aftermath of ‘such a time as this’ and it’s humbling. 

God used me in Spain. He met me on the spiritual and physical mountaintops of France and Spain in very deep and significant ways.

On the mountaintops for God and with God, September 2014.

On the mountaintops for God and with God, September 2014.

He was there with me and for me. 

I’m not physically there anymore.  I’m coming to grips with the reality that He may not use me there physically again.  I can’t dwell on that, future trip, or let that dictate my value.  I did what God called me to do there.  I have peace about that.

I continue to pray for a spiritual revival in the country.  I ask the Lord to reveal the fruit to me in my lifetime.  In the meantime, I’m learning to be grateful for the peaks and the valleys of serving Him.

Finally, I know that I didn’t leave Him in France or Spain.  I came down from the mountaintops with God, in me and beside me.  That’s what He wanted to remind me of today as I re-engaged my blog for His purpose.

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.  Matthew 28:20, NIV

On a mountain high or a valley low, God uses it all.  Giving him the glory in the French Alps, September 2014.

On a mountain high or a valley low, God uses it all. Giving him the glory in the French Alps, September 2014.

Have you found God’s purpose for your life?  How are you using your gifts and talents for His Kingdom?  You never know when or where your ‘for such a time as this’ moment will be.  He is waiting to meet you there.   Just listen and follow His voice.

Coming Down From the Mountaintops, Part 1

The blank page sits before me.  Words and sentences are rapidly racing in my mind so fast that I can’t catch up to them.  Now they are gone.

“Am I really ready for this?” I wonder to myself.  “Am I ready to deliberately sit down and write a new post on my blog?”

Keep calm and write onBreaking my Silence

I’ve been regularly writing here once a week for over three years.  Then I stopped over a month ago without a word.  Maybe my regular readers didn’t notice because I was sharing blog posts from my publisher and ministry sites where I contribute, JourneysToMotherLove.com  and CelebrateRecoveryOnThePlateau.org.

I once read that when blogging to not explain an absence of your posts—to just re-start.  I don’t know if it’s an official blogging rule or what, but I’ve seen it broken many times.  So I’m digging back in with what’s been going on, and a bit of reason behind my absence.  It’s part of the vulnerability and authenticity I hope to share in my writing, and to inspire others to not be shamed into silence.

Since it’s been a while, I’m a bit nervous about writing what’s been on my heart to share, so here goes with Part 1…

The Easy Answer

First of all, writing for the mission took a lot out of me.  It was very hard to carve out the time while traveling to send updates.  I’ve heard positive response to it, like hearing how people felt they were right there with me.  I’m so glad I could update my mission supporters along the way.  No regrets on that.

I had also hoped to write on my personal blog about the mission—not necessarily updates, but from my perspective on other things that didn’t seem appropriate to share on the ministry site, and to just write in general about being in France and Spain.  It became too hard to separate them, and to make time for it.  I did, however, write in my journal as much as possible.  For the most part, that body of work is not lost.  Time is always my biggest obstacle in publically sharing it.

Which brings me to another reason I’ve been absent from my blog:  I started a new writing project, and I didn’t want to make any fanfare about it.  During NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I worked on the groundwork for a book that the Lord put on my heart related to the past year culminating in the mission.  Up until this point, the only writing discipline I’ve had for publishing has been weekly blog posts.  I was trying to change that, not blog for a while and dig into (back into) my memoir.  Again, no regrets, and no fanfare either.  I have confidence that in time, the Lord will use it.  For now it’s between Him and me.

The Not So Easy Answer

In addition to busyness and writing fatigue over the mission, I think the main reason I haven’t blogged is lack of motivation and where I’ve been emotionally since my return.  It’s not a writer’s block.  It was a deliberate decision I made to not push myself into writing again before I was ready.

The truth is when I came down from the mountaintops of serving God, I came down hard.  I suppose not altogether unlike what happened last year.  That makes me nervous to write and to publically share my inner turmoil.

I’ve had to pick up the pieces from the intensity of which I have lived the last year.  I went from working through the depression that surfaced after my first trip to Spain in the summer of 2013, into the throes of a full blown mission trip back to Europe.  It wasn’t just a mission trip that I participated in.  It was one that I led.  (I was beyond the depression when the invitation to Spain surfaced.)  However, I have spent the last year in the therapeutic process helping me to get more emotionally grounded.  I knew I had to in order for God to use me.  He was and has equipped me for the call.

Coming home to the daily grind of life in America, after living in Europe for three weeks and serving God in my sweet spot—sharing and teaching about life transformation through Celebrate Recovery, left me somewhat empty inside.  Before I left on the mission, I repeatedly told my husband, friends, and myself, “I’m going to re-group when I return.”

Well, that’s what I’ve been doing.  I’m looking at my own recovery issues (the next layer) as I co-lead a women’s step study group.  I’ve significantly decreased my late night writing routine.  I’m making more time for my family and household commitments.  I go back and forth between isolating for my own introvert sanity and reaching out to others for support.  It’s hard to find a balance.  Thankfully, I’m a work in progress and He’s not done with me yet.

What’s Next?

After almost 200 blog posts in 3+ years, I’ve decided to blog when the spirit moves me.  I have other writing I want to do.  God’s been nudging me.  There will be no more schedule keeping or late night writing to make that self-imposed (and recommended platform building) deadline.  I’m not doing this for fame or fortune or because I feel the need to carry on a virtual relationship with others.

Some light bedtime reading.

Some light bedtime reading.

Before there were blogs, journalists wrote for the sake of the story.  There were no ‘like’ buttons or comments at the end of an article.  That was reserved for those who took time to write a letter to the editor.  I’m not saying those are bad, just that I’m not driven by it.

