A Father’s Day Message of Hope

The year before my father died I wrote him a long letter for Father’s Day.  It’s not something I’d ever done before.   He was 93 years old, and I felt prompted to speak into matters of the heart with him.  It was a very risky endeavor—because he was not an emotional person and there was a ‘history’ between us.

Me & Dad circa 1962.

My Father History

My parents divorced when I was nine years old.  My mother and us kids moved across the country to live near my mother’s relatives.  My time with my father was then limited to a few summer visits in my teen years.

He was my father in name only for most of my life—and not only to me, but to the kids he also fathered in previous marriages.  That never seemed to bother me though.  He was MY father.  I loved him and longed for his love and acceptance.

While he was absent from most of the milestones in my life and lived thousands of miles away, his presence loomed large in my life in ways unbeknownst to me.

The Healing Journey

When I entered recovery over a decade ago, I started to see the effect of his absence in my life—the absence of real relationship and love.  As I got healing for my inner father wounds and took responsibility for my behavior and choices, I also learned to accept him in his failings.  I grieved what I didn’t get from him and released myself from the guilt I carried around my parent’s divorce (a common by-product of divorce).

The more healing I got, the easier it was for me to recognize how his words affected me, and to maintain an adult stance around him.  As I got stronger with my adult voice, I started to respectfully speak up for myself and my beliefs.  I didn’t let his opinions and his lack of empathy dictate my own self-worth.

In short, I grew confident in who I was as a woman and gave my little Ardis the chance to grow up as well.

My father and I had a good relationship the last few years of his life.  He observed how I restored the relationship with my mother and cared for her at the end of her life.  He was genuinely interested in the resulting turnaround in my life.  The healing and forgiveness I experienced at the end of my mother’s life then became a catalyst for me to initiate the same change in our father-daughter relationship.

Fishing with my father on the Columbia River.

A Father’s Day Letter

A few months after my mother passed away, my father’s last surviving sibling passed away.  I was still early on in my grief process over the loss of my mother, and I sensed that my uncle’s death may have been hard for my father too.  I used that as an opportunity to speak to his heart by way of a long letter.  I sent it for Father’s Day that year.

The purpose of the letter was two-fold.  One purpose was to fill him in on the inner healing I was experiencing and how God was revealing more things to me about my mother and the legacy she left me.  The second purpose was to express my forgiveness to him and propose a similar gesture as a lasting legacy for our family.

I was bold in my words, yet compassionate in my plea for family healing.  I prayerfully wrote the letter, releasing the outcome to the Lord and having no expectations of his understanding or emotional shift in his attitudes towards family.

Dad and me at his 90th birthday party.

A Father’s Day Reminder

I believe that letter made all the difference in my father’s ability to go in peace.  He never spoke of the letter, but my step-mother told me he read and re-read it several times.  He was outwardly softening as I think the Lord was inwardly doing a work in him.

He passed away the following year in a beautiful way that brought family together and gave us all peace in his passing.  We honored him with a private family memorial service that gave us closure and more healing.

While Father’s Day can still be a painful reminder to me of what I didn’t get from my earthly father, I’d much rather focus on how the Lord redeemed those years by giving me a heartfelt connection with my father at the end of his life.

I’m thankful the Lord prompted me to go down the path of healing and forgiveness for both of my parents before it was too late.  It has made all the difference in me and helped me to model that kind of healing with others.

2 Corinthians 6:18

I hope and pray that Father’s Day isn’t painful for you as it has been for me at times.  If your father is still alive and your relationship needs work, don’t wait until it’s too late.  Offer forgiveness and love, releasing the outcome to the Lord.  And remember our heavenly Father is with us as a friend, counselor, and Abba Father, regardless of the circumstances with our earthly father.

Nominations Open for Mother of the Year

As Mother’s Day approaches this year I’ve noticed a bit of longing for the times when my kids were young and family plans were made to do something special to celebrate the day.  If something wasn’t planned, you could always count on the school to assign students a Mother’s Day project.

I’ve still got my children’s Mother’s Day projects filed away with their school papers and art projects.  Some have made their way into my scrapbooks and another hangs in my office as a reminder of one of those cherished memories.

An Unlikely Nomination

Many years ago one of those Mother’s Day projects was a major wake-up call for me.  I got to see myself through the eyes of my 11-year-old son, and I didn’t like what I saw.

Each student was given an assignment to write a Mother-of-the-Year nomination for their parent.  It was a good writing assignment for a 4th grader—learning how to structure a one-page paper.

It started out with the three reasons for my nomination.  Then there was a paragraph for each reason to give more background and details.  The final paragraph was a summary of the nomination.

My son started out by nominating me because “she has a great personality, works hard for her job, and lastly she is dedicated to the family.”  It warmed my heart—until I reached the paragraph about my work.  That was when my son’s words hit a nerve.

“My mother stays up late to keep working most of the time.  Normally, it is 2 AM before she goes to bed.  Also there are times where I don’t see my mom until the next morning because she stayed at work.  She does this just to bring money into the family.  If she didn’t have to bring in money then she wouldn’t do these things.”

Hard work is one thing, but I was modeling to my son that working long hours into the night and not seeing him, was acceptable behavior—all for a paycheck.  That may seem innocuous to many people in these days of high tech and high stress jobs.  But his truth about my work habits and unconscious belief system was a glaring red flag.

I didn’t like the message I was sending my son.

The bigger story behind this was that I was demoted from my job a few months earlier.  That demotion was the catalyst that got me into recovery and out of denial about my work addiction.

By the time I received my son’s Mother’s Day gift, I was making healthy changes in my life and working less hours.  However, the damage had been done.  My son already saw the result.  Thankfully, all of this led to getting more balance in my life and by the next year, I took a leap of faith and left my job.

A New Nomination

I never shared with my son the impact his words had on me.  He was too young to understand.  Now that he is 24 and working in a job that he loves, maybe it is time that we have that talk.

Over the years since leaving that job, my kids have been very much aware of my recovery journey and passion for emotional and spiritual healing.  Back in 2004 when he nominated me for Mother-of-the-Year, I’m sure I didn’t feel very worthy.

The joy of Mother’s Day with my sons, May 2000.

I wonder what he would say now—what either of my son’s would say if they could nominate me now.  I still don’t feel very worthy of something like that.  However, I know that I’ve made a difference in their lives.  While I haven’t been a traditional homemaker type mother, they know that I love them.

And like I did when I left that job over a decade ago, I’ve modeled something I’m much more proud of—leaning on God.  The scripture that helped me through that difficult time is still one of my favorite life verses.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding, seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV

While my son’s Mother’s Day gift that year didn’t initially feel like a gift, it turned out to be one of the most memorable I’ve ever had.  The timing and his words were perfectly orchestrated by God to get my attention and help me to shift my priorities and grow my faith.

