A Reformation Day Call for Unity in the Church

Ecumenism…have you heard of that word before? If you serve in Christian ministry, you are probably aware of this philosophy.  Ecumenism is the aim or principle of promoting unity in the world’s Christian churches. I’ve become very familiar with it in recent years, not so much by conscious choice, but by the promptings of the Holy Spirit in my life.

Gratefully, my journey into ecumenism has radically changed my faith and broken through years of religious bias.  Unfortunately though, bitterness is still frequently harbored between denominations throughout the world.

Photo credit: lutheranreformation.org

The Split in the Church

How did this disharmony and division start in the Church?  What caused the divide between Catholic and Protestant denominations?

It started 500 years ago on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, nailed his ’95 Theses’ to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  His controversial proposals disagreed with the practice of selling indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church.  This practice took advantage of the poor, promising them the absolution of sin and hope of eternal salvation.

Martin Luther also contradicted the Church by claiming:

  • the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God and
  • salvation is based on grace, not by deeds.

Luther’s writings were declared heretical in 1520, and he was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church the following year. Luther went on to translate the New Testament into German while in exile in 1522. In 1534, Luther and his colleagues translated the entire Bible into German, making scripture accessible to common people and not just the highly educated and leaders of the church.

The ’95 Theses’ is commonly referred to as the spark that ignited the Protestant Reformation.  Although his assertions and those of other reformers made important changes to the universal church, it did not come without a significant cost. The split of the church into Catholicism and Protestantism led to religious wars and persecution in countries across Europe for hundreds of years, saturating the soil with the blood of the martyrs. Pope John Paul II even made an unprecedented apology for the sins of the Church in March 2000.

Drawn to Catholicism

It’s not surprising to me that growing up in a Catholic family, I never heard about the Protestant Reformation.  At 17, I converted to Protestantism, but still didn’t know anything about the Reformation. It wasn’t until I met Protestant missionaries from France in 2011, that I was enlightened about the Reformation and its impact in Europe.  I learned that the Protestant Reformation never took root in Spain and that Protestants were considered a cult compared to the over 90% Catholic population.

That came as a total shock to me. In my conversations with Pedro and Rosa, practicing Catholics from Spain, our religious differences never surfaced.  In fact, our shared belief in Jesus gave us a strong family and spiritual bond.  With the passing of my mother, a practicing Catholic, in 2011, I was drawn back to the mysteries of the Catholic Church.  I started attending weekday mass and devoted hours there in prayer.

My first encounters with the Catholic women were very warm and inviting. Some in their zeal for Catholicism tried to convert me. It led to some interesting conversations.

My Protestant friends were mostly encouraging me–to listen to the Spirit and not be boxed in by religious rules or what ‘church’ is supposed to look like.  They’ve called me a bridge-builder and a catalyst for change.

Others were biased against Catholics, mostly claiming they didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus–a commonly misconstrued belief by Protestants.

By the time I was making travel plans to visit Spain in 2013, the Lord was already working on me and preparing me to pray for the Church in Spain and for unity in the Body of Christ.  That trip, my personal pilgrimage to Spain, and my prayers, led to another prayer assignment the following year–the Celebrate Recovery mission to France and Spain.

San Jerónimo de Real Church, Madrid, Spain

A Holy Shift

Since the completion of that prayer assignment in 2014, the Lord revealed to me my unique wiring: Catholic by birth, Protestant by choice, and then opening my eyes to the genesis of Catholicism again as an adult. My spiritual heritage, and affinity and openness to both denominations gave me a great desire and calling to pray for healing of the wounds of the past, and for renewal and unity in the Church.

I never stopped believing that the Lord was leading me and that He was calling me to be a voice for unity and healing in the Church, to be ecumenical.

My faith journey across denominational lines has given me insights into how both Catholic and Protestants show up on Sundays and how they do community during the week.  I’ve witnessed major shifts in the Catholic Church that are creating a more engaged environment, and not one where parishioners just come on Sunday to fulfill their weekly obligation and warm the pews.

Catholics are being encouraged to read and study the Bible, to attend Alpha groups, to serve from their strengths (Gallup StrengthsFinder) and to grow spiritually.  I’ve seen the hunger and openness that is being fostered from the leadership of the church.  I’ve heard salvation through grace being preached in homilies. I’ve witnessed the charismatic renewal that the Holy Spirit is pouring on the Church.

