Joy to the World, Not Just Another Christmas Carol

Did you grow up listening to Christmas music in your home? Does the sound of one of your favorite Christmas carols bring a smile to your face and revive the sights and smells of Christmases past in your mind?

Christmas carolsFa, la, la

Go ahead. No one’s watching (hopefully).  Let’s sing…

Away in a manger no crib for his bed…

Silent night, holy night…

Joy to the World the Lord has come…

I imagine with just a short pause after reading the start of each of those Christmas carols that you could sing the next line to that song, and probably the first verse or the whole song. At least I hope you can.

Did you know that “Joy to the World” was not originally written for Christmas?  It was written by Isaac Watts, a British hymn writer, and first published in 1719.  The song is based on Psalm 98 (verses 4-8) with an intended reference to the Second Coming of Christ, not his first:

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
With the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
Shout joyfully before the King, the Lord.

Let the sea roar and all it contains,
The world and those who dwell in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing together for joy.

I didn’t realize this myself until I traveled to Spain last fall and heard it in a new context.

Going to Church in Spain

I’ve had the privilege of attending several church services in Spain—most of them in a Catholic setting. One particular Mass stands out though.  It was on Columbus Day, Sunday, October 12, 2014.

I was with my friend and hostess Rosa, Pedro’s mother. We attended the Columbus Day parade in downtown Madrid and then walked to Mass at the Parish of Our Lady of Conception (Parroquia Concepcion de Nuestra Señora).

Our Lady of Conception, Madrid

Our Lady of Conception, Madrid (Parroquia Concepcion de Nuestra Señora)

It was not my first time at this church. Rosa and I attended a Sunday Mass there the year before too, on my first Sunday in Spain.  I had gone to a weekday Mass at a neighborhood church and also visited a few other churches by then, as well as the Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo, a massive Gothic cathedral from the 13th century.  I had never seen anything like the Toledo Cathedral (below) in my life.

Gothic front facade of the Cathedral of St. Mary of Toledo

Gothic front facade of the Cathedral of St. Mary of Toledo

Our Lady of Conception in Madrid was nowhere near as grand, but as I’ve come to expect, most Catholic churches in Spain are lined with beautiful religious statues and opulent altars. From my uneducated and American perspective, most of these churches look like what I would’ve considered a cathedral.

Singing in Spain

When I attended Mass my first trip to Spain (in the summer of 2013), the churches did not have any choirs or singing—only limited organ music. I was told it was due to the heat.  (Churches are not air-conditioned in Spain.)

On this day (Columbus Day 2014) with Rosa by my side, I was surprised when I noticed a choir singing at the start of Mass. Even though the song was sung in Spanish, the music sounded familiar.  It took me a few lines, humming the tune to myself, before I recognized the song and could put English words to it.  It was “Joy to the World!”

I’d never heard that song sung outside of a Christmas setting. It gave me a new love for the song.

While I couldn’t sing the Spanish words (no hymnal and no projection of the words on a screen), I could sing it silently in my mind in English. It was glorious to hear a favorite Christmas song being sung in this grand church, echoing through the high arched-ceilings, stained glass, and religious statues.

It sounded like the voices of angels. They really were heralding Jesus and singing His praises joyfully to the world.

Take a listen to this Christmas favorite sung in Spanish and see if you agree.  As you listen, picture yourself inside this lovely church too (interior images below).

 Al Mundo Paz (Joy to the World)

Not Just Another Christmas Carol

I once heard it said in church that singing Christian hymns and songs of worship is like praying twice. Stripped of my ability to audibly sing “Joy to the World” in my native tongue, it was like praying it in my mind—and praising Him in my heart.

According to Wikipedia, as of the late 20th century, “Joy to the World” was the most published Christmas hymn in North America.  But now you know, as do I, that it isn’t just another Christmas carol.

Here are the lyrics to read or sing, in this new context of glorifying Christ’s Second Coming instead of His first over 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem.

Joy to the World
By Isaac Watts

Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her king;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! the savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders, wonders, of his love.

And if you haven’t heard it, here’s a re-mix of the song by Chris Tomlin called “Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy).”  May your Christmas and New Year be filled with unspeakable joy!

A Personal Invitation: Conference & Prayer Journey in Spain

Have you ever dreamed of traveling to a foreign country? Learning about the culture and history?  Walking through the historic or religious sites that are centuries old?  Do you have a desire to visit Spain?

If you follow my blog you know that I’ve done that. Twice!

IMG_0616

In Segovia, Spain on mission, October 2014.

A Personal Invitation to Visit Spain

Since those two trips I’ve become somewhat of an ambassador for Spain, sharing about the country, its culture, and the religious climate any time the opportunity arises. I’ve come to realize that Spain is a very popular tourist destination with Americans—often running into people who have traveled there.  I’ve not heard a bad review of this beautiful country.

Friendly people.

Easy to communicate despite the language barrier.

And a place where Americans and our tourist money are welcomed.

