Tuesday, May 21, 2019

When a book is like a song

One recent evening I attended a concert of the Georgia Children’s Chorus, where they presented a piece by lyricist, Bob Benson, and composer Andrea Ramsey, “There Has to be A Song.”

Oh, yes. There does have to be a song. This lilting piece about the power of a song to take us through difficult times resonated with me so much reminding me of Psalm 42:8, “By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me . . .”
One of the reasons I write is to give readers a song in the night. Years ago during a difficult two-year period in my life when  . . .  (read more at the Anaiah Press website)

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


Guest posting today is wonderful Anaiah Press author, Katy Eeten, author of A Heart Held Captive. She writes about a topic we've all dealt with--guilt. Thank you, Katy, for your insightful words and welcome to One Ringing Bell.
I love ice cream.

And chocolate.

And just about any dessert you can imagine. (Except bread pudding. That’s just wrong).

But if you’re like me, you know what happens when you eat too much. Not only does the scale reflect your behavior, but more convicting is the twinge of guilt you feel about overindulgence.

Guilt comes in all shapes and sizes – from the simple act of eating too many sweets, to the regret you experience when you say something you shouldn’t or the remorse you feel over a sinful pattern of behavior you can’t seem to shake. Guilt is a natural human response to wrongdoing. But what you do with guilt is what really matters.

You can choose to wallow in it, let it define you, and believe you’re unforgivable because of your actions.

You may choose to ignore it and continue to have a cavalier attitude toward your sins.

Or you can let it lead you to repentance, recognizing that Jesus died so you could be forgiven and not be held captive to your sins or to your past. His death and resurrection have freed us from sin’s grip, though it takes an active, daily choice to live in that freedom and recognize when we’re headed down a wrong path.

Emily Jenkins, an ER Nurse in my book A Heart Held Captive, struggles with the concept of forgiveness and grace. She feels the need to earn God’s love and make up for the mistakes of her past through good works. She learns trying to earn God’s forgiveness is like telling Him Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough for her.

The verse 2 Corinthians 5:17 comes to mind when I think of Emily’s journey in this book. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (NLT). 
What a wonderful truth to let soak into our hearts today!

Physical therapist Cole Pearson had his share of shallow relationships. But a year spent focusing on God opened his eyes to what he really wants in life. When he learns ER nurse Emily Jenkins volunteered to pay for a foster child’s therapy, he is inexplicably drawn to her generous spirit. If only he can convince her to take things beyond their casual conversations at the clinic.

Emily is a prisoner to her past mistakes and insists on paying a price God never asked her to pay. When she finally allows herself to grow closer to Cole, her faulty theology is shattered and her wounded heart begins to mend. But when tragedy strikes, Emily is sent into a tailspin. Can Cole help her grasp the freedom of God’s grace, or will she revert back to the captivity of her old ways and shut Cole out of her life for good?

Katy Eeten lives with her husband, Jason, and their two school-age sons in southeast Wisconsin, despite her dislike of cold weather. She works full-time in the business world, but her true passion is writing. In addition to A Heart Held Captive, she is the author of Christian romances Blast from Her Past and Christmas in Meadow Creek. When she's not working or writing, she enjoys taking walks or bike rides, baking, playing the piano, and spending time with her family. Learn more at her website. 

Please also consider author Beverly Varnado's novel about forgiveness, sacrifice, and what a legacy really means. A key really can open more then a door. The Key to Everything.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Mom and the White Roses

This is a rewrite of a post from many years ago. I thought of it because that white rose bush is struggling a bit. It has brought us so much joy through the years, reminding us of Mom, who gave it to us. Happy Mother's Day, friends.

On a fall visit to my mom, she handed me a pot of dirt with a dead looking stick in it and said, “A cutting from your grandfather’s climbing rose.” He’d died decades before, and after his death, she’d uprooted a rose from his yard and brought it home with her.

“Thanks, Mom.” I scrutinized the gift. It didn’t resemble a rose in any way, except a few thorns. I was skeptical about how I’d make it live, because my thumb leaned to the brown side unlike her verdant green one. I took the pot home, set it in the back yard, and wondered how something that already looked so lifeless would make it through the winter, but I prayed it would.

