Super Bowl 49: Dealing with the Agony of Defeat

I stayed up late into the night after my husband went to sleep on Super Bowl Sunday.  I surfed the internet and flipped the channels on the TV remote control for any news I could possibly find to help console me.  As strange as it may sound, I was grieving the loss suffered by our hometown heroes, the Seattle Seahawks, in Super Bowl 49.

SB49 score

It was heartbreaking!  With less than 30 seconds left in the game, Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson’s pass was intercepted by the New England Patriots’ wide receiver Malcolm Butler on the 1-yard line.  The game was over.

Final score: Patriot’s 28, Seahawks 24!

Grieving the Loss

Shock, disbelief and disappointment filled the homes and hearts of the ’12s’, loyal Seahawks fans, across the city, the state, the nation, and the world.

Facebook was filled with posts from friends who were disappointed.  Most of them were also filled with gratitude for our team and the amazing season they gave us.  Some were quick to jump on the bandwagon of questioning the last call and why the ball was not given to Marshawn Lynch—letting their frustrations out on Facebook.  That play and that decision will be debated for years—and probably never forgotten.

MLynch SB49 comment

I didn’t feel like writing after Sunday’s game like I did two weeks ago, or like I did after last year’s Super Bowl game.  I was too numb and in a state of shock.  My emotions were also in a bit of a roller coaster.  At one point, I even wondered if I was living in some sort of dream.  Did that really just happen?

I soon realized I was rapidly experiencing the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  They are not just stages that we go through over the loss of a loved one.  It is what we experience in any type of significant or unexpected loss.

High Hopes for a Victory

I guess I had some pretty high hopes around that game.

Why was that?  The Seattle Seahawks have a great team of talented players and coaches.  That is for sure.  It was also their never give up attitude, their optimism, and how they connected as a team—like a band of brothers.  More than that though, it is because this team commanded such a high regard for its fan support (the 12s) and they openly shared about their faith in God.

RSherman tweet

I’m sad for the Seahawks players.  I’m sad for the community.

I’m also incredibly proud of the national spotlight that this team has brought to our city.  I’m proud of the sense of unity and passion that has been ignited in our community.

Facing our Failures

Naturally in the post-game interviews, the players were somber.  Yet I also saw tremendous courage, dignity, and humility as responsibility was taken for the plays and decisions made in the game.

The Seattle Seahawks are a class act.  (Yes, I saw the mini-brawl on the field.  Bruce Irvin was quick to apologize to the press and on social media.)

Two weeks ago in the NFC Championship game, the Seahawks stopped the Green Bay Packers from stealing the game and our 12th man joy.  On Super Bowl Sunday, it was the New England Patriots who ‘stole’ the game from us with their miraculous interception.  (Some might say that it was karma, but I don’t believe in that.)  We weren’t cheated out of a victory like in 2006 when the referees made some very questionable calls.  This was a fair loss.

Nonetheless, it was deflating; and it robbed the 12s of their much anticipated joy.

What do we do after a defeat of this magnitude?  Do we hide and lick our wounds?  Or do we stand tall and move forward facing the challenges that surround us?

RWilson FB post

How we move on with life through the trials and tribulations is what shapes us, defines us, and builds our character.  From what I’ve seen of our Seahawks, I believe they will persevere this storm and come back even stronger.

God is Still Good

The Seahawks gave us both the incredible thrill of victory and the painful agony of defeat.  And they are still winners who are worthy of our 12th man support, on and off the field.  They are leaders and heroes!

Thank you Seattle Seahawks for such an exciting season of football, for playing your hearts out, for bringing pride to our community, and for displaying grace under fire.

Whether we win or lose, God is still good!

Holy Week, Holy People

Holy Week—the pinnacle of the Christian faith. It starts with Palm Sunday—the remembrance of Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem on a donkey while surrounded by crowds cheering ‘Hosanna’. It ends on Easter Sunday, with the Good News of the empty tomb. He is risen! In between is the story of sacrificial love and gruesome suffering that led to the exchanged lives that Believers in Christ receive.

