My Big Mouth

I’m sure when I was growing up that one of my brothers must’ve told me I had a big mouth. You know, it’s the sort of things that kids say when they tattle on each other (like confessing to your parent that your sibling broke something). Well, all these years later, I have proof–not that I was a tattle-tale, but that I literally have a big mouth. I became painfully aware of it this week, and here’s how…

Dental Hell

The story starts back when I was in junior high. We’ve all suffered through this awkward time of life–adjusting to peer-pressure and hormonal havoc with our emotional state and physical body. I had an overbite and a noticeable gap between my front teeth. It was at this time that I was told I had to get a full set of braces. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I was also told I had to have 4 permanent teeth (my canines near the front) removed. I don’t know if this was a common practice back then, but I was told it was to make room for my wisdom teeth.

The removal of my permanent teeth was a rather traumatic experience for me. I was given Novocain and had the extraction done on two separate appointments. That started my fear and near hatred of dentists. My regular appointments to the orthodontist just added to the inner anger and contempt I held for any physician who ‘cared’ for my teeth. Every time I left the orthodontist’s office my mouth was in pain for days. There was such intense pulling on my teeth and gums to shift everything forward and fill the gaps left by the pulled canine teeth. I wore old-fashioned all-metal braces for 3 years.

Once is Not Enough

Twenty years later, I found myself in the same situation, starring into the bright light above my head in a dentist’s office and being told I needed braces–again! Apparently, I was told years earlier that I would have to wear my retainers for the rest of my life. I have no idea when I stopped wearing them–probably sometime in college because I have no recollection of having them when I got married. My teeth had shifted back and were causing a gap in the front teeth.

So I endured a second set of braces at the same time I was in my second pregnancy. It was not a pretty picture–literally. Imagine this…a pregnant woman in all her ‘splendor’ with a mouthful of hardware on her teeth. Needless to say, there were not many pictures taken of me during this pregnancy. After these braces were removed, shortly before giving birth, I was given a new set of retainers that I have faithfully worn ever since.

Both of my kids also had braces. Thankfully they didn’t have to have any permanent teeth removed. And luckily for them, they also don’t have any wisdom teeth. (Why are they called wisdom teeth? It’s because these teeth–the 3rd molars–erupt between the ages of 17-25, when a person enters adulthood and at an age of more maturity or wisdom.)

Not Such Wise Advice

And so I thought all was well with my teeth. I’ve been warned by my dentist to diligently keep my wisdom teeth clean. (It seems having wisdom teeth as an adult is not such good advice.) When I went in a few weeks ago to have a filling restored on one of my wisdom teeth, I was told that they couldn’t fill the tooth and I needed to have it removed.

Oh the fear that shot through my body. I walked out of the dentist office in total shock with a referral to an oral surgeon. It was not a good day.

I made an appointment right away to see the oral surgeon. The news just got worse. He recommended extracting 2 wisdom teeth (since the upper tooth would now have nothing to bite against). He went over all the procedural options and had me sign off on every possible bad outcome or risk that could result from the recommended extraction.

My childhood trauma was triggered leaving me in a state of shock, disillusionment, and fear.

Testing My Faith

As silly as it may sound, in the days that followed that appointment, my faith was put to the test. Because of my history with chemical sensitivity, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, I was concerned about possible adverse reactions to the anesthetic and a prolonged recovery. That wasn’t even on the oral surgeon’s list of risks.

We were leaving for Spain in 10 weeks. Some of my friends and family were suggesting that I put off the procedure until after the trip. I had a lot of inner conflict about the decision.

It wasn’t until I devoted some quality time in prayer that I started to get some peace. That was followed by the pieces falling into place and confirmation to have the surgery performed as soon as possible under anesthetic.

What God revealed to me in the process, was how distracting this situation was for me. It turned my focus away from Him and let Satan feed into my fears. I had to trust that the Lord was going to see me through it–calming my fears and healing my mouth.

