Living in the Shadow of Mental Illness

It’s no secret that my mother was mentally ill—not now anyway.  I’ve written about it on my blog and was the basis for my published story in Journeys to Mother Love (Cladach Publishing).  Chapter 8 in the Table of Contents reads: Distanced by Mental Illness, Walking my Mother Home, by Ardis A. Nelson.  There it is; my lifelong struggle in black and white on the page for all to see.

Chapter 8 is my story.

Chapter 8 is my story.

I’ve heard from many people how they resonated with my story.  It is usually in regards to how they are caring for a loved one at the end of life or it touches an accord with those whose parent has died.  It gives them hope and encouragement for the journey no matter how recent or faraway the experience was.

Distancing Myself

My story isn’t just about how I re-established contact and cared for my mentally ill mother at the end of her life though.  The bigger story is how I distanced myself from getting to know myself as well.  At 53 years old, it is what I am still working through.  It is the theme of the memoir that I hope to someday have published.

The Bible tells us in Matthew 10:38 that as followers of Christ we all have a cross to bear.  My cross seems to be the legacy that I have of living in the shadows of a mother who had mental illness.  Even though I had amazing healing when my mother died (as mentioned in my published story), I can still revert to my negative way of thinking and seeing things through the filter of mental illness in my family.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Many people live in the shadow of mental illness.  They were raised in a family with a parent who was mentally ill.  Or maybe they grew up hearing stories about crazy Aunt Sue or Uncle Joe.  I know I did; and it wasn’t just about my mother, but others in the family as well.

When I was growing up there was a huge stigma attached to mental illness.  There were barbaric practices perpetuated on mental patients—witness the movie, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” from 1975.

Jack Nicholson's character receiving shock therapy, a barbaric practice, in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Jack Nicholson’s character receiving shock therapy, a barbaric practice, in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

I saw that movie in the theater when I was 15.  The movie hit way to close to home as my mother was in and out of mental hospitals and had shock therapy when I was in elementary school.  Watching that movie scared me and maybe even scarred me emotionally.

Last November when I started work on my memoir as part of National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, I watched that movie again for the first time in over 30 years.  It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, but I think that was because I watched it more for historical reasons and for context in my memoir writing.  In other words, I detached myself from my emotions.  I thank God that wasn’t my fate.

Emotional Highs and Lows

At this stage of life with hormones raging out of control, it is hard at times to not let that dark cloud and fear of mental illness grab a hold of me.  It seemed to hit me particularly hard after my time in Spain.  It’s no wonder.

The movie is still playing, although at times it may feel like it's over.

The movie is still playing, although at times it may feel like it’s over.

I’ve been on an emotional high the last few years as I stepped into the world of publishing as a first time author, launched Pedro’s professional music career, and prepared for my trip to Spain.  It has often felt like a dream to me—or as I’ve openly expressed—like a movie with Pedro’s music as the soundtrack.

Three months after my return home, I’ve finally re-adjusted to life in America.  As I slowed down and re-focused my attention on my own self-care, at times it felt like the credits scrolled by on the screen and the music stopped playing.  Just like in the theater, all that was left was the mess on the floor to clean up—most notably a body that was exhausted and sometimes depressed.

Rejecting the Lie

I’m discovering some profound things about myself as I work through this next layer of healing.   I know it is what God is requiring from me so that He can more fully use me for His bigger purpose.  As I do, I am clinging to my identity in Christ and not some worn out lie or stigma.

Are you believing a lie from your past?  Who will you believe—our heavenly Father who loves you, or the Evil One, the thief and father of all lies?  What are you doing to flip the switch in your thinking? 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10, NIV)

Turning to the Dark Side

I’ve been blogging for over two years and recently reached a blogging milestone of 100 posts.  I started out slow, blogging when the mood hit me and now consistently post once a week.  That may not sound like much, but at times it has been a chore—to either fit it in my schedule or to force the writing to come out.

100 postsThe Growing Pains of Blogging

My blogging has grown a lot over the last year.  I’m now starting to see that my focusing on Spain for so long was mentally draining on me.  I pushed myself physically while traveling and also mentally to blog while there.  I don’t regret it because at least for me personally I’m glad to have documented my trip in that way—not the standard travel log.

