Over the past several years I have had many friends tell me that they were doing an Advent Bible Study. Sometimes it was a self-guided study that they were tackling on their own. At other times they were reading an additional book or studying with a Bible study group. The point is that it has become quite “popular”.
I don’t usually do the trendy thing. I was years behind joining facebook and instagram and while I have a TikTok, but I really don’t have the foggiest idea what to do with it. I feel like I spend too much of my day seeing what is going on with my friends by checking out those platforms. So, in truth, I resisted the advent study.
Then, 2021 happened. I haven’t lost my faith, but I did lose my hope. I told my friends that I felt like Moses and that the only reason I was surviving was because they were holding up my arms like Aaron held up Moses’ in the wilderness. Thank you, friends.
Then, I saw on facebook that one of the writer’s that I follow was having an advent study. I joined the group and immediately began looking forward to the study.
Listen to what I just said! I began looking forward to it! Honestly, I haven’t looked forward to anything all year.
So, I went a step further. I started my own group as well! We are following the book, “Embracing Advent: Rediscovering Christmas in the Chaos.” I wasn’t sure how it would be received, but I knew I wanted to share this experience with some of my friends–many of them who prayed me through the wilderness.
We began our study on December 1st and we plan to read one chaper of Luke a day until we conclude on December 25 with Luke 25. We will also read one chapter of Jen Ludwig’s book.
I’m on day three and am so glad I did this.
Advent means “coming.” When we do an advent study we are preparing for the coming of this season. It’s more than reading one chapter of Luke a day. It’s spending time reading, praying and waiting.
Waiting. Do we all feel like we have done enough of that for the last two years? I’m pretty sure the children of Israel waited lots more than that for the birth of Christ. We have it so easy these days and waiting isn’t something that we are good at.
Did you know that the word “hope” in the BIble is sometimes translated “to wait for“? I never thought about the fact that waiting and hoping were so connected. I guess I like things to be taken care of or answered now…right now.
Jen Ludwig says in her book, “In order to actively find hope, hold on to hope, cling to hope and be anchored in hope: we need to be very deliberate in our patient waiting.” Did someone say patient???? UGH.
But listen to this promise:
“But those who HOPE in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
As we begin this Advent season, will you wait quietly for what the Lord is teaching?
I’m going to try.
What are you hoping for? I’d love to hear from you!
As Thanksgiving approaches I have been thinking about traditions and how each family is sometimes so alike and sometimes so very different. I decided to google the word tradition and see what the results were.
1) “The definition of a tradition is a custom or belief that is passed down through the generations or that is done time after time or year after year.”
An example of a tradition is eating turkey on Thanksgiving or putting up a tree on Christmas.
2) “The passing down of elements of a culture from generation to generation, especially by oral communication.”
3) “A part of culture that is passed from person to person or generation to generation, possibly differing in detail from family to family, such as the way to celebrate holidays.”
4) “A long-established custom or practice having the effect of precedent or unwritten law.”
I find it interesting that each idea has several things in common: it includes the passing of time
and it is something that happens again and again. Cultures may be different, beliefs may be different and families certainly are different, but we are alike in this way– traditions are important to us.
Why do we have traditions? Why do we value them?
We follow them year after year because they mean something to us and deep down I think we hope that our children will continue to honor some of the same traditions. Thus, keeping those traditions alive.
Traditions give a sense of belonging. You have special things that your family does and children notice that. It provides them with a routine that they can depend on. I remember things I did with my parents even more than certain presents I received. It is important to me that my children know why I do what I do. Traditions bind us together.
Traditions tell the story of your family. In fact, in some way it gives your family an identity. It tells your children that they a part of something. It is a way to understand the past and –as things constantly change around us–it also gives us something that is strong and secure to hold on to for the future.
Traditions also teach. They teach children values as you celebrate what means something to you. As your family honors religious traditions, you teach faith. When you spend time with a nightly bedtime story you teach the value of reading and creativity.
Following traditions also gives the family something to look forward to together!
The Overshadowed Christmas play this year is “The Christmas Schooner.” It is a delightful story of a family that comes from a German heritage. (Did you know that the first Christmas trees came from Germany?) The story allows us to see the tradition of decorating a Christmas tree and continues to repeat, “Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a tree!” The mother of the family, Alma, is Swiss and just doesn’t understand this tradition or why her husband would risk his life to bring Christmas trees to Germans who live across Lake Michigan in Chicago. He answers her questions with, “I do, because I have so much.” Thus honoring the tradition of giving and blessing others at this time of year.
It makes me wonder, how far would you go to keep a tradition alive? What would you risk? Should we hold that close to them that we would even do something dangerous? This family did. And believe me, more people than just Germans learned to love the tradition of Christmas trees that once was held only by Germans.
By the way, some people have a tradition of seeing a Christmas show every year. This one would be an amazing one to see. We open this Friday and run until December 18th. Get tickets at www.overshadowed.org
What traditions does your family celebrate? I’d love to hear about them! Please comment, share and follow!
Before we start I just want to thank you all for the outpouring of love, support and prayers you showered upon me after my last blog post. (https://wp.me/p9JkzU-Ny) It was so encouraging and it helped me regain my footing for this week.
My Goodreads account taunts me as it tells me I’m 32 books behind my reading goal for this year! Yikes! 32?? I don’t think I have the ability to catch up and actually I’m rather disappointed in myself. Although, I did have a super rough year. My reading stopped when my husband and I were able to purchase a rental property in Florida. I was so excited, but as my husband explained it, “I just bought you a job.” He was right. I love it and it is super exciting to have that next step in our lives, but it took quite a bit of attention in the beginning.
A little before that we got the news that my mom was going into hospice and the other part of my free time was spent going back and forth to spend time with her. There were a few other things that distracted me (as you faithful readers of this blog know.)
Now, here I am with only a month and a half left to read….hmmm one book every two days….maybe I could do it….(insert ridiculous laugh.)
What keeps me sharing these books with you? This week alone I had one person call me and ask what book she should buy and several others tell me they had just bought books I recommended. Okay. That’s fun.
