Horizons of Gold

The past two years have brought many changes and challenges.  I have not posted anything, or done a show since last August.  The truth is, I have not been active with my ministry Back To His Heart because I have not felt anywhere near to God’s heart lately.

As some of you know, my family has been on an incredible journey since quitting our jobs, leaving our home in Nashville, TN, and stepping out in faith with our drama ministry.  Hard to believe that was 12 years ago now.  Saying yes to God when it didn’t make sense put us in a place of having to trust Him completely.

We have been so faithful.  We paid God first, tithing every month, even when it meant doing without.  We literally gave everything we had to keep our ministry going.  I have shared about our 72 index cards, keeping track of God’s often miraculous provision. Surely, because of our fearless faithfulness to God, He would bless us.  Our bank account would be full, my book would be on the New York Times best seller list, and I would go on to great success making my living with my art.

None of that happened.

This past year, after 12 years of bookings for our ministry, we stopped getting invitations. Even our two standing gigs we did every year no longer wanted us. When the last one on the schedule for 2016 cancelled, I just knew my dream was over.

Our ministry was a good part of our income, so with no further bookings, Rich had to take a second job.  I had to go back to work full time to pay the bills. We could no longer pay our mortgage on our home.  In the coming months, I found myself stripped of my identity.  I have performed The Story of Gomer hundreds of times, and Gomer and I had become one person.  I really don’t know who I am without her. Being stripped of some of the things I loved most forced me into a place that broke my heart.

I truly felt my life had turned into a barren wasteland.  I missed having a big house, I missed my coworkers at the Creation Museum, and I missed Gomer.

In the midst of the storm, I honestly felt abandoned by God.  I guess I was really mad at God.  All my faithfulness should have been some sort of golden ticket to…something better.  Suddenly, I didn’t ever want to perform on stage again.  I had to let theater go in order to survive working my new day job.

Then, out of no where, I got a call to join a cast of a start up local theater group.  Would I be interested?

The show is called Horizons of Gold, set in the dust bowl in the 1930’s.  A modern retelling of the book of Ruth, Horizons is the story of two women who lost everything, yet held on to hope.

As we rehearse, I find the lyrics ministering to my soul.  Although all I see is dust, there’s still hope to hold on to…just keep breathin’, just keep livin’...so that’s what I am going to do.

You can see the show this August in the Northern KY/Cincinnati area.  Click here for tickets.

 

 

 

 

 

Prison Ministry, a gift from God.

Gomer and Hosea small file

We were very blessed to be able to present The Story of Gomer at the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women in Louisville, KY.  It has been several years since I brought the show to a prison, mostly because I have been way too caught up in paying gigs.

A couple of months ago, I did the play at a small inner-city church in Covington, KY, and it was one of the hardest shows I have ever done.  Out of hundreds of performances, it was the only time I have ever considered stopping the show right in the middle and going home.  It seemed no one was listening.  Kids screaming, people were coming and going, talking to each other over the pews, and just so much unrest that I could barely get my lines out.

After that performance, Satan tried to use the experience to discourage me. “Why do you even bother?” The voices whispered and taunted me. “No one cares.  No one pays attention. All that you have sacrificed, and this is where you end up- broke and unappreciated, playing for an a tiny audience that doesn’t hear a word you say.”

I let it get to me.  I really did.  So much so that I sank into a dark depression.

I am never going to do this show again.  Ever.

But God…

But God showed up, and through a friend’s podcast where my own words that she recorded ministered to me, and I found myself renewed by simply hearing about why I do what I do- bringing hope to the hopeless and speaking of God’s redeeming love to those who think they have gone to far.  Gomer’s story is one worth telling to everyone who thinks they can never come home to God.

So, instead of cowering and giving up, I took the weapon out of Satan’s hands and turned it against him.

“Yup, you are right, I don’t get paid very much, and you know where I don’t get paid at all?  you know where it actually costs me to go and minister- prison!  That’s right- prison. So that’s where I am going.  It’s a tough crowd there, and they seem not to listen, they seem not to care, but I know deep down they do listen and they do care, I just have to reach through the darkness to get to them. There will be unrest.  There will be talking.  But that is just because the play makes them uncomfortable since darkness wants to flee from the light, and what I am saying is hitting a nerve.  So I am going to go do that play about Jesus, and I am going to tell my testimony, because that’s how we defeat you, Satan, by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony!”