What are you modeling to your kids this Mother’s Day?  Are you worthy of The Nomination?

Holy Week, Holy Life

What does it mean to live a holy life?  How do you define it?

Is the holy life reserved for those called or ordained into the priesthood or carry an official license or ministerial degree?

An ‘Unholy’ Life?

It’s been over a year since I returned to full-time work in a secular capacity.  What was initially intended to be a temporary assignment has turned into a more permanent position.  I didn’t realize the affect this would have on my writing or my ministry connections.

At times it feels very unholy.  Is it really unholy or is it just an attitude in my mind?

What makes a life holy?

Is it the exterior dos and don’ts—following the commandments and acting righteous?  Or is it derived from the inner life?  Jesus called out the Pharisee’s on this attitude in Matthew 23:25-26 when he said:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”

Stinging words for sure!  And they were said to the religious leaders of that time.

Defining a Holy Life

Jesus calls us into various forms of ministry in and out of the church.  For this season in my life, I’m called to take my servant attitude and love for others into a rapidly changing office environment, putting aside my desires to write and serve in organized ministry.  While it’s been a difficult pill to swallow, it doesn’t make me or my work unholy or less important than it was before.

So what does a holy life look like?  Here are some things to ponder in seeking to lead a holy life:

Redefining Holiness

Holy Week and Easter gives us a chance to redefine what holiness means to us.  It’s a time to invite Jesus into our inner lives and clean out the cup.

Jesus’ death and resurrection are the most holy and loving moments in the history of the world.  Will we give it the time and attention that it deserves?  Will we let Jesus deep inside to let us see our holiness from His perspective—what we truly mean to Him?  Will we spend time with Jesus and show Him what He means to us?

Our holiness is not defined by what we do (in or outside of ministry work).  Our holiness is defined by what Jesus did for us on the cross.  He sees us as holy.  And that is what makes us holy—despite our sin, our shame, our brokenness, our imperfections, and our pride.  Our job is to live a life worthy of His love and sacrifice.

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Timothy 1:9-10, NIV)

Let us join together in celebrating our holiness this Resurrection Sunday! Happy Easter!

‘Tis Better to have Loved and Lost…

The title for this post comes from a quote by British poet Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892).  You’ve no doubt heard the quote before: “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.”

What brings me to this harsh reality at this point in my life?  The death of a loved one?  The end of a significant relationship in my life?

Better to have loved 2

No, it is the loss of some significant mementos in my life, leading to a rather sudden wave of shock and grief.  Some may laugh when I divulge my loss.  But if you have a heart for the sentimental, you will surely understand.

Read on to hear how a seemingly insignificant loss led to such an emotional response…like the death of a loved one.

A Sentimental Practice

The story actually dates back to January 2008 when I started the practice of saving memorable and encouraging voicemail messages on my mobile phone.  The first one was an especially poignant message left by my husband.  The events surrounding that time were a huge catalyst for healing and restoration in our marriage.  Days before that message was left, my husband came home with a dozen roses and a box of chocolates, bent down on one knee and, after 25 years of marriage proposed to me all over again.

That voicemail message from him was like a love letter from years gone by.

Over the course of the next several years I saved dozens of voicemail messages on my phone from family and friends.   There were messages from women who attended the retreat I led.  There were encouraging messages and prayers from friends who supported me in the ministries where I served and at significant milestones in my speaking and writing career.

I remember one friend who left a message the day after I got news of my first manuscript being accepted.  She jokingly called me a “famous author.”  Even now I can get choked up at the thought of that loving message.

The list goes on and on: a cheerful and proud message from my youngest son when he got his first mobile phone, birthday greetings sung by friends, and a rare birthday call from my father who has since passed away.  Some of those messages and prayers got me through some pretty dark times too.

Many messages revolved around the time of my mother’s illness and passing.  There were urgent messages from the nursing home regarding my mother’s condition and several poignant words of encouragement and prayers when she passed away.  It was the prayers of these women who got me through those painful days of traveling home to bury my mother and give her eulogy.

All of those messages disappeared in an instant…a dagger to my heart.

Black Friday Grief

It happened over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend—Black Friday!!!  Yes, it was a dark Black Friday to me.

I made the arduous decision to upgrade my phone AND change mobile service providers at the same time.  It was the latter that killed the messages.

Black-FridayAs my husband and I sat in the provider’s store, they made every assurance to me that everything would move over to the new phone.

Don’t worry.  Famous last words.

In my heart and my mind though, I knew it wouldn’t be so.  My mind raced through my most important apps and how I use my phone.  Then it hit me, and I asked the dreaded question, “What about my voicemail messages?”

The service rep had no idea the magnitude of the bad news he was imparting on me.  But my husband did.

I had to leave the store for fear of breaking down in public.  I rushed through the mall to the other carrier’s store—the one we were leaving.  They confirmed my worst fear.  It was too late.  The messages were gone forever!

Gone were the love letters from friends and family.  Gone were the prayers of hope.  Gone were the voices from people in my past.

‘Tis Better to have Loved & Lost

Lest you think this is really no big deal, it might help to mention that my #1 love language is words of affirmation (as described in Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages”).  The other four love languages are quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.

I give words of affirmation to others and feel most loved when I receive it as well.

So it wasn’t a small matter to me.  I grieved over the loss of those messages.  However, I’m not alone in my grieving of such things.

I recalled a friend who recently lost her mobile phone.  She didn’t have her photos backed up or stored online.  They were gone forever.  She had just returned from a family reunion, seeing her grandchildren and her ailing mother.  She proudly showed off her family photos.  A few weeks later her mother passed away, making the loss of those precious photos even more painful.

Another friend shared how she had deleted voicemail messages from her mother who is now deceased.  Over a year after her mother’s passing, it still brought a tear to her eye as she recalled those memories of her mother’s voice.

When I talked more about the significance of these messages and my grief with my husband, he referenced the above quote by Alfred Lord Tennyson.  I think that was his way of trying to ease my pain.  Lucky for him it had already subsided by that point.  (By the way, don’t share that quote with anyone in the early stages of grief.  It’s like putting salt on a wound.)

As a writer, hearing that quote at that very moment helped me to reframe this grief episode in my life and in my writing.  It REALLY is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

I have loved well, and been loved well by my friends and family over the past several years.  They were the voices I turned to for encouragement, to keep seeking His will for my life and step out of my comfort zone—using my voice to speak and write in ways I never dreamed possible.  I can’t imagine where I would be today without that love and support.  They helped to sustain me.

