audience, christian, christian blog, christian theater, Christmas, family, thanksgiving, theater, traditions

How Far Would You Go To Keep A Tradition Alive?

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!
 
Happy Thanksgiving!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
My crazy family at Christmas!

theater, family, acting, christian, planning, backstage, christian blog, disney

Edits Aren’t Only For The Written Word

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.

Four Friends Fall For Disney

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.

Jessica Means and me! Photo by Francisco Montes

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!

From the wings

Reba


bible, christian, christian blog, family, Fear, Grief, hope, planning, Prayer, theater

The Lord is My Shepherd

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.

Christmas 2020

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.

Scott Mayer praying with my mom

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.

Psalm 23

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’d love to have you follow and share my blog.

This is just me–talking to you-from the wings….

acting, artistic vision, audience, broadway, christian theater, communication, costume design, directing, entertainment, family, theater, theater education

Take a Chance on This Classic: Don’t Let Theater Die.

Over 10 years ago someone told me we should produce “12 Angry Men.” They suggested that we have a cast of all women and another cast of all men. They thought it would be a clever marketing ploy. I declined for several reasons. One of them being that I didn’t think I had 12 men that could pull off the acting that this show requires. I put it on the back burner of my mind and waited. In the meantime, I saw the Theater in Chicago production with Brian Dennehy and George Wendt and John Boy Walton…oh, I mean, Richard Thomas as Juror # 8.  I also spent the time visiting local community productions and waited until the time was right.

As I  have complained about for now, over a year, Covid has really done a damage to our theater. In our area, several shut their doors for good as they couldn’t continue with the costs of rent etc. while they just waited to entertain again. We were able to produce an original Biblical drama that kept us going with 50 audience members a night until we thought everything was getting back to normal. Not quite trusting, I decided to mount a smaller musical, The Marvelous Wonderettes, for the summer. It was fantastic, but the audiences didn’t come. A summer show usually brings over 2500 to our doors. This summer we didn’t even get 1500. So, what better time than now to pull out that old marketing ploy? We decided that we would mount two shows with two casts. We would have four directors, two of each gender that  would each be in the play and direct the opposite version of the play.

At auditions, we were thrilled. People came. We even had to turn people away. (Which always makes me sad.) We began the character studies and blocking and somehow in the middle of the process I stopped enjoying it. It was difficult. Why didn’t I notice that we were actually going to be producing two shows at the same time? One is hard enough…but two? I think I might be a little crazy….

What made matters worse is that I’m not sure that any of the other directors were enjoying it either. We were all feeling the stress of having to be in two places at one time plus carry on with our outside duties. The creative experiment of working together didn’t gel the way I thought it would. Instead of being inspired by each other we did the opposite. At times we were afraid to speak up, or at times we didn’t want to make an issue about something, or at times we felt competition, or that we weren’t as important as the other directors. Emotionally, it was difficult. One week ago. I would have told you that this theater experiment was a failure

12 Angry Women

12 Angry Women opened last week and if you asked me now I would tell you that I probably wouldn’t want to direct with four directors ever again, but that I did learn. That’s a good thing. I want to learn each and every time I decide to be involved with a production.  

Here are some facts:

12 Angry Men is the play many of us, of a certain generation, had to read in high school. This  courtroom drama by Reginald Rose has been around since 1954; first as a live Television play, then in its more well-known incarnation, the 1957 film, starring Henry Fonda, directed by the great Sidney Lumet. (Did you know the film was nominated for three Oscars?)

Question #1 that we faced:   Isn’t it dated? What relevance does it have today?  Come see the play and you will soon find our that Juror #10 leads the way with his immigrant and minority comments.  Unfortunately, we all go in to any conversation with a great deal of bias and maybe realizing this would help all conversations end more peacefully. We can learn from each other. We adopted a tag line #Don’t confuse me with the facts. Sadly, many times we don’t care enough to step out of our own selves and into someone else’s. 

Reba Hervas (Juror #10) and Jessica Means (Juror #7) discuss how miserable Juror #8’s thoughts are.