Holy Week

Faith Matters

It is not unusual for my mind to be on matters of Christian faith. I am not a trained pastor. I haven’t attended seminary. I don’t pretend to be a religious scholar. So why would I spend time on Holy Week sitting down to write a post about it?

It is because FAITH matters! And YOU matter to God!

If you are anything like me, you may not have grown up believing that, or maybe you still have doubts about it to this day. The root of that doubt doesn’t lie with God. It lies to a large degree with the formation of your identity as a young child and your family of origin.

You matter to God
Childlike Faith

In Luke 18:16-17, Jesus says “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Was Jesus excluding adults in His Kingdom? No, He was reminding us of the innocence of a child. He was telling us to trust—a characteristic that we often lose in childhood due to shame, disappointments, emotional wounds, abuse, etc. This mistrust or absence of innocence can be brought on by a traumatic incident and sudden loss, or may be due to negative messages that over time we integrate into our souls as unworthiness. With those kinds of identity messages being heaped on us at an early age it’s no wonder we reject God or don’t believe we are who He says we are. (I know because I have struggled with that myself.)

Who Are We?

We are Holy People!

Hard to believe? Then consider the standard you are using to determine the validity of that statement. Are you believing the father of all lies, the devil (John 8:44)? Or maybe you are comparing yourself to the Heroes of the Faith praised in Hebrews 11.

Are you saying, “I’m no Moses”, or “I don’t have faith like Abraham?” These Fathers of our Faith ended their lives well, but they had many sinful acts in their lifetimes. Moses murdered an Egyptian and fled to Midian (Exodus 2). Out of fear for his own safety, Abraham passed off his wife Sarah, as his sister, allowing a king to take her as his wife (Genesis 12). These heroes of our faith were broken people who failed, but God still used them, just like He uses us.

Proof of our Holiness

How can we consider ourselves holy? Romans 10:9 says, If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Jesus sacrifice was the price to make us holy in God’s eyes. God doesn’t see our sins anymore. We are the ones who condemn ourselves and continue to act like or believe we are unworthy.

Still having a hard time seeing yourself as holy—or that God would consider you holy? I grew up thinking (mistakenly so, by the way) that saints were only those people who were canonized by the Catholic Church. However, there are many verses in the Bible that reference God’s people as saints. For instance, Paul uses the term saints over and over again in his greetings to the New Testament churches. When our time comes to leave this life, Psalm 116:15 tells us: Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (New King James Version).

Empty Tomb
As we celebrate Easter, remember who you are, and whose you are. Your holiness was paid for with a price. The proof is in the empty tomb. He is risen indeed!

Practicing an Attitude of Gratitude

Is the glass half empty or half full?  That rhetorical question is commonly asked to determine if you are an optimist or a pessimist.  If you responded that the glass is half empty, some would say you are a pessimist.  If you answered that the glass is half full, common opinion would indicate that you are an optimist.

Half empty or half full?

Half empty or half full?

In either case, I bring this question up in light of the Thanksgiving holiday when Americans proclaim what they are thankful for—generally around a family feast.

You don’t need to reserve your gratitude for an annual date on the calendar.  For those of us who live our lives around the 12-Steps and Recovery Principles, gratitude is a way of life.  However, it is not something we generally felt when we entered recovery.

Developing an Attitude of Gratitude

Most people start recovery far from being grateful for the situation they find themselves in.  They may walk through the door of their first meeting because they are desperate for answers to the circumstances they are experiencing in their lives.  Or maybe they are at a bottom, like I was.  Whatever the reason, gratefulness probably isn’t on the list of character traits that friends would say they have–or at least not near the top.

I was a pessimist for most of my adult life—until I entered into the recovery process.  Now at times it is hard to keep me quiet about my gratitude for recovery (specifically Celebrate Recovery), and what the Lord has done in me and through me.

Gratitude heartYou don’t have to be in a recovery program to develop an attitude of gratitude.  The change doesn’t happen overnight.  It is a process that builds inside of us, as we consciously choose to change our thinking.  (The lesson on gratitude is taught as part of Step 11—We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and power to carry that out.)

