God Knows the Desires of our Heart

It was siesta time on Day 29 of my 42-day pilgrimage through Spain in 2013. This was my 5th day in Sóller, near the northwest coast of Mallorca, in the Balearic Islands of Spain. I was sitting poolside at the summer home of my gracious hosts, the parents of Pedro González Arbona, who we met in an exchange program three years prior.

The day was hot—just like the preceding days. I was still not used to the Spanish heat. Sóller was only slightly cooler than Madrid. It was in the mid-90s; and there was no air conditioning. When we left Madrid the week before, I was expecting cool island breezes and relief from the heat. There was no such luck. I adapted as best as I could, and relished the mid-day siesta to take a bite out of the heat.

The view from my bedroom window in Sóller.

The view from the writing desk in my bedroom in Sóller.

Siesta Time in Sóller

After the mid-day meal which was typically served at 2 PM, the family would turn to siesta mode. Some would take a nap, or others would read or relax by the pool. It was a deliberate time of restfulness and solitude.

Most days I would be in my room with the ceiling fan on, either typing away on my laptop trying to catch up on my writing, or sprawled out on my bed catching a few zzzzz. Traveling away from home without the benefit of an American companion, I considered both an investment in my emotional and physical health.

On this day, I relinquished my writing and my napping to another restful activity. I sat in the shade reading the script to Pedro’s most recent film. It was the script to Tempting Fate, the movie that is now showing across Africa with his music wafting through the theaters.

As I sat there reading with the sound of running water filling the pool in the background, all I kept reflecting on was how God really does know the desires of our heart. I’d love to be able to say that was because of the idyllic setting I was in, or the generosity of my family back home, or my Spanish host family. I had many of those moments in my 6 weeks of living with Pedro’s family.

A Holy Plot Twist

No, on this day it was the content of what I was reading that gave me goosebumps and lit the fire of the Holy Spirit within me. The script was ‘hot off the press’ so to speak. Pedro received it electronically and had a copy made at the print shop in town. He had already made his first pass through the script and had ideas running through his mind on the scenes and music.   I was honored to be the next to read it—mostly because I was his manager, but also because I was one of the few family members who could read English.  (His previous scripts were in Spanish and difficult for me to read.)

I knew very little about the story, and so I eagerly read it. The story opened with a bank robbery scene, lots of gun fire, and the death of a police officer. That didn’t sound like my type of movie.

Immediately following that, the story turned to a scene at a church with African worship music being sung. The sudden shift caught me off-guard and peaked my interest. As I read further and further into the script, I was enthralled with the story, and excited to read how this tale of two Nigerian brothers, one with deep faith fighting for his life against cancer, and the other steeped in a life of crime and drugs, would end.

I was not disappointed. It had a powerful message of redemption and forgiveness. Here’s one piece of great dialogue:

“God owes you no explanation, son. He looks out for you and gives you what is best for you. The important question is not why, but what happens next? And trust me, for those that trust God their next chapters are always better than the former chapters.”

Scenes from the movie Tempting Fate.

I couldn’t believe my eyes as I read some of these scenes that challenged the characters in the movie, and would certainly resonate with audiences.

At one point, when I was nearing the end of the script, Pedro asked me what I thought of it. I had a hard time containing my excitement, but told him he would have to wait until I was finished reading. “Only a few more pages,” I told him. “And then we can talk about it.”

“Are you looking for the scenes with music in it?”

“No,” I confessed.

“You are a bad manager,” he teased. I didn’t mind. I was too overwhelmed with the sudden shift in the focus of my trip.

“The first of many more scripts for you to read,” he continued jokingly. But I didn’t take his musical talent or potential success in jest.

God Knows The Desires of our Hearts

God was not only giving me the desires of my heart with this trip of a lifetime, the Lord was giving Pedro the desires of his heart. Pedro dreamed of composing film scores since he was ten years old. Now at the age of 20, he was composing for his first full-feature American film!

A few days earlier, my daily devotional was based on Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” After reading the script of this faith-based movie, I had a teachable moment with Pedro about that scripture and how the Lord’s favor was on his music. He wasn’t sold on the idea that God would really have any interest in his musical success. There were much more pressing things for God to have His attention on like poverty and worldwide issues.  But I begged to differ.

Psalm 37.4

I expressed to him how I believed it was not a coincidence that he had landed this contract at this very point in time. I had been praying for his music to be used by God since the day I found out he was a composer. The script pointed people to God’s love and forgiveness, so his music would do the same. I saw it as an incredible blessing and confirmation that his music really was meant for the big screen.

Since Pedro came into my life five years ago, the Lord has given me many desires of my heart: the friendship of this family across the world, being the benefactor of Pedro’s music, and giving me a mid-life career change into writing (my long lost passion from college).

It’s not because God is like a genie, or I prayed for earthly success or rewards. It is because of my faith shift that started with a deeper and truer relationship with the Lord, and as the scripture says, delighting in Him.

So what about the Movie?