I got up out of my bed that very moment and emailed the chaplain.  He set up a date and we went with a team of prayer-warrior women, and we brought the word of God and the love of Christ to 50 inmates on August 6th, 2016.

The women laughed.  They cheered.  They applauded.  And they cried.

They walked with me through the entire play.

One woman said she felt as though she was actually right up there on stage with me.

It’s an amazing thing to have a connection with an audience like that.  Few performers ever achieve such a feat. It is truly a gift.

So perhaps as an actor, I have left behind the velvet curtains and beautiful stages.  The dressing rooms with lighted mirrors and playbills with all of my accolades and attractive headshot photo.  I don’t have costumers or make up people or flowers after a show.

But I do have the experience of using my talent to connect heart to heart with the most broken souls in the world, and walking with them towards a savior who holds out his arms to welcome them home to His heart.

Somehow I don’t think I will ever really understand the meaning of what I do until that final curtain call.

 

 

72 Index Cards Podcast, The Story of God’s Faithful Provision

Recently I sat down with my friend Christine, aka the “Oppermom” as a guest on her podcast show to talk about the true story of God’s miraculous financial provision for our family over the past six years.  It all began with trusting in the Lord to make all the payments of a 72 month car loan for our ministry van.  As the first payment came due, I worried about how we were ever going to be able to make a single one of them, let alone 72! God clearly spoke into my heart, “Get 72 index cards, one for each month of the loan, and I want you to write down how I make every single payment.”  So that is just what I did. I got a pack of a hundred cards, counted out 72, and put them in a plastic sandwich baggie. This is the true story of those cards, and what has happened since!

Click here to listen: podcast 72 index cards

Coming Out of the Darkness, My Fight Against Depression

People see me as an outgoing, upbeat, friendly person with a smile that lights up a room, but recently, I lived through a very dark bout of depression.

It all started with my last booking for my play The Story of Gomer at a small inner-city church not far from my home.  As I waited to go on, I made the mistake of looking at Facebook.  I happened to see a couple of my theatre friends posting about the wonderful shows they were doing with lovely sets and great casts.  One was making a living at her craft.  When my entrance music started, I put the phone down and tried to clear my mind.  A child fussed as I made my entrance, and I began my lines, trying not to be distracted by people still up and milling about the very small church. Many people I invited did not come, but I tried not to think about it as I finished the first scene.  The same child continued to fuss, only louder, as I re-entered for scene two.  A lady in the front row offered foil sealed gum, or mints to the row behind her, while the woman next to her talked the whole time.

By scene three, the whole room seemed in an uproar, and the fussing child was now all out screaming and walking the aisle.  Our tech suddenly stopped working for no apparent reason.  People were texting on their cellphones right in front of me.  In hundreds of performances , it was the only time, ever, that I was very close to stopping the show right in the middle.

Oddly, that church had their sound board set up literally one step away from me on the right, and that put my husband Rich very close to me where we were able to make eye contact the whole time.  He knew it was a rough show for me, and if it was not for his encouraging glances saying, “I know it’s hard, but hang in there.” I never would have made it through.

After that show, I started feeling sorry for myself.  I felt as though God had forgotten me.  After over 13 years of hard work, of all that I had sacrificed, I felt I deserved a nice stage, and an audience who would listen to me and appreciate my talents.  Why were my friends prospering in their productions, but not me?

I also allowed myself to wallow in self-pity over the fact that I could not make my living at my craft.  Facebook followers know that I have a new career as a medical assistant, and although it is where God clearly wants me, having a full time job in a non-creative field breaks my heart a little every time I drive to work.

These thoughts taunted me, and I began to feel like a failure.

I was set to record a podcast with a good friend of mine on the subject of my drama ministry and the show The Story of Gomer, when all I can tell you is the darkness descended. It is very hard to put into words now, but a thick oppressive darkness came over me, and after a few angry words to my son, I threw myself on the bed and sobbed. And sobbed…and sobbed, uncontrollable, gut-wrenching sobs.  Terrible thoughts came to me.  Memories, my past, comments my husband made years ago, mistakes, taunts about my lack of beauty, talent, mothering skills.  I didn’t eat or drink anything for a whole 24 hours. (Trust me, if I don’t eat, there is something wrong.)

