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….

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

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.

christian, christian blog, communication, Fear, hope, theater

Trust God With All Your Heart

Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.”

My life verse. These two verses are  pretty “popular.” In fact, at times I have been almost embarrassed to tell people that these are my life verses.  I thought people wanted verses that were more “unusual.”

But these….these are the verses I needed to always remember and to guide me. You see, I’m a little bit of a worrier.

Let’s take it apart:

  1. Trust in the Lord.                                                                                                                     Google defines “trust” as: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.                                                                                                                             When days get dark, when I am not sure where to turn, when people make fun of me, I remind myself who God is. I believe in Him and His ability to care about the things I care about. My prayers may not be answered the way I want them to, but I believe, I TRUST that God knows best.                                                                                                                                 I am reminded that getting advice from the world may not be the best advice. Do you remember Job’s wife? “Why are you still holding on to the idea that your God can help  when he’s not doing anything? You might as well curse God and die.”  As the story ends, Job is restored to health and receives double of every earthly good he lost. Job’s decision to trust God no matter what ends up being the correct one.                                                             I admit that some days it is easier to talk about trusting God than it is to do it–which is the reason I choose these verses. It is a constant reminder: trust God.

2.       With All Your Heart.                                                                                                                             I must completely rely on His promises, wisdom, power, and love to  help me in every circumstance. He is the only one who sees and understands the plan. Human understanding is limited. It is tainted by emotion and frankly human error.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” If we trust in the Lord with all our hearts we have hope and need not fear or worry.”

Jeremiah 17: 7-8, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

3. Lean Not Unto Thine Own Understanding.

Well, let’s think about that for a second. How do we do that?

We spend time with Him.

We study the words He has given us and taught us.

Be willing to wait for His direction. (I am often impatient and want the answers right away.)

If we take these steps it will help us to allow God to take control and  wait and trust Him.

4. In All Thy Ways

ALL. Everything. Every desire, thought, plan.

5. Acknowledge Him.

From what I understand the word translated to acknowledge is “yada” which means to know or recognize. It is to know His ways inside and out and to recognize that God is the ultimate arbiter of our lives.

Webster’s dictionary defines acknowledge: “to recognize the rights, authority or status of someone or something.” In other words, if you are acknowledging someone’s authority, you are acknowledging that they have power over you.

This is a life-altering change. This is an active day after every day decision.

6. And He Shall Direct Your Paths.

All my life I wanted to know what it was that God wanted me to do. “What school should I go to?” “What should I choose for my major?” “Who should I marry?” and many more decisions.

Claiming this verse reminded me that God would direct and that He would not fail me.

Paths go somewhere–there is a destination. So my life has a purpose that God will direct and lead.

This is the  kind of life God promises.

To me I remind myself:

Reba, trust in the Lord:  not the news, the world, yourself. With your whole heart. Don’t allow sin and worry to have even the smallest part of your heart or mind. Give God all the trust. Lean not unto your own understanding. Reba, you don’t know. You can’t know. God sees and knows the whole plan. Trust Him. In all thy ways. Everything. Acknowledge Him. Give it to God every time you think of it. Make it an every morning decision to give it to God, and He will direct your paths. Relax. it isn’t up to you, Reba. God’s got this.

Do you have a favorite verse? I’d love to hear why you picked it?

I’d love it if you’d subscibe to my blog and share it!

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

artist, artistic vision, audience, backstage, christian blog, christian theater, directing, entertainment, family, Fear, hope, theater, theater education

Theater Through the Eyes of a Child-By Guest Blogger Kendra Jones

I am so pleased to share these thoughts from Kendra Jones. I met Kendra several years after Overshadowed began, and she instantly became a friend as well as a significant part of the company. She recently moved away, but her impact will stay with us for years to come!

                                           Theater Through the Eyes of a Child

It was unlike anything I had ever seen or experienced. My mom had planned a special date for the two of us. I knew this had to be a special occasion since she had me get all gussied up in my favorite dress and my Sunday shoes.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and I remember the glass-paned lobby feeling bright and warm as the sun streamed in through the windows. There were lots of other children there with their moms and dads. We walked from the lobby into a room like I had never been in before – their seats sloped up and there was a stage in the middle of the floor. My mom was taking me to my very first play.