A short time after my mother gave me the rose bush, she had a fall. After medical tests, she was given a terminal diagnosis and died a few weeks later. Her beloved toy poodle, Charlie, came to live with us. When I brought him home, my nine-year-old Bethany plucked him from the floor and held him close. A consolation to all of us, the dog often slept under the bed covers with Bethany.

Because of Charlie, we felt after mom’s death, we had a tiny bit of her still with us.

Charlie lived with us for many years before he, too, died at the ripe old age of fourteen. When we lost Charlie, it seemed a part that remained of Mom died, too. I dealt with a grief unlike anything I’d experienced after deaths of other pets.

The following spring, I especially missed Mom while preparing a get together for my nephew, Christopher who was graduating with a master’s degree in music education.  Mom would have been so proud of him.

I went outside to see what might be blooming, so I could put together a few flowers for the table. I surveyed my yard, and oh, why didn’t I think of it before? That brown stick I prayed over years earlier was now a climbing rose wild with flowers. It twined over a trellis next to a garden studio apparently aiming to cover the studio roof. The climbing rose has been one of the most prolific plants in my yard, blooming as early as April and continuing even into the fall. I’ve even had roses at Thanksgiving.

I clipped dozens of buds for the table, and the next day, as we ate mocha chocolate cake, and celebrated the big event, Mom’s white roses bloomed in front of us. Those flowers took on a special meaning. Once more, it seemed she was still with us.

Because of my mother’s thoughtful gift from years ago, our family gathering seemed to expand beyond those who actually sat in the chairs―almost as if she and my grandfather were also present.

I plan on cutting clippings from the climbing rose and rooting them as my mother did for me. I hope to give them to family members to continue what my mother and grandfather began. Of course, Mom planted more than roses in my life, perseverance is perhaps her greatest gift to me, and I'm so thankful for it. I pray those that come after me will sense the love and care of generations before them through the bloom of the white roses. It's so important to keep planting.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses . . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us . . . " (Hebrews 12:1).

Just released is this collection of family stories, Short and Sweet Family Album. I am honored to have a piece included about my grandfather and his garden.  

For Mother's Day, please consider Faith in the Fashion District, how one woman's life on Seventh Avenue launched a lifetime in ministry.

 A novel about forgiveness, sacrifice, and what a legacy really means. A key really can open more then a door. The Key to Everything.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

What cannot be blown away

This past Friday, we participated in a very windy Relay for Life event. So blustery, two of the tents we used were destroyed, the metal supports mangled by the wind's huff and puff. So windy the caterer who does the survivor dinner called for fifty-five gallon drums filled with water to anchor their giant tent, which was floating about a foot off the ground.

The weather threatened to blow our decorations and giveaways off the map.

Despite the weather, we gathered to celebrate and what was most important could not be blown away.

Jerry and I were both honored to speak at the opening ceremonies. Here’s an excerpt from my talk:

“I attended my first Relay for Life Event about a year after I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

At my first relay, we were given sashes, and on them, we attached that year's Relay for Life survivor pin. As I trekked around the track with my one pin on my first survivor lap, I searched for other survivors who had multiple pins. I wanted to find another woman who lived a significant length of time beyond her diagnosis. When I spotted a metal laden sash, it thrilled my heart and gave me so much hope.

You see, when I was diagnosed, though our oldest daughter was an adult, our younger children were only six and eight years old. Oh, how I wanted to be with them as they grew, to celebrate birthdays, soccer victories, and ballet recitals. I wanted to mend skinned knees and help console broken hearts. I wanted to be there for graduations and college decisions and dare I even hope for grandchildren.

I also sensed a call from the Lord to be a writer. But I hadn’t really even gotten started and I knew it would take time.

It seemed a lot to pray for, me with my one pin on my first survivor lap.

But I did pray, and many others prayed for me. As most survivors will attest, I learned to value every day as a precious gift.

The next year at Relay for Life, I added another pin on my sash, and the next year, another.

