Giving Up Christmas?

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

No Christmas treeToo Much Holiday Hype

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

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

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

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

The Annual Holiday Letter

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

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

Brick reads his rendition of the Heck family Christmas letter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

merry-christmas-1Making Room for Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a Small, Small World

The first time I went to Disneyland was as an adult with my husband. Even though we didn’t have kids at the time, we did venture into Fantasy Land and ride one ride:  It’s a Small World.

At 'It's a Small World', April 2003.

At ‘It’s a Small World’, April 2003.

It’s a Small World, the Ride

I know that people love that song and that ride, but after listening to that song repeat over and over again throughout the ride, I couldn’t get the music out of my head—even though I wanted too.  (It’s no wonder; the ride was over ten minutes long.). Despite that I did make a sacrifice to my mental health and take my kids on the ride on a future trip to Disneyland.

The 50th anniversary of the opening of that ride was earlier this year.  Not that I follow those sorts of things, but I ran into someone who actually worked behind the scenes on that ride at Disneyland.  She was so excited about the anniversary.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her it didn’t conjure up pleasant memories for me.  Below is a short video marking the 50th anniversary.

 

Spanish Connections Abound

All of this is just fodder for what I really wanted to write about.  In all seriousness, it really is a small, small world.  It has become that way for me anyway over the last few years.  Of course, I am referring to my Spanish connection.

It seems that after Pedro entered our lives in 2010, references to Spain kept crossing my path.  Suddenly I would notice people speaking Spanish around me or run into someone who just returned from Spain.

Starbucks encounter

Hanging out at a local Starbucks

Case in point, just a few months ago while sitting in a Starbucks and reading an email from Rosa, Pedro’s mother, I noticed two women sitting next to me who were speaking Spanish.

I was having a hard time deciphering some words in Rosa’s letter.  She sends them to me in English (via an online translator), but sometimes the Spanish words don’t translate.  So I decided to introduce myself to these ladies and ask for help.  I’m so glad I did.

One woman obliged to explain the translation to me.  In turn I proceeded to get a better understanding of the language and why that particular word couldn’t be translated by the app—even when I tried.  She was from Southern Spain, where I traveled last summer, so we talked about that a bit.  It was wonderful to have this small connection over the country that I now hold so dear to me.

Evan to Spain 03

Evan heads to Spain!

Valencia Bound

The world got even smaller for me recently though when my Spanish connections proceeded to intersect with my oldest son, Evan.  He won a trip to Valencia, Spain on the ‘Magic The Gathering’ Pro Tour, where he would be participating in their next international tournament.  That was when my real Spanish connections came in handy.

Last summer while living and traveling with Pedro’s family, I met some of their family and friends who live in Valencia.  I didn’t travel there myself, but we all met on the island of Mallorca where the family goes on holiday.  These Valencian friends and family spoke very little English or none at all.  Unfortunately that limited my direct conversations with them, but we did spend time together on daily outings to the beach or at parties.

Our daily beach hang-out with my Spanish friends on Mallorca.

Our daily beach hang-out with my Spanish friends on Mallorca.

Language barrier aside, I proceeded to communicate with my Spanish friends with the use of an online translator, like I do with Rosa, and told them of my son’s upcoming travels to Valencia.  These people graciously showed my son around Valencia, took him out to eat, and even invited him to a family birthday celebration at a farm home outside of town.

I was tickled pink to receive photos via Whatsapp (free international texting app) of my son’s time with them.  The only disappointment I had with all of this is that Evan and Pedro couldn’t connect.  Evan traveled through Madrid and had a long layover, but their schedules just didn’t coincide.

A Taste of Valencia, Spain

Since my travels to Spain last summer (and those numerous posts), I’ve now learned how to showcase my photos more in my posts.  One of these days I hope to go back and insert more photos on those posts or write about those places specifically.  (It is quite an archive of over 5,000 photos.)

I’m pleased that I can now share some of my son’s photos from his adventure in Spain.  Special thanks go to my Spanish family for immersing my son in their culture and for their generous hospitality.

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Is it really a small, small world?  Or is it because we have such a big, big God?  I’ll let you decide for yourself.  I’m just pleased that my world keeps getting smaller and the possibilities greater.

A Journey to Stepmother Love

Mother Love comes in many ways, shapes and sizes: birth moms, adopted moms, foster moms, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and girlfriends. For me, it unexpectedly came from a stepmother that I didn’t openly embrace from the start. Here’s a bit of that story on my publisher’s blog, journeystomotherlove.com. Happy Mother’s Day!

Journeys To Mother Love

Step-mother-love-01 I was nine years old when my parents divorced. I’ll never forget that day. After hearing the news, I ran into the woods behind our house and cried my eyes out. “Why? Why? Why?” I cried to God.

Those repressed memories surfaced a while back in a therapy session as I got in touch with the little Ardis who was hurting from the trauma of this event. I’ve processed this before, but this time I remembered something new. I remembered that I told my father I hated him. It became one of those pivotal moments in my life when I decided I had to be a BIG girl and stuff my emotions.

I surfaced from those woods, calm and collected. I WAS a big girl. But try as I might, that anger at what was going on between my parents was still there. Both of my parents soon remarried. I lived…

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How This Journey Started

I’ve been asked many times how my story, “Walking My Mother Home”, came to be published in Journeys to Mother Love. I’ve written about that under the category “My Writing Journey”. In this post from journeystomotherlove.com, the blog for the book, my publisher tells the story of how the book was birthed. Thank you Catherine Lawton and Cladach Publishing for following that gentle nudge from the Lord. I’ve been blessed over and over again to be part of such an inspiring book.

