Next week we open “The Trip to Bountiful” for the second time. As we stepped back into the theater to begin our rehearsals we discussed all the ways we have changed in the past 5 months. Some good. Some bad. Some really, really bad.
One of the terrible wastes of time I have added to my daily routine is how much time I have been spending on social media. Again, some good and some bad. At first, I was seeking information on Covid. I was frightened and worried and I watched the numbers of cases and deaths rise. I couldn’t get enough information.
Next, I became bored. I played games. I tried to learn a few new things. I played more games. I constantly checked all of my social media platforms hoping to have some sort of interaction with another human.
Then, I started noticing the message my phone sent me every week. You might know the one? “Your screen time is up 7% this week for an average daily total of 5 hours a day.”
“Excuse me, what? I wasted 5 hours of my day doing…..nothing???”
Well, it kept me from going crazy….I guess. I guess I have a problem. I am an addict.
Now we add the next level of concern to this problem….or epidemic.
This week Netflix released a new documentary. It is called The Social Dilemma. To be honest, I haven’t watched it yet. It is on our agenda to watch Sunday night. (Chuck and I have documentary Sundays. It is our new thing to try to not run out of stuff to watch. It might not work. Stay tuned.)
This new documentary is supposed to have interviews with the main people who have created all the hot social media platforms. I know it comes as no surprised to you, but these platforms are designed to compel us to spend as much time as possible on these platforms. And willingly we do it.
My husband once said to me, “The second you got an IPHONE you gave them the permission to track you.” By now we all know that there is a little truth to that. We search for directions and receipts and entertainment choices. With each search they discover and collect a little more knowledge. We are willingly allowing this to happen.
Now, let me tell you what compelled me to write this.
I follow a blog. BeautyBeyondBones https://beautybeyondbones.com Honestly, if you have never read anything by her, please do so. I so admire that she has the guts to speak out for her faith and is so convicting to me. She is definitely my favorite blogger. I find myself constantly thinking, “What has happened to me that I don’t have the courage to speak like she does?”
This past week she wrote, “WE are the Product.” In it she discussed the documentary that I mentioned, but here is where my jaw dropped. I quote: “So…with social media now being a main source of news for people…what happens when the gatekeeper of information is literally in the business of manipulation?” Caralyn then sites that she had written something on Thursday, called A Tale of Two Political Nuns. That post was a beautifully written pro-life article. She says that she received an email on Thursday from Facebook saying that the post was rejected for violating “community standards.”
People. Friends. Since when does it make me not part of a community if I don’t believe in abortion???
She then goes on to explain that this is the fourth time Facebook has censored her articles.
So now I ask you, do we have something to fear that we are allowing so much of our time to be sucked away by companies that are against the very things we are for?
I am not sure if I’m more concerned about my data being manipulated or my voice being ignored but I do think I’m alarmed.
I will be watching the documentary on Sunday. I’m sure my eyes will be open even more. Until then, make sure your voice is not silenced.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this! Please leave a comment, follow and share!
This month I tackled four books! They were all very different and I loved the places they took me. You will find in my book reviews I am going to be very honest about the way I feel about each book. Please understand that I do not intend to be mean about the reasons I do not like something, but I feel that my words matter so if I don’t like it–I won’t mince words. More about that when we get to book number 3.
First up, a dear friend of mine suggested that I read this. I have read several of Susan Meissner’s books and always enjoyed them so it was not a hard sell to get me to purchase this book. I knew it was about the Spanish Flu. I didn’t know; however, how often I would check to see when this book was published. I felt like someone had taken pages out of 2020 and written a fiction story about it. Eye-opening would be an understatement.
From the book cover:
“In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters–Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa–a chance at a better life.
But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without–and what they are willing to do about it.”
As Bright As Heaven is the story of the Bright family; Thomas and Pauline and their daughters Maggie, Evelyn, and Willa.
I may have mentioned before that I don’t particularly care for books that are told from alternate points of view. So when I discovered that each chapter alternates between each of the females in this story– different points of view–I wasn’t a fan. It always seems to take me a little more time to attach myself to the characters when they each take a turn telling the story. If that doesn’t bother you then this book might be for you!
This historical novel is based on the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic that wiped out nearly fifty million people worldwide, though very few people know much if anything about it.
The story is a dark one. At least it was to me. It might be the timing for me. Perhaps it is because I watch the news every day and see the death totals rise or maybe because I heard the stories of the bodies in New York that didn’t have graves because there was no time or place to accomplish a proper burial. All in all, reading this book made me think of everything we are going through now. On the other hand it was also incredibly hopeful. Life goes on. There is always hope.
There is also something to be said for a story that doesn’t wrap everything up into a neat little package. The reality is that, at times, we all hurt in our real lives. The events in As Bright as Heaven make our hearts hurt a little and that’s okay. The events are written with love to answer the following question posed by the author at the end of the book concerning the fact that death will come for us all one day.
“How does this knowledge that we are mortal affect our choices? The risks we take? The risks we don’t? …… We are, all of us, living out the stories of our lives. Each of our stories will end, in time, but meanwhile, we fill the pages of our existences with all the love we can, for as long as we can. This is how we make a life.”
By far my favorite thing about the book was the details about the Spanish Flu. I loved her acknowledgements and resources at the end of the book. Susan described vividly the impact of the flu on the old and young alike-even making us consider the children who ultimately have family and friends die. Sometimes having to consider if their own carelessness caused the death of their loved one. Ouch! Sound like something we are experiencing now?
It is important to note that she reminds us that even if you cannot see the wounds no one escaped without wounds of some sort.