So do you want to go to Spain?

Next spring, missionary and Pastor Josh Fajardo, from the church where I spoke last fall, is leading an organized prayer journey through many of the same places that I traveled to on my personal pilgrimage in 2013—from Madrid to Southern Spain.

As a writer who fell in love with Spain, and has a pulse on the spiritual climate, my desire is to put Spain on the radar, so to speak, for others. So I’m putting on my ambassador hat and inviting you to follow your heart to Spain!

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

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

The Trip to Spain

This 10-day trip to Spain, scheduled for April 14-24, 2016, starts with a women’s prayer conference in Rivas, a suburb of Madrid. The conference is sponsored by Women’s Ministries International, a nonprofit that supports and empowers programs in under-developed countries. Male attendees will have separate speakers and be involved in other activities during the women’s conference.

Prayer Journey 2016During the 10-day trip to Spain travelers will ride via motor coach to sites with historic and religious significance in Madrid, Toledo, Granada, Málaga, and Seville. Each day of the prayer journey portion of the trip starts with a devotional and time spent in prayer.  The mornings are organized group time visiting cathedrals, synagogues, mosques, museums, or royal palaces.

After the traditional midday meal, you are free to explore the city and familiarize yourselves with the culture and the people in a more personal way. Everyone reconvenes over the evening meal (very late by American standards) to share what God is doing in their lives and where He met them in the streets of Spain.

Here’s what Pastor Josh, who organized the trip has to say about it:

“If you studied Spanish history you learned how Spain has influenced continents and has contributed to the economic and spiritual development of many countries in both hemispheres. Today, it’s a different story…Christian history informs us that Spain never experienced spiritual reformation.  This is why we are inviting you to join us in praying for God’s power to be revealed on this nation!  God is calling His people to participate and intercede!  Is your heart moved to pray for a people that have strayed away from God?  Consider becoming a prayer partner, join us on this journey and be a part of a spiritual awakening in our generation in Spain!”

My Personal Experience

As someone who has been to all of these places except Málaga, I can attest to their amazing beauty, and historical and religious significance. Spain was conquered and divided into regions ruled by Muslims and Christians. It wasn’t until the fall of Granada in 1492 that Muslim rule ended in Spain. Granada and the Alhambra, the palace and fortress compound from which the Muslims ruled, will be visited as part of the prayer journey in Southern Spain.  (I toured that in 2013—incredible!!!)

I can also attest to the breadth of religious history and context that Pastor Josh has to impart to those on the trip. For instance, before I returned to Spain last fall, Josh told me about the auto de fé (religious courts) held in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor during the Spanish Inquisition several centuries ago.  I was shocked to learn that after the judgment was pronounced, heretics were burned at the stake (in Plaza Mayor).

Auto de fe by Francisco Rizi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Auto de fé, Plaza Mayor, 1680, painted by Francisco Rizi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I returned to Madrid for the CR mission last October, I visited Plaza Mayor again and saw it in a new light. Josh also told me to look for the sculptures depicting scenes from the religious courts.  This historic scene along with others was barely noticeable on the backs of public benches surrounding the lamp posts in the outdoor plaza.

Plaza Mayor is one of the most popular tourist sites in Madrid, but there is no marker or mention of this piece of history at the plaza. Having this new spiritual context of Plaza Mayor led me to pray for healing in the country in new ways.

Why go?

God got a hold of me and gave me a heart for Spain and the need for spiritual renewal in the country during my first trip there, which was not part of an organized tourist package. What I reference above about Plaza Mayor is just one example from my own personal experience of how seeing a country from a spiritual perspective (like Josh provides) makes it a truly enriching, moving, and life-changing experience.  It will awaken stirrings in your heart for the people of Spain.

I could go on and on about Spain, and as a self-proclaimed ambassador for the country, I will in time write more about it. For now, check out the brochure about the conference and prayer journey, Spain-Prayer-Journey-Brochure-2016, or visit the registration page at Women’s Ministries International.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1, NIV)

Present day Plaza Mayor at night

Present day Plaza Mayor at night

Not your Typical Exchange Student Experience

This week marks the 5th anniversary of meeting Pedro González Arbona, a short-term Spanish exchange student, and his adoption into our family.  Every year at this time, my internal clock reminds me and sends me down memory lane.  That’s because Pedro’s arrival in our home set a series of life-changing events in motion for me emotionally, spiritually, and with my writing.

While our adventures that first summer were fairly typical of the experiences of host families and their students, the relationship that ensued was not typical.  It led to a deep connection between his mother and me as we prepared for our mothers to pass away; it led to launching Pedro’s music and film composing career; and it led to my church mission to Spain last fall.

Welcome poster

Pedro’s welcome poster, July 2010.

Five Years of Celebrations

So for the last four years, I’ve deliberately marked the occasion in some personal way.