I’m starting to get my writer’s sea legs back now with inspiration that comes from deep within.  That is what led me to writing and blogging in the first place so it feels good.

But blogging isn’t always a feel good thing for me.  I think if bloggers were really honest with themselves, they’d have to admit that they’ve felt some anxiety or tension at one time or another when it comes time to publish a post.  It is a scary and vulnerable position to put yourself out on the internet for all the world to see—especially when you are sharing your personal story.

Then there are the voices within that tell us that the number of followers we have or the number of ‘likes’ on our posts somehow dictates our value or is a true indicator of our writing skill.  (I know I’m not alone in my thinking.)  It happens I’m sure in any creative endeavor.  We have to be sure of ourselves and our message.  That is where my identity in Christ helps me.

Publish IconPublishing Humiliation

In my quest for healing, I recently discovered that my publishing fears were deeper rooted than just the typical “will people accept me” or like my writing.  I was having a particularly hard time releasing my worries in publishing a post, and then it all came back to me.

When I was in college, I turned from my desires to be a journalist to something much more analytical—an accountant.  Sometimes I hung out with the crowd at the college newspaper, never writing stories though.  My first semester communications courses brutally killed that dream.

My extracurricular passion was serving as the music director at the college radio station.  During a period of transition in management at the radio station, I wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper.  I don’t remember what it was about specifically, but it wasn’t a flattering piece.  I got a lot of flak for that letter.  Worse yet, the station manager wrote a rebuttal to the editor in the next publication.  I was publically humiliated in front of my peers.

I could go on and on about how I might have felt justified, or whatever.  The point is that when I publish a post on my blog, sometimes that humiliation is triggered in me—the deep fear of saying or doing something that will be misunderstood or land on someone the wrong way.  Recognizing that trigger has helped me to release that fear.

Getting comfortable behind the mic again at WMCR (25th college reunion)

Getting comfortable behind the mic again at WMCR (25th college reunion)

Writing Crossroads

At my one year blogging milestone, I wrote a piece about writing for “An Audience of One”.  I like to think that audience of One is my heavenly Father.  Realistically though, I sometimes get in the way of that.  I know that my writing serves to inspire some of my friends and family.  I’m very grateful for their acknowledgments of that.  In my darker days, it is just what I need to encourage me to keep going.

Now that I’ve passed my second year blogging milestone, I feel like I’m at a crossroads with my writing.  I enjoy blogging, but realistically I’ve felt more like a blogger than a writer this past year.  I’ve been so busy and focused on Spain that my memoir has sat dormant on my computer since November 30, 2012—the last day of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  It was a labor of love to churn out over 30,000 words in 30 days.  It was also very intense and emotionally draining.  Oddly enough, I’m considering picking up that work in progress in November, but not with that kind of intensity.

I need a writing discipline in my life in order to tackle the huge project ahead of me.  NaNoWriMo was that last year.  So I am preparing myself for the next leg of my writing journey.  If my memoir is ever finished and sees the light of day, I’ll have much bigger fears to overcome.  Until then I’ll keep training that ‘publish’ muscle one post at a time.

Shakespeare blogger

PS.  If you want to know what I learned from my second year of blogging, it is to not be concerned about the length of my posts.  When I started blogging I followed all the suggestions about size, content, etc.  But I’ve noticed that my favorite author blogs don’t publish short posts.  That doesn’t stop me from reading to the end.  I’m not concerned about my word counts any more.  I read for quality and depth of story, so that is what I am shooting for here as well.  Thanks for your interest in my work and reading to the end!

Breaking the Silence & Letting Go

Two months after my return from Spain I still haven’t been able to piece together what to write about how my trip relates to the continuation of my story in “Journeys to Mother Love”.  Over the last few years I’ve openly blogged about it and told my friends how significant this trip was for me.

I was meeting Rosa after three years of waiting, praying, emailing, Skyping and planning.  She learned English to facilitate our face to face communications.  Except for the post I wrote about my first day in Spain, I have been silent about that part of my trip, and the writing in general.

