Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Old Christmas and putting baby Jesus back in the box

I heard a pastor say this week that in hard times, we need to return to what we know. As we get ready to flip the calendar page this difficult year, more than ever I'm clinging to Christmas and all Jesus's coming into the world means. For that reason, I'm bringing back this post one more time. Dear friends, praying no matter what challenges we encounter, that your new year will be full of the "wonders of His love."

Up and down my street, wreathes, and bows are disappearing from doors and mailboxes, and former brightly lit trees are stripped of their twinkles and headed for the recycling center.

Not me.  

Being of strong English-Scotch-Irish descent, I’m hanging on to Christmas. My ancestors used to celebrate Christmas on January 6, the date we observe as Epiphany when the wise men found the baby Jesus in the manger.  

When Christmas day arrives, I’m just beginning to celebrate. I can’t bear to put all the baby Jesus figures back in the box until at least January 6.  




Just the other day, I overheard someone in a store say, “I’m so glad it’s over.”  

It’s not over.  

It’s just beginning.  

This morning I read these words from The Message in Romans 8: “With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah… Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death… In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all.”

That little manger baby is here to put it all straight. What all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could never put back together, an infant comes to restore.  

In my life. And your life.  


Thank you, Jesus.

After Scrooge’s life altering encounters with the three ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, Charles Dickens writes, “It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well..”

May it be said of us that we keep Christmas well, that we allow Jesus to enter the garbage heap of our lives with his beauty and power and restoration.  

And so, old Christmas or new, no matter which day we put the clay baby Jesus back in the box, let's allow the eternal One to reign in our hearts.


 

 My new novella available in print and ebook HERE . 

 


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Beautiful Star

This week, the nights are the longest and darkest of the year in what has seemed the longest and darkest year in our lives. But even as the Psalmist prayed “Give me a sign of your goodness. . .” (Psalm 86:17) It seems He has.


In a beautiful example of the heavens declaring the glory of God, last evening Jupiter and Saturn aligned in what astronomers call a “conjunction” to form what appeared to be a giant star.  Though the planets were closest to each other last night, if you missed it, the celestial event can still be seen every day this week in the southwestern sky about 45 minutes after sunset in your location.

According to NASA, “It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night . . .”

And to cite Forbes, “A ‘great conjunction’ in the year 7 BC is often thought to be the inspiration for the tale of the “Christmas Star” or “Star of Bethlehem.” This would have been the alignment of three planets, Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus.

On my mind in recent days, is a song I first learned about when I inherited one of my grandfather’s music books, Inspired Melodies. Written in 1938 by Fisher Boyce, a dairy farmer, the lyrics of “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem,” talk about how the Bethlehem Star shines on us through the shadows, how it guides us as it did the wise men, and how the star was a metaphor of the light that is Jesus. To contradict Forbes, the “Star of Bethlehem” was no tale. It was real.

And so is Jesus.

Here in what might seem “the valley of the shadow of death” for so many we know this year, Jesus is still shining and guiding.

After my mother died one October years ago, I struggled as Christmas approached. I wrote a song which I’ve sung through the years and it seems especially appropriate in 2020. The chorus is:

“Every shining Christmas, yes every blessed Christmas,

I’ll take my place with those who sing His praise.

And through tears of joy or tears of sorrow,

The bright star of Bethlehem I’ll follow,

And worship Him with all my heart once more.” ©BeverlyVarnado

So, as we gaze at the star this week, let’s allow it to remind us of Jesus. Let’s worship and praise Him, the creator of this planetary spectacle and let’s allow him to shine through us.

And despite the circumstances, may each of you have a blessed Christmas!

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned" (Isaiah 9:17).

"We saw His star in the east and have come to worship him" (Matthew 2:2).

Enjoy Emmy Lou Harris singing “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” HERE.

 My new novella available in print and ebook HERE . 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

A Tribute to Terry Kay


Only last December, I sat on the stage with the Athens Symphony Chorus and marveled again at Terry Kay’s narration of his wondrous children’s story, To Whom the Angel Spoke, set to music, and performed by the Athens Symphony. His marvelous voice filled the hall, and his story was ever a crowd pleaser. And though the Athens Symphony and Chorus produced an amazing online concert this year after in person performances were canceled, I was still getting ready to shed a big alligator tear because I miss my friends I sing with in shows. Now Terry’s death has really turned on the waterworks because no one and I mean NO ONE will ever be able to match his performance or his presence.

There are many who knew Terry Kay far better than I did, but no matter where you thought you fell in the hierarchy of his friends, he made all his acquaintances feel as if we were in his inner circle.