At the time I probably didn’t fully grasp what a play was, but I do know I was in awe of every moment. From the time the play began, I was caught up in the story. It was the tale of “Hansel and Gretel.” I clearly recall the Father character with his rugged, lumberjack look, complete with full beard, plaid shirt, and suspenders. Hansel and Gretel were children! Just. Like. Me! Their journey through the magic forest to the witch’s house made of candy had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. When Hansel and Gretel and their Father were reunited at the end, their loving family embrace in the middle of the pink and purple illuminated stage is permanently etched in my mind. It was a true “happily ever after” moment! This experience created a life-long passion for theater in me.

Fast forward to 2009, when Reba and I had discussions about beginning our Kids and Family Series for Overshadowed. While all of Overshadowed’s shows are family-friendly, we felt it was critical to begin offering shows that would be targeted for a younger audience. Why? Because the earlier a child is exposed to the arts, the more likely they are to appreciate and engage in the arts as they grow. And the show I selected to begin our family series with was none other than my first foray into the theater…”Hansel and Gretel.”

Since that time, we have produced eleven shows in our Kids and Family Series. Each time, each show has become more precious than the last. We realize that the time and money you invest for your children is of great value to you, and we have strived to create more than just a production, but a true experience.

Watching this program develop, I have made the following observations about kids and the theater:

1. They want to become part of the story. As much as possible, we try to find moments within each show to engage the audience and allow it to become interactive. Admittedly the times I have enjoyed the most have been when it has happened organically. During a performance of “Hansel and Gretel,” as the witch was stealing the pebbles the children used to mark the path to return to home, a little boy loudly exclaimed, “Oh, no, no! NO! You bad witch! I’m gonna get you!” Good thing we were headed to intermission after that because everyone (audience, crew, and cast alike) erupted into uncontrollable laughter for the next several minutes!

2. They want the special occasion experience. We have seen grandparents come with the grandkids; Daddy/daughter dates; Mom and kids days out; group events with extended family and friends. More often than not, just like I was as a child, they are all dressed up in their finest. One time a father came with his daughter…he in a tuxedo, she in her prettiest dress. Not going to lie…that one made me tear up a bit.

3. They want the story to continue. After every performance the cast lines the hallway, still in costume, to greet the audience and take pictures. Quite frequently I have overheard children “expanding” the story as they engage with our cast members about what they would have done in a character’s situation, or how it should continue to play out.

4. They want to overcome their fears. Most every story has some kind of villainous character. It is in the nature of literature itself. We are always very cautious with our approach to the villains with a gentle hand, because we don’t want to create a fearful situation. But at the end of the day, a villain is still a villain. I always feel a little badly for our “villains” during the greeting time, as they are often left standing there with no children to greet them. After all, who do you want a big, warm hug from after visiting Narnia…the White Witch, or Aslan the Great Lion? After a production of “Alice in Wonderland,” I observed one of the most beautiful interactions. The White Queen (portrayed by Traci Cidlik) noticed a little girl watching her. Traci had figured the girl wanted to approach her, but being a villainous character, the girl was a little afraid. Traci knelt down on the floor and started talking to her. Slowly the distance between the two of them grew shorter as the girl began taking baby steps toward Traci. And before you knew it. The child threw her arms around Traci’s neck and gave her a hug, and wanted to take a picture with her.

Young or old, novice or experienced theater-goer, I hope I will continue to enjoy every theatrical experience as through the eyes of a child.

Suessical!
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Whatever you do today I hope it is magical!

What was the first play you ever saw? Do you have fond memories of it? I would love to hear about it!

acting, christian, christian blog, christian theater, Easter, Fear, Good Friday, history, hope, theater

The Women at the Cross

In Matthew 27:55 it tells us that there were women at the crucifixion of Christ “looking on from afar” it also says that they had “followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him.” Those named in the different Gospels include Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons–Salome. In John 19:25 it says that the two of them were with Mary, the mother of Jesus who stood by the cross. Perhaps they were not allowed to come closer at first? Or perhaps they were afraid? But as time went on they came close enough to Jesus that He could speak to them.

Where were the apostles? Remember Peter? He denied Christ three times just as Jesus said he would. Most of the apostles fled and hid. 

But these women had more courage than the disciples themselves…these women stood  close and watched.

The mouth knows not how to express what sorrow they must have felt as they saw their Lord betrayed. How their hearts must have broken as they watched Him suffer. How can we conceive the hopelessness they felt as the world grew darker?