Messages of love

Words of affirmation and love

Looking at the list of lost calls (yes, I do have screenshots of my visual voice mailbox), I can hear most of them in my mind.  They are not really gone because I have integrated the essence of their love and words of affirmation into my heart and spirit.  I don’t need to lean on them like I did in the past.

Any tears that come to mind now are not of the loss, but are of the beauty, love, and thoughtfulness of these people whom I treasure.  I’m feeling loved.  That love, like the Love of our Heavenly Father, has equipped me to freely give it back to others.

On that note, I gotta wrap this up.  It’s time to pass the love on with words of affirmation to others who need it, including my thoughtful and supportive readers.  Thanks for cheering me on, leaving comments and liking my posts.  May the love I have in my heart for you, inspire you to turn healing into hope.

12/11/2015 Update:  Do you watch “The Middle” on ABC? I laughed so hard when I watched this week’s episode.  One of the kids accidentally deleted all of the family digital photos on the computer (not backed up, of course).  The family then goes on a hunt to find a box of the old printed photos.  The storyline hit way to close to home after writing this post and losing my voicemail messages the week before.

Hope you enjoy this little bit of holiday humor on “The Middle,” Frankie weeps after losing all her photos.

 

A Behind the Scenes Look at Tempting Fate with Actor Dan Davies

Tempting Fate is heading into its 5th week in theaters across Nigeria and Ghana and is still showing well—especially considering the stiff competition from the summer’s blockbuster movies. This week I’ve dedicated my time to giving my readers a new and exciting angle into this movie.

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Still showing after 4 weeks in Nigeria and Ghana.

I’m delighted and grateful to share about Tempting Fate from an insider’s viewpoint, with co-star Dan Davies. Dan plays Scorpion, a gangster and leader of the bank robbery/drug gang, a central figure in the movie.  (Watch trailer with the music of Pedro González Arbona.)

Let me start off by saying that Dan is nothing like the evil villain he portrays in Tempting Fate. I first met Dan via Facebook shortly after Pedro signed the contract to compose for the movie. Then we met face to face at the VIP screening in Houston last year. That was a whirlwind weekend, and regrettably with no time to connect outside of all the press attention.

Days before Dan left for the Nigerian premiere of the movie last month, he granted my request for an interview. It wasn’t your typical press interview. We talked about matters of faith, his trip and the premiere in Lagos, and about the film. I hope you enjoy getting to know Dan a bit and what it was like on the set of Tempting Fate. But first…

Who is Dan Davies?

Dan Davies is a talented actor, screenwriter, and producer from Appleton, Wisconsin. His credits span a variety of different media: national TV commercials, local television and radio programs, internet video production, and print modeling. He received the prestigious Platinum (2005) and Silver (2006) Remi awards for films at the International Houston Film Festival (World Fest). Dan even spent time as a competitive body builder in the 1990s.

Dan Davies

Dan Davies

While Dan’s day to day work is in film promotions, marketing, procuring distribution and writing, his favorite work is when he can engage his creative juices in acting and screenwriting. To that end, Dan’s star is rising over Hollywood and Nollywood (the Nigerian entertainment industry).

Dan’s most recent work (before Tempting Fate) is in the movie West of Thunder. (Watch trailer.)  Dan co-wrote and stars in this film, a film selected in three 2012 film festivals: Toronto Independent FF, the American Indian FF, and the Red Nation FF. (Vote it into the top 10 American Indian Film Institute movies here.)  He also co-stars in Flim: The Movie, a 2014 British film that was nominated for the Best Film at the British Independent Film Awards (BIFA). The movie was recently selected for viewing at the very prestigious NYC Film Festival in October.  (Watch trailer.)

How did Dan get the role of Scorpion in “Tempting Fate?”

Dan attributes the accolades and acclaim from West of Thunder for getting him the role of Scorpion in Tempting Fate:

Dan: “Because I didn’t really audition for this role,” Dan explained. “Kevin Nwankwor (the director/producer) gave me a call. I sent him my resume and he was familiar with some of my other work.”

“He asked me one question. He said, ‘Dan, can you do a Russian accent? Because we’d love for you to play this Russian gangster, the head of the bank robbing crew.’”

TF 01

Dan as Scorpion, in Tempting Fate. (Photo credit: Chris Willard Photography)

“I said, ‘No, I can’t, because I sound like Yakov Smirnoff, the comedian from the 1990s. I can do an Eastern European/Kazakh.’” Dan demonstrated his Kazakh accent to Kevin and the other producers listening in on the speaker phone.

“And that was it. He basically said, ‘That’s it. You’re in.’”

During the call with Kevin, Dan learned that the film had a real strong Christian message to it.

“I appreciated that,” he told me. “In Nigeria it is rated PG-15, which is their rating board. Here in the U.S., it would probably be PG-13, because of the violence in it.”

“It’s a really, really great story. It’s a story of redemption and forgiveness. It doesn’t shy away from tackling issues with a Christian perspective when things go bad, and when you have bad things in your life, and evil things happen. It relies on our faith to triumph over those. So that was important to me.”

What was it like working on the set of “Tempting Fate?”

In past interviews I had seen of Dan, he mentioned that working on the set of Tempting Fate was not like any other movie he had been a part of.

Dan: “It was neat to know that almost every single one of the cast and crew was a Believer. It was just amazing. I’ve been on movie sets where I’ve literally… been at my wits end. It sullied my outlook on films. I kept thinking if filming is going to be like this, I don’t know if I want to do this.”

“And then Tempting Fate came along. It was this brotherly love, this teamwork. It was having a bigger and better goal other than yourselves. It permeated everything we did. And the people were true, and friendly, and warm, and honest. I would literally wake up in the morning and say, ‘Is this a wonderful dream?’ It re-ignited my love for being on set on films.”

“It almost brings a tear to my eye just how amazing it was. Like when I talked with my Dad, or when I talked to my brothers or sisters, or family. Just basically saying how blown away I was by it. I had never seen anything like it. It was like we were long-lost brothers and sisters all brought together. It was someone’s force or a few people’s fervent prayer was answered. And that’s the truth. There is no way around it.”

Ardis: “Wow! God is definitely good. Even as I watched these things unfold in the year since the Houston premiere, I really sensed that His hand is all over this. I’ve seen that with Pedro’s music as well, as part of it. That is really great to hear.”

TF 01

Dan Davies (Scorpion), John J Vogel (Detective Travis), and Andrew Onochie (Edu) arrive by limousine at the Lagos premiere, July 10, 2015. (Photo credit: Chris Willard Photography)

What is Dan’s favorite type of work?