Our lives also intersected in other ways besides the symphony—most of them related to writing. We occasionally met for coffee through the years to discuss writing and I was amazed at how generous he was with his time. I was one of many he made this allowance for, because an array of authors cued up to meet with him. Inducted into the Georgia Writer’s Hall of Fame, writers sought his wisdom and counsel. Because of his willingness to be available, I sometimes forgot how widely known and admired he was. I heard him speak at the Decatur Book Festival one year. When I left the building, the line for Terry’s book signing stretched around the vast hall.

And speaking of the Georgia Writer’s Hall of Fame, what a joy it was to attend inductions at the invitation of my friend, Jane Kilgo, whose husband Jim (also a lifelong inspiration) was one of the inductees. What an incredible privilege and seeing Terry there was always a delight.

I will remember several things about Terry.

An idiosyncrasy comes to mind. He once told me he could only write in a room if there was a typewriter in it. Don’t you love it? I’m thinking of dragging my dad’s old college typewriter out of the attic if it will help me write like Terry.

 I will remember his unparalleled sense of humor. I once took a screenwriting class that Terry taught and his anecdotes were as entertaining as his instruction was informative.

He was known for saying, “The strength of the sentence is in the verb.” As I’m noticing the passive voice I’ve used several times in this piece, I still have a way to go with that one.  

Another piece of advice I’ve probably quoted a hundred times when I’ve been teaching, “You don’t write to tell a story. You write to discover a story.”  If you read any of Terry’s books, and I hope that you do, you will find he discovered gems.

But most of all, I will remember him for something he lived rather than something he said.  Or maybe he did say it, but through one of his characters. I’ve been reading Terry’s books in reverse order, because I only read his first book this summer. In The Year the Lights Came On, a novel of how electricity came to rural Georgia, his character Colin says, “But I know what Wesley would say: ‘The problem with walking backward is that you see only where you’ve been.’”

Terry didn’t walk backward. He walked forward. And his gaze was ever on the next book, the next project. At any point after his first novel, he could have put away his pen, and rested on his laurels. But he didn’t. He kept working. Because of that, three of his books have been made into Hallmark Hall of Fame movies including the well-known, To Dance with the White Dog, and many have garnered awards with his most recent work published this year, The Forever Wish of Middy Sweet. Terry was 82.  

His greatest inspiration to me was his ability to keep pressing ahead, despite aging or any other challenge, his eyes ever sparking with anticipation and hope. To use a cliché (sorry Terry), he died with his boots on.

I’m reminded of a verse from Philippians 3. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

A man of faith, Terry has reached the goal and is probably right now gathering a group of angelic heralds in heaven and teaching them how to sharpen the prose in their announcements.

Terry left us a lifetime of work to read and reread and he has taught so many writers. His influence will be exponential.  

Thank you, Terry, for everything. We remember you with gratitude and much love.

More at TerryKay.com

 My new novella available in print and ebook HERE .

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The cure for a "dark winter"

Several times in the last few weeks I’ve seen the same words repeated in the news, that we’re heading into a “dark winter” because of the pandemic.

Not exactly what you’d call inspirational.

Those words weigh heavy, especially when we already know so many suffering and grieving because of the pandemic as well as other reasons.

But we’re not the first ones to be faced with looming darkness.

In first century Bethlehem they’d been in what might have seemed a spiritual dark winter for quite some time.

It had been over 400 years since the prophets had spoken. Israel had long waited the promised Messiah. And maybe more than a few were beginning to wonder about those earlier prophecies. But in ways that no one could understand at the time, God was setting the stage for Jesus.

As the Apostle Paul said, “. . . when the set time had fully come . . . “, God showed up. Light began to spark and the darkness split, first with the announcement to Zechariah and Elizabeth about their son, John the Baptist, who would point the way to Jesus. Then God dispatched an angel who appeared to Mary to announce she would give birth to the Messiah. On the night of His birth, Jesus shattered the darkness with His appearance and His coming was proclaimed to shepherds by angels who shone with the glory of the Lord. And let’s not forget it was a luminous star that guided the wise men to Bethlehem.

Dark winter, take that.

Some may be wondering today with our potential dark winter if God is still at work.

Yes, yes, and yes.

Jesus’ words are these: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

We have a duty to act responsibly for others and ourselves, and to that end, there may be sacrifices we have to make. I hope we are willing to make wise choices. But no matter what happens, there is a light that can never be extinguished, and His name is Jesus.

During this Advent season, let us not focus on the darkness, but let us focus on the light. Jesus will see us through, and no darkness can ever overcome Him.


