Holy Week, Holy People

Holy Week—the pinnacle of the Christian faith. It starts with Palm Sunday—the remembrance of Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem on a donkey while surrounded by crowds cheering ‘Hosanna’. It ends on Easter Sunday, with the Good News of the empty tomb. He is risen!  In between is the story of sacrificial love and gruesome suffering that led to the exchanged lives that Believers in Christ receive.Holy Week Faith Matters

It is not unusual for my mind to be on matters of Christian faith. I am not a trained pastor. I haven’t attended seminary. I don’t pretend to be a religious scholar. So why would I spend time on Holy Week sitting down to write a post about it?

It is because FAITH matters! And YOU matter to God!

If you are anything like me, you may not have grown up believing that, or maybe you still have doubts about it to this day. The root of that doubt doesn’t lie with God. It lies to a large degree with the formation of your identity as a young child and your family of origin.

You matter to God

Childlike Faith

In Luke 18:16-17, Jesus says “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Was Jesus excluding adults in His Kingdom? No, He was reminding us of the innocence of a child. He was telling us to trust—a characteristic that we often lose in childhood due to shame, disappointments, emotional wounds, abuse, etc. This mistrust or absence of innocence can be brought on by a traumatic incident and sudden loss, or may be due to negative messages that over time we integrate into our souls as unworthiness. With those kinds of identity messages being heaped on us at an early age it’s no wonder we reject God or don’t believe we are who He says we are.  (I know because I have struggled with that myself.)*

My-identity-in-Christ

Who Are We?

We are Holy People!

Hard to believe?  Then consider the standard you are using to determine the validity of that statement. Are you believing the father of all lies, the devil (John 8:44)? Or maybe you are comparing yourself to the Heroes of the Faith praised in Hebrews 11.

Are you saying, “I’m no Moses”, or “I don’t have faith like Abraham?” These Fathers of our Faith ended their lives well, but they had many sinful acts in their lifetimes. Moses murdered an Egyptian and fled to Midian (Exodus 2). Out of fear for his own safety, Abraham passed off his wife Sarah, as his sister, allowing a king to take her as his wife (Genesis 12). These heroes of our faith were broken people who failed, but God still used them, just like He uses us.

Holiness

Proof of our Holiness

How can we consider ourselves holy? Romans 10:9 says, If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Jesus sacrifice was the price to make us holy in God’s eyes. God doesn’t see our sins anymore. We are the ones who condemn ourselves and continue to act like or believe we are unworthy.

Still having a hard time seeing yourself as holy—or that God would consider you holy? I grew up thinking (mistakenly so, by the way) that saints were only those people who were canonized by the Catholic Church. However, there are many verses in the Bible that reference God’s people as saints. For instance, Paul uses the term saints over and over again in his greetings to the New Testament churches. When our time comes to leave this life, Psalm 116:15 tells us: Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (New King James Version).

As you enter into these last few days of Holy Week, remember who you are, and whose you are. Your holiness was paid for with a price. The proof is in the empty tomb. He is risen indeed!

Empty Tomb

*For a great book on our identity in Christ, read Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You by Tamara J Buchan, or better yet, attend one of her amazing retreats.

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What Are Your Memory Stones?

As I age each year and the significance of life events seem to take on more meaning, I am gathering more and more memory stones for my journey.

What is a memory stone?  It is a Biblical reference to a type of marker—usually tangible—that we keep as a remembrance of God’s activity in our life.  One such Biblical reference is in Joshua 4:19-24, about a time in Israel’s history when God did a significant thing—he parted the Jordan River to allow the Israelites to cross into the Promised Land.  The twelve stones that were left on the other side (one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel) were left as a memorial—or spiritual marker—for future generations.

January is of course a time when people often reflect on the milestones over the previous year, make resolutions and rededicate their lives to new areas for growth.  For me, January also comes with bittersweet memories of several significant spiritual markers.

Collecting Memory Stones

I didn’t pay any attention to these spiritual markers until my life hit a dramatic wall in January 2004.  That was when I was demoted from my job.  I am grateful for that life changing event though, as that event led me out of denial and into recovery.  Last night I celebrated that milestone by accepting a 9-year coin (memory stone) at a local Celebrate Recovery (Christian 12-step) meeting.9 year CR coin

But that is not all I celebrated as January came to an end.  I celebrated the one year anniversary of having my story, “Walking My Mother Home”, accepted by Cladach Publishing (exactly eight years to the day after my demotion).  In January I also celebrated the anniversary of the receipt of Pedro’s first song and finding out he was a composer.  I prayerfully remembered the passing of Rosa’s mother.  I celebrated a significant trip to Wisconsin five years ago that led to identity revelations as I poured through the personal effects of my late Aunt Ardis.