Start small.  Take baby steps.  God will slowly give you glimpses into people, events, and things He has placed in your life that you can be grateful for.

The Benefits of Gratitude

Here are just some of the benefits of developing an attitude of gratitude (based on an acrostic for the word gratitude):

G-ets us out of our heads
R-eminds us of His gifts to us
A-djusts our attitude in a positive direction
T-ransforming power
I-ntegrates God’s love in our hearts
T-hankful despite our circumstances
U-tilizes our gifts for His Kingdom
D-raws others to us
E-ternal perspective

So it doesn’t matter if you identify yourself as a pessimist or an optimist, you can become a genuinely grateful person when you start to practice an attitude of gratitude.

I am grateful forPracticing What I Preach

In light of that, I’d like to say that I am thankful for the followers and readers of my blog, and for each purchase of my book.  I am grateful to be able to share my writing and trust that God is using it to inspire others.

I am grateful for this season of my life—the highs and the lows.  I am grateful for my family and my circle of friends who encourage and support me.  They lift me up at times when I can’t.  I am very grateful for my Spanish family and their generous hospitality to me.  I am forever grateful to my heavenly Father, who got my attention eleven years ago, brought me to my knees, redeemed my pain, and blessed me in ways I never dreamed possible.

I hope and pray this Thanksgiving will be the first day of an ongoing commitment to develop an attitude of gratitude in your life.  You can start now by posting what you are grateful for in the comments below.  Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving

Hitting a Home Run for Recovery

After my second viewing of the movie “Home Run” a few days ago, I’m left thinking about the face of recovery and why so many people sit in denial about their issues.  By issues I mean unhealthy habits like hiding their hurts, medicating their pain, isolating, and trying harder to make life fit their demands.

Cory Brand, the main character of the movie, played by Scott Elrod, is one such person.  He is a major league baseball all-star who is forced to face his alcoholism after a DUI and team suspension.  In recovery circles, we call it hitting bottom.  It is not a pleasant moment in one’s life, but for those who choose recovery as a result, and work through a 12-step program, their lives are transformed.  I know because I lived through it myself.

Breaking Through the Wall of Denial

Through the use of vivid flashbacks, the movie shows the pain of Cory’s upbringing, as he lived with an alcoholic father who expected perfection from his son at an early age.  The scenes are hard to watch at times as you feel for what Cory went through (rated PG-13).  These painful reminders drive Cory to drink and lash out in anger, unwittingly repeating the generational curse of his father.

Cory is like many of us who have found recovery.   We don’t come easily or quietly.  Our denial runs deep.  What struck me in this story, was that despite his being mandated by his team to attend a 12-step program as a condition of his suspension, he doesn’t embrace it until later on in the movie.  He just goes through the motions.  His life continues to spiral out of control until he finally realizes he can’t do it on his own.  That is the point in which one really starts recovery—coming out of denial.

Why Recovery?

Step 1 of Celebrate Recovery reads:  “We admitted that we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.”  That brings me to a misconception that is dealt with in a powerful way in the movie.  Recovery gets a bad rap because most people think that recovery is for “those” people.  You know who I mean—alcoholics, drug addicts, and people who REALLY have problems.  That is so far from the truth.  I won’t give away the story, but suffice it to say, that just because someone is a Christian or lives their life in a Godly manner doesn’t mean they’ve had it easy.  We all carry hurts inside of us, and we all have to deal with life’s problems.

Celebrate Recovery - A Christian 12-Step Program

Celebrate Recovery – A Christian 12-Step Program

Celebrate Recovery (CR) is a Christian 12-step program that helps people with their hurts, habits and hang-ups.  It’s for anyone who struggles in life.  Typical struggles that people address at CR are anger, fear, grief, guilt and shame, holding on to the past, inability to forgive, isolation, need to control, finances, eating disorders, alcohol or substance dependency, pace of life, rejection, relationship problems, sexual addiction, stress, and emotional, physical, sexual or spiritual abuse.

