Trusting the Writing Process (Year 4)

Four years. Forty eight months. 208 weeks. 1,460 days. Any which way you describe it; I’ve been mindful and reflective of passing another writing milestone. And I’ve learned a lot about the writer’s life along the way.

4th annivMy 4-Year Blogging Experience

Earlier this month I passed my 4-year blogging anniversary. That’s over 250 posts across three blogs (here, Celebrate Recovery on the Plateau, and Journeys to Mother Love), church devotionals, and guest posts on other author blogs. When I published my first blog post, What’s in a Name, I had no idea where my writing would take me. It just felt like the right time to flex my writing muscle.

In 4 years’ time I’ve written from a Christian perspective about emotional and spiritual healing, recovery, and finding our identity. I’ve dug into my own mother wounds and shared the unexpected beauty that surrounded the passing of my mother and my father. I’ve shared the ups and downs of relationships and the challenges of living with ADHD. I took readers with me on my personal pilgrimage to Spain, my mission to Europe, and shown them the joy of partnering with my musical protégé and friend, Pedro González Arbona on his journey into film composing.

A lot of my original posts were only shared with a handful of friends who I felt safe enough to share my writing with. I recently re-read some of those posts and was surprised at their transparency and inspiration: It Takes Courage, When Life Imitates Art, Leaving a Legacy. The formatting isn’t as polished as my current work, but the content is still relevant and poignant.

A few years ago, I submitted my site for a critique by a literary agent who was focused on marketing. That led to the highest hits on my site in one day. Normally I’d think that was a good thing. But her critique of my site drew the interest of other bloggers to see what not to do. That served as an embarrassing reminder of how brutal the publishing industry can be.

Thanks to the interview with Dan Davies last month, that changed! The post, A Behind the Scenes Look at Tempting Fate with Actor Dan Davies, now holds the single day record, and with it a very pleasant reminder of an entertaining interview.

Blogging

So 4 years of blogging has ended on a positive note! I’ll continue as the Holy Spirit leads me, and maybe tackle a revamp of my blog layout in the coming year.

The Ups and Downs of Traditional Publishing

It was also four years ago that I joined the Northwest Christian Writer’s Association. Membership has its benefits, and one of those is receiving notifications of story submissions. Days after attending my first meeting, I received the notification that set my writing in motion:

“Cladach Publishing is seeking authors with an encouraging personal-experience story of healing in mother/child relationships.”

That story submission, my first manuscript, led to publishing “Walking my Mother Home” in Journeys to Mother Love. It seemed like I was on the fast-track to publishing. I did all the right things: attending conferences, marketing, speaking, blogging, and posting on social media like Facebook. It was a lot of work.

Journeys To Mother LoveWhat got lost along the way was my dream to have my memoir published. Except for an intense month of writing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November 2012, work on my memoir, Emerging from the Cocoon, stopped.

An author friend told me back when all of this started that ‘overnight’ success in the publishing world can have its setbacks. She was right.

The publishing seemed to come relatively easy for me then.  Step by step the opportunities opened one after the other, with the Lord aligning all of the people and places at the right time.

Then He directed my writing endeavors towards Spain. While there are a lot of posts here related to my Spanish connection, there is still a great body of work buried deep in my journal.

Sometimes it haunts me, beckoning to be published, at least from a travel perspective.  (Like today, the anniversary of my departure for Europe on the Celebrate Recovery mission.)  But after returning from that mission (my second pilgrimage of sorts), my writing has remained an inward work in progress.

It left me wondering, “where’s the fruit?”

Trusting the Writing Process

The last year has been the hardest part of my writing journey thus far.

At the beginning of this year, I decided to take a sabbatical from serving in CR leadership. It was a difficult decision, but I knew I needed a break.  I had poured myself into the mission, writing all about it, and also launching the website and blog for that ministry. I needed a season to rest and abide in the Lord (John 15:4). Surprisingly that took me into the next layer of the therapeutic process related to my ADHD. The internal work has been intense and too raw to write about publicly.

What has happened along the way though is that I have started to accept that all of the writing I am doing is the normal path of a writer. It is especially so for someone like me who wants to bring meaning to their work and make it truly authentic.

Maya Angelou quote

I’ve often heard that writing is a process. My path to publishing happened so quickly I skipped over that part. Now I have to experience the process and trust the path that other writers have walked before me.

