In Loving Memory of my Aunt Mary

There was another passing of a loved one in my family recently. It was my Aunt Mary, my mother’s younger sister, and last of the siblings in their family. My aunt was included in my published story, “Walking My Mother Home,” in Journeys to Mother Love. She loved my writing. It served to bring us closer together. So I thought it would be fitting to write a piece in her memory.

The 5 siblings: JoAnn (Mom), Mary, Henry, Helen and Ginny, 1974.

Déjà Vu

After my Aunt Mary passed away, I devoted two weeks of my life back home in the St. Louis area with her family. Previous to that, I was unaware that her health had been declining. When I heard of her condition and that she was put on hospice, I immediately called her husband, my Uncle Pete. I felt that all too familiar pull to be there—to be by her bedside, to pray with her and for her—and to help in any way I could.

My initial help was limited to calls to the funeral home and cemetery. When I talked with my uncle, I could tell that my aunt’s time was extremely limited. I wanted to jump on a plane and be there. I began the online search for flights and other travel arrangements. It felt like déjà vu—not knowing when to leave or how long to stay—just like when my mother passed.

I waited and prayed for two days.

Then I got the news that my aunt would probably pass in the next 24 hours. I knew I wouldn’t make it back in time so we prayed together. Again, just like when my mother died, my uncle put the phone on speaker. I asked my Uncle Pete and his son Mark, my cousin, to lay their hands on and over my aunt.

We communicated our love to her and asked the Lord to release her from her pain. My Aunt Mary had been unresponsive just prior to our prayer. But then Mark said she squeezed his hand while I prayed. It comforted us to know that she heard our prayer. My Aunt Mary died a few hours later.

I took the red-eye flight to St. Louis that night. The next few days were a blur of appointments and decisions related to the funeral. Both of my parents were cremated, so I hadn’t been down the road of a full-blown funeral and burial before. God was with us as all the pieces fell into place in three days.

One of the things I offered to do was buy the clothes that my aunt would be buried in. She was a very petite woman, much different than myself, but I knew she had a flare for fashion like me and my mother. There were so many cute options for a size 4! I was thrilled to find just the right outfit to bring her back to life, so to speak—in a vibrant coral dress and sweater combination with matching jewelry.

Another Eulogy

When the funeral home found out I was a writer, they asked me to write her obituary. I kindly agreed. I also created her funeral program and offered to do her eulogy. I stayed up late the night before the funeral prayerfully writing it. (More déjà vu and preparation from my mother’s passing.)

I’m honored to stand here today and share a few words about my Aunt Mary–something I never saw myself doing. I didn’t have the benefit of getting to spend my youth living near her and my Uncle Pete. So I didn’t know her well back then.

I have more childhood memories with her sisters, my Aunt Helen and Aunt Ginny. However, I did have the sense as a child that my mother JoAnn and Mary were closer to each other than to their other sisters. That could be because they were closer in age. But as I reflected about who Mary was to me and my memories of her, I realized she was very much like my mother.

Mary was a vibrant attractive woman. Like my mother, she had a flare for fashion and other feminine things like cosmetics. (I say this because I’ve never been like that, but I noticed.) I have this vision of her as a blond bombshell, sort of like Marilyn Monroe. You can see it in some of the early pictures of Mary and Pete. She was a beautiful woman.

Her beauty didn’t go unnoticed by my Uncle Pete either. A few days ago, he told me a cute story about how he met his wife. He said he met Mary at a night club at Scott Air Force Base over 50 years ago. She was out with friends. He saw her walk by him and he knew he wanted to dance with her. So Pete got up the nerve to ask her to dance to a slow song. She agreed. He said he knew then that she was the one.  There was no one else for him.

I only met my aunt and uncle a few times when I was young. When my Uncle Pete was stationed in Alaska my aunt and uncle visited us in Portland, Oregon on their drive to their new home in Anchorage. I think the next time I saw them was after my parents divorced. My mom and us kids were living back in Illinois. I was in high school. They made the rounds visiting family with their young son Mark. A few years later, they were permanently transferred back to Illinois. Unfortunately, I went away to college the same year, so our paths didn’t cross much when Mark was growing up.

When I got married and had kids of my own, Mary and I grew closer, although we were still separated by a great distance because my husband and I lived in the Seattle area. I started the family tradition of sending out an annual Christmas letter and having a family portrait done. Every year she would send me a Christmas card, write a personal note and send some gift money for the kids.