“We only see a little bit of our stories at a time, and the hard parts remind us too harshly that we’re fragile and flawed. But it isn’t all hard. Your story isn’t all hard parts. Some of it is incredibly beautiful.”
You think you have a view of what’s waiting for you just up the road, but then something happens, and you find out pretty quick you were looking at the wrong road.”
“I think that grief is such a strange guest, making its home in a person like it’s a new thing that no one has ever experienced before.”
“Home isn’t a place where everything stays the same; it’s a place where you are safe and loved despite nothing staying the same.”
Who should read this? If you love historical fiction this book is for you. The details alone make it worth it.
Warnings: Death is almost its own character in this book so it is dark and heavy at times.
Book #2Educated by TaraWestover
Turning toward our house on the hillside, I see movements of a different kind, tall shadows stiffly pushing through the currents. My brothers are awake, testing the weather. I imagine my mother at the stove, hovering over bran pancakes. I picture my father hunched by the back door, lacing his steel-toed boots and threading his callused hands into welding gloves. On the highway below, the school bus rolls past without stopping.
I am only seven, but I understand that it is this fact, more than any other, that makes my family different: we don’t go to school.
–from Educated by Tara Westover.
The inside cover of the book jacket reads: “Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her ‘head for the hills’ bag. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged metal in her father’s junkyard.”
After reading that and a few other details about how Tara was raised you open the book and read this:
“This story is not about Mormonism. Neither is it about any other form of religious belief. In it there are many types of people, some believers, some not; some kind, some not. The author disputes any correlation, positive or negative, between the two.”
And instantly I am intrigued. I read this book at the urging of my husband. He read it and couldn’t wait to talk to me about it. I dragged my feet. The title sounded boring and I’m not really a non-fiction reader. I much prefer to escape in my reading. But I read her note and wondered, “What are you going to tell us about that makes you write a disclaimer like that???”
What we know:
Tara Westover grew up in an extreme survivalist Mormon family in Idaho. She didn’t receive a birth certificate for years, she didn’t go to school, and never went to the doctor. Although many details seem to be debatable she must have received enough home-schooling from her mother or other siblings along with effort she put into it herself to allow herself to gain entrance into Brigham Young University.
Although that is an amazing part of the story, much of the memoir is about her childhood.
Tara is the youngest of seven children. Her three oldest brothers experienced a different early childhood than the younger Westover children did. Tony, Shawn, and Tyler were allowed to attend school for a few years before Tara’s dad, Gene, began to get paranoid that the federal government would come and interfere, like the FBI did to the Weaver family.
There is something about the way Tara writes that is fascinating to me. I could easily picture her working in the salvage yard, or singing on stage or looking at all the burns and injuries that she dealt with over the years. She writes in a way that just makes you “see” it-almost experience it with her. It indeed did almost seem fictional that Tara could have escaped the countless incidents that she tells us about. Chapter after chapter has us holding our breath for tragedy the family will experience. How can so much happen to one family??
I connected with Tara not because I have ever experienced the horrors that she had, but there was something in her writing that pulled me along. I wanted to cheer for her. She helped me see things through her eyes. She gives several notations through the book that other people in her family don’t remember things the way she does and honestly, that was also okay with me.
Whoever we are, we hear and listen through the lens of our own experiences. We analyze what has happened through that lens. So when you tell a story it might not be the same way your sister remembers it. I thought it made Tara more human to me.
Much of Tara’s younger years are filled with horrific instances. As she tells story after story you root for her to get away–go somewhere safe.
She finally makes it onto campus and immediately begins to judge the people she lives with. “This person wears clothes too tight and too short. That person works on Sunday!”
I had to put the book down.
Not because I didn’t like it. But because it caused me to look at myself.
How often have we prejudged someone because we have been taught that a simple act of wearing the wrong color lipstick or dress at the knees instead of below the knees makes them a….”—–“?Tara carried the lessons of her family with her. She couldn’t escape them. Sometimes we are not that far removed from the very things we dislike in others.
There are other moments that are more horrifying. Burns and injuries, beatings and abuse. Sadly, all done by the people that are supposed to love you and protect you. I think that is one of the saddest parts about the book is that I think Tara really loved her family, but couldn’t live with their beliefs and behaviors any longer.
Do you think that perhaps Tara wrote the book to “educate” others? Do you think she wrote it so that it would heal what was broken in her?
After I finished this book I began to search the web for stories from her family. I wanted to know how they responded to the stories she told. I discovered that many people are not sure the book is indeed true.
Interesting. I will let you do your own research to make that decision for yourself. Once thing is sure. She definitely is educated now! She even has her PH.D. That is inspiring enough for any read.
“To admit uncertainty is to admit to weakness, to powerlessness, and to believe in yourself despite both. It is a frailty, but in this frailty there is strength: the conviction to love in your own mind, and not in someone else’s.”
“You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them,” she says now. “You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.”
“It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you, Ihad written in my journal. But Shawn had more power over me than I could possibly have imagined. He had defined me to myself, and there’s no greater power than that.”
“what a person knows about the past is limited, and will always be limited, to what they are told by others.”
“The most powerful determinant of who you are is inside you,” he said. “Professor Steinberg says this is Pygmalion. Think of the story, Tara.” He paused, his eyes fierce, his voice piercing. “She was just a cockney in a nice dress. Until she believed in herself. Then it didn’t matter what dress she wore”.”
I could go on and on. I really really loved this book. I hope you will pick it up and read it and then I’d love to hear what you think.
Who should read this book? Adults who love stories about beating the odds. Those who love memoirs. Those who believe in family. Those who believe in the power of education.
Warnings: Extreme graphic violence and abuse. Not for sensitive minds.
