Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Dream Summer: Crossing the Badlands

With VBS this week and a book edit due on Wednesday, I'm pulling from the archives this week. It was about this time in the summer years ago when we set off for our family's big 7,000 mile cross country adventure in a borrowed RV. When I read the  posts about that trip again, I see the handprints of God all over our journey. I was just beginning to feel called by God to write and now this year, I have two books releasing. I stand in awe of all God did that summer in setting the course for our lives. We couldn’t have known at the outset that in just a few short weeks on September 11, our world would change forever, and that we were seeing this country through a lens in which it would never be seen again. We embarked with a joyous abandon and freedom, which would soon be challenged when four aeronautical spears pierced the heart of America.
In this post, we're dropping in as we reach South Dakota on our trip to Montana.World Radio asked us to record a segment about our trip for their Summer Vacations and Destinations series. You may listen to it HERE.
After several hours on the western side of the Missouri in South Dakota, I began to understand why people see mirages in the desert. I kept seeing one that looked like a Cracker Barrel.
Where were we going to stop, eat lunch, and stretch our legs? After miles of desolate sameness, we finally spotted some signs about an 1880’s replica town in Murdo. 
“Let’s stop,” I said to Jerry.
 “Probably a tourist trap,” he said.
I gave him my nonnegotiable look. He stopped.
Turned out to be a good idea, if I do say so myself. The kids played checkers while they drank their sodas, and Bethany dressed up as an 1880’s belle. The owners had gone to some lengths to make the place as authentic as possible and still have it be a fun attraction for kids.
 
 
It was so much fun, we had a little trouble leaving, but we were close to the Badlands Entrance—a destination we had long anticipated.
Driving through the Badlands National Park is like driving on to another planet. The windswept terrain is unlike anything else on earth according to many who’ve circled the globe. The short loop through the park begins on I-90 and makes a forty mile circle back to Wall, South Dakota. There is a desolate beauty about the Badlands. But because of its unpredictable landscape, the French trappers and Native Dakota Americans found this part of the country a “bad land” to cross over.
 

 I eyed the gorgeous layers of sediment and rock banding the buttes. Out west, it was always tempting to do what Lucille Ball did in the movie, The Long, Long Trailer. She picked up a rock from every place she and Desi’s character went when they’d toured the country. Those rocks nearly sent their trailer plunging over a cliff when they crossed the Rockies. Aside from the similar danger of adding more weight to our already full van, I knew the National Park service would not be happy. We tried to leave as invisible a footprint as possible. 

 “Everybody put on your shoes, we’re getting out,” I said as I scanned the park service brochure. “We’re coming up to Journey Overlook.”

 
 
 I turned around in my seat to see if the kids were ready and discovered Bethany had put on her flip-flops.
“Why do I have to put on shoes?” she cried clutching flip-flops to her feet.
I pointed to the rocks. “Look, you might slip trying to climb in flip-flops,” I explained. “This is for your own safety.” 
“I won’t slip,” she said.
“Just put on the tennis shoes,” I insisted. Why were we always struggling over shoes?
A scowl spread across her face. She put them on, but she was not happy, and made no secret of it.

 

We explored a few of the overlooks, took pictures and returned to the van. There was a deafening silence coming from the back seat. Sometimes the silent treatment could be a blessing. As we neared dinner, stomachs began to growl, which only added to the shoe debacle. I was beginning to get what the Native Americans meant when they said this was a bad land to cross over.
It took about thirty minutes to get to Wall, South Dakota, our next stop. Just before we arrived, I turned around and saw my daughter drawing on a tablet.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
 

Without speaking, she handed over the tablet. What I saw stunned me. She’d captured in colored pencil the rainbow layers of fossilized sediment that appeared in the rock formations—a masterpiece from a six year old and probably one of the best drawings she’d ever done.
“It’s what I did with my madness.”
“This is beautiful,” I told her. She let go a smile. 
For years, we’d encouraged our children to do something constructive with their anger like run laps or kick a ball. Amazingly, she’d gotten it this time. Oh, how I wished I’d always created beauty from my anger.
As surprising as this painting was, nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. When we finally got to Wall, we felt like we’d crossed the Sahara. Thirsty and hungry, we went where all tourists go—Wall Drugs. We sat down at a table in their dining room and studied the menu. I couldn’t believe it when Bethany, the queen of all finicky eaters. ordered a buffalo burger.
Drop my jaw.
I never dreamed she’d actually eat it. But she did, the whole thing.
Aaron, the critter aficionado, had his picture made with a mechanical dinosaur.
 
