Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Getting through tedious tasks


Jerry and I have both been battling respiratory infections for a couple of weeks (not covid). To add insult to injury, I’ve also been doing a tedious job with a book manuscript. This post came to mind from a struggle with an earlier manuscript. For those of you who are not writers, I hope it offers practices that might help us in other areas of life, as well.

I have a friend who’s spent many years as a missionary in Africa. She bakes her own bread, and occasionally experiences infestations of grain moths. When these critters find their way into her flour supply, she can’t just dash to the corner grocery, so to provide food for her family; she painstakingly removes the moths one by one. Although, she loves where she lives, and her call to missions, this part of the deal is not very appealing.

For a while now, I’ve been sifting through a three-hundred-page manuscript plucking out bugs which some call “weasel words.” Among them, words like just, so, really, only, and that. Words, which add nothing to the meaning of a sentence, but weigh it down. Words, I am sorry to tell you, I love to use in abundance.

 If only I could just tell you how much I really love using words that mean so much to me.

If only.

Important task--this buggy word removal. However, after days of this, my eyes become glassy, and my brain feels like mush.

I want to run.

I want to quit.

I want to get a job overhauling transmissions.

I suppose no matter what the Lord may call us to, there’s always a downside.

So, how do we face the tedious tasks without bolting?

A few suggestions:

1.       Small Chunks. What works best for me is combining the tedious with the creative. Breaking up the times I spend on unappealing tasks with other more creative endeavors.

2.       Staying balanced. I know why I’m so out of sorts right now. I haven’t been taking the time to exercise as I should. It never pays to skip taking care of yourself. I deceive myself by thinking I’m gaining time. My productivity decreases when I don’t do the things, I know benefit my overall wellness like eating right, exercise, and social interaction.

3.       Worship. Earlier today in my writing group, we talked about how all of life is worship if we allow it to be. Keeping an attitude of worship in all we do makes the ordinary and mundane moments glorious.

When I think of worship during the ordinary, I think of Brother Lawrence. The account of how this seventeenth century monk lived in adoration of God all the while working in a kitchen touches me deeply. Entitled, The Practice of the Presence of God, it includes Brother Lawrence’s prayer, “Lord of all pots and pans and things . . . make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates!”

If you haven’t read this Christian classic of conversations with Brother Lawrence, you may read it free online here. It’s only around fifty pages, so you could read it less than an hour. But I think the ideal would be to read one conversation and allow time to meditate on it every day.

Whether sifting grain moths, or weasel words, God calls us to himself. And I for one aim to borrow a prayer from Brother Lawrence during the rest of my editing, “O my God, since thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech thee to grant me the grace to continue in thy presence; and to this end do thou prosper me with thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections.”

Amen.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:23).

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is available wherever books are sold.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2022

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Be Strong and Courageous

Marsh Glory, Beverly Varnado

As I’ve written here before, I try to read the Bible through every year-ish. I get behind though and spend the first week of the new year catching up. On the day dedicated to historical scriptural readings, I kept coming across the same phrase in Moses’ instruction to the Israelites, “Be strong and courageous . . . “ We see that phrase again when the Lord exhorts Joshua.

In what ways are we being courageous? It’s a good question to ask ourselves as we face the new year. As we reflect on the year past, one answer to that question for all of us is that we are living through a pandemic. That has taken a good bit of strength and courage to get through.

But individually, what ways are we bravely stepping into the future?

Creatively, I know the ways I’m holding back. For example, I really need to make some of the dozens of small studies I’ve done this year available (Like the one above), because if I don’t, we’re going to have to pitch a tent in the back yard. Storage is becoming an issue. I have a tough time letting go. I posted a few on my Etsy store over a week ago, but didn't post on social media about them. The artists I know who are doing a good job with their work often post their paintings.

Also, I’ve finished another book, but still haven’t submitted it, because it’s in a different genre than I’ve written before. I love the story so much; rejection would be hard.