I’ve learned the importance and significance of solitude. I’ve learned that reflection is a part of the craft.

Writers live a life of discovery and look at the inner experience of it. As such, we often need to distance ourselves from our experiences to be able to get the right perspective on it. That takes time, patience, and perseverance.

So I’ve come to accept that this season of my writing journey has been about doing the deeper inner work and trusting the process. I know it will be harder for me because of my ADHD. I’m not giving up.

For now, I’m continuing to take notice of what is going on around me and in me through the lens of ADHD. It’s a blessing, or so I’ve been told.

I know I’m worth it.

And so are you. I encourage you, my friends and readers, to take the time to invest in yourself and reflect on your experiences. You don’t have to be a writer. Any writing you do about it will lead to healing and emotional health though.

Thanks for supporting my writing and journeying along with me.  May this blog be a place of encouragement and inspiration on your journey.  May He turn your healing into hope too.

thank-you

A Mother’s Day Gift for my Sons & my Readers

The last time I saw my mother alive was five years ago over Mother’s Day weekend.  As I wrote in “Walking My Mother Home,” my story in Journeys to Mother Love, these trips back home were instrumental to my healing.

My First Manuscript

That story is very sacred to me.  The writing was covered in prayer by my closest friends.  It was written through tears of joy.

“Walking My Mother Home” was my first manuscript submitted to a publisher.  I was nervous about sharing it with the world.  Only a select few ever read the submitted manuscript.  And it wasn’t until Cathy Lawton, the publisher at Cladach Publishing, notified me that they accepted my story that I even read it again myself.

Toasting the acceptance of my manuscript with a friend, January 2012.

Toasting the acceptance of my manuscript with a friend, January 2012.

In 2012, while the book was still being edited, I decided to give the manuscript and an accompanying letter as a gift to my sons for Mother’s Day.  I had a heartfelt conversation with them after my mother’s passing the year before, and tried to explain the significance of what happened to me.  Now with the imminent publishing of the story for the whole world to see, it was time to give them some more personal insight into my healing and my journey to mother love.

A Gift to my Sons

Dear Boys,

As Mother’s Day approached this week, I’ve been reminded many times that the last time I saw my mother alive was on Mother’s Day 2010.  A lot has happened in our lives in the two years since then…

Since you are males, you will probably never understand the bond between a mother and daughter.  But you will marry one day and will have to understand and be caring with your own wife and the relationship that she has with her mother.  I hope and pray that I can have a loving relationship with my daughters-in-law too.

As you know, I didn’t have a close relationship with my mother, not so much by choice, but by natural consequence because of her mental illness.  As my mother neared the end of her life though, God made it very clear to me that I needed closure and restoration with our relationship.  The attached manuscript is that story.

What I hope and pray you will see in this story is the same thing I want others to see—how following God’s will for our lives, through the good and the bad, leads to amazing blessings.  I want you to embrace opportunities when God wants to use you.  It won’t be easy.  But that is where the biggest blessings come into play—when we are stretched beyond our comfort zone and have to rely on Him.  He shows up when we lean on Him.  We just have to trust Him.

So as I start on my writing journey, I wanted you to know that is exactly what I am doing.  I am trusting that God is behind this and that He will use it.

I love you both dearly.  I hope and pray that when you look back at your lives that you will remember that legacy that I want to leave for you.  I want you to trust God and follow Him all the days of your life.

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

With all my love,
Mom

With my sons on the Seattle waterfront, Mother's Day 2012.

With my sons on the Seattle waterfront, Mother’s Day 2012.

Paying the Gift Forward

If you already own a copy of Journeys to Mother Love, I’m sure you will agree that mothers of all ages can relate to these stories.  If don’t own the book, you can purchase an autographed copy here.

May your Mother’s Day be filled with blessings and hope from the Creator of motherly love, our Heavenly Father.

Mothers-Day-Flowers

Coming Down From the Mountaintops, Part 1

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

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

Keep calm and write onBreaking my Silence

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

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

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

The Easy Answer

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

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

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

The Not So Easy Answer

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Next?

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

Some light bedtime reading.

Some light bedtime reading.

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

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

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

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

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

English Additions to “Walking My Mother Home” Available

As I mentioned in my announcement about the E-book of “Walking My Mother Home,” it was a writing dream come true for me to publish my story in Spanish. I wanted it to be a complete book, with Preface, Foreword, etc.  So I had to write those additional English pieces in order to have them translated into Spanish.