At the Alcala Gate with Rosa, Madrid.

At the Alcala Gate with Rosa, Madrid.

As a writer, that silence on my blog feels deafening.  I had so much expectancy for this trip and so much riding on the outcome.  I even wrote a post on journeystomotherlove.com, A Match Made in Heaven, on my anticipation for this journey.  But now I am struggling with what and how to write about it.  Writer’s block?  Maybe, but I’m inclined to think there is more to it.

Letting go of Expectations

Early on in my trip, I realized I had to let go of the expectation that I would write about Rosa’s side of the story—what happened in Spain when prayers were sent from America in the midst of her sorrow.  While Rosa showed me places that were significant with her side of the story, like her parents’ home (which was also her childhood home) and the church where her mother’s funeral was held, God revealed to me that the story I am to tell is more about my journey.  Rosa was a conduit for my healing.  We were both blessed by our mutual encouragement and prayers. 

Taking the tram with Rosa from Soller to Palma, Mallorca, for a day of sightseeing.

Taking the tram with Rosa from Soller to Palma, Mallorca, for a day of sightseeing.

When I stepped on Spanish soil I was ready to experience the trip of a lifetime.  I was open to experiencing God in a new way.  I had already let go of so many expectations—like not professionally speaking while there and not having the Spanish translation of my story published in advance.  I decided to trust God for His purposes for this trip.

While I was in Spain, the Lord slowly stripped me of much more.  The biggest thing for me to surrender was how much my identity has been wrapped up in my writing and the publishing of my story.  I went with the expectation that people in Spain could relate to my story, like they have in America.  I was grateful for the few opportunities to give away copies of Journeys to Mother Love.  Outside of those times, I felt very invisible as a writer and in my faith.  A lot of that was also because I didn’t know the language well enough either.

One copy of my book graces the book shelves at my apartment in the Port of Soller, with the best reading view of the Mediterranean, August 2013.

One copy of my book graces the book shelves at my apartment in the Port of Soller, with the best reading view of the Mediterranean, August 2013.

Before I was a published author, I knew God wanted to use my story.  I knew He was making me bold (witness my blog name).  But being in Spain led me to question much of that and my writing.

In hindsight, I think a lot of it had to do with the cultural and spiritual differences between our countries.  They became more real and visible to me.  I know now that the only way I could see that and understand it was to be stripped of that part of me and my voice.  It was a painful process—one I’m still trying to integrate.  I know He is transforming me again.

Moving Forward

42 days is a long time to explore a country.  I had the most amazing escapades while in Spain with my host family.  I had wonderful adventures in Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Granada, Cordoba, Seville and on the island of Mallorca.  I have 5,000 photos that bring my trip and so many special memories back to life for me.

In time some of that will show up on my blog.  I don’t doubt that God wants to use my story or this trip in some way.  He has given me new insights into my journey.  He has given me new insights into the writing process.  Meanwhile, I am clinging to my identity as a child of God and learning to let go (again).  I am grateful for the journey—the good and the bad—and what lies ahead.

Do I want to know what that is?  Am I nervous about it?  Do I want to control it?  Absolutely!  I can only take one day at a time and trust that He’ll use the story He is crafting in me to inspire others to turn healing into hope.  As He does, I know He’ll release me to break more of the silence along the way.

Farewell dinner at my apartment in the Port of Soller, Mallorca, Spain.

Farewell dinner at my apartment in the Port of Soller, Mallorca, Spain.

España Update 9 ~ Home Sweet Home

Homeward bound—Seattle, Washington.  My day of travel started over 16 hours earlier with a bittersweet farewell between me and my Spanish family.  Now I was at JFK International Airport in New York after completing two flights, surviving a bomb scare in Madrid, and avoiding an international incident on my transatlantic flight.

Re-checking my Luggage

As I departed the U.S. Customs area with my 100 pounds of luggage, minus the confiscated Iberian ham, I had a decision to make.  Do I immediately re-check my baggage for my final flight or do I follow my suspicions and search my luggage to determine if anything was stolen?

