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 appliquéd 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  

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

My Neighbors and The Light


My neighbor, Mike, went to be with the Lord this week. Many knew him as restaurateur whose business had a long tradition in this community. But for me, his greatest identity in my life is neighbor.  Many years ago, he and his wife Peggy Sue taught me something important.

After raising their kids in a home on our street, Mike and Peggy Sue, for reasons that seemed good at the time sold their house and downsized. They cleaned out their attic and twenty-five years of memories and moved to the other side of town.

The people that bought their home used it as a second residence and were hardly ever there. The house stayed dark most of the time.

Though I never spent a lot of time with Mike and Peggy Sue, I missed themespecially at Christmas. Their Christmas décor was always beautiful and now, no one even put a bow on the mailbox.

But after many months, we received wonderful news. Mike and Peggy Sue had bought their old house back.

Jerry and I cried when we found out. Our friends were coming home.

Before moving back in, there was a great deal of buzzing about with carpenters and painters. As I took my daily walks, I slowed down to catch a glimpse of any new developments.  

The most dramatic change was something that took me a while to understand. Perhaps, it was because the house seemed so dark the months they had been away, but after they moved in, the house always seemed aglow, every room spilling light into the street. I’d walk by their house, come back home, walk through the door, and ask my family, “Does it seem dark in here to you?”

I love light. I have big windows with no window coverings because I want the sun to shine trough. But at night, I noticed how not replacing a couple of lamps that had been broken made our family room dark.

I bought six lamps in the weeks after Mike and Peggy Sue moved back.

I observed my neighbors placed lamps strategically so a lamp shone in most of the windows. This not only provided light for the room but also made the house brighter from the outside. It made me reflect on this verse. “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light” (Luke 8:16). 




I believe that within this scripture lies the secret of Mike and Peggy Sue’s lighting success.

Sometimes, for various reasonsfear, or low self-esteem, folks with amazing gifts from the Lord do not find a place of service. They relegate themselves to the corners of the kingdom preferring the safety of anonymity rather than risking failure, their lights hardly casting a shadow. I know I have had to deal with this myself. When we do this, we take the gospel with us to these safe places, hiding it, instead of risking putting it out for everyone to see.

Also, until Mike and Peggy Sue moved back, I didn’t know how dark my house had become. In a like manner, until we know the light that is Jesus, our darkness can seem as light. When Jesus comes with His pervasive and powerful light, we're astounded by His presence and love. He said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:46)

Today, because Mike gave his life to the Lord, he is in the very presence of that light that is Jesus and the lamps in his windows here wouldn’t begin to match the intensity of what he experiences now.

We’re really going to miss Mike on our street, and  I will always be grateful for what he and Peggy Sue taught me about light and The Light. 
 
“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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