And, as far as this blog, other writers get more success posting directly to social media rather than just posting a link. Links get shuffled to the bottom of the feed. I’ve hesitated to do that because it’s like walking into a crowded room and saying, “Hey, look at this!!” My introverted self chafes at the thought. And yet, it’s not about me. The reason I do all of this is for the glory of God. A well-known primitive artist once wrote that she knew God was calling her to paint and in response she said, “I don’t want to be famous.” She says God spoke to her heart and said, “Yes, but I do.”

If you struggle with this too, here are a few of the messages that may be in our heads that hold us back:

                You’re not old enough.

                You’re too old.

                You don’t have enough experience.

                You’ve never done that before.

                You will be rejected.

                You’re not qualified.

                You don’t have enough time.

                What you’ve done is not good enough, not good enough, not good enough, ad nauseum.

                And sometimes even—you’re not enough.

In truth, our age, our experience, our past, our fear of rejection, our qualifications, our time limitations, and our perfectionism cannot, should not, must not limit what God would want to do through us.

And as for the “You’re not good enough” message. That’s simply a lie from the enemy and needs to be recognized as such.

So, if, like me, you have a bit of a chicken liver stripe, let’s allow the words the Lord spoke through Moses to speak afresh to our hearts:

 “BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS . . . “

And then let’s go forward with these words on our lips, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

Here's to all the wonders God might do!

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is available wherever books are sold.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2022

 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The Grey and Getting Real in the New Year

 


In our Christmas pictures this year, one strange little quirk appears in each one. I have a skunkish stripe of grey shining on the top of my head. Over the past couple of years, I developed what I believed to be a sensitivity to hair color after dying it for twenty years. I was losing my hair, which left me with no alternative but to suspend the coloring.

Sure enough, months later, my hair began growing back.

It hasn't been an exactly smooth transition. I look in the mirror and am shocked to see the transformation taking place before me. I often want to grab the phone and call my hair stylist, but I’m still holding fast because I’d rather be grey than bald.

I’m thinking also of moving into the ladies’ room at Walmart (definitely not a sponsored link) because that’s the only place the lighting is soft enough that the line of demarcation doesn’t show.

Fortunately, there are a good many women who have already or are making this same decision and posting about it online. One of them said that leaving the coloring behind has left her with greater peace.

It seemed an odd comment, but when I thought about it, not having to always be on the treadmill of coloring my hair is bound to cause me to exhale, too.

Now, let me say right here, I am not against hair color. It has served me well for years and since I had kids late in life, it kept folks from thinking I was my kid’s grandmother. But sometimes we must segue and losing the color is causing me to ponder again getting real in other areas of my life--like what I want to say with my words and paint on my canvases. It’s always been my goal to create in such a way that I’m not seeking to please anyone else. I really want to hear from the Lord and follow his guidance. I’m renewing that commitment because sometimes it’s challenging when what we do is at odds with what folks expect or want from us. It can also rub some the wrong way.

As we look toward another year, we realize we only have a certain number of days on this earth to accomplish that to which God has called us. I want to be faithful. Perhaps you feel the same way.

The apostle Paul said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). Let’s remember these words as we bravely face this new year and allow ourselves to be transformed in whatever way the Lord chooses. Here on the cusp of 2022, I pray our hearts are open to the Lord and our hands ready for His work. May we cast off the opinions of others and really seek to please only One.

May each of you have a happy and blessed New Year.

And as for my women friends, maybe I’ll run into you in the restroom at Walmart.

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is available wherever books are sold.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2021

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Wonder

Joy to the World

I am especially missing this year our dear pastor friend and mentor, Grady, after his passing a few months ago. Without fail, we would receive an annual Christmas card with a meaningful message from him and his precious wife, Doris.

He was a man who committed much to memory—scripture, poetry, quotes, and even passages from books he’d read. In the latter years of his life, this served him well. He would reach into the great reservoir of his knowledge and lift a gem from its bounty to share with others. 