Five years later, and I realized I had never publically shared the behind the scenes story of how this all came to be.  Even the way in which Pedro ended up in our home was not the usual course of events that occurs when signing up to host a foreign exchange student. It was a whirlwind of surprises and quick decisions a few short weeks before Pedro arrived in America.

Pedro at the Nelson family piano, July 2010

Pedro at the Nelson family piano, July 2010

Rekindling an Old Friendship

The story starts in June 2010.  My oldest son was a senior in high school and auditioned to perform a classical piano piece at the Baccalaureate ceremony.  The evening of his audition, our son shared over dinner that one of the judges was Kris, a family friend from our old neighborhood.  We’d lost touch with each other through the years.  She remembered my son from way back when our kids played together.

After years of no contact, I decided to connect with Kris over email.  That started a nice string of replies back and forth and the rekindling of an old friendship.  My son passed the audition, and we made plans to see each other at the ceremony later that month.

Pedro in the recording studio, July 2011.

Pedro in the recording studio, July 2011.

Looking for Host Families

A few days later, Kris sent us an email about Education First (EF), the exchange program that she was in charge of for our area.  She asked us if we would be interested in hosting a student.  44 students from France and Spain were arriving in 4 weeks and they still needed homes for some of the students.

My husband and I had a Finnish exchange student through Rotary International in our home early on in our marriage (over 20 years ago) before we had kids.  It was such a fun experience; we were open to doing it again, and sharing the experience with our now teenage sons.

We had never heard about the EF program.  We learned EF was a short-term program, generally just a few weeks.  Some years the program involved students being in language classes during the day.  Other years the program entailed multiple planned field trips for the students, and lots of unscheduled time to be immersed in the culture and life of their host families. This particular year, was the latter program for 4 weeks in July.

We talked it over as a family and decided to give it a try.  We filled out the application, went through the home interview process, and had our references checked.  Since most everyone in my family had taken some Spanish in school, we requested to host a Spanish male student in our home.  We anxiously awaited word of who our host son would be.

Our EF leaders, Kris & Jan.

Our EF leaders, Kris & Jan.

Matching Host Families and Students

Ten days later, I eagerly opened the email that matched families with students.  When I read our host son’s profile, I was surprised to see that he didn’t play the piano.  During the initial interview process, Kris shared that there was definitely at least one student who played the piano and that we would be matched with him.

From the moment the opportunity to host an exchange student came up, I felt God was calling me to stretch myself outside of my comfort zone.  I was excited about welcoming a student into our home, but I was also nervous about it.

So when I noticed that the student assigned to our family did not play the piano, I prayed about what to do.  Was I to blindly trust that this was ‘the student’ for us?  Was I supposed to speak up and make our desires known?

I contacted Kris about our assigned student.  Her response was welcome news.  She made a mistake in assigning the students.  We were supposed to be matched with a young man from Spain who played the piano.  His name was Pedro!

Pedro in his studio in Madrid, July 2013.

Pedro in his studio in Madrid, July 2013.

First Contact

Our family had the advantage of knowing a little bit about Pedro and his family by way of the profile sheet that he filled out as part of the EF program.  Right away I sent Pedro an email introduction and family photo.  He quickly replied, sharing his excitement to visit Seattle, and about his love of music and cinema.  He had also looked up our location on Google Maps, said how beautiful it looked, and naturally asked about the rain.

Communication was also then initiated with his parents, Rosa and Rafa.  In our first email from his parents, they told us we “have friends in Spain if you want to come to visit.”  (Three years later I took them up on that offer.)

Several emails followed over the next two weeks before his arrival in our home.  It was a crazy time for us.  Our son was graduating from high school and we had an out of town trip planned to a family wedding.  Somehow I managed to prepare the house and my spirit to welcome this young man into our home in short order.  (I’m sure prayer had something to do with it.)

We had a fun filled 4 weeks together exploring Washington State, and learning about each other’s countries and cultures.  And of course, Pedro played the piano every chance he got.  Unbeknownst to us, he was also playing some of his own compositions, like “Portman,” still one of my favorites.   A few months later, he sent us “Seattle,” a song he composed and dedicated to my family.  (Click to view studio recordings or listen to songs on the media player in right sidebar.)

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Pedro, at the keyboard at the VIP screening of Tempting Fate, Houston, July 2014.

Pedro, at the keyboard at the VIP screening of Tempting Fate, Houston, July 2014.

A Match Made in Heaven

I’ve never regretted opening up our home to an exchange student or specifically to Pedro.   We were so attached to Pedro, we invited him back the next summer for a personal visit.  Five years later our families still maintain regular contact via email, Skype, or Whatsapp messaging.

It was truly a match made in heaven.

The experience has expanded my definition of family and stretched my heart, my mind, and my faith in amazing ways.  Sometimes the geographical and language barriers make our relationship challenging.  Other times it brings such great joy.

When we agreed to host an exchange student in our home, I never thought I was signing up for this kind of long-term commitment.  But I was open to being used by God; and I trusted Him each step along the way.

