Thank you for stopping by my blog.

I write day after day because I discover extraordinary lessons from ordinary life experiences. I record my visual portraits of everyday life filled with something sacred in hopes that my reflections might bring an insight that blesses my readers.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

  How Great Thou Art

"How Great Thou Art" is an old hymn  familiar to us all.  In the fifties Billy Graham used it in all his services across the world. This made it the number one popular hymn.   
When I was a child my uncles played  this hymn on their banjos and guitars and sang it with their country twang.  Even when only five years old my heart grew larger for the Lord when I heard those words and that melody.
As I grew into a teenager, I anticipated the glory I would feel as mom’s brothers and sisters would pick and sing an improvisation of this tune.  Last Sunday, this hymn took on new meaning and significance.  Our minister, Matt Carder, began a series on the hymns and started with this one.  At the close of the service we sang this song and worshipped God.
Suddenly, I was lifted into a surreal place and was watching my last sixty years of listening to “How Great Thou Are. The Spirit showed me how my Uncle Mason played this song, and it permeated his heart and soul.  Mason was not a believer, but he strummed this hymn so frequently that it became part of his theology.  Uncle Mason died an early death of cancer.  I remember my mom saying how he hummed the hymn through his radiation and chemo treatments.  
Each of Mama’s nine brothers and sisters were a part of our Sunday night singing and picking sessions.  Each of them were shown to me in a vision last Sunday.  This song is what brought them to faith.  Even though, their chosen paths were somewhat wayward, they eventually came to know Christ. This old hymn was the significant pull to their hearts.
In this vision, the Spirit showed me how when we sang this song, the women who were with child would also benefit.  The music filtered into the uterus and prepared the child’s spirit to become a believer.  My aunts would sing loud and cry hard when these lyrics were sung.  As a child, I knew we were in a different realm of music, but now I know we were in a pure state of worship.  Perhaps I was one of the infants in uterine that absorbed those words into my soul.
The vision continued and I saw each of Mama’s siblings and offspring touched by this song.  Although long and rocky paths, each sibling and their offspring came to know God in a very real way and became believers because of the power of this song.  
The Spirit showed me there was one verse that had not been shared on earth.  When we gathered in heaven, we would sing that final verse together.  It will be a final dripping from our hearts of our theme song.  These memories and vision assured me God is our Creator and musician.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Life Lines

copyrighted art of Betty Ann Fraley

Life Lines
Since all of life is filled with lines, I discovered to use them for my betterment.  As a young mom, I hated grocery lines with the children.  All their “being good” was used up and long lines meant  lots of saying “no” to  the candy located at the check out.  Then, one  of the guys would have to urgently go potty.  The youngest one would wiggle in the cart seat and begin to cry.  Of course, the register tape would break, the lady in front of me would have a million coupons, and my feet hurt from teaching all day.  I just wanted to get out of the place and go home.  Remember those days?  After one such incident, the Lord pricked my heart on the way home.
Internally, I heard him ask why I had not used that opportunity for Him?  What?  I didn’t have patience to even serve my family.  At that, I remember giggling and saying to Him, “OK, I give, we are your family. Show me how.”
 He taught me through Osborn Chamber’s devotional, My Utmost For His Highest. Chambers said, “ A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer.  God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, but our Lord continues to stretch and strain, and occasionally the saint says, ‘I can’t take any more.’  Yet, God pays no attention; He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight and then He lets the arrow fly.”
That analogy has helped me so much.  Later on in any line, I learned to use the time to teach my children, whisper to them, or show them how to observe others and be grateful for those around us.  Line time became a relationship time. Now, it wasn’t perfect, but it sure improved my line expectations with our little guys.
  As I aged, life became fuller and more hurried, and I would feel frustrated waiting in a bank line, a doctor’s office, or a retail line.  Then, I would visualize myself being stretched for a purpose.  I would turn to someone near and begin to ask them about their life, their problems, and God would use me. The wait was fulfilling. I was experiencing holy love, and they were being splashed by grace.  
Lines continue.  Now, they are waiting with my husband, my granddaughters, or by myself.  God has taught me so much during these “waiting times.”  He taught me to pray at red lights, sing favorite hymns while stuck in traffic,and to be grateful for my blessings while waiting at doctors’ offices. Whether the line is short or long doesn’t matter.  It is God’s time, and I am His bow with His directed arrow.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Practice Wonderment
“Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul” D.H. Lawerence
Recently, I was visited by my granddaughters.  Ellie is only two but teaches me so many life lessons.  She is dressed like a ballerina; she thinks she is a ballerina; and the big blue bow in her hair restates, “ I am a ballerina.”  She is not old enough to attend a class, but her big sister takes lessons.  Ellie has only been allowed to observe.  Yet, she is a ballerina in her heart and mind.  The art of ballet has bubbled into her soul and made her one.
In wonderment, children are our best teachers.  It is their natural state.  We seem to lose track of wonderment as we age. We become a bit calloused, jaded you might say.  Oh, yes, another wedding, another sunrise, another dinner party, another birthday present.  Our attitude is detached and uninvolved.
 Something happens to our sense of surprise.  We take life for granted and expect this dinner to be just like the last.  We all remember those faces of toddlers as they experienced peas for the first time.  Out those new veggies came creating a green, slimy chin and a sidesplitting facial snarl.  Baby was surprised and we laughed.  That is how our daily lives should be lived.  We can recapture the sense of amazement at any moment. All it takes is to open our taste buds of living and make our world come alive.
For one minute, stop, listen, and recollect.  What do you hear where you are sitting?  A groaning ice maker, the soft hum of an appliance, or a clash of trash as the garbage truck picks up on your street.  Listen.  Anything new you hear?
Try really noticing what is around you.  Ellie always points to the smallest spot on the floor and says, “ What’s that MiMi?”  I have to really look to see what she sees.  Often it is a piece of fuzz, a broken lead from a pencil, or even a dried leaf.  The point is: she notices it.  She is looking for a surprise element on an ordinary wooden floor. 
 As I write this, I see a recent wedding photo from Adam and Annie’s destination wedding.  I see a fifteen year old wedding photo of John and Christine.  Life is changing right on my bulletin board.  I look at these familiar photos and discover Christine carried roses and daisies.  Annie carried lilies and roses in her wedding bouquet.  One arrangement is pastel and the other vibrant oranges and yellows.  Even how they held their wedding flowers revealed a bit of their individual personalities.  It is amazing what I can see in those photos.  I am like a magnifying glass searching for clues ,and I find answers to new questions.  
We can touch wonder in every moment of our day if we just slow down and see, hear, touch, feel.  We are all ballerinas if we just take time to think like one, see like one, and become aware of our surroundings.  Ellie helped me capture wonderment, and I am once again thankful for the familiar, the ordinary, the normal.  Thanks to her I see new light and understanding.  Wonderment creates gratitude.  Thank you, Ellie.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Embracing the Ordinary