Writing the Additions

In my quest to determine how best to compile a more complete E-book, I researched the parts of a book, and reviewed books by some of my favorite authors and published friends. My writing plopped me right back into the throes of my story—the grief, the joy, and the miraculous way that God has been tying this season of my life all together.  And it was all beautifully orchestrated in time to share on my mission in Spain (and the church in Rivas).

It was also especially poignant for me to share it with my Spanish family while there. Last year, I left them with a signed copy of Journeys to Mother Love.  It was more a symbolic and sentimental gesture than anything else because most of the family couldn’t read it.  However, while I was in Spain last week, I had copies of the Spanish book printed and bound.  I personalized and signed each one for family members.  My only disappointment was that I couldn’t give the books to them personally.

‘Foreword’ Thinking

When it came to determining who would write the Foreword that was an easy decision. It had to be Pedro.  We had that discussion a few years ago.  I was getting ready to work on my memoir in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

In doing other writing research, I came across references to the movie “Finding Forrester” as a good writer’s story.  It is about a writing relationship between Forrester, a Pulitzer Prize author (played by Sean Connery), and his unlikely protégé, Jamal.  The ending scene of the movie spoke volumes to me. Watch the first two minutes of the scene to see why, Letter to Jamal.

“Jamal: Opens the letter.
Forrester: Dear Jamal, Someone I once knew wrote that we walk away from our dreams afraid that we may fail or worse yet, afraid we may succeed. You need to know that while I knew so very early that you would realize your dreams, I never imagined I would once again realize my own. Seasons change young man, and while I may have waited until the winter of my life, to see the things I’ve seen this past year, there is no doubt I would have waited too long, had it not been for you.”

Role reversal, Pedro signing the Foreword of my personal copy of the book.

Role reversal, Pedro signing the Foreword of my personal copy of the book.

I found Ardis in the process of coming alongside my mother as she prepared to leave this earth, and in my relationship with my Spanish family. Pedro was a big catalyst in my following my writing dreams back then.  Like Forrester’s posthumous request to Jamal, I knew that someday Pedro would write my Foreword.  I told him then of my desire, not knowing how or when the right time or context would present itself.  Now was God’s perfect timing. (Muchas gracias, Pedro!)

I’d Like to Thank…

The other part of these additional writing pieces that I am excited about publishing are my acknowledgments to those who made publishing my story possible. The list of names was too long to detail and translate on the page, but if you were a close part of my life during the writing process, you know you have my gratitude for your prayers and encouragement.  (You know who you are.)  Below is an excerpt of my acknowledgements:

First and foremost, I thank God for prompting me to write and submit this story for publishing. He healed me, and He gets the credit. He is using my pain for His glory and I am eternally grateful for that.

Thank you pen

Second, I am indebted to the bi-lingual expertise and selfless donation of time and energy by Oscar Farfan (Saddleback Church, CA) for the Spanish version.  I am grateful for his making this story available to a new audience of readers, and for having it ready in time for release while on my Celebrate Recovery mission in the fall of 2014.

I am also grateful to:

  • Cathy Lawton, publisher at Cladach Publishing, for seeing the value in this story, accepting it and granting me permission to translate it into other languages.
  • My Celebrate Recovery community at Pine Lake Covenant Church, for their steadfast support throughout the writing process and for approval of the CR mission to Europe.
  • My prayer partners, mentors and pastors who encouraged and supported my healing and writing journey.
  • My Spanish family, especially Rosa, Rafa, and Pedro, for extending their friendship and love across cultural, language, and religious differences, and for being such an integral part of my healing process.
  • My husband and sons, for their patience, understanding, and love as I pursued my writing dreams and the call into missions.

Book Dedication

Finally, I dedicated my story to someone who without their acceptance of me and my friendship would not have put the healing steps into motion. It is to Rosa, Pedro’s mother.Book dedication

The Complete Story

So today, it is with great pleasure that I am sharing those additional pieces to “Walking My Mother Home” in English. If you’ve already read the story, I encourage you to sit back and read it again with the bookends of the Preface, Foreword by Pedro, (then “Walking My Mother Home” from Journeys to Mother Love published by Cladach Publishing) and the Epilogue. You’ll be glad you did. I’ll be including these pieces with each book that I sell from now on.

PREFACE to Walking My Mother Home

FOREWORD to Walking My Mother Home

EPILOGUE to Walking My Mother Home

May this story inspire you on your journey and turn your healing into hope.

