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What is the Future for Theater?

It seems like a decade ago when the costumers and I were working away on the costume inventory at Overshadowed Theatrical Productions. Debra Schott (our engineer, researching

Debra Schott, Margaret Sahli, and me!

costumer) looked at me and said, “I fear this COVID is going to wreck our economy and when it is all said and done hundreds of thousands of people will die.”

In my innocence, I laughed and said, “We have modern medicine–we are going to do what everyone tells us to do and it will be over in a couple of months.” She looked at me and said, “I don’t know. It could be a couple of years.” I laughed again. Literally, I thought she was a prophet of doom. She couldn’t possibly be right. We were at a high point coming off of our most successful theater season ever. After 16 years of hard work it was exciting. I couldn’t imagine that it would all be over.

Here we are, years later. In Chicago, they are mandating that you must be vaccinated if you are 5 years old or older to attend the theater or other inside activities. Of course, you still must wear a mask. You cannot take it off even to eat or drink.

The mandates aren’t the same in DuPage County. Yet, in my theater, I simply cannot make people happy. DuPage county requires masks if you are inside. So, we require masks inside. I constantly get letters asking me why I am not stressing it more? In my defense, it is on my website. I announce it on stage and I have ushers to remind people. Yet, I get letters from people asking me to please talk to the people who don’t have them on and “police” them.

Then, I have the letters from people that say that will not attend if we ask them to wear a mask.

I know, “you can’t please all the people all the time.”

So, what is a girl to do for the future of theater?

I know the restrictions of other countries. I know what happened in New York. I have friends that have died from Covid and I have others who have had a case of Covid that really wasn’t that bad and they recovered just fine.

I understand both sides.

But now what?

What is the future for theater? Will this be the new normal? If we sit in areas that are close together will we ever feel safe?

Honestly, maybe my rambling thoughts are more about my frustration that we simply are not able to respect each other any longer. Is there even a middle ground that we could meet? Part of the problem seems to me that we have redefined truth. The news, reports what it wants to report, with the slant towards what they want us to take away or feel from the report. To be honest, it reminds me of the Bible verse, “And every man did what was right in their own eyes.”  That should frighten us all to the very core of our souls.  None of us are capable of living in a land where sinful man without truth sets the standards.

Jesus said, “What is truth?”

Seems to me I remember a day in school when reporters were held to a higher standard. We were taught against propaganda, even citing examples of communism and how we didn’t want to fall into that.

Where did truth go? Where did love for my neighbor go? If those things came back would we be able to meet in a middle ground of respect?

Or do we need to be much more aggressive-defending our freedoms?

It is so much to think about.

Sometimes I just want to “do theater.” Make people laugh. Educate. Make the audience feel something that makes a difference in their lives.

I cannot imagine a world without theater. Theater has always made a difference in my life. Somehow, I’m going to keep navigating in a world that is constantly changing and remind myself of one thing: “Faithful is He who calleth you who will also do it.”

“God, lead my steps. Help me do what YOU want me to do. Keep the audiences safe at Overshadowed. Help us to continue to tell YOUR story the way you want us to do. One more thing, help us to realize that how we respond to each other is important too…both to the believer and unbeliever.”

Verses to ponder:

Isaiah 35:4  say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”

Joshua 1:9  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 94:19 When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

If this resonates with you at all, please like, share and subscribe!

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

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Don’t Ever Let Anyone Tell You That You Aren’t Good Enough

On December 27, 2012, I posted this on Facebook

Megan and I had gone to see “Bring it On: The Musical.” It was packed with girls-all ages. The audience really seemed to love it for the most part. Megan and I–not so much. It was at that point that I felt like I needed to start a blog to be able to warn people not to spend their hard earned money on musicals such as that one. I also thought  that surely Megan and I were talented enough to write a musical that was, at least, less trite and that would bring in the people. Full of ourselves you might think…nope…the musical was just really bad and we thought if we found the right topic surely people would come.

Last night, the memory of my vain post popped up on Facebook and Megan commented and said, “Look! Now you’ve done both..started a blog and we wrote a musical.”

I thought about that innocent facebook post all day.

Yes, I did start a blog. You are reading in right now. It is sometimes theater, sometimes reviewing other theater productions or movies or TV. Sometimes it is just my thoughts about life and faith.

It took me a long time to get up the courage to start the blog. I wasn’t sure my writing skills were good enough. I thought I might have plenty to say, but I wasn’t really unique enough. I find that in this culture people would rather follow young and beautiful and I am neither. Nevertheless, I finally started it. It took me awhile to be consistent, but I’m pretty regular at posting one time a week. I decided that I was going to write the way I talk. I want you to almost be able to hear me speaking to you as you read what I have written. I decided that would be the way I would be unique. I know I don’t follow all the rules. I don’t know much about SEO and other things that would probably make it so my posts would be found and be read. Somehow, I have 90 followers now. (That must sound crazy to those of you who have thousands of followers!)