One of the last Christmas cards we received before his death included a verse penned in his shaky but still familiar handwriting and committed to memory in the distant past: 

“Welcome, all wonders in one sight!

   Eternity shut in a span;

Summer in winter; day in night;

   Heaven in earth, and God in man.

Great little one, whose all-embracing birth

Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heav’n to earth.” 

It’s from a larger work written in the 17th century by Richard Crashaw, “In the Holy Nativity of our Lord.” 

There’s much to ponder in these lines, but I want to focus on the first one, “Welcome, all wonders in one sight!” 

I was speaking with someone who has suffered a recent difficult loss, and she shared they were going on a vacation soon to what I know is a beautiful place. I was excited to hear it and told her about how it’s been discovered that “wonder therapy” has great restorative power in veterans who suffer form PTSD. There’s a program that allows vets to travel to experience the great beauty and awe of the American west and they find this does a healing work in their lives. I know from experience that wonder is also a balm to those who are grieving. 

Well folks, we are celebrating right now the wonder of all wonders. If we could take time to ponder how prophetic voices across thousands of years pointed to this one moment in history. If we could remember again how Jesus’ birth split history. If we would reflect on what His life means for our life and the whole world and how His coming truly does mean heaven came to earth as God poured out His love to us. I think if we did, we would find greater peace, our hearts enlarged, and our hope for future increased. 

Grady wrote on his card, “Just want to share this with you on the wonder of Jesus’ birth.” 

And that’s what I’m doing—from him to me to you—sharing the wonder. 

Pass it on, because in this old broken world, we are all needing the wonder of Jesus’ birth. 

“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them . . .” (Luke 2:17).

I began this blog in 2010 and for eleven years, it has been my privilege to share with you each week. I do not take that for granted. You are treasured beyond anything you can imagine, and I appreciate the moments you spend here. A special thanks to those of you who take the time to share these posts with others. I am sending each of you a big hug and pray you would have a very merry Christmas, and that you may experience the wonder of our Savior's birth as perhaps you never have before. With love, Bev

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is available wherever books are sold.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2021


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The Most Joyful Days

I stood in line to speak to the symphony conductor after a recent Christmas concert. Ahead of me were friends of hers and a few snippets of their conversation resonated with me. “It’s so good to hear live music again,” one said. 

I’m usually singing with the symphony chorus this time of year but putting large groups of people singing and playing wind instruments together on stage during a pandemic has presented a unique challenge. Out of caution, only the instrumentalists played this year, but, hearing them again after nearly two years almost brought me and probably others to tears.

“You often don’t value what you have until it’s taken away from you,” someone else said.

For sure. 

Then while attending a recent women’s gathering, a woman deep in the throes of grief after losing her husband said goodbye to me with this sage advice, “Treasure the time you have with your loved ones.”

These experiences have left me with a renewed desire this Christmas to keep the precious ones I love and the traditions I value close and to not take one of them for granted as all of us sometimes do.

Every year, I hope to not let my Christmas to-do list overrun what is important, but if I’m honest, it sometimes does. So here I am again trying to set aside the time to just be with folks I love and enjoy them. And I want to carve out the time to do the things that are important to me. After these past two years, many of us know what it’s like to go without seeing our loved ones for some period and we also have suffered the loss of experiences, which were a joyous part of our lives like live music.

Let’s remember also that just being in the same room with someone is different from really being present in your mind as well as your body. It takes effort—to listen—to care.

Most of all, let’s worship and be with the one about whom the whole season revolves—Jesus. It's easy to lose that focus in the blur. You've heard it before, but it's like going to a birthday party and ignoring the one whose birthday we're celebrating. 

Happy week before Christmas, friends. 

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15). 

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is available wherever books are sold.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2021


Tuesday, December 7, 2021

A recent lapse and what the angel said

In recent days, I took the opportunity to open my mouth and insert my entire foot into it. I had misread a situation and made comments I should have kept to myself. And once those words were out, well, there was no way to get them back in.

Sigh.