 

 

 

Reflections on a Writing Journey

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

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

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

So You Want to Write

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

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

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

photo25

Why I Write

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

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

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

stand-and-share-your-story1

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

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

Journeys to Mother Love Turns 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Can’t go Home Again, or Can You?

Have you ever longed to go back to your childhood home—one that your family left many, many years ago?  Did you dare drive around in the neighborhood or maybe even knock on the door in hopes of connecting with the new residents and maybe getting a chance to go inside?   Or maybe your childhood memories were too painful to even think of doing such a thing.

This kind of chance of a lifetime recently presented itself to me—and like so many of these life coincidences; I took it as a sign from God to follow where He was leading me.

Home Sweet HomeIn the Neighborhood

It was on my 54th birthday—also the day that my driver’s license was expiring.  So a trip to the Department of Licensing became a high priority on this day—not something I really had time for or wanted to do.  I made the best of it though, even deciding to wear a special outfit so my ‘mug’ shot might have a chance of being pleasantly memorable.

When I pulled into the parking lot, I took more than a mental note of where I was.  My childhood home was around the corner.  A few weeks earlier, I had pulled out my memoir, still unworked on since last year’s NaNoWriMo.  I began the painful process of re-reading it, but stopped after the first chapter, the chapter about my mother’s nervous breakdown and living in this neighborhood.  After that reading, I felt God nudge me to contact the one last neighbor who I knew still lived in the neighborhood.  But I didn’t act on it.

Or can you?

Or can you?

Although this wasn’t the home or neighborhood I was born in, I knew God was giving me another nudge, on my birthday, to pursue this last link to my childhood.  I’d been to this neighborhood before several times as an adult.  It was one of the first places I visited when my husband and I moved to the state of Washington about 25 years ago.  At that time I went so far as to meet the residents, the people who bought the home from my parents in 1966.

This day’s visit was to the neighbor’s house though.  The name on the mailbox was still the surname of a childhood friend.  Maybe, just maybe, I would get some more insight into the day my mother had her nervous breakdown and our life on that street.

I knocked on the door.  There was no answer.  I was torn.  Should I leave a note under the door?  I just couldn’t believe that God brought me to this doorstep without as much as an answer.

My Childhood Home

So I took the bold step of going next door to my former home.  An elderly woman answered the door.  I told her a bit about who I was, a writer, etc., and asked about the neighbor.  I was surprised when she invited me into the home and even offered me a seat in the living room.

Hiding behind the 50-year old landscaping lies my childhood home.

It was surreal.  I had just written a post about the events of JFK’s assassination on that day—my birthday—50 years ago.  And here I was sitting in the same room where I watched the unfolding of those horrific events in our nation’s history.  I shed a tear or two in the retelling of the significance of that home.

The couple was quite kind to me.  They gave me free reign of the house, asked me things about the property, and what it was like back in those days.  The house seemed much smaller to me than I remembered, but that isn’t unusual in light of the fact I was a mere 3-6 years old when we lived there.

Regarding the neighbor, I found out that he had sold the house and moved out a month ago.  Too bad I didn’t follow that nudge back then, I thought to myself.  But his dementia would’ve precluded his ability to help me anyway.

The street sign may have read 'dead end', but the events of the day proved otherwise.

The street sign may have read ‘DEAD END’, but the events of the day proved otherwise.

What Lies Around the Corner?

It was all so unanticipated—to stop by the neighborhood, to knock on their door, and most assuredly to be invited inside.  Their invitation and interest was a precious gift to me, one that I’m not sure they were really able to fully comprehend. Out of my gratitude for their kindness to me, I gave them a signed copy of my book.

Plan as we may, we never really know for sure what lies ahead in our lives from day to day.  What if God is calling us to something just around the corner?  Would you heed to His nudge?  Would you blindly do something that to outsiders may look foolish or presumptuous?

Some may say I have a habit of doing those things.  Others see it as obedience and trusting God when I embrace these chance encounters.  I’m just grateful that He cares enough to give me these little kisses from above, and that others may be inspired to do the same—turning their healing into hope.

In the end, I really was able to go home again.  And that really was the proverbial icing on the cake for my 54th birthday.

Living in the Shadow of Mental Illness

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

Chapter 8 is my story.

Chapter 8 is my story.

