Tuesday, May 28, 2019

On enduring discomfort

A reporter from the Charlotte Observer once asked  New York Times bestselling author Jan Karon “What besides talent makes you suited for the writing life?” She responded, “I go to ground, which is a hunting term. Fox goes into the hole. I go in and don’t come out. I’m suited to the writing life because I’m able to endure solitude.”

Endure solitude, indeed.  Most writers will tell you that one of their biggest challenges is the time spent alone. When you’re writing a 50, 60, 70, 80 thousand plus manuscript, you’re going to experience long solitary days.

I checked several dictionaries for the definition of endure but one of the most succinct read, “suffer patiently.”
 
 

I suspect Wilbur was enjoying rather than enduring what appears an uncomfortable position in this picture, but you get the point.

We all love comfort. Raising my hand, here. But I often determine if I’m following God or not by the degree of discomfort I feel. If I’m playing it safe, I have to wonder if I’m pleasing God or myself. I believe God is all about moving us out of our comfort zones.
 
In fact, I'm feeling a little uncomfortable right now writing about discomfort. It's not a popular topic.

Often, in order to birth a new work, we will have to endure discomfort. One of the primary benefits of discomfort is our realization we must rely on God.  

As the years pass, it can become more and more tempting to chisel out a rut and crawl in it. But, if we’re really seeking after God, that is not an option.

Let’s do something out of our comfort zone today and see what God will bring from it. Dr. Brene’ Brown writes, “Lean into the discomfort of the work.” So, let’s lean. Let’s go with it.

Here’s to making up our minds we’re not going to choose the way of comfort but the way of enduring with patience the discomfort God allows to come into our life.

Only God knows the beauty He may bring from it.

 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

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

Guilt

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.

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