The Lord’s favor is on Tempting Fate too—the movie, the cast and the crew as it plays in theaters across Nigeria and Ghana. It premiered at #3 in the Box Office last week and is getting lots of positive reviews. Nollywood is all a twitter about this Hollywood/Nollywood collaboration.

My prayers continue for this movie and its message. I applaud KevStel Group for producing this film and following their dreams and desires of their hearts to bring quality faith-based entertainment to the big screen.

What about you? Are you delighting in the Lord? Where is He giving you the desires of your heart?

The Blessing of ‘Imperfect’ Children

While praying for my son during an interview for his first job, I received word that this post about prayer was accepted by my publisher. Soon after, I heard my son got the job! Love these little reminders of the importance of praying for our children. Make it a habit and see how God blesses your children.

Journeys To Mother Love

Pre-school-graduation What a challenge and a blessing, walking with Cameron from preschool graduation (above) to Class of 2015 graduate.

For those of us who have children with learning disabilities, educational milestones like a high school or college graduation are especially significant. It is a very proud moment indeed, one that celebrates the journey as much as the goal.

My youngest son was diagnosed with ADHD at the onset of high school, and was greatly challenged by a rigorous curriculum at a new school in our district. He persevered and recently received his diploma as part of the first graduating class at his high school.

What I’ve been struck with in hindsight is how eager I was to compare my son’s journey to his older brother. These two intelligent boys forged their own educational paths through different schools. The older one started school at a very early age and rarely needed any…

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The Last Time I Saw my Mother Alive

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

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

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

Prompted to Visit one Last Time

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

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

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

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

Not Quite What I Expected

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

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

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

My aunt praying for my mother.

My aunt praying for my mother.

Joy and Sorrow

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

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

A teary goodbye, May 2010.

A teary goodbye, May 2010.

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

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

Beauty from Ashes

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

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

IMG_2436

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

What’s Cooking: Mealtime Family Prayers

Our family recently started a new prayer practice before meals that has me very excited and a bit reminiscent of my youth. I was raised in a Catholic home and every night as the family gathered around the dinner table, we always said grace before the meal.

dinner prayerChildhood Prayer Practice

It was the same prayer every time. Memorizing that early on in my childhood was like memorizing the Hail Mary or Our Father Prayers. In fact, that was probably the only prayers I ever really learned. It was routine, and I never put any thought or reflection into the words.

Our meal prayer was this:

“Bless us, O Lord and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Reading and understanding that prayer now, I can see how it draws us back to God and reminds us that the food we eat is a gift from Him (Thy bounty). As a kid, I was thrown off by the Old English ‘thy’ and probably the concept that our food came from God, when I knew my mother had just prepared it.  How confusing to a mere child.

Spanish Prayer Practice

When I traveled to Spain and lived with Pedro’s family a few summers ago, I was curious to see how this Catholic family prayed. In fact, I went so far as to try to learn the Our Father in Spanish. I could follow the words at Mass, but my effort to memorize it was futile.

English prayer cube

English prayer cube

My first few meals in Spain, Rosa, Pedro’s mother, prayed in Spanish. I have no idea what she prayed. Then one day they asked me to bless the meal. Naturally I prayed in English—something inspired by the Holy Spirit and more in tune with how I normally pray before meals.

On another day, I was surprised by a family prayer practice they showed me. They put a wooden cube, about 4 inches in diameter on the table. Each side of the cube had a short Spanish prayer engraved into the wood. This was a prayer practice handed down from Rosa’s mother. It was a novel way to let chance or the Holy Spirit dictate which prayer was prayed before the meal.  (I had never seen something like this before, but in writing this post, I found numerous sites that sell them online.)

Our Family Prayer Practice

Throughout the years our family meal times have been led mostly by my husband or me. We encouraged the kids to pray, but they were often reluctant.

I have fond memories of my youngest son, Cameron’s, pre-meal prayer. It was the same every time. Regrettably I didn’t write it down, and forgot most of it over the years.

My sons praying at dinner, January 2000.

My sons praying at dinner, January 2000.

It was so precious, and blew us all away the first time he said it. This is what I do remember:

“Please give everyone in this whole entire world wisdom and please send your angels down to protect us every day and night. Amen.”

Taught, caught, or Holy Spirit inspired? I have no idea, but it always left us smiling.

Our 2015 Prayer Practice

Fast forward to the beginning of 2015 (and back to the first paragraph of this post). I’ve had a book of prayers in my possession as a keepsake from my deceased Aunt Ardis (also my godmother) for several years. It is titled, 365 Table Graces for the Christian Home by Charles L. Wallis (1967, Harper & Row Publishers). It is almost 50 years old and in excellent condition.

My Aunt Ardis was a devout Catholic who served faithfully in her church community. The book was bequeathed to me when I went on a trip back to her home in Wisconsin.  I brought home many of my Aunt’s treasured spiritual mementos, like this book, along with some china and silver, and a trove of letters and photos from my childhood.

We tried reading the mealtime prayers when I first got the book, but couldn’t ever get in the groove of hearing the Holy Spirit speak through the Old English. But now, after deepening my relationship with the Lord the last few years, it practically sings to me. Even better, my family is enjoying them.