Ardis: “Dan, you have worked in a variety of different mediums and types of work in the entertainment industry. If you were working in your sweet spot, what would that be?”

Dan: “I always like the creation of the character. It’s the most energetic, the most thought-provoking, and the most passionate part of what I do. Although I love the writing, the marketing and promotion, and the producing end of it. But the more I am creating a character from the ground up…I get into completely creating the character. It is prayerful too. I want to be true to that character. I want it to be memorable too.”

Ardis: “So right now with this movie coming out, is this a major shift for you? Do you feel like you’re living your dream?”

Dan: “It’s one of those things that because I’m older and been doing this for a number of years that I’m so glad I have the success now compared to my 20s and 30s.”

Dan went on to tell about how he used to be a heavy drinker. In time that lifestyle, spending money on alcohol, being hungover, etc., took a toll on his body, his work, and his relationships.   When people ask him now if he regrets not having the success sooner, he answers, “no, because I couldn’t handle it then.”

“It’s nice to have it (the success) where I’m growing more with my spiritual life, and at this stage of my life.”

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One of many press interviews on the red carpet at the Lagos premiere, July 10, 2015.

More about the Entertainment Industry

As a Christian writer myself, I was interested in how Dan balances his faith while working in an industry that relies heavily on self-promotion. Unlike his big name Hollywood counterparts, Dan serves as his own agent, at least for now. He is always on the go getting the word out through social media about his projects and hustling for his next big break.

Dan: “It’s the unseemly part of the business. It’s really difficult. I never want to fall into a place where I start bragging or I start feeling I’m anything other than who I am. I don’t want to be that person. I’d much rather be me, than that persona. Staying humble and being filled with humility is really, really difficult…you start reading things and this and that.”

“I’m being mentioned with Steven Spielberg, or George Lucas, or Quentin Tarantino, you know, with West of Thunder. Then being mentioned with these great British actors and comedic actors in Flim: The Movie and you get a little bit of an ego. And I don’t want that.”

“It’s fun. And it’s attractive. But you got to remember that’s just Dan Davies as the actor, or as the writer. You have to completely distance yourself, or as much as you can.”

“I think Fred Astaire said, ‘Don’t read your press.’ The only press clipping he ever kept was one he used for motivation, and he put it on his fireplace mantle. It was the first critical review he received early on in his career. It said: ‘This Fred Astaire cannot sing. He is balding. He is not very attractive. But he can dance a bit.’ And he used it as a way to motivate himself, to keep himself getting better, to always work on his craft.”

Dan aspires to be like Fred Astaire, and not put any positive critic reviews on his mantle. I agreed with Dan how hard it is for Christians to separate ourselves from the media attention and the message that we want to convey.

Dan: “It’s one of those rocks between hard places as Christians. We want them to see His heart. It’s difficult to be in a situation where you are quoted after an interview or whatever. I want them to see who is great in me, not me. But they have to see me. I have to do these interviews, these premieres, and so forth and so on. But don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy that process. And I do enjoy meeting people. It’s difficult because one of our ultimate goals is for people to see that we do have the love of Christ emanating from us.”

Another red carpet interview at the Lagos premiere, July 10, 2015. (Photo credit: Chris Willard Photography)

Another red carpet interview at the Lagos premiere, July 10, 2015. (Photo credit: Chris Willard Photography)

What’s next?

Dan went on to talk more about his current movies and projects. He was tight-lipped about some contract negotiations that were in the works with Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA). Since then he announced a major movie deal.

Dan will be co-starring in the sequel to “30 Days in Atlanta,” the No. 1 Nollywood (Nigeria) movie of all time. He returns to Nigeria in September for filming alongside American movie stars Lynn Whitfield and Vivica Fox (still in negotiations), and Nollywood movie stars Ramsey Nouah (from Tempting Fate) and AY.*

Tempting Fate also continues to be part of Dan’s future. It’s been a long road to the theaters from the filming back in September 2013. That was followed by the VIP screening in Houston in July 2014. The original release of the movie was scheduled for April 2015 in Nigeria. The premiere was delayed to July 10, due to the uncertainty surrounding the Nigerian elections and the exchange of power.

The premiere and release of the movie has been a great success in Nigeria and Ghana. There is speculation that the movie will be released in other English-speaking African countries. A normal progression for the movie would then be to go to England and Europe, Canada, building momentum, and eventually back to the U.S. When that happens, Dan and the entire cast and crew of Tempting Fate will be living their dream.

Dan: “It’s a risk when you are backing film to get your money back. KevStel can put the excess back into other projects that are uplifting with a great message. I know it is important to Kevin, Unoma, and their family, to get the ministry out, to get the mission out, in film.”

Ardis: “Amen to that! I’m excited for all of you.”

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Tempting Fate cast and crew on the red carpet at the Lagos premiere, July 10, 2015. (Photo credit: Chris Willard Photography)

Dan’s Final Thoughts

Ardis: “Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share?”

Dan: “Yes, I want to encourage people to not give up if you’ve had a bad experience on something. Just keep plugging away. Literally—age isn’t a factor. There isn’t anything that holds you back from your dreams. The only thing literally is yourself.”

“You really have to conceive it, see it, believe it, and you’ll achieve it. And do that with everything in life. Even your prayer life should be that way too. The Bible literally tells us when you pray to believe that it’s already been answered (Matthew 21:22). And do that with all aspects of your life.”

Ardis: “Dan, thank you for that encouraging message. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your personal perspective on Tempting Fate. You have my continued support of this break-through Hollywood/Nollywood film project, and prayers for a safe and successful press tour in Lagos. I’m looking forward to watching it unfold on Facebook!”

Dan: “Thank you, Ardis. Take care. I’ll talk to you soon.”

Dan & Pedro at the VIP Screening in Houston, July 4, 2014.

Dan & Pedro at the VIP Screening in Houston, July 4, 2014.

Dan and I talked again earlier this week to catch up a bit since the Lagos premiere. There was an excitement in his voice and confident assurance in this new direction with his acting career. It reminded me of Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Knowing Dan’s story as I do now, I can honestly say that he has paid his dues and deserves this success.

I’ve learned a lot about the film and music industry as I’ve collaborated with Pedro González Arbona these last few years. And now I can say that I’m also learning from Dan too, not just about ‘Hollywood,’ but about living life for Christ under the scrutiny of the media. I’m proud to call him a friend, and anticipate that audiences around the world will see more of his rising star in the film industry.


Related Facebook links: Dan Davies, Tempting Fate, KevStel GroupPedro González Arbona, and West of Thunder.

Purchase Tempting Fate soundtrack at Amazon.com.