I did not finish this book. I almost didn’t list it at all, because I honestly don’t want to promote this book. However, as I contemplated that fact, I realized that if I had seen a negative review such as this then I wouldn’t have wasted my money. So, here goes.
I am soooo disappointed in this book. I was excited to read something that was advertised as having “strong female friendship.” I loved the book cover and it’s colors and I felt like it was going to be a fun book to read. The book was recommend by one of the the book blogs I follow. It was recommended by someone that I thought would put a content warning if necessary.
I don’t necessarily consider myself as being a hyper sensitive reader, but the language choices and sexual content was extreme. When I got to the first swear word I paused. I read a little more and was confronted with a sexual innuendo. I wondered if I was reading too much into it and letting my mind fill in the wrong blanks so I kept reading. I’m sorry to say that I feel I read too much. The thought, “Set no wicked thing before mine eyes” kept going through my head so I finally said “enough was enough” and put the book away.
My take away:
Don’t just wholeheartedly read books that get recommended to you. Take a moment and do a little research to make sure you have the same values/opinions as those who are doing the recommending.
Book #4 If For Any Reason by Courtney Walsh
From the book cover:
“Emily Ackerman has traveled the world, her constant compass and companion a book of letters her mother left for her when she died. With no father in the picture, her mom’s advice has been her only true north. But when professional failure leads Emily back to Nantucket to renovate and sell the family cottage she inherited, she wonders if her mom left advice to cover this . . . especially when her grandmother arrives to “supervise.” And especially when her heart becomes entangled with Hollis McGuire, the boy next door–turned–baseball star who’s back on the island after a career-ending injury.
As sparks fly between her and Hollis, Emily is drawn to island life, even as she uncovers shocking secrets about the tragic accident that led to her mother’s death. With her world turned upside down, Emily must choose between allowing the voices from her past to guide her future or forging her own path forward.”
I’m pretty sure most anyone who is reading this blog right now has already heard of Courtney Walsh. If not, then hurry up and get your hands on any of the books she has written.
Courtney is my new favorite author. There are probably many reasons, but at the top is her wonderful writing style. Her word choices paint a picture for me that almost has me smelling the salt air and feeling the sand between my toes.
This particular book charmed me for another reason.
When Emily arrives in Nantucket she pulls her suitcase through town on the way to her Grandparent’s beach home. (Yes, I said beach) She suddenly finds herself looking at the arts center and entering the building and looking at the empty stage. I was hooked. I loved that so much of who Emily was started on that stage.
The characters were incredibly human and realistic, but my favorite character was Emily’s mom. We mainly hear her voice through the letters that Emily carries with her and we instantly realize the importance of such a treasure.
Families are complicated and navigating through this one kept me captivated and breathless as I turned page after page.
I loved that the story has layers. It isn’t just a light romantic read. Each character is thought out and comes with their own backstory, pain and dreams.
Sometimes you just want to sit down and read something that entertains you and sweeps you away. But if you can add plot and depth to your story you truly have discovered something priceless.
Who should read this book? Lovers of clean romantic fiction. If you like an entertaining story that tugs at your heart-strings. You should read this story if you love to read about the relationships between mothers and daughters. If you love Courtney Walsh!
That’s it for this month! Please let me know if you have read any of these books. Also, I’d love it if you would share these reviews and follow me!
By the way, I do not receive any compensation if you chose to order one of these books. It’s just me sharing my love of reading!
This is my fifth year with a “Happy Planner.” I stumbled upon this planner community quite by accident when I realized that if I didn’t start being more intentional about what I chose to do every day that Overshadowed was never going to grow to be the theater company I wanted it to be.
My planning journey has morphed over time. Some weeks I’m really good at planning and following through and recording my thoughts. Sad to say, other weeks my pages are blank.
Should you ever be too tired to plan? Or not in the mood ?
Even if you are too tired to decorate the pages that fill your planner you should never be too tired to at least write something. It could be a phrase that summarizes your week…for example. “Major zoom crash on first day back to school.” Or “Baby cutting teeth…so tired.” Or maybe just a Bible verse. Surely we have time for at least that?
For the first year of my Happy Planner life I bought a few sticker books that were motivational. I wrote my day-to-day “chores.” and took great joy in crossing them off when I accomplished them. The next year I subscribed to a kit from “The Planner Society.” I followed some inspirational planners on Instagram and discovered that planning now brought out the creative side in me! Even when I had a hard week I really looked forward to relaxing and “creating” a masterpiece (in my eyes) of what the next week would look like. The next year, I was inspired by my creative middle daughter who also uses a Happy Planner. She takes a tremendous amount of photos and creates a planner that is full of memories. When you hold her planner in your hand you almost feel the experiences and love of life she has poured into her year of planning! Inspired by her, I began to add more and more photos in my planner and started adding to my goals of regularly blogging and recording memories.
This year it was a struggle to find anything to put in my planner. So I began to record the COVID cases in Illinois and the top 7 states that were a COVID battleground. I don’t know why. I think it was something to watch. I kept thinking that someone will find it interesting one day to watch the totals go up and up.
Then I heard this phrase–The Art of Noticing. I’m sad to say I never realized it was a book. I thought it was a new motivational phrase to get me to stop thinking about the negatives and start noticing all the positives in my life. And it worked. Slowly, I started adding pictures that I received from my kids. I added postcards and letters that I received and I started noticing that I have a lot to be thankful for. Believe me, I always knew that, but REMEMBERING it and WRITING it down and talking about it helped give me something to look forward to.
So this is how it works.