New Stones to Treasure

My latest memory stone, a heart shaped stone, was received last week at the end of a 4-day spiritual retreat in California led by Tamara J. Buchan and based on her book, Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You.  I left there feeling energized and renewed in my purpose and more firmly grounded in my identity in Christ.  (I had multiple revelations that in time may surface in my blog.)

Two of my significant memories stones.

Two of my significant memories stones.

As if to wrap all of these January memory stones together with a bow, this week I had yet another reminder of how special the last few years of my journey have been.  During my dedicated weekly time of prayer at a Catholic Church, I wrote my thoughts on the last page of a beautiful leather bound journal.  My first entry in that journal was in that same church after Rosa’s mother passed away. I have reserved it for my times with God.  The journal in itself is a beautiful memory stone that I will always treasure.

The final words God gave me as I finished this book of prayers and meditations were these:  “Your life used to revolve around the payroll calendar (in reference to my secular job and demotion).  Now your life revolves around Me and the liturgical calendar.”  It was music to my ears as the words flowed from my pen.  For this I am grateful.

So you see, memory stones come in all shapes and sizes.  What they have in common is the memory they hold to encourage you on your journey—to never forget what the Lord has done for you.

What kind of memory stones do you keep and what does it represent to you?

Expectant Hope, Part 1 – California Dreamin’

The day started with expectant hope.  I had less than two hours of sleep yet I awoke feeling refreshed. When my head hit the pillow a few hours before, I prayed that no matter how many hours of sleep I had that I would feel refreshed.  Starting the day with answered prayer definitely put a spring in my step.  I showered, dressed and finished packing for my trip.  I arrived at my friend Linda’s house at 5 AM—a few minutes earlier than our appointed meeting time—more answered prayer.

Linda and I were heading to the San Francisco Bay area for a 4-day spiritual retreat, led by Tamara Buchan.  The days leading up to the retreat, I was stressed trying to handle the ever growing list of tasks to do before I left.  I couldn’t even get excited for the trip.  But once we got situated on the plane, I finally felt free to turn my undivided attention to this quality time with my friend.

I poured through the travel guide on things to do for our one-day pre-retreat adventure in San Francisco.  My one and only trip to San Francisco was over 20 years earlier and only a vague memory.  As I read through all of the sightseeing options, I was overwhelmed with all the possibilities.  We agreed on a few key sights—the cable cars, Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Lombard Street and a sightseeing cruise on the Bay.

Waiting in traffic for an hour and peering out over the Bay, I wondered about our photo opportunities with the haze that was looming in the distance.  By the time our boat left the dock, the sky was clear and the sun was shining.  As the boat approached the Golden Gate Bridge, the photo opportunities grew and grew.  With one camera and two cell phones, we snapped away—capturing the bridge from different angles.  It was a picture-perfect day on the Bay.  We weren’t even bothered by not being able to hear a word that the guide said over the loud speakers.  It was enough to just take in the beauty of the day and this place.

An unexpected pleasure, checking off a bucket list item in San Francisco.

An unexpected pleasure, checking off a bucket list item in San Francisco.

“Check”, I thought as we departed the boat.  I don’t have a physical bucket list (list of things to do before I die), but that would definitely be on it.  I’m not sure why, but I have always wanted to have my picture taken with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.  It is iconic.  I was there before, but with no photo to prove it, the experience and memory had faded.  This was truly satisfying.

We ended the day with a leisurely late night dinner—sharing our hopes and dreams.  I needed this day.  I needed these reminders of the little things—basking in the beauty of God’s creation and man’s architectural wonders.  I have expectant hope.

Each day can be a bucket list kind of day.  It all depends on how we view it.  Do you view each day as a gift from God or as a painful reminder of what-ifs and what might’ve been?  I have expectant hope that He is going to use me in bigger ways this year.  I am nervous about it all—yet excited about the possibilities.

