A New Lenten Journey ~ Allowing God More Access

Here we are two weeks into Lent and I haven’t written a post about this time of year.  No big deal you may think, because you don’t recognize Lent or do anything special to participate in it.  Well, maybe it’s time you considered it.  Let me explain…

lent 40 days

Let’s Consider Lent

Lent is the 40-day period approaching Holy Week and Easter Sunday, usually associated with fasting, repentance, or sacrificial giving.  It is commonly considered a Catholic ritual, but I know of several local Protestant churches and friends who routinely participate in Lenten and Holy Week services, prayer practices, and such, just like they do for Advent (the season preceding Christmas).

This is my 5th year of actively participating in the Lenten season.  I’ve written about it several times: how and why I stumbled onto this practice, how it changed me and what I fasted from, and even about my son’s Lenten journey last year.  This year I was at a loss on how to change my Lenten practices, what to give up, etc.  I am again abstaining from alcohol and sweets.  Although, it seems to be part of an annual body cleanse now more than a strictly spiritual sacrifice.

Yesterday, I got an answer to how this Lent will be different.  It wasn’t about doing something different, it was about being something different.  The only way I can be different is to allow God access to my heart and mind.  And He gets hours of it in our weekly appointment at my sacred space.

He reminded me that after four years of dedicated weekly prayer time, that He has already transformed me from the inside out and made me into something new (yet again).  In our time together, He routinely speaks to me, guides me, and gives me peace.  He convicts me of my sinful ways and points me back to His will and ways.  (Although I do often wrestle with him when it comes to letting go of my grip on things.)

My willingness to enter the Catholic church over four years ago and start my weekly appointments with God have given Him more access to me not just at Lent, but year-round.  He reminded me that I don’t need to do anything different for Lent this year.

Seek Me in this Place

I am to just keep coming, keep seeking His will, keep listening for His voice, and keep writing about His messages to me—either in private or publically on my blog.  He will let me know when and how much to share.

Habakkuk 2:1 says, “I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost.  There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how He will answer.”

Oddly enough, my watchtower is in a Catholic church, and my guardpost is in the sanctity of its small chapel.

Listening for God at the guardpost (local chapel).

Listening for God at the guardpost (local chapel).

It started with the season of Lent five years ago.   I embraced the mystery of Jesus there, a very unusual thing for a Protestant to do.  He was stretching me outside of my comfort zone as He showed up and kept wooing me to seek Him there every week.

It changed me.  It changed my prayer practices.  It has also trickled into my family, has rubbed off on some of my friends, and is modeled in the groups I lead and participate in.

How are you Giving God more Access?

So the message I am sharing today is about doing whatever it takes to give God more access in your life.

Make time in your schedule.  Find a quiet place.  Read the Bible.  Pray.  Listen.  Record what happens.

Lent is a the perfect time to do that, and make this Easter not just one of those Sundays that you have to go to church.  Make it a season and way to give God access to your life in new and mysterious ways.  And you’ll never be the same again.

How are you giving God more access to you?  Where is your watchtower?  I’d love to hear about what you are doing for Lent.

CR Mission Update 4 – Additional Meetings in Rivas

I’ve been back from Spain a few days, still dealing with the effects of jet lag and trying to re-integrate into life in America. I’m feeling very blessed that the Lord would use me to be His Hands and Feet on the ground in Spain. There is so much I’d love to write about all of this, but for now am passing on the latest in the series from the ministry where I serve at Pine Lake Covenant Church. Muchas gracias for your support and prayers while I was on this mission of faith.

Celebrate Recovery on the Plateau

In my (Ardis Nelson, member of the CR leader team at PLCC) last post about the Celebrate Recovery (CR) mission to Spain, we had just completed the seminar portion of our time at the host church in Rivas, Comunidad Cristiana Luz y Vida (Light and Life Christian Community). The following day was Sunday, October 5. We were given the Sunday school time slot to present more CR information to the overall church.

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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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On Mission for God, Part 5 ~ Getting Nervous

There it is—that old familiar feeling of fear. This time it is accompanied by the old mantra that I’ve struggled to banish from my mind for the last few years…  “I don’t know what I’m doing.”  It’s been months since it’s surfaced.  Yes, there have been doubts along the way.  But now…I leave in less than two weeks!  I think Satan is up to his little tricks again.

god-is-in-control1

The Need to Control

One of the reasons this is so hard for me is because it triggers many of the issues that brought me to my knees and to my first Celebrate Recovery meeting ten years ago—my workaholism, perfectionism and need to control.  I’m stumbling over them again as I try to fit in all that needs to be done before I leave (what I want done).

It is a struggle to let go and let God. This is the biggest layer of letting go and trusting God that I’ve ever had to do.  It is one of the biggest sacrifices that I’ve ever had to do in a ministry setting as well.

But isn’t that the way God works?  He is always stretching us and chiseling us to be more like Jesus.