I have been immensely blessed by Pedro, Rosa, Rafa, and the rest of his family.  They were a conduit for the Lord’s healing to be manifested with the passing of my mother several months after Pedro returned home.  (That is the story published in Journeys to Mother Love.)  Rosa is my Sister in Christ.  I am a proud benefactor of Pedro’s music (pgarbona.com), and relish our friendship.

Pedro & his American family from Seattle, July 2010, a match made in heaven.

Pedro & his American family from Seattle, July 2010, a match made in heaven.

Be the Blessing

We never know how God is going to use some small act of kindness to bless us or others.  I hope you will give heed the next time He nudges you to do something outside of your comfort zone.  The blessing may just be on the other side of obedience.

Pedro EF

Memories: A Musical Adventure by Pedro González Arbona

If you found your way to this post you must be a fan of the music of Pedro González Arbona, or film music in general.  In my last post about Pedro’s latest CD, Memories, I gave my readers a glimpse into the making of his CD.  In this post, I am taking you on a musical adventure of the sound, movement, and artistic beauty that these songs entail.  (Click on any of the song names in this post to sample or purchase the song through Amazon.)

Memories CD Cover

Memories: A Musical Adventure

Have you ever noticed when you watch the beginning of a film how the music fills the theater as the name of the movie, main actors, director and key production personnel appear on the screen?  It is a glimpse into the music to come.  Often it is blending of some of the songs for that movie, or maybe a medley like an overture in a musical.

Memories starts in the same way with track 1, aptly named “Opening Titles.”  It is a large and extravagant piece that showcases Pedro’s musical talent and ability to draw the audience into the songs (or scenes) that follow.

Track 2 is one of Pedro’s most beautiful compositions, “The Great Beauty.”  What can I say about a song whose title sums up the music that it portrays?  Delicate, soothing, and distinctive notes from the piano, oboe, harp, and building up to the addition of some mellow horns.  Yes, it is a great beauty! (Select the song title on the media player on the right sidebar to hear this song in full.)

I first heard this beauty a few months before the screening of Pedro’s new movie, Tempting Fate.  I was already privy to his submitted work on the Tempting Fate soundtrack.  This piece seemed to take his work to an even higher level.  Yes, his work is (was) destined for the big screen.

Memories CD back cover

There are several other songs on this CD that are soft songs that would accompany slow or romantic movie scenes.  Some songs may lend themselves to a sad scene with strings accentuating the mood.

Which mood is really up to the listener.  They are all magical.  Included in this variety are “Memories,” “Dreams,” “The Crime,” “Ordinary Lives” (listen on the music player in the right sidebar), “Green View,” “Autumn,” and “Learning from Life.”

Memories contains several songs geared more on the dramatic side.  “Chaos” sounds like a scene right out of a drama or suspense film.  Riveting music that builds and takes you along with the action, glued to the music and the movie, awaiting the finale.

Another large song is “Flying.”  This song reminds me of a patriotic piece or something maybe in a war movie.  It takes me back to movies from years ago.  I can envision an old black and white movie playing as the victory is won in a waging battle.

Epic” is a song meant for a dramatic or suspenseful scene as the music builds.  The music (and the scene) end with a slow fade.  If action movies are your favorite genre, then “Action Theme” will be the song for you.  This song was used by KevStel, producer of Tempting Fate, in a short trailer alert for the movie, but was not on the soundtrack released in February 2015.  Watch the video below to check out how they used this dramatic music.

The last song on the CD is a sentimental favorite of mine, “Kalinda.”  This is Pedro’s first song that was composed for a movie.  It dates back to February 2013 when he first started to experiment with adding strings and other instruments to his piano compositions.  It was used as the trailer music for Thirst for Love, a Spanish short film directed by Chani Bas.  Check out the video below to watch the trailer and listen to “Kalinda.”

Hear it for Yourself

Memories is really music for the movie that is yet to be written.  It is from the movie in Pedro’s mind.  In time, some of these songs may accompany a movie in a theater near you.  Until then, please support Pedro’s music dreams by purchasing his CD, reviewing the music online, and liking his professional Facebook page, Pedro González Arbona, composer.

Want a copy for yourself?  Here’s the purchase links and methods to listen to his music:

Digital Downloads

Streaming

Or purchase the physical CD through my site.

For more information about Pedro González Arbona and his music, visit pgarbona.com.  Stay tuned for more updates on Pedro’s musical career and breaking news about the premiere of Tempting Fate across Nigeria and Ghana in July.

Making “Memories,” a CD by Pedro González Arbona

My desk and my mind are cleared of the clutter and busyness of life.  The most amazing music is engulfing me, stirring my senses, and begging me to share its beauty and my joy with the world.

What am I listening too?  It is the new CD by my favorite musical protégé and composer, Pedro González ArbonaMemories is Pedro’s latest foray into the music and film scoring business.