Maybe one of you will enjoy one of these that I read last month. Please let me know if you do!
Book #1 A New York Secret by Ella Carey
From the cover:
1942, New York. As war rages in Europe, Lily Rose is grateful for her perfect life: a wealthy family who love her and a dream job working uptown as a restaurant chef. Times are changing for women and Lily is determined to run her own kitchen one day. She hopes handsome Tom Morelli, son of Sicilian immigrants, will be at her side. Together they work late, dreaming up delicious meals for New Yorkers struggling with wartime rationing and the threat of sons and sweethearts being called up…
Then Tom receives a devastating telegram that changes everything: he is drafted to fight in Italy.
Suddenly alone, Lily turns to her parents for support. But when her mother finds out about Tom, she is furious. When the war ends, Lily’s duty is to marry the man picked for her, keep house and raise children. They give her a heartbreaking ultimatum: end her relationship with Tom or lose her family and inheritance forever.
In the middle of the war, Lily is left in an impossible position. Will she choose to stay with her family and live the safe life she has always known, or will she follow her heart and her dreams?
I have done quite a lot of reading about WWII in my life time. It is difficult to find an angle to tell a new story in a creative way, but this one by Carey does just that. It didn’t engage me in a way that might make me think about it day and night, but it did teach a powerful lesson about friendships and the tragedy of a society that still places certain rules of society higher than happiness.
Sad to say that the idea that Lily Rose might not be able to follow her dream of being a chef because it wasn’t the plan her parents had for her is a reality that many people still face today. My parent’s approval was always very important to me. I didn’t date guys they didn’t like. I went to the school they wanted me to go to and it broke my heart if they ever said, “Reba, be ashamed.” I felt for Lily. I sensed her torment as she longed to not cause her parent’s pain, but yet knew she could not give up the dreams of her heart.
What I liked about this book:
Lily. She is written creatively as a smart woman that has the courage to make bold choices. In spite of being brought up by a mother who is a snob, she is still loving towards people who don’t have the same luxuries that she does.
Josie. I would love to be a grandmother like she is. One who is proud of their grandchildren and supportive, loving, and leads and teaches with a kind heart.
I like the fresh approach Carey used to tell this story. I never even considered what happened to the male chefs during the war or how restaurants got their food. I guess realistically I never thought that the wealthy would indulge themselves in that way when a country was all sacrificing for the common good.
I thought it was going to be a love story and although it is–I like that the story teaches and focuses on so many other attitudes and lessons. I do believe that I would have enjoyed a little more of the love story between Tom and Lily. I will not give details because I don’t want to give a spoiler, but I find a part of their relationship to be very confusing and perhaps a little unrealistic. If you choose to read this–please drop me a note and let’s talk about this!
Other reviews I read said this book was emotional. To be honest, I didn’t connect with the characters in a way that made it an emotional read for me.
Who should read this book?
Read this book if you are interested in history, World War II, or cooking!
“in order to cope with old age, she needed a purpose, because if she didn’t have one, then she may as well be dead.”
The Slabaugh family are model Amish farmers, prosperous and hardworking, with four children and a happy extended family. When the parents and an uncle are found dead in their barn, it appears to be a gruesome accident: methane gas asphyxiation caused by a poorly ventilated cesspit. But in the course of a routine autopsy, the coroner discovers that one of the victims suffered a head wound before death―clearly, foul play was involved. But who would want to make orphans of the Slabaughs’ children? And is this murder somehow related to a recent string of shocking hate crimes against the Amish?
Having grown up Amish, Kate is determined to bring the killer to justice. Because the other series of attacks are designated hate crimes, the state sends in agent John Tomasetti, with whom Kate has a long and complex relationship. Together, they search for the link between the crimes―and uncover a dark secret at work beneath the placid surface of this idyllic Amish community.
I continued my new habit of listening to books this month. It does take a bit of getting used to, but when the book is good I find that I love it almost as much as holding the book in my hand.
It took me a chapter or two to figure out the main character. There was a great deal of bad language in it and it caught me off guard right from the start. I was so distracted by it that I had to go back and really listen to hear that the main detective was indeed a female. There was something about the way the book was read that I felt right away that she was a guy. Oops. That leads to other problems when her character started talking about dating one of the other men. Yep. I needed to go back and figure out what was what.
I must admit that I didn’t really enjoy the first half of the book. Remember, my last Chirp book was a book I LOVED (you can read about that book here:https://wp.me/p9JkzU-Mm ) So, I was constantly comparing this book to that one. I also wasn’t gripped by the Amish story. It seemed too simple to me.
Man, was I wrong. Just when I thought I had this book all figured out Castillo threw me for a loop. This book is anything but predictable. She sets the stage with perfect descriptions of the Amish and their lifestyles–makes you love the characters in a way that you actually feel sorry for the pain they are all feeling–then-wow. I will not tell you anymore because you need to read or listen to this one for yourself. It is deep and well paced.
Embarrassment number two….I had NO IDEA this was part of a series. It is actually book number 3 in a 14 part series. Maybe that is why I was a little lost in the beginning. Don’t let that stop you though because honestly, I never knew I was missing anything. It could totally stand alone.
What I loved about this book:
I loved the mystery and that it was totally unpredictable. I love Castillo’s vocabulary. Seriously, I have never read a book that used so many words I was unfamiliar with. She’s amazing. Castillo is also a master at describing a scene not just the way it looks, but the way it smells and even feels. The book has a well-layered plot that is certainly a page-turner.
Who should read this book?
Lovers of mysteries. People interested in the Amish way of life. Lovers of thrillers and detective stories.
Lots of language. Violence. Sexual situations.
Book #3 Look Again by Lisa Scottoline
From the Cover:
When reporter Ellen Gleeson gets a “Have You Seen This Child?” flyer in the mail, she almost throws it away. But something about it makes her look again, and her heart stops―the child in the photo is identical to her adopted son, Will. Her every instinct tells her to deny the similarity between the boys, because she knows her adoption was lawful. But she’s a journalist and won’t be able to stop thinking about the photo until she figures out the truth.
