Thursday, July 31, 2014

If you wonder about old dirt

Jerry and I stroll in a garden, and I say, “This place smells like old dirt.”

He says, “Isn’t all dirt old?”

That lawyer gene in him really gets me sometimes.

Yes, all dirt is old, but some of it smells old. My backyard doesn’t have that scent, because after twenty years of my infrequent attempts to amend the Georgia clay back there, it’s still leaning toward hard red. On the other hand, my grandfather’s well-tilled yard became soft and black with decades of amendments plus a few coal chips, which fell from winter buckets headed to stoves inside.

To get old dirt takes work.

Spiritually speaking, we’re all aiming for old dirt—where love can spread, roots may go deep, and God’s word may establish itself. In Jesus’ parable about the soils, he said, “ But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (Luke 8:15).

If we faithfully try to amend the soil of our souls through prayer, Bible study, and other spiritual disciplines, we trust for a harvest, and as others encounter us, we pray they, too, might just catch a whiff of old dirt.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Debuting a new blog soon, One Old Dawg

Well, I’m back. Many thanks to wonderful guest bloggers, Julie Garmon, Colleen Jackson, and Beth Andrews for their contributions this month. Their posts allowed me a bit of a reprieve after four years of blogging.

But now, we have new things stirring here at One Ringing Bell. For many years, I’ve listened to the stories my husband, Jerry Varnado, tells of his days as a University of Georgia Football player on the first three teams of legendary coach, Vince Dooley—the coach who took a mediocre program to an SEC championship and a nationally ranked team within three years. I’ve often thought somebody should get these stories down before they’re lost. 2014 is the fiftieth anniversary of that first team Vince Dooley coached, and well, it looks like I’m going to be the one to pen these tales.

On August 13, we debut a new blog, One Old Dawg, mostly true Bulldog lore.

One Old Dawg will run on Wednesday’s through football season. The site is already up with preliminary information just waiting for that first post on August 13. I’ve even obtained permission to use some vintage photos on the site. This is not a sports documentary, but rather a personal memoir.

If you’re a UGA football fan, or even if you’re not, I think you’ll find encouragement in these tales of an Old Dawg.

As I’ve interviewed my husband and read about a hundred newspaper accounts, I’ve marveled at what God did to get Jerry to that 1964 year. At many points in his life, beginning with his first year in high school, his football career could have ended. However, God wanted him to have that platform, so he gave Jerry the ability to persevere past what others would have considered insurmountable odds. That platform of being an ex-college football player has opened doors for Jerry to give his testimony and preach all across this country.

I’ve been reminded through writing these posts that God’s plan is always bigger than anything we can imagine. We only see the present moment, but God sees the whole picture. We should never underestimate what God might do. A wise tentmaker said it best, “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us” (Ephesians 3:20 The Message).

So, I’ll still be here at One Ringing Bell a couple of times a week with peals of words on faith, living and writing, but I’ll also be writing One Old Dawg, mostly true Bulldog lore. It looks like it’s going to be an extra busy fall.

Julie, Colleen, and Beth, I’m keeping you on speed dial.

Check out One Old Dawg here and please sign up to follow by email.

If you're looking for summer reading, my most recent book, Home to Currahee is available at:
Amazon Barnes and Noble Booksamillion Parable Also, if you haven't read Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees, it's a perfect book for vacation. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

If you're having trouble seeing the master plan

Today we welcome Beth Andrews to One Ringing Bell. She is a fairly new blogger whom I met through my own blog and came to appreciate her heartfelt posts.

By Beth Andrews

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

God is the perfect Crafter. We see that when we look around us. Nature attests to His awesome creative talent, with azure blue skies, majestic mountains, stunning sunsets, and brilliant fall leaves. Wouldn’t you love to see His artist’s palette with all those wonderful colors?

God is also crafting the lives of those who love Him. He is adding light here and shadow there, a splash of joy, broad strokes of wonder, and accents of peace amid dark shades of sorrow and heartache. All in perfect balance and harmony. All to create a masterpiece with your life and mine.

Years ago (when I had more time and better eyesight), I was an avid cross-stitcher. One day, as I was working on an intricate design – a mixture of dark, light, and metallics – I flipped the fabric over to finish off a row of stitching, and saw the reverse side of my work. It was a mess of knots, tangles, and threads crossing from side to side, looking nothing like the picture that was forming on top. 

That is when the Holy Spirit revealed a precious truth to me: My life is like that cross-stitch picture. While I only see the bottom of the piece, with all my imperfections, sorrows, hurts and questions, God is working on the top, and He sees the beautiful picture He is creating from the master design He has planned. God sees how brilliantly the gold and silver threads of His majesty and glory stand out against the dark places in my life. Isn’t that the purpose of my life--to make much of God, to glorify Him and show His beauty to the dark world?

From the Old Testament account of Job’s life comes this lament, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, they come to an end without hope” (Job 7:6). If I could take Job by the hand, I would tell him, as I tell myself and you, that when God is the Weaver, there is always hope. 