My life began to mirror Gomer in my play where she leaves her husband and kids.  I didn’t want to be a wife and mother anymore.  I wanted to run away where no one knows me and just start over, not telling anyone where I am.  I truly just wanted to die.

My husband didn’t know what to do or how to help me, so he basically just left me alone.

The next morning, I didn’t want to go to church.  Rich brought Chris to church, then came back and said, “We are going to have church here, you and me, and we are going to have communion together and read the Bible, and pray.”  So, that is what we did and I started to come out of it.  Like slowly walking out of a dream, I was coming back.

Somehow,the next week,  I managed to get to my friend’s house and record that podcast.  I knew I had to record the show because Satan tried so hard to prevent me from doing it.  Recording went well, and I looked forward to hearing the edited cast.

Several weeks went by, and I was still rather down.  When my friend posted the finished podcast I was halfhearted about it, and waited several days to even listen.

On my day off, finally, I decided to listen. Laying on my bed, I listened to the Oppermom show featuring me talking about my ministry, what I did, and why I did it, and as I listened, tears started rolling down my face.  I felt God’s spirit strengthen me, and assure my heart with the knowledge that the Lord didn’t forget me the night in that inner-city church, he sent me.  That is exactly what the darkness does in the light, it writhes and stirs up and creates an atmosphere that is difficult to work in .  He sent me and not another actor because I was the one who COULD.

I got up off my bed at the end of that podcast, and it was exactly like wrestling the gun away from your adversary and turning it on him, for I said to myself- not only was I going back into the very thing that almost go me totally down, I am going all in full force into the darkness.  I am going to prison! (click here to listen to the podcast)

KY State women’s correctional facility is about an hour and a half away from where I live. I contacted the chaplain and we are set to minister there on August 6th. All the things I faced in the inner-city church I will face there.  I have done Gomer in prisons three other times, and it is a tough crowd to say the least.

By the way I described the crowd’s behavior earlier in my post, you would think the audience was bored.  It may be true for some, but I have seen it before when there is true darkness and sin present.  The city I was in is deep in a heroin epidemic and has a long history of prostitution. I was in enemy territory, and it is a very chaotic atmosphere to try to present a program about God’s redeeming love.  During my experience in prison ministry with this show, I have literally seen women writhe and growl at me, and talk back to me during my show with hateful and mean comments.  But those same women, after the show, are on their knees weeping in repentance.

God forgive me for ever thinking I no longer wanted the ministry He has given me, or for not wanting  to go to the places He sends me. Forgive me for thinking I deserved “better”.

So I ask you for prayers that August 6th, 2016 will be a tremendous time of deliverance for the women incarcerated, and that they will be freed  of their past and know that there is a God who saves them and loves them.

And next time the enemy tries to use something against you, take it from him in the way of resisting to act on his lies, lift it up to God, and allow the Lord to turn it around and use it for good!

 

 

 

The Day I Almost Killed My Child

Mother’s Day, 2000

My hands trembled as I opened the home pregnancy test.  My mom’s flight back to NY left in a few hours, so we had to leave for the airport soon.  According to the instructions on the test, it was a little early to get accurate results, but I had to try.  The knowledge that I was going to have a baby would be the greatest gift I could give to my mother on mother’s day.  To tell her in person would be my gift as we only saw each other twice a year and I had prayed to be able to share the news in person.

For a moment, my mind drifted back to my childhood, and I remembered wanting a baby as a young girl, but how life had pointed me in another direction over the years, and I had said over and over that I never wanted children.  When I met my husband Rich in my early 30’s, I found myself longing to experience love on a whole new level, and also wanting to give him the gift of being a father.  I knew in my heart that Rich would be an amazing dad.  It felt so strange to now want to see a positive pregnancy test, not just for me, but also for the two people in the world I so loved.

Two lines!  There are two lines!  What does the package say is positive?  TWO LINES!!!   I get to tell my mom, on mother’s day, that she is going to have a grandchild from her only daughter!  Excited, I ran downstairs.

“Mommy, guess what?  I am going to have a baby!”  We laughed and cried and hugged.