In fact, some might even say that reformation is occurring in the Catholic Church.

Cathedral of the Incarnation, Granada, Spain

A Call for Unity

When God orchestrated my journey down this unusual ecumenical path, I was ignorant about the Reformation and uneducated about the spiritual climate in Europe. Having experienced the darkness and witnessed the divide there, I believe the Church needs to undergo a holy shift toward healing and unity.  We are joint heirs to the Kingdom and called to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:16-18, NIV)

500 years after the Protestant Reformation, on this Reformation Day 2017, let’s join together across denominations, in prayer, calling heaven to earth and uniting His people as we prepare for a Holy Shift in the Body of Christ.

On Red Alert for the Spiritual Needs in France

My heart was heavy this morning as I awoke to more news about the awful terrorist attacks in Paris yesterday. As an American, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the attacks on our country on 9/11/2001.

Horrific.  Senseless.  Pure evil.

Pray for Paris

Where were you when…?

Will this be another day in history that we point to like 9/11 saying, “Where were you when you heard the news of the Friday the 13th Paris terrorist attacks?”

Late yesterday afternoon while waiting in the reception room for a chiropractic appointment, to pass the time I scanned Facebook on my cell phone. As seems to be more and more the case lately, that is where I hear of this sort of breaking news.

Friends were posting updates to pray for Paris. My attention quickly switched to the internet for the latest news, but was interrupted when I was called in to see my doctor for an adjustment followed by a well-deserved massage appointment.

Then late in the day my attention returned to the events across the world while watching a network news show dedicated to this topic. I’m not one to watch these sorts of shows, usually focused on sensational journalism and high profile events. However, this was different because I have a connection to Paris and France in general.

Paris police

My French Connection

Ever since my mission to France last fall, the people and this country have more meaning and significance to me and in my prayer life.

I was only in Paris for a few hours between connections while traveling to Grenoble, France where I stayed with my missionary partners and spoke at their church.

I could’ve bypassed Paris, made a shorter layover, etc. However, when I started booking my travel arrangements, I felt God press upon me to visit Notre Dame and to pray for the people of France.

There were many obstacles that I overcame to do that, including averting the Air France strike while traveling. Through God’s providence and against all physical odds, I arrived on the footsteps of Notre Dame Cathedral five minutes before the noon Mass.

I prayer-walked through the cathedral and through the streets of Paris that day. It was a spiritual high for me.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

After having such a spiritual experience in Paris last fall, the sense of darkness hit me again last night as I watched the scenes from Paris: images of people’s bodies lying in the streets covered with white sheets, police cordoning off and guarding areas like armed militia, and hearing eye witness accounts of what happened.

Before I arrived in Paris last fall, I researched the religious history of France. I was aghast at the religious wars that were fought in this country. It led to a huge divide in the country.

Even today there is still animosity and emotional wounds carried down through family generations between Catholics and Protestants in France. This has led to apathy for organized religion in general and a dramatic decline in church attendance.

The Ongoing Battle

Centuries ago, the blood of the martyrs was splattered throughout this country. Yesterday new blood was splattered on the streets of Paris—unsuspecting victims in a new battle.

My heart aches. In my mind I pray more fervently.

Centuries ago the Huguenots fought for their religious beliefs against the kings and queens of France. The battle lines were drawn. There were persecutions, forced conversions, and ostracisms from society.

Today Parisians, Americans, and people across the world are also caught up in an invisible battle for our souls. It is terrorist attacks like the one yesterday that remind us of the evil intentions of cowardly soldiers who secretly plot against our society.

Their tactic is fear. They are being misled by the biggest enemy we have.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44, NIV)

One of many memorial sites cropping up in Paris.

One of many memorial sites cropping up in Paris.

On Red Alert to Pray

As Christians, we are called to put on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). Our strategy is to fight our battles in prayer first. Let’s not be misled by the lies of the Enemy.

It is the Blood of Jesus that overcomes the blood that is splattered across the land in countries across the world.

I am praying for the comfort of the families affected by these horrible crimes against humanity. Like a security alert system that sounds a loud signal of imminent danger, I am also on red alert to pray for God’s power to be poured out on the people of France, for a spiritual awakening and renewal of their Christian faith.

Let us all pray as we feel led for the spiritual and physical needs in France.