My new novella, A Season for Everything, has just released. The ebook is available HERE and the 
print version is currently available HERE. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

A ham, a lamb, and when everything seems haywire

In this edited repost, I'm bringing a blast from the past, but it seems appropriate for Christmas in a pandemic. We won't be doing a church Christmas play this year and oh, how I miss it. 
However, I am hosting a Book Bash at the Friends of Anaiah Press site on Facebook. I'd love to have you join me today, December 1, from 4 to 9. I'll have giveaways and you may also enter for the grandprize, a $50 gift card and 4 free books. See you there. 
The last of the turkey leftovers have been put in the freezer and we've pulled the Christmas decorations from the closet. 
The Christmas Season is upon us.
Actually, I've been thinking about my Christmas plans since July. How's that for long term planning? 
To that end, I’m helping to direct the children’s Christmas play at church this year.


We have our challenges.

The shepherds have a disposition to shoot down the aisle early preempting Mary’s “Away in the Manger” solo. One lamb would rather be with his mom than a bunch of diminutive sheepherders, so he tries to slip the clutch of his handler. And it seems that in the spirit of the classic children’s story by Barbara Robinson, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, we may find ourselves with a ham on the altar the evening of the performance. (If somehow you missed The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, find a copy and read it to any kids you can round up. It will definitely unlock the child in you, too.)

But, despite the crowd control issues, there are poignant moments when these precious kids who grip my heart have me dissolving into tears almost making me forget who I’m supposed to cue on stage.

All this has made me reflect on the original cast. I can see many opportunities for things to have gone haywire then, too.

Instead of saying, “Be it unto me even as you have said,” Mary could have told God she wasn’t going to the prom carrying an infant. After learning of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph could’ve simply defriended her. After recovering from their angelic appearance shock, the shepherds might have sought greener pastures--in the opposite direction of Bethlehem. And the Wise Men? They could’ve thought it wiser to keep their distance from a baby who had Herod in such an uproar.

But God was the original long-term planner.

Somehow, from the beginning, God knew this motley bunch of characters would play their part in the unfolding of a story that split history.

He knew we’d need to see that ordinary people could play an extraordinary part in God’s plan of redemption for the world.

And He knew a baby would change everything.

There’s a culminating moment in our pageant when we understand that every line and action in the play points to the baby Jesus. All eyes are on the infant King. That’s when I almost lose it.

God chose to become Jesus, a vulnerable, tiny person in the care of a teenager and a carpenter, and included farmhands, astronomers, and livestock in the celebration of His historical entrance. You gotta love a story like that.

When life seems to be going off the rails, it’s a comfort to know the God, who became one of us, sees, knows, and is always working even through the difficult circumstances to accomplish His purpose.

So, the night of our pageant, if a ham shows up, it’ll be okay. Because we’re going to be looking for Jesus, God with us, and there’s nothing like a child to show us the way.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).


My new novella, A Season for Everything, has just released. The ebook is available HERE and the print version is currently available HERE. 


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Simply This

Jerry often says the hardest sermons to write are around holidays. It can seem everything that could be said has already been said.

I’m inclined to agree as I’ve gone through several options for today’s post.

All of them have been shelved in favor of a future date because what I really want to say is not clever or anything you haven’t heard before.

It’s simply this— first, stay as safe as possible, and second, be thankful.

I’ve been reading again about the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic because it helps me realize that these are not as some have said, “unprecedented times.” At least as far as the pandemic is concerned. In fact, when I read historical accounts, much of what we are going through today, our grand parents and great- grandparents faced. They also encountered political and civil unrest in addition to the pandemic. In fact, WWI and the pandemic overlapped so it had to seem as if the world was in chaos.

By October of 1918, 200,000 had died since March when the flu first surfaced. But on Armistice Day in November, many took their masks off in celebration. By January after family holiday gatherings, the nation was ravaged by the virus and would go on to see more than 675,000 Americans die from the disease before it diminished in the summer of 1919.

So, what I’m saying here is, let’s not do that again. Simple measures will go a long way in keeping us from repeating history. Let’s do what we need to do for our health care workers, for our elderly, for those with underlying issues.

Next, let’s be thankful. And I’m not talking about throwing a blanket of “Thank you God for everything” kind of prayer out there, but despite all that swirls around us, let’s take the time to count our blessings.

One by one.

In the words of a great old hymn, when you do that, “. . . it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.” When we shift our attention from what’s going off the rails to all that God is doing and has done, we gain a new perspective.