That season we see as darkness and struggle and pain, in the hands of the Master Weaver, could prove to be the richest season in our lives. This is the heart behind Romans 8:28: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” God is working the pattern of your life and mine according to His will – “His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). Will you trust the design of your life to the hands of the Master Craftsman?

Master Creator, You have spoken a word to my heart: “Child, if you only knew – the pattern I am using as I craft your life in the image of My Perfect Son. Trust Me beloved.”  

Beth Andrews is a Christian, wife, mom, Bible study teacher, Seminary student, speaker and aspiring writer. Her family lives in North Florida, though Alabama is home. She recently retired after 30 years in church administration to pursue seminary studies and to devote herself fully to the Word of God in studying, teaching, and writing. She has come to love God’s Word and finds the sweetest joy in studying, writing, and teaching about the Bible. Her roots have grown stronger in His Word, thus the title of her blog – “Deeper Roots” which you may visit here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Discovery of the Heart

Today, we welcome Colleen Jackson for a guest post here at One Ringing Bell. Colleen is a long time writer-friend and one of the most Godly women I have ever known. Colleen has many talents and gifts, but today she puts on her gardener's hat and shares her insights with us.

Text and Photo by  Colleen Capes Jackson

Last year, I designed a three-year plan for my fenced-in backyard perennial garden. First things first: It required research and study of planting guides to know which plants need shade or sun; when to water and fertilize; how to care for acid-loving plants; and which flowers attract birds and butterflies. I’m not a master gardener, but I am always researching how to be a good steward.

An arthritic at age 62, I wanted to garden-smart. I purchased containers of various heights to represent one for each year of my life. In December, I will have 63 containers ranging from yard sale finds, barrels, antique wash pots, chairs, popcorn poppers, and horse troughs. Thriller, filler, and spiller plants cascade over this galvanized metal container and is ideal to attach butterfly magnets or mementos of family trips.

I devoted one trough to attract butterflies and planted Miss Huff Lantana, Bronze Fennel and Salvia. The Swallowtail Butterfly lays eggs on the Bronze Fennel, and the amazing metamorphosis begins. The caterpillars hatch on the host plant, eat, and spin into a chrysalis. A couple of weeks later, the most beautiful butterfly emerges. In June, I brought some of the chrysalises in the house and placed them in my aquarium.  When the cycle was complete, and their wings gained strength, I took the butterflies out into the garden. Holding them gently, I said a prayer of thankfulness and protection and released them into the air.   

My garden is a haven filled with trickling fountains, aromatic mints and flowers, a palette of vibrant colors, red birdhouses and hoppers, perches, hummingbird feeders, stained glass, shimmering chandeliers, shepherd hooks, rocks, marbles, and wind chimes.

I repurposed antique dispensers such as a fire hydrant and a gas station oil dispenser to lend interest.  Recycled blocks in a crisscross pattern provide height for cascading containers.

Breezes bend the tree tops and weave in and out the chimes to deliver pleasant-sounding melodies.   In the distance, the songbirds identify themselves as they sweep into the garden for their morning and evening meals. 

My garden offers a welcomed retreat where I spend time alone with God. It has become a place of discovery for me. One morning with my camera in hand, I asked, “What do you have for me today, Father?” The tie-dye, pink and red triple-braided hibiscus caught my eye.

 The camera snapped away and zoomed in on the heart of every bloom.  God reminded me of the scripture found in 1st Samuel 16:7 (NLT) . . . The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Humbled and overcome with joy as I admired the heart of the hibiscus, I offered this prayer of thankfulness: “Father, in the midst of my imperfections and insecurity, thank you for seeing something good and beautiful in me. Please help me to be a good steward of your confidence so that the labor of my hands will glorify your precious name.”

Colleen Capes Jackson is an award-winning freelance writer, motivational speaker, songwriter and photographer. Her desire is to share the recipe for true joy found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT): “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Jackson is the Founding Director of the East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers. She has 182 published credits in local newspapers and magazines. Awards include “Writer of the Year” at the 2008 Atlanta American Christian Writers Conference” and First Place in Religion in the 2009 Georgia Press Awards. She released an inspirational children’s CD, “I’m A Champion” in 2008 and a praise and worship CD, “Joy for the Storm Worn” in 2009. Her next CD, “Journey to Joy” will be published in 2015.

Dedicated to her craft and genuinely interested in the people she writes about, Jackson is passionate about inspiring others through her work as well as the subjects she chooses to highlight in her articles.

A resident of Georgia, Jackson enjoys bird watching, gardening and spending time with her husband, children and grandchildren.

Many thanks to Colleen.

Monday, July 14, 2014

When you can't stop trying to fix it

Reaching into the archives for this post and revisiting a challenge constantly before me. I'm ever praying to release matters into God's hands knowing He does all things well in His time.

After doing all I knew to bring resolution to an ongoing difficulty, last week I knelt down, took a hammer and nailed the painful situation to the cross.
Since then, I've struggled not to revisit and must remind myself daily of that act of relinquishment.