I humbly asked for prayer for the surgery. I prayed with my husband before my appointment. He held my hand until I went under the anesthetic. My husband and son cared for my health needs following the surgery. I had an amazingly quick and pain-reduced recovery which I know is a combination of answered prayer and thanks to a homeopathic remedy to detox my body of the anesthesia.

My Big Mouth?

So do I really have a big mouth? I’ll let you decide.

A full set of teeth is 32 including the 4 wisdom teeth. Most people I talked to over the course of my decision making process told me they had their wisdom teeth taken out when they were young or they didn’t have any. My situation is less common.

The fact that I still have my wisdom teeth I think is proof that I do have a big mouth. And if that isn’t enough proof for you, just spend some time perusing my blog. I definitely have a big mouth for Jesus. It would take more than the removal of 2 wisdom teeth to silence my voice on His behalf.

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.

 

On Red Alert for the Spiritual Needs in France

My heart was heavy this morning as I awoke to more news about the awful terrorist attacks in Paris yesterday. As an American, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the attacks on our country on 9/11/2001.

Horrific.  Senseless.  Pure evil.

Pray for Paris

Where were you when…?

Will this be another day in history that we point to like 9/11 saying, “Where were you when you heard the news of the Friday the 13th Paris terrorist attacks?”

Late yesterday afternoon while waiting in the reception room for a chiropractic appointment, to pass the time I scanned Facebook on my cell phone. As seems to be more and more the case lately, that is where I hear of this sort of breaking news.

Friends were posting updates to pray for Paris. My attention quickly switched to the internet for the latest news, but was interrupted when I was called in to see my doctor for an adjustment followed by a well-deserved massage appointment.

Then late in the day my attention returned to the events across the world while watching a network news show dedicated to this topic. I’m not one to watch these sorts of shows, usually focused on sensational journalism and high profile events. However, this was different because I have a connection to Paris and France in general.

Paris police

My French Connection

Ever since my mission to France last fall, the people and this country have more meaning and significance to me and in my prayer life.

I was only in Paris for a few hours between connections while traveling to Grenoble, France where I stayed with my missionary partners and spoke at their church.

I could’ve bypassed Paris, made a shorter layover, etc. However, when I started booking my travel arrangements, I felt God press upon me to visit Notre Dame and to pray for the people of France.

There were many obstacles that I overcame to do that, including averting the Air France strike while traveling. Through God’s providence and against all physical odds, I arrived on the footsteps of Notre Dame Cathedral five minutes before the noon Mass.

I prayer-walked through the cathedral and through the streets of Paris that day. It was a spiritual high for me.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

After having such a spiritual experience in Paris last fall, the sense of darkness hit me again last night as I watched the scenes from Paris: images of people’s bodies lying in the streets covered with white sheets, police cordoning off and guarding areas like armed militia, and hearing eye witness accounts of what happened.

Before I arrived in Paris last fall, I researched the religious history of France. I was aghast at the religious wars that were fought in this country. It led to a huge divide in the country.

Even today there is still animosity and emotional wounds carried down through family generations between Catholics and Protestants in France. This has led to apathy for organized religion in general and a dramatic decline in church attendance.

The Ongoing Battle

Centuries ago, the blood of the martyrs was splattered throughout this country. Yesterday new blood was splattered on the streets of Paris—unsuspecting victims in a new battle.

My heart aches. In my mind I pray more fervently.

Centuries ago the Huguenots fought for their religious beliefs against the kings and queens of France. The battle lines were drawn. There were persecutions, forced conversions, and ostracisms from society.

Today Parisians, Americans, and people across the world are also caught up in an invisible battle for our souls. It is terrorist attacks like the one yesterday that remind us of the evil intentions of cowardly soldiers who secretly plot against our society.

Their tactic is fear. They are being misled by the biggest enemy we have.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44, NIV)

One of many memorial sites cropping up in Paris.

One of many memorial sites cropping up in Paris.

On Red Alert to Pray

As Christians, we are called to put on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). Our strategy is to fight our battles in prayer first. Let’s not be misled by the lies of the Enemy.

It is the Blood of Jesus that overcomes the blood that is splattered across the land in countries across the world.