The story of Wall Drugs captured our interest. In 1931,Ted and Dorothy Hustead were considering buying a drug store in Wall, South Dakota. Their families were not encouraging. “That town is in the middle of nowhere,” a cousin said, “and furthermore, everybody there is flat broke busted.” The depression had not been kind to the people of Wall. 
But after much prayer, the Husteads decided to go ahead with their purchase. In 1936, after five discouraging years they were nearing the end of their resources trying to establish a viable business. Then in July of that year, Dorothy had the idea to draw in the hot thirsty tourists traveling on 16A by offering them free ice water. They put signs on the highway and the rest is history. At the time of our trip, about twenty thousand people a day came during the summer.
The Husteads believed, "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters..." (Isaiah 55:1). There's a chapel for travelers at Wall Drugs, as the owners have never forgotten how it all started.
With prayer, it’s amazing what God can do in the middle of nowhere.
On a recent business trip, Aaron met and spent time with one of the Hustead's grandson's. When I found out who he was with, I sent him the picture of him with the mechanical dinosaur. They had a big laugh. Bethany is now a vegetarian.

Remember Faith in the Fashion District is now available for presale at many online retailers and at Amazon.
 

“As a Ford model during the 1980’s, the New York fashion world was my world. Beverly’s encouraging stories of how God moved in that sphere help us realize that no matter where we are— even on Seventh Avenue—God wants to use us for His glory.”
Nancy Stafford
Actress (“Matlock”), Speaker, and Author  

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Thirty Years and Thirty Reasons


My friend, Sandy, and I sat outside on the church steps talking one evening after choir practice. A man came out of church and walked by us, then stopped and pivoted. “What are y’all talking about?” he asked.

I recognized him as an attorney who had given his dramatic testimony in church a few months earlier. He lost his eight-year-old daughter, his best friend, and his marriage within a two-year period and then had a “Damascus Road” type experience with God.

“Sharing what God is doing in our lives this week,” Sandy said.

A big smile spread across his face.

I honestly don’t remember anything after that, except that on the way home that night, I was so thrown off by those minutes we spent talking, I took a wrong turn and got lost.

Jerry and I a couple of months after our first date. We're at the top of a 14,000 foot mountain we'd just climbed with friends while adult guests at a Young Life Camp in Colorado.
This week, that man, Jerry, and I will celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary.

Like everyone else, our life together has been filled with all kinds of challenges―serious health diagnoses, loss of loved ones, financial stress, family issues, and other strains. I’m embarrassed to say that sometimes we get caught in petty disagreements like what’s the best way to get to the home improvement store and other meaningless rifts.

But the joy we've experienced in our lives far outweighs anything else. Still, after all this time, I sure do love the guy.

So, Jerry, after thirty years, here are thirty reasons I’m so very glad I’m married to you.

These are in the most random order and certainly not a complete list, but it’s a start.

1.       Your dimples.

2.       You played football at the University of Georgia on that SEC championship team and all the wonderful things I’ve gotten to be part of because you did.

3.       You are a wonderful cook.

4.       You don’t mind when I move furniture around.

5.       You let me have all these cats even though you have to do bad jobs because of itthe three p’s as you would say.

6.       Your smile can light up a room.

7.       You’re great in a crisis.

8.       You’re the best preacher I know.

9.       You wear starched white shirts and you send them to the laundry instead of expecting me to starch and iron them.

10.   You’re a good whistler.

11.   You’re a deep thinker.

12.   You can use a sewing machine. Who would guess?

13.   You have survival skills.

14.   You let me drag you to all the art and music events I like even though I know you’re sometimes bored silly. You even act interested.

15.   You’re a good proofreader.

16.   You’re unpretentious.

17.   I could probably paint the house zebra striped and you wouldn’t say anything.

18.   You have always been a big encourager to me in my writing and painting pursuits.

19.   You’re willing to take the small closet. Thank you very much.

20.   You don’t carry a grudge . . . towards anybody, about anything.

21.   Your Biblical knowledge astounds me.

22.   You can build things.

23.   You overlook my infinite list of shortcomings.

24.   You look past my wrinkles and tell me I’m beautiful.

25.   You sing Victory in Jesus on key.

26.   You’re so sweet with that brown dog, Lucy.

27.   You love kids and all their noisiness.

28.   You’re a fabulous grandfather to Walker and Sara Alden.

29.   You’re an amazing father to our two miracle children, Aaron and Bethany, and Mari, the daughter whose life I was blessed to be part of because I married you.