Memories CD Cover

Pedro’s Musical Background   

In the three years since Introducing Pedro González Arbona, his debut album, was released, Pedro’s music has grown by leaps and bounds.  His first album was a collection of his earliest solo piano compositions performed on a Steinway Concert grand piano in a recording studio in Seattle.  It was a gift for his 18th birthday while visiting from Madrid.  It was a monumental day for us both.

I’ve written a lot about Pedro’s love for music and how it was nurtured and inspired at an early age by cinema.  Now his work has matured and blossomed into full orchestral music that rivals the likes of other famous film composers that he admires, like John Williams (Star Wars), Hans Zimmer (most recently Interstellar), and Alexandre Desplat, winner for Best Original Score for The Grand Budapest Hotel at this year’s Academy Awards.

I don’t say this to boast, although it is hard for me to be impartial.  I say this because, at Pedro’s request, I’ve been immersing myself in various film scores over these last few years as well.  I hear the similarities and have been captivated by Pedro’s music.  Not just listening to it, but also as I witnessed it on the big screen at the VIP screening of his movie Tempting Fate, last July in Houston.

Pedro knows music!

Making Memories, the CD

While I was in Madrid last fall, Pedro and I met over dinner one night to discuss his next CD project. On another night in Madrid, he played one of his newest songs for me, “Opening Titles.”   He was fully engaged in the music, as if conducting the orchestra with an invisible baton.  This was Pedro’s first orchestrated piece, complete with pages and pages of sheet music.  Watching his delight in the final cut of this piece, and immersing myself in the music, was one of my best memories while on this trip to Spain.

Sheet music

A proud moment in Madrid: “Opening Titles” plays through Pedro’s sound system as he reviews the sheet music.

Although we collaborated in the production of the CD, it is truly his project from start to finish.  He designed the album cover, titled the album, and naturally, composed the music.  I brought his vision to completion by working in America with our music distributor, CD Baby.  They make worldwide sales and distribution via iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and other internet music sites easy for any artist.

Pedro’s album cover design (above) conjures up feelings of old time movies, before the age of digital technology, with strips of film negatives pinned to a clothesline.  Which scenes will make the final cut of the movie?  Which songs will make the final cut of the CD?

Selecting the Songs

It was a difficult process to select the final 14 songs for this CD.  The music was mostly composed over the last year during a period of prolific musical and artistic inspiration.   I received some of the songs along his composing process.  I’ve collected a large archive of his music over the past four years from his various film and internet projects or impromptu personal musical inspirations.

Some of the pieces included on the CD were composed for the Tempting Fate film, but didn’t make it to the final cut of the movie.  As I’ve come to learn, it is just part of the film composing process.  It gives Pedro the opportunity to showcase them on his CDs or use on other projects.  (The soundtrack to Tempting Fate is available on Amazon.)

Pedro also collaborated with orchestrators (credited as ‘featuring’ in the track titles) to provide the professional sound quality and feel to his music.  The final 14 songs showcase the variety of Pedro’s music composing ability.

Memories Track TitlesThe easiest way for me to describe this album is to say that even though it was not written for a specific movie or movie scenes, it is just like a soundtrack.  The songs conjure up a wide breadth of emotions that are commonly experienced in a movie:  romance, suspense, action, drama, mystery.  You’ll be hooked after the first song!  I certainly was.

So in my next post about Memories, I will take you on a behind the scenes musical adventure through his latest album.  Until then, you can preview one of my favorite songs “The Great Beauty” on Soundcloud or by selecting the song on the media player in the right sidebar on this page.

For more information about Pedro González Arbona and his music, visit pgarbona.comMemories is available for your immediate listening pleasure through any of the links below:

profileYou can show your support for this young artist’s music career by liking his page on Facebook, Pedro González Arbona, composer.

The 12 Days of Christmas & the Gifts from our True Love

Did you know that in many church settings throughout the Western World that the Christmas season extends beyond Christmas Day?  This post-Christmas period was popularized by the old song “The 12 Days of Christmas,” but truly there are twelve days of Christmas that are celebrated on an annual basis as part of the liturgical calendar.

12 Days of Christmas

The Epiphany

In Christian terms, the twelve days of Christmas are known as the season of Epiphany.  It starts the day after Christmas and ends with the Feast of Epiphany on January 6.  I’ve only become more familiar with it in recent years due to my relationship with my Spanish family and then later due to my adopted prayer times in the Catholic Church.  It is in celebration of the Magi’s (wise men’s) arrival to worship Jesus.

What is the significance of the Magi’s arrival (the Epiphany)?  Until that time, salvation was reserved for the Jews through God’s Covenant with Abraham.  The Magi were Gentiles (non-Jews) who followed the star in the sky from the East to worship Jesus.  They were the first Gentiles to worship him signifying that Jesus came to save us all.  We are also the Gentiles, and were excluded from the covenant.  In celebrating the Epiphany, we are celebrating our inclusion into God’s plan of salvation.