In times of tragedy, cry out to God. He will hear you.

In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. (Psalm 18:6, NIV)

He is listening now to our prayers and petitions for France.

To read about the Paris attacks from the perspective of my colleagues in France, click here.

CR Mission Update 3 – The Seminar in Rivas

My time in Spain is coming to a close. I’ve walked what seems like a hundred miles this past week around Madrid and visited over a dozen churches and one Egyptian temple. Thanks to all who made this mission and prayer journey possible. I’m excited to see what God does in the physical realm next. Adios España! Vaya con Dios!

Celebrate Recovery on the Plateau

The seminar to introduce Celebremos la Recuperacion (Spanish version of Celebrate Recovery) was a big success! The people in attendance at the seminar were very open to this ministry and interested in bringing it into their churches or para church organizations.  The host church in Rivas, Comunidad Cristiana Luz y Vida (Light and Life Christian Community), is prayerfully discerning how to integrate CR into their cultural context and what their next steps will be.

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CR Mission Update 1 – Arriving in France

Bon jour! It has been an amazing week in France. I am on my way to speak at the Celebrate Recovery meeting in Grenoble shortly. We head to Madrid tomorrow. The seminar is Friday and Saturday with meetings spread throughout the next week. Au revoir!

Celebrate Recovery on the Plateau

I (Ardis Nelson, member of the CR leader team at PLCC) arrived safely in France after 26 hours of travel by planes, trains, and automobiles. My travel included a whirlwind layover in Paris where I was able to attend mass and pray in Notre Dame.  I am 40 miles outside of Grenoble in the French Alps,

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What if His People Prayed, Part 2 ~ Global Prayers

Before my mother passed away three years ago, my regular prayer life was mostly made up of prayers before family meals and some daily devotional or quiet time in the morning.  I also prayed short prayers intermittently throughout the day. During one period of spiritual seeking I went so far as to venture into an overnight prayer vigil at my church.   I liked that experience, but my church stopped the practice soon after.

Inside my first church in Spain, San Jerónimo el Real, in Madrid.

On sacred ground, inside my first church in Spain, San Jerónimo el Real, Madrid.

Becoming a Prayer Intercessor

I had never considered myself a prayer warrior or a particularly articulate prayer person.   As I mentioned in Part 1 of this 2-part series, that radically changed in recent years. About a year after my mother passed away I took a spiritual gift assessment and sure enough, one of my gifts was intercessory prayer—not something that had scored high in the past.

Embracing this gift has helped me to continue on my spiritual walk across denominations and into the Catholic Church for my weekly appointment with God. This prayer practice has awakened my faith in new ways and eventually led me to Spain last summer where I finally met Rosa, Pedro’s mother. That trip was the trip of a lifetime for me—6-weeks in Spain, immersed in the culture, the food, the language and the faith. My visits to the Catholic Church here gave me a longing to worship in the grand Cathedrals and churches of Spain.

Praying in Spain

While I was in Spain, I attended mass and toured several Catholic cathedrals—13 in all, from central to southern Spain and to the island of Mallorca.  It was like being on sacred ground to visit these massive, centuries-old buildings with intricate stone carved exterior figures and laden with golden altars and statues inside.

My prayers in Spain were much different than in America. Back home, I had lots of private time to thoughtfully pray for people by name. While I was in Spain, God led me to meditate on a passage of scripture in Ezekiel. This resulted in my  praying for unity between Catholics and Protestants, and for revival in the Church of Spain. I had no preconceived notions how God was going to do that. I just knew that He was calling me to pray into this country for a spiritual awakening.

Praying Globally

People pray for global causes all the time. This takes me back (as referenced in my last post) to the words of the Casting Crowns song, “What if His People Prayed”:

“And what would happen if we prayed
For those raised up to lead the way
Then maybe kids in school could pray
And unborn children see light of day”

We pray for government officials and against laws that we believe are unjust. We pray for victims of crime and victims of natural disasters. We pray for the poor and for the hungry.

So why not pray for the people of Spain? They live in a time of economic distress and dramatically high unemployment. According to the Evangelical Covenant Church, although historically considered a Catholic country, church attendance has declined dramatically over the years and a very small percentage have a relationship with Christ.