CR is often described as guided sanctification.  That’s just a fancy theological term for becoming the person God intends for us to be.  CR gives one tools to take responsibility for our actions, offer forgiveness to those we have hurt, forgive ourselves, learn to lean on others for help, and to give back from a grateful heart.  All this transformation comes through the power of the Holy Spirit and a relationship with Jesus that is core to this biblical program.

See the Movie for Yourself

In my opinion, “Home Run” hits a big home run for recovery.  It is a realistic view at how turning our lives over to Jesus brings about healing, wholeness and transformation.  It brings about freedom from our past and hope for the future.  In Cory’s situation, it gave him a chance to restore a broken relationship, giving him a new lease on life.

Even if recovery isn’t for you, I’m sure there is someone you know who needs a program like Celebrate Recovery.  With the end of baseball season looming, it’s the perfect time to view this movie.  “Home Run” is available on Blu-Ray/DVD, on demand, or watch it online on youtube.  To find a Celebrate Recovery program near you, click this link.  You or someone you know will be glad you did.

Home Run Movie Photo

NaNoWriMo Lessons Learned, Part 2 – Personal Takeaways

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is over, but my lessons learned will last me a lifetime.  Part 1 of this series was about my writing takeaways.

Lessons LearnedThe personal takeaways were gleaned from hours of writing, researching the internet for historical context, reading old family letters, reviewing old photographs, interviewing people (mostly family) and having heart to heart conversations with my stepmother.  There were many tears shed during these hours and minutes dedicated to writing my memoir last month.  Below are my thoughts on the personal takeaways from my month of literary abandon.

Personal Lessons Learned

  1. I can let go of a desired outcome.  When life or professional obstacles surfaced during the month, I had to make decisions that I knew would significantly affect my ability to reach 50,000 words.  I chose to let go of the word count goal and the coveted bragging rights that go along with it.
  2. I am not a failure or a quitter.  It would’ve been easy to give up when the obstacles started to surface.  Instead I was able to keep my focus on the higher purpose of my writing and stick with it.
  3. I’m not doing this for myself.  If I was, I would’ve quit.  It took an emotional and physical toll on my body, but I kept sensing God’s calling to continue.
  4. I AM doing this for myself.  Ok, I know that is a contradiction to #3, but it’s true.  As I started to see so many patterns and gain insights along the way, it became very prevalent how important this is to my own healing.  It was a gift to myself.
  5. God’s timing is perfect.  Ok, I knew that, but this confirmed it—again.  There were so many coincidences to things going on in my life now with the past that I knew God wanted me to see them at this very moment in time.  (Lots of blog and writing material here.)
  6. God was with me in the past even when I didn’t sense His presence.  He didn’t forsake me even though I forsook Him.  I knew that too, but got new insights along the way.
  7. I was not alone in the process.  I chose to not use the NaNoWriMo online community and instead relied on my friends and their prayers for support.  They were there for me.
  8. God has been equipping me to write this story and to serve Him in bigger ways.  I can and do trust Him to lead me on my writing journey.
  9. Finishing my memoir is not going to be easy.  This is going to take a long time—maybe years—to write, edit, publish, etc.  I need to be patient and consistent—like the tortoise, not like the hare.Writing
  10. I learned that I really do love to write—even though my brain was a bit fried at times—especially after my push the last week of the month.
  11. I have a greater sense of gratitude for the transformation that God has worked in me over the years.  This past month my writing forced me to face many low periods in my life.  I am grateful He has redeemed it and made me whole.

While NaNoWriMo is over, my memoir writing isn’t.  I’m taking December off from my memoir, but not from writing.  In January I will continue with Chapter 7 and my writing pilgrimage—at a much slower pace.  Along the way, I know God will show up and continue to turn my healing into hope.

NaNoWriMo Lessons Learned, Part 1 – Writing Takeaways

30 days and nights of literary abandon is a pretty accurate assessment of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  As a result, November was a total blur to me!

By the end of the day on November 30, I reached my personal writing goals for the month: over 30,000 words (90 pages) on my memoir and getting through 6 tough chapters of personal highs and lows in my life.  I also kept up with my other writing and marketing commitments (another 30,000 words), dealt with some pressing family matters and celebrated my birthday.  Needless to say, I am thrilled with the result.