Journeys To Mother Love

Hard to believe, but more than a year has passed since the book Journeys to Mother Love was published and the authors started sharing this blog as well. How did these nine women, who live in all corners of this great country, come together in this way? Well, here’s the story.

As publisher and editor of Cladach Publishing, a small Christian press, I was invited to the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park, Colorado, to give 15-minute interviews to authors. At the May, 2011 conference I spoke with three or four women in one day who had heart-wrenching personal stories that they hoped to have published as books. The authors were so passionate and full of the fresh touch of the Lord, and their stories so real and relevant for many women, that I couldn’t get away from thinking about them. By the third or fourth interview the thought…

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How Does Your Story Live?

When I first met Henriet Schapelhouman, author of “The Story Lives: Leading a Missional Revolution” over a dozen years ago, she was the pastor of Adult Ministries at a local church and a fledgling writer.  She invited me to join a small group Bible study she led.  I’d never been in a Bible study, but was at a time in my life when I was unsettled with my faith and seeking Him.

Henriet anoints Ardis' book and future speaking, September 2012.

Henriet anoints Ardis’ book and future speaking, September 2012.

Over a decade later, I can still remember when Henriet shared with the group about the publication of her first article in a Christian magazine.  I was so proud of her accomplishment and remember thinking how wonderful that would be.  I never imagined I’d end up writing myself or ever being published.

Henriet has played a pivotal part in my spiritual growth and ministry since then.  She commissioned me to lead my first recovery and spiritual growth groups at that same church.  She took me to my first Christian writers meeting.  Then at my book launch last fall she anointed my book and commissioned my speaking.

Most recently Henriet and I partnered at our first ministry conference booth to promote our books and speaking engagements.  When things were slow at the booth, I was blessed by opportunities to connect on a relational level.  In those times, we were living missionally.

Living Missionally

Living missionally?  What does that mean?  Disregard those thoughts about selling your belongings, moving overseas and preaching the gospel. That is not what “The Story Lives” is about.

Henriet and Ardis living missionally at the NW Ministry Conference, March 2013.

Henriet and Ardis living missionally at the NW Ministry Conference, March 2013.

We are living missionally when we are living out the Story of Jesus in our lives. We are living missionally when we serve Him in the ways we are wired—not just our spiritual gifts, but our personality types and our strengths.  (Henriet is a certified coach and trainer for Myers-Briggs and StrengthsFinders.   Check out Semper Vita Institute for more information.)  By knowing our own unique wiring, we can determine how best to live a life that abundantly gives back and to serve in our sweet spot (or productively work in secular employment as well).

One of the key principles in “The Story Lives” that has helped me is to not be limited in my thinking of how I can serve God.  It’s not about serving him in the box of a church setting.  It’s about where God wants me to share my story and how can I influence His Kingdom.

Influencing Others for His Kingdom

I know I never would’ve considered sharing my story publically had I not shared my testimony years ago at a Celebrate Recovery meeting as a prerequisite for leadership.  I’ve shared it several times in those settings since then, but I don’t need to have that structure limit my publicly sharing my story.  My writing and blogging are now the primary ways in how I serve Him.   Another way is being open to opportunities like the short interview about “The Story Lives” done at Henriet’s book launch party.

The Story LivesThis summer, my influence and speaking are focused on Spain.  There are no Celebrate Recovery meetings in Spain.  I’m pursuing other avenues to share my story.  I don’t know what that looks like yet.  It may not even be in a structured setting.  I’m trusting God to open the doors He wants opened. I know that by just being there and living my life with the Light of Jesus that I am living missionally.

I’m grateful Henriet persevered all the obstacles and doubts that come with writing a book with such a powerful message.  We can all use a message like this as we grow in our faith and allow God to use us in the ways that He uniquely designed us.  I highly recommend “The Story Lives: Leading a Missional Revolution” as a gift to yourself.  It will ignite your desire to live out His Story in your life in a more tangible way.

Updated 01/20/2014:  Check out the book trailer below with the music of my Spanish host son and protégé, Pedro González Arbona

Sharing Our Stories in Community

Journeys to Mother Love was released a week ago and I’m already starting to get responses from people who have read my story, “Walking My Mother Home”.  At times it is overwhelming to hear how friends cried as they read it or couldn’t put the story down.

Sharing the blessing with Janet.

I’ve been so stressed with preparing for the launch, that I haven’t had much down time or time to reflect on all of this.  Then in the midst of my day I get a call, text or email from someone I know that puts it all into perspective for me.

It is a blessing in so many ways.  First, it is a privilege to write what I believe God has called me to write and have people respond to it.  Second, writing the story was very healing for me personally.  Third, others are being inspired or touched by the story as well.

When I found out that the book was going to have a blog, journeystomotherlove.com, for the authors to contribute and to connect with readers, I was thrilled.  I know the value of sharing our stories in community, as this is a vital part of Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-step program where I serve in ministry.  Testimonies are inspiring and leave me with a desire to spread the word of hope and healing through Jesus Christ that this program offers.

The blog that accompanies the book is a great way for readers to connect with the authors stories or to share their own stories.  It brings a whole new dimension to reading the book—hopefully inspiring people and providing a positive place for connection—and to multiply the blessings.

So a few days ago, when I read and was touched by Catherine Lawton’s story, “When I Feel Forsaken”, I was compelled to pay the blessing forward.  Click this link, “Journeys to Mother Love” to read that blog post.

I hope you will join me in community at journeystomotherlove.com.  It’s going to be a great place to garner encouragement and be blessed on your journey to relationship healing.  Or if you’ve read “Walking My Mother Home”, you can comment below or contact me privately at info@ardisanelson.com.  In any case, let us know what you think.

  • 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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