1) Every day of your life tells a story. How exciting is that?? Your story might be the beginning of a new book or a new chapter or maybe even the climax of the plot, but it is always a page turner if you allow it to be. What did you notice about your life today? Let me give you an example. Saturday was our annual gala. Usually we hold it inside at a banquet hall. This year, we held it outside so we could have more people (Because of the restrictions of COVID) As I looked around I saw FAMILIES. Usually, people don’t get to celebrate with their entire family because it isn’t exactly what younger children would enjoy. This year, the young and old enjoyed a night out on the lawn! What could have started as a “this is another thing COVID took” story, ended up with a blessing. Today, I have been a little overwhelmed by how much sadness is on facebook. It is a hard time right now and many of us are feeling the weight of things lost. We are anxious and sad and discouraged. While I was thinking about the heaviness of that, I stopped and just for a moment thought about a new project I had the chance to discuss with someone today. While the project seems a little daunting on my own, I’m excited about sharing the vision with someone else who has great ideas. What a blessing! Somedays you have to look a little harder, but the story is always there.
2) There is beauty in life. Every breath that you take. The fact that you can walk, talk, think, communicate. How long has it been since you sat down and really thought about the miracle of life? Take a moment right now. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes and slowly exhale. Now open your eyes. What are you thankful for in life? I’m thankful for a good night’s sleep. Some days I have to get up and go to the bathroom several times during the night. (Thank you old age!) I loved sleeping soundly last night. I have a friend who can no longer get out and run. Whenever I run, I think of her. Thank you, God. Even though I don’t love it–I’m so thankful for it!
3) Beauty and nature. There is so much to say here, but remind me when winter comes to still be thankful for nature. I love the summer so much and have enjoyed the heat, the birds, the hummingbirds, my garden, the sun….I could go on and on.
4) Beauty of Conversations. Have you ever thought about writing down the fact that you got to talk to your best friend or mother or whoever? Write down one moment in the conversation that is meaningful. What a treasure that will be when one day you look back and remember that you both shared an old family story that caused you to remember something remarkable about your mom. I’m a little jealous that we didn’t have facebook when my kids where growing up. My daughter, Becca, regularly writes down conversations she has with her kids. I take a picture of that conversation and paste it in my journal. There are so many things I wanted to never forget when my kids where growing up. I am envious of all the easy ways there are to record things now.
5) Daily Routines. What? You might be thinking that no one would be interested in what you routinely do. Have you ever picked up a diary from a hundred years ago? They used to record the price of items they bought. They recorded where they went and who they saw. Many times they didn’t expound upon it at all. They just wrote it down. I love it. When I read accounts like this I can immediately put myself in their time period and understand what life itself looked like.
May I challenge you to start a planner? It doesn’t have to be big or fancy. It just needs to be something you feel comfortable with. Something that will encourage you to write and dream.
May I also encourage you that there is no right or wrong way to use it? Some people just use a regular notebook and THAT’S OKAY! The secret is to find what you enjoy, what you can handle and what motivates you to keep it up!
Next, may I challenge you to slow down and appreciate your life day-by-day? Taking the time to stop and record your thoughts will be a wonderful gift for future generations and perhaps it will make us all less fretful and anxious and remind us exactly how blessed we truly are.
I’d like to leave you with a few verses.
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you…Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Psalm 118:24 “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you. declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Proverbs 12:25 “Anxiety weighs down the heart of a man, but a good word cheers it up.”
Lamentations 3:22-23 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
If you have any questions about planners or journaling or verses to share I’d love to hear from you! If you haven’t taken the time to follow me it would mean so much to me if you would! And one more thing…my instagram is Reba.Hervas, if you’d like to follow me there!
Living in Illinois this past summer hasn’t exactly been the best summer of my life. Don’t get me wrong. I have had things I have enjoyed richly– like my hummingbird feeder and the precious hummingbirds that I watched daily. I have loved moving a little slower and having more time to read. I have loved the Bible study group and lessons we learned together. I have LOVED the hot weather.
And I loved the new appreciation we all had for the theater camps this summer and the fact that we could enjoy that wonderful talent on stage again!
What haven’t I loved?
1) The new way society attacks each other so freely for voicing their opinions…it doesn’t matter what opinion you are stating it just better agree with theirs or you are ignorant or a few other choice words. In many cases we’ve become rude, selfish and hateful.
2) I haven’t loved the lack of respect for my choices. If I want to wear a mask why do people have to be so judgmental about that decision? Or if I choose to only eat outside or whatever the latest issue is.
3) This year many businesses had to close in Illinois to follow the COVID degrees. Finally, after being allowed to open again and spending money to update protocols looters marched in our city and destroyed many of those businesses. Most of them having nothing to do with what was being protested. I didn’t love that.
What has happened to us, America? What has happened to us, Christians?
I think COVID did a far worse damage on us than we even imagined it would. We talked about the risks of not social distancing or not wearing masks and how this virus was waging war on us.
But we didn’t consider how it would affect our communication.
Is it possible that after being shut up in our homes and working alone we are now hiding behind social media? Do we think, “It doesn’t matter how we talk or react or what we say to people! I’m not going to see them for ages.”? Do we put things out there because we have the “freedom” to do so. Do we even care about the way we say things? Is there any thought to love, or tact?
Is it possible that we hide behind our masks? People can’t see what we are really thinking.
We have become faceless to the world and that gives us the boldness to express things that should be expressed, but maybe the opposite is also true?
We have lost our ability to reach out and pick up the phone and really talk about cares, concerns, issues, hope, love, fear and so much more.
And on the other hand, other damage is being done. We don’t know how to respond to the hate and viciousness so instead we say nothing.
How will you be when this crisis is all over? The same?