I brought those Christmas cards with me and would like to give you a glimpse into her heart–the heart of a mother, a sister, an aunt.

I tearfully read a few years’ worth of her annual notes to me. My aunt and I both shared a love for Major League Baseball and her notes often included talk about the St. Louis Cardinals or the Seattle Mariners. Some of her notes even mentioned people who were in attendance at the funeral.

Then as I re-entered my mother’s life before she passed 7 years ago, I grew closer to Aunt Mary. You can also tell that from her notes to me. We kept writing at Christmas, but when my writing and publishing started to take off, I would send her paper copies of my writings. She played a big part in healing my relationship with my mother, most notably responding to my plea to go see her in the hospital after her stroke in July 2009. Mary came back with a good report of my mother’s condition. She also prayed over her. I believe God answered her prayer and kept my mother alive long enough for me and my siblings to see her again and to reconcile.

My aunt’s Christmas notes during that time often referenced my mother and my visits back home to see my mom or Mary herself. Reading those annual notes from her was like reliving those visits again. As painful as it was to share those experiences again, it helped me to face going through the same situation with my aunt’s passing.

My aunt praying for my mother.

It felt so familiar to me, yet so different. The events and the decisions on this trip were much more complicated than my mother’s death. Although I wasn’t solely responsible for these decisions, I was helping my uncle and cousin carry the burden.

What was familiar was how God showed up in so many ways. I felt lifted up, confident and equipped to walk with them through their grief and to look at another layer of my own inner healing work.

I think Mary sort of came to adopt me like a daughter to some degree. I never really had a mother-daughter relationship due to my own mother’s mental illness. I did welcome the rare occasions when Mary and I would talk. And I regret not being more available to her as the years passed.

I guess that leads me to why I came. Mary held a special place in my heart. I didn’t have to pretend to be someone I was not around her. We could talk about things at a deeper level. As I got my own emotional and spiritual healing, I was able to more fully understand the complexity of her life and the sacrifice she made for her family. It gave me compassion and empathy for her.

So when I heard of the decline in her health, I couldn’t help but come. I wanted to be able to give back one last time to Mary and for Mary, in a meaningful way. She deserves that. I wanted her to finish well.

I was scheduled to fly back home the day after the funeral, but couldn’t bear to leave. I stayed another week with my family to help them as they started the transition to a new season of their lives without their wife and mother.

For Mary and for God

I’m back home now, but my memories of that trip and time spent with my family linger in my mind. At 88 years old, my uncle relied heavily on me. We had several bittersweet conversations. My aunt and uncle were married for almost 51 years. Along with their special needs son, the three were pretty inseparable.

Visiting my mother’s gravesite on her 87th birthday.

When I was with them, I felt a special bond to them and had the confidence and strength to pour into their lives. I couldn’t stop to think about all the work, the decisions, and the seemingly impossible task ahead.

We often prayed together during the trip. I openly shared about God and comforted them in their grief. There were times when I felt Mary’s presence or could hear her voice saying my name, “Ardis Ann.” At one point my Uncle Pete told me that I was sent by his wife and by God. Together we wept. These are the memories I cling to now.

I don’t fully understand why God wired or equipped me to come alongside my uncle and cousin like he did (and continues to do). I trust it is the next step of my own healing process as well as theirs. The Lord seemed to confirm that by burying my aunt just a few spaces away from where my mother and other family are buried (and it was not prearranged).

I cannot urge you enough that if you haven’t done so, please make your burial and end of life wishes known to your family. Prearrange as much as you can, especially if you want to have a full funeral with a visitation, burial, etc. The decisions and costs are huge. It is a big burden to the family to address this in their time of grief.

I am grateful that I could do this for my uncle and cousin, and ultimately for Mary. Just like my mother, my Aunt Mary is a part of me. I look forward to seeing her again soon. With the Hope of Christ and the Resurrection Power of Easter, I know this is true.

Rest in peace, Aunt Mary.

Returning to Spain, Again

Spain has been on my mind a lot these days (mucho todos los días). With the passing of another day, my internal clock tells me it’s time to officially write about it. I’m returning to Spain! This time I will be in the company of my husband.