After six weeks in Spain, I truly have a heart for the people. It started with a heart for Pedro, then his mother Rosa, and on to the remaining 24 members of his family that I met. But more than that, God got a hold of me there and showed me how different the spiritual climate was and the need for people to return to Him. They need His Hope—the kind of hope that does not disappoint. (Isaiah 49:23)

Prayer Works

Earlier this week, and nine months to the day I started my prayers on Spanish soil, I got physical confirmation of what I knew to be true in the spiritual realm. That was when a Spanish pastor and missionary visited the Celebrate Recovery meeting where I gave my testimony. It was his first time at this kind of meeting. We are now exploring ways to bring this healing ministry to Spain.

Is this the start of a spiritual revival in Spain? Is this what God was planning when he directed me to pray? It would probably sound pretty presumptuous for me to declare that (although I am pretty bold with my faith). All I know is that I did my part—and I continue to do so.  All it takes is one person, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed. (Matthew 17:20)

Do you have a desire to go to Spain and pray for the nation and its people?  I invite you to come on a 10-day prayer journey this fall and explore Spain for yourself. And maybe I’ll be there too, if those prayers are answered.  Click on this link, Prayer journey 2014, for more information.

Update 7/23/2014: The Prayer Journey was cancelled for 2014, but tickets are purchased for a Celebrate Recovery mission to France and Spain in the fall of 2014. Prayer appreciated for this mission of hope.

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

What if His People Prayed, Part 1 ~ One by One

I’ve had people tell me how they admire my walk of faith or how I diligently spend so much time in prayer.  In truth, it feels like it is not nearly enough.  I do spend hours during that weekly appointment time with God I referenced in my last post.  But on a daily basis, my prayers are much less fervent or disciplined.  It’s not for lack of trying.

I admire those who get up early, spend time with God on a daily basis, or just live minute by minute trusting the Lord and feeling His Presence.  That is my greatest desire—to feel His Presence with me all of the time—and to turn to Him for every little thing.  I know people like that, but it’s not me—not yet.

Child PrayingBeing Taught to Pray

But outside of the “Lord’s Prayer” (which is rarely prayed in Protestant group settings), where are we taught to pray?  How do we pray?

From an early age, we may have been taught this short classic bedtime prayer from the 18th century, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”  I know I heard it as a child.  It gave me a sense of comfort to know that God was listening and taking care of me.

Growing up Catholic, all I knew was the “Lord’s Prayer” and the “Hail Mary.”  I don’t remember being taught to pray on my own and never prayed my personal prayers out loud.  When I joined my first Bible study over a decade ago, I started to stretch outside of my comfort zone and got used to speaking what was in my heart.  In time it became more natural and was easier to get in touch with the Holy Spirit’s leading.

What if His People Prayed?

It was around that time that I started to listen to contemporary Christian music.  A popular new group caught my attention, Casting Crowns.  It was one of the first Christian CDs that I bought.  Their song, “What if His People Prayed?” speaks volumes to the power of our prayers and the urgency of why I pray so strongly today.

That was over ten years ago.  I wasn’t a prayer warrior then, but I am now.  Those words ring so true to me.  So when I am praying in my weekly time at the church, I pull out my written list of people’s names and pray what the Lord brings to mind to pray for them.  It connects me to them in the here and now and in the spiritual realm.

IMG_6345bIf you’ve never heard the song, “What if His People Prayed?”, here’s a few of the words and the music video:

“What if the armies of the Lord
Picked up and dusted off their swords
Vowed to set the captives free
And not let Satan have one more

What if the church, for heaven’s sake
Finally stepped up to the plate
Took a stand upon God’s promise
And stormed hell’s rusty gates”

What if No One Prayed?

What is heavy on my heart today are the few people on my prayer list who refuse to acknowledge the God of the universe, and most assuredly do not accept Jesus as their Savior.  Some would say it is a lost cause to pray for them.

However this week as I looked at how long my list of names has become, I wondered, what would happen if I cut back on this list?  More specifically what would happen if I don’t pray for those two people?  Because of their family background, I came to realize that I am probably the only person who is praying for them.  They are lost, but they are not a lost cause.

WP_20140305_009[1]What if my mother never prayed for me all those years ago when I turned my back on her?  Would I be who I am today or be so bold with my faith?  I don’t pretend to understand the what-ifs, the theology of predestination, and how God works beyond our reality of time and space.  Yet He is sovereign.

I know my prayers are important.  I know God hears them and He is responding to them.  It may not be in the way I think He will, but I trust that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will.

A Closing Prayer

And so I will continue to send my prayers heavenward for those God places on my heart and in my path.  Right now I am praying for you, my friends, family, and readers who I don’t know.  May the Lord give you a glimmer of His Presence in your life today and point you to Him in the days to come.

Who needs your prayers today?

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

An Invitation to my Sacred Space

Last week I entered into my 4th year of actively participating in the season of Lent, with ashes on my forehead as well.  No, I am not Catholic, as some might quickly assume.  I am a Protestant.  I do, however, attend weekly mass and spend quality time in meditation at a local Catholic church.  This practice started three years ago when my mother, a practicing Catholic, passed away shortly before Lent.

Ashes in cups

Cups of ashes from the Ash Wednesday service.

My Weekly Prayer Practice

It was in those first times of prayer there that the Lord showed up, gave me incredible peace, and started to speak to me in ways I’d never experienced before.  Those weekly visits became my Lenten practice that first year.  I’ve continued ever since, but not just for Lent.

Those first few months when I had one foot in my Protestant Church and another at the local Catholic Church were very difficult for me.  I knew God was doing something in me.  I knew/know that my identity in Christ was/is secured.

What I learned about myself in the process is that I am a contemplative, as described in the book Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas.  It is how I best get in touch with God.  I came to understand that it didn’t matter if I was Protestant or Catholic.  It is faith that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6).

I was encouraged and supported through this spiritually growing time by Protestant pastors who accepted my unique walk of faith, and my not doing “church in a box.”  I was living missionally.  These visits to the Catholic Church also helped me to connect with my Spanish family and gave me a longing to worship in Spain, like I did last summer.  This has had major ripple effects in my spiritual walk and in God’s Kingdom in many ways here and abroad.*

WP_20140312_008Welcome to my Sacred Space

In light of my unique perspective, I thought I would share with my readers what it is like for me, a contemplative Protestant, to worship in a Catholic Church.  In so doing, maybe some of my readers won’t judge the Catholics so harshly, or maybe the Protestant Churches could learn something about this as well.  I am not advocating one way or the other is correct.  It is merely my perspective; and I am not a seminary student, an ordained minister, or a theologian.

First of all, I believe that no church can ‘meet’ everyone’s needs.  Yes, Jesus can meet all of their needs, but the way one church structures their church service, or the ‘vibe’ of the church, will not appeal to everyone.  I don’t think it is about structure; it is about content.  It is about preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

One thing that is consistent about the Catholic Church is that they all have a set structure or order to the mass.  They even have the same scripture readings in all churches throughout the world, as dictated by the head of the Catholic Church.  (Not sure exactly if that is the Pope or some organization under him.   As I said, I’m not an expert on this.  The idea here is that it is divinely revealed as to what scripture is read worldwide.)  Those scripture readings are published in various publications and online.

I have to admit that in the past, I was one of those people who felt that the mass was just a bunch of rote responses and prescribed prayers.  As I’ve come to view it and take it in, I see that it is a beautiful dialogue between God and His people.  One could just say the responses, but I prefer to contemplate and say the responses in praise to God.  There is also deliberate quiet time in mass, albeit, much too brief for my liking.  It is all a rhythm back and forth.  To me it feels like an invitation to encounter God.  It is a sacred time.  I covet this time and notice a dramatic difference in my level of peace when I miss it.

WP_20140312_004One last thing, because I’ve been asked and know people are curious.  I don’t take communion—not because I don’t want to.  It’s because I’d have to become a member of the Catholic Church.  I’ve had lots of dialogue around that topic with priests, pastors, and even bloggers.  Instead I receive a blessing from the priest.  (And that is a topic for another post, but you can check out a very enlightening post by a Catholic blogger that I follow and admire.)

Find Him in the Stillness

Well, that’s a glimpse into my sacred space.  If you are reading this post on a Wednesday morning, you could actually walk into the small chapel of that church and see me praying, reading scripture, or journaling my conversations with God.  My friends and family all know I’m there, interceding on their behalf and talking with God.  But now it is late Tuesday night as I write this, and I will turn in so I don’t miss my weekly appointment with God.

What are you doing to give God more space in your life?  I know that if you give him the stillness of your day, and seek Him, you will find Him.  I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. (Proverbs 8:17, NIV)

*Live locally and interested in what those ripple effects are?  You can request information about my next speaking opportunity through my Contact Page.

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

Stop, Look & Listen to God

On New Year’s Day 2014, I attended mass at a local Catholic Church.  I suppose it may seem like a strange thing for a Protestant to do, but it has become commonplace for me on special occasions.  It was the perfect time for God to show up and remind me of what brought me here in the first place, and to give me direction for the New Year.

The Fruit of Spiritual Growth

It was three years ago this month that He put the wheels in motion for my first step into this church.  Within weeks God brought about the amazing revelations and healing that led to my writing “Walking My Mother Home” published in Journeys to Mother Love.  So I sat in church reflecting, and taking in the significance of how God has aligned so many events and brought so many people in my life these past several years that led to my unique walk of faith.

One place of my reflection and prayer in Spain on the island of Mallorca, July 2013.

One place of my reflection and prayer in Spain on the island of Mallorca, July 2013.

There are too many to thank here, but they know who they are:  pastors, support group leaders, and men and women of faith, here and abroad.  They encouraged me to follow where God was leading me, to reclaim my identity, and to live missionally.  They planted seeds of righteousness in me.  They fertilized my dreams of bringing Glory to God through my writing and my voice.

After 13 years of actively seeking spiritual growth and ten years of recovery, they have supported me in my journey to turn my weakness into victory, and my brokenness into a personal ministry of compassion for the poor in spirit.

Stop-Look-and-Listen-to-God-Large-Poster-9780764707513A Word from the Lord

“What’s next, Lord?” I asked during a moment of silent prayer in church.  The word He immediately gave me was ‘STOP’.  It wasn’t to stop serving or reaching out to others.  It was more like ‘stop, look, and listen’.

In all of my excitement about going to Spain last year, it wasn’t unusual for me to get ahead of God or to start acting on something that really wasn’t the right time.  Case in point, I thought I was supposed to speak in Spain and eagerly jumped into setting up talks and honing my speaking skills.

“Not now,” He lovingly told me.  “But, but, but…”  I knew I had to let go and trust Him.

The other word that God gave me for 2014 was ‘reflect’.  That doesn’t sound like a hard thing for a contemplative to do.  I spend hours in prayer every week; so what’s the difference this year?  God reminded me recently of a scripture that He gave me when all of these amazing things started to happen.  It was Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

I have gotten away from that posture in the past two years.  I was so excited about traveling to Spain, being a first time author, and Pedro’s music success, that I haven’t slowed down much to just take it all in.  It is a normal part of my life now, but there are times that I forget to do as Mary did.  Don’t act on it, just treasure it.

treasure heart verseTreasures of the Heart

God made some pretty big deposits in my heart these last few years.  He has given me new dreams for the coming year and beyond.  This year I want to be more deliberate in noticing when to stop, look, and listen for His guidance.  I want to abide more and react less.  Maybe that even means not being so bold on my blog, sharing so much, or so often.

Whatever it takes, I want to be in alignment with God’s will for my life and to wait for His perfect timing.  Hopefully by the end of 2014, I can attest to His building the fruit of patience in me like never before.  And I’ll have more things to treasure in my heart for the coming year.

What is your focus for 2014?

Waiting on Pins and Needles

               The days were slowly passing by since I sent my manuscript off to the publisher on December 1.  At first I put the entire idea of being published out of my mind.  I had gone away for a weekend to write the manuscript and put so much of my normal family and life commitments on hold as I worked toward the manuscript deadline.  So naturally after I sent the manuscript into the publisher, I felt a tremendous sense of relief.  I met my goal.  I wrote the story.  I celebrated.  Then I filed it in the back of my brain and jumped into the thick of the holiday season.
                Then one week passed by, 2 weeks, 3 weeks.  As Christmas approached I hoped that maybe there would be a Christmas gift in my email.  On December 22, I did receive an email from the publisher.  The subject line read: Christmas Gift from Cladach.  My heart skipped a beat.  I opened the email with much anticipation only to be immediately let down by the reality that this was a marketing email to announce a free e-book that the publisher was offering.  It was a nice Christmas promotional idea, but my hopes were dashed.
And there it was again—right in the front of my mind.  This email seemed to trigger all of my doubts about going down this path and if I really could be a writer.  I had put myself out there.  I had written what was on my heart to write—the story that I felt God calling me to write—and it came back void.  I felt exposed.  I was already in a writer’s funk and not writing on my blog.  There was nothing I could physically do about it, so I worked on letting go of my fears and doubts emotionally again.
The New Year brought renewed hope for me.  I attended my monthly Christian Writer’s meeting and started to think about setting some writing goals for 2012.  I decided to hold on to the belief that this piece would be published this year—if not by this publisher then by another.  So many people had witnessed this story unfold and told me how amazing it was.  So many people had been inspired by it.  So many people said they couldn’t wait to read about it.  God was definitely telling me to pursue it.  I trusted Him with this story and again put it in the back of my mind.
As a beginning writer, I was learning how difficult the waiting part of this process was.  I definitely wasn’t looking forward to the potential rejection that commonly follows.  I knew that the two month milestone would be pivotal to me.  It is at that point, that a writer usually contacts the publisher if they haven’t heard.
A few days before the two month anniversary, I watched the movie “The Help” again.  The first time I saw it, I was just starting to see myself as a writer, so Skeeter’s journey to become a writer really resonated with me.  This time around I watched the bonus feature about the making of the movie.  The bonus video clip told the story about how the book debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list and the impact it had on Kathryn Stockett, the author’s, life.  She was with friends when she got the news and immediately they marked this moment in time (with a toast) as an event that would forever change her life.  I got goose bumps when I saw this video clip.  I sensed that I was moving toward this event in my life too.  I felt encouraged and wrote about this in my journal.  I felt poised for success.  I was on pins and needles.
The following day, the much anticipated contact from the publisher arrived.  The subject of the email was the reply (RE) to the original email I sent with my manuscript.  I knew as soon as I saw it that it was the long awaited answer.  I let out a scream and held back on opening the email.  I received it as I was on my way to an appointment. I delayed opening the email until later in the day when I wasn’t so rushed.  After I returned from my appointment, I prepared myself by spending some time in prayer and surrendering the outcome to God. 
The email reply was short—just one line.  I immediately thought it was a rejection.  I had a friend on speaker phone with me to share this moment.  I read the line silently and then began screaming—and crying. 
“What, what, what?” my friend asked.  “What does it say”?
“They’ve accepted my story!” I shouted through tears of joy.  “They are sending a contract!”  My sheer joy elicited excitement from her as well.  The house was filled with a mixture of shouts, laughter, and tears.  My son rushed downstairs to find out what all of the commotion was about.  He thought that something terrible had happened.  I told him the good news and held him in a big hug for a long time letting all of the emotion release from my body.
This excitement was followed by emails to the publisher, my husband, my prayer partners, my writing teacher, and of course, Rosa and Pedro in Spain.  Later that evening, I attended my regular support group meeting and let the tears flow some more.  The timing was so perfect with the anniversary of my mother’s passing just one week away.  This day was also the 8-year anniversary of the devastating event that led me to start recovery in the first place.  God had perfectly redeemed this day for me into something with such a positive nature.
The icing on the cake that night was celebrating and toasting this occasion with my friend at her house.  It was like déjà vu.  Just like Kathryn Stockett, the author of “The Help,” my life was taking a potentially dramatic change.  We were marking this date as a milestone in my life and thanking God for His blessing.
Toasting the acceptance of my manuscript with a friend, January 2012.

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

I know my writing isn’t Pulitzer quality and that I am only one of eight authors in this book.  I also know that this was only possible because it is God’s will.  My waiting for this news wasn’t just something that was two months in the making.  This is part of the bigger story about how God redeems years of heartache, depression and loneliness.  It is the restoration for the years that the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25). 
The really cool thing about this is that this story is not done yet.  God is at work in my life.  He is at work in Spain.  He is at work in the Protestant Church and the Catholic Church.  God is at work all around us.  He is for our good if we surrender to His will.  That is the message of this story.
I’m no longer on pins and needles about the publishing of my manuscript.  However I am still on pins and needles on what lies ahead.  It is a quiet tension inside of me that I need to get used to as I live a life where I often struggle to put God first.  When I do, He is graciously waiting for me.
  • WELCOME to my site!

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

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

  • Returning to Spain

    Arrival on Spanish SoilApril 29th, 2018
    Vamos a España!
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