They aren’t just a blessing over the meal. They are like having scripture read before a meal—not directly with references, but in general, with God’s promises and His love being poured out over our family mealtime together.  So years later, part of my Aunt Ardis’ legacy of faith is being modeled back into my family.  Precious, indeed!

Table Graces by Charles L. Wallis

Here’s a few of the prayers from 365 Table Graces for the Christian Home:

“May our family devotions and prayers daily inspire us to do thy will, O God, even as thy Son Jesus found in his small home in Nazareth the inspiration and guidance to undertake thy holy work.”

“May our home be founded, heavenly Father, upon him who is the Rock of true faith and not upon the shifting sands of doubt, and may we accept this food with prayerful thanksgiving and not with spiritual apathy.”

“Great Physician, bless all who suffer and are afflicted, use us in thy healing ministry, and grant us patience and hope in our times of difficulty.”

Do you sense the invitation of the Lord’s Power and Presence to join Him in your daily walk through these prayers?

family prayTable Graces for Everyone

I was pleasantly surprised to find this book does exist on Amazon. One copy is actually in new condition! I found a large selection of similar books on Amazon for anyone interested in taking their table prayers to a new level. Click here for a list.

While this book would be hard for children to understand, there are others that are more geared to young families. Wouldn’t it be a great way to introduce children to prayer and inadvertently share the Gospel with them at the same time?

Every Christian needs table graces in their home.

What is your mealtime prayer practice or memorable prayer time growing up?

A New Lenten Journey ~ Allowing God More Access

Here we are two weeks into Lent and I haven’t written a post about this time of year.  No big deal you may think, because you don’t recognize Lent or do anything special to participate in it.  Well, maybe it’s time you considered it.  Let me explain…

lent 40 days

Let’s Consider Lent

Lent is the 40-day period approaching Holy Week and Easter Sunday, usually associated with fasting, repentance, or sacrificial giving.  It is commonly considered a Catholic ritual, but I know of several local Protestant churches and friends who routinely participate in Lenten and Holy Week services, prayer practices, and such, just like they do for Advent (the season preceding Christmas).

This is my 5th year of actively participating in the Lenten season.  I’ve written about it several times: how and why I stumbled onto this practice, how it changed me and what I fasted from, and even about my son’s Lenten journey last year.  This year I was at a loss on how to change my Lenten practices, what to give up, etc.  I am again abstaining from alcohol and sweets.  Although, it seems to be part of an annual body cleanse now more than a strictly spiritual sacrifice.

Yesterday, I got an answer to how this Lent will be different.  It wasn’t about doing something different, it was about being something different.  The only way I can be different is to allow God access to my heart and mind.  And He gets hours of it in our weekly appointment at my sacred space.

He reminded me that after four years of dedicated weekly prayer time, that He has already transformed me from the inside out and made me into something new (yet again).  In our time together, He routinely speaks to me, guides me, and gives me peace.  He convicts me of my sinful ways and points me back to His will and ways.  (Although I do often wrestle with him when it comes to letting go of my grip on things.)

My willingness to enter the Catholic church over four years ago and start my weekly appointments with God have given Him more access to me not just at Lent, but year-round.  He reminded me that I don’t need to do anything different for Lent this year.

Seek Me in this Place

I am to just keep coming, keep seeking His will, keep listening for His voice, and keep writing about His messages to me—either in private or publically on my blog.  He will let me know when and how much to share.

Habakkuk 2:1 says, “I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost.  There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how He will answer.”

Oddly enough, my watchtower is in a Catholic church, and my guardpost is in the sanctity of its small chapel.

Listening for God at the guardpost (local chapel).

Listening for God at the guardpost (local chapel).

It started with the season of Lent five years ago.   I embraced the mystery of Jesus there, a very unusual thing for a Protestant to do.  He was stretching me outside of my comfort zone as He showed up and kept wooing me to seek Him there every week.

It changed me.  It changed my prayer practices.  It has also trickled into my family, has rubbed off on some of my friends, and is modeled in the groups I lead and participate in.

How are you Giving God more Access?

So the message I am sharing today is about doing whatever it takes to give God more access in your life.

Make time in your schedule.  Find a quiet place.  Read the Bible.  Pray.  Listen.  Record what happens.

Lent is a the perfect time to do that, and make this Easter not just one of those Sundays that you have to go to church.  Make it a season and way to give God access to your life in new and mysterious ways.  And you’ll never be the same again.

How are you giving God more access to you?  Where is your watchtower?  I’d love to hear about what you are doing for Lent.

Seahawks Pull Out a Victory with Attitude & Faith

I can’t believe what I witnessed on national television yesterday!  The Seattle Seahawks broke the record for a comeback win in conference championship game history.  Down by 16 points at half-time, they beat the Green Bay Packers 28-22 in overtime!

The anticipation was high in our city (Seattle), in our work places, in our churches, and in our homes the last week for the NFC playoff game against the Packers.  Confidence was high, and people were downright cocky at times.  It was all in good fun as we hoped for a chance to defend our Super Bowl Champion Title in Arizona next month.