I am praying for the comfort of the families affected by these horrible crimes against humanity. Like a security alert system that sounds a loud signal of imminent danger, I am also on red alert to pray for God’s power to be poured out on the people of France, for a spiritual awakening and renewal of their Christian faith.

Let us all pray as we feel led for the spiritual and physical needs in France.

In times of tragedy, cry out to God. He will hear you.

In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. (Psalm 18:6, NIV)

He is listening now to our prayers and petitions for France.

To read about the Paris attacks from the perspective of my colleagues in France, click here.

On Mission for God, Part 5 ~ Getting Nervous

There it is—that old familiar feeling of fear. This time it is accompanied by the old mantra that I’ve struggled to banish from my mind for the last few years…  “I don’t know what I’m doing.”  It’s been months since it’s surfaced.  Yes, there have been doubts along the way.  But now…I leave in less than two weeks!  I think Satan is up to his little tricks again.

god-is-in-control1

The Need to Control

One of the reasons this is so hard for me is because it triggers many of the issues that brought me to my knees and to my first Celebrate Recovery meeting ten years ago—my workaholism, perfectionism and need to control.  I’m stumbling over them again as I try to fit in all that needs to be done before I leave (what I want done).

It is a struggle to let go and let God. This is the biggest layer of letting go and trusting God that I’ve ever had to do.  It is one of the biggest sacrifices that I’ve ever had to do in a ministry setting as well.

But isn’t that the way God works?  He is always stretching us and chiseling us to be more like Jesus.

 

Check out God’s Chisel (above video), by the Skit Guys, based on this very message.  They perform regularly at the annual CR Summit at Saddleback Church, where I saw them last month.

The Loneliness

Although I am partnered with two male missionary colleagues across the world, it feels like a very lonely call to me. Our connections are limited by a 9-hour time difference and other work and ministry commitments.  We each have our own roles in the mission.

My partner in France is working on the training materials.  My partner in Spain is organizing and hosting the seminar at his church.  I’m up to my eyeballs in fund raising, speaking, writing, and preparing to leave the country for three weeks.

My French missionary partner preparing Spanish training materials.

My French missionary partner preparing Spanish training materials.

My loneliness partly stems from working in isolation at home. But it also is highly triggered every time I send out an appeal for donations or prayer support.  I hate asking.  I hate facing the silence (and perceived rejection).

It triggers the abandonment issues of my past and brings my little Ardis screaming to the surface.  Last week my angst over this sent me to my counselor for a short session to look at more unresolved hurts.  The tears naturally came like I hadn’t felt in a long time.

Little Ardis is scared about taking these steps into the unknown.  She remembers what happened last year—the culture shock and not having a voice.  Adult Ardis is soothing her.  SHE is trusting God and taking steps of faith.

Normalizing the Growth Process

The stress I am under right now is normal for this type of situation. I am facing a lot of ambiguity.  I have since I started down this road four years ago when I reached out to Rosa and stepped into the healing of my mother wounds.  I have had to normalize so many things in my life since then—a family connection in Spain, my writing ministry, Pedro’s film composing pursuits, and now out of the blue, being called into missions.

growing-pains

And with growth comes pain.

That is a big part of the message I want to convey in France and Spain. In order to change our patterns of behavior and face the hurts that are keeping us from living the life that God intends, we have to embrace the pain.  It is not easy.  It takes time.  It takes courage—lots of it.

When you use the biblical 12-steps of Celebrate Recovery as your guide, Jesus is with you every step of the way. Once you start to notice the change, you don’t want to go back.

It brings Freedom!  It brings Hope!

So, yes, I am getting nervous. It is normal.  I’m not going to let it stop me or slow me down.  I know that God has called me to do this—regardless of the outcome.  It’s in His hands.

He told me to “GO.”  I need His permission not to go.

mission

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19, NIV)

Please join me in prayer for this mission (September 24 – October 16, 2014) for the Word to take root and start a renewal of spiritual growth in France and Spain.