Especially on my heart is so many in my sphere are grieving the loss of someone dear and facing the holidays for the first time without someone they love. This has been an unimaginably hard year for those who are grieving because of isolation. Let’s remember them in our prayers and maybe with a phone call or text.

2020 has seemed as a song lyric I heard recently, “the longest year in history.” But if we could speak to our ancestors, I’m sure they would offer us hope to persevere. They did and we can, too.

I’ll say it again. Be safe. Be thankful.

Let me encourage you with these verses, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Dear friends, may you have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving and may His unshakable peace be yours despite these challenging times.



My new novella, A Season for Everything, has just released. The ebook is available HERE and the print version is currently available HERE. 


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

On doing something big

For many years, I took part in ministry weekends in which a team of us would go into churches and share our testimonies. We saw God do many wonderful things in the dozens of these I was blessed to participate in.

As you might guess, we became close after working together for so long. This week I was thinking about prayer and what I learned from one of the beloved women on the team.

It may have been the first time I ever saw her that she stood up in a group session and introduced herself, “Hi, I’m Mr. Willard Taylor.” We laughed hard. Since her name was traditionally a man’s name churches often mixed up the titles on the correspondence they sent her. Willard’s wit was unparalleled and so was her wisdom. We leaned in close whenever she shared.

But often, it was the thing she spoke at the very end of her talk that grabbed us. She said it every time she shared, but it never lost its effect on me. She mentioned a prayer list she used and then declared, “I’m going to pray for this church every day as long as I live.”

Many times, there was an audible gasp.

You see, that’s a commitment. One that many of us would be reluctant to take on especially for people we didn’t even know.

California Redwood
California Redwood

Willard was not reluctant to take on something BIG in prayer. Something that might cost her. But she also knew her prayers would make a difference, and that God would help her follow through on her declaration. There was no other human looking over her shoulder to check that she did what she said. But because I knew Willard’s faithful character, I know she did it out of love. And maybe Willard’s contribution to the kingdom didn’t make front page headlines, but I’m sure if there’s a Heavenly Chronicle, her devotion to the Lord was in bold font there. I don't know if she ever learned here how her prayers might have been used, but I imagine that on her arrival in heaven she was brought up to speed. And God only knows how big and how vast that influence was.

When Willard passed, I thought about the dozens of churches representing thousands of people for whom she prayed and knew her prayers would be missed.

As I’m remembering my beloved friend Willard, and God is bringing all this to mind. I’m wondering what big thing he might ask of us. And maybe you’re wondering that, too. Perhaps something that no one else sees but will make an enduring difference.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:20, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” Who knows what God might want to do through any of us who would fully surrender to His purpose?

So, here’s to Mr. Willard Taylor and all she taught me about laughing, and loving, and doing something big in prayer. In this season of Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the privilege I had to know her.



My new novella, A Season for Everything, has just released. The ebook is available HERE and the print version is currently available HERE. 


 

 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

What never changes and digging a well

Some of you may have seen a post I made on social media this week about my dedication in A Season for Everything. The novella is dedicated to a former pastor and his wife, Doris and Grady Wigley, who have meant more to Jerry and me than we can possibly say.

Many years ago, on Grady’s last Sunday at the church I attended at the time, the last words he spoke in his sermon were from Hebrews. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). 

We had all struggled to let these precious folks go, but they sensed a clear calling from God to move on. So, we did let go, but I posted those words on my refrigerator where they stayed for many years. 

Change can be so hard, and many of us who were just learning our way in the faith had leaned heavily on Grady and Doris. In retrospect, if there was a positive in their departure, it's that we had to learn to rely more directly on Jesus. As our dear friends' inspiration continued to be foundational for me and Jerry, those next few years became a launching pad for a lifetime in ministry. But there was nothing easy about the journey.

In recent months, I have been concerned about how so many were listening to this voice or that voice when what we really need to be doing is listening for His voice. At times, we can rely too much on someone else’s interpretation of what God says rather than putting ourselves in a position to hear from Him through our own study of His word and through prayer. Sometimes, God will move us increasingly toward digging our own well rather than drinking from someone else’s. Not that we are not accountable, for we certainly are. Not that we don’t always need to be sitting under someone else’s teaching, for we absolutely need to be doing that. We don't want to be a loose cannon. But often, I sense we want a shortcut around the time it would take to earnestly seek the Lord.

In our personal relationships, we value time spent with each other. It is no different with God. A five-minute devotion and a glance over our prayer list won’t do it. Especially in this time and the times to come.