Seahawks back 2 backPatience is a Virtue

After the first half of play, Seattle was down by 16 points:  16-0!  How could that be?  No team had ever come back to win a post-season game by that large a margin.

Who was that team playing on the field?  It was as if they were stripped of all their magical football mojo and someone else was playing in their place.  Turnovers…sacks…no first down conversions.  It was painful to watch.

But they say patience is a virtue.  Indeed it is.

The Seahawks won the game (final score 28-22) in overtime, scoring 14 points in the last 4 minutes of the regulated game.  They did it with special teams, an onside kick (something I had never heard of) and playing like I’ve never seen football played before. Even the sportscasters were in a state of shock!

I know a winning team when I see one.  And I know what it takes to persevere through hardship and fight to come out on top.

As I watched the game seem to slip away, I had a thought start to break through in my mind.  It was this:  “The game is being stolen from us!”

A Change in Attitude

It was at that point that I decided to get a hold of my emotions and start to pray for a shift in the outcome of the game.  (Later that night while attending a recovery meeting at church, the other women also admitted praying and how they saw God show up in the final minutes of the game.  It went from hopeless to hopeful.  It was a miracle!)

I couldn’t believe it when I started to see a rapid fire turn of events on the field.  The plays all started to go our way.  Even with Seattle still at 2 touchdowns behind and 4 minutes left to play, the sports announcers started to say that the game wasn’t over yet.

I’m not going to recap what happened in the last few minutes of the game or how Seattle won in overtime.  There are hundreds of sports writers who are doing that.  My perspective as a fan of football and a believer in the power of our minds, is that the Seahawks ‘never quit, never doubt’ attitude is what won this game.

Post-game prayer huddle

Russell Wilson and Seattle Seahawks in prayer after the game.

In the post-game interviews and comments, Russell Wilson, Seattle’s quarterback, quickly gave God credit for the victory saying, “God is good, all the time, every time.” He also predicted the game-ending touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse minutes before.

Russell was confident.  He bolstered his teammates throughout the game and he never gave up.

He is a true inspiration to others—his teammates, his community, and to kids everywhere.

That game was about to be stolen!!!!  It is not unlike what Satan does to us every chance he gets.

He plants the seed of doubt.

He puts obstacles in our way to discourage us and to tempt us to give up.

And after a winning play (insert accomplishment or whatever gives you pleasure), he tries to sideline us and steal that joy!!!

No Joy Robbing Allowed!

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks were not going to let the Green Bay Packers steal their joy, or that of the 12th man contingent.  They fought to the finish.  They fought the good fight.  And in the end if they lost that game, I would still have praise and pride in this team for giving us 12s the most exciting football game I’ve ever watched.

We know who wins the game of Life.  Jesus wins in the end.  So even during times when Satan wants to keep you down and steal your joy, remember it’s not over until it’s over.  Ultimately Jesus wins, and so do you.

Fight the good fight.  Don’t let Satan steal your joy in the process.

Seahawks 28, Packers 22, no joy robbing allowed!  We are Super Bowl bound!

~ This post is happily shared with Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays.

Tempting Fate in Houston, Part 1 ~ On the Red Carpet

When I last wrote about Pedro’s Tempting Fate* premiere in Houston, we were en route to the theater.  No limousine treatment for Mr. Pedro González Arbona.  That was reserved for the cast arrival later.  I was Pedro’s chauffeur for the night, and he was stuck with me.  No chauffeur’s cap like he suggested, but I bet I was the best dressed chauffeur at the event.  (His real limousine ride will happen in due time.)

Pedro arrives at the theater for his American composing film debut.

Pedro arrives at the theater for his American composing film debut.

I had many roles for Pedro that weekend.  I was his image consultant, his photographer, his personal biographer, his publicist and his manager.  Best of all, I was his friend.  At any given moment it was hard to separate which role I was playing.  As his benefactor and producer of his first CD, I was grateful to be there for his American movie debut.  It was all in God’s timing, for sure.

At the Keyboard

We arrived at the venue for the sound check, before all of the festivities started, and in advance of the other cast and crew.  Our first introductions were to Doyin Fashakin, the event planner (Events By Doyin).  It was her smooth talking and quick maneuvering that got the keyboard at the event on such short notice.  (Muchas gracias, Doyin!)

Pedro turned on the keyboard and started to practice, but there was no sound coming out of the auxiliary sound system!  I prayed silently—no more problems in Houston.  He fiddled with the cable connections a bit and music soon wafted through the theater reception area. (Answered prayer, thank you, God!)

A musical temptation straight from Madrid, Spain.

A musical temptation straight from Madrid, Spain.

What a delight it was to watch him play some of the soundtrack songs I’d been listening to for the last several months.  At one point, he threw in a sentimental favorite, Seattle, from his first CD.  No one was the wiser except me.  I proceeded to take plenty of photos and some video of Pedro performing.