On Mission for God, Part 1 ~ The Leap of Faith

I’ve got a big announcement to make!  And since today marks the 10-year anniversary of my first Celebrate Recovery meeting, the timing seems very anointed to me.  Drum roll please…

…I’m returning to Spain!  However, this trip is not for personal or business purposes like last summer.  This trip is at the invitation of a Spanish missionary whose Protestant church I attended last year.

Send.meOn Mission for God

My return trip to Spain is a charitable mission sponsored in part by Celebrate Recovery (CR) at Pine Lake Covenant Church in Sammamish, WA, where I serve.  A small team of CR leaders and I will hold a recovery conference in Rivas, a suburb of Madrid, in October.

There is a long story behind how all of this came to be—one I’ll be sure to share in time.  Today’s post is Part 1 of a series of updates I plan to do about this mission of healing.  I have briefly blogged about it here and on the Celebrate Recovery ministry site.  With today’s announcement, I’m directing my readers’ attention to the pages on my site with more background, how to support the mission, and with detailed mission information.

Hebrews 11.1A Leap of Faith

Today’s announcement marks another BIG leap of faith for me.  Although I’ve seen the Lord’s hand all over this mission, and I’ve had some time to accept this new Call on my life, I am still hesitant and a bit nervous.

This all comes at a time when my life is incredibly full.  My son is graduating from college and moving out of state this month.  Next month Pedro is launching his American movie composing careerMy mind, my time, and my heart are all divided.

A few days ago I heard the CR testimony of a French missionary who will meet me in Spain this fall for the mission.  Part of his testimony described the early stages of his call to France many years ago.  It so resonated with where I am at today, and my greatest fears.  (I am learning a lot from him.)

Spanish flag face paintingIt is asking for donations to support this cause—risking the rejection, being at the mercy of others’ generosity, and trusting God to provide the funds.  ($3,000 is a lot of money by my standards, but not God’s.)  I’m incredibly grateful that the CR ministry is matching up to $1,000, making donations go twice as far.

I know people serve abroad and go on short term mission trips all the time.  I’ve always admired them—their passion and their faith.  I never thought I would be called on mission.  However, I cannot deny what I experienced last summer in Spain.  And even more, I cannot deny that the Voice of the Lord has been speaking to me and preparing me for this Call.  I’m learning more and more how to listen and how to respond in faith.

Facing my Fears

That means I have to face my fears, commit to this mission, and walk in blind faith.  It reminds me of a famous scene in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”  Indiana, played by Harrison Ford, takes a step off a cavern ledge into the air.  Death surely awaits him.  But instead a narrow bridge mysteriously appears preventing his fall and allowing him to cross to the other side (video below).

 

I am stepping off that ledge today by publically seeking financial and prayer support for this charitable mission.

  • To subscribe to prayer and mission updates, fill out my contact form on this site.
  • If you decide to donate, please know that every gift to this mission, large or small, is helping to bring healing and revival in a country that is one of the least evangelized in the world.
pray-give-go

Click above image to donate online.

So I invite you to partner with me to plant seeds of change across the world.  Will you help bring that bridge across the cavern into view so my steps are on solid ground?  Here I go…

Click the links below for information about the mission, to pray for the team, or to donate:

Celebrate Recovery Mission to Spain

How to Donate & Pray for the Mission

Detailed Mission Information

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

When it’s Time to Let go of Our Children

There’s a pain in my heart—not just figuratively, but physically too.  My first-born child is moving away after he graduates from college next month.  I’ve known for a few months, but it hit me in a new way recently—something I wasn’t prepared for.

moving-outEaster Family Time

We had a wonderful time on Easter with my son home from college for the day.  We went to church together as a family.  We shared our meals together.  We talked on and off during the day about his post-graduation moving plans—buying a car, renting a moving van, and looking at apartments online.

It was all very official and business-like.  The project manager in me was running wild thinking of all the tasks to do before the official moving day.

While my husband was taking our son back to school, I tucked our other son into bed.  We reflected on his older brother’s eminent departure.  That was when it hit me—and the pain started.  It is an uneasiness that hovers over my heart and tells me to pay attention to what my body is trying to say.  It was the first signs of my need to let go.