Are we going to keep these horrible traits that we have picked up during the pandemic or take a good long look at ourselves and how we should use the very mouths we have been given by our wonderful God.
Here are a few thoughts that stand out to me:
James 1:19 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
Proverbs 18:2 ” Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions.”
Psalm 19:14 ” May these words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
Proverbs 15:1 ” A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Psalm 141:3 ” Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
Romans 12:18 ” If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
I Peter 3:8-12 “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.'”
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this subject! Have we grown bolder, but in a dangerous way? Please leave your comments and share this with those who might be interested!
During the month of July I read 3 books. I know most of you are reading 3 books a week, but my little heart is just happy that I have managed to stumble back into something I have always enjoyed and yet somehow stopped doing!
The one good thing that came out of COVID is that I’ve managed to rediscover my love for books.
This month I tackled: When I Lay My Isaac Down by Carol Kent, Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon and The Sea Before Us by Saran Sundin.
When I Lay My Isaac Down was a very thoughtful gift from Naomi Rogers, a dear friend of mine. I had mentioned to her that I heard Carol Kent speak at a writer’s conference I attended on-line and was so moved by Carol’s story. Naomi heard my words and gifted me the book so generously.
This book outlines eight transformational power principles Gene and Carol Kent learned in the process of facing the news that forever changed their lives: their twenty-five-year-old son, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy with an impeccable military record, shot and killed his wife’s ex-husband.
This book forever changed the way I will think about hope and faith and most of all community.
The book starts with this quote from Eric Liddell:
“Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins.”
Carol tells her personal story explaining the loss she and her husband felt. She tells of her melted pride, her destroyed agenda and a heart sacrifice that she never dreamed she would have to make. With each step she reminds us that God is always in the middle of each circumstance whether we recognize Him or not.
Each chapter tells the story of what Carol and her husband learned along this journey and ends with discussion questions that would make this book a very interesting Bible study.
This is a convicting story of hope….not in our lives and personal goals, but in the God who is always working out His plan of love.
I also found it interesting to read the comments that people made to the Kent’s out of ignorance and how unfeeling it would seem to the person going through such loss. I have personally always struggled to say the “right” thing. It was so helpful to see the other perspective. I loved seeing the examples of how friends and family could minister in such creative ways.
One last thought. I LOVED the example of Abraham and what God asked of him when God asked him to “lay his Issac down.” What a wonderful thread that tied her whole story together.
Thank you, Carol Kent, for your wonderful testimony and inspiring all of us in so many different paths.
Who should read this? This book is good for all those who want to be challenged past their comfortable walk with Jesus. It is also great for those who are experiencing the pain of disappointment and loss. It isn’t a hard read, but it is a heart read.
Where the Lost Wander By Amy Harmon
In 1853, newly widowed Naomi May sets out for the West with her family on the Oregon Trail which is filled with hardship, danger, and loss. During this travel she meets John Lowry. As the journey progresses and becomes more harrowing, they grow closer but their relationship is tested in intense and emotional ways.
After you have read a few of my book reviews it will become clear to you that Historical Fiction is definitely my favorite genre to read. This book did not disappoint. This book is filled with wonderful historical details and is really quite beautifully written. As a bonus the author gives notes at the end with extraordinary details of her own family history and what inspired this story.
This is definitely a love story, however, there is hardship and loss and survival that makes you keep turning page after page. I loved the characters and found myself cheering their loves and mourning their losses.
I loved learning more about Native American culture and giving myself time to consider how certain actions would have made them feel. I have always felt that pioneers did so many of them wrong. Looking back, we have made serious mistakes with other races and nationalities time after time. This is another book that will make you think about those actions.
I’m sure we will never know exactly how difficult the early pioneers had it when they traveled across America on the Oregon trail, but this book gives you a wonderful painting of what that could have been like.
My one negative is that the book began with a Prologue that was a serious spoiler so I kept reading the book anticipating the one big event. I wonder what it would be like to skip the prologue and just read from Chapter One? If I could go back and do that over, I would.
Warnings: There are several passages that are quite difficult to read. There is violence, massacres, a rape as well as other things. If you are sensitive to those things this is not a book for you.
The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin
In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France – including those of her own family’s summer home – in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.
As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.
This is Book #1 in a series SUNRISE AT NORMANDY. Of the three books I read this month, this was the easiest, fastest read. Hmmm. maybe it was an easy read because I enjoyed the story so much?
The story is well done. The characters drew me in and I was fascinated by the back story of both of the main characters which led to the reason they would act and react the way they did. In spite of that, they were lovable and I wanted them to be able to get past the mistakes they had each made individually and bask in the forgiveness of God!
Sarah writes with just the right amount of detail. You can lean into the time period and facts about the war and military so that the words paint an incredible picture. I loved the new British phrases I learned as well as the quirkiness of the cute Texan! I also loved thinking about all the backstory of preparations for D-Day about procedures I had never even given thought about.
If you are looking for a book that is a light romantic read with a touch of history thrown in or love books set in WWII. Then, I think this book is for you.
In case you wondered? I will be ordering the next two books in the series. I mean, we all need a little light romance read every once and awhile don’t we?
Warning: There are some mentions of premarital relationships.
That is it for this month. I hope you are reading. I know that it isn’t a past time that some enjoy, but it is so good for you! Will you try to read any of these?
The past few months we have learned a lot about ourselves. Some of us have learned that some time alone is not necessarily a bad thing while others have learned that they never really appreciated the humans in their lives. We have learned that differences can divide us. In fact, differences can cause hate and fear and bad behavior. In some cases, though differences can bring a needed change. We have become reacquainted with family time. We have learned what is important and what things we can do without.