I know not what was in Mary’s head as she stood at the cross, but perhaps it went something like this:

She wasn’t sure how long it had been since she slept. Her eyes were swollen from all the tears and she was weary. The procession to the cross was full of emotion she did not understand. There was dread and excitement. The people began to cry out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” She saw the soldiers and someone carrying the cross, and then…her son. “What was that on his head? There was blood…was it thorns?” She gasped as she saw the open wounds on his back. “My Lord, I do not know how to pray.”  She continued to watch as they climbed up the hill and listened as the crowd grew to a maddening mob. “Crucify Him!”

“Crown of Thorns” from God’s Masterpiece at Bethel Baptist Church 2015. Photo by Francisco Montes

 

The soldiers took Jesus and laid Him on the cross. She turned away as she realized they were going to hammer nails into his hands and feet to hold Him to the cross. When the pounding stopped she looked again and watched as the soldiers raised the cross and set it in place. Tradition held that He would need to hang there until His death.

“How long have I been standing here? It seems forever and yet time also seems to stand still. I can stand. I will not fall. I will be strong for Him…although He does not need me. I need Him. My Son. My Messiah.

Thirty-three years. It went so fast. Lord, I could never forget the angel that told me I would bare this son! I still don’t understand why I was chosen! I should have been afraid, but somehow You comforted me as the angel blessed me with the news of Jesus. Joseph. How amazing that he understood and became such a wonderful earthly father. The trip to Bethlehem. Did it really happen thirty-three years ago? The star. The stable. The shepherds. “

Mary forgets where she is for a moment and smiles at the thought of Jesus at twelve. “We had gone to Jerusalem to pay our taxes and had started home. We traveled a whole day before we realized he was gone. We had to go all the way back to Jerusalem to find him. Finally after three days we found Him in the temple sitting among the teachers. I didn’t understand at that time what He meant when he answered us, ‘Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?'”

She looks up at her son hanging on the cross and her smile fades. Mothers always want to save their children from pain and protect them. She shakes her head. “Oh, Father, Your son has never done harm to anyone!  And now he hangs…nailed to a cross! What was the crime? Jesus who taught scriptures, healed the sick and even….think of it…raised the dead. What was the crime?  He said He was the son of God.”

Mary reaches over and grasps the hand of her best friend, Salome, who is lost in her own thoughts.  She catches the eye of John who stayed by her side.  Then she looked up at her son again just in time to hear Him say,

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” She also heard him say to John, “John, behold your Mother.” and then to her, “Mother, behold your son!” Tears filled her eyes again. How could He be thinking of her while in such pain??

My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?”

“Soon, God, please do not let Him suffer longer.” Mary watched as Mary Magdalene stepped forward, watching in disbelief. Salome reached for Mary Magdalene and the three of them held each other close sharing their raw emotions and comforting each other in a way only those who share pain can.

Then,

Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. It is finished.

Mary thought, “Finished? No more beatings or death or pain or suffering. Finished.” And in the next horrific moment a soldier plunged his spear into Jesus’ side and water and blood flowed down his side.

She watched as Jesus’ body was lowered from the cross. “Where will they take Him?” She listened as Joseph of Arimathea offered a tomb. She watched as he and Nicodemus gently lay Jesus in the tomb.

“Too soon, O Lord! I cannot make sense of it all! The angel told me He would be King of Kings! Savior to our people! But, He’s gone. Hope is gone.”

As the sun sets it begins Sabbath so they all need to return home. Home that will never be the same again.

It was difficult for Mary and others to understand what Jesus had tried to teach them– for the exciting thing about His death is that He did not stay dead, but arose from the dead on the third day. For this reason, hopelessness is turned into hope and despair is turned into joy. It is not the end, in fact, it is the beginning!

“He is risen” from God’s Masterpiece at Bethel Baptist Church 2015. Photo by Francisco Montes

 

They only needed to wait a few days to discover the rest of the story.

What about you? Do you know that Jesus is alive today interceding to the Father for us?

What about you? Are you able to stand firm and keep your eyes of Jesus even when you do not understand?

What about you? Are you able to find hope in  “the Father’s business”?

What about you? Do you follow Jesus at a distance? Or do you have the courage to draw close and make others aware of your faith?

What about you? Will you run to tell others the joyful news, “He is risen! Let us worship Him.”

One interesting fact to note. The women didn’t cave to fear. They didn’t run away. They were first at the tomb on Sunday. Nothing could keep them away, not fear of death or punishment from soldiers.