2020 has been a year where change has come at us like a freight train. But for those of us who are moored to the anchor of Jesus Christ, we are convinced He never changes, and His words are more important than anyone else’s words. We may not know what lies still before us, but I believe if we are going to stay the course, we need to lock in on Him. He is the only One who remains the same in these turbulent times.

So, let’s grab our Bibles, get on our knees, and start digging. Who knows the wonderful lifegiving words the One who never changes may reveal to us?


My new novella, A Season for Everything, has just released. The ebook is available HERE and the print version is currently available HERE. 




Tuesday, November 3, 2020

What you have to do today because it's "little short of a miracle"

I decided to bring back this post I wrote in November of 2016. I find it humorous that I thought the campaigns were contentious then. Compared to this year's campaigns, they pale in comparison. I had just finished reading both 1776 and John Adams by David McCullough and his insights were fresh on my mind. I thought it might be important to remind ourselves of these writings in this election year. 
I am not a political blogger, so I try to stay in my lane when I’m writing this blog. However, today is Election Day in a year when the campaign process has been loud, long, and bitter.

I am not going to tell you who to vote for, but I am going to tell you to vote.

After reading David McCullough's John Adams a few months ago, I was so moved that I pressed on and read his book, 1776. 



 
Above pictures from Colonial Williamsburg and Faneuil Hall in Boston taken during our 7,000 mile cross country adventure, Dream Summer. Read more HERE. 

In the book, he quotes Loyalist Benjamin Thompson as saying that George Washington’s army was “the most wretchedly clothed, and as dirty a set of mortals as ever disgraced the name of a soldier.” McCullough wrote that Thompson’s description was “largely the truth.” British commanders called them “peasantry” and “rabble in arms.”

There were no uniforms unless left over from the French and Indian war, and many of their clothes were in tatters from wear. McCullough says, yes, they were dirty and  “when not drilling, spent their days digging trenches, hauling rock, and throwing up great mounds of earth for defense” with “little chance . . . or the means ever to bathe . . .”

As I read, I wondered again how that ragged bunch ever won the revolution. It seemed impossible.

That summer of 1776, when the British armada finally arrived off Staten Island, it numbered “nearly four hundred ships large and small, seventy three warships including eight ships of the line, each mounting 50 guns or more . . . the largest expeditionary force . . . ever sent forth from Britain or any nation.” Three of the “five warships alone far exceeded all the American guns . . . on shore.” In fact, the troops on board those ships numbered around 32,000, greater than the “population of New York or even Philadelphia . . . with a population of about 30,000 . . . the largest city in America.”

Yet, when the delegates in Philadelphia had voted to “dissolve the connection” with Great Britain on July 2, there was nowhere to go but forward. They had committed treason.

John Adams wrote, “We are in the very midst of a revolution, the most complete unexpected and remarkable of any in the history of nations.”

Indeed.

In his last chapter, McCullough writes, “The year 1776 . . . was for those who carried the fight for independence forward a year of all too few victories, of sustained suffering, disease,  hunger, desertion, cowardice, disillusionment, defeat, terrible discouragement, and fear, as they would never forget, but also of phenomenal courage and bedrock devotion to country, and that, too, they would never forget.”

Perhaps, that bedrock devotion is why when I look at my family genealogy, a number of my ancestors from that time were named after Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Parents wanted everyone to know whose side they were on, lest anyone question their loyalty to country.

McCullough concludes, “. . . for those who had been with Washington and who knew what a close call it was at the beginning―the outcome seemed little short of a miracle.”

Yes, our existence as a country is truly a miracle. So, despite whatever struggle we’ve had in this election process, we cannot dismiss the freedom we have to vote. Many of our ancestors fought and died so that we might have this privilege.

And as a wayside pulpit near me declared, despite who is elected president, God is still on the throne.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord . . . “ Psalm 13:12.

The book cover for A Season for Everything released this past week. Hoping this book brings a little bit of Christmas to you when it releases November 6. If you haven't read the other books in the series they are HERE. 

The preorder page for A Season for Everything has just gone live. It is HERE. 

 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

When you're looking for a new season

November 6, I have a new Christmas novella releasing, A Season for Everything. The story is about two characters that are challenged to move on after having suffered through very difficult years. As you might imagine, the scripture used in the book comes from Ecclesiastes 3:1, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

I know many of us are growing weary in this present season of difficulties. At one point in the book, a character thinks it feels as if some seasons never end. There’s probably not one person on the planet who hasn’t thought that in 2020.

I first remember hearing this verse from Psalm 30:5 when it was quoted to me by a spiritual mentor more than forty years ago, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."