My trip to California is an investment in my self-care and to prepare me for the next steps toward the dream that God has put on my heart.  I’m stepping into more unknown territory with expectant hope.  I’m ready to see where God leads me and what I can check off my bucket list next—whether it be just living another day or traveling to Spain this summer.  I’m doing some California dreaming—and checking off an unexpected gift on my mental bucket list.

Have you done anything fun from your bucket list?  What was the last thing you checked off?

Goal Setting 101

As I worked on my 2013 goals, I had a sense that it is time for me to slow down.  But how can I do that?  I have a big year ahead of me.  I am traveling to Spain this summer for an extended stay. I need to continue my memoir writing to be prepared for my visit.  I need to study Spanish.  I need to promote my book so I can earn money for the trip.  I want to publically speak about how God turns our healing into hope.  I want to continue blogging.  While all of these things are good, I cannot do it all.  I need to trust that God is going to point me in the direction of what is most important.

Realistic Goal SettingGoal Setting

On my first pass at writing down my goals, I came up with a very long list of tangible and measureable things to get done this year.  I also came up with a list of areas in my life to improve on.  Right off the bat, I can admit that I’m not going to blog once a week like I planned (witness my first post of 2013 is dated January 12), get the number of Facebook ‘likes’ I want or sell the books I need to cover my trip.  (I’m not being pessimistic; I’m just realizing that I’m not going to push myself so much to make it happen.)

With the addition of my physical exhaustion over the last few weeks, I’ve been running around with a critical voice in my head.  It’s been telling me I shouldn’t have pushed so hard to write for NaNoWriMo, I shouldn’t be blogging, and worst of all, I shouldn’t go to Spain.  Ouch!  Where did that come from?  D-O-U-B-T!  It creeps in so insidiously—especially when you are exhausted.  And it’s a sign that I really do need to slow down and refocus on what God wants me to do.

In setting my goals for the year, I want to make sure that they align with His will for me.  I expect to continue blogging; I know I will work on my memoir, and I will most definitely be traveling to Spain.  But I am letting go of making measurable goals around them and trying to be hyper-vigilant about meeting them.  I have to be realistic about what my mind and body will allow.

Renew and Restore

Last month when I started to realize how burned out I really was, a friend and mentor, Tamara J Buchan, reminded me that without a season of rest, we lose our effectiveness.  That is exactly how it feels to me right now.  I need time to renew and restore physically, emotionally and spiritually.  In light of that I have made a positive decision to attend her “Reclaim the True You Identity Retreat” in a few weeks (based on her book).  It will be the perfect opportunity for me to get in touch with God’s direction for my life and this year in particular.  Identity Crisis Book

Goal Collaboration

I’m still a work in progress and trying to find the right balance for my life.  In the meantime, it helps me to be reminded of the following Proverbs (TNIV):

  • Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. (Proverbs 16:3)
  • In their hearts human beings plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
  • Many are the plans in a human heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

When I collaborate with God to set my goals for the year, I know this next season will be fruitful and that He will direct my path.  How about you?  What goals are you collaborating with God on for 2013?

Reclaiming the True You

Last year at this time, I attended an all-day workshop developed by Tamara J. Buchan, an author and friend.  The material she shared from her book, “Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You” was so significant to me, I ended up partnering with her on the book marketing team for a short time before she moved to California.

The identity breakthroughs I had at the workshop changed my life.  I left the workshop empowered to do the unthinkable—to write a book.  Within a few months my short story, “Walking My Mother Home”, was accepted by Cladach Publishing.  The book is still a work in progress.  You can read about my identity breakthroughs in an interview Tamara wrote on her blog at tamarabuchan.com.

Tamara and I at the book launch for “Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You”, March 2012

Tamara’s book, “Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You” takes readers through an identity journey which starts with our true purpose and moves to God’s invitation to become his adopted child in the  family of God.  Throughout the book, Tamara challenges us to change our minds about our true identity and to not accept the “orphaned” status that we so often cling to in our daily lives.

Each chapter reveals key principles that help to breakdown the internal barriers and lies we believe about ourselves.  At the end of each chapter, Tamara provides reflection topics and hands-on experiences that help to integrate the teaching through our minds and into our hearts.

I love how the last chapter reviews key points from the previous chapters.  It ties all of the identity roles together and ends with a call to action.  When I reviewed the various identities, it was confirmation of how I’ve been walking out my new identity and re-purposed my writing and speaking for Him.

Tamara’s words in the book are not just words on the page.  They are an invitation to living life differently—to not remain stuck in our heads or full of doubt.  It is an invitation to move forward and live our lives as God designed.

