Billie Silvey
August 2013
In my home office.
Frank after a Mansfield concert.
50 Years--
Of Learning
When we married, we combined our lives, our finances, and our
libraries.  One of the books in that library was a red, 2-volume set of
Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables—a story of poverty, politics and grace
set against the French Revolution of 1832.  I read it early in our marriage
and again a couple of decades later.  And our connection with the story
and its meaning has continued.         

I lived one semester in Gardner Hall at ACC before Frank and I married
and moved into a little house near campus.  Although I was learning a lot
about journalism, history, English and the Bible, I was learning almost as
much from Frank about his experiences traveling the world as a military

Every night, we’d sit up reading in bed, or I’d study or clean house until
Frank came in from his job as a night proofreader for the
Reporter-News.  We'd read to each other and talk about what we were

Frank had learned so much in his travels, and I loved hearing him tell
about them.    

Growing up in the church, I had been told that Frank was the head of
our family.  He didn’t believe that.  He taught me women’s liberation
even before
Betty Friedan came along.  

It started with the fact that both our educations were important.  We
began by trying to keep our credits equal so we could graduate together,
but when Frank was in the Navy, I got ahead, graduating with an
English/journalism major before he got out.

I was so disappointed to be graduating without him after all our efforts to
finish together, I couldn’t stand to attend my graduation ceremony.  I just
quietly went back to Texas and got my diploma by mail.

By the time Frank returned, he had reconsidered his plans and
transferred to UCLA to study philosophy.  He graduated in 1972 and
was working as a graduate assistant, and I was ready to take my comps
when Robert was born at Daniel Freeman Hospital in Inglewood.  That
night, to celebrate our new son, the nuns served us a steak dinner
complete with wine.

We reared our children on 79th Street across from Pepperdine, and
attended the
Vermont Avenue Church of Christ just down the street.  I
worked as an editor for
20th Century Christian Magazine and was
among the early advocates of working from home.  I wanted to be with
the kids, but I still wanted to give Kathy and Robert an example of a
working, contributing woman.  

The nature of my job helped make that possible, as I assigned articles,
edited copy and express mailed the issues to Nashville, TN, where the
magazine was published.  Working from my home office, I planned
issues on history, culture and poverty, and wrote articles for other
publications on the Bible, multiculturalism and social justice—themes that
were uncommon in the Christian journalism of our fellowship at the time.  
I was grateful to be able to balance work and family and to be paid to
study the Bible and write about issues that were important to me.

It was reassuring to have the kids playing in the house or backyard and
have neighbor kids over while I worked from my home office, though
there were times when I looked for office supplies to find them under a
bed, or when Robert opened a bottle of India ink and dribbled modern
art across the shag carpet.

Frank worked in desktop publishing for
IBM, and he taught me to use
the computer, a skill that has enriched my life.

In addition to work on the magazine, I wrote books for Bible classes.  
And as those books became known, I was invited to speak to women’s
groups across the nation—Arlington, Vermont; New Orleans, Louisiana;
Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Powell, Wyoming among other places—as
well as on Jubilee in Nashville, Tennessee, and for Bible lectureships at
Pepperdine and Oklahoma Christian.  Having lived only in Texas and
California, I was learning about other parts of the country.

Frank kept the kids when I was away for weekend talks, but every year,
I took them with me when I kept the booth and helped host the 20th
Century luncheon at the
Pepperdine Lectures.  Kathy and Robert loved
child care at Pepperdine, where college students planned activities for
them.  The only snag was the time I let them sign themselves in.  When I
picked them up, a student worker asked me if Robert was allergic to
vegetables.  He had responded “vegetables” when they asked if he had
any allergies.

Around that time, I started work on a book about the English poet Lord
Byron, doing research at UCLA and at the
Huntington, the most
beautiful and convenient library I’ve ever worked in.  I had my own chair
and lamp at the table and a section of shelving to keep my materials in,
as well as access to the best collection of 19th century British literature in
Los Angeles.

In 1980, I studied creative writing at
El Camino College, where a group
of us formed a writers’ workshop to hone our skills.  Not long after,
Frank began singing with the Early Music Ensemble, and we attended
their performances and other concerts and performances in the city.  He
has continued singing with one local chorus or another ever since, most
recently and for the longest with the Mansfield Chamber Singers.

For our 25th anniversary, in 1988, our children and a group of friends
from my writers’ workshop gave us tickets to the musical
Miserables, which was based on the Hugo book and was playing at the
Music Center.  They also gave us a night in a hotel and dinner at the
nearby Harry’s Bar and Grill, modeled on the place in Paris associated
with Ernest Hemingway.

In the 1990s I left the magazine and went to work at the
Culver Palms
church in involvement and publicity.   I studied urban ministry at Fuller
Seminary and nonprofit fundraising at UCLA Extension.  President
reformed welfare, and a group of us founded the Culver Palms
Life Skills Lab to train single parents, who had been “reformed” out of
their welfare payments, for jobs.  Directing that program was the most
challenging learning experience of my life, and Frank and the kids were
supportive all the way.

Kathy gave us trips for two Christmases around that time.  In 1996, she
sent Frank and me to England to visit sites connected with Byron—his
publisher, his ancestral home, and his gravesite.    

Then in 2001, she sent us to Italy to revisit the scenes of Frank's high
school years.  He had led tours in Rome and spoke fluent Italian, so I
had the perfect guide for my new experience.

This spring, we seemed to have come full circle as we sat together in the
TV room watching the
movie version of Les Miserables, based on both
the book and the musical, and starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe
and Ann Hathaway.

The tale illustrates the opposing poles of reaction to wrong—Christian
forgiveness and grace, as exemplified by the churchman who defends
Jean Valjean by claiming to have given him the silver he stole, and Javier,
who is trapped in his own legalism to the extent that he not only can’t
forgive Valjean, but he can’t forgive the mercy Valjean shows him, and
finally, can’t forgive himself.

A stanza in the finale of both musical and movie reads as follows:
Take my hand
And lead me to salvation
Take my love
For love is everlasting
And remember
The truth that once was spoken:
To love another person is to see the face of God.

I have seen God’s face in Frank’s love often over the years, despite the
fact that he isn’t a believer.  He loves me, and I love him.  For God is
love, and we are blessed.

Forgiveness, grace and love—good material for literature as well as for
stage and screen.  And good material for a marriage that lasts.
At a Western party with my writers'
Frank and I leaving to celebrate our 25th
Writing books on the computer.
Frank and I in a restaurant in Florence.
Frank (above) at his graduation at UCLA
with Kathy and me. My Pepperdine
graduation picture (top insert).
Presenting a diploma to a Life Skills Lab
graduate with teacher, Phil McCollum
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