Seeing the Starbucks at JFK airport was a welcome reminder that I was almost home.

Seeing the Starbucks at JFK airport was a welcome reminder that I was almost home.

Why do I think I was robbed?  During the inspection by the U.S. Customs agent, I noticed my belongings were strewn around in my suitcase with receipts scattered amongst my clothes.  When I packed my suitcase the night before, they were wrapped up in a jewelry bag.  The thought of it gave me a sick feeling in my gut.

As I mulled over my options, I followed the crowd and queued up in the line to re-check my baggage.  The line was moving swiftly, and it was looming large behind me.  Before I knew it, I was at the head of the line.  I was so exhausted and emotionally beat up after my Customs experience, I just didn’t have it in me to re-open my suitcase and face my fear.  I plopped my suitcases on the conveyor belt and pushed any thoughts about my jewelry and personal belongings being stolen out of my mind.

The Last Leg

Thankfully the layover at JFK was void of any further airport hassles or problems.  The time passed quickly as I ate, then emailed, phoned, and texted friends and family while charging my mobile phone.  I was exhausted yet thrilled to speak in English and connect with the voices of people I hadn’t communicated with in six weeks.

My flight from JFK to Seattle was uneventful, but it seemed to last for an eternity.  The 5½ hour flight was on a Boeing 737 where I was squished like a sardine.  Compared to the Airbus A330 from Madrid, I was feeling very claustrophobic, and sleep was very haphazard.  I missed the start of the movie and my mind was done with writing after hammering out seven pages on my flights.

Seattle welcoming committee

Seattle welcoming committee

It was nighttime as the plane descended into SeaTac International Airport.  I’d been chasing the sun for the last 24 hours of travel.  And now I was watching the city lights of the beautiful Seattle skyline below.  “Almost home”, I thought as I fought the tears welling up inside of me.

A Musical Reminder of Spain

On the way to meet my family at the baggage carousel, I made a stop in the ladies room.  While in there, I was totally caught off-guard when I heard one of Pedro’s compositions playing.  “Oh my gosh,” I thought as my adrenaline spiked through the roof.  “How is it possible that his music is playing on the sound system?”

I laughed out loud when I figured out that it was really just the ringtone on my cell phone.  I hadn’t heard my phone ring in six weeks.  On top of that, I had inadvertently changed my ringtone while in Spain.  Laughter aside, it reminded me of the potential of his music and that being broadcast more publicly is just a matter of time.  After all, he signed his first contract to compose for an American full feature film while I was in Spain.

Family Homecoming

I was a puddle of tears when I met my family at the baggage claim.  I clung to my 16-year old son and hugged him lovingly.  “Hola” may have been the first words out of my mouth, but I reverted back to my American hugs versus the European double cheek-kiss that I’d become accustomed to over the last six weeks.  I needed those first few lingering hugs from my son and my husband.

Although I was exhausted and more than ready to head to bed, I knew I had a big surprise awaiting me at home.  While I was gone in Spain, my home was undergoing a major renovation.  My family endured a complete remodel of the kitchen and two bathrooms.  They had been putting the finishing touches on the house in time for the big unveiling when I walked in the door.  It was a beautiful homecoming gift.

Welcomed home and back to America with a bouquet of flowers and a new kitchen.

Welcomed home and back to America with a bouquet of flowers and a new kitchen.

Facing my Worst Travel Fear

After a restless night of sleep and an early awakening by the sunlight, I knew I had to face my fear lurking inside my luggage.  Was anything stolen from my suitcase?  The quick answer to that is yes.

Almost everything was gone from that jewelry bag—nothing of great monetary value, but the pieces were from places I’d traveled in my life that had significance to me.  Thankfully I was wearing the necklace Rosa gave me while traveling (the one I reference in my published story).  I was also wearing a special charm bracelet that connects me to Rosa.  I was relieved when I found out that the thieves missed a second bag of jewelry buried in my clothes and some new jewelry pieces I bought in Spain.

My new Mallorcan pearls survived the theft.

My new Mallorcan pearls survived the theft.