And she can’t shake the question: if Will rightfully belongs to someone else, should she keep him or give him up? She investigates, uncovering clues no one was meant to discover, and when she digs too deep, she risks losing her own life―and that of the son she loves.
I am not sure why I look at other people’s reviews of books before I start writing mine. It’s kinda crazy. I don’t read them before I read the book..I read them after I read the book. Maybe because I feel like I’m discussing it with them somewhat. Anyway, I could not disagree more with the majority of reviews I read. I’m not quite sure how people could have hated the book so much….when I say I couldn’t stop listening and that I listened EVERY spare moment I could, it wouldn’t be a stretch. I would even listen to it as I was falling asleep–trying to enjoy every single second of this book. It was my first Scottoline book, but it will not be my last.
There were a few things I DID NOT like. I thought Ellen needed to get a grip. Once she started worrying about her adopted son, and if he could indeed be the one on the postcard of missing children, she started making mistake after mistake and indeed her reporter nose was lacking in tying the pieces of the mystery together. In honesty, I am a worrier so I rationalized that I would be exactly the same way. How in the world do you deal with the fact that you might have an abducted child?What if you have to give him back? The moral questions that this book raises are numerous and fascinating to think about.
What I loved about this book?
I could not figure out how Scottoline would end the story. I was terrified it would be heartbreaking and she kept me engaged the entire time. I loved Ellen and her son. Honestly, I also loved Mary Stuart Masterson, who narrated the book. She was amazing and probably half the reason I loved book. I will look for more books that she has narrated as I have discovered the narrator makes a huge difference in how quickly I become engaged in the story.
Who should read this book?
Everyone if I had my way. Seriously, Lovers of mysteries, stories about families, crime stories.
“Even people who counted their blessings never counted them in the morning. For one thing, there wasn’t time.”
“Writing had always helped her, before. It always clarified her feelings and her thoughts, and she never felt like she could understand something fully until the very minute that she’d written about it, as if each story was one she told herself and her readers, at the same time.“
Warnings: I would not want to read this if I had a child I had adopted. It would make me dwell on all those fears.
That’s it for this month! What are you reading? Now it’s your turn to talk and perhaps share this blog!
This week Jason Roy, lead singer of Building 429, sent out a video explaining why they wrote their new song, “Breath of God.“
He basically said that Christmas is traditionally a time we look forward to–a time that is usually filled with peace and rest. He went on to say that many of us have been touched with a great sorrow this year–a sorrow so deep that it is difficult to think of Christmas in the same way. He hoped that this song would bring peace and a hope for all of us to cling to.
Well, that truth resonated with me. I went to youtube immediately
I have listened to it several times daily since then. I’m claiming it for a life line this Christmas.
In honesty, I’ve been wondering how December will be. In June, when I got the text that changed my life-my whole world fell apart. I cried in sounds that I didn’t even know I could make. I didn’t know how I could go on, but with the encouragement of my daughter, somehow I got up and put one foot in front of the other. I know the prayers of others worked overtime to help me get to the place I am today. I’m thankful for those of you who prayed–even though you didn’t know what you where praying for. (For all of you now trying to look through past blogs to figure out what happened–I’m afraid I never told. It is too personal. The story is not mine to tell at this point. And yet, it has been what defined me for the past six months.)
And on top of all this, my mother was dying and did eventually pass away.
I knew God was there, but I couldn’t get through the pain to converse with Him.
You know when you are so close to someone that you can actually feel their breath? You have to be right next to them….nothing in between. I heard the words to this song and I knew that was what I was lacking. I NEED to have the Breath of God. I need Him to speak peace to me.
Lights, snow, Christmas trees, presents… it’s not enough. We need hope. We need the Holy Spirit.
The song asks God to speak in power to the spirit of fear. It asks God to remind us that He is here. It goes on to say that the stars in the sky remind us that He is faithful and indeed–it does.
In the Scripture: ειρήνη (eiríni): from the verb “to join”, peace, implies prosperity, one, peace, quietness, rest
Matthew Henry, in his commentary on Phil, describes this peace:
‘The peace of God, the comfortable sense of being reconciled to God, and having a part in his favor, and the hope of the heavenly blessedness, are a greater good than can be fully expressed. This peace will keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus; it will keep us from sinning under troubles, and from sinking under them; keep us calm and with inward satisfaction.”
I love the last part, it will keep us from sinking under our troubles and keep us calm with inward satisfaction.
God is a God of peace but we do not need to think that He is “resting”. The scripture promises us in Psalms 121:4 that he “will neither slumber nor sleep.” He is watching and caring for me and my pain and you and yours.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. “
God is our foundation and rock— the opposite of the chaos of trouble.
How do we get that peace? I think only when our communion with God is so close (we can feel the breath) that it guards against the internal and external threat to that peace.
Thank you, God, for holding me fast. Thank you for your word that doesn’t return void. Thank you for coming to save us. Please speak in power and bring those who have forgotten you to know you fully. Speak peace to my heart. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for music. Thank you for musicians who can be used to speak truth.
What do you think of this song? Is there a song you are claiming for this season?
The third entry in Webster’s dictionary says that an acceptable meaning of the word “EDIT” is
c : to alter, adapt, or refine especially to bring about conformity to a standard or to suit a particular purpose
As most of you know, I’ve been pretty unhappy with things in my life this year. I’d list all of the things, but I don’t want to think about them and I’m pretty sure none of you want to hear about them either. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve treated myself to some spoiling–more reading, getting my nails done and lastly a trip to Disney. Thankfully, this week I feel more like my usually positive self.
As I was going through my mail after my trip I opened one of the subscription boxes I receive . (I know–I needed something to get through two years of COVID) To feed my planner obsession I receive a subscription box from Cloth and Paper. It is filled with new pens and sticky notes and journaling cards and well, it is just something I spoil myself with. As I was going through my new goodness I saw that they had written that definition on one of the cards.
It stopped me in my tracks. Somehow, it made me feel like the things I was planning and designing didn’t have to stay on the page. No! I could edit myself as well!