I know enough about recovery to know that it is cause for concern in our society and can lead to addictions, and at the very least is making us ever so attached to our smart phones.  Yes, it is a compulsive behavior.  I look forward to the day Celebrate Recovery participants stand up, admit that and take a ‘blue chip’ for it.  (Blue chips represent an area of recovery that a person is working on.)

For me blogging is about the journey, the inspiration to others, and leaving a legacy of healing.

I’ve also been doing more reading—reading about writing and the role it plays in healing. It’s all coming together, step by step, and one day at a time.  Hopefully, the memoir will make its way to a greater priority in my life.  I want that to be my focus of any writing discipline I establish in 2015.

In Part 2 of this post series, I’ll share more about the biblical perspective of coming down from the mountaintops with God—’with‘ being the operative word.

Reflections on a Writing Journey

This week marked the 2-year anniversary of the release of my story, “Walking My Mother Home,” in Journeys to Mother Love.  It passed without any promotional fanfare.  Except for one or two friends, I didn’t even mention it in passing. However, as I age, these sorts of milestones seem to carry an emotional marker that internally surfaces and causes me to pause and take note of their significance.  So naturally, as a writer, I am writing about it…

Toasting to the release of Journeys to Mother Love, August 2012.

Toasting to the release of Journeys to Mother Love, August 2012.

So You Want to Write

I could tell you lots about what I learned in these past two years about publishing, yet I’ve only scratched the surface myself in my knowledge. I know the dos and don’ts and the ins and outs of blogging, social media, etc.  However, I don’t read much about it anymore. (Michael Hyatt and Chip MacGregor are two of my favorite publishing bloggers.) Instead I have turned my attention to helping and encouraging others in their writing and blogging quests.

Each published author has a very unique story to tell of how they got their first book published—all fraught with rejection and perseverance, and generally being at the right place at the right time. I’ve written about my journey into publishing on my site in the past. (Check out the “My Writing Journey” category on the right sidebar.)  Today I’m sharing with my readers how this journey has affected me and why I continue to pursue my writing and publishing dreams.

In sitting down to write this post, a quote by Louise DeSalvo came to mind, from her book Writing as a Way of Healing:  “ …if you want to write you must follow your desire to write…if you want to become a writer, eventually you’ll learn through writing—and only through writing…if you want to write and don’t because you don’t feel worthy enough or able enough, not writing will eventually begin to erase who you are.”  I wrote about this quote back when I started writing in a post called, Why I Write.

photo25

Why I Write

Back then, I did struggle to feel worthy or able enough to write. I can vividly remember my first Christian writer’s meeting I attended with a good friend who was further into her publishing journey (and is now published). It was a bit intimidating to attend that meeting (3 years ago next month), meet authors, and share the intense call I felt to write. The other pre-published and published authors were very encouraging and helpful.  So I just dug right in, starting my blog (also 3 years ago next month), buying writing books, subscribing to writing blogs, and becoming a member of the writer’s association, NCWA.

Now writing is an integral part of my life.  I CANNOT NOT WRITE.  I consider it my ministry for others (my 12th Step—giving back), but it is also a way I embark on my own self-care.  Along the way, my writing has helped to ground me in my faith and to claim my identity as a Child of God.  My writing has given me a voice that was long ago minimized and criticized, and it has prevented the ‘erasing’ of who I am.

If you’ve followed me along my blogging journey you may note that there are times when my writing may not seem very inspirational, directly point people to Jesus, or have a purpose other than to document what is on my mind or going on in my life.  Regardless, I am a Christian writer—and sometimes it looks like I am a writer who just happens to be a Christian.

stand-and-share-your-story1

After three years, I see most of my life through the lens of a writer; and I love it.  It has given me opportunities to regularly write for other venues like my publisher’s site, JourneysToMotherLove.com, and the ministry site where I serve, CelebrateRecoveryOnThePlateau.org.  This summer I added guest blogging to the mix for ChristianMommyBlogger.com and UnomaNwankwor.com. (Unoma is the Christian fiction author I met at Pedro’s movie premiere.)  I serve as the editor/blog servant for Reclaim Ministries.  And finally, my writing also gives me a front row seat to Pedro’s pursuit of his music dreams in the film industry.

So I am continuing to write.  I haven’t given up on my dreams of publishing the full-length book, Emerging From the Cocoon (tentative title).  At the moment I’m too busy living the sequel (title unknown) and watching as God heals me or others on my path.  Most assuredly, the sequel will include my Spanish connection.

Journeys to Mother Love Turns 2

And what about my story, Chapter 8 – Walking My Mother Home, in Journeys to Mother Love?  In a nutshell, it remains the foundation of my message, my healing, and why I write.  It was my first born baby and my love child.

This second year hasn’t been about marketing and selling it so much as it has been about sharing the story in the right context.  And sometimes it was about giving it away to people who made an impact in my life over the years.  My story continues to be a vehicle for me to show others the love of our heavenly Father and how when we embrace healing and forgiveness, Jesus turns it into Hope.

Having said that, I’m happy to announce that I will be giving it away in bigger ways very soon.  But the details of that announcement will have to wait until another time.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a gallery of authors and recovery contacts who recently acquired my book while in LA. My hope is always that my story inspires them as their writing and teaching has inspired me.

Thanks to everyone who has purchased my book, written a review, sent me a personal note, subscribed to my blog, liked my Facebook page, or supported my writing through prayer and other means.  It has meant the world to me.

God has turned my healing to hope…just like He will yours.

  • 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 29th, 2018
    Vamos a España!
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 372 other followers

  • Recent Posts

  • Ardis A Nelson ~ Writer ~ Speaker

  • Most Popular Topics

  • Journeys to Mother Love

  • What I Write About

  • Songs Composed by Pedro Gonzalez Arbona

  • Copyright Notice

    © 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.

%d bloggers like this: