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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España Update 5 ~ My Host Family

My trip to Spain came to an end several days ago.  Hopefully the blogging about my travels will continue here intermittently for quite some time.  I couldn’t let another day go by though without writing something in appreciation to the family who hosted me these last six weeks.  I hope you enjoy getting to know them a bit as well.

The Importance of Family

From the start of our relationship with Pedro three years ago, I watched him interact with family members back home over Skype and heard stories about his family gatherings.  I was impressed to hear how important family was to him.  On his initial student profile (filled out as part of his application process as an exchange student), Pedro didn’t mark “family oriented” as one of his personality characteristics.  I remember later telling him that was an oversight on his part.  I knew it then and lived it firsthand myself these last six weeks.

Rosa, me, Pedro, and Rafa, my host family for 6 weeks in Spain.

Rosa, me, Pedro, and Rafa, my host family for 6 weeks in Spain.

Over the last three years I’ve heard family member names come up in Skype conversations, received photos of new babies born into the family, and prayed through their trials and tribulations with them.  So besides Pedro’s parents, Rosa and Rafa, I knew I also wanted to meet his other relatives.

The Family Tree

One of our early conversations when we first met Pedro was about his family tree.  It was a very memorable conversation because as he tried to explain the familial relationships, we kept getting confused with the family labels he used.  It was really quite comical as we couldn’t understand how Pedro, who had no siblings, could have nieces and nephews.  It turns out that in Spain, his 1st and 2nd cousins are considered nieces and nephews.

Within days of my arrival in Madrid, the family visits started.  After the first one, Rafa, Pedro’s father, kindly created a family tree to help me navigate all of the names and relationships.  By the time I left Spain last week, I met almost everyone from Rosa’s side of the family, from her one year old great-nephew to her 93-year old father.  I met 26 relatives in all, from Madrid to Seville to Mallorca, an island off the coast of Spain.

Rosa, outside the summer home in Soller, Mallorca, Spain--for 3 generations.

Rosa, outside the summer home in Soller, Mallorca, Spain–for 3 generations.

Living in a Large Family

Not only did I meet them, I also lived with many of them, at the family summer home in Soller, Mallorca.  This home has been in the family for three generations, and is set up to accommodate sleeping arrangements for over 20 people.  Pedro has spent every August of his life there.  Everyone extended me a warm welcome and treated me like family too.  It was an amazing gift.

In Soller, I got a bird’s eye view into living in a large family.  I witnessed the fellowship amongst adults and friendship between the children.  I observed their gatherings at meals, at the pool, at the beach, and at play.

I was immersed not only in Spain; I was immersed in family living.  Coming from a background of divorced parents and few relatives, there were times I felt inadequate around this large family, not knowing how to fit in, while also trying to overcome the language barrier.

A fond farewell with Pedro's grandfather.

A fond farewell with Pedro’s grandfather.

What I saw day in and day out was a family that put a high value on the children and was bonded in love.  With Carmen, the family matriarch gone, the grandfather is the glue that holds this family together.  It will be a mixed blessing with his passing, as the caregiver role that this family carries is quite heavy.  It was truly a gift to meet him. Although our communication was hampered by the language barrier, he was always trying to communicate with me—repeating the same questions over and over.  I didn’t mind though.  His attention was welcome, and it helped me with my Spanish too.

An Evening to Remember

My final night in Spain was spent at the family home with 19 other people.  It was filled with precious memories as part of this large family: help with my online flight check-in, hanging around the pool, meeting more family, playing board games and late-night Charades.

My parting gift to this family was a signed copy of Journeys to Mother Love, that includes the published story that brought us all together.  It was a poignant and sentimental moment for me—traveling 5,300 miles across the world and coming full circle with the story in my mind.

With my Spanish family on my final night in Spain.

With my Spanish family on my final night in Spain.

A Fond Farewell

I know that God gives us what we need in so many unexpected and special ways when we chose to follow His will and His ways.  When we opened up our home to Pedro, and made him part of our family three years ago, I never dreamed that I would one day be the recipient of that same hospitality.  When I traveled to Spain, I didn’t realize what kind of effect that would have on me—never having a close family or many relatives growing up.  Their kindness touched me in deep ways that even now brings tears to my eyes.

I left Spain with a bigger heart for this family and a deep appreciation for them opening their home and their lives to me.  I miss Spain.  I miss them.  But I know our goodbyes were not the end of this relationship.  It is just adios for now and on to the next chapter of the story that God is weaving between our families.

A parting gift from one of the grandchildren who touched my heart.

A parting gift from one of the grandchildren who touched my heart.

On a Personal Note

I am closing this post with a special thank you to Pedro, Rosa, Rafa, and my entire Spanish family.  Muchas, muchas gracias!  May God richly bless you for the many kindnesses you have shown me.  With love, Ardis

~ If this is your first time visiting my blog, you can start reading about my Spanish travels here.

The Road to Spain, Update 7 ~ Spiritual Readiness

After turning my back on my Catholic faith as a youth, I had only stepped inside a Catholic church once or twice in my life, like for a funeral.  The church didn’t seem relevant to me.  It seemed rote—reciting pre-scripted prayers and responses.

However, when I took Pedro, a Spanish exchange student who lived with us, to an afternoon mass in Seattle three years ago, I witnessed something I had never seen before in a Catholic Church (or was too young to notice).  I witnessed people raising their hands in worship during hymns or at times of the rote responses.  I saw genuine worship, expressed like I had only seen done in Protestant churches. It left a favorable impression of the Catholic Church on me and started to erase my leftover bias.The Cross

Six months later when Pedro’s grandmother died, I had a mass said for her (a common Catholic practice).  I also had a mass said for my terminally ill mother. (If you don’t know what that is, think of it as a prayer service dedicated to someone you love).  It was at that mass that God opened my eyes and ears to really being in tune with His voice.

Reawakening my Faith

According to Gary Thomas, author of “Spiritual Pathways”, we are uniquely wired in the ways in which we connect with God.  His book describes ten ways:  Naturalists, Sensates, Traditionalists, Ascetics, Activists, Caregivers, Enthuisasts, Contemplatives and Intellectuals.

After my experiences at this Catholic mass over 2 ½ years ago, I realized I was a contemplative. The defining characteristic of a contemplative is that they connect with God through adoration. So I started to attend mass and a weekly prayer service where I could devote quality time with God.

It was in these times of adoration that He was spiritually preparing me for my trip to Spain.  He has given me a glimpse into the Catholic Church, that at first glance may seem like a strange thing—a Protestant attending mass.  But I believe it is through these experiences, that He has uniquely prepared me to cross denominational barriers and connect with the people of Spain.

Exploring my first church in Spain, San Jeronimo el Real, Madrid

Exploring my first church in Spain, San Jeronimo el Real, Madrid

First Spanish Mass

Ever since these discoveries about myself, I have been looking forward to seeing the historic cathedrals of Spain and attending mass in a different setting and language.  I desired to worship God alongside native speakers and feel God’s presence in this place and time.  All of the pieces have been aligning for this part of my journey.  I left Seattle spiritually ready and open to experiencing God in a new way.

I had a glimpse into that on my third day in Spain when I attended my first Spanish Catholic mass.  It didn’t end up being in some grand historic cathedral like I envisioned.  It was in an old neighborhood Catholic Church with Rosa by my side.  I was pretty lost in the service, not understanding the words, but could generally follow along with the order of the mass. None of this prevented me from silently praying for the people of Spain or preparing my heart for this part of my journey.  When the tears came, as I knew they would, Rosa was there with a comforting hand.

Interior of San Jeronimo el Real Church

Interior of San Jeronimo el Real Church

What’s Next?

This part of my journey is just beginning.  I know I will visit other cathedrals in Spain—and hopefully another mass, as well as a Protestant church service.  My days are long and filled with lots of activities.  It has been hard to develop a routine and spiritual discipline here, but I would be missing out on why I believe God has called me for such a time as this if I didn’t respond to His invitation.

So I am ready physically, mentally and spiritually for this trip of a lifetime.  I have been consciously and subconsciously preparing for it in stages for the last three years.  I know God walks before me into this next phase of my journey.  I am grateful for His pointing me in this direction and for the support and prayers of my friends and family.

~ This completes my “Road to Spain” blog series.  My Spanish travel series starts with España Update 1 ~ The Longest Day.  Adios and vaya con Dios! (So long and go with God.)

The Perfect Gift & A Tribute to Friendship

If you follow my blog, you know that Rosa is my kindred spirit and ‘sister’ in Spain, whom I will meet two weeks from now.  I’ve been busy preparing for my trip to Spain, and while I knew Friday was Rosa’s birthday, I didn’t realize that it was her 60th birthday, or that a big family celebration was planned.

Rosa’s milestone birthday party brought up memories for me of my 52nd birthday party (a delayed 50th birthday celebration because of the events surrounding my mother’s passing as referenced in Journeys to Mother Love).  Rosa and Pedro attended that celebration via Skype.

It was a very emotional day for me.  It was my first birthday since my mother passed away.  Pedro surprised me that day with the first of his compositions written personally for me, Ardis’ Song.  I wept as I read aloud a story I had written about the connection with my Spanish family.

Pedro and Rosa join the birthday celebration via Skype.

Pedro and Rosa join the birthday celebration via Skype.

This story, “The Perfect Gift”, was the first writing assignment I tackled in my memoir class a few months before my birthday.  It was the one piece I wanted to have published.  To date, “The Perfect Gift” has only been shared at my birthday party and at a few Toastmasters meetings.  It is the piece I hope to share in Spain.

In honor of Rosa’s birthday, I’ve decided to post this short story on my blog.  When you’re done, I’m sure you’ll agree why I consider Rosa my kindred spirit and Sister in Christ, and why I am so excited to meet her.

The Perfect Gift

This was the long-awaited day of Pedro’s return to America.  Pedro was the foreign exchange student that our family hosted for a month the summer before.  Many of the past months were spent preparing for his return to our home.  On Pedro’s first night in America he was tired and jetlagged from his day of traveling.  He tried to stay up as long as possible to get his body in sync with the 9-hour time zone difference.  And of course he didn’t want to break with our tradition of exchanging gifts on his first night in America.

Pedro and the family all gathered in the playroom upstairs—just like last year.  Each family member opened their gifts from Pedro’s family.  I patiently waited as each person opened their gifts.  I had secretly plotted with Pedro over the last few months what to get them.  I was joyful as I watched each person open their gift and genuinely thank Pedro for his family’s thoughtfulness.

I knew as soon as I saw my gift that it would be a special gift—one that would tie our families together but I didn’t know how profoundly God had orchestrated it until later.  Our families had been through so much the last year.  Rosa, Pedro’s mother, and I both lost our mothers.  We had prayed for each other and encouraged each other from across the world—neither one of us speaking the other’s native language but by emailing our communications through an online translator.

The gift was a sterling silver cross pendant embedded with sparkling Swarovski crystals. As I looked at the cross I knew immediately that Rosa had picked it out just for me.  Although Rosa is Catholic and I am Protestant, we both have a strong faith that connects us.  During the several month period when our mothers were dying, Rosa and I sent each other encouraging notes and prayers to help each other through the painful process of watching and waiting for the inevitable to happen.  The cross was a beautiful reminder of how God had brought us together and how our mothers were both at peace as a result of our friendship.

Receiving the perfect gift, June 2011

The next morning as I got dressed and put on the cross, the first wave of its significance hit me.  My thoughts raced back to a visit with my mother in November 2009.  That was my first visit after my mother’s stroke—a stroke that left her partially paralyzed and virtually unable to communicate.  The timing of that trip had been so painstakingly planned as to not interfere with my previous commitments.  I was volunteering to serve at a ministry function and then one week later was my 50th birthday party.  I sandwiched the visit between the two events.  Days before the ministry event my mother had taken a turn for the worst and I feared that I would not make it back home to see her alive.

But my mother miraculously recovered and I was able to complete my ministry obligations.  On the plane ride to St. Louis I couldn’t help but think about what to expect over the next few days.  What state would my mother be in?  Would I be able to handle all of the medical decisions that needed to be made?  Would I be able to emotionally handle seeing my mother after all these years?  I prayed and prayed for God’s guidance and strength to carry me through those next few days.

I recalled how God had abundantly answered my prayers on that trip.  I remembered how after I arrived at my mother’s bedside that God gave me absolute peace about being there and compassion in serving and loving on my mother.  One of those first loving acts was to give my mother the cross pendant that I received for my first communion.  I had treasured that cross for over forty years.  It was a special gift from my Aunt Ardis who was also my Godmother.  My intention was to just let my mother borrow the necklace until I returned home.  I knew I’d never be able to physically part with it.  I also knew that even leaving it on my mother’s neck for the few days while I was there might lead to it getting stolen.  I had learned long ago to never give my mother anything of value because it would always mysteriously disappear from her room at the nursing home.

When the time came to leave, I made the painful decision to stay a few days longer.  There was just too much to do and I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my mother.  It was just too soon.  I knew that staying with my mother meant cancelling my 50th birthday party.  It also meant that I would be spending my 50th birthday away from my family and friends.  As I prayed over my decision, God gave me more peace.  My birthday party seemed like a selfish consideration in light of what my mother was going through.  I knew it would be the best thing to do.

I spent my 50th birthday at my mother’s bedside.  I made the final arrangements for the hospice care to start.  I met with the chaplain.  I fed my mother, bought her flowers, read to her and massaged her feet.  It was a very bittersweet day.  I couldn’t help but think about how my mother brought me into the world and cared for me as a baby and now I was doing the same for my mother.

Mom holding my first communion cross.

Mom holding my first communion cross.

Every day that I was with my mother I would put the pendant around her neck.  Then at the end of the day, I would take it off again.  I didn’t feel comfortable leaving it on her overnight.  Then came the final good-byes.  It was the evening of my 50th birthday.  I felt God pulling on my heart and telling me to let go of the necklace—to leave it with my mother.  After the events of the last ten days, it seemed silly to even think of keeping it for myself.  So my last act of love for my mother was to give her that cross pendant.  As painful as it was, I told my mother that was my promise to see her again.  I prayed that God would honor that request.  That was the last time I saw that pendant.  Thankfully it was not the last time I saw my mother alive though.

So as I put this new pendant around my neck—the cross I received from Pedro’s family the night before—I felt God telling me that He was rewarding me for sacrificing that first communion cross for my mother.  I knew that God had replaced it with one that would have new meaning and special memories attached with it.  I was overwhelmed with joy at this new revelation.  I couldn’t wait to tell Pedro.  I couldn’t wait to tell Rosa.  While Rosa and I had journeyed together over the last few months as we prepared to bury our mothers, Pedro’s family did not know anything about my giving away my cross.  I truly felt kissed by God.  I was grateful for this tangible gift of His love and how He orchestrated these events.

Almost two weeks had passed since I had received the cross from Pedro’s family.  My family along with Pedro, were now vacationing in central Oregon.  So much had been going on since Pedro’s arrival that I didn’t have an opportunity to Skype with Rosa and personally thank her for her gift.  Pedro would Skype with his parents every few days, but each time I didn’t want to interfere with his family time.  But on this day, I had pre-arranged with Pedro to have some Skype time with Rosa.  Pedro and I sat on the deck of the condo with his ipad revealing video images of his parents 5,300 miles away in Madrid.

I was, of course, wearing the cross that day—as I had almost every day since I received it.  Rosa immediately made mention of it by pointing to my neck.  I didn’t need Pedro to translate that reference, but he did anyway.  I thanked Rosa for the necklace.  Before I could start to relay the story about my first communion cross, Rosa began to tell Pedro the significance of the cross to her and why she picked it out as a gift.  Pedro translated her story to me.  Pedro explained that Rosa’s mother had given her a similar necklace for her 50th birthday.  I was astonished.  I looked at Pedro with surprise in my eyes.

“Did you tell your mother the story about the cross?” I asked him.  “No, no, I didn’t,” he said.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  It only took an instant for that to sink in.  I grew more excited about her gift and about telling Rosa about the connection.  Pedro knew the story, so I told him to relay the story to his mother in Spanish.

I smiled as I clasped the cross in my right hand.  Again, I was recounting all the events of the last year that had happened between us—the miracles that God performed in the passing of our mothers, our friendship across the world and now this simple yet miraculous connection between us.  The cross was a reminder of our love for each other, our love for our mothers and our love for God.  This cross really was the perfect gift.

As we continued on with our skype talking about the sightseeing we had done and the activities of the last few days, I couldn’t help but remember the verse that God had given me each time He gave me one of these special moments to relish.  It was Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”  That was exactly what I was doing.

Airport goodbyes, July 2011, the last time we physically (not virtually) saw Pedro.

Airport goodbyes, July 2011, the last time we physically (not virtually) saw Pedro.

© 2013 Ardis A. Nelson

The Rest of the Story

This piece went on to birth the manuscript for “Walking My Mother Home.”  In fact, the women at my 52nd birthday party prayed over me that day and anointed my writing.  The manuscript was written and submitted one week later.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

For me, this story is still unfolding.  It’s a lot to keep up with on top of my own family commitments and American relationships.  But this I know for sure, God has anointed this Spanish connection from the start and the next part of the story is just beginning.

The Road to Spain, Update 5 ~ The Writing

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

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

Communicating Online

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

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

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

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

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

Communicating Face to Face

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

Barajas International Airport in Madrid, Spain

Barajas International Airport in Madrid, Spain

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

It’s All About the Journey

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

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

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

It's all about the journey.

It’s all about the journey.

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

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

The Road to Spain, Update 4 ~ Mental Readiness

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

Immersing in the language

Immersing in the language

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

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

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

Immersing in the country

Immersing in the country

Immersing my Mind

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

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

Immersing in the music

Immersing in the music

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

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

It’s a First!28 Days to Spain

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

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

The Road to Spain, Update 3 ~ Physical Readiness

I often refer to my trip to Spain as a pilgrimage.  But what does that mean? defines a pilgrimage as a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion.

My Pilgrimage

Why do I consider my trip a pilgrimage?  The connection I have to my Spanish family was influenced by events that were deeply personal and spiritual in nature (as referenced in Journeys to Mother Love).  It is on this trip that Rosa and I will personally meet face to face for the first time—three years after having hosted her son, Pedro, in our Seattle area home.

Santiago de Compostela, the final destination for "The Way of St. James", a pilgrimage in Northern Spain visited annually by 100,000 people.

Santiago de Compostela, the final destination for “The Way of St. James”, a pilgrimage in Northern Spain visited annually by 100,000 people.

How do you prepare for a 6-week pilgrimage 5,300 miles across the globe?  It is not that much different than preparing for a marathon or any long-term goal, by pacing yourself over time and with lots of discipline.

My goal is to be ready physically, mentally, and spiritually to meet the demands of this trip.  When I think of my trip and preparation in this context, the scripture that most readily comes to mind is Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV)

Getting Healthy

Body, mind and spirit—even in my normal everyday life I struggle with keeping a balance between these areas, so I knew this would be a challenge for me.  My first area to tackle was getting my body physically fit for the trip.

I’ve been making changes to my lifestyle in phases.  Phase 1 was to get my body clock back on a more normal circadian rhythm.  That basically meant I switched from working second shift to first shift.  (My most creative writing time is late at night.)  Phase 2 was to start a daily video workout routine, Slim In 6, at home.

A simple step-by-step approach to weight loss and heathy eating.

A simple step-by-step approach to weight loss and heathy eating.

The next layer of fitness, Phase 3, was to change my eating habits.  I heard about the AdvoCare 24-Day Challenge (cleanse and weight loss program) through my friend, Linda Reed, who had great results.  She was so sold on the products that she signed up to be an AdvoCare distributor and fitness coach.

I had wanted to do a cleanse for several years.  However, it always sounded like such a difficult thing to do.  But this time I was highly motivated.  With Linda’s step by step coaching and encouragement, I completed the 24-Day Challenge last week.  I eliminated foods from my diet after years of trying to do it on my own.  I feel great and my energy level is much higher.

I won’t reveal my official results here (or yet), but suffice it to say, I am very pleased with the progress I’ve made in losing pounds and inches after five weeks of exercise and healthy eating.  I am continuing on with all of my new lifestyle changes at least until I leave for Spain.

The Temple of Our Bodies

The recent steps I’ve taken to prepare physically for my pilgrimage have reinforced my belief that my body really is a temple—a temple that houses the Holy Spirit.  I am making sacrifices to treat my body like one by making it a priority in my overall health.  The result not only affects my physical health, it is affecting my emotional well-being, although that is not what I intended to do.

40 daysI hope my physical preparations have inspired you to eat healthy too, and treat your body like a temple.  All it took was 24 days and an AdvoCare coach like Linda.

Now that I have Phases 1, 2 and 3 in place, I’m moving on to my next area of readiness—preparing my mind—with only 40 days to go.

The Road to Spain, Update 2 ~ The Year of Waiting

Last week marked one year since I secured the funds for my travel and confirmation of my trip to Spain this summer.  I remember it vividly because I wrote a post about it and Skyped (video call) with my Spanish family on that day too.

A perfect fit and a perfect exchange.

A perfect fit and a perfect exchange.

Last year at this time, my friend Linda graciously helped me by unexpectedly buying my mother’s wedding ring.  While I was planning on selling the ring to get money for my trip, I never expected it to go to someone I knew.  That was more confirmation of God’s hand on my trip.  It was a win-win situation for both of us as she wanted the ring to celebrate the receipt of her mental health license; and it fit her perfectly.

The night before I revealed all of this to my Spanish family over Skype, I went over to Linda’s home to do the exchange—my mother’s ring for my airfare to Spain.  It was a memorable evening as we sipped wine, talked about the journey ahead and the reality of my trip started to sink in.  Linda has been a big cheerleader for me along this journey and I know she will be there in spirit—along with my other prayer partners.

Revealing My Secret

I Skype with my Spanish family about once a month.  Rosa is learning English, but Pedro still does a lot of translating between us.  On this particular video call I asked Pedro to view my blog online and translate this newest post to his mother.  I eagerly watched and waited for their reactions.  He laughed when he translated the part about his music sales not being as much as I’d hoped (to cover my trip costs).  Later as he started to connect the dots in the story he said, “Oh, I know where you are going”.

I'm heading to Spain!

I’m heading to Spain!

As he progressed through his translation of the story, I heard the excitement grow in his voice.  He met Linda the year before and was happy to hear how she was involved in this story.  As Pedro neared the end, Rosa broke her silence by speaking in English.  “Incredible, incredible,” she said with delight in her voice.

Pedro told me they would reserve the summer of 2013 for me.  Rosa, in her excitement, rattled off all the cities in Spain we would visit and said she would go to a travel agent and start planning.

We talked about the core reason for this trip and my desire to continue with my writing.  Rosa agreed to share with me her perspective of our story and wanted to get started on that too.

Still Hard to Believe

That was the start of my planning for this trip of a lifetime—6 weeks in Spain.  Last month, Pedro’s father sent me a calendar of my itinerary including most of those cities we first discussed.  I will share more about my itinerary, etc. over the next few months and hope to post regular updates on my blog from Spain.  My writing is a significant portion of this trip, but I also want to be in the moment.

8 weeks until I arrive in Spain.

8 weeks until I arrive in Spain.

I feel blessed beyond belief at times for this family’s generosity to take me in like this.  They are not only opening up their home to me, they are opening up their lives in a multitude of layers—Rosa for trusting me to write about her side of the story, knowing that it will bring up painful memories—and Pedro for letting me partner with him on his musical pursuits.  I pray I can do it all justice and that God would keep me focused on His will for it.

Unbeknownst to me or my family, the road to Spain started with our opening up our home to Pedro, for a short term exchange program in July 2010.  Now, three years later, it is my turn to be the exchange student.  The waiting is almost over.

Dad & Mom ~ Birthday Reflections

When I logged on to my computer Wednesday morning my Outlook calendar reminded me that it was my father’s birthday—his first since he passed away last summer.  He would’ve been 95.  I gave his eulogy and wrote a series of posts about his passing while in the midst of my grief and processing.   In those posts I recounted how beautiful his passing was and about the family healing that resulted.

Nine months have passed and we have all returned to our busy lives in various parts of the country.  My stepmother has meticulously cleaned out the house and my father’s belongings.  She invested in some long overdue major house repairs.  Earlier this month her son permanently moved into their home.  It is her time to be cared for and rest easy after several years of being my father’s primary caregiver.

Remembering Dad

In years past, I would call my father on his birthday or sometimes send him a card.  He wasn’t a sentimental person so that didn’t matter to him.  In a strange sort of way though, I felt closer to my father this week than on prior birthdays.

My father's rosary

My father’s rosary

My father’s birthday fell on a Wednesday, the day that I regularly attend a church service and devote a large block of time in prayer.  Although not Catholic, I keep his rosary with me during these times.  Yesterday as I clutched it and prayed, I sensed his presence and his peace.

When the family went through my father’s personal belongings, I was surprised to find the rosary.  He turned away from his Catholic roots many, many years ago.  Dad was a born again Christian, yet he still had his rosary—although he probably forgot about it long ago.  It was broken and not much to look at—black with small wooden beads.

All of my siblings and family are now Protestant (we were raised Catholic) so I knew no one would want it.  Since the Catholic Church played such a significant role in my mother’s peaceful passing and my healing, I knew I couldn’t let it be discarded.

Remembering Mom

Much like Wednesday’s remembrance of my father, I mark my mother’s birthday with pleasant memories of her.  I don’t have either of the rosaries I bought her on my trips back home.  Both were lost.  The only mementos I received after she died was a bracelet I bought her for Mother’s Day—the last time I saw her alive—and a remnant of the chain from the first communion cross pendant I gave her on my 50th birthday.

My mother's chain & bracelet

My mother’s chain & bracelet

Mom’s first posthumous birthday also fell on a Wednesday, soon after I had started my personal weekly prayer vigils two years ago.  Her birthday was only a few weeks after she died.

I vividly remember that day because after my prayer time, I had a beautiful song waiting for me on my phone (via email) from Pedro.  It was “Rome”, the second song I knew he composed.  He sent it out of the blue, not knowing it was my mother’s birthday.  It immediately brought tears to my eyes due to its sheer beauty and the perfect timing of its receipt.  That song was a precious gift, which for me, is forever linked to my healing and my mother’s passing.

Still Grieving?

I think I can comfortably say that my grieving for my father is done.  When the time is right and I return to the house he called home for the last 35+ years, I suspect a new wave of sadness will hit me.  Then when I step on Spanish soil in two months, and meet Rosa face to face, more tears will be shed over the passing of our mothers and how God has beautifully connected us.

Two deaths.  Two eulogies.  In two years.  And now two posthumous birthdays that I privately celebrate with gratitude to God for the perfect way He orchestrated my parent’s passings and the healing in my life.  I think that’s worth some quiet time of reflection, don’t you?

The Road to Spain, Update 1 ~ Project Scope

Welcome to my inaugural update on my road to Spain.  The days are quickly passing by as the date of my arrival in Spain (June 24th) approaches, yet I haven’t made any fanfare on my blog or posted any updates since I bought my tickets in January.

Ninety Days

A few weeks ago when I hit the 90-day mark (during Holy Week), I felt like a huge burden had been placed on my shoulders and there would be no way I’d be ready in time.  As strange as it may seem, I had the sense that the 90 days remaining for me would be like Jesus road to Jerusalem.  Seriously!

90 day challengeI started to think about how so much psychology and health research touts the benefits of a 90-day program for things like diet or exercise changes, lifestyle changes, changing your thinking patterns, recovery and addiction rehabilitation, etc.  This led me to think about all the things I hadn’t done to prepare for my trip yet—the big things, preparing to speak while there, learning Spanish, researching Spain (culture, sights, food, etc.), losing weight and exercising.  It was way too much for me to think about.

So I frantically started to work simultaneously on these things.  There just didn’t seem to be much progress and the stress continued to mount.  Finally this week while in a time of dedicated prayer, I got a clear revelation from God.  It led to a huge shift in my attitude and felt like the weight of the world was taken off my shoulders.

Scope CreepScope Creep

The easiest way I can explain it is to put it in terms like I would as a project manager.  It’s called ‘scope creep’.  That is when the scope of a project starts to go beyond its original intention.  (I guess God wanted to put it in terms I would understand.)  He brought me back to the original purpose or scope of my trip—to invest in people.  I am going to meet Rosa, to build relationship with my Spanish family and to write about it.

This isn’t a surprise to me, but what I realized in the process was that my speaking in Spain was sidetracking me from the goal.  Sure it would be amazing to share my story with others in Spain.  Sure it would be amazing to sell books, grow my platform or promote Pedro’s music while there.  (All the ‘shoulds’ a writer repeatedly hears about how to be successful.)  But that is not the purpose of this trip.  Those are incidental benefits.  As disappointing as it is, I am letting go of my desire to speak while in Spain.  Instead I am open to what God has in store for me there.

I don’t want any regrets about this trip of a lifetime.  I wouldn’t be going to Spain if it wasn’t for the miraculous events that happened between Rosa and me the year our mothers died.  I know God is using this story to touch others who have lost their parents or are seeking a second chance to restore relationship with a parent.  I trust that He will use this story in Spain as well—how and when the time is right—even if it’s just one person at a time.

The 10-Week Countdown Begins

The 10-Week Countdown Begins


I know this story inside and out because I lived it.  It transformed me.  I am ready to go—even now.  My attention is turned back to getting my mind and body ready to take it all in—like any other normal tourist would do—including learning Spanish.  It is still a lot to do, but I feel refocused and realigned with my purpose.

And, yes, there is a crucifixion going on here.  It is the part of me that wants to do it all and have it under control.  But I promise, there won’t be any physical blood loss—just occasional moans or groans as I swallow my pride once again and learn to trust Him more fully.

So sit back, and enjoy the view as I travel on the road to Spain over the next ten weeks!

  • 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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