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

Distancing Myself

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

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

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emotional Highs and Lows

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

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

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

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

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

Rejecting the Lie

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

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

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

Turning to the Dark Side

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

100 postsThe Growing Pains of Blogging

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

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

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

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

Publish IconPublishing Humiliation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing Crossroads

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

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

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

Shakespeare blogger

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

Journeys to Mother Love, One Year Later

When my story, “Walking My Mother Home”, in Journeys to Mother Love was released on August 24, 2012 (one year ago) by Cladach Publishing, I had everything in place to position myself and the book for success.  I had attended writing and marketing seminars, webinars, and conferences, and launched a website and Facebook page.  I was ready to dive into the social media marketing blitz.  I held an open house and book signing as well.  It all fed into my hopes and expectations for financial success.  After all, I had a trip to Spain in my future, and no personal source of income to pay for it.  I was counting on the book sales.

Opening my first box of books, August 2012.

Opening my first box of books, August 2012.

Within days of receipt of my first box of books, I was at church in my sacred space with one copy.  I silently read my story and dedicated it to the Lord.  I asked for his blessings on the book, that my story would touch people’s lives, inspire them on their faith journey, and that none of this ‘fame’ would go to my head—the same as I have done for Pedro since his music went online.

I was grateful.  I was excited.  I was ready for anything.

The Highs and Lows

I have had a lot of amazing highs over the past year, partnering with two other friends who recently published spiritual books, networking at writer’s meetings, and so on.   At times, it was a bit surreal to me.  Yes, there is a bit of notoriety that comes with the territory and interest when people find out I am a writer.  Although I never tire of telling someone the story, if it seems appropriate, or I feel led by the Holy Spirit, I also try to keep it all in perspective.

A friendly book swap between authors, Emiko Hori and me, June 2013.

A friendly book swap between authors, Emiko Hori and me, June 2013.

I’ve had some low points in my first year as a published author as well.   The lows totally caught me off guard and triggered deep feelings inside of me—like feelings of rejection I thought I had already worked through.

Most authors and artists, if they were truly honest, have struggled with that at some point in time.  It is the push and pull of promoting, wanting financial success, and letting go of who buys your book and how many sell.

Paying It Forward

Once I learned to let go of that (and am still learning), I started to have more one on one encounters with people who were interested in the story.  I can remember each and every one.

I try to write a personal note to each person who receives the book and pray for the recipient.  Except for the online sales, I have photos of many people who received the book personally through me.  I photograph many of my inscriptions as well.  They are very personal to me and often feel inspired by the Holy Spirit.

This is but one way I try to pay the blessing forward.  The other is when I give the book away as a gift.  For instance, it resides in the library of Monmouth College, my alma mater—where I graduated with a B.A. in Business Administration, not English.  It is also in the hands of many of the staff at New Life Ministries, out of gratitude for their role in my healing.  I love that I can give something back in this small way.

Paying the blessing forward with Becky Brown of New Life Ministries, February 2013.

Paying the blessing forward with Becky Brown of New Life Ministries, February 2013.

A Year of Gratitude

As I finish this inaugural year as an author, I can look behind me and see God’s hand on each book that was released from my inventory.  I can see how He was chiseling away my inner parts that don’t reflect His image.  In return He has given me the gift of my story and the courage to share it.

Not including e-book sales or those through the publisher or the other authors, I know my story in Journeys to Mother Love resides in the hearts of people throughout the United States in Washington, California, Illinois, Missouri, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, and abroad in England, France, Mexico, and of course, Spain.  I am thankful for that and any future opportunities that the Lord makes available to share His story.

A friend reading "Journeys to Mother Love" while traveling in England, October 2012.

A friend reading “Journeys to Mother Love” while traveling in England, October 2012.

If you’ve gotten this far in the post, I hope you’ll indulge me the opportunity to thank all who have purchased my book, either directly from me or through Amazon.  I don’t have any knowledge of who the Amazon purchasers are (or receive any proceeds from that). I’d love to know if you bought it online though.  You can comment below or privately contact me through the contact form on my site.

Thank you for every purchase through me or my site, as it allows me to freely give it away to those who I sense really need this story.  Lastly, I appreciate the notes I receive, posts on Facebook, etc.  Please feel free to pass on any comments about the book or my story on my site review page, or support my writing by subscribing to my blog or liking my Facebook page.

Muchas, muchas gracias!