Writing a bookI started the month hesitant on what to expect, but knew I needed to get off the fence about my memoir.  I started it over a year ago and only wrote a few pages.  I needed this deadline to get moving again. My biggest fear was failure.  It had nothing to do with the possibility of not hitting the 50,000 word threshold.  It was about starting to write and then giving up half-way through the month.  I faced that fear and so much more last month.

As a former project manager one of the key meetings we held as a team at the completion of a project was the lessons learned debriefing.  It was a valuable tool to bring closure to the team, the project, and to move forward with new insights.  My NaNoWriMo project was also full of lessons learned for me—personally and professionally.  I’ll start out with the ‘easy’ lessons learned related to writing.

Writing Lessons Learned

  1. I am a writer. Despite my being published earlier this year, I had occasional doubts about my ability to write.  Over 30,000 words and six chapters later, I put an end to that thought.
  2. I can discipline myself to write.  I set up a schedule to write (or research my memoir) and stuck to it most days.  I now have a distraction free space in my home to continue.
  3. Writing takes a lot of work and is a big commitment.  No more giving lip service to it.  I’m committed to this project.
  4. Writing is a process.  I’ve heard that many times over the past year, but didn’t really understand it until this month.  (This lesson learned is worthy of an entire blog on its own.)  If you are a writer, you know exactly what I mean.
  5. Memoir writing should not be rushed.  There are many nuggets and insights to be gleaned from looking at your life.  By definition, a memoir is a reflection upon key life experiences that make up the person.  When you rush through the writing, it is easy to miss it.  I kept a separate journal of my ‘aha’ moments and processed as much as I could, but it was pretty overwhelming.
  6. Memoir writing is not for everyone.  It includes a painful process of self-examination.  You have to be willing to relive both the good and the bad.  You have to reveal your inner struggle and be vulnerable or else readers won’t be able to identify with your story.  (Again, not for everyone.)

This month long writing exercise was a great opportunity to jump start my memoir.  The result wasn’t necessarily pretty, but it served its purpose for me.  Stay tuned for Part 2 to read about the deeper more personal lessons learned while on my NaNoWriMo adventure.

To Persevere or Let Go?

My family started geocaching a few years ago.  Geocaching is a recreational activity that uses a GPS to go on treasure hunts all over the world.  It has been a great pastime that allows us to take in the sights, get some exercise and explore places we never would’ve gone before.   (See for more information.)

After church on Sunday, my husband and I took advantage of a glorious sunny afternoon in the Pacific Northwest to go on the hunt for a few local geocaches.  We hadn’t eaten lunch and we didn’t have a lot of time, but we ventured to a nearby park to make what we thought were some easy “finds”.  (That’s geocaching lingo for having found the hidden treasure.)  We thought these would be easy finds because geocaches are rated for their level of difficulty to find and the level of the difficulty of the terrain.  This was a “1” on both scales.

Geocropmom, aka Ardis Nelson, with a typical geocaching container.

We reviewed the online log entries from the previous geocachers to get some insight and clues for the hunt.  Their entries mentioned blackberry bushes and suggested long sleeves and pants, but that didn’t deter us for the hunt.  We pulled out our gloves from the geocaching backpack we keep in the car, thinking that would be sufficient to avoid getting scratched and poked, but cloth gloves are no match for full grown blackberry bushes.

After at least 40 minutes of searching in and around the blackberry bushes, we finally gave up the hunt.  So much for easy.  We logged the dreaded “DNF” (did not find) on the webpage for this geocache.  Ouch!  I hate those—and then to admit it online for everyone to see—how embarrassing.

“DNF”, it’s giving up.  It feels like defeat.  It seems like failure.  When is enough, enough?  I am not a quitter.  When the going gets tough, I keep going—often times beyond what is reasonable.  When it comes to something I am passionate about, it is especially hard to let go.

So move on we did.  By this time I am hungry, thirsty and my feet hurt.  Did I mention I was not in walking shoes?  But I was encouraged by my husband to go on the next hunt.  It’s only .2 miles away, he said.  I agreed to go.  After all, I didn’t want to end the day with a “DNF” on my geocaching profile.  We ended our outing with two successful hunts or finds.