Today, by the grace of God, here I am.

When I make my lap today, I should have about nineteen pins on my sash. I’m missing a couple, but you get the idea. Those young children are twenty-five and twenty –seven. I praise God, I celebrated when my son played goalkeeper at the state soccer playoffs. I was there when my daughter performed in her senior ballet recital. I watched the fireworks when my son graduated from the University of Georgia and cheered as the president of Oglethorpe University handed my daughter her diploma.

As far as my writing, I have four books in print, others on my computer. I’ve contributed to six book anthologies, written over 800 blog posts, countless articles and devotions, and even had a screenplay under option.  

If you’re here for the first time tonight, when you look at my sash, my prayer is it will give you hope. Nothing is impossible.  

I’ve been through a few scary times in intervening years, but God has been with me. I know others have prayed just as much and are in a real battle. I have a precious friend there now, so let’s draw courage from the Lord and let’s encourage one another.
Whether we have many years under our belt or only one, let’s have hope for the future, and let’s celebrate.”

Our oldest daughter had a baby about a year after my diagnosis. He is a senior this year and his sister followed a short time later. Oh, what joy they have brought us. What a privilege is has been to watch them grow up also.

Jerry was diagnosed with prostate cancer ten years after my diagnosis and he is now a nine year survivor. Anther tremendous praise.

When I see those pins on my sash, I see the wonderful blessings each year brought and my heart overflows with enormous gratitude.

If you know someone who has just been diagnosed, share a picture of my sash. I know from experience, it will bless them.

There are some things the wind cannot blow away.  

 "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us . . . " (Romans 5:2-5).

“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
Faith in the Fashion District by Beverly Varnado

   A key can open more than a door. The Key to Everything by Beverly Varnado. In print and ebook.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

What are you carrying around?

We do it without realizing.

We pick up these weights adding them to our collection. Maybe they don’t seem heavy at first, but the accumulation grows. Then, without realizing it, we become like Lucy and Desi in the classic movie, The Long, Long Trailer. That big rock collection (spoiler alert) is threatening to propel our lives right over the precipice.

The reasons we hold on to the rocks are many. Maybe we feel carrying that load it is our due punishment for offenses committed. Perhaps, we think we can resolve the irresolvable or we can’t forgive or we are afraid of being found out or . . .

The list goes on.

But here’s the good news.

The tomb is empty.

Jesus rose from the dead so we wouldn’t have to carry our stones anymore. His sacrifice covered our offenses. Once and for all. We can let go of those heavy burdens. We don’t have to solve all the riddles because He is a living Savior. He’s on the throne and knows all. News Flashwe’re not in chargeHe is and for Him nothing is impossible. He has covered our shame and can help us forgive every offense done to us.  

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Time to put down the dead weight. Leave it at His feet and embrace the resurrection power of Jesus.

I’m right there with you.

Let’s experience what Eugene Peterson called the “unforced rhythms of grace . . . living freely and lightly” (Matthew 29-30 The Message).

“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
Faith in the Fashion District by Beverly Varnado
       A key can open more than a door.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

At the Anaiah Press Blog today with What Always Points to Love

I'm over at the Anaiah Press blog today. Please join me there to read the rest of this post. Many thanks and Happy Easter.

In The Key to Everything, the protagonist Genny faces a sacrifice she never saw coming. In fact, as the author writing the story, I never saw it coming either. But, there it was, and I wondered if I were challenged in the same way whether I would be able to follow through as Genny did.

When I think of sacrifice, O. Henry’s wonderful short story, The Gift of the Magi, leaps to mind. With little in the way of resources, Jim and Della struggle to find a meaningful gift for the other. Both make a sacrificial choice, (READ MORE)

Available in both print and ebook:

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

What they waved, what He rode, the word they shouted, and why it matters

"They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, 'Hosanna to David’s son! Blessed is he who comes in God’s name! Hosanna in highest heaven!'" (Matthew 21:6-9 The Message).