On the Red Carpet

I didn’t know what to expect at this event.  I’d seen Hollywood premieres and red carpet events publicized on TV in the past.  It always looked so glamorous.  It seemed to be reserved for the biggest stars, and the beautiful people in Hollywood.  But here we were.

This was Pedro’s opportunity to bask in the limelight and to be acknowledged for his fantastic movie soundtrack.  I wanted to make sure that I fit in with the crowd as well.  Like most Hollywood actresses, I spent hours shopping for just the right dress, jewelry, shoes and so on.  After all, it was my fairy tale moment too.

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

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

At the first break in Pedro’s music, we were asked by some fans to have our picture taken with them.  Those were posted on Facebook within minutes; and that was the start of the social media frenzy that ensued for the movie.  I was too busy with my digital camera to post online that night.  However, I did get some photos back to Pedro’s family in Spain.  I was also proud to be handing out Pedro’s business cards and pointing people to his Facebook pageLike, like, like.

Then we strolled over to the red carpet area.  The red carpet was laid down on an area between a row of life-sized movie posters to the left and a row of photographers and videographers on the right.  As you exited the second floor elevators into the event reception area you would walk right onto the red carpet and right into the line of paparazzi.  There are photos all over Facebook at Tempting Fate and Simon’s Aperture.

Pedro's interview with Unsenika Usoro from Afro Centric Television Network.

Pedro’s interview with Usenika Usoro from Afro Centric Television Network.

Media Interviews

We plunged into the fun and had our photos taken together.  Sky Houston, from Majic 102.1 radio station in Houston was on the red carpet interviewing people.  She asked Pedro how he heard of the event.  When he said he was the soundtrack composer, she interviewed him on the spot.  I introduced myself as well, but let Pedro do all of the talking.  He later said he was nervous, but it didn’t show.

Pedro’s second interview was with Usenika Usoro from Afro Centric Television Network in Houston.  Again Pedro did all of the talking, as I graciously walked off camera after our initial introductions.  That gave me the opportunity to get photos of Pedro during his interview.

Cast Arrival at the Meet & Greet 

Pedro performed on and off during the ‘meet and greet’ portion of the event.  People mingled and munched on fine appetizers and drinks in advance of the movie screening.  The Houston sky turned dark and a deluge of rain, thunder and lightning swept across the region just as the limousine carrying the actors arrived at the theater.  We watched from the balcony above as they did some publicity photos in the main theater lobby.

Watching overhead as the cast and crew arrive.

Watching overhead as the cast and crew arrive.

As luck would have it, the storm caused the power to go out to some of the theaters, but it did not affect our reception area.  It was also at this opportune time that the elevator lost its power and some of the actors were stuck between floors.  “Satan really doesn’t want this movie to get out,” I thought to myself as I sent another prayer up above.

Pedro meets John J Vogel, who plays Detective Travis in the movie.

Pedro meets John J Vogel, who plays Detective Travis in the movie.

When the power was restored and cast members started to have their turn at the red carpet treatment, the atmosphere turned more energetic and full of anticipation for the movie screening.  The cast had spent two weeks together filming the movie ten months earlier and now they were reunited.  They had formed a bond over the project.  They were like family, and the celebration certainly had that sort of feel to it.

Pedro on the other hand had watched the movie many times as he synchronized his music to the scenes.  He intimately knew the lines and the characters, but he never met the actors.  He was like an invisible collaborator, working remotely from Madrid.  He was very excited to meet everyone.

Kevin Nwankwor, the producer/director of Tempting Fate, is interviewed by Sky Houston, Majic 102.1 radio station.

Kevin Nwankwor, the producer/director of Tempting Fate, is interviewed by Sky Houston, Majic 102.1 radio station.

We watched from the sidelines as the actors and producers were interviewed by the media.  We had some brief opportunities to meet some of the cast.  They all knew who Pedro was and heard rave reviews of his music.  Pedro also finally met Kevin Nwankwor, his producer, face to face after almost exclusively communicating via email over the last ten months.

We were all here for the same reason.  We were eager and excited to see the VIP screening of Tempting Fate.  Stay tuned for the next post on Pedro’s musical pursuits to hear about the Tempting Fate movie.

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*Wondering where you can see this movie for yourself?  Tempting Fate was produced by KevStel Group, an independent production company based in Atlanta.  They are seeking distributors for release in 2015.

UPDATE 07/05/2016: Tempting Fate premiered in Lagos, Nigeria, during an all-star red carpet event in July 2015.  It ended up being one of the top 10 Nollywood movies of 2015. (Nollywood is the Nigerian movie industry, based in Lagos.)  The movie is one of the top 25 movies of all time in the Nollywood film industry. The movie is available to rent or purchase on Amazon or other streaming movie site.  Pedro’s music and other beautiful music from the movie is also available on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, and other music sites.

On Mission for God, Part 2 ~ Surprise Me, God

In Part 1 of this series on my mission trip to Spain in the fall, I wrote how I was taking a leap of faith with my public announcement and asking for donations.  I’m happy to report that my prayers were answered; I am walking on solid ground.