To each of you, I thank you for reading so faithfully.

Would I like more? Well, sure! Who wouldn’t? But, I guess that isn’t really why I write. I write because I have something to say and here is a place that at least 90 of you will read and listen and sometimes comment. That is special to me because writing has been healing for me this year.

I didn’t know that it would take me nine years to grow my blog to 90 readers, but as I always tell my casts…you do it for even one audience member and so I write for even just one.

Now, for that other item, the musical? It was called, “I’ll Be Seeing You.” It is the best thing Megan and I ever wrote. The audiences loved it and people ask us year after year when it’s coming back. Did you know a writer is never happy? We need to do a few rewrites, but it will be back and we can’t wait.

So, what is the point of all these words? Make a goal. Then verbalize it. Then do it. It’s not too late. Find something that makes you healthy and happy and don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t good enough.

Hmmm. Reminds me of a Carpenters’ song, “Sing, sing a song, make it simple to last your whole life long. Don’t worry that you’re not good enough for anyone else to hear. Just sing. Sing a Song.”

Over the years there have been things I liked about Facebook and things that drove me crazy. This time, I’m thankful for the memory.

Now, I think I’m going to go sing a song.

Until next year.
This is just me, talking to you from the wings.

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So This Christmas Is a Little Different

#Episode Two in Reba writes fiction.

About a year ago I shared Charity with you. Charity is a character that I wrote (well, almost wrote–I never finished it) a book about. Let me know what you think. (That post is linked here:https://fromthewings.org/2020/12/31/charity-chooses-hope-and-so-do-i/

Charity took another look around the empty room. It was void of decorations and furniture except for the cherished radio/CD player and one table and chair. She walked over and clicked the radio on. The static was loud, but temporary as she inserted a CD into the well-loved player.

The sounds of Bing Crosby crooning, “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” immediately filled the air.

Charity walked over to the window and peered at the pavement below. “Nothing white on the ground here.” She smiled. That was okay with her. She wasn’t fond of snow or cold and neither was her mother.

This was going to be her first Christmas without her mother. It filled her with an emotion that she wasn’t ready for. It had been months. Why did she still wake up every morning wishing she could call her mom? Mom always made everything all right.

She walked back over to the last box. Once she went through this box she would clean the apartment for the last time and turn the keys over to the manager.

Over. I just don’t want it to be over.”

Bing stopped singing and Perry Como began singing,”I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” She couldn’t stop the tears that began to slide down her cheeks. Home? Where exactly was home?

She lifted the lid on the box. What was this? Letters. All unopened. She grabbed a few of them and thumbed through them. Some were addressed to her, some to her Grandmother, some to Dad and a few to God.

She decided to take the top one and open it. It was addressed to “Unknown”.

As she read aloud, the music vanished and she could picture her mom in earlier Christmas’. She was sitting by the Christmas tree at Grandmother’s house. Her sister’s were young and beautiful as they all laughed and told stories together. Dad was close by looking lovingly at her.

She shook away the memory and  opened the letter.

“To whom it may concern.
I’m not sure how long I will live or who will find these letters.
Please don’t share them with anyone. You may read them and think what you will, but I never gave them to the people I wrote them to for a reason and I’d ask that you keep them to yourself as well.
You may ask why I wrote them instead of talking it out?
Writing is permanant. When you talk, sometimes you forget exactly what was said.
I want to always remember.
Now you say, but the letters are sealed!
Yes, they are.
That is a mystery you must discover for yourself, if you choose to.
Happy Reading”

Charity stood. Why were the letters only written to the four of them? Her mother must have known that Charity would be the one to find the letters, why didn’t she just leave a note to her?

Charity was instantly filled with fear and excitement and worry all combined into one new emotion.

She closed her eyes, reached into the box and randomly pulled out a letter.

It was dated December, 1956.

The year I was born!” The letter wasn’t addressed to her, or her mom or her dad. It was addressed to God.

Dear God,

I am a mother. Finally! All I can think of this Christmas is Mary.
The girl you chose to be the mother of your son. I picture her holding Jesus. What must she have been thinking?
‘He’s perfect! How can this little one be a Savior to the world? How can I be the earthly mother to someone who knows all and sees all?’
I have such doubts about my ability to be a mother. Will Charity and I be close? Will my own mother be satisfied in what she sees in me?
So, I’m writing you my deepest and darkest fears. I know that you know what is in my heart, but I feel that somehow if I write it here then I can leave it here. Safe with you.
Help me to be more like Mary-more like Jesus.”

In an instant Charity knew that this box was a special gift. Just like Mary had pondered things in her heart-Charity’s mom had as well.
She reached into the box again. “Thank you, God, for this special gift from the past that is for the future. Thank you, also, for Jesus and Mary and…my mom.