Over the past two weeks Overshadowed held a theater camp. It was a smaller camp than we usually have. We didn’t have as many costumes or as many set pieces or props. We started the first day having to recognize each other just by our eyes and realized very quickly that it is indeed possible. We social distanced. The students were very quiet and almost lack luster. The teachers were concerned that camp wouldn’t be the same experience due to the restrictions we had due to COVID.
On Saturday, we finished with a performance of Music Man, Jr to an audience of 50. They loved it.
More importantly, the students loved it. Here are some of the things they learned: It doesn’t matter that the audience was small. They performed because they enjoyed performing and loved the experience even more. It didn’t matter that the audience was small. The 50 people were there and out of the house and so our cast was going to give the audience the best experience they could. It didn’t matter about the masks or social distancing. Our campers learned. They made new friends (close friends.) They created memories. Some said it was their best theater experience ever. I think I feel that way. It was incredibly special to walk out on that stage and look at the faces of an audience that was thrilled to sit in a seat with anticipation of being whisked away to River City.
I might have cried a little.
In our Bible study this week these verses stood out to me.
James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” You have no idea how I went back and forth about having camp. God gave the direction. Sometimes I don’t ask soon enough. I argue and try to figure it out…It’s not that I don’t want to bother God….but I act like that is my reasoning. “In every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6. Every situation. With Thanksgiving. Ok. God….I know I haven’t been all that thankful during this COVID mess. It is a lesson I should have learned a long time ago. Thank you, God, for blessing even when I don’t trust. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” I Chronicles 16:11. God cares about you. He cares about your hobbies and your loves and your fears. For me and the audience and the families of those students, these past weeks were a gift. I will receive it humbly and thankfully.
God has been so generous to me these past weeks. I am so thankful.
Is theater a gift for you? What have you learned these past months? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please leave a comment and share this blog if you think others would like it as well!
There once was a girl. This girl was afraid of everything. She had recurring nightmares that were so vivid and horrible that she would sit up in her bed at night and be afraid to close her eyes. Her parents didn’t allow her to watch anything frightening because her imagination was so great that any suggestion of horror would torment her for days.
This same girl would hide in the shadows. She secretly wanted to be involved, be popular, try out for teams but the fear of failure was too great. Although she would rehearse at home she refused to let anyone know the secret desires of her heart.
Then, her aunt took her to see her first play. This same girl realized that in acting she didn’t have to show people who she really was. She could gather the strengths that she needed to audition or volunteer to get involved. She reasoned with herself that if she was rejected, people weren’t reacting to her– they were rejecting the “character” she was presenting to be.
I’m not exactly sure how old I was when I put words into how I realized that no one really knew who I really was. In fact, I once teased that I was going to write a book about my life called, “The Me Nobody Knows.” I’ll never forget the look on my friend’s face when I verbalized that. I know she thought she knew me, but she only knew the “Reba” I let the world see.
I think that revelation doesn’t shock too many people any longer because I continue to tell people how insecure I used to be…and how insecure I am.
Why do I feel the need to tell people those facts about me?
I think there are a lot of people in the world just like me. I never knew it when I was younger. But life teaches you that most people aren’t exactly who or what they seem. I think even if you have the skills and confidence I didn’t….you might still need to learn a little from the artists that make up theater.
Theater changed my life.
Theater helped me gain confidence. Theater taught me life skills. Theater gave me some of the closest friends I have.
God used theater in my life to create a theater for Him. I boldly try to reclaim this art form for His glory.
(Those of you who have been reading my blog know what I’m going to say next,)
And then enter COVID.
I’m a little worried that in a world that the arts education is continually being eliminated from the educational system that theater/speech will once again be in danger of disappearing.
I recently learned of an organization. The Educational Theater Association. From what I understand this organization has spent the last months putting together a guide for schools that will help make sure theater in schools doesn’t disappear. They have thought through a whole host of questions and concerns and have pages to guide the teachers and schools. I am so thankful that the arts have people who advocate for them. If this is something you feel strongly about. Please share this organization with a teacher or school so that they can download the free guide. If you’d like to contact me I can give you a link for the guide.
This year thousands of students were unable to complete a normal year of studies. Many were unable to perform in productions in which they had spent many hours of preparation time.Experience lost.
And now what happens? Rumors are abounding about what happens to our students this fall. Will theater be back? Hopefully, people will lead the charge and express the importance of theater in the lives of their students.
I don’t know where I would be without it.
About ten years ago Overshadowed started taking interns for the summer months. A couple of months ago, I thought that this year we would have to say no to that help. I am happy to report, we have THREE this year. Three interns that we will learn from, but also, we will be able to have an impact on. Three interns I will never forget! How do I know this? Because I’ve had so many of you leave a special place in my heart.
Let the summer theater programs begin!!
Next week. Music Man thoughts!
I’d love to know what you think. Please leave me your comments or thoughts and don’t forget to share
I’m not so sure why this week’s blog was so difficult to write. I’d love to say that it’s because I wasn’t a history scholar and perhaps I’m afraid of saying something wrong.
I’m afraid it runs much deeper than that.
I have told you before. I was raised to be deeply patriotic. My dad fought in three wars and spent twenty-five years in the military. He loved America. He saw the faults, but loved this country and by his example, I did too. I feel privileged to be raised an American. I’m proud of my dad. I’m proud that he would risk his life to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy. Have you ever thought that there are reasons people put their lives in danger to try to make their way into our country and escape their own? I think we have it pretty great.
And yet….we are a divided country right now. We are torn politically. We are torn because of the virus. And we are torn on other levels as well.