Actually I will be flying through the air nine weeks from today, on Wednesday, September 24, 2014.  (I’m starting my countdown calendar on the right sidebar of my site.)  However, I won’t be flying to Spain, not directly anyway…

number 9

Counting down–9 weeks until I leave on mission.

Praying for the Mission

My prayer all along has been to align my will with God’s will for this mission, for spiritual revival in Spain, and for the timing of the mission to align with His timing.  As a person who used to earn my pay as a project manager, it is often hard for me to let go of control when working in ministry settings.

In early June, I sent out an appeal letter to friends and family to support my mission, as well as emails, and the public announcement on my blog.  Then I was inundated with family commitments and travel that pushed all of my preparations for Spain on the backburner.

I know that was God’s way of building my trust muscle.  Not only that, I chose to take myself out of the reporting of any updates on who was contributing to the mission and how much.  I didn’t want my attention on any mission planning or obligations.  I released it all to Him and began to pray a new prayer:  “Surprise me, God!”

I wanted and NEEDED God to surprise me.  Surprise me He did…in multiple ways.

Surprise me GodGod’s Amazing Surprises

My first surprise was how God has already provided a large portion of the financial provision needed for the mission.   So far, donations are $2,125 including the $1,000 match by Celebrate Recovery at Pine Lake Covenant Church, who is sponsoring the mission.  That was truly welcome news—allowing me to purchase my airfare last week!

I also received word that the 10-day organized prayer journey segment of my mission was postponed until 2015.  As a prayer warrior for Spain, that came as a bit of a disappointment to me. However, when God closed that door, He opened another—a really BIG surprise.

I was able to accept a long-standing invitation to speak at a church in Grenoble, France, where my mission partner (and American missionary), Marvin Klein, lives.  I will arrive in France one week before the CR conference in Spain, giving us time to prepare for the conference and to travel together with him and his wife to Madrid.

CR internationalRevised Mission

While the second surprise dramatically changed the physical itinerary of the mission, it did not change the timing or focus for the CR conference in Spain.  In fact, it supplements it and builds on that in new ways.  Not only am I and PLCC CR investing in a partnership with Spain, we are also building on our relationship with Marvin, in France, and possibly other areas where he has global connections.

The revised itinerary also provides more dedicated time at the church in Rivas, with leaders and at prayer meetings.  While I prayed globally for unity in God’s Church in Spain last summer, and for spiritual revival in their country, I didn’t have opportunities to pray one on one with people.  I know the Lord is answering that desire of my heart through this new avenue—His surprise for my time in Spain.

Next Mission Steps

In preparation for the mission I am attending the annual Celebrate Recovery Summit at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.  I will also be speaking at the CR meeting at Pine Lake Covenant Church on Monday, August 18 at 7 PM.  I will share more information about my Call to Spain, provide a mission update, and share new training information from the Summit.

Click on above image to donate to the mission.

Click on above image to donate to the mission.

This mission is still not fully funded.  With the revised itinerary, the new donation goal now stands at $3,000 (a reduction of 25% of the original estimates) to cover travel, meals, and materials to hold the conference.  Won’t you please consider giving to this mission of hope and healing—not just for Spain, but to share the message in France as well?

Please Join God’s Work Abroad

The easiest way to donate is to use the secured giving link that directs all monies to the church for the mission.  All donations through this link or mailed directly to the church (information here) are tax deductible.

This mission is also in need of prayer support.  To pray for the mission now and while we are traveling and teaching, fill out my contact form on this site.   My on-going prayer request is for the remaining financial provision to be secured in advance of the trip, for protection and safety for our travels, and for receptivity to the CR materials and spiritual revival in Spain and France.

Surprise me, God!  Surprise us all!

I invite you join God in what He is doing in Spain and France by supporting and praying for this mission, and you too can plant seeds of change across the world.

 

Now the Lord had said to Abram, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1, NIV)

Houston We Have a Problem

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two weeks since traveling to Pedro’s Tempting Fate* movie première and my (his) so called fairy tale moment that I last wrote about. I’m back to reality in Seattle—integrating what feels like another major milestone and its emotions into my life. Pedro is back in Madrid celebrating his milestone with family and friends while preparing for the annual family holiday period on Mallorca—a place I got to experience myself last summer at this time.

However for 3.5 days in Houston I had the honor of watching the dreams of Pedro González Arbona come true—American style. Since I know friends and family are waiting to hear about the experience, I’m sharing it here without further delay. Please humor me as this is not my typical post, and is longer than usual.

Tempting Fate Cast & Crew

The cast & crew of ‘Tempting Fate’, produced by KevStel Group, at the Houston premiere, July 4, 2014.

Let me start by saying that while the evening and the weekend was a big success and we had a fantastic time, there were also many challenges that we had to face—separately and together. But like most dreams, there is a fair amount of work and determination involved to achieve them.

Destination Houston, U.S.A.