Living in Uncharted Territory

I’ve lately felt like I am living my life in uncharted territory.  My parents both passed away in recent years, more than forty years after their divorce.  More than that though is because I didn’t get much guidance from them in my formative years.  I was never close to them and my teenage years were rather rebellious.  I never really knew what it was like to live in a normal home with two loving parents.

My alma mater

My alma mater

When I left for college at the tender age of seventeen, I didn’t give my mother’s feelings much thought.  I just wanted to be out on my own and away from my dysfunctional home environment—one that included an alcoholic stepfather and an unstable and mentally ill mother.

The only extended return home from school was for the holidays my freshman year.  There was a fire in my bedroom while I was away at college that first semester.  The belongings I left at home were ruined.  It was a startling homecoming gift.  That was the final straw for me.  Goodbye, family!

Turning the Tables

Now the tables are turned.  My son is moving away—not just to the university in the city 25 minutes away.  He is moving out of state—a short one-hour flight or eight-hour road trip by car.  We are packing up his belongings and saying goodbye.  He is starting his own life in another state—without any friends or family nearby.

I know our present home environment doesn’t compare to the chaos and emotional unrest that I experienced in my youth.  But I also know what it is like to be young and ready to leave the nest.

My son is ready.  He is mature.  He has done well in school.  We are very proud of him.

heart let goLetting Go Well

As my heart ached on that evening, I also wondered what it was like for my mother when I left home.  Did she care?  Did she yearn for me?  She wrote me lots of letters while at college.  I didn’t appreciate those either.

It is hard to look at myself with this new lens—the one who is letting go of her first-born child.  I don’t like what I see—how I treated my mother.

I want to let go well.  I don’t want to be like my mother.  I don’t want to be a clingy mom either.  Like I said, I am living in uncharted territory.  I don’t have the answers, but I do recognize the warning signs.

It is time to let go again.

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

Qualified or Called, Part 1 ~ Learning to Serve

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV)

This verse first caught my attention early on in my recovery journey. It was the catalyst that I embraced when I started leading women’s support groups. God revealed to me in the short time that I was in recovery that he wanted to use my pain and my healing to come alongside others to encourage and support them on their journeys to wholeness.

Unqualified to qualifiedStepping up to Serve

The first group I facilitated was a Boundaries group. (It wasn’t the popular book by Drs. Cloud and Townsend. That came later in my teaching ministry.) My church was starting a recovery program with multiple groups being led with different curriculum. I was hungry for recovery and eager to share how God had redeemed my pain. However, I felt sorely unqualified to lead in this kind of setting. The ministry leader shared something with the leaders that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “You just have to be well enough.”

That was a relief to me. I didn’t have to have it all figured out. I didn’t need to perform. I needed to lead from my brokenness and my vulnerability.* That didn’t make it easy, but it helped me to let go of my pride and let God work in me in this new role with my church. You see I was, and am, a fairly capable person when it comes to project management, running large meetings, and such in the business world. However, putting myself on the front line of emotional and spiritual endeavors was totally foreign to me. And that was what God wanted. 

2 Cor. 12:9Believing you are Well Enough

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV) That is not what Satan wants—for you to serve in ministry. He is an expert at trying to get us to believe we are not good enough, smart enough, or worthy enough to serve the Lord. Don’t believe him! God wants to use you!

In time I stepped into bigger ministry roles at my church, not because I felt qualified, but because I felt called by God, or in some cases was asked. I often jumped in quickly, not realizing what I was getting myself into. Each time God was stretching me outside of my comfort zone—to coordinate a women’s retreat, speak at a women’s event, and to train the leaders that launched my church’s Celebrate Recovery ministry. Through it all, I was often reminded of a phrase I’d heard in ministry circles: “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.”

Answering my Next Call

Over the last few months, I’ve been preparing for God’s next call on my life. In preparation for that, I worked on a re-write of my recovery testimony. If you don’t know what that is, check out this post, What is a CR Testimony?, on the Celebrate Recovery website where I serve. Suffice it to say, it is not a small matter; and it is not a salvation testimony.

