Growing up, my grandmother would have all the family over at least one Sunday out of every month. Such great memories I have of dear family members gathered around the big dining room table - saying grace, laughing and discussing the latest news, with politics and religion surfacing throughout the conversation. Not everyone agreed, but everyone was courteous, I distinctly remember that. And since I was the oldest grandchild, by nine years, I totally bypassed the kiddy table on that side of the family.
Today, I am thankful for a mother and father-in-law that carry on the same tradition of getting people together for warm meals and are open to having discussions around the table. On the night we gathered for dinner, just two days before the mid-term elections and with news of more shootings, it was extremely refreshing to hear my father-in-law share this letter he received from a high school classmate, that he had reconnected with after sixty-two years. As he read the letter out loud, his friend's words touched our hearts. I asked him for permission to post this letter and share because . . . well, it's refreshing.
It's refreshing to hear the words of an eighty year old man looking for ways to bless others year round, and delighting in the joy it brings to strangers. Reminds me of how Ebenezer Scrooge saw people after his wake up call, and it reminds me of this scripture that a friend sent me just this past week.
2 Corinthians 9:11-12 New International Version (NIV)
You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
Here is the letter.
Happy Thanksgiving and have fun, experience joy and be blessed!
This post is a testament of where I have been and a declaration, in faith, of where the Lord is calling me. Humble & Bold has been a place of sharing heart makeovers, creative ideas and what I have personally witnessed the Lord doing in my life; it has also been a training ground for me as a writer and storyteller. Humble & Bold will continue to grow, and there are some exciting projects ahead.
God is doing a new thing!
When I stepped inside the lobby of the Center Stage Theater in Midtown Atlanta with my husband and our two sons, several months ago, the memory of me being there in that very spot, 21 years earlier, came over me like a time travel wave; rolling me back to where I was, emotionally, on my first visit. I was in awe of how much had changed since then, not in the looks or design of the painted brick lobby, but in my life, my heart and my mindset. God reminded me, in that moment, how He had answered several specific prayers of mine all those years ago. It was if the whole day, God was showing me how He had used EVERYTHING in my past to prepare me for what was coming next.
To explain, five years after my mother died of breast cancer in 1989, I made the move to Atlanta to pursue an acting career. People joked that I moved in the wrong direction, because back then, whoever dreamed Atlanta, and the entire state of Georgia, would seriously be able to compete with Hollywood? Hooray for the ATL just didn't have the same ring to it . . . but now . . . well, things are changing.
I had an acting coach, agent and some work that included being on the set with Cicely Tyson, Blair Brown, Patrick Dempsey, Blair Underwood, Mario Van Peebles, Brian Dennehy, Craig Sheffer and other well known actors. I learned a great deal from watching those seasoned professionals perform their trade just feet from me, and loved the thrill of pursuing my dream. I continued to sharpen my craft with acting lessons and voice over classes through the Alliance Theatre and even played the role of Shelby from Steel Magnolias on a stage in Buckhead. I loved stepping out of my comfort zone and into THE ZONE, performing center stage. I felt it was my calling!
However, behind the scenes, a real life drama was playing out with suspense and deception. I had become close friends with a fellow student of the craft, who sought out my company. He pursued me, and for a while, it felt wonderful, safe and secure. He even came to church with me, when I was trying to get back to going myself. But things shifted. Just when I felt safe to "fall in love" he brought up that he was in love with another woman. I was confused, left feeling unattractive, unworthy and lost. During this time I hadn't stayed in fellowship with God and other believers like I should have. I thought I was brave in pursuing my dreams without the constrains of a southern religious culture, and yet deep down, I had an uneasiness about my decisions; inner bells and whistles were going off inside.
Long story edited, after two years of living in a mind puzzle, he finally let me in on some of his hidden secrets. You know you have gone into shock when you hear a literal ringing inside your head and become nauseous. Much of what he had told me over the years was not true, and after weeks of walking around in a daze, I tried to make the best out of a painful situation. He kept calling, and I kept hanging on, for what, I don't know. I felt raw on the inside, insecure, and at times, very angry - I'm talking red head angry. Thought I was a good judge of people and situations, but this relationship left me in a field of doubt. Could men be trusted? What was wrong with me? Was God really real? And if he was, did He leave me or did I wander away? Deep down, I knew the answer to those last two questions.
One night at the Back Alley, a blonde man, in his late twenties, stopped me as I was walking up the stairs with the guy I was, unsuccessfully, trying to make a break from emotionally. I will never forget that strange moment. As this man descended down the stairs, he reached out to touch my shoulder, and looked directly at me and in a kind and pleading way and said, "What are you doing here? You don't belong here." I don't remember if I responded out loud, but I do remember screaming on the inside, I know, thank you! To this day, I don't know who that person was, but I felt God speaking directly to me through him, and it got my attention.
I enjoyed taking on a character's problems and issues; acting became a way of survival and escape from my own troubles. But I started to be concerned that I was falling into a danger zone with other male actors, because when you feel unattractive and unlovable you start looking for validation in places and in people that you shouldn't. Thankfully, I listened to that uneasy feeling and stepped back from those type of acting roles, before causing more emotional drama to someone else. I wasn't in a good place, nor was I using my gifts in the right way; things would only get worse if I didn't make some serious changes, so I started calling out to God. I was sorry for going my own way and asked for His forgiveness and direction. After putting my focus back on God, I was finally becoming free of the relationship that had such a hold on me.