The last time I was in Spain was on the Celebrate Recovery mission in the fall of 2014. When I said my goodbyes to my Spanish family, I set a goal to return in five years. At the time that seemed like forever and that it would take a miracle. So I began praying and believing in faith.

Taking the Metro (subway) to Barajas Airport with Rosa, October 2014.

A Missed Opportunity

A few years later in April 2016, there was a wonderful opportunity to return to Spain for an international Christian women’s conference. It was held at the same church, Comunidad Cristiana Luz y Vida, where I spoke on the CR mission, in Rivas, a suburb of Madrid . The women’s conference was followed by a guided prayer journey to Southern Spain, the same trip that I was to attend as part of the 2014 CR mission. The prayer journey in 2014 was cancelled, but funds remained from that mission for a future trip.

I prayed and prayed to return to Spain for the conference and prayer journey in 2016. It was at the same time that I returned to full-time work at my husband’s clinic. What was initially a temporary assignment to convert to a new computer system unexpectedly turned into a permanent position. (And still is.) How I grieved not being able to go. My heart and prayers were with the other attendees every day of their trip.

Sightseeing during the CR mission, Segovia, Spain, October 2014.

A Difficult Decision

Around the same time, I learned of an American couple, the Hernandez’s, who were called to a missionary assignment in Spain. Much to my amazement, they had attended a similar prayer journey led by Pastor Fajardo, my mission partner in Rivas, a few years before the CR mission to Spain. Hearing of the Hernandez’s missionary call to Spain felt like answered prayer to me for all of the miles and footsteps I prayer-walked through Spain in the summer of 2013. I immediately felt a connection and spiritually aligned with their mission.

The financial need was great for these new missionaries. I felt prompted to release the remaining mission funds to the Hernandez’s mission. Being prompted by the Spirit doesn’t naturally mean that it was an easy decision though. It was accompanied by an internal struggle–a human and spiritual struggle. On the one hand, I knew that the funds would be used for God’s Kingdom in Spain. On the other hand, it seemed like I was giving up my dreams to return myself–especially in a ministry capacity. The funds were released and sent to the Hernandez’s mission in October 2016. It gives me much pleasure and peace to continue financially and prayerfully supporting them and their work in Spain. (And you can too!)

The Hernandez’s with Pastor Fajardo, Toledo, Spain.

Still Waiting

Then, miraculously (to me), on Christmas Eve 2016, my prayers were answered. I was surprised with the gift of a trip to Spain. The last present we opened was a card from my husband with a note to attend Pedro’s university graduation in June 2017. Not knowing what the card said, my sons were alarmed by my tearful reaction. They were tears of joy and gratitude–not just for my husband, but to God for answering my heartfelt prayers. Months later we made the difficult decision to delay our trip and not attend Pedro’s graduation. As much as it broke my heart to not be there for this milestone in Pedro’s life (more letting go), it was all for the best.

Pedro, right, and his friends at the university graduation, June 2017.

When I was invited to another Spanish prayer journey in April of this year, I was naturally excited to consider attending that. More internal struggle prevailed, accompanied by more prayer. I let go of my personal wants so that my husband can experience Spain on his terms. After all, he has never been to Europe.  As we approach our 35th wedding anniversary, it seems fitting that we experience Spain together from a different perspective.

Not Just a Tourist Destination

To me, Spain is not just a tourist destination. It is a second home and a place of great spiritual and emotional significance. I know there will be many God encounters on our trip. I can’t step on Spanish soil without praying into the nation, the Church, and the people. I will visit churches and cathedrals once again. I hope to personally meet the Hernandez’s and reconnect with other ministry colleagues.

I’ve often considered myself a self-appointed ambassador to Spain–sharing about Spain on social media, on my blog and whenever the opportunity arises in face to face conversations. (Did you hear that Spain surpassed the United States as the second most popular tourist destination in the world? I think I did my part!)

In downtown Madrid, National Day parade, October 12, 2014

Last fall when the turmoil in Catalonia was at its peak, a patient from Spain sought treatment at our office. We naturally connected about the political situation and her homeland in general. I delighted in helping her to understand how insurance coverage works in America. (Not that I agree with how it works, but it was necessary to explain it. Just imagine how that seems to someone from a country with socialized medicine.) The patient has offered help with our Spanish and brought us souvenirs from Spain after visiting family over the holidays.

I also routinely chat with Pedro and various members of his family. I look forward to seeing them again soon. (Hopefully I’ll be more prepared to personally communicate with them as I ramp up my Spanish to the next level.)