Spanish nativity scene (a Belen), photo courtesy of Pedro's family

Spanish nativity scene (a Belen) courtesy of Pedro’s family

Three King’s Day

In Spain, the Epiphany (feast day on January 6th) is called “Three King’s Day” (Dia de Los Reyes) and has traditionally been more popular than Christmas.  Spanish children look forward to this day and celebrate it with the receipt of presents, like on Christmas.  The giving of gifts on this day is a representation of the gifts given by the wise men, or “Three Kings.”

For children the fun starts on the evening of January 5, when the Three Kings are welcomed into the cities in a parade.  (Spain is known for its festive religious parades with ornate floats and statues.)  Children are rewarded with candies thrown out by the Three Kings along the parade route.  Similar to Christmas in America, children anticipate the arrival of the next day to see what kind of presents the Three Kings have left for them overnight.

Floats being prepared for a Spanish feast day parade, Toledo, Spain, June 2013.

Floats being prepared for a Spanish feast day parade, Toledo, Spain, June 2013.

Gifts from our True Love

Since Three King’s Day is celebrated by my Spanish family, I also make a conscious effort to acknowledge that day with them. This year, I’ve been making many observations since Christmas which remind me it is still the Christmas season.  It has been a deliberate slowing down of the season and watching how God is giving me daily experiences of His love, just like in the song, The 12 Days of Christmas.

It has been an amazing opportunity to witness God’s goodness in my life.  For instance, yesterday was the 5th day of Christmas and my True Love brought me three surprise encounters with friends.  The days before that, I was blessed with special family outings and meals, our annual family card game of Canasta, a wedding ceremony, a movie night out, and a Seahawks victory!

These haven’t been physical gifts.  They have all been experiences to treasure.  They are also reminders to me of how God wants to use me by connecting with others. That got me to thinking about the everyday gifts we receive from our Father in Heaven.

He is good; and yes, life is hard. 

With my ADHD, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other health issues, I seem to struggle with it every day.  But when I pause long enough to see the fruit of His love to me, I can see how faithful He has been to bring me through the ups and downs of it all.

Gifts from God

Farewell to 2014

2014 has been another monumental year for me.  I’ve had to normalize that my life keeps getting bigger and that the Lord has called me to go places and do things that I never dreamed possible for Him.

But with God all things are possible. (Luke 1:37)

So tonight when I celebrate the ringing in of the New Year, I’ve decided to celebrate the gifts from my True Love.  I eagerly embrace the coming of the New Year and what’s in store with arm’s wide open.

Happy New Year to my faithful readers, supporters of my writing, and to those who prayed for or donated to my call to share the gospel in Spain. You have all abundantly blessed me in 2014!  May you celebrate the 12 days of Christmas and the gifts from Our True Love every day in the coming year!

What gifts are you celebrating as you ring in the New Year?

HNY 2015

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.

 

 

 

Announcement: E-Book for “Walking My Mother Home” Available

I have a big announcement to make that I’ve been keeping a secret for a while–until just the right time! In preparing for my mission to Spain, I was also working in the background on a special writing project.  I announced it at the church in Rivas last week and am now officially announcing it here on my site.

A Writing Dream Fulfilled

It is the completion of the Spanish translation of my story “Walking my Mother Home,” from the compilation Journeys to Mother Love, published by Cladach Publishing in 2012.  There is a long story as to how this all came to be.  As usual it includes surrendering the outcome to the Lord and waiting on His timing.  It is the fulfillment of a writing dream come true for me.

When my manuscript was accepted by my publisher in January 2012, I knew in my heart that the Lord wanted me to share this story beyond an American audience. It only seemed natural that Spanish audiences would resonate with the story as much as Americans have.  So I negotiated the inclusion of the foreign translation rights as part of my contract.

Unforeseen Obstacles to Translating the Story

Later that same year, Pedro, the Spanish exchange student who is a part of this story, agreed to translate it for me. He completed his translation of the story, written out by hand while on holiday in Mallorca.  While he translated the story, he also shared it in Spanish with his family.  They, of course, already knew the story as retold by Pedro and Rosa, but this was my turn to share it with them from my perspective.

optima_TRANSLATION-SPANISHIt was truly a gift to hear Pedro recount to me how interested his grandfather was in the story, hanging on every word. (The story recounts the intersection of his wife’s passing with my mother’s death.)  Unfortunately, that version of the translation was forever lost when Pedro’s computer crashed.  Soon after, Pedro’s music career took off; and I knew he’d never be able to translate the story.

I didn’t have any budget for a professional translator. I wasn’t seeking the Spanish version to sell it online or make any money from the E-book.  My desire was to give the E-book to the church in Rivas and other people in Spain as a gift.  In light of that, I was hoping to get the story translated by someone as a way to support the mission to Spain.