It took me a few weeks of phone calls with the airlines to file a claim and find out that none of my stolen items were covered by insurance.  Going through that process was like being robbed and defiled all over again, but it gave me the closure I needed so I could put it all behind me.

Final Travel Thoughts

Returning back to America on day 42 of my travel adventure had nowhere near the excitement I had when I ended my flights in Spain on my first day.  There was no adrenaline rush to keep me going—only exhaustion, physical illness, and unpleasant travel memories.

My trip to Spain changed me internally and now it was as if these external factors—a bomb scare, my confiscated Iberian ham, and finally my stolen jewelry—were trying to rob me of my joy and leave me with an unfavorable parting impression of Spain.

These physical events have served as fodder on my blog, but they also have much deeper significance.  I hope it serves as a reminder of the choices we have to make when things don’t go the way we expect.  We can blame others, ourselves, or even God.

I know that my circumstances don’t define me.  It is my identity in Christ that does.  While the thieves physically robbed me of my jewelry, my identity in Christ remained intact.

My trip to Spain has changed me in ways I can’t even fully articulate yet—with emotional and spiritual insights and healing.  I am being made new and choosing to boldly follow him in the adventure.  I hope and pray you will too.

My final day in Spain and the view from my apartment, Port of Soller, Mallorca

My final day in Spain and the view from my apartment, Port of Soller, Mallorca

~ This completes my “España Update” blog series, but not my intermittent writing about Spain.  If this is your first time visiting my blog, you can start reading about my Spanish travels here

Hitting a Home Run for Recovery

After my second viewing of the movie “Home Run” a few days ago, I’m left thinking about the face of recovery and why so many people sit in denial about their issues.  By issues I mean unhealthy habits like hiding their hurts, medicating their pain, isolating, and trying harder to make life fit their demands.

Cory Brand, the main character of the movie, played by Scott Elrod, is one such person.  He is a major league baseball all-star who is forced to face his alcoholism after a DUI and team suspension.  In recovery circles, we call it hitting bottom.  It is not a pleasant moment in one’s life, but for those who choose recovery as a result, and work through a 12-step program, their lives are transformed.  I know because I lived through it myself.

Breaking Through the Wall of Denial

Through the use of vivid flashbacks, the movie shows the pain of Cory’s upbringing, as he lived with an alcoholic father who expected perfection from his son at an early age.  The scenes are hard to watch at times as you feel for what Cory went through (rated PG-13).  These painful reminders drive Cory to drink and lash out in anger, unwittingly repeating the generational curse of his father.

Cory is like many of us who have found recovery.   We don’t come easily or quietly.  Our denial runs deep.  What struck me in this story, was that despite his being mandated by his team to attend a 12-step program as a condition of his suspension, he doesn’t embrace it until later on in the movie.  He just goes through the motions.  His life continues to spiral out of control until he finally realizes he can’t do it on his own.  That is the point in which one really starts recovery—coming out of denial.

Why Recovery?

Step 1 of Celebrate Recovery reads:  “We admitted that we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.”  That brings me to a misconception that is dealt with in a powerful way in the movie.  Recovery gets a bad rap because most people think that recovery is for “those” people.  You know who I mean—alcoholics, drug addicts, and people who REALLY have problems.  That is so far from the truth.  I won’t give away the story, but suffice it to say, that just because someone is a Christian or lives their life in a Godly manner doesn’t mean they’ve had it easy.  We all carry hurts inside of us, and we all have to deal with life’s problems.

Celebrate Recovery - A Christian 12-Step Program

Celebrate Recovery – A Christian 12-Step Program

Celebrate Recovery (CR) is a Christian 12-step program that helps people with their hurts, habits and hang-ups.  It’s for anyone who struggles in life.  Typical struggles that people address at CR are anger, fear, grief, guilt and shame, holding on to the past, inability to forgive, isolation, need to control, finances, eating disorders, alcohol or substance dependency, pace of life, rejection, relationship problems, sexual addiction, stress, and emotional, physical, sexual or spiritual abuse.