She looked over at the box. What other secrets did it hold?

**Before you ask, this is NOT a TRUE story. I’m not sure why God puts stories on my heart, but I really enjoyed where this one took me. Let me know if you want to hear more about Charity!

I’d love it if you’d follow me, like my post, comment or share!

Until next time–

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Embracing Advent

Over the past several years I have had many friends tell me that they were doing an Advent Bible Study. Sometimes it was a self-guided study that they were tackling on their own. At other times they were reading an additional book or studying with a Bible study group. The point is that it has become quite “popular”.

I don’t usually do the trendy thing. I was years behind joining facebook and instagram and while I have a TikTok, but I really don’t have the foggiest idea what to do with it. I feel like I spend too much of my day seeing what is going on with my friends by checking out those platforms. So, in truth, I resisted the advent study.

Then, 2021 happened. I haven’t lost my faith, but I did lose my hope. I told my friends that I felt like Moses and that the only reason I was surviving was because they were holding up my arms like Aaron held up Moses’ in the wilderness. Thank you, friends.

Then, I saw on facebook that one of the writer’s that I follow was having an advent study. I joined the group and immediately began looking forward to the study.

Listen to what I just said! I began looking forward to it! Honestly, I haven’t looked forward to anything all year.

So, I went a step further. I started my own group as well! We are following the book, “Embracing Advent: Rediscovering Christmas in the Chaos.” I wasn’t sure how it would be received, but I knew I wanted to share this experience with some of my friends–many of them who prayed me through the wilderness.

We began our study on December 1st and we plan to read one chaper of Luke a day until we conclude on December 25 with Luke 25. We will also read one chapter of Jen Ludwig’s book.

I’m on day three and am so glad I did this.

Advent means “coming.” When we do an advent study we are preparing for the coming of this season. It’s more than reading one chapter of Luke a day. It’s spending time reading, praying and waiting.

Waiting. Do we all feel like we have done enough of that for the last two years? I’m pretty sure the children of Israel waited lots more than that for the birth of Christ. We have it so easy these days and waiting isn’t something that we are good at.

Did you know that the word “hope” in the BIble is sometimes translated  “to wait for“? I never thought about the fact that waiting and hoping were so connected. I guess I like things to be taken care of or answered now…right now.

Jen Ludwig says in her book, “In order to actively find hope, hold on to hope, cling to hope and be anchored in hope: we need to be very deliberate in our patient waiting.” Did someone say patient???? UGH.

But listen to this promise:

Isaiah 40:31

But those who HOPE in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

As we begin this Advent season, will you wait quietly for what the Lord is teaching?

I’m going to try.

What are you hoping for? I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time please comment, share and follow!

From the wings–

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Breath of God

Music ministers to my soul.

This week Jason Roy, lead singer of Building 429, sent out a video explaining why they wrote their new song,   “Breath of God.

He basically said that Christmas is traditionally a time we look forward to–a time that is usually filled with peace and rest. He went on to say that many of us have been touched with a great sorrow this year–a sorrow so deep that it is difficult to think of Christmas in the same way.  He hoped that this song would bring peace and a hope for all of us to cling to.

Well, that truth resonated with me. I went to youtube immediately

.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTppuLj3XPA

I have listened to it several times daily since then. I’m claiming it for a life line this Christmas.

In honesty, I’ve been wondering how December will be. In June, when I got the text that changed my life-my whole world fell apart. I cried in sounds that I didn’t even know I could make. I didn’t know how I could go on, but with the encouragement of my daughter, somehow I got up and put one foot in front of the other. I know the prayers of others worked overtime to help me get to the place I am today. I’m thankful for those of you who prayed–even though you didn’t know what you where praying for. (For all of you now trying to look through past blogs to figure out what happened–I’m afraid I never told. It is too personal. The story is not mine to tell at this point. And yet, it has been what defined me for the past six months.)

And on top of all this, my mother was dying and did eventually pass away.

I knew God was there, but I couldn’t get through the pain to converse with Him. 

You know when you are so close to someone that you can actually feel their breath? You have to be right next to them….nothing in between.  I heard the words to this song and I knew that was what I was lacking. I NEED to have the Breath of God. I need Him to speak peace to me.

Lights, snow, Christmas trees, presents… it’s not enough. We need hope. We need the Holy Spirit.

The song asks God to speak in power to the spirit of fear. It asks God to remind us that He is here. It goes on to say that the stars in the sky remind us that He is faithful and indeed–it does.

Peace.

In the Scripture:  ειρήνη (eiríni): from the verb “to join”, peace, implies prosperity, one, peace, quietness, rest

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on Phil, describes this peace:

The peace of God, the comfortable sense of being reconciled to God, and having a part in his favor, and the hope of the heavenly blessedness, are a greater good than can be fully expressed. This peace will keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus; it will keep us from sinning under troubles, and from sinking under them; keep us calm and with inward satisfaction.”