With my Spanish family on my final night in Spain, summer 2013.

Let the Countdown Begin

The countdown officially started the day we bought our tickets in November 2017. But I’ve been preparing for the day I would step on Spanish soil again in my heart and in prayer ever since my goodbye to my Spanish family in October 2014.

So today I am officially publishing the countdown (on right sidebar) to the day we both embark on a journey to Spain (April 28th). There will be tears upon our arrival at Barajas Airport in Madrid–seeing my Spanish family again after nearly five years–and when my husband meets Pedro’s parents face to face for the first time since he arrived in our home in July 2010.

The waiting is almost over. There is a mountain of work to do in the meantime–secular work. I’ll keep praying for Spain and preparing my heart for the next leg of this journey.

Toasting my return to Madrid with Rosa, October 2014.

I know this is God’s timing for us to go and for me to return. Because when the dates finally started to materialize in our calendars, I realized that I would be spending Mother’s Day with Rosa. That was confirmation to me–no prayer journey–this trip is about family. Rosa and I have been uniquely linked in spiritual and emotional ways through the passing of our mothers (as I wrote in “Walking My Mother Home,” my story in Journeys to Mother Love).

So isn’t it fitting that the Lord would return me to Spain for Mother’s Day (el día de las madres) with Rosa? It will be a reunion of heavenly proportions.

Kairos, the Ultimate Time for Change

It’s the start of another New Year and time for the annual reflection of the last 365 days.  This isn’t another New Year’s post about resolutions or setting goals. What I feel nudged to write about is time.

T-I-M-E, time; but not in a way that you may have ever heard before.

What is time?  Here’s a simple definition of time from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary: “Time is the thing that is measured as seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, etc.”  It can be measured on the clock, visible by the movement of the hands sweeping around the numbers or other reference markers.  It is visible as we flip the page on a calendar.  But is that all it is?

kairos-vs-chronos

In ancient Greek, there were two words used to refer to time: chronos and kairos. The definition above is referring to chronos or chronological (literal) time.  Kairos time is the right or opportune time.  Chronos is quantitative, while kairos is qualitative.

Living in Kairos Time

If kairos refers to an opportune time, what would it mean to live life more fully aware of kairos moments in our life? It means using our chronological time to serve a greater good.

In Ephesians 5:15-16 Paul writes, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” In this scripture, Paul is instructing us to redeem the kairos or opportune time.

Each passage of chronological time is the same, every second, every minute, but it doesn’t have the same worth. Kairos time, on the other hand, has greater weight and relevance.  In other words, not every moment of chronos time has the same value.  Some moments are more pleasant, memorable or significant in our life.

opportunity timeUsing our chronos time to discern kairos moments gives life more meaning.

For instance, kairos time may be time spent reaching out to a friend in need. Kairos time may look like time spent with your kids after a long day at work.  Kairos time may be manifested by praying over someone.  It is based on a foundation of love.

Kairos moments have a ripple effect in ways we may never visibly see in chronological time.

When we follow these nudges of the Holy Spirit to act at an opportune time, we can trust God’s timing to prevail in our lives and those we are in relationship with.

Kairos as God’s Timing

Kairos is also commonly used in Christian theology to indicate a time anointed for God to act. It is used approximately 81 times in the New Testament.  One such example is Mark 1:15, “‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’” Jesus was alerting people to God’s presence in a new and powerful way.

Another example of a kairos moment in history was the birth of Jesus. That kairos moment of God breaking through in human form was so significant it separated chronological time into B.C. and A.D.

I first heard of kairos time in this context when I participated in a spiritual mentoring group. We learned to look for times in our lives when God was breaking through.  We were encouraged to listen more intently to what God was telling us and to spot revelation and God’s perspective on what was happening around us.

We processed these kairos moments together through the lens of biblical and spiritual truths as a way to follow God more closely.  It was a time of great spiritual growth and discernment.

Kairos eternity

“Kairos moments are never neutral; they are either gifts or challenges, and they leave an imprint on us. Learning to recognize kairos moments comes through a decision to want to hear God more clearly, the willingness to learn the language He speaks to us in, and then, aligning our lives to move in that direction.”   Tamara Buchan, founder Reclaim Ministries

A Time for Change

Whether you look at kairos time as a time when God breaks through or an opportune time to make a difference in someone else’s life, being aware of a kairos moment will bring blessings and challenges in your life. You’ll face your fears, be criticized by some, and maybe even fail.  However, you’ll learn more about who you are and learn to move beyond the challenges with courage.