What would I want to edit? Well, bad habits. I’d also like to firmly get out of this slough of despond I’ve been in. Lastly, I want to lose weight. I was preparing for a half marathon when Covid hit and since then I just can’t get my head to care about what I looked like. I would reason with myself and tell myself that I wasn’t going anywhere anyway so why not enjoy my food? I knew I had gained weight, but really didn’t realize how much until I put on my costume for Twelve Angry Women. I guess I had been deceiving myself by wearing leggings and spanx and all black, but wow, yep…I need to take action. For my own health. For my future.
And yet I still didn’t take significant steps. I did slow down on pop and make a healthy decision every once in awhile, but we all know that isn’t enough.
Then, I opened that box and saw the definition and somehow I knew that was for me. I need to edit my life.
I started looking and researching what I was going to do and decided to start with baby steps (because I’m still not sure my head is all the way there and I don’t want to fail.) I looked up how many steps I needed to take a day just to maintain my weight…again, I was shocked…9000! Some of you aren’t surprised…I was blown away! No wonder I was gaining weight! I stopped running and I was almost never hitting that many steps a day. I downloaded the app. (Yep, they got me) I started Sunday. I’m taking small significant steps and I’m sore, but focused. I edited the first part of this chapter of my life.
The app gives me assignments for the day. It starts with a chapter to read that is sometimes a positive affirmation and sometimes healthy lessons. Today, it was a quiz. It asked me to rate every part of my body from 1-10 with how I feel about it. Then it challenged me to look at the area of my body that I am the most unhappy with and find something to be thankful for. For example, if I hated my feet the most I would stop and think about what my feet do for me every day and what life would be like without my feet even if they hurt when I walk. It was so altering for me. Even the areas of my body–my life–that I am unhappy with can give joy–purpose–meaning.
It is the same in my every day life. In this year filled with so much pain and disappointment, I can look at the area that causes me the most hurt and find something to praise and be thankful for. It is a small step. But it is a significant one.
Thank you, God, for edits and for being the Great EDITOR.
What about you? Are you editing something in your life? How can I help? I’d love to hear your stories too!
Overshadowed Theatrical Productions recently completed their fall production “Twelve Angry Men” and “Twelve Angry Women” Yes, you read correctly. We did both versions of this famous play. It was an experiment in marketing as well as acting and directing.
Before I begin talking about that experiment, let me share some thoughts about the play in general.
I was very surprised about the number of our audience members who had never seen this play or the MOVIE! I have always considered this work a classic and a favorite for many film lovers and also high schools. It has become a way to teach the importance of civic responsibility, bias, and that prejudice comes in many forms.
Reginald Rose wrote the original play for the CBS series, “Studio One,” and it aired on September 20, 1954. He says it was based, to a certain extent, on his own experiences as a juror,. He also said that it reflected a time when standing up for your constitutional rights could get you in trouble.
Afterwards, the teleplay was adapted into a film. Although it did not win, “Twelve Angry Men” was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Direction, and Best Screenplay based on mate- rial from another medium.
The real award is that Rose has written something that is lasting. It speaks across generations and racial divides. It makes one think of their own prejudices and the need for jurors who will serve with a moral responsibility. Our audiences sat on the edge of their seats most nights. We had fabulous conversations each night and many audiences members came back the following weekend to see if it made any difference if the cast was all male or all female.
Ticket sales weren’t what we wanted.
But if our goal is to give the audience a night of entertainment that moves them and inspires them–then we definitely succeeded.
I’m really not quite sure where to begin with this story. In this year of never ending painful happenings my mother has now peacefully entered heaven.
I tell this story in case it will help those of you who might go through something similar. I honestly cannot believe I was so naive about preparing for death or long term care but I was. In March, I received a call that my mom’s kidney failure had reached a point that if she didn’t agree to do dialysis she would need to go on hospice. They told me that maximum she would have two months to live. I really couldn’t believe it because at Christmas, mom had still seemed so strong, but I trusted the medical diagnosis.
I went to S.C. and tried to talk Mom into doing dialysis and even tried to tell her that she could change her mind if she didn’t like it, but she was convinced that this was going to be the way her story ended and that she was ok with it. She continued to do amazingly well making me think that the decision for hospice was rash and that there was still time to do dialysis. Every week hospice would call and report that there was no change in her numbers. Somewhere during that time my mom’s right arm started to jerk uncontrollably. It caused her embarrassment, and a great deal of unrest. She simply could not get peace or rest. The hospice staff told us it was a build up of toxins in her body because her kidneys weren’t flushing everything out.
We visited and talked and she always sounded happy and seemed to do well except for the jerking of the arm.
Then, I got a call from the manager of the independent living facility that mom was living at saying that she really wasn’t doing well and needed more help. I called mom and she sounded the best she had in months and I thought, “Ok. I’ll go visit this weekend. Maybe it isn’t an emergency.” Several hours later the manager called me again and told me that mom had fallen.
I made arrangements to get there as soon as possible, but in the meantime, my daughter, a friend, and actually the manager (who seriously is a hero in this story) went to visit her and face timed with me. Mom looked terrible. They couldn’t decide if she had a stroke or not and told me I had to put her in hospice in the hospital and that she had less than a week to live.
I was frantic and couldn’t decide if that was what was right. Mom never wanted to die in a hospital! What should I do? I called back hours later and they told me that she was doing better–in no immediate risk of dying and when could I come get her…..what???? How does a story change that quickly? I mean, great! She is doing better, but….the emotions running through me were pretty wild.
I realize between what the manager had said to me the day she fell and now what has transpired at the hospital that she will no longer be able to stay by herself. What are the options?
I had always thought that assisted living was the step after independant living. When I had originally looked for places for mom–all the assisted living places had nurses at the end of the hall. So I thought that instead of a nursing home this was the next step.