*Update 7/22/2017:  Dan Davies won the African Golden Movie Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Role for his portrayal of Tim Rice in “A Trip to Jamaica,” the sequel to “30 Days in Atlanta.” Dan was the first American to win this prestigious African award. Congratulations Dan!!

Being First: A Graduation Legacy

Last week a class of 115 students proudly walked across the stage of our church auditorium to receive their diplomas from a new high school in Washington State.  My son was one of these students in the first graduating class of Nikola Tesla STEM High School.  Naturally it was a proud moment for family and friends in attendance as well as the faculty and staff.

What it means to be firstBeing first, the administration had the opportunity to create a graduation ceremony that was unique and fitting to this academic community of STEM scholars.   The evening had many memorable highlights and surprises.

What it Means to be First

One of the surprises was an essay penned by each of the graduating seniors to the prompt: “What it Means to be First.”  Their essays were alphabetically listed in the program in the order that they would later walk across the stage to accept their diplomas.  It warmed my heart to read my son’s essay while waiting for the ceremony to start.

“Being first can mean going before others into the unknown but can also mean to claim a reward for your efforts.   Being first to graduate from STEM fits both of these definitions.  While I specifically am not the first, I am among them; the entire graduating class is the first.  We will be the first to claim our reward from the school for the years of work we put into our education and the first to leave this school and begin our lives as adults.  Our teachers will be the first to watch us go and the first to be proud for the students they invested years of their lives into.  Our parents will be first to say goodbye as they help us prepare for what lies beyond high school.  And we shall be the first to be grateful for all of these investments of time and energy as we remember the time we spent here for the rest of our lives.”

My son later shared that he easily wrote that essay as an in-class English assignment.  That was significant because many times during the school year he struggled to get a start on his writing assignments.  He would stare at the blank page for long periods of time.  This short essay was a gift to read and re-read knowing that it marked a breakthrough in his writing, and possibly his ADHD barriers to creatively express himself.

STEM 2015 Yearbook

STEM Yearbook

Graduation Speeches that Inspired

Graduations are full of speeches intended to inspire students as they start on their next level of education or venture out into the world.  These speeches were no exception.

We heard from the Superintendent of the school district.  As a writer, I thoroughly enjoyed her speech as she compared their journey to chapters in a book and identified the students as authors of their stories.

Student speeches followed.  A pair of students spoke on the phases and milestones that this first class journeyed through to get to this point: school construction, developing clubs and extracurricular activities, defining internship opportunities, naming of the school, and more.  That was followed by two more student addresses.

The second speaker creatively wove famous quotes from 50 other historical speeches and famous movies.  He quoted Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I have a Dream speech.  He cheered on the graduates exclaiming: “Live long and prosper” and “May the force be with you.” The audience broke into bursts of laughter throughout.  It was highly entertaining.

Below is a short video clip of a few graduation highlights created by the Lake Washington School District.

As much as I enjoyed those speeches, it was the faculty address by my son’s English teacher that meant the most to me.  Throughout her speech she wove the theme of the “Odyssey” by Homer, an ancient Greek poem about Odysseus’ journey home after the fall of Troy.  (The senior class chose to read this because they entered STEM starting with their sophomore year and missed reading it as freshman.)

It wasn’t the story that she told, but the examples she shared of memorable student moments that again hit an accord with me.  That was because his teacher anonymously shared something my son did in class.

Faculty addressA Compassionate Heart

Several weeks prior, to celebrate this teacher’s birthday, she held a Poetry Café.  Students were asked to bring in a favorite poem or one that they wrote and to share it with the class.  That night at the dinner table, our son told us about that day and what he did—heeding to his heart.

At the graduation ceremony, his teacher got choked up when she spoke these words to the audience:

“A quiet student stood in 3rd period, a student not many had heard from.  This was in a Poetry Café.  When the student stood, he stated I don’t have a poem I just want to tell you how much you mean to me.”

I felt the tears start to well up inside me too—proud Mama tears.

This teacher made a difference in my son’s life.  English was not his favorite subject, but English was his favorite class while at STEM.  She was his favorite teacher all three years and made English interesting to him.   When she signed his yearbook days before, she said he always made her smile and referenced the Poetry Café.  She wrote that my son worked so hard and she was extremely proud of him.

GraduationOn the eve of graduation I sent her an email telling her too how much she meant to my son.  She encouraged him throughout his high school struggles with his ADHD and instilled confidence in him.  She believed in him.

Then a few days ago I made one final stop at the school to see this teacher and give her a personalized copy of my book, Journeys to Mother Love.  We talked about the Poetry Café again.  She went on to share that one female student in the class told the teacher several times how touched she was by what my son said and that it made her cry (like it did the teacher).

My son has that way about him—kind, compassionate, and caring.  Someday a young woman will look past his shy demeanor, connect with him on more than a surface level, and sparks will fly, but not yet.

His teacher and I parted ways with a hug and tears welling up in our eyes.  Oh, to be a teacher and collect those special memories—knowing that they made a difference in a student’s life.

A School with a Heart

Back to the graduation…following the faculty address by my son’s English teacher, the student’s ceremoniously walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.  With a small group of graduates, they were able to add another memorable highlight to the ceremony.  There wasn’t one person who shook the hand of each student or even a rotation of teachers handing out diplomas.  Somehow they arranged it so that students received their diplomas from a teacher of their choice.  He proudly smiled for the photographer and received his diploma from his English teacher.

IMG_2619Before the customary switching of the tassel from one side of the mortar board hat to the other, another surprise awaited the parents of these fine graduates.  They had each written their parents a thank you note (another English assignment).  They were challenged to quickly find their parents in the crowd, give them the note, and return to their seats.  (You can’t do that in a large high school!)  More tears were shed in reading our son’s hand written note thanking us for our understanding of all he went through to complete high school and that he was grateful for how he was raised.

For the last three years of my son’s life, he forged a path of firsts with the other students at this school.  In a world that is continually more and more focused on ‘likes,’ attention on achievements, and social media presence, it’s nice to see that my son has his head in the right place…and that is in his heart.

I’m proud that is the legacy he left Nikola Tesla STEM High School.

Congratulations STEM Class of 2015 Graduates!  And thank you teachers and faculty for making STEM a school with a heart.

The Graduation Road Less Traveled

Today is a bittersweet day for me and my family.  My youngest child will be walking across the stage and receiving his high school diploma.  What is so significant to me about this is how he got to this place and time—all of the obstacles he overcame, and how he did it his way.

My son forged his own path to graduation.  It wasn’t the same journey as his brother four years earlier, or the way that I had envisioned it over the years.

Like the ending line in the famous poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, my son took the road less traveled.  And in so doing, he was a pioneer of the spirit.