I’ve been more fully aware of my kairos moments for several years. Yet there are still times that I can doubt the direction that God is leading me—especially when it seems impossible.  He continues to grow my trust muscle, stretching it in painful ways—sometimes little by little and other times through big leaps of faith, like my mission to Spain.

As a Follower of Christ the benefit to being aware of kairos time is that it adds a greater depth to our relationship with Jesus. It gives us confidence to walk in obedience and boldly become the person that God created us to be.

Chronological time is a training ground full of kairos moments and opportunities to change and grow our faith.

Kairos time

I’ve learned to trust Him, and you can too.

I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions; however, my focus for 2016 is to redeem kairos moments for His eternal purpose. May it be the same for you as you learn to stretch your faith in new ways.

 

Holy Week, Holy Waiting

I am excited! Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, and I feel like a kid who is eagerly awaiting Santa Claus to arrive.  I can’t even remember what I believed about Easter as a kid and the Easter Bunny—real or unreal.  Yes, I partook in Easter eggs hunts at various times.  It must’ve been at the Catholic Church we attended when I was young.  Unfortunately both of my parents are gone now and I can’t get those details of my childhood filled in.

My father rarely went to church with us.  It was always my mother who got us ready and dragged us to Catechism (Catholic Sunday school).  I think my father must’ve been what our pastor calls ‘Chreasters.’  Those are people who only go to church on Christmas and Easter.  I was one of those people in years gone by as well.

Almudena Cathedral, Madrid, where I worshiped one day while on mission to Spain, October 2014.

Almudena Cathedral, Madrid, where I worshiped one day while on mission to Spain, October 2014.

Church as a Priority 

I am at a stage in my life where I routinely go to church year-round, trying to give each weekend service a place of priority and honor.  Christmas is, of course, a special time to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  However, Easter feels especially sacred and uplifting to me.  There are many reasons for that.

  1. It hasn’t been over-commercialized like Christmas.
  2. It doesn’t come with the holiday parties and stress of holiday expectations.
  3. It hasn’t been made into a non-Christian holiday.
  4. It comes in the spring, when flowers are blooming, the days are getting longer, and the sun is starting to shine.
  5. It is preceded by Lent—a time of deliberate prayerful preparation to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.
  6. It signifies how to acquire salvation and eternal life—with one simple decision to accept Jesus at face value, as the Son of God.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16, NIV

WP_20150328_012Waiting for the Story to End

Lent has ended, and now are the days of waiting—the three days between Jesus’ brutal crucifixion on Good Friday (yesterday) and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

We know how the story ends.  Does that make the waiting easier?  Does it make it irrelevant or less interesting?  If we knew the ending to the books we read, would we stop reading them?  Maybe that depends on whether or not it is a good ending—one we like.

The Easter Story is the greatest story ever told!  I never tire of hearing it, especially so in a solemn church service like I did last night.  (Read the Passion of Christ in John 18-19:42.) It should make us shout for joy!

Because the waiting isn’t just for Easter, it’s for the return of Jesus.  Celebrating Easter, Holy Week, and Lent is ultimately celebrating in the here and now what our future brings.  There is no mystery to the ending.  However, there is mystery and intrigue in how we live in anticipation of what is to come.

Our lives don’t have to be mundane and boring.  We can approach our days and our ways with the same excitement and fervor with which we celebrate Easter.  There are blessings in it for us, for those we are in relationship with, and for those we come in contact with.

WP_20150330_001Easter: A New Beginning!

Easter marks the end of waiting for the Messiah, for us now and for the Jews and Gentiles over 2,000 years ago.  Some might say the ending was marked by the birth of Jesus.  I can’t argue with that.  However, my point is that Jesus’ death and resurrection marks the fulfillment of over 300 Old Testament scripture that foretold His ministry, death, and resurrection.  The resurrection is the linchpin of our Christian faith.

Easter really marks the beginning. It is the beginning of our Christian lives.  It is the beginning of the Church.  And that makes me giddy like a child—and worth the wait. It’s been a great week of anticipation.  It’s been a great week of holy waiting, filled with church services, fasting, and prayer.  I’m ready to celebrate.

Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!

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.

Seahawks Pull Out a Victory with Attitude & Faith

I can’t believe what I witnessed on national television yesterday!  The Seattle Seahawks broke the record for a comeback win in conference championship game history.  Down by 16 points at half-time, they beat the Green Bay Packers 28-22 in overtime!

The anticipation was high in our city (Seattle), in our work places, in our churches, and in our homes the last week for the NFC playoff game against the Packers.  Confidence was high, and people were downright cocky at times.  It was all in good fun as we hoped for a chance to defend our Super Bowl Champion Title in Arizona next month.

Seahawks back 2 backPatience is a Virtue

After the first half of play, Seattle was down by 16 points:  16-0!  How could that be?  No team had ever come back to win a post-season game by that large a margin.

Who was that team playing on the field?  It was as if they were stripped of all their magical football mojo and someone else was playing in their place.  Turnovers…sacks…no first down conversions.  It was painful to watch.

But they say patience is a virtue.  Indeed it is.

The Seahawks won the game (final score 28-22) in overtime, scoring 14 points in the last 4 minutes of the regulated game.  They did it with special teams, an onside kick (something I had never heard of) and playing like I’ve never seen football played before. Even the sportscasters were in a state of shock!

I know a winning team when I see one.  And I know what it takes to persevere through hardship and fight to come out on top.

As I watched the game seem to slip away, I had a thought start to break through in my mind.  It was this:  “The game is being stolen from us!”

A Change in Attitude

It was at that point that I decided to get a hold of my emotions and start to pray for a shift in the outcome of the game.  (Later that night while attending a recovery meeting at church, the other women also admitted praying and how they saw God show up in the final minutes of the game.  It went from hopeless to hopeful.  It was a miracle!)

I couldn’t believe it when I started to see a rapid fire turn of events on the field.  The plays all started to go our way.  Even with Seattle still at 2 touchdowns behind and 4 minutes left to play, the sports announcers started to say that the game wasn’t over yet.

I’m not going to recap what happened in the last few minutes of the game or how Seattle won in overtime.  There are hundreds of sports writers who are doing that.  My perspective as a fan of football and a believer in the power of our minds, is that the Seahawks ‘never quit, never doubt’ attitude is what won this game.

Post-game prayer huddle

Russell Wilson and Seattle Seahawks in prayer after the game.

In the post-game interviews and comments, Russell Wilson, Seattle’s quarterback, quickly gave God credit for the victory saying, “God is good, all the time, every time.” He also predicted the game-ending touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse minutes before.

Russell was confident.  He bolstered his teammates throughout the game and he never gave up.

He is a true inspiration to others—his teammates, his community, and to kids everywhere.

That game was about to be stolen!!!!  It is not unlike what Satan does to us every chance he gets.

He plants the seed of doubt.

He puts obstacles in our way to discourage us and to tempt us to give up.

And after a winning play (insert accomplishment or whatever gives you pleasure), he tries to sideline us and steal that joy!!!

No Joy Robbing Allowed!

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks were not going to let the Green Bay Packers steal their joy, or that of the 12th man contingent.  They fought to the finish.  They fought the good fight.  And in the end if they lost that game, I would still have praise and pride in this team for giving us 12s the most exciting football game I’ve ever watched.

We know who wins the game of Life.  Jesus wins in the end.  So even during times when Satan wants to keep you down and steal your joy, remember it’s not over until it’s over.  Ultimately Jesus wins, and so do you.

Fight the good fight.  Don’t let Satan steal your joy in the process.

Seahawks 28, Packers 22, no joy robbing allowed!  We are Super Bowl bound!

~ This post is happily shared with Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays.

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. (See short video clip below.)

 

“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?

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.

On Mission for God, Part 7 ~ Review & Gratitude

I am struggling! It’s not like last year’s return from Spain.  But I am at a loss on what to write about my trip and how to re-engage in my writing discipline since my return two weeks ago.

I’m not sure what’s up with that. Writer’s block?  Writing fatigue from the mission?  Spiritual attack?  Or just plain brain drain from the last eight months of intense planning and preparations?

The one thing I am reminded of is to have an attitude of gratitude. So I cannot help but write a post about how grateful I am to have experienced another trip of a lifetime.