Between today and Easter is Holy Week, the beginning of which is signaled by Palm Sunday, the traditional celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Sometimes, we lose touch with the why of our spiritual observances. A few things to think about this week: 

The palms are symbolic of victory. The disciples and others gathered as Jesus entered Jerusalem indicated their belief in him as a coming king by casting their garments and palm fronds before him as was done in that culture before a dignitary. Perhaps Jews recalled the stories of Solomon’s coronation happening in much the same way (I Kings 1). Palm Sunday is only a foretaste of that great day described in Revelation 7:9-10 when there will be more palm waving. “They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.’”  

The donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem was no accidental find.

Far from it. The donkey was a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, “See your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey . . .” One scholar, Alan Rudnick, puts it this way, “This donkey was born for Jesus’ wonderful work. It had not been used or ridden by anyone else.”

My friend Pat's donkey, Farley. Note the cross on his back. The legend being Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, and later the donkey followed him to the cross, its shadow falling on his back.

 About this business of untying the donkey mentioned several times in Luke 19:3-33, Rudnick continues, “As Christians, we need to be untied from what weighs us down. Palm Sunday is not just a celebration of Christ as King, but a celebration of Jesus as our liberator from dependencies and afflictions.” Untying the donkey points to why Jesus came―to untie us from sin, and all that would keep us from living for Him and with Him.

Hosanna comes from two Hebrew words meaning, “Save now.” The Jews of that time expected a King to deliver them from Roman tyranny. Of course, Jesus had eternity in mind―a spiritual deliverance. In days, the ringing Hosannas faded, as Jesus’ followers scattered to the wind and Jesus' work of saving us took place on the cross.

On Palm Sunday, we may experience the sweet scene of palms carried down our church aisles by children and sing with joy the strains of Hosanna, Loud Hosanna. However, I catch myself holding my breath. I know what’s coming. I know in the days ahead, I’m going to read again the story of Jesus’ sacrifice, the scourging, the burden of the cross, and picture in my mind the nail scarred hands. I remember he knew it was coming too, and yet he made the choice to continue.
For me.
For you.
That my friends, is why we do what we do, why we remember. The donkey, the palms, and the Hosannas led the way for us to be saved, untied, and liberated by the One who set this plan in motion from the foundation of the world.
Sources for this post: 



 Books available in both print and ebook:
“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

Faith in the Fashion District by Beverly Varnado


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

If you need a guide

When our family visits this coastal area, we often enjoy seeing kayakers navigating the vast marshes. In fact, a few of us have braved the marshes ourselves with mixed results, but that's a story for another day.

Expert kayakers warn never to enter the marshes without a guide. At high tide, navigation is easy, but when the tide goes out, and water levels lower, expansive vistas give way to tall sea grass and twisting channels. With limited visibility, this leaves unexperienced kayakers confused, because landmarks have disappeared.

That’s when a guide who is familiar with the area is essential to navigating safely through the marsh.

At one time or another, we may have thought we could handle our lives without our guide, the Holy Spirit. However, when circumstances shift, life can seem like that marsh at low tidea maze.

Been there. Done that.

Jesus knew we would need help, and he sent the Holy Spirit to give us direction. If we’re confused or lost, all we have to do is ask Him for wisdom. It’s good to know we will never be left alone because our Guide has promised to never leave us or forsake us.

It's comforting to know He will always see us home.

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

On being kind

When my sister, Tammy, and I were small children, a greasy substance was found on one of our walls at homea real mess. When questioned about this, Tammy didn’t want to admit her guilt, but she didn’t want me to take the blame either. “Beverly didn’t do it,” she answered.

Today, my sister celebrates one of those big birthdays, and in tribute to her, if I were to characterize her life with one word, it would be she is kind. And as you can see, kindness has been her trademark for a long time always looking for a way to help and uplift others. She is a wife, mom, aunt, and sister in our family. We know Tammy consistently models kindness day in and day out. It is not reserved for special times or special people, but if you know my sister at all, you know her kindness.

In what can seem an increasingly razor- edged, caustic world, kindness can feel rare. Many feel an “I just say what I think” mentality deserves some sort of merit badge, when actually the opposite is true. It takes restraint and thoughtfulness to season our words with tenderness and love.