The drama begins when a lone holdout, Juror #8,  believes there is a reasonable doubt in the case of a youth “from the wrong side of the tracks” on trial for the murder of his abusive father. The stakes are high and the jury is mandated by the judge to think about it wisely and carefully, because the punishment for conviction is the death penalty. Since the decision must be unanimous the deliberation begins. The Jurors range greatly in personality, economic and educational background and ethnicity.  A thrilling ride when you realize this is real life. Every jury is made up randomly and everyone does walk in with different  personalities, educational backgrounds and ethnicities.  

As Jessica Means (my co-director) and I watched the 12 Angry Men rehearsal last night we were thrilled. It was tense, riveting and thrilling–just as people had told us the women’s production was last week. Every juror looks as if they walked in off the street in 1959 Manhattan. The set is beautifully simple; it manages to be both artful and authentic. The cast is constantly moving to almost be “the camera” and allow the audience to see the jurors from each angle.

12 Angry Men. It is amazing how different a play can be based gender.

Why 12 Angry Men/Women?

It is a bucket list love of a classic theater piece that I always wanted to tackle.

To learn from a totally unique theater experiment.

To take an old classic and see that even after years some things never change. 

People. It’s simply great theater. 

So, the marketing ploy?  Unfortunately, things haven’t changed since this summer. Our tickets sales are horribly low. Even with 24 people in the cast–I’m not sure we will even hit our numbers from the summer. I’d like to ask for a little help. Don’t let Covid kill this theater. If this is a play you weren’t planning on attending…could you decide to come? If you are seeing one of the versions could you decide to see both? Could you spread the word? Please tell your friends and neighbors that this is one show that should not be missed. 

One last thing: 12 Angry Men is a timely, riveting drama that will get you thinking about your preconceptions and stereotypes. It is a reminder that we must question apparent facts before making tough decisions. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

Okay. I lied…one more last, last thing. My co-director’s are all brilliant and now that we’ve all gotten past the hard parts we all admit it was a crazy great experience. Thank you, Jessica Means, Brad Holloman, and Mike Larsen for sharing your time, creativity and inspiration with us all.

Now, will you all please go to Overshadowed.org and buy tickets? Let’s show everyone there is still a place for theater!

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time, this is just me, talking to you from the wings.

bible, christian, christian blog, communication, family, Fear, Grief, hope, Prayer, theater

In the Face of Grief

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:

  1.  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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.”
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Until next time.

My dad’s funeral. Arlington National Cemetery. We all still grieve.
book review, christian, christian blog, christian fiction, family, Fear, history, non fiction, reading, theater, WWII

Reba Reads

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.

Favorite Quotes:

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 Review: Shipped by Angie Hockman

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.

Favorite Quotes:

“People are the problem. But they can also be the solution.” 

Rating:

3/5 Stars

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

Favorite Quotes:

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!

Until next time!

Reba

acting, artistic vision, audience, broadway, christian, christian blog, christian theater, critics, directing, entertainment, family, hope, theater

Crusade: The Musical and What I Learned About Theater From It

The tag line reads:

“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 Musical and 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 new musical 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.  

If you get a chance please check out this musical. You can purchase the soundtrack from their website at http://www.crusadethemusical.com

Here is a sample:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjJTkOmmvoA

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.

acting, audience, christian, christian blog, christian theater, communication, entertainment, family, theater, theater education

Theater That is More Than Just Theater

I must confess that I have never personally read any of Jan Karon’s popular Mitford series. I have heard of them, of course, and almost since the day Overshadowed began have been told that I should produce the play, “Welcome to Mitford.” 

I have been told that lovers of this series have a vision of the North Carolina town called Mitford. In fact, many Karon fans think that Mitford was modeled on Blowing Rock, where Karon once lived. 

When you are producing  a play, setting becomes very important and in this one it almost seems that the characters are held together by their relationships with each other, but equally important their relationship with the town. 

Karon’s novels tell the story of Father Tim Kavanagh, the beloved bachelor rector of Lord’s Chapel church in Mitford. His life is absorbed with the life of his town until he takes in teenager Dooley Barlowe, the unruly, orphaned grandson of the church gardener. The town’s complacency is further disturbed when Father Tim falls in love with and weds his new next-door neighbor, Cynthia Coppersmith, who writes and illustrates children’s books.

It is indeed a love story, not only between Father Tim and Cynthia, but also between Father Tim and the town. And just like in real life…there is conflict….but unlike real life…the community is so cohesive that they get through the conflict…together.