Having worked with and been mentored by Tamara has given me a unique firsthand perspective to witness how Tamara lives her life by these principles.  I have seen Tamara cling to her identity no matter what the circumstances might be.  In the face of life’s unpleasant and painful circumstances, I too, want to be able to stand tall and still declare my identity in Christ.

I was blessed to be able to attend one of Tamara’s workshops as well as read the book.  Earlier this year, Tamara moved from the Seattle area to the San Francisco area.  She is a gifted speaker and holds retreats, workshops, and speaking events that revolve around the spiritual truths in her book.

Regardless of where you are on your spiritual journey, as a long time follower of Christ or a new Believer, I highly recommend reading Tamara’s book, “Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You”.  Her book will challenge you to start thinking differently and to break free from the bonds that are holding you back from becoming all that God designed you to be.

The Barometer For Success

I am getting nervous.  In less than two weeks I will be an author when my first manuscript, “Walking My Mother Home”, is published.  What started as journaling and a strong desire to write after my mother passed away in February 2011 will be part of a real live book, Journeys to Mother Love, published by Cladach Publishing.

I am elated about this new venture.  I did my part, stepping out of my comfort zone to write this story and God has blessed it.  I’ve received positive feedback and encouragement from friends and family to pursue this dream.   Yet deep inside I am scared about what lies ahead on many different levels.

First of all, the story is very personal.  I wrote it from a place of deep pain.  I’ve been very protective with the manuscript and only shared it with a few people.  In fact, I didn’t even re-read it myself until after it was accepted.  And now I am nervous about telling my story.  It feels pretty vulnerable and risky.

Then there are the financial and promotional aspects of this venture.  I have invested a lot of my time and money into this project.  As a beginning author, I may be naive, but I’m hoping my personal sales from this book make enough money to cover the costs of my pilgrimage to Spain next summer so I can finally meet Rosa and write more of this story.

This all means I’ll need to personally promote the book and myself—build a platform, schedule speaking engagements, book signings, etc.  It’s been a large learning curve.  Thankfully, a friend recommended I consider working with a publishing coach.  I didn’t even know what that was.

Three weeks ago, I hired Athena Dean of Book Jolt, to help me with all of these decisions and the marketing.  These are all things I wouldn’t have imagined myself doing a year ago—and sometimes I’m still on the fence about all of this. Ultimately I do get to choose how much of this I end up doing though.

So as I prepare to launch my book, I am nervous about “success”.  I want the book to make money.  Like most authors, I really don’t want to promote myself.  I am stressed about all the things I still need to do to prepare for the launch.  I am trying to balance this with my other family commitments.

I’ve been pondering the words of a wise friend and mentor, Tamara J. Buchan, about this very subject.  She said, “Faithfulness to the Lord is the barometer of success.”  When I focus on success as being based on my faithfulness to the Lord, then I can release my stress and my desire to control the outcome. I have been faithful and that is what God rewards.  Maybe not how we want–financially, materially, etc., but with the kinds of treasures that really matter.  For me, that’s been
the relationships I’ve gained along the way.

I am nervous, but God has blessed me with amazing healing and is equipping me to take these next steps of obedience.  I am grateful to Him and feel called to share this regardless of how successful it may appear by the world’s standards.  I am gearing up to be faithful—and successful by God’s standards.

What’s your barometer for success?  How do you define it?

Writing: My First Year, Part 4 – Finishing Strong

Almost two months to the day I submitted my manuscript to Cladach Publishing, I received an email that my story was being accepted for publication.  It was the biggest confirmation possible that I really was on the right path with my writing.  Not only was I a writer, but technically I was now going to be an author.  This was such exciting news for me and worthy of a celebration.  (See “Waiting on Pins & Needles” for more information.)

Once the initial shock wore off, my mind was filled with a hundred questions and a new fear sunk in—fear of the unknown.  Thankfully I had a dedicated group of friends supporting and praying for me.  I also knew three authors, Tamara J. Buchan, Henriet Schapelhouman and Michelle Hollomon, who provided wisdom as I ventured into this unknown territory.

I nervously negotiated my contract with the publisher including the retention of the foreign rights in hopes of someday publishing it in Spain.  Over the last five months, I’ve had several conversations and emails with my publisher and been faced with numerous decisions along the way.