30.   You love God more than you love me or anyone else. I suppose that’s what drew me to you in the beginning.  

Jerry,  when we have our anniversary dinner later in the week, I'll be the one wearing the same dress we wore on our first date. We are not wealthy by worldly standards. Our possessions do not amount to much in monetary value, but we are rich in so many other ways. Thank you for these amazing, challenging, exciting, surprising, blessed thirty years. It has been my privilege and honor to spend them with you. I love you more!!!
 
"And now to Him who can keep you (us) on your (our) feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating--to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes."  (Jude 24-25  The Message).




 Remember Faith in the Fashion District is now available for presale at many online retailers and at Amazon.
 

“As a Ford model during the 1980’s, the New York fashion world was my world. Beverly’s encouraging stories of how God moved in that sphere help us realize that no matter where we are— even on Seventh Avenue—God wants to use us for His glory.”
Nancy Stafford
Actress (“Matlock”), Speaker, and Author  


 


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Twilight and Twinkles

One recent evening, Jerry and I walked a bit later than we usually do. As we approached an area where we know deer hang out, we were watchful because we didn’t want to be caught between a doe and her fawns.

But that evening, we didn’t see any deer, but something else, instead.

“Oh, wow, look at that,” I said. Jerry stopped and turned. I pointed to a field. “Fireflies.”

In the twilight, hundreds of them twinkled randomly. It had been a long time since I saw so many. A smile eased across my face.

We stood in the street for a while and watched, both of us remembering with joy catching them in mason jars when we were kids.

Later, I discovered a few random facts while reading about fireflies.

If a field where fireflies live is paved over, they don’t go to another field. They simply fade away. That may be one reason why firefly populations are in decline.


They are unique. No other insect has light producing structures in their abdomen. This fact reminded me of a sign a friend gave me which bears a snippet of a children’s song.



“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine . . .”

It’s a reminder that we also are unique and have special light producing structures.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world” and “. . . let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14, 16).

God wants to use us to bring his light in dark places, and as Jerry has said, we let our lights shine; we don’t shine our lights. There’s a difference. Others are drawn to us as they see God at work in our lives and we share out of that well, but the opposite usually happens if we’re constantly blinding them with just our talk.

We all have to think about where we go, what we do, and how those actions might bring glory to God and how they might not. We may try to explain away certain things, but in the end, what we may be doing is making excuses.

To allow God to use us in bringing light, we may have to alter our actions. Believe me; I have had to alter mine. In fact, it is an ongoing, sometimes daily, process.


I wonder when God sees us, it’s a little like how Jerry and I saw the fireflies in that field that evening.

All over the world, He sees us twinkling in the darkness bringing joy to the Father’s heart.
 


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

What I Learned about Rest at a Writer's Conference


An odd theme developed for me while I was at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference last week.



At this conference, I usually take classes on the craft of writing, but with two books under contract, this time my focus was differentclasses about Instagram, email and other kinds of marketing filled my schedule. I love to write, but the whole marketing side of things not so much. I just want to do what I do, and let someone else take over the publicity aspect. But that’s not the way it works these days. Publishers expect and require authors to do their own marketing.

All of that makes me a little and sometimes a lot, anxious. My learning curve right now is nearing a one hundred and eighty degree angle as I try to acquire the knowledge to do what I need to do.

The second day there, my brain went into overload with words like target audience, engagement, growth rate, hashtag, and a word I had never heard before, shadowban (I’ll need to learn more even to define it for you).   Brian Bird, executive producer of Hallmark’s “When Calls the Heart” captured it best one morning when he asked, “How are you doing drinking from the hydrant of this fountain called a writer’s conference?” The information comes at you so fast; it doesn’t seem there’s a moment to process.

That afternoon, I walked into a class on creativity and spiritual formation taught by author and speaker, Karynthia Phillips. I later learned she is also a Physician’s Assistant. I chose this class because I thought it might help me in classes I teach on creativity, but it did much more than that.

A song by Julie True played in the room when I entered, and within seconds, I began to relax as I listened to her song, “Oh, My Soul.” Karynthia’s class was one of the highlights of the conference for me. It was like during my fashion buyer days when I used to walk up Seventh Avenue in New York City to Central Park, emerging from a cacophony of sensory overload into a space of peace.

“Creativity requires space for spiritual formation,” she said. Oh, yes. She went on, “Allow God to restore, replenish, and refocus your heart and mind.” Then she gave us time for God to do that in prayer and reflection. As I sat in a rocking chair and inhaled deeply the Blue Ridge Mountain Air, that word “Rest,” kept coming back to me.  I stretched out my legs and rocked slightly allowing God to minister to me by His Spirt.