Answering the call

As I wrote it, God revealed to me the weavings and points of intersection where He was putting the people, circumstances and events in place to lead to this very time in my life. It’s been pretty profound, and has grown my faith in even bigger ways. There is so much I could write about this, but one chain of events stands out with such clarity to illustrate the way God works, and how perfect His timing is. I’ll save that for Part 2 of this series.

I’d love to hear from others who have stepped up into ministry leadership. Did you feel called? Do you presently feel qualified? How was God preparing you to serve Him?

*A great book I recommend about this leadership posture is Leading with a Limp, by Dan Allender.

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

A Love Letter to Mom & Annual Tribute

I’ve come to annually mark the passing of my mother by writing her a letter.  This year I was at my annual winter scrapbooking retreat amongst friends—just like I was the day before I got word of my mother’s passing in 2011.  Again I was working on my mother’s tribute album.

Tribute AlbumSetting the Stage to Write

Three years later this scrapbook remains part of my healing process as it retraces my steps before and after she died—the visits back home, meeting with her health care providers, making end-of-life decisions, giving her eulogy, and burying her remains.  It is the visual story that was eventually published in Journeys to Mother Love.  It is a beautiful tribute album—not necessarily for others’ eyes, but something between my mother and me.

This year the anniversary letter was harder to write than last year.  After my arrival at the retreat, I was told that Wanda, the woman who has organized and run these retreats over the years, wasn’t going to be joining us.  Her husband who suffered with Parkinson’s had taken a turn for the worse and was put on hospice.  His end of life was very near.  It hit us all by surprise, and gave us an opportunity to privately lift her in prayer and share our own feelings about this sad turn of events.

Final goodbyesFor me the timing hit too close to home as our discussion turned to end-of-life decisions and the role women often provide in caring for our loved ones.  On the outside I was listening to the conversation, but in my mind I was back at my mother’s side caring for her at the nursing home on one of my visits back home.  It was as if my bittersweet memories from before were now being lived out by Wanda and her family.  Sadly, her husband passed away a few days later.

Embracing the Grief

It was in that context of grief, that my letter to my mother freely flowed through my fingers to the keyboard, and with it a few well-earned tears.  I know my mom can’t physically answer my letter, but something tells me she’ll find a way to let me know she received it.

Below is an excerpt of that letter.  I hope it inspires you to do the same for someone you love—past or present—and let your healing turn to hope.

Mom and kidsA Love Letter to Mom

“Dear Mom,

I admire your perseverance. You lived a long life. Fate hit you a terrible blow when you suffered your nervous breakdown at the age of 35, and me as well, when I was six. Our journeys to emotional healing both started that day.

Now 48 years later I am approaching mine in a new way, with a different battle plan in place. No more white-knuckling it. I am choosing to take medication (for my ADHD).

…Anyway, Mom, the point of all this is that your passing put all of the pieces together for me to even consider this route for me, and for my son (who also has ADHD).  I am now an advocate for him.  I am an advocate for myself.  I am learning more about ADHD and how to help both of us.

I don’t know what lies ahead for us as we journey down this road on medication.  I don’t know what it was like for you.  I’m saddened that I never got to talk to you about any of this.  I’m saddened that I didn’t get to know you as an adult.  I’m saddened I didn’t really get to know you.

But I wanted you to know that as horrible as your life was for so many years after the nervous breakdown, the divorce, in and out of mental hospitals, etc. that it has served to help me to fight for myself and my son now. I am more open to trying and exploring how I can lead a more normal life with the support of medication.  I am taking back control of my life and my emotional health.

So I thank you Mom for not leaving me a legacy of mental illness.  You left me a gift that I get to integrate into my life.  That gift is the gift of perseverance and hope in the Lord through all things. 

I know what I am going through is important and life changing.  I know there are many others like me who have also suffered in silence as they lived in the shadow of mental illness.

I love you Mom.  Thank you for persevering to the end and giving life back to me in the process.

Love,
Ardis”

Peace to you and your family Wanda, from your scrapbooking sisters.

Peace to you and your family Wanda, from your scrapbooking sisters.