Saint Paul said it this way, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Tammy spent decades as a first grade teacher showering her kindness on children. Now she displays it in her efforts to help others achieve their weight loss goals, much as she did herself ten years ago when she lost one hundred and forty pounds and appeared in several media features. She knows firsthand the multi-faceted challenges those seeking to manage their weight may deal with, and she knows kindness and compassion go a long way to encourage.

When hurt or harmed herself, she somehow finds a way to refrain from lashing out, and forgives even when others fail to ask her forgiveness.

Well this time, Beverly did do it, because I’m taking a chance with this post today. My sister is not one to put herself forward, but I don’t want her to think her lifetime of kindness has gone unnoticed.

So happy birthday, my dear sister, and thank you for the many kindnesses from you I have received. I pray we can all take a page from your book, and let kindness be our watchword as well.
“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 StaffordActress (“Matlock”), Speaker, and Author

Faith in the Fashion District by Beverly Varnado


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

If you've been waiting a long time

One of the many wonderful blessings about being an Anaiah Press author has been getting to know the other authors with Anaiah. I am honored to have the lovely Laura Thomas, guest post here today. She is the Anaiah Press author of Glass Bottom Boat. Laura, it's a joy to welcome you to One Ringing Bell.

Waiting is the worst. And we all seem to be in a perpetual existence of waiting, don’t we? Straining our necks to see the next chapter, always wanting to be further along, counting the days until our next goal is met or season is here.

But what if we started counting our blessings rather than counting the days?

It changes everything, doesn't it? When our hearts are filled with gratitude, the grappling for more or sooner or when subsides. Faith replaces fear and adoration replaces anxiety. The gift of a new day is suddenly precious and next week, next month, next year pales in significance when we appreciate the blessings of NOW.

I waited SIX LONG YEARS for my latest book, The Glass Bottom Boat, to be published. It’s my sixth published book, but my first Christian romantic suspense novel and today I am thrilled to bits—but this adventure has stretched my paper-thin patience to the limit. It's been rejected too many times to mention and it certainly wasn't the literary journey I would have chosen, but it was God's journey for me and my book. His timing is always perfect. Sometimes we see that in hindsight and sometimes we simply have to trust.

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

As a writer, I learned early on that when we submit our precious book-baby, magazine manuscript, or online article into the big, wide world, we have to LET IT GO. Leave it with the Lord. We move on to the next writing project and put our heart and soul into that, we live our lives to the fullest whilst finding joy in the craft in the present.

Likewise, in other areas of life, we get to give our worries or requests over to the Lord, and then we have the opportunity to make the most of every single day in the meantime—growing, learning, listening, loving, even marveling in the mundane moments.

If you are in a season of waiting, friend, know that you are not waiting alone. There is One who never leaves or forsakes us, never slumbers nor sleeps. He will answer in His time and he will walk through that answer with us. And in the waiting, may we count our blessings, dig into the Word, revel in the beauty of creation, find sweet fellowship with others, adore God deeply.

Fill the waiting time with Him. Not a minute will be wasted. Ask anyone who has waited six years for her book baby to be born . . .
Laura is a published Christian author with a heart for inspiring and encouraging readers, especially in her romantic suspense, teen fiction, marriage, and children’s books. Laura is a chocoholic mom of three, married to her high school sweetheart. Originally from the UK, they live in Kelowna, B.C. as audacious empty-nesters.

Surrounded by the romantic paradise of her sister’s destination wedding in Jamaica, Madison Grey realizes she must overcome her paralyzing fear of the ocean—and her broken heart— to start living again. Luke Alexander, the groom’s brother, is a missionary who has come to terms with a life of singleness—until he meets Madison. 
During the wedding, their personal connection intensifies when a stalker stirs up haunting memories of her gold-digging ex-fiancĂ©.  After Madison mysteriously disappears and the newlyweds receive a ransom note, Luke dives into action to find her. Will he save Madison in time or will she be forced to suffer her worst nightmare… in the depths of a glass bottom boat?



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