Giving Up Christmas?

We don’t watch much TV in our home. One of our favorite shows is “The Middle.” We love to laugh at the dysfunction of this family with 3 kids spanning from middle school to college. The holiday episode hit way too close to home as Frankie, the mom, decided she was “done with Christmas.” She decided she wasn’t going to decorate the house, bake cookies, and do a multitude of other Christmas expectations.

No Christmas treeToo Much Holiday Hype

“I’m not going to get sucked into all the trappings,” Frankie declared.

None of this was because she wanted to get in touch with the meaning behind Christmas. She was just overwhelmed by all of the work. What did she do instead? She followed the example set by Axl, her teenage son, and sat on the sofa watching TV with her pants off.

Although my reasons are different, I’ve felt just like Frankie on several occasions over the last several years, except for the pants thing. I’ve wanted to slow down, do less, and have more Peace throughout the season. It seems like a constant struggle to find the right balance between the Season and the Reason.

“No more Christmas,” my husband declared, one year after putting away the Christmas boxes for the season. He recovered though.

The Annual Holiday Letter

The one tradition I wrestle with every year is the annual holiday letter to friends and family. To do or not to do? After I turned towards writing as a fulltime ministry, I saw how the annual letter was one of many ways I was able to use that part of my creativity over the years. Our letters go back almost 30 years.

There were no sacred cows on this episode of “The Middle”, including the holiday letter. Brick, the youngest sibling, in 7th grade, became fascinated by the receipt of Christmas letters and decided to take on this task for his family too. The result was very humorous. When he read his honest letter of what was going on in their family to his father, the letter was quickly criticized.

Brick reads his rendition of the Heck family Christmas letter.

“Brick you can’t say any of that stuff…Christmas letters are just for the good things that happen in the last year,” his father explained.

“Oh, that’s going to be a lot harder, and shorter,” Brick responded.

I’ve been formulating our annual letter in my mind the past few days. Thankfully, we have the opposite of Brick’s situation.  2014 was a year of so many positive things happening that it struck me that any of my family members could write their own letter of activities. (All of this activity also brought with it a lot of challenges.)

How do I decide what to write? How do I choose which pictures to include out of all the travels we experienced? How do I summarize it all?

Blessed! Grateful! Blown away by God’s goodness! That is my summary.

A note on a birthday card I received last year said, “I know it will be hard to top this past year, but here’s hoping the next one’s just as fabulous!”  I remember thinking it would get better, not really knowing how, but trusting God to keep His promises in the New Year.

He did. 2014 topped 2013 in such unexpected and amazing ways. Will 2015 be more of the same? My calendar and my heart are open to more.  But my body and my mind are looking forward to entering a season of abide (John 15:4).

merry-christmas-1Making Room for Christmas

So how did the show end?  Did Frankie really give up on Christmas?

Late night on Christmas Eve, Frankie and her husband, Mike, were relaxing in front of the Christmas tree.  He reminisced about Christmas in his youth and realized that he never had holiday decorations until he met Frankie.  Enough said!  The next morning when everyone awoke, Frankie surprised them by having the entire house all decked out for Christmas Day.

Her final narrating comments on the episode:  “Every time you think you’re out, it (Christmas) sucks you right back in.”

Gotta wrap this up.  It’s time to jump on the annual holiday letter.  It’s not because I’m being sucked back in.  It’s because I’m making more room for Christmas (the season and the Reason) by celebrating His faithfulness and goodness to us this past year.  And that’s a gift worth sharing with all my family and friends.

How about you? Are you done with all of the holiday hype?  What are you doing to celebrate Jesus this Christmas?

The Road to Spain, Update 4 ~ Mental Readiness

As the countdown calendar on my blog has turned to days (28 as of today) until I arrive in Spain, I feel the pressure mounting to get things done.  I have struggled with an internal battle in my mind—highs and lows—that leave me emotionally exhausted and stressed.

Immersing in the language

Immersing in the language

I suppose it’s only natural considering that I’m short on funds for the trip, wrapping up a challenging high school transition year for my son, and making decisions for a major remodel project on our home that will take place while I’m gone.  It has been hard to put all of that aside and cling to the joy that awaits me in Spain.