Well, I was wrong. You have to be able to still do many things for yourself before they will take you. For example, feed yourself, dress yourself, help get yourself to the bathroom etc. In short, if someone had taken the time to explain all of this to me months before, she should have been in assisted living instead of hospice. Seriously, no one would take her. (I guess once they let you in they will care for you, but they won’t take you if you can’t do certain things.)
One day I talked to someone early in the morning who said as long as she could feed herself they would take her. I was very honest with what my mom could do or not do and begged her to please not waste my time so I could move on to someone else if they wouldn’t take her. They told me they would come evaluate her at 10 the next morning. At 3:30 the nurse walked in and I could tell by the look on her face that they would say no. I explained what I had been told and she just shook her head. They didn’t officially call me until 6:30 that night to tell me no. I really unleashed. I was angry that they told me one thing, but it wasn’t true and that I was missing spending valuable time with my mom having to navigate a system that had rules no one tells you about. She mentioned another place that might take mom. She said she had a friend over there. I told her if she wanted to redeem herself in my eyes she would call that friend and find out if I would be wasting my time to visit. She promised she would.
Here were my options they way I saw it.
1) Move my mom to Chicago. I was worried about how she would make the trip. Would it be too hard for her? Then, how would she react to it? The reason she didn’t live here already is that she refused to go that far north. Hiring an ambulance to bring her up here was astronomical.
2. I move down to S.C. to stay with her indefinitely. That was a hard choice, but the one I was leaning towards. I knew I would have to probably shut down Overshadowed and at this point the doctors are telling us it could be months.
3. My aunt said she wanted to take her into her home. I thought about it and might have considered it more, but I just thought I should be the one to take care of her and have that time.
4. Hire full-time care. Thinking about it–but found out that it would be about 16k a month. I wondered if I could arrange people to help me and pay them in shifts to make it more doable.
5. Nursing Home. 9k a month. and I just felt like mom wouldn’t say it, but that she would really resent me doing that. It would have broken my heart.
I really had a melt-down while I was thinking this through. I got so much great advice from many great friends, but it was so difficult. One friend said, “God will show you the next step and you will get clarity.” I wrestled with God all night.
The next morning I asked the representative from the company that had “led me on”if she had contacted her friend and if they thought it was still worth it for me to visit. She replied “Yes, Go ahead.”
When I walked in full of hope I started with the fact that I was sure Brooke had contacted her and told her about my mom. She looked at me quizzically and said, “No?”
At this time I felt like I needed to hit something. The representative from the current company said, “Let’s talk. Tell me everything from the begining. ” Somewhere in my rant she stopped me and asked me why the case worker at the hospital had not listed my mom on the NIV list.
My mouth dropped open in stupidity as I asked what she was talking about. She asked me why my mom wasn’t doing rehab and said that it was standard for people to go through rehab after a hospital visit. Rehab then gets them strong enough so that they can go to the coveted assisted living. She told me medicare would pay for 20 days which would give me time to either pack and go live in S.C. or make arrangements to bring my mom up here. She told me to get my case worker on the phone. At that point she talked my case worker through putting my mom on the list and at the end of the call I had 7 offers of people who would take my mom! Seven. After days of begging people to take mom–now people were asking me to take her. This saint of a women wasn’t done. She gave me the name of a facility that she would send her mom to if necessary and told me to head over there before I did anything else.
After spending time at the rehab center they told me that my next job was to get my mom evaluated by a therapist and according to what that therapist said they would take my mom. They had a case of COVID so they told me to go home and come back to see my mom in ten days.
I went back to the hospital where the therapist got my mom to stand and take a step. Finally, she got to get out of bed. They had been telling her she couldn’t for almost a week at that point! I noticed that her arm was completely at rest. I asked the Doctor about it and he said perhaps a medicine had been causing the twitching. What????? (They had taken her off all her medicines because basically they were just waiting for her to die.)
I honestly felt the clarity that I was doing the right thing. I told my mom that my daughter was going to be there in the next day or so. I told her they were going to move her to rehab the next day and that I would be back the following week.
She looked at me and said, “I love you, sug. (Short for sugar) Be safe.”
The hospital called me in the middle of the night to tell me that she had passed away.
The Lord is my Shepherd.
I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Am I angry about several things that happened in my mom’s final days? Yes, but I read this passage and see my mom walking with Jesus, her shepherd. He is leading her beside green fields and flowing water. She is not afraid. God had prepared a table for her and she is forever with Him.
Thank you, God, for your faithfulness and your answer for where my mom was going to live and who was going to take care of her. Give her a big hug from me.
For those of you who might be in my shoes one day. Don’t trust that everyone has your best interests at heart. Find out now what each of these medical branches does in your area and plan how it is going to get paid for. If it isn’t too late I understand that there is a long term health care policy that is available.
In memory of Rachel W. Ruffin. Beloved mom and sister and Grandmother.
I have a distinct memory from when I was younger of my parents and grandparents reading the paper every morning. One of the most important sections to them was the Obituaries. It struck me as so odd to think that the obituary section was so important to them. I have thought about it fleetingly over the years always thinking that I would know I had truly reached old age when that section of the paper reached such importance.
The fact is, the older you are, the more people you know. As you grow older the likelihood that someone you know will have died the day before is huge because people leave us. It is an inevitability that we cannot escape.
It has been a difficult year and a half. We have had several really close friends battle cancer. We have seen people with Covid not recover. We have had several people die unexpectedly and others whose bodies just wore out. We have seen friends battle depression and disappointment that is crushing. In fact, we have seen people grieve. It is so hard to say good-bye. It is difficult to know what to say to those who mourn no matter what they are mourning. Most of the time it isn’t enough, because how can it be? Words don’t replace people and we all grieve and expect things from others so differently.
All I know is that the absence of others leaves holes in our lives.
Here is what I think I have learned:
Reach out to one of your friends every day. Sure, you have those friends that you speak to every week and sometimes more often, but make sure you have a contact list of people you reach out to every month and find someone that you haven’t checked in on to send a card, call, or text. In our world of social media we really have no excuse not to drop a note and find out how a long lost friend might be doing. I must admit, I’m really terrible at this. I am not a person that naturally is aggressive at friendship. I surround myself with people who call me and ask me to do things instead of the other way around. So, if you feel rejected by me chances are I’m feeling the same rejection by you. (yeah, I know. I don’t seem like that person–I promise you–it’s the me nobody knows) I’m not good at knowing what to say to you in your pain. Don’t be like me, reach out anyway. Even if you call and just leave a message. The thought matters. The simple presence of people can help a grieving person carry the pain of loneliness.