There has been much to grieve this year―friends and loved ones who have passed, relationships that have suffered, too much time away from family, lonely days for many, political strife, a pandemic that just keeps going and so much more.

But friends, joy is coming. And not just in heaven. The great hymn writer, Isaac Watts, called the “Father of English Hymnody” once wrote in “Marching to Zion” (Come We that Love the Lord), “The hill of Zion yields a thousand sacred sweets before we reach the heavenly fields, or walk the golden streets.” It’s one of my favorite verses in any hymn. I find Watts included this verse so that the song might communicate both the joys of heaven and also “the blessings of God on earth.” One writer wrote, “This hymn gives us the opportunity to express the beauty of the life we are living, as well as looking forward to what is to come.” 

If these 2020 hills are going to yield something sweet, it’s because God’s people are praying and hoping and believing. God is at work this side of heaven, even when it may not seem apparent.

Of this I am sure―there truly is a season for everything.

May his joy be yours, friends.

The book cover for A Season for Everything released yesterday. Hoping this book brings a little bit of Christmas to you when it releases November 6. If you haven't read the other books in the series they are HERE. 

The preorder page for A Season for Everything has just gone live. It is HERE. 

 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

When life seems upside down or backwards

The eighty-five pound Lucy in the cat bed and the twelve pound cat, Wilbur,  in the dog bed.

I came across this post in the archives this week while searching for something else and Paul's words seem especially poignant for today. I updated the photo, which used to be Lucy and our poodle Charlie who is no longer with us. Some things never change as I found Lucy and Wilbur in almost the exact circumstance. And yes, during this politically charged pandemic, so much seems upside down, but his unfolding grace continues and what is eternal never changes. Many blessings, friends.

Ever had one of those weeks? Maybe it’s one of them now.

So what goes down the drain should stay down. Right?

Had some plumbing problems, and we thought they were resolved.

I went upstairs to straighten a closet, and in the few minutes I was gone,  when I returned downstairs, I found the washing machine had emptied twice all over the hardwood floors we installed only a couple of years ago. 

I waded to the laundry room, grabbed several beach towels, fell on my hands and knees, and started mopping gallons and gallons of soapy water toward the back door.

I didn’t even stop to call Jerry, only kept praying, “Oh, Lord, don’t let this water ruin the floors.”

A neighbor friend called. I answered robotically, “Can’t go for a walk--can’t talk--have to keep mopping.”

She arrived a few minutes later with a mound of towels in her hand and mopped, too.

When I finally had a moment to call Jerry, he came straight home and went to work unstopping the blockage that had evidently resulted because of our prior problem.

Exhausted, with the water finally pushed out, and windows and doors open to let air circulate, my neighbor and I had a few moments to sit.

Jerry turned on the water to a pulsing bulb mechanism he’d slipped into the plumbing, and the pipes bellowed wild moaning sounds.

Soaked to the skin from the knees down after becoming human sponges, my friend and I melted into laughter.

 The Apostle Paul wrote, “Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever (2 Corinthians 4:17 The Message).

A rainbow of assorted beach towels took two days to dry on the patio grill—the aftermath of our unfortunate plumbing fiasco. And though the hardwood floors threatened to buckle at some of the seams, after a few hours with a fan blowing on them and a little time to dry, they seem to be calming down a bit.

Someone will probably buy this house one day, rip out the floors we worked so hard to save and install the latest thing they’ve seen on HGTV. As Paul said, “…here today, gone tomorrow…”

In the future, I’m most likely not going to remember how important it was to rescue the floors, but I’ll remember the crazy vibrato of the plumbing, and the laughter my friend and I shared.

I’m latching onto His unfolding grace and keeping what’s eternal in my sites even and especially in this upside down, backwards week. Because Paul’s right, this stuff doesn’t matter compared to what God’s bringing in our future.

 It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas for me. The release date for my new Christmas novella, A Season for Everything, has been changed to November 6. I am so thrilled for this and am looking for a team of people who will help me promote the book. If  you like writing book reviews, are on social media, and would like an advance free digital copy of the book, please contact me through my website HERE, private message me on my author page HERE, or contact me through Instagram @BeverlyVarnado. Spots are limited, so thank you for responding quickly.

The Cover Reveal of A Season for Everything is coming October 26. 


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

20 Years and Counting


That photo above taken a couple of days before I had the big surgery to deal with my breast cancer diagnosis captures a moment frozen in time for me. That day, so many questions hung in the air. Would the surgery deal with the problem? Would there be a reoccurrence? Was this a hereditary cancer? There were many more riddles, but the one that loomed largest in my mind was would I live to see those children reach adulthood?