May we all be more like these women.

May you have a Blessed Easter.

acting, artist, artistic vision, audience, christian, christian blog, christian theater, communication, directing, family, Fear, hope, stage, theater, theater education, theater professions

This is Who I Am and Why I Do What I Do

My learning curve for social media has been much slower than most people’s.
I started off being afraid of it because I was taught not to trust all the people that were getting information about me.
Then I was afraid no one would ask to be my “friend” or “follow me.”
It wasn’t until way down the line that I realized it was okay to just be who I am and spread my message to the people who want it.

Even if it is only one person.

During the shut down this past year I tried to learn and follow the suggestions of countless mentors and advisors.

1) Start a blog.
2) Have a personal Instagram account as well as a business account. (reba.hervas)
3) Start a personal YouTube account.

What??? Why????

Because Reba is different that Overshadowed. Yes, there is a merge most of the time, but advisors teach that it is important for me to have my own name recognition in order to have another road that leads to Overshadowed.

So, I did. You can watch the first episode here:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dc_ITOkFULA&t=27s

As you will see, we’ve come a long way.

But again, I was advised to not be discouraged by what we have done, but to constantly strive to be better the next time. (Which fits in with our mission at Overshadowed)  I think we’ve done that and I’m happy that we are finding our rhythm. Hopefully, we will continue to grow.

Now, I was advised again, who are you? Why should people watch this? What are you all about and why do people need to subscribe to your channel?

Hopefully, this will explain it all.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZW4dsRj_ml4&feature=youtu.be

Mr. Perry, thank you for investing your love of drama in hundred’s of students at Kinston High School. Thank you, for noticing a student like me and introducing me to a world of theater. To Mr. Unknown Tech, thank you for your life-changing words of wisdom.

To all of you: Remember, your speech is a valuable gift. Use it wisely. Be empowered by the unique gift that you have been given. You are truly blessed.

If you want to thank a speech teacher somewhere you can start by following my blog and my YouTube channel and I’d love it if you’d share this message as well!

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

artistic vision, christian, communication, family, Fear, hope, theater, writing

Nine Things You Should Know About the Story of Noah

Eleven years ago I wrote a play that for some reason became one of the most special experiences our cast and crew had ever had. The theater space was not big. We had no animals. The set was made out of styrofoam instead of wood and we had absolutely no minutes with a completed stage before we opened the doors for the audience. When you are an all volunteer army you take the time people can give you whenever they have it to give you.  And, well, God knows and somehow it always gets done.

When I decided that it was time to repeat this wonderful story I had no idea that the world as we know it would stop and that the cast and crew would learn some of the same lessons that we imagine the original inhabitants of the ark might have felt. Why, Lord? How long, Lord? And a few others. But we understand that God’s timing is ALWAYS perfect.

It is always difficult to write a story that is taken from a Biblical story. I always want to be careful to note that some of this story is out of my imagination. The Bible doesn’t give us detail of what those eight passengers felt or thought while they were floating all those days. However, in reminding ourselves that these were REAL people I like to ask my audience to consider things that  they might not have ever thought about. Consider, for example…did they fight? Were they thankful? Did they complain like the children wandering in the desert?  And as an audience….how does that change our walk with God?

Here are nine things that impacted me in writing this play:

1. The story of Noah is told in a form of parallelism. It is interesting to note that as the story prepares us for the flood it unfolds in such a way that as the waters unfold it parallels  the beginning. For example,  we learn of Noah and his sons. We are told that the ark needs to be built and the flood will happen. There is a covenant made with Noah. The food is loaded into the ark and the command is given to enter the ark. There are seven days waiting for the flood. They enter. God shuts the door. 40 days of raining. The mountains are covered. The waters remain for 150 days.

Then, (I love this thought) The Lord remembers Noah.

Now, this is what I mean about how the account is parallel. Look how the next part unfolds. The story reverses.

The waters recede for 150 days. The mountain tops become visible. They wait 40 days. Noah opens the window of the ark. Raven and Dove leave the ark. They wait seven days for the water to recede. There is a command to leave the ark. God gives instruction about the food outside of the ark. God makes a covenant with all flesh. God promises He will not destroy the world with a flood in the future. And they leave the ark: Noah and his three sons.

I am not enough of a Biblical scholar to know the significance of that, but I do appreciate the beauty of it.

