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

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