I’ve written here before that my grandmother often said, “You just have to bite your tongue,” and if I had known when I was younger how much I needed to remember those words, I would have had them tattooed on my forehead.

It helps me that a well-known Bible teacher has written it isn’t a normal day unless she’s had to apologize several times.

It appears I’m having a good many normal days.

I’ve felt so bad about my comments. Yes, I know God forgives me, but I have trouble letting go. I’m assuming I’m not the only one who has a lapse like this, so maybe you face this struggle as well.

On this upcoming third Sunday in Advent, we’ll be lighting the candle of joy. God is reminding me that Jesus came to give us joy despite our failures and blunders. We don’t have to drag them around like a sack of rocks. Yes, there are always consequences to sin, but shame and guilt are not part of that equation when we’ve confessed our sins and asked forgiveness.

The words of Charles Wesley’s Advent Hymn remind us of this:

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;

From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art;

Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

 Oh, how our hearts do long for the joy that is Jesus. When the glittering tinsel tarnishes, the dazzling lights fizzle, and the tinkling songs start to jangle, we realize this season is really about Jesus coming to deal with all that is undone in us.

 These words the angel spoke to the shepherds are also for all of us who need the freedom from sin, rest from striving, and hope for restoration that only Jesus can bring:

 “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’” (Luke 2:10).

 Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is available wherever books are sold.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2021


 

 

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The radiator, the reminder, and Emmanuel

Knocks sounded from the direction of the car engine, and Jerry and I gave each other a look. In a moment, steam seeped from around the edges of the hood. The temperature gage read “H.” We rolled over into a convenience store parking lot and tried to get a glimpse of the road signs in the dark cause in the north Atlanta sprawl, we had no idea where we were. We didn't know yet our radiator had just exploded, either.

I sat there a moment reflecting on the past four days. It was almost comical. Earlier in the week, I’d developed a low-level infection which I was still battling, then we’d found weevils or some sort of critter in a pantry and had to spend time we really didn’t have emptying the entire thing. The next day, we received an unexpected bad news letter. Then a routine screening for cancer seemed to go south and there was a tense twenty-four hour wait for what turned out to be negative results. Now this trip to celebrate our granddaughter’s birthday had a wrench thrown in it. The self-pity boat threatened to head into port.

 I pulled out my phone to contact roadside assistance and Jerry phoned our daughter to drive what turned out to be around twenty miles to get us.

A quote from Charles Stanley I heard a few days before kept drifting into my mind, “Thanksgiving reminds us we are walking in the presence of God.” I remembered that none of the events of the past week were unexpected for God, and he would help us navigate them. Though still present, the infection was waning, we’d gotten rid of the weevils, the bad news letter was something God would help us deal with one step at a time, and thank the Lord, the cancer diagnosis was negative. Circumstances might not always turn out the way we want but God would still be with us. We were blessed beyond measure in so many ways. We were in the presence of God.

In a surprising turn, the tow truck driver was only two minutes away. And though the next day involved many hours of driving because we had to borrow a car for an appointment at home and then return, the man who owned the repair shop was one of the kindest persons ever. His Christian faith was so clear in his demeanor. He helped to turn an exploded radiator into a joyful experience. In addition, God provided for the repair expense in an unexpected and most appreciated way.

Some of you may be having one of those weeks or days, too, when it feels like the enemy has pelted you with an entire sack of rocks. Maybe you’re aching from the bruises, but there is a bigger picture than just the one in front of you. If we can turn our hearts to God, even in difficulties, it will often help give us the eyes to see how God has already been at work in amazing ways.

As we turn the corner from Thanksgiving into advent, we pray for greater vision to recognize Emmanuel, God with us, and give Him thanks that He came, and that we are in His presence, no matter what is exploding around us.

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means ‘God with us’). (Matthew 1:23).

 Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is available wherever books are sold.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2021


 

 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

When Thanksgiving feels like just feathers

I'm reaching back into the archives for this one. We know several folks who are facing a first Thanksgiving without someone dear and I hope this post might bring encouragement. 
At grandparent’s day, our granddaughter presented us with a trivet she’d made and decorated with a verse from Psalm 118. We love displaying it on our stove.

A few days later at church, a tiny one wheeled up to me with blond curls bouncing and held high three pieces of paper. “These are for you,” she declared.
A smile spread across my face as I took the papers. One had various fall foam decorations, one featured a pumpkin, and another (my favorite) included colorful geometric construction paper shapes representing feathers, which this young artist had arranged around a brown turkey body.
A fine turkey, indeed. Definitely refrigerator material. 
I’ve been thinking lately of a classic Thanksgiving children’s story by Lorna Balian, Sometimes it’s Turkey, Sometimes its Feathers.
It’s about a woman who finds a turkey egg, which she goes to great lengths to facilitate hatching. Then she sacrifices to help fatten up the turkey, presumably for Thanksgiving dinner, but things take a sharp left turn and don’t go as planned. In the end (spoiler alert), rather than eating the turkey, she invites it to dinner. Instead of turkey to eat, she had, well, you know, feathers.
Now I have to say, that could definitely happen here. If we found an egg, helped hatch it, and feed it, I’m pretty sure it would wind up sitting on a dining room chair instead of lying on a platter in the center of the table.
In fact, there’s at least one member of our family who will not be partaking of that big turkey thawing in the refrigerator. She’ll eat fake dressing made with vegetable broth and skip the meat all together.
Because sometimes it’s turkey, and sometimes it’s just feathers here, too.
And it’s feeling like that in more than one way.
It’s the first Thanksgiving of my life without my dad. An empty chair this year. I’m trying to be brave, but I know from experience, these first holidays can be challenging. Every time the tears start to well, I think of all that he’s left me that continues to bless . It’s not going to be the same, but somehow we’ll press on.
I’m thankful for the way God continually reminds me of the great circle of life  through the precious young ones like our grandchildren and the kids at church surrounding me with new life.
Because yes, sometime it’s turkey, and yet even when it seems like just feathers, God is always there.
Habakkuk knew as he spat the feathers from his mouth that no matter what, we offer God praise. He wrote, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
Friend, maybe it’s feeling a bit like just feathers at your house, too, but join me as we choose to rejoice in all that God has done despite what we may have lost or what we don’t have.
On a lighter note, this year, I might even take a bite of the fake dressing. Who knows, maybe I’ll like it.

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is available wherever books are sold.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2021


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

No Degrees of Separation

When a chart-topping country music singer took the stage during a recent award show, a sense of warmth and closeness to this person rose in me. So strange, because I had never met him nor was I what most consider a country music fan. I pay attention to the music because my son loves it, and because I enjoy music in almost every genre.

So why did I feel this way?

Partly because of a story Jerry tells about when he was a kid.

A woman in his neighborhood had horses and in exchange for mucking out stalls and other jobs, she allowed Jerry to be around the horses. One day, while going into a stall, a horse pushed past the gate and  got away from him. The horse took off with Jerry in pursuit, but of course he was only in junior high and couldn’t keep up. While chasing it, he tripped and fell on his knees. Jerry tells this story as one of the first times he remembers praying. “Oh, Lord, please help me to catch that horse.” He got up and continued after the horse and wondered as he made several decisions as to which way to go whether the horse had made those same choices. Finally, he spotted the horse who had found companionship with a few other equines on another neighbor’s property. Jerry struggled with getting the bridle on him, because the horse stretched his head high. But the kindly property owner spotted him and came out to help him bridle the horse.

That man was this singer’s great-grandfather.

The other part of this story is when my first book came out, a friend arranged for one of my book signings to be in Jerry’s hometown. The lovely owner of the shop was so gracious to me, and I’ll never forget her as the signing was a wonderful success.

That woman was the star’s grandmother.

And so, whenever I see the country artist, I think of the touching kindness of two of his relatives that has meant so much to Jerry and me.