The Road to Spain, Update 5 ~ The Writing

When I decided to write my manuscript for “Walking My Mother Home”, I made many decisions on what to include and exclude from the story. In fact, I sat on the fence about even writing it because I was afraid that if I wrote the novella that the full length book would never be written. Sometimes I still have those doubts. Yet when I finally sat down to work on the manuscript and review my journal and emails between Rosa and me, I knew there was more than enough material for a book—and I’m still in the midst of living it out in the here and now.

Spain mapWhile I have a good idea of what parts I want to include from the story, what is uncertain is what lies ahead with my trip to Spain. This trip is a part of the story from several different angles: the spiritual pilgrimage, meeting Rosa, partnering with Pedro’s music projects, or just visiting Spain in general. Regardless of what may ever be published or interests others, the main missing piece for me personally has always been what transpired from Rosa’s perspective of the story 5,300 miles away.

Communicating Online

Although over these two and a half years of emails Rosa and I have used an online translator, there have always been holes in our communications. Some words don’t translate accurately between Spanish and English. There was also a lot of reading between the lines and assumptions that I made in the process. Sometimes we would go back and forth over the course of a week or more to get clarity on something. That still happens from time to time.

From Day 1 of my telling this family my desire to write about our story, they have welcomed the opportunity with open arms. I’m not sure I would’ve done the same had the roles been reversed—having a foreigner I’d never physically met write about me in a book? It sounds kind of bizarre. Yet it isn’t bizarre or strange in any way. It is actually quite beautiful. I have been humbled to try to do this story and our relationship justice by writing about it.

Word for word Rosa translated the manuscript from English into Spanish.

Word for word Rosa translated the manuscript from English into Spanish.

Rosa’s true stamp of approval on this story came even before she finished reading the manuscript. I sent it to her as a gift on the anniversary of her mother’s passing. The manuscript was in English. Instead of having Pedro or Rafa, her husband, read it to her, she spent hours translating and transcribing it word for word by hand. She was only a few pages into it when we heard that Cladach Publishing had accepted the manuscript. Now that was dedication to our friendship.

Communicating Face to Face

So in three weeks, I will finally meet Rosa, after three years of waiting. I’ve played that scene in the airport over and over in my mind many times. Although I’ll be loaded with a new camera for my Spanish adventures, I’m relying on Rafa to take pictures of our meeting. I’ll probably look like a train wreck from my 18 hours of travel and the tears running down my face, but those first photos will be precious to me.

Barajas International Airport in Madrid, Spain

Barajas International Airport in Madrid, Spain

When I settle in and Rosa and I finally have some quiet time together, there will be no more second guessing her words on the computer screen staring back at me. There will be instant responses—verbal and non-verbal. There will be hugs, smiles and tears to guide us through the difficult territory of breaking down the language barrier as we relive those days leading up to our mothers’ passings.

It’s All About the Journey

Although this trip would be a great candidate for a second blog—a travel log—I’ve opted to keep it simple. Aside from any personal writing that I do for the book, I have no idea how often I’ll post, or how much social media interaction I’ll partake in. In fact, I may even fast from it all, in favor of complete immersion in everything uniquely Spanish.

After all, I’m living out everything I want to write about. This is a unique and significant time in my life. It’s about what God is revealing to me on this next part of my life’s journey. It’s about how He is working in me. It’s about walking out of the unknown and mystery of my relationship with this family into the known and reality of it.

Following God’s nudge to write the story put me on this path in the first place. Now this family’s gracious gift of hospitality has made this trip possible. How much and how often I write over the next few months will be dictated a lot more by our daily schedule than by my selfish desires or any other marketing or publishing ‘shoulds’ that are sure to surface.

It's all about the journey.

It’s all about the journey.

This is storytelling—plain and simple. This is memoir. This is His testimony in my life. I’m proud to share my story in any way God leads—whether it is connecting one on one with this family, face to face with the Spanish people I meet, or in the written word that I hope will one day be published.

In any case, it’s all about the journey; and in three weeks, I know I’ll be walking into the next layer of healing that God has in store for me. I know I will come back a changed person. I hope it inspires you to boldly follow Him and turn healing into hope.

  • WELCOME to my site!

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

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

  • Returning to Spain

    Arrival on Spanish SoilApril 29th, 2018
    Vamos a España!
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    © Ardis A. Nelson and MakingMeBold, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ardis A. Nelson and MakingMeBold with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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