Updated 6/1/2014: Wanda’s husband passed away a few days after the scrapbooking weekend. Through a sad turn of events, Wanda also passed away a few months later. Remembering Wanda is the tribute I wrote to our dear friend and scrapbooking mentor.

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

Living in the Shadow of Mental Illness

It’s no secret that my mother was mentally ill—not now anyway.  I’ve written about it on my blog and was the basis for my published story in Journeys to Mother Love (Cladach Publishing).  Chapter 8 in the Table of Contents reads: Distanced by Mental Illness, Walking my Mother Home, by Ardis A. Nelson.  There it is; my lifelong struggle in black and white on the page for all to see.

Chapter 8 is my story.

Chapter 8 is my story.

I’ve heard from many people how they resonated with my story.  It is usually in regards to how they are caring for a loved one at the end of life or it touches an accord with those whose parent has died.  It gives them hope and encouragement for the journey no matter how recent or faraway the experience was.

Distancing Myself

My story isn’t just about how I re-established contact and cared for my mentally ill mother at the end of her life though.  The bigger story is how I distanced myself from getting to know myself as well.  At 53 years old, it is what I am still working through.  It is the theme of the memoir that I hope to someday have published.

The Bible tells us in Matthew 10:38 that as followers of Christ we all have a cross to bear.  My cross seems to be the legacy that I have of living in the shadows of a mother who had mental illness.  Even though I had amazing healing when my mother died (as mentioned in my published story), I can still revert to my negative way of thinking and seeing things through the filter of mental illness in my family.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Many people live in the shadow of mental illness.  They were raised in a family with a parent who was mentally ill.  Or maybe they grew up hearing stories about crazy Aunt Sue or Uncle Joe.  I know I did; and it wasn’t just about my mother, but others in the family as well.

When I was growing up there was a huge stigma attached to mental illness.  There were barbaric practices perpetuated on mental patients—witness the movie, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” from 1975.

Jack Nicholson's character receiving shock therapy, a barbaric practice, in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Jack Nicholson’s character receiving shock therapy, a barbaric practice, in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

I saw that movie in the theater when I was 15.  The movie hit way to close to home as my mother was in and out of mental hospitals and had shock therapy when I was in elementary school.  Watching that movie scared me and maybe even scarred me emotionally.

Last November when I started work on my memoir as part of National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, I watched that movie again for the first time in over 30 years.  It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, but I think that was because I watched it more for historical reasons and for context in my memoir writing.  In other words, I detached myself from my emotions.  I thank God that wasn’t my fate.

Emotional Highs and Lows

At this stage of life with hormones raging out of control, it is hard at times to not let that dark cloud and fear of mental illness grab a hold of me.  It seemed to hit me particularly hard after my time in Spain.  It’s no wonder.

The movie is still playing, although at times it may feel like it's over.

The movie is still playing, although at times it may feel like it’s over.

I’ve been on an emotional high the last few years as I stepped into the world of publishing as a first time author, launched Pedro’s professional music career, and prepared for my trip to Spain.  It has often felt like a dream to me—or as I’ve openly expressed—like a movie with Pedro’s music as the soundtrack.

Three months after my return home, I’ve finally re-adjusted to life in America.  As I slowed down and re-focused my attention on my own self-care, at times it felt like the credits scrolled by on the screen and the music stopped playing.  Just like in the theater, all that was left was the mess on the floor to clean up—most notably a body that was exhausted and sometimes depressed.

Rejecting the Lie

I’m discovering some profound things about myself as I work through this next layer of healing.   I know it is what God is requiring from me so that He can more fully use me for His bigger purpose.  As I do, I am clinging to my identity in Christ and not some worn out lie or stigma.

Are you believing a lie from your past?  Who will you believe—our heavenly Father who loves you, or the Evil One, the thief and father of all lies?  What are you doing to flip the switch in your thinking? 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10, NIV)

Turning to the Dark Side

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

100 postsThe Growing Pains of Blogging

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

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

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

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

Publish IconPublishing Humiliation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing Crossroads

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

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

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

Shakespeare blogger

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

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

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