Senior portrait

My son, a pioneer of the spirit.

Following in his Brother’s Footsteps

In parenting our only other child, his older brother, we got caught up in the competitive race for the coveted prize of his attendance at one of the best engineering schools in the country.  Thankfully God had other plans.

Being our first born child, we didn’t know what to expect.  When we noticed his giftedness at a very early age, we sought and were granted a waiver to put him in Kindergarten a year earlier than his peers.  He ended up settling into the gifted program and taking a rigorous AP and honors course load throughout school.  Those choices led him to a few different schools in the district, not our neighborhood school.

When our youngest child entered the school system, we made the tough decision to place him in the elementary school where his brother attended.  He also followed his brother into the same extracurricular activities: baseball, piano, and chess.  He eventually dropped out of those and developed his love for music by playing the flute, saxophone, and drums.

Once his brother went on to junior high, my youngest son switched schools and attended the school in our neighborhood.  It wasn’t long after that we noticed his school difficulties surface.  I was not overly concerned, but couldn’t help but wonder, is there something else going on here?  It was unfair to compare him to his older brother, and I thought his occasional struggles were more ‘normal.’  Things got worse for him in junior high.

When it came time to go to high school, we decided to check out several of the high schools in the district.  He wasn’t interested in the high school his brother attended.  The large high school that most students in the neighborhood attended didn’t excite him either.

We attributed some of his school problems with lack of motivation.  So we felt it would be better for him to be in a school with smaller classes and a learning environment that more closely matched his interests.  A new school had opened up in the district and was accepting students on a lottery basis.  This school was specifically geared to a STEM based education (Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics).  Living in the high tech corridor of the Seattle Eastside, this was a magnet for local kids, as was proven by the standing room only audience at the information night for this new school.

School Pioneers

Our son was accepted into the STEM school and started in the fall.  It was also at this time that the school district was converting middle schools to junior high schools and all high schools to a 4-year format.  The STEM school was launched with incoming freshmen and sophomore classes.  My son would be in the first graduating class of the school—the class of 2015!

An educational pioneer and future graduate in the class of 2015 at his 2002 pre-school graduation.

An educational pioneer and future graduate in the class of 2015 at his 2002 pre-school graduation.

These new students were educational pioneers in the district and had to endure some growing pains in the process.  For example, while the school building was still under construction the first semester, the school was co-located on the campus of the big neighborhood high school.

It was hard for the students and the school community to define its own culture and identity.  With the school half completed, after the Christmas holiday break, the students and faculty moved into their brand new campus and started to create their own academic community.

The course load was rigorous, much like the academic classes that his brother took in high school.  From our earliest meetings with the school administration, we and other parents were assured there would be other less rigorous class options for students.  Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.  My son struggled to make it through the first quarter of his sophomore year.  We heard stories of kids dropping out of the school and returning to their neighborhood high schools.

Despite my son’s recent diagnosis with ADHD, he wanted to be at this school, and was determined to make it work.  There were times along the journey that we had conversations about transferring to another school.

It was a painful decision for all of us.  When does the parent have the final say?  How do you know what is best for your child?  Each time he came back to his desire to stay, accepting that it would be a challenge.

During a recent conversation with my son about his tenure at this school, I asked him if he had to do it all over again what he would do.  He acknowledged that going to his neighborhood high school would’ve been a lot easier for him.  But he didn’t miss a beat in saying that the STEM school was good for his character development.  He wasn’t wrapped up in his GPA or the college competition.  He was content that he graduated, made good friends, and was learning more about his abilities.

A Graduation Homecoming

I’m not going to apologize for using my blog to publish a bit about the story of my son’s journey to graduation.  I see it as a major milestone in his life.  My husband and I are both proud of him, like any parent is of their graduating senior.  It is particularly poignant to me because it feels like a joint effort.  I know many of my friends and family have prayed for him and us during his high school years.  Those prayers made a difference in getting us to this point.  (Thank you!  You know who you are!)

What I haven’t lost sight of in the process is where his graduation ceremony will take place tonight.  It’s not at the school.  They don’t have the space for this type of event.  The graduation will be held at our church.  It was in this same church that my son learned about Jesus, accepted Christ as His Savior, was baptized, and has attended all his life.

It adds to the bittersweet nature of the event for me.  And it serves as a reminder that the Lord has been at my son’s side the entire time.

My son is a Pioneer.

He is a STEM Scholar.

He is unique, gifted, and talented in many ways.

He found his own way.  He took the road less traveled to do it.  To quote Robert Frost again:

…and that has made all the difference.

I’m grateful he did.  Congratulations Son!

My son, the flutist, taking the road less traveled.

My son, the flutist, taking the road less traveled.

The Last Time I Saw my Mother Alive

Mother’s Day 2015 marks the 5th anniversary of the last time I saw my mother alive.  As I approach this anniversary and invite God into my healing and memories of this day, I am struck by the circumstances surrounding that trip back home to Illinois.

Mom & me, first visit back home, November 2009.

Mom & me, first visit back home, November 2009.

Prompted to Visit one Last Time

As I wrote in “Walking my Mother Home,” my story in Journeys to Mother Love, the decision to visit my 79-year-old mother was a difficult one for me.  I kept her at arms-length for most of my adult life due to her mental illness.  The Lord had prompted me in later years to restore that relationship.

I hadn’t seen her on Mother’s Day for decades.  Her stroke ten months prior left her paralyzed and unable to speak.  She had been on hospice for the last six of those months.  The waiting seemed endless to me as my mind would drift to my mother’s suffering 2,000 miles away.

Out of the blue in April 2010 I got a call from a nurse at my mother’s nursing home.  Mom had bruising on her right leg.  It was either a sign of a worsening internal medical condition or uncharacteristically rough treatment by the nursing home staff.  An investigation was underway to determine the cause.  Either way, the answer was not going to be welcome news.

That call was the catalyst that sent me on my journey home to see my mother for the last time.

Not Quite What I Expected

When I arrived at the nursing home to see my Mom on Mother’s Day weekend, I wasn’t prepared to deal with the amount of decline in her medical condition.  The easiest way to describe what I experienced on that visit is to share an email I sent to a pastor at my church after my return.

“Thanks for asking about my mom.  The best I can say about her is that she is stable.  They are trying to keep her comfortable and free of pain.  Her leg is immobilized and will never heal.  They only get her out of bed once a day now—instead of twice—if at all.  She mostly refuses to be fed and is hooked up to a feeding tube.  She’s had that since November, but when I was there then I was able to at least feed her.