I’ve done multiple edits to the manuscript, had photos taken for the book (thanks to a friend’s time and talent), written a one-sheet (publicity document), sought endorsements (Steven Arterburn accepted!), and navigated my website set up.  With less than two months to go before “Journeys to Mother Love” is published, my attention will turn to marketing and promotional aspects of the book and facing more fears.

Over the past year, my writing has definitely taken me into uncharted territory and stretched me outside of my comfort zone.  There was a lot of time spent in prayer and physically spent writing.  The pain in my right arm and shoulder is a reminder of my devotion to this new direction in my life and my need for some self-care.

When I tell people about the events of the last year or that I am going to be published, I am often met with surprise and excitement for these bold changes in me and what God is doing in my life.  I’ve been told that my path to publication is not typical and that it generally takes years to be published.

I don’t say this to boast.  I have to remind myself of this because I know that it is God who has made all of this possible.  I’ve had to do my part, but I believe that He has put these dreams in my heart.  I believe He has given me these confirmations so that I will continue down this path.  He knew that I would need them to continue facing my fears.

Even though I totally sense God in the midst of this, that doesn’t mean it has been easy.  There have been lots of challenges and times of doubt.  When my doubts surface, I remind myself of His faithfulness and His promises.  (Jeremiah 29:11)

So from that day one year ago that I voiced my desire to be a writer, I’ve had to consciously choose to step into this new role in my life.  As I did I was also accepting my identity in Christ more and more.  In doing so, I have found freedom to write what God lays on my heart to write.  The foundational truth that I cling to is that God accepts me unconditionally even if and when my writing is rejected.  I’d have to characterize that as a pretty strong finish to a whirlwind year of writing.

Are you open to following God’s path for you?  Where are you partnering with Him in your life or where are you fighting Him?  What has He revealed to you along the way?  What’s stopping you from finishing strong?  I’d love to hear your story.

Writing: My First Year, Part 3 – Getting Side Tracked

One of the first emails I received after becoming a member of the Northwest Christian Writers Association was a request to submit a story on healing in mother/child relationships.  Although I knew it was tailor made for my story—the reason I felt God calling me to start writing—I didn’t act on it immediately.  Writing a 10,000 word story about my healing with my mother seemed like a luxury.

I had just started blogging, was writing e-devotionals for my church, committed to help launch Celebrate Recovery at my church and took a part-time marketing job for friend and pastor, Tamara J. Buchan.  Tamara was ramping up her team to promote her new book, Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You.

While I’ve done lots of marketing for my husband’s business over the years, I had never worked in the publishing industry.  I had a large learning curve to overcome in this position.  What appealed to me with this job was that I knew what I learned would be used someday for marketing the book I wanted to write.  I was also drawn to working with Tamara and being so closely mentored by her.

As the deadline for the story submission approached, God kept nudging me to write the story.  My biggest fear was if I wrote the story and it was published that I would never write the bigger book.  One night as I was journaling, I noticed that since my mother died and my writing started, nine months earlier, I had already written 114,000 words in my journal.  That was more than enough for a 200-page book.  That was all I needed to confirm that I have enough material for a book.

But there was one problem still remaining—I needed dedicated time to write the story in the next three weeks.  God was making it pretty clear to me that I couldn’t write this story or my book and also work for Tamara.  It was a painful decision that weighed heavy on my heart.

I loved working with Tamara.  But I realized that continuing down this path was asking God to sanctify my disobedience.  So I quit.  The irony in the situation is that the revelations I discovered about my identity directly correlated with the message in Tamara’s book.  Working for her and reading her book took my faith and trust in God to a higher level—despite the consequences.  It was a big blessing.

I booked a few days away at a camp over Thanksgiving weekend so I could devote quality time to writing the story.  Since I never wrote anything this big or submitted a story for publication, I also hired my writing teacher, Candace Wilson, to coach my writing.  Armed in prayer covering by my friends, loaded down with a huge stack of papers that I’d accumulated over the past two years and my new laptop, I dove into the story.  (See Counting Words for a summary of my writing weekend.)

On December 1, 2011, I submitted my story, “Walking My Mother Home”, to Cladach Publishing. I met my deadline.  I was relieved.  I released the outcome to God.

Have you ever gone down a road that seemed so right, only to find out later that God had other plans?  How did you respond?  Did you fight God, bargain with Him or relinquish control and trust His plans for you?

  • 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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