Then I see my husband standing there.  “Hey, dear, I’m pregnant.”

He was happy, but he kind of had a funny look and was a little quieter than I expected.  I found out later that Rich was pretty upset and hurt that I told my mom before I told him; but thankfully, he didn’t stay mad at me for long.

Approximately 2 weeks later…

Although I was incredibly tired all the time, the days were filled with joy.  I still couldn’t get over the fact that I was going to have a baby.

One day, while lying on the couch on one of those first trimester low energy days, I felt a sharp pain in my side.  I really didn’t know what to think, so I ignored it.  Maybe muscle related, I thought. Then it came again, a little while later, right in the same spot.  Still, I ignored it, and hoped it would be gone in the morning.

I got up and went to work, but there it was again, stronger.  I called my husband, and after talking to my boss, we all decided it wouldn’t hurt to go to my primary care doctor to check it out.  They took me in right away when I called for an appointment.

“I don’t hear a heartbeat.”  My doctor looked at me and smiled. “But not to worry, it is early, and it’s not all that unusual in the early stages of pregnancy to be unable to hear the fetal heart sounds. We’ll send you to get a STAT ultrasound, and we will be able to see the baby’s heart.  Does that sound OK?”

“Sure”, I said, smiling back.   I was certainly willing to do whatever was necessary to make sure all was well and that my baby was OK.

Off to the Imaging Center I went.  The technician who did my ultrasound was so kind and cheery.  I was happy that they took me in so quickly.  She was very upbeat and said she loved the OB Ultrasounds, looking at the babies inside the womb was really neat. Her smile faded as she took a long time, looking and moving the wand on the outside of my belly, and looking again.  After a while, she excused herself and left the room.  She came back a few minutes later and told me to undress because we needed to do a trans-vaginal ultrasound to get a better look.   After the trans-vaginal US, the tech was gone for quite a while. When she finally returned, she gave me an envelope with my x-rays and told me to go directly to the Emergency Room.

“We suspect you have an ectopic pregnancy.”  We took my films out of the envelope. “See this,” she said pointing to a highlighted area, “This is your fallopian tube.  See this light colored object in the tube, this is a mass.  This other picture is your uterus.  There is nothing there.”  Across the top I saw the words, “No intrauterine pregnancy.”  Now neither of us smiled. “When you get to the hospital, they will check your blood for the HCG hormone, and your levels of this hormone will confirm an ectopic pregnancy, Okay?”

Okay.

Shaking, I left the Imaging place, but I did not go directly to the ER.  Instead, I stopped by my place of employment first and asked the director of HR at the time, a very Godly woman who knew how to pray, and asked her to pray for me.  I remember that she actually laid her hands on my belly and prayed, “Father God, in the name of Jesus your Son, move this baby.”  She prayed some other things too, but these are the words that will forever stand out in my mind.

When I got to the ER, my husband met me there.  They did draw my blood, and after a bit of a wait, the ER doctor came in.  “We got the results of your blood work in, and I am sorry to tell you that your HCG levels confirm that you do have an ectopic pregnancy.  Normally, at this stage of pregnancy, HCG levels should be in the thousands, yours is in the hundreds.  But, I’ll tell you what.  Let me get another set of eyes on this before we confirm the diagnosis.”

Rich and I just looked at each other.  I tried very hard to hold it together.  It was all so surreal, and we still had hope that the second doctor would tell the attending doc that he was wrong.

It seemed like an eternity, and finally, the second doctor same in and confirmed what the first had said, and told us it was time to call my OB, Dr. Maria Perales, to come and see us.  When Dr. Perales arrived, she again showed me my x-rays, and after looking at the blood tests, and examining me herself, she spoke to Rich and me in a kind and gentle voice.

“I am very sorry to tell you this, but I believe it is indeed an ectopic pregnancy.  You have two choices. One, we can give you a pill that is actually a drug used in chemotherapy and you can avoid the risk of surgery by aborting the pregnancy this way, or, we can perform surgery, which is obviously more invasive for you. The surgery option as has more risk and recovery time, and the risk is you will lose the tube and possibly diminish your ability to get pregnant again.  I’ll leave you for a few minutes to discuss the options.”