This morning, I read from A. B. Simpson: “If we wholly trust an interest to God, we must keep our hands off it; and He will guard it for us better than we can help Him . . . Things may seem to be going all wrong, but He knows as well as we; and He will arise in the right moment if we are really trusting Him so fully as to let Him work in His own way and time. There is nothing so masterly as inactivity in some things, and there is nothing so hurtful as restless working, for God has undertaken to work His sovereign will.”
It’s hard to let something go into God’s hands. It’s harder still to leave it there. Especially when circumstances seem to be going south.
It feels wrong not to act. To lie still in the face of apparent impending disaster seems nearly impossible. Yet all of our acting to this point has yielded no results.
The truth is God works his will in us through this suffering and adversity.
From I Peter 1, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . . In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith . . . may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
The Message says, “. . . genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. . . ”
Putting our heartaches into God’s hands and trusting Him with them, helps prove our faith genuine. To lie still, to trust, to allow our hands to be at rest and allow Him to act as only He can in His time will yield a harvest of faith not only in the lives of those for whom we pray but in our own as well.
And if like me, you're struggling to stop fixing things, that’s good news.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Ridiculous Lie I Believed About Motherhood

Today we're elated to have Julie Garmon guest posting at One Ringing Bell. With the tagline, “Southern Stories of Grit and Grace,” hope and humor shine through Julie Garmon’s writing. She’s been a regular contributor to Daily Guideposts since 2003 and writes on assignment for Guideposts magazine. Julie won a coveted spot to the Guideposts’ writers contest in 2004 and is invited to annual workshops. She’s published with Sweet 16, PLUS, Angels on Earth, Homelife, Today’s Christian, Today’s Christian Woman,,, and Read more about Julie  here at her website.

While my children were growing up, I believed a lie.

I thought if I could be a Perfect Mother, I could raise Perfect Children.

Have you ever heard of such nonsense?

On my first day at home with baby Jamie (our first child), my mother stopped by.

Jamie started screaming. I couldn’t do anything to make her happy.

She’s less than a week old and I’m already failing!

Crazy, I know.

I thought it was my job to make sure she never cried.

Or got sick. Or dirty. Or hurt. Or sad. Or lonely.

Or misbehaved when she got older.

While we ate supper, I laid her on the sofa. Somehow she wiggled toward the back of the sofa.

What kind of Perfect Mother does things like this?

Before Mother left, we snapped a few happy pictures.

I’m smiling (a Perfect Mother always smiles) but on the inside,
I was a Nervous Nellie.

Two and a half years later Katie was born, 30 years ago on April 30th. 

Happy birthday, Katie!

What pressure! Now I had two little girls to make Perfect.

I tried so hard to be a Perfect Mother.

Which was exhausting.

Cheery notes in lunchboxes, ribbons in hair, matching outfits, plus I never screamed (on the outside).

Then something happened that began to change me.

Our third child Robbie was born with anencephaly.

He lived twenty minutes.

Life and death can rearrange our thinking. Shift priorities.

We had another son two years later.

Slowly but surely, (and definitely while raising teenagers!) I discovered how wrong I was.

It was never my job to be a Perfect Mother.

And something else.

The root of my desire for perfection was control.

I wasn’t in control then.

I’m not in control now.

God is.

He’s my Perfect Father. And my children’s Perfect Father too.
Did you believe any crazy lies about motherhood?

I’m helping to spread the word about a new ministry called The M.O.M. Initiative. “Mothers on a Mission to Mentor other Mothers.”

They’re having a conference July 21 – August 2, 2014 in Jacksonville, FL for moms, mentors, and leaders, and are reaching out to mothers everywhere, and not just during the conference.
Such good stuff! Wish this had been around 30 years ago.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'" (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Where are you building your nest?

We pull into a truck stop hours away from home. I look up and some winged creature, likely a sparrow, has planted her family right in the middle of the “e”—over weary truckers rolling in from hundreds of miles on the road, over kids hopping out of SUV’s to make a chocolate milk stop, over people like me, desperate for a restroom stop. 

I snapped a picture and we moved on. Less than an hour up the road, we sat on the back porch of a quaint Victorian home eating lunch, and I noticed the gourd hanging from the ceiling. I peered inside. Another family, perhaps wrens, were nesting there—lodging in a lovely house designed especially for them.

A day or so later, I exit a craft store and find my husband staring up at the eave. A family of swallows had built a mud nest high in the corner. Apparently, they like to scrapbook and wanted to have easy access to materials. 

I thought of Psalm 84. “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar.” 

We’re all building a nest somewhere. I had to ask myself where I'm building mine. Some seasons, it's a busy thoroughfare like the swallows and sparrows, or sometimes, it's tucked away in a garden paradise like the wrens.

Psalm 84 again. “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

I hope that no matter where we are geographically, our hearts are nesting close to God. Even in our busiest times, in the middle of an “e” for example, let’s cry out for Him.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A One Ringing Bell America the Beautiful

 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people he chose for his inheritance”
 (Psalm 33:12).

Have a blessed Fourth of July!

Photos copyright 2014 Beverly Varnado, One Ringing Bell
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