It was extremely difficult.  I didn’t realize how much she had deteriorated.  She said my name once.  One of the highlights of my trip was being able to take her only living sibling (a sister) to see her.  While my 50th birthday in November was an amazing day with her, Mother’s Day was quite the opposite.  I’m unsure why God nudged me to go, but I know I gave her some happiness for a brief time.”

My aunt praying for my mother.

My aunt praying for my mother.

Joy and Sorrow

I remember one of the fun things I was able to share with her on this trip was my change of hair color.  My own health condition had improved (chemical sensitivity) and I could color my hair again with a natural hair product.  The last time she saw me my hair was salt and pepper (shades of gray).  This time my hair was a vibrant red, not much dissimilar to her own hair color that I remembered from my youth.  I know it pleased her (and my aunt) to see it.

I left her with two physical gifts for Mother’s Day.  One was a bracelet, and the other was a 10-bead bracelet type rosary known as a decade, to replace the lost rosary I gave her on a previous visit.  They weren’t much, but I wanted to leave her with a small memento of my love and our time together.

A teary goodbye, May 2010.

A teary goodbye, May 2010.

Saying goodbye on this trip was much harder than before.  My siblings and I had such a beautiful visit and parting farewell with her on our last visit.  I didn’t understand why God would allow her to suffer like this.  Leaving then in December 2009, I thought her time was imminent.  Now on this Mother’s Day in 2010, I just wanted it all to end—not for me, but for her.

“Please Lord, let her pass peacefully in her sleep and don’t prolong this any longer,” I prayed as I walked through the hallways of the nursing home on my way to the car.  The next time I would walk these corridors would be to meet staff to plan her memorial service after she passed away nine months later.

Beauty from Ashes

My prayer wasn’t really answered as I had hoped.  God did orchestrate a beautiful passing for her though.  My brother Glen and his wife were by her side.  I was able to pray over her through the phone.  She felt my love as she left this earth, and she had it with her those long months as she waited for the Lord to take her home.

When I returned back to Illinois to bury my mother in February 2011, the staff at the nursing home gave me her personal affects.  After residing there for seven years, my mother barely owned anything, and there was nothing of intrinsic value.  One trinket that did make it home with me was the bracelet I bought her for Mother’s Day.  It now resides on my dresser inside the prayer box that holds some of her remains.

IMG_2436

The bracelet is tarnished and broken, similar to how I felt throughout much of my life.  But on that day in February 2011, I felt peace and joy.  Her passing helped me to see that she didn’t leave me a legacy of mental illness as I feared, but one of hope and healing.  That is what I treasure on Mother’s Day and every day since her passing.  God restored beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3) and turned my mourning into gladness (Jeremiah 31:13).

Celebrating the Sound of Music’s 50th Anniversary

The 50th anniversary of the Sound of Music was recently marked with lots of fanfare: tributes, release of a 50th Anniversary 5-disk DVD/Blu-ray collection, television programs, and special viewings of the movie in Hollywood, and across America.  I was lucky enough to attend one of the special viewings locally last weekend with some women from my church group.

SOM cast

This is not the first time I’ve written about my favorite musical and probably won’t be the last either.  It has a lot of sentimental significance to me, having first seen it as a young child in 1965, and is another connection that I have with my Spanish family.  When I told Pedro, my Spanish host son, film aficionado, and movie composer himself, that I was going to see the Sound of Music, he relayed that he and his friends wished they could also attend such an event. Unfortunately, no special viewings were planned in Spain.

Recent Media Attention

I’ve been following along with the Sound of Music media attention the past few months.  First was the Sound of Music tribute medley sung by Lady Gaga at the Academy Awards Ceremony on February 22.  Did you know that Lady Gaga practiced for six months prior to that performance so she could sing it in the same key as Julie Andrews?  They met for the first time when they embraced on stage at the Oscars.

Andrews-Lady Gaga-Oscars

Then on March 18, the ABC Television Network aired, The Untold Story of the Sound of Music.  In this program Diane Sawyer and Julie Andrews, 79, toured Salzburg, Austria and sites from the movie.  The show was a treasure trove of behind the scenes stories and Julie Andrews’ memories of filming the movie.

Photo credit: Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images

Photo credit: Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images

Me and 7.3 million other viewers were glued to the television set that night.  My favorite seen from the show was when Julie Andrews recreated the famous wedding march at the Salzburg Cathedral (starting at 6 minutes in the video below).

I’ve never been to Salzburg, but I have been in numerous Cathedrals in Spain in recent years.  It reminded me of those grand Cathedrals, making that scene come more alive for me than ever before.  The scenes with the Alps towering over Salzburg also reminded me of my time in the French Alps last fall.  Priceless!

Then on March 26 in Hollywood, CA, the Turner Classic Movies: TCM Film Festival kicked off when Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer reunited to introduce the opening-night screening of the Sound of Music.  They have been good friends for years, but he hadn’t embraced his role in the movie until recently.

Andrew-Plummer-TCM Festival

Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, 50 years later, opening night at the TCM Film Festival.

Popularity of the Sound of Music

Here’s some background and historical context behind the musical’s popularity:

  • The Sound of Music is the third highest grossing motion picture in the United States and the most successful movie musical of all time.
  • In 1966, at the 38th annual Academy Awards, the Sound of Music won 5 Oscars, including Best Picture.
  • The soundtrack to the Sound of Music peaked at Number 1 on the Billboard charts on November 13, 1965, edging out HELP! by the Beatles.
  • Salzburg has only 150,000 people live there, but attracts 6.5 million tourists annually, most in search of reliving the scenes from the movie.  (A bucket list item for me too!)

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Those numbers don’t lie.  So what’s the big deal about the Sound of Music?  Why does it resonate with so many of us?  Why does it resonate worldwide?

Here’s what I think:

The Sound of Music portrays a message of hope, sacrifice, courage, love, and faith.  It’s a movie about following your heart and standing up for what you believe.  It is interspersed with a powerful message of trusting God and His timing.  It’s the classic triumph of good over evil—with the added bonus of a love story.  Plus it’s a real-life story with songs that compel us to ‘sing once more’ (a line from the song “The Sound of Music”).

Both of the main characters had strong convictions.  Captain von Trapp, played by Christopher Plummer, was loyal to his country.  However when he was ordered to serve as a military officer for the Third Reich, he and his family fled his beloved Austria, leaving their home and possessions behind.

Maria, played by Julie Andrews, brought her cheerful disposition and Christian beliefs into the von Trapp home as a governess, the 12th in a long line of successors.  She had to face her fears as she left the Abbey to follow God’s will in this new position.  She stayed true to her religious and moral convictions in caring for the children despite Captain von Trapp’s attempt to run the house like a military compound.  That meant no play time for the children.  They were to march around the grounds for recreation.  Maria brought music and laughter back to the home, and melted the Captain’s heart in the process.  She was not meant to be a nun, but her identity in Christ was strong and led her to serve in His Kingdom in other ways.