These relationships make me think of the six degrees of separation defined as “the idea that all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other.” I don’t know if it’s true or not, but what I do know is the most important relationship we can have involves no degrees of separation if we have given our lives to him.

You don’t have to phone a friend or call anyone’s grandmother, like I would if I wanted to contact the singer.

The apostle Paul wrote in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” The King James says “Come boldly . . . “

Because of what Jesus has done on our behalf, the way is clear for us to call out to the Lord directly.

During a ministry weekend in prison, I was at the piano during a service when a wall phone beside me rang. We all laughed, and our worship team launched into that old gospel song, “Jesus on the main line, tell him what you want.”  The chorus includes “Call him up, call him up, tell him what you want . . . “

We’re as close to God as we want to be. The King of the universe is awaiting our call. We don't have to work our way through an automated message system or get put on hold.

Remember—no degrees of separation.

And whether we’re a country music fan or not, that’s something to really sing about.

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is available wherever books are sold.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2021


 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

What's behind falling leaves


The truth about falling leaves goes against notions we have about the wind gently pulling leaves from trees.

I came across an interesting quote recently by Peter Raven, a renowned botanist, who said, “Instead of calling this season ‘The Fall,’ if trees could talk, they'd call this the ‘Get Off Me’ season.

I am no expert, but I’ll try to give a simple explanation. (I am open to correction by my forester friends). Leaves are used for photosynthesis in the spring and summer to supply food for trees, but in the winter, the water in the leaves would freeze. This would keep them from providing nutrients to the tree and make them an unnecessary burden.

So, in deciduous trees, “abscission” cells form where the leaf connects to the branch and cuts the leaf from the tree  in the fall. (That word abscission has the same root as the word scissors). Trees push off the leaves, which enables them to store up nutrients for their great spring resurgence.

The trees are getting rid of everything that would hold them back from fulfilling their purpose of purifying the air, providing shade, and of course being beautiful.

As I was reading about this, a verse kept coming to mind reminding me of a spiritual truth.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

The apostle Paul uses the words “throw off” here which has the same tone as “get off me” in the quote above. To fulfill our calling, we need to get off of us everything that would hold us back, too.

If you’re like me, we can say yes to things that just add to the busyness of our lives and not much else. A wise missionary I know once told me that as we get older, we need to do fewer things and focus more on what is important. Not bad advice for any age.

And of course, if we’ve allowed what is contrary to God’s word to enter our lives, we should take care of those things pronto. These could be insidious like unforgiveness or bitterness which we can harbor in our hearts but be just as destructive as the more overt transgressions.

What’s behind falling leaves is a new life and if we can cast off what holds us back, we too, will have a perennial experience of new life.

So, this fall, join me as we think about what we need to release and cut the cord. Then let’s watch for what God will do.

P.S. After publishing this piece, an interesting addendum came in from my forester friend, Dick. ". . . fall brings shorter daylight hours, colder temps--so efficiency of photosynthesis for deciduous species is too low to continue . . ah, yes, dormancy is better. Wake us up when the warmth of spring and longer daylight returns." Love hearing from an expert, Dick. Thanks much.

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is available wherever books are sold.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2021




Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The Things I've Heard



I do much of my creating in this she shed space and the time spent there has come with unexpected insights.

My neighbors are doing significant outside additions and renovations. They’ve had a string of workers coming and going over the past few months—roofers, carpenters, excavators among them. My building is close to the work area, but far enough away that I mostly don’t hear anything but muffled words and an occasional shout. Sadly, a couple of times it's been loud enough to hear gruff exchanges.

Then one recent day our doorbell rang, and when we opened the door, our friend Kent stood there. “Just letting y’all know I’m doing the stonework on the screened porch next door,” he said.

Jerry and I have known Kent for years. He and I were members of a lay witness mission team that went into dozens of churches over the years where we shared our testimonies. And we were also part of another Christian community where we’d run into each other. His family business is legendary for their extraordinary stone and brick work.