This is when I lost it. Sobbing, I remember crying to Rich, “See, this is why I didn’t want children.  So many things can go wrong.  I just cannot have my heart broken like this.”

“It’s going to be all right.”  My husband cried as well. Through his tears, he said, “We can’t abort the baby.  We just can’t do that.”

I totally agreed, and even though I just wanted it all to be over, I chose the surgery option.

When Dr Perales came back into the room, I said, “I just can’t abort this pregnancy, Dr. Perales, I can’t do it, even if it is harder on me, I want the surgery.”

At that point, Dr. Perales did something that shocked me. She said, “Okay, let’s pray.”  I don’t even know what she said or what she prayed, I just sobbed through the whole thing.  All I remember was what she said after the prayer. “I promise you that I will take one more look with a tiny scope before I open you up.  Remember, all our diagnosis confirms an ectopic, but I promise to look one more time.”

They got me ready for surgery.  Rich held my hand and told me he loved me as whey wheeled me away to the surgery room.  I remember counting backwards- 99, 98, 97…

Several hours later…

“You’re going to be a mommy.” Sitting by my bed was a nurse with a sweet voice. When she said those words, it seemed like a whisper and I felt like I was dreaming.

When I opened my eyes again, Rich and my two dear friends, Doug and Allison Weaver were all standing by the foot of my bed.

I told them what I thought the nurse said, and they joyfully confirmed that yes, I was going to be a mommy!  Dr. Perales told them that when she went in with the scope, there was no mass in my tube as the X-ray had clearly shown only hours before.  She said, “The baby was right where it was supposed to be!”  Those were her exact words. The baby was in my uterus, and all was well.

Almost seven months later, Mercy Elizabeth Campbell was born.

Today, Mercy is fifteen years old and has been awarded full scholarship to one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the United States. After recently completing her first year at the Lawrenceville School, her advisor labeled her an “Academic powerhouse”.  Mercy was also chosen out of thousands of scholars to receive the Jack Kent Cooke award and spent a week in Washington, DC with 64 other young people that the foundation believes, “Can change the world”.

As her mother, I can’t help but reflect on the scripture from Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart…”, and also Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  What an amazing plan the Lord must have for this child’s life if the enemy tried so hard to destroy it.  Many people have a hard time believing in good and evil, but for those of us who have experienced this battle first hand, we know there is a battle over each of our lives, and our children’s lives- a loving God pulling us towards Him, and the enemy fighting against it.

One thing that stands out in this story, even to me who lived it, is the power of prayer.  How often I forget to pray, and also enlist the prayers of others. This is a good reminder that prayer is a powerful tool in our daily walk with Christ. May we all endeavor to use it more.

Note: This is a true story and all medical records can confirm at Southern Hills Medical Center, Nashville, TN.

Interview on the Oppermom Podcast

Do you wonder if God still loves you? Has your heart been wounded by a wayward spouse? Do you have a child who stepped away from the faith they were raised in? Has God been stirring your heart to share your testimony? Heard about the story of Gomer and Hosea recently and wonder what on earth it has to do with anything? Well, this podcast is definitely for you and well worth the listen. You will come away encouraged and blessed, as well as with a renewed sense of God’s love.

This interview sums up who I am, what I do, and why I do it!

oppermom photo

The True Story of God’s Provision

 

72 Index Card Logo

“I didn’t even know they made car loans for this long.  72 months?  What’s that, like, six years?”  I sat there, staring at my husband, a knot in my stomach, feeling the heat rise in my face.  “The van will be over ten years old by the time we are done paying on it.”

My husband Rich, a man of few words, calmly stated; “It’s okay, everything will work out. God will take care of us.”  Those words came out of my husband’s mouth quite often in the years since we made the decision to follow God’s call on our lives.

As we sat in silence in the small office of the car dealership, my mind traced back through the memories of how God had provided for our family in the four years since we quit our good paying jobs and left our home in Nashville, TN in obedience to God.   After years of living on non-profit ministry wages, we had already cut all the extras out of our budget, so we knew there was absolutely no way we could afford a car payment.

The salesman came back smiling, “Okay folks, your credit has been approved and we’re good to go! Just sign on the dotted line.”

As I signed the papers, I could never have imagined the journey God would take me on, or how those 72 van payments would change my life.

Stay tuned for more on the 72 Index Cards