 The next morning, my reading for the day happened to be from Psalm 62:5,” Yes, my soul, find rest in God: my hope comes from Him.” Julie True’s song came from this verse.

Later, author, Linda Evans Shepherd shared her moving testimony and explained that when a sheep falls down and rolls over, the weight of its wool will often keep it from rising. This is called being cast down. If the shepherd doesn’t find the sheep, it will die and the loss of a single sheep to a shepherd is a great loss. The weight of the world can be like the weight of the wool to us, and we can become cast down. But Jesus is the good shepherd and we are incredibly valuable to Him. He finds us and as the Psalmist writes, “Thought he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down . . . “ (Psalm 37:24). Though we fall, we shall not be utterly cast down.

Linda said it best, “Rest a lamb in the shepherd’s arms.”

I realized the weight of the responsibility to promote my books has almost made me cast down, but I need to rest as a lamb in the shepherd’s arms, knowing he’s got this. I need to do what I can do with the knowledge that He will do what He can do.

That will always be enough.

 
Listen, and if there’s something making you cast down, allow the Good Shepherd to minister to you and remove the burden.

Rest in Him.

"Creativity requires space for spiritual formation." Karynthia Phillips. (click to tweet)

"Rest a lamb in the shepherd's arms." Linda Evans Shepherd. (click to tweet)

“Allow God to restore, replenish, and refocus your heart and mind.” Karynthia Phillips (click to tweet)


Remember Faith in the Fashion District is now available for presale at many online retailers and at Amazon.
 
“As a Ford model during the 1980’s, the New York fashion world was my world. Beverly’s encouraging stories of how God moved in that sphere help us realize that no matter where we are— even on Seventh Avenue—God wants to use us for His glory.”
Nancy Stafford
Actress (“Matlock”), Speaker, and Author  

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

When the springs of hope and winters of despair collide

The last few days have brought to mind those familiar words from English writer, Charles Dickens. ”It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . “ But the rest of the quote may not be so familiar, “ . . . it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. “

News of the senseless shootings of eight students and two teachers in a Texas school on Friday pierced our hearts. Then, less than a day later, the gaze of the world turned to a chapel in England for a fairytale wedding as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wed.

Heartbreak.

Sweethearts.

 

The extremities in this life have the potential to give us whiplash. Charles Dickens was a literary great, but I’m thankful that we have more than a commentary in man’s words. When the springs of hope and winters of despair collidewe have a God who does not change. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). I am grateful in these tumultuous times for the constancy of One who brings light in the midst of darkness and hope in the center of despair.

Our hearts ache for those families in Texas who have lost beloved ones and our prayers go up for healing for those touched by this tragedy. We also pray for a new royal couple that as they spoke their vows before God, they would trust Him  to help them fulfill the bright hopes they have to affect change in the world . . . in the “best of times” and in the “worst of times.”

When the springs of hope and winters of despair collidewe have a God who does not change. (click to tweet)

Remember Faith in the Fashion District is now available for presale at many online retailers.
 
“As a Ford model during the 1980’s, the New York fashion world was my world. Beverly’s encouraging stories of how God moved in that sphere help us realize that no matter where we are— even on Seventh Avenue—God wants to use us for His glory.”
Nancy Stafford
Actress (“Matlock”), Speaker, and Author  

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The gap, the quilt, and the lifted head


My little friend McCoy said it best. “Miss Beverly, you have a gap in your animals.”

And I do.

A little over a week ago is when the gap happened.

We lost our sweet ragdoll kitty, Isabelle.

It seems the older I get, the harder it is to lose these little creatures. I’m well aware that in the scheme of world events and other problems people we know are dealing with, it’s a small matter. With all that being said, I still grieve. This cat had come from my dad, so I think they may add to the sadness.

I sat at the vet one morning having already been told the day before things were not looking good. Now, they were super bad. I prayed, “God, I need something to help with this sadness I feel. Some way to redirect, something joyous to latch onto.” My head was down. Really down.

Then, it seemed God said, “Look up.”

When I did, I noticed a quilt hanging high on the wall opposite me. Each quilt square had a different fish motif shaped into a bowlaround them several appliqu├ęd cats and one dipped its paw into a fish bowl.



That’s when I thought of ita favorite Isabelle story. My daughter was in high school when her older sister gave her a fish tank. She came home from school one afternoon and discovered a fish missing. It wasn’t floating, on the floor, or anywhere that we could find. Quite mysterious. A few days went by and the same thing happened again.