Getting Pedro to Houston was no small feat. For months we had been anticipating the Tempting Fate VIP private screening. Since Pedro was coming from such a long distance of 5,000 miles, the producer tried to get his flight sponsored by an airline. When that didn’t pan out, I lent my support by contacting people I knew in the travel industry. Unfortunately, none of that materialized into a ticket for Pedro either. He eventually got the funds on his own.

When it came time to purchase my tickets, I deliberately chose a flight that would arrive shortly before Pedro’s. I wanted to be at the gate upon his arrival and take photos as he departed the plane—to play the role of his paparazzi, an ongoing joke between us. Besides how often do you get the chance to actually meet someone at the airport gate anymore (post 9-11)?

Hurricane Arthur trackingAs I boarded my flight in Seattle, I knew Pedro was on the ground in Philadelphia waiting for his connecting flight to Houston. His flight was going to be slightly delayed. No worries, I thought—that just gives me some time to catch up on my writing.

When I landed in Houston and turned on my cell phone, my heart sank at the news that awaited me. His flight was cancelled due to hurricane Arthur; the airlines had put him up in a hotel, and he would arrive at 2 PM the next day—a mere four hours before the movie premiere. I was disappointed and deflated.

Navigating Houston on my Own

As I finally headed toward the baggage carousel at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, I was reminded of my travels from Mallorca to Barajas (Madrid) Airport last summer. I was expecting to be met by a mutual friend in Spain to help me with my luggage and checking in for the American leg of my flights home. He was a no show, and I was alone, just like I was now.

Houston mapOn this trip, I had been looking forward to Pedro’s help navigating through Houston to our hotel 40 miles away in Sugar Land, Texas. As I left the baggage claim area and walked out into the night air, I was hit with more reminders of Spain. The late night heat in Houston was thick with humidity and made my clothes stick to my skin. Then, even with the aid of a GPS, I was frustrated and lost within minutes of leaving the airport in my rental car.

Grounded Planes, But Spirits High

That night my sleep was interrupted multiple times with ‘pings’ from international text messages by Pedro’s parents and eventually from Pedro as well. When I went to bed the night before, I was ignorant to the havoc that hurricane Arthur was making along the East Coast.

I didn’t realize that the entire Philadelphia airport was closed down!

Within minutes of communicating with Pedro that morning, my adrenaline kicked into overdrive and I got out of bed to start researching flight activity at Philadelphia International Airport.

“What if they cancel my flight again and I’m too late for the premiere?” he asked me. “Pray everything is solved.”

“Of course,” I said trying to reassure him and calm his nerves. I was already multi-tasking in my mind, praying while texting him, and looking online for flight updates.

Flights were back on schedule at Philadelphia International Airport.

Flights were back on schedule at Philadelphia International Airport.

“Thank you, Lord for your mercy and your ways. Help us to lean on you and see you in the midst of our challenges. Give us peace. Clear the skies, literally, part the weather, and bring Pedro to Houston safely.”

“Amen,” he texted back.

Surprise Me God!

As soon as Pedro ended the chat, I was on my knees praying. “Surprise me God” has been a recurring prayer request lately as I let go of my expectations and give God greater freedom to work His ways and His will in my life. In the midst of the challenges we were facing, God managed to surprise us over and over again.

prayerTap, tap, tap was the noise I heard on the door, interrupting my prayers. It was Pedro’s producer. Wouldn’t you know it that for our first meeting I was in the hotel hallway in my robe and pajamas! Ok, that was a funny surprise God! But work was to be done.

For months Pedro and I waited for confirmation on whether he’d be able to perform at the premiere. His producer explained that the event planner was still trying to secure a keyboard for the event. That was another God-sized surprise, but no expectations on my part. After all, it was the 4th of July! How were they going to rent a keyboard on a holiday?

“Surprise me God! And Lord, while you’re at it, just get Pedro here safely and on time for the premiere.”

Our Airport Reunion

Saying that Texas is BIG is an understatement—likewise for the Houston airport. As luck would have it, I got lost at the airport trying to pick Pedro up. Although he didn’t check any luggage, we were to meet at the baggage claim area for his flight. What I didn’t know is that Houston has a baggage claim area for each terminal.

No broken bones, just a bruised ego.

No broken bones, just a bruised ego.

Under normal circumstances it would’ve been comical, but not when time was so limited. I rushed through the airport tram system between terminals to find Pedro, falling and twisting my foot in the process. In pain, and almost in tears, all I could think and selfishly pray was “please let me be able to walk the red carpet with Pedro and wear my new high-heeled shoes tonight!”

Meeting Pedro at the airport was a surreal moment for me. It had been almost a year since we last saw each other—saying farewell at the Palma Airport on Mallorca. And now through a twist of fate and the Lord’s favor, here we both were in a distant location thousands of miles from home. I almost didn’t recognize him. But when I heard him call my name, I followed the sound of his voice to catch a glimpse of him smiling near the baggage carousel.

After the standard European cheek kiss, now my routine greeting with my American friends as well, we rushed through the airport, tram system and all, (I hobbled), labored over finding the car in the parking garage labyrinth, and collapsed in the car. But before we drove away, we pulled his suit out of his luggage so the creases could fall out. There was no hope for his shirt though—ironing that would be my first job back at the hotel.