And here I am. Twenty years later and counting. The answers to those questions are yes, no, no, and a great big YES.

Every year, I try to write at least one post in gratitude for all God has done and as an encouragement to those just being diagnosed.

As I wrote last year in my Relay for Life post, when I was first diagnosed, I needed to see someone who had made it awhile. I searched for survivor sashes at Relay with multiple pins. Today, my sash is heavy with pins. I want that to be an encouragement to those of you who are living with many questions as I was the night that photo was taken.

It is for sure because of the grace of God I am here, but I must give a shout out to incredibly skilled doctors who set me on this course―doctors whom God is continuing to use to save lives. I also salute researchers who are in the labs day after day, year after year doing work that no one sees at the time but has the potential to change everything. I was one of the first in this area to benefit from sentinel node mapping which has saved many women from dealing with lifelong issues surrounding lymph node removal. Research at the John Wayne Cancer Institute led to this remarkable discovery.

The actual twenty-year anniversary was back in May but at that time we were dealing with many issues, it seemed the wrong time to write a post like this. But, now, even though we are still dealing with much, I felt that I would be remiss in not posting during breast cancer awareness month. In my area, because of Covid, preventive mammograms were suspended for a time, but now they are up and running again. I’ve just scheduled mine. Early detection gave me such a good prognosis, so if you women haven’t had yours this year, please do so.

One of the verses God gave me at the time of my diagnosis which brought me much hope was, “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters” (Psalm 18:16). We know people at this moment who are in those deep waters. Our continuing prayer for those of you in that circumstance is that you would sense God’s hand on you and that He would indeed draw you out. With him, nothing is impossible.

For the rest of us, let’s put on our pink shirts, schedule our mammograms, and encourage those who might be dealing with a diagnosis. Due to the pandemic, many of the research related fund raising events were canceled this year, so you might consider donating to one of them.

So, thank you Jesus, for these twenty years. Glory be to God!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas for me. The release date for my new Christmas novella, A Season for Everything, has been changed to November 6―a month earlier than originally planned. I am so thrilled for this, but the time to prepare is short. I’m looking for a team of people who will help me promote the book. If  you like writing book reviews, are on social media, and would like an advance free digital copy of the book, please contact me through my website HERE, private message me on my author page HERE, or contact me through Instagram @BeverlyVarnado. Spots are limited, so thank you for responding quickly.

The Cover Reveal of A Season for Everything is coming October 26. 



Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Wobbly knees and when it's all over but the shouting

I'm reposting this piece I wrote several years ago. As we face these challenging times, I thought it might resonate. I love the pictures of these 150 year old live oaks on the Georgia coast that have stood through many storms. The hard winds have blown against them but they are still reaching for the sky. Good images to have in our minds as the winds blow against us. 
The prophet Isaiah wrote about knees. So did the apostle Paul. They knew there’d be times when our limbs would quake. We’d open our eyes to the events of the day and find it hard to stand.


 
“Strengthen the rubbery knees,” Isaiah writes (Isaiah 35:3 The Message). Paul echoed Isaiah’s words in Hebrews 12, “. . . strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” Perhaps it’s a time of discipline that’s left you wobbly, as it was when Paul wrote these words to the Hebrews. Or maybe, it has nothing to do with a choice you made. Maybe, it’s a boatload of stuff you didn’t see coming at all. One event after another blindsided you —a health diagnosis, a financial reversal, a family heartache. You’re tottering, looking for something to hold, trying to breathe. Maybe, you face a challenge larger than anything you've ever dreamed, and overwhelmed doesn't begin to describe the way you feel.

Isaiah went on with consoling words for those who are having trouble staying upright. “Tell fearful souls, ‘Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here, on his way to put things right.’”

He’s right here. He hasn’t lost your address or forgotten he made you. Though your knees are shaking, you’re still standing. In that critical chapter Paul wrote about putting on the armor of God, he says, “ Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet”(Ephesians 6:13).

Years ago, when the tragic loss of a friend to suicide coupled with a trauma from the past led to posttraumatic stress, one of the first and the most enduring symptoms I had was shaking knees. And though God has brought immense healing to my life, still today, if a piece of my armor gets loose, and I don’t allow God to shoulder burdens with me, that symptom sneaks back in. It’s a way God allows my body to indicate I’m not allowing the Lord to do what only He can do.