CR is often described as guided sanctification.  That’s just a fancy theological term for becoming the person God intends for us to be.  CR gives one tools to take responsibility for our actions, offer forgiveness to those we have hurt, forgive ourselves, learn to lean on others for help, and to give back from a grateful heart.  All this transformation comes through the power of the Holy Spirit and a relationship with Jesus that is core to this biblical program.

See the Movie for Yourself

In my opinion, “Home Run” hits a big home run for recovery.  It is a realistic view at how turning our lives over to Jesus brings about healing, wholeness and transformation.  It brings about freedom from our past and hope for the future.  In Cory’s situation, it gave him a chance to restore a broken relationship, giving him a new lease on life.

Even if recovery isn’t for you, I’m sure there is someone you know who needs a program like Celebrate Recovery.  With the end of baseball season looming, it’s the perfect time to view this movie.  “Home Run” is available on Blu-Ray/DVD, on demand, or watch it online on youtube.  To find a Celebrate Recovery program near you, click this link.  You or someone you know will be glad you did.

Home Run Movie Photo

Journeys to Mother Love, One Year Later

When my story, “Walking My Mother Home”, in Journeys to Mother Love was released on August 24, 2012 (one year ago) by Cladach Publishing, I had everything in place to position myself and the book for success.  I had attended writing and marketing seminars, webinars, and conferences, and launched a website and Facebook page.  I was ready to dive into the social media marketing blitz.  I held an open house and book signing as well.  It all fed into my hopes and expectations for financial success.  After all, I had a trip to Spain in my future, and no personal source of income to pay for it.  I was counting on the book sales.

Opening my first box of books, August 2012.

Opening my first box of books, August 2012.

Within days of receipt of my first box of books, I was at church in my sacred space with one copy.  I silently read my story and dedicated it to the Lord.  I asked for his blessings on the book, that my story would touch people’s lives, inspire them on their faith journey, and that none of this ‘fame’ would go to my head—the same as I have done for Pedro since his music went online.

I was grateful.  I was excited.  I was ready for anything.

The Highs and Lows

I have had a lot of amazing highs over the past year, partnering with two other friends who recently published spiritual books, networking at writer’s meetings, and so on.   At times, it was a bit surreal to me.  Yes, there is a bit of notoriety that comes with the territory and interest when people find out I am a writer.  Although I never tire of telling someone the story, if it seems appropriate, or I feel led by the Holy Spirit, I also try to keep it all in perspective.

A friendly book swap between authors, Emiko Hori and me, June 2013.

A friendly book swap between authors, Emiko Hori and me, June 2013.

I’ve had some low points in my first year as a published author as well.   The lows totally caught me off guard and triggered deep feelings inside of me—like feelings of rejection I thought I had already worked through.

Most authors and artists, if they were truly honest, have struggled with that at some point in time.  It is the push and pull of promoting, wanting financial success, and letting go of who buys your book and how many sell.

Paying It Forward

Once I learned to let go of that (and am still learning), I started to have more one on one encounters with people who were interested in the story.  I can remember each and every one.

I try to write a personal note to each person who receives the book and pray for the recipient.  Except for the online sales, I have photos of many people who received the book personally through me.  I photograph many of my inscriptions as well.  They are very personal to me and often feel inspired by the Holy Spirit.

This is but one way I try to pay the blessing forward.  The other is when I give the book away as a gift.  For instance, it resides in the library of Monmouth College, my alma mater—where I graduated with a B.A. in Business Administration, not English.  It is also in the hands of many of the staff at New Life Ministries, out of gratitude for their role in my healing.  I love that I can give something back in this small way.

Paying the blessing forward with Becky Brown of New Life Ministries, February 2013.

Paying the blessing forward with Becky Brown of New Life Ministries, February 2013.

A Year of Gratitude

As I finish this inaugural year as an author, I can look behind me and see God’s hand on each book that was released from my inventory.  I can see how He was chiseling away my inner parts that don’t reflect His image.  In return He has given me the gift of my story and the courage to share it.