It isn’t the first time we’ve been divided. When the Continental Congress declared their independence from the British during the reign of King George the III not everyone was in favor of that decision, but TOGETHER we fought for freedom. Our country has been torn during the Civil War and again during the Vietnam War when people avoided the draft and escaped to Canada to avoid fighting for something they didn’t believe in.
For years, people disdained a person who avoided the draft in such a manner. Now, it makes no difference to most people.
For a time we loved the freedoms that this country fought for and in turn granted all those who were citizens.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
What are the freedoms we are granted?
Freedom of speech
Freedom of religion
Freedom of the press
Freedom to assemble peaceably
Freedom to petition the Government.
With these freedoms we become the freest people in the world.
When do you get those freedoms? Do you have to work for them?Or be of legal age?No. You are granted these freedoms the day you are born. It doesn’t matter politically what side of the fight you are on: Republican or Democrat, you can use the freedoms you are given to push for change or oppose it.
Wow. You. Me. We. have the freedom to push for change. And I am so glad we all do.
Did you know that, John Adams, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, wrote that the 4th of July should “be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty!
So you might be thinking….what does freedom and what people have fought for have to do with Hamilton?
During this time of celebration by many Americans, the Broadway musical Hamilton is making it’s screen debut and I think we can learn a lot from the production as well as the man.
Timing is everything.
Could this musical be a source of healing? Is there a way to look at the moral vision of the show, and in some way, come together as a county? Instead of allowing our differences to destroy us? Could there be an intersection between faith, arts and change?
I have to admit, I didn’t know much about the musical when I first had the opportunity to see Hamilton! I thought it was full of rap music and had a story line that I wasn’t super crazy about, but I wasn’t going to miss the chance to see something that was such a work of art. Hamilton won 11 Tony Award in 2016, including best musical. I now know it is a work of genius.
What can we learn from this musical?
Hamilton is the retelling of a time in our history, but brilliantly deals with the social issues that we face today. Hamilton was an immigrant from the Caribbean and a major theme of this musical is his fight for dignity and equality.
The story also centers on grace, forgiveness, death and redemption. Themes that a person of faith rests on, but ones that we all should remember. Those themes should give us hope and show us what life might look like. Those themes open the door for us to have discussions about faith and hope and how we all need God’s Grace in our lives.
The musical includes scripture that impacts as it tells the story of the past. Did you know that the song, “One Last Time” contains a phrase from the scripture that George Washington used in his personal writings throughout his life? Historically, the most famous use was at a time he used it to express hope that Jews would flourish in America.
“May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants–while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.
May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.”
4. Did you know that Hamilton, like many of our founding fathers, practiced a real faith in God.? He even wrote hymns and poetry when he was a boy. Here is a few lines from one of his most quoted:
“Hark! Hark! A voice from yonder sky, Methinks I hear my Saviour cry, Come gentle spirit come away, Come to thy Lord without delay.”
5. Hamilton tells the story about a man who was ambitious. It has been said that the poorest man has the chance to be a millionaire in America and indeed, “Hamilton didn’t “Throw Away His Shot.” By the time America was formed, Hamilton was the second most powerful man in the United States.
6. Hamilton teaches forgiveness. His wife, Eliza struggles with forgiving Alexander for an affair and the chorus sings, “Forgiveness, Can you imagine?” Can we, in our country, forgive each other? Can we take a moment to listen and understand the pain and forgive? Can we follow Christ’s example? 70 x 7?
7. Hamilton broke the “rules.” It is full of hip-hop, rap, poetry and it is the first musical to cast people of color to play characters who historically were not. Hip-hop and rap has traditionally been known as music of rebellion. To place it in a musical about a revolution is brilliant and eye-opening. Then the original casting hopefully opens our eyes to a new way of thinking about things and new possibilities. There is so much to learn from that.
Are we listening?
8. It is a story of heartbreak and redemption. Hamilton receives the honors of war and yet becomes a political outcast. He loses a son in a duel and ultimately dies the same way. And yet, his wife redeems all the hurt. In the final scene Eliza sings about her new calling to start the first private orphanage in New York. She sings:
” In their eyes I see you, Alexander. I see you every time.”
And she looks up to heaven and smiles.
When we celebrate July 4th this year I am going to be thankful for my country, my freedoms, my friends (both the ones who share my beliefs and the ones who don’t).
I’m also going to be thankful for God’s work of redemption. At times, the world seems full of sadness and suffering. May we each have the courage to speak out and spread the hope the God gives. May we have courage to be a catalyst for change not just a bystander. I am going to be thankful for my freedom of speech (even though sometimes I’m afraid to take the chance to express myself.)
I am also thankful for musical theater!
I hope you can enjoy your families, friends and FREEDOM! Happy 4th of July!
Please let me know your thoughts! Has the time of unrest in our country sadden you? Or do you see it as a wonderful catalyst for change and discussion?
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I was in sixth grade when I saw my first stage production. It was a high school production, but that didn’t make it any less remarkable for me. I loved the story, actors, music and dancing. In fact, I loved the whole evening. I think I’m a little unusual in that I seriously enjoy EVERYTHING. I love the energy of the audience as they anticipate the show and seeing their friends or family on stage. I love combing over the playbill and reading the bios and even the advertisements! Then, the orchestra begins to tune their instruments! For most people that isn’t remarkable, but I love listening as they play a note, adjust the string or reed, and play again and again until the whole orchestra can play a note with a unified sound. The curtain goes up and the magic continues. Until intermission….
a short interval between the acts of a play or parts of a public performance, usually a period of approximately 10 or 15 minutes, allowing the performers and audience a rest.
a period during which action temporarily ceases; an interval between periods of action or activity:
Legend has it that in the late Middle Ages early renaissance (in theatrical terms at least think 16th 17th centuries ), theatre began to move from performances outdoors to indoor facilities. Theaters used candles to light the house and the stage. Intermissions began because the candles needed to be changed. While the candles were being changed, vendors would come and sell to the audience members to keep them from leaving the theatre.