Over these last several months, the Lord has stripped me of so many expectations.  It started with the cancellation of a side trip to France to share my testimony.  Then there was the letting go of my desire to speak in Spain.  Last week I had another reality check when I realized that the Spanish Ebook for “Walking My Mother Home” won’t be ready in time.

As painful as those realizations have been, letting go of those expectations is allowing me to focus more on preparing my body, mind, and spirit for the trip.  (See my last Spain update for how I am preparing my body.)

Immersing in the country

Immersing in the country

Immersing my Mind

The biggest task to preparing mentally is to learn Spanish.  Although I took two years of Spanish in high school (way too many years ago), I knew re-learning would be difficult.  I hate having to rely so heavily on this family being my constant translator.  (Lo siento, Pedro.)  Besides that, the last week of my trip I’m on my own.  Regardless of how much I learn by June 24th, I am hoping that being immersed in the language and culture for six weeks will allow the language to just sink in to some degree.

I’ve also been immersing myself in the music, and reading about Spain in my spare time.  My love of Spanish music started three years ago after a gift of CDs from Pedro’s family.  My family has long since tired of hearing them, but not me.  I can almost sing the lyrics myself, but I have no idea what they mean.

Immersing in the music

Immersing in the music

Another way I am preparing for this trip is to de-clutter my mind.  I turned off the audible email alerts on my smart phone.  Unfortunately, I noticed I had an unnerving habit of checking my phone for messages.  (Can anyone relate to that?)  So last week, I unsubscribed to virtually every email list that I was on.  I was shocked to see that I had over 50 bloggers and marketing companies bombarding me with email.

The last piece of immersion I will do over the next few weeks is to re-read parts of my journal and emails during the time that Rosa and I first started to communicate.  I want to be in a frame of mind that makes those memories easy to access so Rosa and I can talk about it.  But if the story immersion doesn’t happen, I’ll need to let go of those expectations as well.

It’s a First!28 Days to Spain

This trip is the trip of a lifetime for me.  At times I fear it may be my only trip to Spain and try to pack in everything I can possibly think of to do or to prepare.  (My day job used to be as a project manager, by the way.)  Other times I am in such awe of how God has orchestrated this relationship and can’t imagine there not being future trips or a full-length book being published. That is the essence of the war that seems to be going on in my mind.

I know my mind will be at ease by the time I step off that plane.  My challenge for the next 28 days is to remember that regardless of whether or not there are future trips to Spain or what gets done in advance, there will never be the anticipation for my first trip to Spain or the first time I meet Rosa.  That is what I need to hold onto over the next four weeks.  That, and lots of prayer are the best defense for my mental readiness for Spain.

Goal Setting 101

As I worked on my 2013 goals, I had a sense that it is time for me to slow down.  But how can I do that?  I have a big year ahead of me.  I am traveling to Spain this summer for an extended stay. I need to continue my memoir writing to be prepared for my visit.  I need to study Spanish.  I need to promote my book so I can earn money for the trip.  I want to publically speak about how God turns our healing into hope.  I want to continue blogging.  While all of these things are good, I cannot do it all.  I need to trust that God is going to point me in the direction of what is most important.

Realistic Goal SettingGoal Setting

On my first pass at writing down my goals, I came up with a very long list of tangible and measureable things to get done this year.  I also came up with a list of areas in my life to improve on.  Right off the bat, I can admit that I’m not going to blog once a week like I planned (witness my first post of 2013 is dated January 12), get the number of Facebook ‘likes’ I want or sell the books I need to cover my trip.  (I’m not being pessimistic; I’m just realizing that I’m not going to push myself so much to make it happen.)

With the addition of my physical exhaustion over the last few weeks, I’ve been running around with a critical voice in my head.  It’s been telling me I shouldn’t have pushed so hard to write for NaNoWriMo, I shouldn’t be blogging, and worst of all, I shouldn’t go to Spain.  Ouch!  Where did that come from?  D-O-U-B-T!  It creeps in so insidiously—especially when you are exhausted.  And it’s a sign that I really do need to slow down and refocus on what God wants me to do.