A short time later, we solved the mystery. I walked into my daughter’s room and caught Isabelle red-pawed. She had snatched the fish and eaten them leaving no trace of her crime and was about to do the same thing once more. My daughter’s fish bowl had become her own personal snack station.

In the middle of my tears at the vet’s office, I laughed.

Because I heard God saying, “Look up.”

Psalm 3:3 says, “. . . you lift my head high” (The Message).

When we’re going through stuff and our heads are down, God says, “Look up.” He’s right there to bring the consolation, healing, and hope we need to face the challenges before us. No matter where you are, or what’s going on, God has a way to lift your head even if he uses a fish quilt to do it.

I found a picture I had taken of Isabelle staring into the fish tank and decided to paint it this past week. In fact, I may enter it into an exhibit. Even though there’s a gap in my animals, Isabelle’s antics will live on.

 


Remember Faith in the Fashion District is now available for presale at many online retailers.
 
“As a Ford model during the 1980’s, the New York fashion world was my world. Beverly’s encouraging stories of how God moved in that sphere help us realize that no matter where we are— even on Seventh Avenue—God wants to use us for His glory.”
Nancy Stafford
Actress (“Matlock”), Speaker, and Author  

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Chair and a Mother's Courage


As Mother's Day approaches, I keep thinking about this post I wrote several years ago and decided to run it again. I often sit in this chair and give thanks for my mom's life. Dear friends, no matter your circumstances, I pray each of you has a blessed Mother's Day.

 
I found this picture not long ago among a pile of vintage photographs. 
 
In the background, the house of my early childhood,  and in the chair my mother with me nesting inside her belly.

And the chair she sits in---there’s a story there.

When my mother died over a decade ago, my sister and I had the difficult task of disposing of her belongings. With homes already established ourselves, much went to charity, so we only took  a few things with us. I wound up with a set of aging, peeling, metal porch furniture.

I suppose I wanted it because my mother loved it.

Martin Luther said, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

That was my mother. No matter what else was going on, she’d still be out gardening, planting roses, salvia, tomato plants, and petunias. Then she'd sit in her porch chair and enjoy her efforts.

We put the furniture behind the studio where it sat for ten years. Then one day, I ventured back there and saw if something weren’t done soon, we’d lose it. The rust had eaten through the metal in many places.

I told my husband I wanted the furniture restored for our anniversary. I never guessed sand blasting would ever top my gift list.

The metalworker we found fit the time-consuming job of restoration in-between other  better paying work. It took over four months to make sure the work was done in such a way that it would last for future generations. Last year in October, we picked it up.

With decades of paint layers removed, I hardly recognized it, but yes, here was a chair where so many memories were made--where I curled up with a kitten in the spring, sat eating watermelon on hot summer evenings,  or read a book in the early fall.

Then I found the picture of my mother in the chair anticipating my arrival. Such a gift.

This week, another gift.

Somehow, after my mother’s death, my sister and I overlooked an insurance policy my mother had. This week after searching records, the company made contact with us after all these years in order to pay the claim on this forgotten piece of business. It’s a very, very, small policy. In the life insurance world, I don’t think there’s anything smaller, but maybe it will pay a few dollars on college expenses for the grandchildren.

How poignant we found out about it just before Mother’s Day.

When I see the woman sitting in the chair, I know she’d waited many years for a baby. Her anticipation had to have been high for my arrival.



Little did she know that in the years ahead, she would face terrible private battles--many times struggling alone to overcome. It would have been easy to give up, but she didn’t, and I think  it was likely for the benefit of my sister and I that she endured.  

She planted more than seeds in her garden. By her example, she planted the knowledge in me that we can face many difficult things with hope and dignity.

So, this Mother’s Day, I’ll probably spend time in the chair, her chair, which I’ve placed on the patio beside my own petunias and salvia. I’ll be grateful for her legacy of perseverance and bravery, her love of gardening, her gifts to the grandchildren she loved, and so much more.

1950's porch chair

And perhaps someday, another generation who faces a challenge bigger than themselves will sit in it, too, remember, and draw strength and inspiration.

What has your mother planted in your life?

“Give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises!” (Proverbs 31:31).

Remember Faith in the Fashion District is now available for presale at many online retailers.
 
“As a Ford model during the 1980’s, the New York fashion world was my world. Beverly’s encouraging stories of how God moved in that sphere help us realize that no matter where we are— even on Seventh Avenue—God wants to use us for His glory.”
Nancy Stafford
Actress (“Matlock”), Speaker, and Author  

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