I let go of the how’s and when’s of a Spanish translation ever being done. I kept praying.  I kept asking for help.  God was continuing to stretch me and to build my trust in Him.

free-internet-marketing-ebooksA New Spanish Connection

Then it happened. It happened in such an unexpected way, and it will be used in ways that I never dreamed possible.

Oscar, my Spanish contact at Saddleback Resources, where the Celebrate Recovery materials (Celebremos la Recuperación) are sold and the Spanish version was translated, donated his time to the cause for the mission. Much to my surprise the Spanish version of “Walking My Mother Home” will also be used as a resource for Spanish testimony requests.  I was blown away by Oscar’s generous gift to translate this story, to know that it would be used beyond the mission, and also that it would be ready in time for the mission to Spain (where I am still on location).

This all happened the few weeks prior to my departure on the mission. I added the customary additional pieces to the story, like a Preface, so it would be a more complete book.  Those pieces are part of the Spanish version of the E-book.  (Those pieces are published on the post, English Additions to “Walking My Mother Home” Available.)

Encaminando a Mi Madre a Casa

So it is with great delight and gratitude that I am officially announcing and publishing the Spanish E-book of “Walking My Mother Home.” The Spanish title is Encaminando a Mi Madre a Casa.  It is free for online reading or you can download the PDF.  The link is on my new Spanish page, here.

Walking My Mother Home Spanish version released October 2014.

Walking My Mother Home Spanish version released October 2014.

If you know any people who speak Spanish, please direct them to my new free Spanish E-book, Encaminando a mi Madre a Casa.

Please note: The English version of “Walking My Mother Home” is only available in the compilation, Journeys to Mother Love. Paperback or e-book versions are available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Cladach Publishing.  Autographed copies are available through my site by clicking here.

On Mission for God, Part 4 ~ The Birth of the Call

At a recent Mission presentation at a local recovery meeting, I spoke about how my call was birthed while praying in Spain last summer.  But the seeds for Celebrate Recovery (CR) in Spain were planted two years prior.  I was flooded with emotions as I prepared for the presentation and pieced together all of the events and circumstances that led me to this time in my life.

Starbucks SignThe First Meeting

Friday, October 7, 2011—I sat in a Starbucks coffee shop meeting Marvin and Lisa Klein.*  They were missionaries from my church who were serving in France.  We had never met before, although my children had donated to their mission years ago when they were in Sunday school.  The Klein’s were on sabbatical for one year in the States.  They were forming a leadership team to launch Celebrate Recovery at my church, heard about me and my experience with CR, and asked to meet.

I knew going into this meeting that the ultimate intent for the Klein’s was to get experience so they could launch CR in Grenoble, France, their new home.  I told the Klein’s about my Spanish connection with Pedro, the exchange student who stayed with us the previous two summers.  I told them about my desire to visit Spain one day to meet Pedro’s mother Rosa, and their family.  I told him a bit about our family’s story, which at that time in my life God was calling me to write and have published.

Marvin told me that I would one day share my testimony in France.  I was flattered, and excited about the prospect, but only took him half seriously.  I was more interested in sharing the story in Spain.  However, with a Protestant population of only 1%, it seemed that would never happen..

An Education in Religious History

It was after that meeting that I started to get an understanding of the spiritual climate in Spain.  I didn’t realize that the Protestant Reformation had never made it to Spain.  I heard from some that any church outside of the Roman Catholic Church was considered a cult.  Those were shocking words to me.  I had a wonderful relationship with my Spanish family.  We had a mutual acceptance of each other’s faith—Catholic and Protestant.  And in fact, it was our faith that bonded our families with the painful passing of Rosa’s and my mothers, who were both practicing Catholics.

After those conversations I never really considered that CR would ever launch in Spain.  I just knew that I would someday visit Spain and meet Rosa.  Marvin and I went on to serve together on the team that launched CR the following year.  The Kleins’ returned to France in preparation to launch CR at their home church in Grenoble.

Reformation Map

Since that time I’ve studied more about the Protestant Reformation and the history of the Church in Spain.  I also experienced the difference in the spiritual environment firsthand while traveling there for six weeks last summer.  All of this eventually (and quite unexpectedly) led to the mission in the fall and the partnership with Marvin to teach CR in Rivas, a suburb of Madrid.

Expanding the Call to France

I had originally hoped to visit France last summer and give my testimony in Grenoble.  When that didn’t work out, I gave up the thought of ever going to France.  One year later, the Lord has made provision for me to speak in Grenoble.  And I don’t know any French—now that is scary!

As further confirmation of my call, Marvin is working on the French translation of my published story, “Walking my Mother Home.”  I will be providing complimentary copies of the novella to members of the Kleins’ church when I speak there later this month.  That is very exciting news indeed!

The view from the Klein's home in Grenoble, France.

The view from the Klein’s home in Grenoble, France.

The seed for planting CR in Spain (and my speaking in France) was planted when I met the Kleins’ at that Starbucks in Redmond, WA, three years ago.  It had to lie dormant before it could germinate and see the light of day.  On October 7, 2014, exactly three years later, Marvin, Lisa, and me will all be in Madrid, and have plans to celebrate at a Starbucks there.