Most productions that are longer than 90 minutes will have an intermission (even though the need for changing candles has long gone.) And indeed, it does provide a wonderful time for the audience to stretch their legs, go to the restrooms and browse the gift area or buy concessions. I’m used to the way that process works around this area, but imagine my surprise when I attended New York theaters years ago and they ushered us outdoors and to the restaurant close by to use the restroom because there simply was not time for the whole audience to use the facilities that were located inside that theater! It was a new world!
Does the intermission still have value in today’s world? Here are a few reasons I think it is necessary.
An intermission builds anticipation for what is to come. It gives the audience a chance to stretch, move around, get a drink. And socialize. Which I believe is a very real part of the theater experience.
An intermission allows the actors time to rest or change costumes or grab a much needed drink of water.
An intermission allows the crew time to change the set for the next act.
I try to not have a bottom line that is all about money, but let’s be real…concession sales are a part of a theater’s budget so in that regard, an intermission is very necessary.
In productions that have employed musicians, union rules need to be followed, so that in most cases breaks need to be provided for the orchestra members.
That’s intermission in a world that ceased to exist weeks ago. And we don’t know when or if it will ever return. Thus, we have entered an intermission of sorts. I was listening to a short message from Bob Bixby (friend and Pastor in California. You can reach him at bobbixby.wordpress.com) when this first started and he mentioned that the Lord had given us a Sabbath. I have been fascinated by that thought since then. Did you know that one definition of the word Sabbath is intermission?? An interlude, a pause before we move into our next phase of work.
What do we know about the Sabbath?
God included it in the Ten Commandments. It wasn’t a suggestion. It was a commandment.
God wants us to receive something from this time of rest each week.
It should be a time of resting from our work. It is a day that gives us a chance to renew ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually.
This is a time that we can spend quality time with God, but also have fellowship with your church family and others that we love. If we set this day apart we can create close relationships with others that can be spiritually rewarding as we encourage each other and grow together.
This is a time we can stop and think about the blessings that God has given us. Sad to say that sometimes we get so busy with our day to day lives that the act of thankfulness is a trite thought in our prayers, but with a day set aside to reflect on the mercies of God, we can cultivate a attitude that should carry us through the week.
This is a time set apart to rejoice and worship.
The day. The command. It is a gift.
I’m not going to lie. This time of shelter in place has been difficult for me. The theater being shut down has been painful for me. But could it be that in some ways it is a gift from God? A Sabbath? A pause. A time to reflect and regroup and thank God for His mercies which are new each morning.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
I didn’t want to slow down, but I have loved what you have taught me during this time. Help me to be thankful for each day. Help me to learn from this time of intermission. Bring the rest for my soul. Thank you for the blessings that you have brought during this time and the mercy you have shown. Thank you, for understanding my burden. Thank you for the gift of Sabbath.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject! And as always, I’d love it if you would take the time to share this blog!
I had an entirely different blog post prepared to post for this week.
I couldn’t continue to work on it though, because my social media was blowing up with stories of George Floyd and the details of his tragic death. Almost immediately after the organized riots began and then the looting followed by days of riots, looting and destruction. Next, people began to post that enough was enough….and indeed it is.
We know better. But things aren’t getting better.
I’ll never forget hearing the story of the Good Samaritan. In Luke 10, Jesus is asked, What is the most important commandment?” He responds, “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and the second one is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus is then asked who counts as a neighbor and then tells the story of the Good Samaritan.
Listen as my friend, Jeremiah Dew, tells the story in light of the current world.
I have heard that if you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem. I’m not sure if those words are entirely correct, but I do know that racism is a problem that hasn’t gone away. If we are a people that live by the words of Jesus and are instructed to LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR AS OURSELVES ….then why? Why does it still exist? Several reasons I think.
We are sinners. We act wrongly. We speak unwisely and don’t speak up when we should. And we don’t listen enough.
We don’t love the Lord with our whole hearts, souls and minds. And when we forget the first commandment then we don’t even look at the second.
Not everyone is a Christian so how can we even begin to get them to understand the love of God and therefore how could they understand how to love their neighbors?
We need to look past the recent events. This is not just about George Floyd. This is much deeper than that. This is about our constant refusal to view people as equals if their skin color is too dark.
So now. after months of living sheltered in place, months after many people have lost loved ones and/or their jobs, we now have moved on to a new danger. We now have a new unrest–a danger, fear as all across the country squad cars are going up in flames, buildings are being looted and anger roams the streets. What started as a justified response to the murder of George Floyd has turned into a criminal activity that is stealing the attention from a problem that demands to be solved.
We might not be able to solve this problem in our life time, but it doesn’t mean we can’t try.
Jesus, help us to see each person as You do. Help us to love each person as You do. Help us to start the change.
Until next time I’m hoping to be Overshadowed by His love,
Jeremiah Dew, “JDew,” has always had a passion for performance. Whether it be on stage or on the screen, JDew thrives on audience engagement. Since getting a degree in Mass Communication in 2007, JDew has entertained over three million people at live events. After contemplating a “Black History” stage performance for about 18 months, “One Voice: A Black History Narrative” was born, and debuted at the Warehouse Theatre in Greenville, SC, in 2011. You can contact Jeremiah at https://onevoiceshow.com/meet-jdew/