Depending on how much the person that died was in your life and how many plans for the future you had with them depends on the deep pain you will experience. You may not feel the same pain that each friend feels, but if you have even lost someone you know the same pain. Use your past experience to know how to reach out and comfort. What did you need?
There is no moving on there is just moving forward. That’s okay. Your loved one will not be forgotten. And it’s okay to still feel grief years after death.
Prayer works. I have no way to explain it. But I know that the prayer of other Christians has carried me through several times in my life. The Holy Spirit gives a peace that truly passes all understanding. It is unfathomable that I was able to function while my heart was breaking, but somehow God carried me through. Sometimes it is two steps forward and one back or maybe even two steps backwards with no forward movement at all. Here is the blessing…God isn’t any less present when I’m taking backwards steps than He is when I’m moving forward! Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
Allow yourself to feel pain. There is healing in verbally processing your grief. There is relief in being able to cry. Don’t be ashamed of it or don’t try to hold it in. Take a walk and spend time talking to God. Call your friends and tell them you need them. Journal. Psalms 32, “When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. The pressure never let up: all the juices of my life dried up. Then I let it all out; I said,’ I’ll come clean about my failures to God.’ Suddenly the pressure was gone–my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray; when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts we’ll be on high ground, untouched. God’s my island hideaway.”
Share in their grief. I learned this year that a very good friend of mine never got a card I had sent. That only added to her grief as she didn’t understand why I wouldn’t have reached out. Your words matter. Carry the burden with them. Share any good words of true compassion that you can.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39, NIV Paul penned these words to the Christians in Rome encouraging us that although we will face trials and loneliness, we are not alone.
**In loving memory of Don Opperthauser who passed into God’s presence on August 24, 2021. “No more pain when we get to heaven.” I will never forget his faithfulness, musical abilities or his love for his family. Although I haven’t seen him in years his memory will live in my heart and in the hearts of many who knew him.
Are you lonely or grieving today? I’d love to talk to you. Drop me a note and let me know how I can pray for you. As always, please share your thoughts with me or share this blog with others.
Reading has been missing in my life for the last couple of months. Things are getting more busy with the theater. Life is getting back to normal and to add to the excitement we invested in a rental property which has kept me crazy busy.
But, I really don’t want to lose what I gained during this past year of misery…a reconnection with books.
Here are the ones I read lately:
Book #1 Becoming Elisabeth Elliot by Ellen Vaughn
This book was on my Christmas list this year and I’m so thankful I received it.
From the cover:
Elisabeth Elliot was a young missionary in Ecuador when members of a violent Amazonian tribe savagely speared her husband Jim and his four colleagues. Incredibly, prayerfully, Elisabeth took her toddler daughter, snakebite kit, Bible, and journal . . . and lived in the jungle with the Stone-Age people who killed her husband. Compelled by her friendship and forgiveness, many came to faith in Jesus. This courageous, no-nonsense Christian went on to write dozens of books, host a long-running radio show, and speak at conferences all over the world. She was a pillar of coherent, committed faith; a beloved and sometimes controversial icon. In this authorized biography, Becoming Elisabeth Elliot, bestselling author Ellen Vaughn uses Elisabeth’s private, unpublished journals, and candid interviews with her family and friends, to paint the adventures and misadventures God used to shape one of the most influential women in modern church history. It’s the story of a hilarious, sensual, brilliant, witty, self-deprecating, sensitive, radical, and surprisingly relatable person utterly submitted to doing God’s will, no matter how high the cost. For Elisabeth, the central question was not, “How does this make me feel?” but, simply, “is this true?” If so, then the next question was, “what do I need to do about it to obey God?” “My life is on Thy Altar, Lord—for Thee to consume. Set the fire, Father! Bind me with cords of love to the Altar. Hold me there. Let me remember the Cross.” –Elisabeth Elliot, age 21
I am very familiar with Elisabeth Elliot and her husband Jim Elliot. I have long admired her ability to write and speak and I’m so thankful for the testimony she gave the world by her writing and documentation of a story of 5 heros and their wives who died trying to reach the Aucas in Ecuador. (Through Gates of Splendor) I watched the film End of the Spear and even wrote a play, Flame of Fire, about these five families. (For permission to perform that play please contact us at Overshadowed.org)
I was really looking forward to learning more about this amazing Godly woman who went BACK to the very jungles and people who killed her husband. That’s an amazing woman.
This story was created from the journals, letters, and other writings of Elisabeth herself. (Maybe we should all keep journals!)The book talks about Elliot’s childhood, her years at boarding school and Wheaton College, and her courtship and marriage to Jim.
Ellen brilliantly weaves the story of the five missionaries with the true story of the Waodani’s who speared the men to death in 1956. The story became a propellant in the missions movement in the years that followed the event.
Elisabeth was brilliant. She excelled in Greek, even reading Plato and Socrates in original text. She was a no nonsense person. She believed that she was to die to self and do what Christ wanted her to do. In that, was the only freedom she knew.
We also get to know the Elisabeth who is lonely and grieves and at times judgmental. Her relationship with her mother is troublesome, but at the heart of it is an Elisabeth who doesn’t act the way others think that she should. She acts the way she thinks God wants her to be. Period.
We learn about her life when she returned to the jungle. I wasn’t aware of the relationship that she had with Nate Saint’s sister and that alone was fascinating to me. She didn’t have an easy life, but I wonder how much of the tension in relationships were brought on by her own intolerance.
What I loved about this book:
I loved learning more about Elisabeth. I was fascinated to see how strict her upbringing was and how hard she was on herself. It is rare to find a person who is so totally committed to seeking and following God’s will. I loved seeing that she was human with failures, passions, and struggles with faith. I loved that the book wasn’t preachy. Ellen told the story fabulously.