Not including e-book sales or those through the publisher or the other authors, I know my story in Journeys to Mother Love resides in the hearts of people throughout the United States in Washington, California, Illinois, Missouri, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, and abroad in England, France, Mexico, and of course, Spain.  I am thankful for that and any future opportunities that the Lord makes available to share His story.

A friend reading "Journeys to Mother Love" while traveling in England, October 2012.

A friend reading “Journeys to Mother Love” while traveling in England, October 2012.

If you’ve gotten this far in the post, I hope you’ll indulge me the opportunity to thank all who have purchased my book, either directly from me or through Amazon.  I don’t have any knowledge of who the Amazon purchasers are (or receive any proceeds from that). I’d love to know if you bought it online though.  You can comment below or privately contact me through the contact form on my site.

Thank you for every purchase through me or my site, as it allows me to freely give it away to those who I sense really need this story.  Lastly, I appreciate the notes I receive, posts on Facebook, etc.  Please feel free to pass on any comments about the book or my story on my site review page, or support my writing by subscribing to my blog or liking my Facebook page.

Muchas, muchas gracias!

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.

Is Mother’s Day Painful for You?

I used to dread Mother’s Day and the feelings it brought up about my mother. My journey to mother love changed all that a few years ago. Your journey can change too. Don’t give up hope.

Journeys To Mother Love

flowers

How many of us, if we were really honest, would admit that we don’t look forward to Mother’s Day? We dread this day devoted to celebrating mothers. It conjures up feelings of inadequacies in our own parenting or maybe how we didn’t live up to the expectations our parents had for us. Maybe it even reminds us of the shame or condemnation we felt at the hands of our parents—especially our mothers.

Mother’s Day isn’t always about bouquets of flowers or a box of chocolates for mom. Sometimes it is filled with bitter memories of a childhood loss due to abusive parents, a longing for the birth mother we never knew, or regrets from things we said or did that can’t be taken back. Maybe your mother has died and you miss her presence in your life.

Those kinds of painful memories can also leave us questioning God or turning…

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“You Complete Me” or Do You?

The title of this blog post was taken from a quote in the 1996 movie “Jerry Maguire”.  It is in the final scene of the movie when the main character in the movie, Jerry Maguire, played by Tom Cruise, returns to his estranged wife Dorothy, played by Renée Zellweger, and tells her that she completes him.  For all the women readers out there, let’s just breathe a big sigh as we silently think to ourselves, “if only my husband felt that way”.

Wedding ringsI was in my mid-thirties at the time this movie came out and although I was already married for over ten years, I was still naive enough to think that kind of love was possible.  It’s not that that kind of love isn’t really possible.  It’s that we shouldn’t expect our spouses to complete us.  Yet that is the message that we are constantly bombarded with in the entertainment industry.  It is all over our television sets, in the theaters and in the fantasy romance novels that women can get wrapped up in.  In fact, it is fed to our children at an early age in Disney fairy tales as well.  No wonder women expect to live happily ever after when they walk down the aisle on their wedding day.

Complement, Not Complete

We are meant to complement our spouses, not complete them.  We are each to be made whole through our relationship with Christ and partner with our spouses in creating a Godly marriage.  When we expect our husbands to complete us, we are setting ourselves up for huge resentments and unmet expectations.  It is an enormous burden to place on them.  They are only human.  It is enmeshment and co-dependency at its worst.  Without the communication tools to deal with that, we end up living in misery.  I know because I lived in that place for many years.

I’ve been working on my own healing and recovery for the past nine years.  It was in a variety of spiritual and emotional healing classes and reading books like “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend that I first started to realize this and put the pieces together in my life.  It’s been a very painful process to come to terms with my own character defects and emptiness that I had in my heart.  I had to learn to turn to God to fill that hole and connect with other women who, for the most part, had also put their husbands on a pedestal and expected them to meet all of their needs.   It is epidemic in society.  I would venture to guess that unmet expectations are probably one of the leading causes of divorce.  But it doesn’t have to end that way.