 

Check out God’s Chisel (above video), by the Skit Guys, based on this very message.  They perform regularly at the annual CR Summit at Saddleback Church, where I saw them last month.

The Loneliness

Although I am partnered with two male missionary colleagues across the world, it feels like a very lonely call to me. Our connections are limited by a 9-hour time difference and other work and ministry commitments.  We each have our own roles in the mission.

My partner in France is working on the training materials.  My partner in Spain is organizing and hosting the seminar at his church.  I’m up to my eyeballs in fund raising, speaking, writing, and preparing to leave the country for three weeks.

My French missionary partner preparing Spanish training materials.

My French missionary partner preparing Spanish training materials.

My loneliness partly stems from working in isolation at home. But it also is highly triggered every time I send out an appeal for donations or prayer support.  I hate asking.  I hate facing the silence (and perceived rejection).

It triggers the abandonment issues of my past and brings my little Ardis screaming to the surface.  Last week my angst over this sent me to my counselor for a short session to look at more unresolved hurts.  The tears naturally came like I hadn’t felt in a long time.

Little Ardis is scared about taking these steps into the unknown.  She remembers what happened last year—the culture shock and not having a voice.  Adult Ardis is soothing her.  SHE is trusting God and taking steps of faith.

Normalizing the Growth Process

The stress I am under right now is normal for this type of situation. I am facing a lot of ambiguity.  I have since I started down this road four years ago when I reached out to Rosa and stepped into the healing of my mother wounds.  I have had to normalize so many things in my life since then—a family connection in Spain, my writing ministry, Pedro’s film composing pursuits, and now out of the blue, being called into missions.

growing-pains

And with growth comes pain.

That is a big part of the message I want to convey in France and Spain. In order to change our patterns of behavior and face the hurts that are keeping us from living the life that God intends, we have to embrace the pain.  It is not easy.  It takes time.  It takes courage—lots of it.

When you use the biblical 12-steps of Celebrate Recovery as your guide, Jesus is with you every step of the way. Once you start to notice the change, you don’t want to go back.

It brings Freedom!  It brings Hope!

So, yes, I am getting nervous. It is normal.  I’m not going to let it stop me or slow me down.  I know that God has called me to do this—regardless of the outcome.  It’s in His hands.

He told me to “GO.”  I need His permission not to go.

mission

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19, NIV)

Please join me in prayer for this mission (September 24 – October 16, 2014) for the Word to take root and start a renewal of spiritual growth in France and Spain.

Leading With Love

Weddings are a time of great celebration, excitement, and hope for a beautiful future—a fairy tale ending.  Brides often enter into marriage dreaming of living happily ever after.  However, the national divorce statistics tell us a different story.  If you are part of that statistic, or currently not romantically involved, I imagine you dread Valentine’s Day.

Broken marriage heartThe Reality of Marriage

Serving as a leader in a local Celebrate Recovery (CR) ministry, I get a chance to hear a lot of testimonies and people’s life stories—male and female.  Many of the women who come to CR are either divorced or have had a history of marital struggles.  But hey, don’t go thinking that I am getting a distorted view of society.  Marital heartache and misery are much more common than you think.

The people who show up at CR are choosing to take off their masks and come out of denial about it.  They are generally the fortunate ones.  Not because of their painful past, but because they are seeking help and healing.  In time, they generally become grateful for those struggles because it made them stronger.  Romans 8:28 becomes real to them, often for the first time:  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV)

These women (and men) are taking steps to get emotionally healthy, deal with their past baggage, learn to set healthy boundaries, take care of their needs, and live life more fully—regardless of their past.  They are on a journey of self-discovery, with or without a spouse or partner.

If they’ve been in recovery for a while, they can even laugh about the process—making light that their people picker is broken.  I’ve seen it over and over again as people attract the exact kind of romantic partner that will lead to the same negative relationship patterns.  They may decide they want a relationship, thinking they are ready again, or they may be willing to settle.

WARNING—more heartache ahead!

Children of divorceA Legacy of Divorce

Let’s face it relationships are hard work, and marriage is the hardest because we spend most of our time with our spouse.  If we come from a family background where divorce was part of our heritage, we may quickly look to that as an escape clause—thinking it is normal. In my case, my parents had a combined ten marriages between them.  They were on marriages #2 and #4 when my siblings and I were born.  I swore I wouldn’t do that to my kids.  Thankfully I didn’t.  It doesn’t have to be part of our legacy.

I understand the heartache of divorce.  I understand the devastation and painful wake that it leaves behind for the families.  I’ve felt the blame and shame of it.  I brought a lot of that same baggage into my marriage.  It has only been since I entered recovery a decade ago that I’ve seen how much it affected me—my behaviors and my underlying fear of rejection and abandonment.