It is a joy to see something so encouraging. 

In fact, Father TIm says in one scene, “Give thanks in everything–in loss of all kinds: in illness, in depression, in grief and in failure, and of course, in health and peace, success and happiness. Give thanks in everything.” 

Thank you, Mitford, for reminding me of a lesson that is at the very core of my belief in God. “Rejoice in all things, again I say, rejoice.” Not a suggestion…. a command.

Are you with me? Are there days that your faith just isn’t strong enough to rejoice? Maybe the answer is that I shouldn’t be trying to find joy when I’m discouraged…but GOD!

What?

Mind altering for me. I shouldn’t be trying to figure it out or figure out why? I should just rest in the Lord. Remember the song, “My hope is in the Lord….

I don’t embrace my troubles…I embrace my God.  

Transparency now….it isn’t easy and I haven’t been resting in Him and filled with joy over the past few weeks. But, coming home from our summer musical the other night all of a sudden I thought, “I’m singing! I’m singing with the radio.” 

Weeks ago that was normal for me, but my joy was gone and for most of the summer I just couldn’t….

Wow! Did it feel good! The ice isn’t gone around my heart, but it’s thawing and I’m so thankful.

That passage of scripture goes on to say, “Tell God what you need and thank Him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.”

So, how can I get myself out of my sadness and back to rejoicing?

  1. Meditate upon God and His Word.

Find verses and put them in front of you. Wake up and recite them. Sit and think about them. Journal your thoughts and prayers. MAKE AN EFFORT.

  2. Remind yourself of God’s promises.

Read books. Memorize scripture. Remind yourself that one of the attributes of God is that He is the Great Comforter! Lean on Him.

3. Keep your mind busy.

Fill it with things that will take your mind off of your sadness and give your mind peace and joy.  Perhaps being with friends? Or singing?

Or….

Come see this play this weekend and leave with a renewed hope in family, friends and community!  http://www.overshadowed.org

Did you know that theater increases creativity? It is a source of imagination. Theater requires a different kind of resourcefulness than just watching TV. Perhaps if we all learned from theater we would be able to solve some of the world’s problems! In fact, research has found that people who engage with theater either participating or viewing for two or more hours per week show signigicantly better mental health. Did you know that science shows that when people sit together in a theater their hearts beat together. That’s connection. Something most of us need.

In fact, theater is what got me through my sadness this summer. It’s the reason my heart is thawing in a way that I can sing again and ultimately it is what has reminded me to rejoice and lean in and embrace God.

I hope you’ll join us this weekend. Let’s support a new generation and show that there is good in theater and that theather TEACHES.

Until next time–this is just me—talking to you—from the wings.

acting, artistic vision, audience, backstage, broadway, christian theater, directing, entertainment, family, intermission, planning, stage, theater

The Pain and Joy of Closing Weekend

I always get to this point in a show. Do you know the moment? It is when something is almost over–you can see the end in sight–a time you will never experience again–It is  here and I regret that more people haven’t seen this musical. I want to share it. There is pain and joy in the closing of a show.

This year has theater audiences struggling to come back from what they lost during Covid. We decided to do a smaller show for several reasons. We weren’t sure that people would want to sit next to each other. Or maybe we’ve all gotten used to sitting and watching our entertainment inside instead of taking the trouble to go out and actually BE with people.

So…I decided on The Marvelous Wonderettes. It is a jukebox musical. It was an off Broadway success. In fact, so much of a success that there are multiple sequels that are written and performed about these four girls.

These four girls….Missy, Cindy Lou, Suzy and Betty Jean. Entered my world months ago as strangers as did the girls who played them. (Amy Keipert, Jessica Means, Brooke Kassal and Grace Ryan) They worked harder than I think any of them expected as they discovered that this musical was much more than a few great songs strung together. They worked hours daily on their harmonies and choreography and characters and the work paid off. What we have is an amazing show with four brilliantly talented girls who sing difficult harmonies effortlessly.

Here I am at closing weekend wishing that I could convince everyone I know to spend a couple of hours in the theater with this show. Here are a couple of remarks I have received:

What a perfect show to mark the return to live theater. It was so good to laugh and smile and sing along with such fun songs.”