There is Hope for Your Marriage

My husband and I just returned from a marriage workshop in California held by New Life Ministries.  New Life is also responsible for airing “New Life Live”, America’s #1 Christian call-in counseling ministry, hosted by Steve Arterburn.  It is a ministry that I whole-heartedly support, list on my website and use as a resource in groups that I lead.New Life Ministries

This weekend did not disappoint as I saw God show up in amazing ways and heard many testimonies of life transformation.  For me, this weekend was a wonderful opportunity to really connect at a deep level—not just with my husband, but with the other couples in our group sessions.  We left refreshed, hopeful for the future and more equipped and willing to bring healing and restoration into our marriage.

I cannot recommend New Life highly enough.  Whether your marriage needs a tune-up or a full-blown resuscitation, I encourage you to contact New Life Ministries at 1-800-NEW-LIFE to get it back on track.  You’ll be glad you did.

Suffering in the Body | By Kim Amrine | Guest Post

About 2½ years ago, a light bulb came on for me.  I was re-reading Dr. Cloud and Townsend’s book, “How People Grow.” Dr. Cloud posed a question to a group of experienced pastors, “If you had to arm your parishioners with protection from sin, how would you do it?  What do you think is the best armor you could wear?”  They had many ideas, but ultimately he pointed them to 1 Peter 4:1:  “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourself also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.”(NIV)

 Caught in the Cycle

“Oh,” I said to myself, “this isn’t going to be pretty.”  I had been in relapse in my food addiction for a year or two, after some good abstinence for a few years.  I had just completed a one year healing/recovery group and learned what mother’s and father’s roles are, and what they should provide for their children.  I had stepped out of denial and started the grief process over the holes of parenting that were in my family of origin, including being the child of two alcoholic parents.

I was attending 12-step recovery meetings regularly, journaling, reaching out to others over the phone, and none of it was working.  A friend and mentor reminded me, “You are in the process of insanity—doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24 TNIV

Embracing the Pain

My relapse into food addiction and my internal pain brought me back into the therapeutic process, this time with a very seasoned and astute therapist.  It was here that I realized the only way to healing was to go through the pain.  I couldn’t minimize it, avoid it, rationalize it, or medicate it away using food.  These defenses were no longer working for me.

 The last 2 years I have been grieving a myriad of losses, deaths if you will—loss of my childhood, loss of the parents I thought I had, but didn’t, loss of many positive experiences in my marriage, loss of physical health and loss of internal peace because of my past.  I have denied, protested in anger, and cried until I thought the tears would never end. I know there are still more to come.

Letting Christ Transform Your Pain into Healing

Why do I bother doing this?  Because as one of my pastors recently said, “If we don’t let Christ transform our pain, we will transmit it.”  If I don’t enter into the healing process, my pain will either be turned inward – food addiction, depression – or transmitted and turned outward, projecting my unprocessed feelings onto those I love and care for.  My heart’s desire is to leave a positive legacy to those who enter my life and sphere of influence.

Jesus never promised an easy walk.  “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NKJV) Out of death and dying comes resurrection and life.  I count on Jesus and the cross he bore, (and the cross that I am bearing now) to bring me through to a resurrected life.  I know that as I continue to grieve the losses of my childhood, that there will be new life on the other side.  And I don’t mean in heaven; I mean a resurrected life here on earth.

I have already experienced some of the fruit of this process of recovery and in my faith journey.  I am just going a little deeper now.  The Lord will redeem my losses, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” Joel 2:25 (TNIV) There will be redemption on the other side of my season of grief.  He is faithful and I can count on it.

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Kim & Ardis

Kim & Ardis

Kim Amrine is a grateful Believer who is passionate about healing and recovery.  She serves as Ministry Leader of Celebrate Recovery at Pine Lake Covenant Church in Sammamish, Washington, where she has led a number of groups.   Her other passions are being a wife of 37 years to Jerry, mom to two adult children, and working as a physical therapist.

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Note from Ardis ~ I’ve been blessed to walk alongside Kim and witness her courageous journey of spiritual and emotional healing.  She is a true model of vulnerability and taking the risks required to break free from past hurts, habits and hang-ups.

Thank you Kim for sharing your story of perseverance.  I hope her story encourages you or someone you know to walk through the pain, to the other side, and turn healing into hope.

  • 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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