Arriving Houston

The composer and his paparazzi, I mean manager, finally reunited on American soil.

No More Problems in Houston

As we settled into our familiar conversations about life and our travels, Pedro texted his producer that he arrived and we were on our way to the hotel. His reply was the icing on the cake of God’s surprises for the day.  The keyboard was en route to the theater.  We just had to be there early for a sound check and for Pedro to get acquainted with the keyboard.

It would be a tight schedule for us, but none of that mattered. We’d be there; we’d be on time; and Pedro would perform—one of his greatest desires for the event.

Pedro toiled on the Tempting Fate soundtrack for nine months. We both faced many challenges in getting to the Houston premiere. Over the last few months, the famous line uttered by Astronaut Jim Lovell of Apollo 13 (portrayed by Tom Hanks in the movie), “Houston we have a problem,” seemed to be a recurring and somewhat comical theme; but no more.

As I rushed to dress for this Cinderella event, I marveled how we overcame each obstacle to get to this point in Pedro’s musical career. I was not going to let any more problems in Houston dampen his night. Even the pain and swelling in my foot was going to have to take a backseat to the joy in my heart. God was faithful and surprised us at each step along the way. We persevered!

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:4, NIV)

Stay tuned for my next post about Pedro’s musical pursuits to hear about the Tempting Fate red carpet event, the movie screening, and Pedro’s performance.

*Wondering where you can see this movie for yourself?  Tempting Fate was produced by KevStel Group, an independent production company based in Atlanta.  They are seeking distributors for release in 2015.

Update 2/12/2015: The Tempting Fate soundtrack has been released and the movie premieres across Nigeria and Ghana in July 2015.

On Mission for God, Part 1 ~ The Leap of Faith

I’ve got a big announcement to make!  And since today marks the 10-year anniversary of my first Celebrate Recovery meeting, the timing seems very anointed to me.  Drum roll please…

…I’m returning to Spain!  However, this trip is not for personal or business purposes like last summer.  This trip is at the invitation of a Spanish missionary whose Protestant church I attended last year.

Send.meOn Mission for God

My return trip to Spain is a charitable mission sponsored in part by Celebrate Recovery (CR) at Pine Lake Covenant Church in Sammamish, WA, where I serve.  A small team of CR leaders and I will hold a recovery conference in Rivas, a suburb of Madrid, in October.

There is a long story behind how all of this came to be—one I’ll be sure to share in time.  Today’s post is Part 1 of a series of updates I plan to do about this mission of healing.  I have briefly blogged about it here and on the Celebrate Recovery ministry site.  With today’s announcement, I’m directing my readers’ attention to the pages on my site with more background, how to support the mission, and with detailed mission information.

Hebrews 11.1A Leap of Faith

Today’s announcement marks another BIG leap of faith for me.  Although I’ve seen the Lord’s hand all over this mission, and I’ve had some time to accept this new Call on my life, I am still hesitant and a bit nervous.

This all comes at a time when my life is incredibly full.  My son is graduating from college and moving out of state this month.  Next month Pedro is launching his American movie composing careerMy mind, my time, and my heart are all divided.

A few days ago I heard the CR testimony of a French missionary who will meet me in Spain this fall for the mission.  Part of his testimony described the early stages of his call to France many years ago.  It so resonated with where I am at today, and my greatest fears.  (I am learning a lot from him.)

Spanish flag face paintingIt is asking for donations to support this cause—risking the rejection, being at the mercy of others’ generosity, and trusting God to provide the funds.  ($3,000 is a lot of money by my standards, but not God’s.)  I’m incredibly grateful that the CR ministry is matching up to $1,000, making donations go twice as far.

I know people serve abroad and go on short term mission trips all the time.  I’ve always admired them—their passion and their faith.  I never thought I would be called on mission.  However, I cannot deny what I experienced last summer in Spain.  And even more, I cannot deny that the Voice of the Lord has been speaking to me and preparing me for this Call.  I’m learning more and more how to listen and how to respond in faith.

Facing my Fears

That means I have to face my fears, commit to this mission, and walk in blind faith.  It reminds me of a famous scene in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”  Indiana, played by Harrison Ford, takes a step off a cavern ledge into the air.  Death surely awaits him.  But instead a narrow bridge mysteriously appears preventing his fall and allowing him to cross to the other side (video below).

 

I am stepping off that ledge today by publically seeking financial and prayer support for this charitable mission.

  • To subscribe to prayer and mission updates, fill out my contact form on this site.
  • If you decide to donate, please know that every gift to this mission, large or small, is helping to bring healing and revival in a country that is one of the least evangelized in the world.
pray-give-go

Click above image to donate online.

So I invite you to partner with me to plant seeds of change across the world.  Will you help bring that bridge across the cavern into view so my steps are on solid ground?  Here I go…

Click the links below for information about the mission, to pray for the team, or to donate:

Celebrate Recovery Mission to Spain

How to Donate & Pray for the Mission

Detailed Mission Information

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

  • 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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