The love story of Jim and Elisabeth isn’t a love story between them. It is a love story of Jim’s love for God and Elisabeth’s love for God and how God allowed them to love each other. Sometimes frustrating, but beautiful in the end.
Who should read this book? Lovers of God. Women and young women who struggle with fears of being single. People who love historical biographies.
“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts. It is easier to talk oneself into a decision that has no permanence, than to wait patiently.“
“Nothing was lost. The things she missed were stored in heavenly storehouses. Someday she would see God’s glory in eternity, rather than the apparant losses she felt so keenly on this earth.”
“Teach me never to let the joy of what has been pale the joy of what is.”
“She was not willing to deny that sometimes even religious leaders, like the fictitious emperor in the children’s story, wore no clothes.”
“God has chosen to leave certain questions unanswered and certain problems without any solution in this life, in order that in our very struggle to answer and solve we may be shoved back and back, and eternally back to the contemplation of Himself and to complete trust in WHO HE IS. I’m glad He’s my Father.”
Rating: 4/5 I found it a little dry in some places.
Book # 2 Shipped by Angie Hockman
From the Cover:
Between taking night classes for her MBA and her demanding day job at a cruise line, marketing manager Henley Evans barely has time for herself, let alone family, friends, or dating. But when she’s shortlisted for the promotion of her dreams, all her sacrifices finally seem worth it.
The only problem? Graeme Crawford-Collins, the remote social media manager and the bane of her existence, is also up for the position. Although they’ve never met in person, their epic email battles are the stuff of office legend.
Their boss tasks each of them with drafting a proposal on how to boost bookings in the Galápagos—best proposal wins the promotion. There’s just one catch: they have to go on a company cruise to the Galápagos Islands…together. But when the two meet on the ship, Henley is shocked to discover that the real Graeme is nothing like she imagined. As they explore the Islands together, she soon finds the line between loathing and liking thinner than a postcard.
With her career dreams in her sights and a growing attraction to the competition, Henley begins questioning her life choices. Because what’s the point of working all the time if you never actually live?
What I loved about this book:
To be honest, I love romances, but I don’t usually like to read them. Modern ones have a little too much sexual content for me and many times they are poorly written.
I did however, really enjoy this one. It was a light read that once I started I couldn’t wait to finish. I loved the attraction between Henley and Graeme. I loved that he appeared to be both a snake and an hero and we had to wait to figure out the truth. Sometimes we all jump to conclusions or is the evidence exactly what it seems to be?
Angie created vivid characters for us to both love and hate and distrust!
I also loved the travel aspects. I loved learning more about the Galapagos Islands and loved the beautiful picture Angie painted for us.
Who should read this book: Lovers of Contemporary romance. Cruise Lovers or if you like a little comedy with your romance.
Warning: Contains sexual content. Also Contains Strong language.
“People are the problem. But they can also be the solution.”
Book #3 The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
From the Cover:
In 1942, Europe remains in the relentless grip of war. Just beyond the tents of the Russian refugee camp she calls home, a young woman speaks her wedding vows. It’s a decision that will alter her destiny…and it’s a lie that will remain buried until the next century.
Since she was nine years old, Alina Dziak knew she would marry her best friend, Tomasz. Now fifteen and engaged, Alina is unconcerned by reports of Nazi soldiers at the Polish border, believing her neighbors that they pose no real threat, and dreams instead of the day Tomasz returns from college in Warsaw so they can be married. But little by little, injustice by brutal injustice, the Nazi occupation takes hold, and Alina’s tiny rural village, its families, are divided by fear and hate.
Then, as the fabric of their lives is slowly picked apart, Tomasz disappears. Where Alina used to measure time between visits from her beloved, now she measures the spaces between hope and despair, waiting for word from Tomasz and avoiding the attentions of the soldiers who patrol her parents’ farm. But for now, even deafening silence is preferable to grief.
Slipping between Nazi-occupied Poland and the frenetic pace of modern life, Kelly Rimmer creates an emotional and finely wrought narrative. The Things We Cannot Say is an unshakable reminder of the devastation when truth is silenced…and how it can take a lifetime to find our voice before we learn to trust it. – Graydon House
What I loved about this book:
Well, dual story lines are definately in right now and I must admit I don’t love them, but in this story I at least liked it. There is a love story between a grandmother and granddaughter as well as the love story of Alina and Tomasz. I love that Babcia–Eddie’s Great grandmother– can love on him and ground him when he is upset. Grandmother’s should be special like that don’t you think?
I loved the way Kelly described the scene when Alini’s brothers had to leave. She covers all emotions in the way she paints the scene causing us to think in ways that had never occured to me.
I loved that I didn’t figure out the “sacrifice” until the end and it brought me to tears when I did. I loved that the author didn’t manipulate my emotions. I loved learning more about autism and how it affects every member of the family. I loved the journey Kelly took me on as she told the story of desperation, love and loss and ultimately reconciliation.
In the season we are in–where political agendas result in hatred towards anyone who has an opinion other than ours–I loved the message Kelly promotes. In one scene Tomasz tells the story of a friend of his–someone who by all rights should have hated him, but didn’t. Instead, as Kelly writes: “He refused to debase himself with hatred.” The friend had lost everything because of people like Tomasz and yet he forgave him. Challenging thoughts.
I love the undying love Tomasz has for Alina and how Kelly uses such vivid words to make us understand that love.
Lastly, I love the connection Kelly has to the story due to her own heritage. I love that Kelly took a story that could bring out the worst in hummanity and instead finds love, grace and hope. She writes, “I marveled at the way that not even the worst of humanity is powerful enough to stamp out grace or hope or love.”
Can we do the same?
Who should read this book?
Read this book if you are interested in history, World War II, Polish heritage. If you like emotional reads or family stories it is also great.
Warnings: oblique references to the Holocaust, gun violence
“To destabilize a group of people is not at all difficult, not if you are willing to be cruel enough. You simply knock out the foundations, and a natural consequence is that the rest begins to tumble.”