So, friend, like you, some days with my wobbly knees, I’m just standing. But, when it’s “all over but the shouting,” standing for the glory of God is a great thing, and remember, He's right here.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in September for me. The release date for my new Christmas novella, A Season for Everything, has been changed to November 6―a month earlier than originally planned. I am so thrilled for this, but the time to prepare is short. I’m looking for a team of people who will help me promote the book. If  you like writing book reviews, are on social media, and would like an advance free digital copy of the book, please contact me through my website HERE, private message me on my author page HERE, or contact me through Instagram @BeverlyVarnado. Spots are limited, so thank you for responding quickly.

The Cover Reveal of A Season for Everything is coming soon!!! 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

How Laura's 1919 pandemic thoughts can help us

In my to-be-read pile, I came to a book a few weeks ago, which I bought second hand at the library sale. Oh, the treasures I’ve found there and this was to be another one of them. It’s a collection of articles by Laura Ingalls Wilder before she wrote the Little House books. 

Spanning the 1910’s and 1920’s, she touches on a variety of topics including forest preservation, the benefits of electricity, how hard farm families work, women’s voting rights, integrity, the struggles during WWI, and how to find joy. Laura was a surprisingly progressive woman for her time and though she did not have much formal education, she was an avid reader, and this extensive reading informed her writing. These articles were previously unpublished for modern audiences.

The kids and I on the front porch of Laura's little house on Rocky Ridge Farm in the Ozarks where she wrote the Little House books.

As I read, I realized this woman also lived through a pandemic. The Spanish Flu pandemic overlapped WWI by six months. In one piece, she writes, “The influenza epidemic has been particularly hard on farm folks, coming as it did just at the close of the season’s work when country people were beginning to relax from the strain of raising the year’s crops. It is at this time we usually meet one another and become acquainted again. There has been so much depending on our work, especially for the last two years, that we have attended to our business even more strictly than usual, and we were really lonesome for some good times together. But, being advised by the doctors not to gather in crowds, we have stayed at home as much as possible.”

Sound familiar? Aren’t we at this point all lonesome for some good times together? In another piece, she writes, “We have been working unusually hard for two years and have been under a nervous strain besides. We have each adjusted our burden so that we are more or less able to carry it, but a little addition to it makes it, in some cases, unbearable. It was the last straw in the camels’ load that broke his back, you know.”

What I experience and what I hear from others is that we are all somewhat on edge and “under a nervous strain.” The editor of Laura’s writings footnoted the “Nervous strain” as referencing the War but of course, the editor didn’t know how nerve wrecking a pandemic could also be back when the book was published in the 1990’s. Sometimes just one thing will nudge us in the wrong direction. For myself, I spoke sharper than I normally would have to a friend this week and felt terrible for it. Even though my apology was accepted, I still hated that it happened.

After the war and pandemic had passed, Laura wrote, “As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness—just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.”

Laura learned to focus on the simple things. Good advice for us today.

Her Christian faith undergirded her life and carried her through many, many hard times. These included her family almost starving to death one winter when she was a child, the death of her own child, the loss of their home in a fire, severe illness, the loss of a farm claim, and the challenges of a being a farmer’s wife as she worked as hard and long as her husband Almanzo did. 

Her writings and life give me hope for the times we are in. One night when she was a child, she was worrying over a difficult financial circumstance her family faced. A friend writes of her that as she was praying, “gradually she had a feeling of a hovering, encompassing Presence, of a Power comforting and sustaining her.” This reminded me of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

I know that there are those of you reading who are facing a difficult health diagnosis for yourself or someone you love. Some of you have what seem insurmountable financial issues. Some are grieving. Some have circumstances in your family that are taking your breath away. And all of that is in addition to dealing with the strain of a pandemic that just seems to go on and on. I am praying for you all the supernatural presence of God in these times that like Laura you would sense that “hovering, encompassing Presence, of a Power comforting and sustaining” you in these days.

God bless you all.

The name of the collection I referenced is Little House in the Ozarks, The Rediscovered Writings and appears to still be in print from online sources.

Related Articles

If you need a word of encouragement in your wilderness

On the Prairie with Laura Ingalls Wilder 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in September for me. The release date for my new Christmas novella, A Season for Everything, has been changed to November 6―a month earlier than originally planned. I am so thrilled for this, but the time to prepare is short. I’m looking for a team of people who will help me promote the book. If  you like writing book reviews, are on social media, and would like an advance free digital copy of the book, please contact me through my website HERE, private message me on my author page HERE, or contact me through Instagram @BeverlyVarnado. Spots are limited, so thank you for responding quickly.

The Cover Reveal of A Season for Everything is coming soon!!!

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...