It just goes to show that you never know what door God is going to open next or how He will use you or your story.  I’m learning to never say never, and to dream BIG, because God is always bigger than my never.

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20, NIV)

Only 3 more weeks until I leave on my mission!

Only 3 more weeks until I leave on my mission!

Mission Update

I’m so grateful for the continued receipt of donations for this mission, including an offering when I spoke at the local CR meeting.  I’m sharing the call again later today at the PLCC Mission Board meeting.

I’ll be stepping on Spanish soil with my French missionary partners one month from today, so it’s not too late to support this mission.  In fact, now IS the time to help put me over the top in my fund raising goal of $3,000.

To donate to the Celebrate Recovery mission and plant new seeds of hope into France and Spain, click here.  To be added to the list for prayer updates, fill out the contact form on my site.  Thank you so much!  Every little bit helps.

*For more information about the Klein’s and their ministry in France, check out their latest missionary newsletter.

Fairy Tales do Come True

I’m going to the ball!!! I’ve dreamed of this day for a long time. It’s not the fairy tale type of ball or romantic fairy tale type of dream. It’s the dream of seeing Pedro’s music come to life on the big screen. More than that, it is the night of his first movie premiere in America. I’ve been there in my mind many times since I first took Pedro González Arbona into the recording studio three years ago.

cinderella ball gownA Cinderella Moment?

None of this has been easy for me—my role in Pedro’s life—from 5,300 miles across the globe. It started as friendship with an exchange student in my home, moved to a deep bond with his mother, and eventually led to producing his first CD and putting it for sale online. From that point on he has considered me his manager.

I’m not going to spend time rehashing the details of the history between us or Pedro’s musical career to this point. You can find that elsewhere on my site. What I will share is that today, July 4th, 2014, Pedro’s first full-feature film, Tempting Fate, with his accompanying soundtrack will be viewed at a private VIP screening in Houston, TX. There is no place I’d rather be tonight, alongside Pedro. It doesn’t even matter if I was his manager or not. I would still be there.

To me, that’s my Cinderella moment. No, I’m not meeting my Prince Charming (but beware young women, he is a Spanish charmer). And there won’t be dancing, although there is an after-party planned at a Houston nightclub.

Tempting Fate VIP Screening

For one night I will walk down the red carpet. I will wear something glitzy. I will meet the actors, the producers, and the press. (I’ll be sure to write about it and take lots of photos like the press too.) I will take it all in and show up in whatever capacity Pedro needs.

Believing in our Dreams

I can’t read music and have never played an instrument. However, I know how Pedro’s music captures and enhances the movie experience. I experienced it even before he started synchronizing his music to movies. I’ve also gotten glimpses from afar as his music has grown over the last few years.

One day last summer while in Madrid, he walked me through the composing and orchestration process. I was intrigued and blown away by his talent. I’ve gathered a plethora of information to write about his music, his life, and his journey to this major milestone in his life. Yet only a fraction of that has been published online. In time, God will reveal to me how, when, and where I’m to use it.

dreams_come_true_by_ebiisan-d4lwws3_largeSo today, while I had hoped to write a piece to promote his movie, I’m left with a post that expresses my desire for Pedro’s dreams to become a reality. As his benefactor, I’ve supported it, prayed for it, and believed in it from the start. Tonight I’ll get a front row seat to watching it unfold.

Fairy Tales do Come True

Where would we be if we didn’t dream? Where would we be if others didn’t foster or believe in our dreams and our potential? Where would the producer/director, cast members and behind the scenes crew of Tempting Fate be if they didn’t follow their dreams and share the vision to create this film? For me personally, I know I wouldn’t be in Houston today awaiting Pedro’s arrival from Madrid.

If I didn’t have others who believed in my dreams and encouraged me these past few years, I wouldn’t be a published author or have followed my mid-life writing dreams. Now I have paid forward that investment into Pedro and his dreams. It has given me new dreams as well, and opened my eyes to new possibilities.

thULDRAC39As a middle-aged woman who had her fairy tale wedding over thirty years ago, today will be the closest thing I’ll probably get to a fairy tale event again this side of heaven. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed. I’m sending prayers upward that this faith-based movie, the message, and the music will be positively received and reviewed by the media, and distribution secured for viewing across America.

Oh, gotta run.  I’m also Pedro’s chauffeur.  I have to get his carriage to the airport on time.  I’m delivering one very special package to the theater tonight.

Because sometimes fairy tales do come true…it can happen to you.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Update 7/7/2014: The premiere was a wonderful success.  Pedro’s music received much praise.  He has a bright future in the film industry.  Time to get back to reality and support him from 5,300 miles across the world.

On the red carpet with Pedro at the premiere of "Tempting Fate".

On the red carpet with Pedro at the premiere of “Tempting Fate”.

  • 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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