Heart in handLeading with Love

I’ve had lots of restoration and healing in my marriage over the years.  I don’t lead from a place of having it all together.  I lead from a place of brokenness, knowing how hard it is, and continuing to struggle in the process.  I know God has given me kisses of love from Above, and in my marriage, so that I can impart hope to others who are seeking a Godly marriage.*  I lead with Love, because He first loved me. (1 John 4:19)

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to look for ways that you can appreciate your spouse, even in the midst of your struggles.  If you are not married, don’t let the Valentine blues get to you.  Have some fun with a friend or show someone else you care in a non-romantic way.

Who says Valentine’s Day is for lovers?  Make it for love!  You can lead the way!

*This post is dedicated to and inspired by my friends who are in the throes of a strained marital relationship.

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

A New Year, A New You

I’ve been busy, busy, and more busy with a new internet project that involves two of my favorite passions—writing and spiritual matters.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t left me with much time to publish a post here.  In the meantime, I’m proud to show it off to my blog subscribers.

I recently developed a website for a recovery ministry where I serve with a tremendous team of Christ followers.  Our blog was launched last week.

I will be regularly contributing to that blog.  So if you like my writing, especially my posts related to recovery, I invite you to subscribe to that blog as well.

Below is my latest contribution to the blog for CelebrateRecoveryOnThePlateau.org.  I hope you enjoy it reblogged here.

A New Year, A New You.

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

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.

Reclaiming Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day forever changed for me in May 2010. That was the last time I saw my mother alive.  It was also her last Mother’s Day.  Previous to that day I think the last time we were together on Mother’s Day was my senior year in high school—a span of 35 years.

Happy Mother's DaySeparated by Mental Illness

Over those many years Mother’s Day wasn’t something I looked forward to.  It was a day of obligatory cards or calls. She was remarried (again) and happy it seemed—that is until her husband died.  After that she drifted in and out of mental hospitals and eventually became a ward of the state.

I had tremendous guilt about my relationship with her.  I wanted a mother, but didn’t want her to be my mother.  Due to her mental illness and emotional instability she wasn’t able to teach me how to be a mother myself.  I had to figure it out on my own.  I didn’t hold that against her.  After all, I was pretty self-sufficient in those days.  I just accepted that she was mentally ill.  I chose to distance myself from her physically and emotionally and told myself it was for my own sanity.

Coming Together Again

My final Mother's Day gift to my mom

My final Mother’s Day gift to my mom

When mom had her stroke in 2009, God nudged me back by her side for two visits. The Lord was working on my heart on those trips.  As she lingered on hospice, living day to day with the aid of a feeding tube, God was making it clear His work wasn’t done between us yet.  That led me to that last visit on Mother’s Day 2010.

Between that trip—the last time I saw her alive—and the day she passed away nine months later, Pedro and Rosa, my Spanish family, entered our lives.  And the rest, as they say, is history—forever documented in Journeys to Mother Love.

Mother’s Day Reclaimed

Those first few Mother’s Days after she passed away were hard for me.  I deliberately spent them entrenched with my immediate family, to distract me from those painful reminders.  Now, I celebrate Mother’s Day with Rosa, as my kindred spirit of mother love—although it is one week earlier in Spain.

Mother's Day Gift of LifeAs strange as it may sound, I feel like every day is Mother’s Day to me now.  My mom’s death in February 2011 brought about a rebirth in me that forever changed the way I view my life and Mother’s Day.

It was as if her death brought me life, not because of any burden I was carrying of guilt or shame, as some might do.  It was because I got in touch with pieces of myself that were previously buried deep within me—parts of my identity that weren’t ok to express.   God revealed to me in her passing that I am beautifully and wonderfully made in ways like my mother that I couldn’t bear to embrace before.

So every day really is Mother’s Day to me, because of my gratitude to my mom, and to the Lord for giving me back my life.  I have reclaimed the real purpose of Mother’s Day in my life.  It is the incredible gift that mother’s give to everyone—the gift of life.

Regardless of the status of your relationship with your mother, my wish for you is a Mother’s Day that is filled with pleasant memories and gratitude to the one who gave you life.

Journeys To Mother LoveMore “Journeys to Mother Love” & Free Ebook

If this is the first time you’ve stumbled upon my blog, I encourage you to also check out journeystomotherlove.com, the blog hosted by Cladach Publishing, the publisher of Journeys to Mother Love.  This blog, dedicated to encouraging each other in mother/child relationship healing, is authored by the nine contributors to “Journeys to Mother Love”, and invites others to share their stories.

Now through Monday, May 13, 2013, get your free Kindle ebook of Journeys to Mother Love at Amazon.com.  Since this is free, after you’ve read the book, would you do me and my publisher a huge favor by writing a review? And don’t forget to subscribe, follow, like, pin, press this or share in your favorite social media!

May these stories inspire you on your journey to mother love.  Happy Mother’s Day!

  • 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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    © Ardis A. Nelson and MakingMeBold, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ardis A. Nelson and MakingMeBold with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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