My Week in France

I am grateful for…

  • The Air France strike. My flight from Paris to Lyon was cancelled so I took the high speed train to Grenoble instead.  That provided me with more time to explore Paris.  I attended mass at Notre Dame, stopped by the Eiffel Tower for a quick photo opp, and bought some souvenirs.
  • The invitation from my American missionary friends to come to France to share my testimony at their church. My hosts showered me with their generous hospitality and acclimated me to life in the French Alps.  We explored nearby villages by foot and scoped out some old cemeteries.  They literally took me to new heights (on a perch thousands of feet above the valley and on mountaintops). God took me to new heights spiritually.
  • The opportunity to share my testimony at the Celebrate Recovery meeting In Grenoble. I met women who resonated with my story and shared my desire for spiritual revival in France.

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My Week in Rivas

I am grateful for…

  • The invitation from Pastor Josh Fajardo to come to his church in Rivas and teach about Celebrate Recovery. I hadn’t even met Josh at this time last year.  God beautifully orchestrated all of these steps.
  • The opportunity to share my testimony in front of a Spanish audience. This also provided the opportunity for Rosa and Pedro to attend and hear me speak in their native language.  It was an amazing blessing!
  • The connections that I made with people in the Rivas church, old and new friends, committed to life transformation through Christ.
  • The privilege to announce that the Spanish version of “Walking My Mother Home” was published as a gift to the church in Rivas.
  • The hope of continued partnership with the Fajardo’s, the church in Rivas, and that CR will take root in Spain.

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My Week in Madrid

I am grateful for…

  • The generous hospitality showered on me by my Spanish family, Rafa, Rosa and Pedro.
  • The hours of walking around Madrid and being able to physically keep up with it all. Some of my walks took me to sights I saw last year, but this time around I was able to appreciate them more fully and explore more leisurely.
  • The opportunity to visit and pray in several local churches.  I treasured each one and especially being able to attend mass multiple times.
  • The comfort and safety I felt with my family and in Madrid. I was able to explore one day on my own, taking the subway, meeting new people, walking to new places, and dining out by myself.  It gave me great freedom to experience Madrid in a new way.
  • The short visit with Pedro’s extended family allowing me to reconnect with a niece who stole my heart last summer and Pedro’s grandfather. We enjoyed the giving and receiving of gifts.
  • The ability to give signed copies of my Spanish story to Pedro’s family and that it can now be shared electronically with other friends and family.
  • The closure and peace I had leaving my Spanish family. I have no idea when I will see them again, but I am trusting the Lord to bring us together in His timing.

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Most of All

I am grateful…

  • To the Lord for allowing me to be His Hands and Feet on the ground in France and Spain, and for perfectly putting all of the pieces into place for me to go on this mission of hope. I am grateful that He stretched me outside of my comfort zone and has grown my faith in new life-giving ways.
  • To everyone who prayed for the mission (before, during or after) and for all of the generous donations that allowed me to follow God’s call to Spain.
  • To Timberlake Church for donating $1500 to cover the cost of CR launch materials for Free Methodist churches in Spain.
  • To the CR leader team at Pine Lake Covenant Church for sponsoring and supporting this mission across the globe.
  • And, to my family for taking care of the household for three weeks and supporting my call to Spain.

thank-you

Yes, today is Halloween, but let’s not forget to be thankful for the blessings in our lives. Don’t wait for Thanksgiving.  Let’s start a season of thanks-living.  What are you thankful for?

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Looking for updates on the CR mission to Spain, check out the blog post series on the ministry site where I serve,  celebraterecoveryontheplateau.org or re-blogged here.

On Mission for God, Part 6 ~ On My Way

I’m on my way! Six months after church meetings here in the States with Spanish pastor and missionary Josh Fajardo, I’m going on mission.

I’m numb. No time to make this pretty. Long lines at security. Rush, rush, rush.

I’m definitely heading to France because all flight announcements are in French and English. Lots to adapt to already.

When I land in Paris 10 hours from now, I’m heading to Notre Dame to take in the majesty of the Gothic architecture and to thank God for the life transformation He orchestrated to bring me to this place and time.

Bon jour.

Update 9/26/2014 ~ I made it to France, with a whirlwind tour of Paris by taxi. My driver spoke no English! I attended mass at Notre Dame and jumped out of the taxi at the Eiffel Tower for a selfie!  More updates to follow.

 

 

  • 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.

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