Shortly afterwards, I took a job as a nanny of four children who had lost their mother in a tragic car accident. I knew the Lord had directed me to that job, taking me from my self focused mindset, to looking after the welfare of these children, who had been through a very traumatic event. I could relate to losing a mother, but I was older and had time to prepare, whereas these guys were much younger and had no warning. They needed someone to be there, listen, and take care of their needs. Their family also welcomed my little brother, who was still dealing with losing our mom; he would come from Birmingham to stay with me for long visits. I didn't have time anymore to dwell on my problems and that was a good thing, like a spiritual boot camp. During that season, I asked the Lord to help me find a husband who loved Him. I wanted a healthy marriage where we were both passionate for God and each other. I also wanted to be a mother, as I enjoyed the children in my charge. I started visiting local churches, even bringing the children with me when they wanted to come. I was still interest in acting, but starting looking into voiceover work, script writing and other ways of working in film and the art of storytelling.
On weekends, I kept running into a former acting classmate who asked me to come work for her. She was producing a television show called Southern Raceweek, and needed a production assistant. Our third, unexpected encounter was when I stepped into the lobby of Center Stage Theater in Midtown Atlanta for the very first time; there was a Women in Film event being held, of which we were both active members. When she asked me, again, to come to the edit suite at the Tape Warehouse to check out their production and see if I would like to come on board, I knew it was more than a coincidence. I went home and prayed about it; talked with my boss and he gave me his approval to check it out, while the children were in school..
The first day I walked into Tape Warehouse was the first day I met Scott, my now husband of almost 20 years. Looking back I know our meeting was definitely a God thing. Before we were married, God showed me my life verse, Romans 8:28, framed and hanging in a Kinkos.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28 (KJV)
Unintentionally, I brought old wounds and fears into the relationship. I was cautiously moving forward anticipating that the rug could be pulled out from under me at any moment; I was guarded . . . like Fort Knox. Thankfully, it turns out that Scott is one of the most humble men I have ever met. He genuinely loves God and puts others above himself. We have seen God do such a work in us over the years: disciplining, teaching, guiding, instructing, and the list goes on and on. Scott, who used to be in a heavy metal band and once auditioned for Cirque de Sol as a didgeridoo musician, has followed God's calling to be an evangelist, and is sincerely passionate in sharing God's love with people through his shofar outreach ministry. Scott has been a faithful husband and father, and when I think of how God heard my heart's cry way back then and was preparing my steps, I just get overwhelmed with His goodness. In the early years of our marriage, I laid down my desires for acting before the Lord and asked Him to only bring me back to it, if it was His will and for His glory.
Two years ago, I was on day five of Draw The Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson. We were in Washington, D.C. at the time. Scott was invited up, by Jason Hershey, to sound the shofar at David's Tent; celebrations were being held for the one year anniversary of them being on the National Mall. While there, we made our third visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where we came across a plaque; the idea for a script came to me right there. I could see the characters playing out in my mind and started jotting down notes immediately. The very next day, on September 11, 2016, at a National Community Church service in the Miracle Theatre on Barrack's Row, we listened to lead pastor and best selling author, Mark Batterson say that he had it on his heart to do a film, but he didn't have a story or a screenplay yet. The hairs on the back of my neck raised and I knew that God was clearly speaking to my spirit. Mark Batterson continued with saying that the first movie that impacted him was The Hiding Place, which gives the account of Corrie Ten Boom and her family's harrowing experience with the Nazis during WWII. God was calling me to write a screenplay. Later, when we got back home, I asked the Lord to reassure me that I wasn't just doing this on my own, and he confirmed it through a text from my cousin that day, who, unbeknownst to him, mentioned the city where the story is set. That happened on day 18 of the prayer challenge.
I have prayed over the timing of this project and God has been leading us every step of the way. In the last two years, there have been times where I felt overwhelmed. We welcomed two, wonderful teenagers into our home to help them stay in school and find a stable environment for them to finish their education. There was another job transition for my husband, and God called me out of my job, where I had worked the past fourteen years; but God was right there with us. When I look back and take inventory, I see clearly how He has worked everything out for His glory.
In coming back to Center Stage, after 21 years, our youngest son put his feelings into words, "Today was the best day ever!" And I felt that emotion too. That morning, July 29, 2018, I got up early to have my morning time. I had just finished a Wisdom for Wives Bible study and went to my husband and asked for his forgiveness on a certain area in our marriage where I had been at fault. He graciously forgave me and thanked me for sharing what the Lord had revealed to my heart concerning him. Our oldest son had mentioned wanting to go downtown via Marta to explore the city and then go to a Free Chapel Midtown service, so Scott planned our day. He took us to the Breman Museum, which has an in depth account of the Holocaust, and there, I felt the call, stronger and louder, to focus on finishing this work.
Then we came upon a movie scene being filmed. The boys loved it and for me, I felt God's confirmation once again.
And it wasn't just this scene, alone, that day. When we went to dinner, it happened to be the first restaurant that I remember going to with my parents when I was a child, visiting Atlanta. God planted a seed in me, way back then, to come to this city. At the Free Chapel Midtown service, that evening, Pastor Franklin preached on when you know God has called you to something big; how to walk into that calling, while staying humble through and after the process. I received prayer and the laying of hands that evening, and am so thankful that God called me back to Center Stage. Only God!
Overwhelmed by His goodness!
Thanks for stopping by and reading all the way to the end. I know, it was a long post.
Blessings to you!
Stay humble & BOLD!
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105
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