I love the last part, it will keep us from sinking under our troubles and keep us calm with inward satisfaction.

 God is a God of peace but we do not need to think that He is “resting”. The scripture promises us in Psalms 121:4 that he “will neither slumber nor sleep.”  He is watching and caring for me and my pain and you and yours.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. “

God is our foundation and rock— the opposite of the chaos of trouble. 

How do we get that peace? I think only when our communion with God is so close (we can feel the breath) that it guards against the internal and external threat to that peace.

Thank you, God, for holding me fast. Thank you for your word that doesn’t return void. Thank you for coming to save us. Please speak in power and bring those who have forgotten you to know you fully. Speak peace to my heart. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for music. Thank you for musicians who can be used to speak truth.

What do you think of this song? Is there a song you are claiming for this season? 

I’d love to hear what you think!

From the wings–

Reba

Caught by one of our cast members (Nancy Moreno) while we were experimenting with the new fog machine. God’s perfect reminder that He is with us and near me all the time. Breath of God.
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What’s Haunting You…or Did You Break A Theater Superstition?

Ever have a time in your life where you felt like you just needed to stop doing what you were doing and just play and have a good time? It’s been such a year that I did just that this past weekend. Disney was celebrating a “Boo Bash” on Sunday night and I thought it was a “hauntingly” great time. If you ever have a chance to experience that I would highly recommend it!

What holiday appeals to theater people? Why, one where you can dress up and pretend to be another character of course! Halloween is full of superstitions and well, so is the theater!

Here are a few of my favorites and why they exist.

1. No whistling backstage.

Have you ever heard that you should never whistle in a theatre? This superstition started in the 1600’s . About that same time much of the scenery began to “fly” in–or in audience terms–be raised and lowered with ropes and pulleys. Sailors were often employed as stagehands in theaters because of their extensive knowledge of ropes. They would communicate with each other by whistles to bring backdrops in or out. So a mistimed whistle would..well, make you a part of the scene.

2. Always leave a light on.

This light is more of a safety measure than a scare tactic. It is to be placed on the stage as a safety measure so that there is always enough light to keep workers from falling or tripping. Long ago people started arguing that the real purpose was to chase away unwanted spirits or to keep the ones that live there happy!

3. No peacock feathers on stage.

Yes, they are beautiful, but did you ever look at the pattern? Many people think it looks like an evil eye! They’ve been rumored as the cause of forgotten lines and broken sets as the “evil eye” curses the show.,

4. Don’t say the ‘M’ word!

Probably the most famous of all theatrical superstitions. Saying ‘Macbeth’ in a theatre will immediately bring you bad luck. According to folklore, the play’s history of bad luck began at its very first performance (circa 1606) when the actor scheduled to portray Macbeth died tragically and the show has been cursed ever since.

5. Never light three candles.

They said good things come in threes but I guess not in this case! Tradition states that the person nearest the shortest candle will either be the next to marry or the next to die. Why? The best we could discover is the thought that open fire is always dangerous on stage and more candles means there is a greater chance that a fire could get out of control. Did you know that Shakespeare’s Globe was burned down during a production of Henry VIII?

6. Break a leg.

Most of us know that you should never wish an actor “good luck.” There is a theory that this tradition started from the idea that the word leg doesn’t mean an actor’s leg. Instead, it refers to a curtain that masks the backstage. If you “break a leg” it means you’ve crossed from the backstage into the playing area. That means you are in the spotlight– which is exactly where the actor wants to be!

7. Give those flowers at the correct time.

The traditional method of giving flowers to lead actors after a show is a nice thing to do, but make sure those flowers are never given before a performance. You must not reward an actor for their work before they do it otherwise it might cause the production to close early.

8. Mirrors are a no-no.

By having a mirror on stage, you run the risk of it getting broken, but practically speaking they also reflect light and might wreck the lighting design. A misplaced reflection could blind an actor and potentially cause them to tumble off the stage. So instead people began to say that a mirror was a gateway for evil spirits.

9. Never wear blue on stage.

Many people haven’t heard of this one-perhaps because the reason behind it doesn’t exist anymore. There was a time when blue dye was the most expensive fabric covering. So, producers started a rumor that blue costumes were unlucky. It was all about the money.

I loved learning more about the history of some of these thoughts that theater people talk about! Many times there are practical reasons we do what we do. I don’t tend to be superstitious and I certainly don’t believe that evil spirits are roaming about on our stage. However, I do love to dress up and can’t wait to open our next show.

I hope you all get lots of candy this weekend….and if you give me flowers–give them to me AFTER the show!

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

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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.