I haven’t had that much fun in years.

This show is better than vitamins. I feel ten years younger.

Honestly, those comments mean the world to me. The reason I am in theater is because I want to bring joy to the world. (well, one of the reasons.) This show did that.

We have one weekend left and if I could convince you to come out and join us for one of the remaining shows, would you? overshadowed.org

Even if you have seen the show before, the beauty of live theater is that it is never the same. Every night has a new audience and a new energy and most importantly a new moment to experience. I see the show night after night and love every second of it.

As we begin this weekend, we are tired, but it is a good tired. We are filled with the joy we have shared with audiences, the satisfaction of a job well-done and the feel- good sensation when you learn and grow from an experience.

We would love to share this joy…this story…this experience with you. We have lots of tickets left for tonight, friday night and two shows on Saturday…and it’s air -conditioned. (It’s a win-win.) Won’t you shake off the Covid hibernation and join us? Let’s get back to the joy of live theater.

Here is a little tease of the show:

Until next time–I’ll be in the wings–

Reba

christian, christian blog, family, Fear, hope, theater

Hope from the Wings

It has been awhile since I’ve scraped time together to write.
When I had the time I didn’t feel like it.

I couldn’t. I’m not usually one to spread my feelings all over social media and I was afraid I would go too far. Those of you who follow me on other platforms know I asked for prayer on one of them and for some of you that was a tell that something was really wrong.

It was. It is.

I’m not going to go into the details, because the story is not mine to tell.
What I will tell you is that I received news that was heartbreaking to me. It was news that was shocking, and surprising. I had no idea it was coming and no idea what to do with the news or how to handle it.

I literally screamed out to God for about 24 hours. My oldest daughter told me to put one foot in front of the other. I told her I couldn’t. She said, “Yes, you can. Just do it and don’t let Satan rob you of the joy you have built with Overshadowed.” (We were in the middle of camp when I found out.)
Somehow I opened the door to the car and started walking into the building. Somehow when I stepped into the building I stopped crying. I have no idea how…except God.

I somehow managed to make it through that day. (I might have hid in the balcony for part of it) At least I made it without making too much of a spectacle of myself. You see, this story really isn’t about me and I didn’t want to make it about me… and yet…the pain I felt was crushing. And in some strange way,  it is my story. Now, before I confuse you too much, I’ll move on.

I haven’t lost my faith, but I felt dead inside. Maybe I still do a little. I told my husband, that I lost hope. I don’t know how to pray. I just call out to God, by calling on His name. I know that the Holy Spirit will make intercession for me without me having to say any words. My friends have prayed over me and I feel the prayers like Aarron holding Moses’ arms up in the wilderness. Thank you.
All of you. You will never know how much you mean to me.

How does one go on when they are having trouble hoping?

1) Have friends pray for you.
2) Don’t shut yourself off from friends. Make sure they know that you might not want to talk or explain things…or maybe you do…but their job is to distract you or comfort you or just be there.
3) Write BIble verses that contain hope so that everywhere you look you can see them.

Here are a few of mine that my friends sent me:
Jeremiah 31:25
For I have satiated the weary soul and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.”

John 14:1
Let not your hearts be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in me.”

Psalm 126:5
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”

Psalm 100:5
The Lord is Good. His mercy is everlasting and His truth endureth to all generations.”

For days people sent me BIble verses and I devoured them.

I NEEDED them in front of me.

Friends also sent me music. This is one of my new favorites.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtvQNzPHn-w

One more really special blessing from God.
On the day I found this news out I was at camp. I waited until I thought all the campers had gone until I reentered the building. (I was a crying mess) But, several of the campers were still there. Three of them literally threw their arms around me and started to pray for me.  It gave me strength and a huge blessing that I will never forget.

Thank you, God, for your faithfulness. Thank you for showing your love to me through your people.

Thank you all for being patient with me as I pour all of this out for you, the reader, without any explanation of what has been going on in my life.

Perhaps one day, someone will need hope to cling too and the verses will be their lifeline.

Hopefully, I will now be back on a regular writing path and that next week I will be back to normal…at least I will try to act that way!

Thank you for praying for me!

Until next time…this is just me…talking to you…from the wings…

Reba

 

One last thought: Corrie Ten Boom said, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.”

Hope.