In setting my goals for the year, I want to make sure that they align with His will for me.  I expect to continue blogging; I know I will work on my memoir, and I will most definitely be traveling to Spain.  But I am letting go of making measurable goals around them and trying to be hyper-vigilant about meeting them.  I have to be realistic about what my mind and body will allow.

Renew and Restore

Last month when I started to realize how burned out I really was, a friend and mentor, Tamara J Buchan, reminded me that without a season of rest, we lose our effectiveness.  That is exactly how it feels to me right now.  I need time to renew and restore physically, emotionally and spiritually.  In light of that I have made a positive decision to attend her “Reclaim the True You Identity Retreat” in a few weeks (based on her book).  It will be the perfect opportunity for me to get in touch with God’s direction for my life and this year in particular.  Identity Crisis Book

Goal Collaboration

I’m still a work in progress and trying to find the right balance for my life.  In the meantime, it helps me to be reminded of the following Proverbs (TNIV):

  • Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. (Proverbs 16:3)
  • In their hearts human beings plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
  • Many are the plans in a human heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

When I collaborate with God to set my goals for the year, I know this next season will be fruitful and that He will direct my path.  How about you?  What goals are you collaborating with God on for 2013?

NaNoWriMo Lessons Learned, Part 1 – Writing Takeaways

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

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

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

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

Writing Lessons Learned

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

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

Living in a State of Overwhelm

I have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).  There I’ve said it and I’m not a secret anymore.  Many of my friends have known this for some time and many more have probably suspected it.  I guess you could say I’ve been in denial about it for many years because I never did anything to specifically treat it and I never got educated on it.

What is ironic about this is that I did start to do research on this a few times in the past.  I have the half-read books by the side of my bed to prove it.  And that’s another symptom that I had it.

Why am I finally coming out of denial about it?  The biggest reason is because my son was diagnosed with ADD/ADHD this summer.  Having his diagnosis gave me the wake-up call that I needed to address my own.  So I am educating myself all about ADD and seeing myself in a totally new light.

My son’s diagnosis was confirmed one week after my father died.  It was a bitter pill to swallow.  My father had always been on the lookout for signs of mental illness in me (like my mother had) and told me a few years ago that he didn’t worry about me any longer.  I’m glad this didn’t surface before he died.  I think it would’ve justified his concerns.

Now that I know, I’m going down a painful road of trying to understand how ADD affects my decision making process and my everyday life.  Sometimes I find myself second guessing what I’ve done in the past—why I chose a certain path.  I wonder how much of my behaviors or actions are based on my God-given gifts or talents and how much are driven by my ADD.  I’ll probably never know.

The one thing I know for sure as I live my life with this new perspective, is that I’d be lost without my years of recovery skills and background.  The tools of Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-step program, have helped me to cope with undiagnosed and unmedicated ADD. 

Living with ADD often feels like this.

I’m certain that there are many people with undiagnosed ADD who are addicts of some type of obsessive behavior.  It is the way we medicate because we don’t know how to slow down the chaos in our brains.  It makes our character defects loom larger.  It keeps us in a state of overwhelm most of the time.

That’s the place I’ve been for the last week or so.  When I should be joyful about my story being published, I’ve been isolating and in a state of massive overwhelm from the weight of launching into the publicity phase of my book.  I’m trying to understand myself and trying to be a mother to a son who is entering high school with new challenges ahead of him.  I think it would overwhelm anyone, so I need to give myself grace for this next season of the journey.

I know the Lord accomplished some pretty amazing things in me without my even knowing I had ADD.  So now it’s another opportunity for Him to shine in me post-ADD.  I need to learn to let Him—one day at a time, one moment at a time.  And more importantly, I don’t need to let my ADD define me.

Do you feel overwhelmed (with ADD or life in general)?  How are you coping with it?

  • 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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    Arrival on Spanish SoilApril 29th, 2018
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