2.  The size of the ark (if we consider  that there is  18 inches to a cubit), the total cubic volume of Noah’s ark would have been 1,518,000 cubic feet, the equivalent to 250 single-deck railroad stock cars. Since the average stock car can carry 80 180 lb. sheep or 160 50 lb. sheep per deck (2.5 – 5 sq ft per animal), it’s estimated the ark could carry 20,000-40,000 sheep size animals. Wow. Just wow!

3. It is interesting to note that ancient records note that sailors would use doves, ravens, and other birds to help them find and navigate toward land. It is said that a raven will fly directly toward land, so they could follow the raven as a guide. Doves are not able to fly as long so they were used to determine location of land. If the dove returned it would mean that land was not close.

4. Noah and his family were on the ark for a total of 370 days. (There is a little debate about the exact  number of days, because of lunar years, but this is the number most scholars agree upon.)

5. Noah’s first recorded act after leaving the ark was to build an altar to the Lord (Gen. 8:20). Imagine what the world would be like if our first response to difficulties would be to honor God with sacrifices and praise?

6. The Bible says the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat (a mountain range in Turkey) but does not specify which mountain.

7. The only time Noah is recorded as speaking is when he curses Canaan and blesses his sons Shem and Japheth. At all other points in his story, God does the talking and Noah does the listening. Again, another example. God talks….I should listen….totally not enough listening going on in the world today!

8. At 950 years of age, Noah had the third longest life recorded in the Bible (after Methuselah (969) and Jared (Father of Enoch) (962)). We all are aware that Methuselah was the oldest, but I had really never stopped to consider that Noah was only 19 years short of achieving the same record!

9. Besides the book of Genesis, Noah is also mentioned in eight other books of the Bible (1st Chronicles 1:4, Isaiah 54:9, Ezekiel 14:14; 20, Matthew 24:37-38, Luke 3:36, 17:26-27,Hebrews 11:7, 1 Peter 3:20, and 2 Peter 2:5).

Noah has a place of honor in the faith chapter.  Consider God’s servant: Noah.

What are other things you have learned when considering Noah? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Here is a little taste of our production.

 

January-March 2021
christian fiction, family, Fear, hope, theater, writing

Charity Chooses Hope and So Do I

Charity opened her diary for what she expected to be one last time in 2020.
She looked at the blank pages. One after another for the last month the pages were blank.
She closed the diary.
Standing up, she crossed to her dresser and picked up the newspaper.

“Another “166 people Dead as the Pandemic Continues to Reign.”

One solitary tear escaped the corner of her eye and made it’s way down her cheek.

So much loss. So much pain. So much devastation.

“Yep 2020. You didn’t bring any of the things we had looked forward to. New Year’s Day can’t come soon enough.”

Even with that thought came the next negative one right on top of it.

“How is the change of a date going to make any difference on our future?”

Then, for the first time in a long time she heard a voice of hope deep inside her.

“Because with the change of a date comes hope of something new.”

“Where did the tradition of writing New Year’s Resolutions come from anyway?” she continued to think, “Resolve…a commitment to continue a good practice or change a behavior or do something to improve my life.”

Charity crossed back to her diary. She flipped pass the last month of blank pages and stared at the last page. She picked up her pen and wrote largely……HOPE.

Maybe the problem wasn’t so much the disease, although it was a tragedy. Perhaps the problem was in her own attitude.

“Today I am responsible for one thing…how I look at the events of my life. I can choose to find the positive. I can choose to look at the events in the world realizing that none of this is a surprise to God and humbly give Him this day of my life…. or I can wallow in what I have lost and blame Him.”

RESOLVE

She paused for a moment and almost laughed out loud. “Why did it take me so long to remember, Lord? Every breath I have is only because it comes from You. If the sun shines or rain and snow comes it is only because of You. You, Creator, Healer, Sustainer, Maker, Artist, Savior.”

Charity closed the diary and stood up straighter. “I don’t have to wait until Midnight to start. I’m going to cling to Hope right now and through each day of the new year. Hope that we will gain control of the virus. Hope that our nation can be healed from the unrest and ugliness that has held us captive. Hope that I can make a difference.”

How are you going to look at 2021?

Thank you, God, for another year that you have given us. May we all sing Your praises with anticipation of another year to serve You.

Happy New Year.

I’d love to hear what words you have chosen to represent your 2021!

Until next time!

P.S.  Charity is a character from a book I started years ago….Should I ever finish it?? What should happen to Charity….