After we shared life for a while, Kent went back to work, and it seemed from the minute he did, the atmosphere changed. The word I would use to characterize this change is joy. It just seemed if he was there, laughter rang out from morning til night. That’s not to say a ton of work didn’t get done. Literally. I’d look over there and the big stones piles were going down daily as he created stone walls and a fireplace. I guess he subscribes to the “whistle while you work” philosophy.

I noticed at the end of the day, I felt uplifted myself even though I had no idea what was being said—just the cackling over there boosted me. I have a character in one of my books a lot like Kent. The character is often prone to tell dad jokes, but people laugh not because of the jokes, but because of his giggling. That’s much the way it is with our friend. We crack up because he is.

While reading Proverbs, I came across a verse in chapter twenty-seven that seemed to speak to this, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” Kent has a heart of joy and that is reflected in his life wherever he goes—whether he’s giving a testimony in church or laying a stone in someone’s backyard.

Who knows what the effect of his being here had? Maybe the other neighbors noticed the difference in the sounds coming from next door, too.

God calls us to make a difference wherever we are. We don’t all have the same gifts, but God has given each of us something to leave behind in every circumstance—it could be kindness, compassion, wisdom, encouragement, mercy, love . . . the list goes on. God could use any of these to draw others closer to himself.

I’m kind of sad about the renovations ending because I’ll miss the joyful noise over there. However, I’m glad for once again seeing how much our lives can affect others even when we’re not aware.

Thanks for the reminder, Kent.

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is available wherever books are sold.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2021

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Mystery of this One Butterfly

One day last week in the late afternoon, October 19, to be exact, a monarch butterfly fluttered into the backyard to pay a visit to a giant lantana. I edged up on it trying to get a photograph, but he was a little too wary of me, so I had to back off. It was the only monarch I’d seen this year. As I studied his movements, it occurred to me that it was about this time last year when I saw a monarch. I scrolled through my pictures and found where I’d captured a shot—on the exact day, October 19.

Could it be the same butterfly?

No, it couldn’t.

There have been four generations of butterflies between the one I saw last year and the one this year. They only live about six weeks.

I looked back further in my phone and also found a photo of one on October 14 in 2018.

The last generation of monarchs in the year lives longer and do not reach maturity until the next spring. That generation makes a 2000-mile migration from here to Mexico weighing less than a gram. Sometimes, they will take up residence in the exact same tree every year. No one knows how or why because none of the butterflies have ever been there before.

The butterflies I see are likely migrating from points north. Maybe it’s the earth’s gravitational pull, the huge lantanas and butterfly bushes in my yard, or a factor we don’t even know about, but one butterfly shows up here the exact same week every year.

Seeing a monarch is a very special thing to me and a privilege I do not take lightly. Their populations have diminished more than eighty percent since the 1990’s due in large part to the spraying of herbicides. We don’t use herbicides in our yard, and we will never win a yard of the month award because of it, but we are rewarded in other ways like the opportunity to be visited by this rare butterfly.

The mystery of the one butterfly that shows up every year in my yard could remain unsolved. But this yearly visitation is highly valued reminding me of the greatness of God and His loving care. God knows I love these creatures and somehow, I happen to be in the right place at the right time to see them and pray for their survival when they make their calls.

It brings home what Jesus said about the sparrows, “Not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (Matthew 10:29). He’s not talking about a million sparrows or a hundred sparrows but one sparrow. One solitary, run of the mill, sparrow. That brings me great comfort when my internal worry machine starts cranking about seemingly irresolvable problems. I see the one butterfly and I’m reminded of a God so great he can guide them back again and again to a place where they have never been to bring amazement and wonder.

So, take comfort from my one butterfly and through him, let God bring you encouragement, too, in whatever difficulty you may find yourself. God cares about the tiniest things—even those that weigh less than a gram. Nothing and no one escapes his tender care.

 Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is available wherever books are sold.  Also consider her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2021

 

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