Spanish Appeal

When Pedro entered our home and our lives in the summer of 2010, music in general, and the Sound of Music specifically, was one of the ways that our friendship was bridged across cultural, language, and geographical barriers.  It was the universal language of music that connected us.  So I recently asked Pedro more about the significance of the musical to him and how it is regarded in Spain.

Pedro’s first time viewing the movie was when he was about four years old.  Due to the global popularity of the movie, his parents owned it, and he watched it at home with them.  The movie was translated into Spanish, which means that the songs were also dubbed with Spanish lyrics.  The Spanish version of the movie is Sonrisas y Lagrimas.  In English, that literally translates to Smiles and Tears.

SOM SpanishThe musical is a favorite of Spanish children.  Pedro’s nieces learned “Do Re Mi” in school.  That led to my delightful experience singing the song with them while on holiday on Mallorca, Spain with his family in the summer of 2013.

The first time Pedro saw a live performance of the Sound of Music was when we took him to the musical theater in the Bavarian themed town of Leavenworth, Washington.  It was there, surrounded by the Cascade Mountains, that he watched the musical for the first time in English.  It was a gift for his 17th birthday.

SOM Leavenworth

Naturally, Pedro’s love for movie soundtracks was also nurtured by this great movie at an early age.  That led to his playing many of the songs to the musical in our home that first summer.  Like music brought life back to Captain von Trapp, the summer of 2010 was the summer that music brought me back to life too.  I still have original recordings of Pedro’s impromptu practice sessions on the piano. (Muchas gracias, Pedro!)

Our Girls’ Night Out Movie Experience

I wish I could say that the theater was packed as my friends and I watched the special viewing of the Sound of Music.  I had expected to see a large crowd.  I think the 70 degree whether outside, a rare phenomenon for April in Seattle, had something to do with it.  Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable outing with friends.

One woman had never seen the movie before.  I asked her about her observations, as an objective viewer.  My friend was surprised to learn that it was a true story.  She also had heard some of the songs before, but now had meaning to put to them.  There were a lot of surprising twists to the movie for her, including thinking that the movie ended when the Captain and Maria wed.

Overall, it was an enjoyable movie-going experience.  Having seen the movie on the big screen last year at the Sound of Music Sing-a-Long, I think I was a bit spoiled having watched it so recently.  I wanted to sing at this event too, but that would’ve ruined the experience for everyone else.  So in that regard, it wasn’t the big sentimental teary experience that I thought I might have.

It has renewed my love for the musical again.  I’m still singing the songs around the house and in my mind because “My Favorite Things” isn’t just a song in the movie.  The Sound of Music really is one of my favorite things.

Are you a fan of the Sound of Music?  When was the first time you saw the musical?  I’d love to hear your Sound of Music memory in the comments below.

Keeping our Loved ones’ Memories Alive, Part 1

Every year I mark the anniversary of my mother’s passing by writing her a letter.  For the past two years I’ve published excerpts of those letters online to model healing and vulnerability, and hopefully to inspire others to do the same.  Those posts still rank among the most popular posts I’ve written.

JVB TributePreparing to Write

This year’s letter, written on the eve of the 4th anniversary of her passing, was just as hard to write as the few before.  I warned my family days in advance that I would need some time to myself to do this annual practice.  I had hoped to get away and work on the tribute scrapbook I started after her passing, but those plans fell through as well.

My family went out for the evening leaving me alone with my laptop and Zoe, our miniature Schnauzer and my faithful companion.  In the past I had written her about the changes I was going through internally, and the decision I made to take medication for my ADHD.  The latter decision was only possible because I had finally dealt with my fears of medication due in part to what I witnessed in her lifelong struggle with mental illness and psychiatric drugs.

What to Write About

This year, I pondered why I was writing her again.  Was it a healthy thing to do—write a letter to a deceased person?  I knew that letter writing was a good tool for healing.  I used it before in my spiritual and recovery related classes.  But what was the purpose in writing an annual letter?  I sat with that indecision briefly, prayed about what was on my heart, and proceeded to pen my longest letter yet to my mother.  (It seems I had a lot to say!)

Our happy family, before mom’s nervous breakdown, circa 1964.

Growing up without the emotional stability and attachment from my mother has left me longing in many areas of my life.  I’ve gotten some of those maternal needs met through my Sisters in Christ and my long journey to love with my stepmother as well.  Questions still linger though that are specific to my family of origin and what I didn’t get from her.

For instance, my mother spent many years seeing a psychiatrist.  She never shared what happened in those sessions.  I do know it was something that she looked forward to every week.  I’ve re-entered the therapeutic process myself to deal with the effects of my ADHD and to support my son’s similar struggles.  I too have come to look forward to those weekly visits and have more empathy for what my mother must’ve been going through.  I imagine it was her lifeline, as my counseling sometimes feels like it is for me.

Reading my Letter

I chose to read my letter to my counselor and ask her my nagging question:  “Is this healthy?”

She loved my question and enjoys watching how I am integrating the challenges I am facing as I come to terms with my ADHD.  Her response to my question was a resounding “yes!”  She went on to explain how my letters are catalysts for continued healing from my mother wound (by offering my forgiveness) and is bringing great revelation into who I am as a person (and connecting it to my mother).  Those were welcome words to someone who at times feels like I am walking around in a state of disequilibrium.

The main point I finished my letter with was how my mother’s faith changed mine as well:

“The faith steps that I took to minister to you in your final months, and to bury you, gave me such a depth of trust in the Lord.  It brought me back to Him in ways that I wouldn’t have possibly considered in the past.

It led me to Spain (and France), not just to meet Rosa and see the sights, but to pray for His people there.  He prepared me for that and met me there…

Prayers sent heavenward in the French Alps, Sept. 2014.

Prayers sent heavenward in the French Alps, Sept. 2014.

…If I have any legacy or fruit of righteousness that will grow in those countries, you will have it too.  Your faith planted the seeds for me.  I hope you are privy to that now and have a glimpse into what lies ahead for the Church. 

…Thank you Mom for your faith, for investing in me when I was young, and fighting the good fight until the end.  Your story is important.  I pray that in time, I can share it to a larger audience, and that it inspires others to embrace forgiveness and healing so that they too may live with the eternal Hope that comes from Above.

Love,
Ardis”

In Part 2 of this post series, I’ll address other benefits of this annual practice and introduce you to another author who has been doing this for over 30 years.

  • 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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