I share all of this not to give a lesson in geocaching, but to provide food for thought on the challenges in life.  Unfortunately, we don’t get a rating scale of difficulty or terrain that we will encounter on our travels.  We can take a personal risk assessment based on our past experiences, our own abilities or wise counsel from others who have travelled a similar path.

In geocaching, as in life, you sometimes have to decide it’s time to move on to the next challenge.  In doing so, we need encouragement for the journey, like my husband gave me, and the stamina to persevere.  We also need to learn when to let go.

One last thought you might be wondering about related to the “DNF”—why would one post that online for all to see?  It is to help other geocachers who will follow you on the hunt.  That is like our journey too.  It is ok to admit defeat.  It can help others on the journey to self-discovery.  It does not need to define us.  After all, Jesus tells us in John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

Turning Failure Into Victory

January is a month of many significant spiritual milestones for me. This year marks the 8th anniversary of my coming out of denial and realizing that I couldn’t do life on my own terms. It is the anniversary of my demotion. It is funny how easy I can say that now. At the time, I was so humiliated. I was also incredibly relieved.

I knew something had to change in my life. I was working 6-7 days a week. At one point I worked 20 days in a row trying to fix the mounting system problems that were causing so much work and stress for me and my staff. I worked long hours at my office. I worked on the bus. I worked into the early morning hours from home. I was exhausted.

When I walked into my boss’s office on that Friday afternoon, January 30, I was thrilled to have met our deadlines. I was proud of myself and the people on my team that worked so hard to overcome huge obstacles—all for the sake of accurate and timely W-2s. (Let’s just say that my employer had a history.) I was greeted with the news of my demotion.

There is a huge story behind all of this, but the point is that God used this life-changing event to transform me. He used it to point me toward Him and He used it to help me take responsibility for my decisions and behaviors that had led me down this path of self-destruction.  It has been a long process. During January, I don’t even give W-2s or working in that kind of environment a second thought. There was a time that I loved it and thought it was my mission in life—that I would be lost without it. It was my idol.

As I started to work through my work addiction that first year—while still being employed, I had to set boundaries on the number of hours I worked, I had to not try to do everything and be everything for everybody. I had to learn that it was just a ‘job’—that it was just a ‘paycheck’. I had to learn that my value was not dictated by what my boss, peers or staff thought of me. I had to learn that my value was dictated by God and His unconditional love for me.   That took lots of time and lots of love being poured into me from the outside—by other followers of Christ who also struggled seeing themselves as God sees them.

What is so ironic—and humorous in hindsight—is that although my boss demoted me for my lack of people skills, God has ‘promoted’ me and abundantly used me in this area. He has taken me out of my analytical walk to one of faith and obedience from my heart. Sure I am very detail oriented. I am a good organizer and highly capable of managing projects. But the area that I get the most satisfaction with is in the trenches of working through the struggles of life—of connecting one on one or in small groups with others who are hungry for spiritual growth.

That is where I give back in ministry. I love to facilitate life change. I have served in various ministry roles since my demotion. Even now I am part of a team that is launching a ministry that has been near and dear to my heart since I was demoted. It is Celebrate Recovery.

Celebrate Recovery is a biblical 12-step program based on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-10). At first I attended for my compulsive work habits, but I soon came to realize that these principles were needed in all areas of my life. It was about embracing a lifestyle change that put Jesus first in my heart, mind and soul. It was about the character building that I needed to become more like Christ. Lastly, it was allowing Him to turn my failure into victory.

Sold out for Jesus...

Sold out for Jesus…

Eight years later, I am grateful for that experience and still sold out for Jesus. My identity is no longer wrapped up in what I do, but is now based on who I am. My identity is in Christ.

Celebrate Recovery launches at Timberlake Church in Redmond, WA on Wednesday, February 29 at 7PM. Check out for a meeting in your area. Or join us, if you live locally, to help us celebrate the launch of this new ministry of hope and healing.

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

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