“I had no power to change my lot. All I had was the breath in my lungs and a tiny fragment of hope that if I kept moving forward, I could survive until someone else changed my world.”
“Home is not the country we stand in–it’s us.”
“You must believe that if God allowed you to survive this far–there is a purpose to it. You must believe that there is work left for you to do on this Earth before you are released to peace. Hold tight to what you have left, Saul Weiss. And if all you have left is your faith, then your cling to it with every shred of strength you have left–do you hear me?”
Rating: 5/5 Stars
What are you reading now? Have you read any of these? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
“A modern musical about the historical events and relationships that helped shape Billy Graham’s faith as he became the most iconic evangelist in the world.”
(Sadly, I have searched for the author/composer’s name and cannot find it. They announced it at the performance Sunday evening, but I thought it would be on my program so I didn’t pay attention. I am deeply regretting that. I also wished I had stayed after the show and asked more questions. If this musical was a part of a residency program I probably would be a little softer in my review. My encouragement to this group would be to publicize those details…maybe there is a financial backer or someone who wants to produce your musical that is trying to get in contact with you.)
Years ago, I heard Karen Kingsbury speak. I have followed her blog ever since. In July, she wrote a blog about the passing of time and how the clock stops for no one. She went on to say she had been watching Crusade: The Billy Graham Musicaland was struck with the fact that a” blink ago Billy Graham was young and preaching and now he is gone. Just like we will be one day.”
I loved the points she was making, but more than that I was fascinated that there was a newmusical out about Billy Graham! After research, I realized that it was performing very close to where one of my daughters lives…and with great anticipation I bought tickets.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I found.
I was expecting a big venue. Why? Karen Kingsbury’s son-in-law (Kyle Kupecky) and daughter (Kelsey Kupecky) were the leads. Kyle is a singer that has actually toured with Mercy Me and together with Kelsey has authored the book “The Chase.” My preconceived ideas decided this musical was going to be in a big venue, with hundreds of people attending per night. Stars plus subject matter? It’s a win-win.
When we arrived we pulled into a small parking lot that held perhaps 100 cars….I think that is stretching it, but…maybe.
We walked into the lobby and discovered that to get to the performing space we had to walk up a curved staircase. When we entered the theater area I realized this small space, that might have seated 100, was packed and literally had no empty chairs. One of the workers gave up three seats that she had saved for her family saying, “It’s okay, we’ve all seen it.” Hmmmm. Did they oversell the show? Why were there no seats?
As the show begin we were seriously blown away by the projection and the graphic design. It was vivid, always in motion and brightly conveyed the scenes of the play as it progressed through Billy’s life. Many of the actors played multiple characters moving through the timeline of his life.
The music was loud. I don’t want to sound like a fuddy-duddy, but I really like to understand the words to the songs that the actors were so passionately singing, but I couldn’t always hear them. One of my costumers also attended with me and was bothered by small details, like no flash bulbs in the prop cameras. These things are easily fixed.
The music was current and passionate. It was played by the author and composer with a keyboard and guitar. I’m sure there were some pre-recorded tracks as well. I’m not totally a fan of all of the electronic music, but it was performed with such power that I enjoyed it. In fact, the honest response is that at times I felt more like I was in a church service than in a play. All of the actors sang as if they were singing worship songs. I’m not sure why I was bothered by that except that I went expecting to see a musical and this was a different kind.
As they were telling the story of Billy they mentioned that he had first attended Bob Jones College. Well, I wish they had just mentioned it. Instead, they had a scene that included Dr. Bob yelling and really chewing Billy out for failing and having so many demerits. Trust me, I am not always proud of everything Bob Jones has done, but it felt more like the author was making an attack on Bob Jones. When I asked about it at intermission, I was told that this attitude was from Billy’s perspective. Hmmmm. perhaps. I’m just not sure why it needed to be such a big point in the scene. Did that one incident become a turning point in some way for Billy?
Did I like the musical? Yes, I really did. I am not sure what message the author was trying to present, but this is what I received:
Billy Graham was a typical kid. He loved movies and playing. In fact, wanted to be just like Tarzan, but God had other plans. Billy ran from God. He sometimes questioned authority and even “bucked the system.” God had other plans. He had a magnetic personality and could charm even people like, George Beverly Shea. He was loyal to his friends. He questioned religion but then firmly believed in the infallibility of the Bible. He was passionate about all people, all races, and become their advocate proclaiming like Jesus, “Do not forbid one to come and hear.” Billy Graham is a man who has gone on to heaven.
The more important message? This is a story about a man who lived in a different time, his time has past. But you can still be a Billy. You, today, could make the same decisions that Billy did. What will you choose?
In the beginning I made the comment that I felt like the whole cast was singing as if they were singing worship songs. They were. This cast poured their hearts out and sang for Jesus. They cried over us as they sang one last song and, honestly, I might have even shed a tear or two as well.
Here is what I learned and they are important lessons for me as an owner of a Christian theater company.
The venue doesn’t matter. I spend so much time thinking about what people think or about how comfortable they are. Believe me, our seats and views of the stage at Overshadowed are so much better than what we experienced and yet, people came. Night after night they were sold out….just like a Crusade.
Christian themed plays can still attract sold out audiences. Sometimes our original Christian works are poorly attended. It is sometimes discouraging for me, but this gives me hope. I know this, but a good reminder is always important.
God moves in the audience’s hearts. He doesn’t need great acting, big theaters, grand sets. He just needs me to be willing to follow His leading.
We should pray over our audience more. To be honest, it felt a little manipulating to be told that the cast prayed over each seat: for our spouses, future spouse, children etc. But in the end, I was comforted by that. That’s pretty incredible and felt pretty personal.
Who was Billy Graham to you? What are God’s plans for you? Is He calling you to be a Billy? Do you think you would enjoy a musical like this one? I’d love to hear your thoughts! And as always, it would mean a great deal to me if you would like and follow my blog!
Until next time–this is just me–talking to you–from the wings.