Dr. Beverly Oxley is a dear friend and a wonderful person. Here is my conversation with Beverly about her new book, Dancing in the Desert: Living Boldly in Dry Places. After reading the blog, please take time to get a copy of her book and read it. Her story will encourage you to live boldly, even in dry places.
Chris Maxwell: Thank you, Dr. Oxley, for writing your book Dancing in the Desert: Living Boldly in Dry Places. It is so good and so needed. Tell us a summary of the book.
Dr. Beverly Oxley: Dancing in the Desert is a story of my relationship with God. From the time I was a little girl I sensed God in my life. I came to a full awareness of Him at age nine when I was seized with the power of a great affection. That relationship with God waxed and waned but was always the bedrock foundation of my faith.
As the book details the highlights and lowlights of my life, it shows how God was working behind the scenes to direct me to His plan for my life. Let me be clear, God is not a master manipulator—God didn’t make me do anything. He gives us choices. He allows us to use our free will to obey—or not—but when we do trust Him in the nudges He sends us, we end up with a pretty amazing life.
I’ve included in the book some prophetic utterances spoken over Paul, my husband, and myself over the years. But, we didn’t realize those prophecies had come to pass until AFTER they had taken root and flourished. I believe He gave us those prophecies, not as a guide to make things happen, but as seeds that could sprout and produce a harvest, if we obeyed Him. And, because they were fulfilled later in life, they served as a sign to build our trust.
These prophecies led to my establishing a counseling center in rural northeast Georgia—Wellsprings Psychological Resources. We now employ ten therapists plus office staff.
And then amazingly, out of Wellsprings grew a nonprofit ministry to rescue and restore families and then return them to live productive lives. The Ark Family Preservation Center works with foster children so they can visit their biological parents in a safe environment with a coach present to teach parenting skills. We provide these families with anger management, family counseling, grief support—whatever they need to be healed.
Chris: Why did you write a memoir?
Beverly: Because YOU kept hounding me to write one! Honestly, it seems that a lot of people wanted to know WHY I had established a counseling center in the middle of Nowhere, USA. God has a knack of using the commonplace and ordinary people to fulfill His vision. I think of Mary and Joseph living in Nazareth. These were nobodies living in nowhere land and yet God chose them to bring the Messiah to all of mankind.
I wrote my story to share with others how God takes the unlikely and uses them in His kingdom. All He is looking for is “Yes men and Yes women.” Mary’s response to the angel is the template for each of us when God knocks on the doors of our hearts, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
So, yes, I told the story of how I have fairly consistently said, “Yes, I am your servant. I will do whatever you ask me to do.” And the results have been truly amazing.
Chris: I often speak about the therapy of writing. I believing writing this was therapeutic for you. In our vocations, we both know the needs for various forms of healing. How did writing Dancing in the Desert help you?
Beverly: When I started writing the book, I had no idea where it would lead. I had NO idea that I would have to revisit my father’s death, especially. Although I write about my brother’s death at age four and my mother’s death shortly before my wedding, it was my father’s death at age twelve that knocked me to my knees. I had a love-hate relationship with him. As I wrote about it — and many other stories as well — I wrote with tears streaming down my face. I remembered those events with such clarity that I was reliving the pain of the events that happened 40, 50, 60 years ago. There were times I had to stop writing and simply weep and weep until I could go on.
Perhaps one of the unexpected outcomes was that, for the first time, I was able to look back and connect the dots of my life. It was as though I was standing on a high precipice overlooking the meandering trail below that led to this scenic overlook. As I saw the trail, I noticed that it was a zigzagging life I had lived. In that moment of finishing the book, I began to see that God Himself had made the crooked trail, not me. He had been leading the way in serrated trails, much like the Israelites in the desert. He often leads in that crooked manner to test us and mature us in our faith. My zigzagging journey had purified and empowered me.
Chris: How can the book help others as they read it?
Beverly: I’ve been told that my life story addresses issues common to many people: the pain of feeling unloved by a parent who is supposed to love you; wanting to be invisible because of our perceived flaws, the life-long struggle of forgiving someone who hurt you so deeply; feeling rejected and inadequate and inferior. But, it also describes the rapturous joy of dancing in the desert after many long, hard years of wailing and enduring desert storms.
I open the shaded windows of my life for readers to get a front row view of how God can use an ordinary vessel in an extraordinary way to produce healing in His children who have been broken and beaten down. Perhaps God can even show them the futility of their lives and turn them into flourishing plants in His Kingdom.
For anyone interested in the plight of children in foster care, they will identify with many stories in the book.
Chris: What do you see as the key “take away” from Dancing in the Desert?
Beverly: God uses horrific desert storms in our lives so that—in the fulness of time—we are able to dance in the way King David danced when the Ark was returned to Jerusalem—leaping and dancing deliriously before the Lord—without regard to what anybody else is thinking. He was caught up in pure rapture! This kind of joy is so superior to any artificial high that a drug or worldly events can produce.
Chris: When I finished writing Underwater—one of the books about my battle with encephalitis and epilepsy—we talked about it. You asked, “How did it feel going back through your experience again and writing this book?” I responded with two words, “Painfully healing.” To me, journaling and praying and counseling are various forms of dealing with hurt rather than avoiding it. Though painful, it can be very healing.
Beverly: This is the kind of work we do at Wellsprings. We have to open up the wound, drain it, stitch it, medicate it, and then the healing can begin. This is the whole reason for therapy—to go through the pain to get to the other side where the healing lies. It’s the only reason I’m a psychologist. And, I realized later, it’s the only reason I wrote the book—to bring emotional and spiritual healing to those who want it.
Chris: What suggestions do you give to people who feel they are in the desert? How can they dance and learn and grow?
Beverly: It helps to walk alongside someone in the journey—a spiritual director, pastor, therapist, or even a good, wise, godly friend. The Holy Spirit is the guide and ultimate Healer. The process takes time and you can’t force it to happen. Reading a book like Dancing in the Desert allows one to see the personal struggles and walk through the process of healing. There are other books as well. But, it starts with desire. We have to CRAVE it more than anything else! God knows when we are ready to be swept off our feet and ready to dance with Him. He gives us the desires of our hearts but we must ask persistently and fervently.
Chris: How can people obtain copies of your book and connect with you?
Beverly: The book is available on Amazon. Also, they can contact me via the Wellsprings website (wellspringsga.com) or The Ark Family Preservation Center website (thearkfamily.org) by leaving me a message.
They may also email me directly at: email@example.com
I have absorbed all the costs of printing the book, so ALL the proceeds from sales of my book go directly to the Ark.
Thank you, Chris, for taking time for this interview. I pray that God brings beauty out of ashes and turns wailing into dancing in the lives of many readers and listeners.