Copyrighted art by Betty Ann Fraley

George Bernard Shaw said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old : we grow old because we stop playing.”
I am the first to admit that I have a childlike spirit that enjoys playing far more than working.  However, I notice that our sons learned early how to turn their work into play.  Adam embraces the rocks, trees, and waters in Washington.  It is his playground whether he is on a project for EPA , or he and Annie are escaping to the wilderness to dodge the business of Seattle.  He  posts photos from a canoe trips that echo the beauty of the mountains reflecting in the waters.  The newlyweds take their dog Sedona on hikes with them and embrace the natural to find the extraordinary.
I was walking and skipping a little too yesterday.  Dobie, my rescued mix breed, and I were taking our daily walk around the neighborhood.  Now, I have been doing this over thirty years.  ( All my dogs were walkers. I wonder why?) You would think I would have inventoried every home and lawn and be bored.  But, each walk I discover something new that brings joy.  On this day, Dobie and I saw a young teen doing a masterful drawing on the sidewalk.  He was using colored chalk and turning it into pundit art.  He created a new scene from a familiar one.
Our oldest son’s daughters teach me to embrace the commonplace and just play freely.  We take a chipped and worn tea set and celebrate English high tea.  With my granddaughters, Ava and Ellie, I can put on a  crumpled hat and become a monster. A cast off pink crinoline evolves me into a famous   dancer. I can put on a crooked smile with a tattered vest and bring peals of laughter as I try to walk our imaginary tight rope.  We love playing babies, dress up, and making a routine into an exceptional story.
Sometimes I have discovered swirling, laughing, or just swinging helps me reclaim my youth.  After doing a quick little arabesque, I picked up Patti Digh’s book, Four Word Self Help.   She chooses four words to instruct  the reader on simple wisdom.  Four varied words which help simplify my life.  Playful meditations that turn my complex world into a simple reality. Today I am taking time to see the angels in the  white fluffy, cloud formations. I drove four miles just to  visually enjoy a field of cadmium yellow sun flowers.  I just finished sitting on my glider singing Jesus Loves Me.  These  activities  resurrect the child within.  Somehow a mediocre day  just shifted into an exceptional one.  

Friday, August 5, 2011

Laughing at Myself

Laughing at myself, want to join me?
Tonight I called the Keurig technical support line.  My fancy coffee pot just won’t work.  It is about a year old and should not have quit so soon.  I explained this to Jonathan , the polite customer service man.
He started out so positive.  “Now, Mrs. Baron, let’s try a different outlet.”  I obeyed.  “Now, let’s fill the reservoir with water and power up.” I once again followed directions.  Each step the directions were more difficult for me to matriculate.  Finally, after about a half of an hour, I asked Jonathan, “What do you do all this time while you are on hold and customers are doing your suggested remedies?”  
Jonathan replied, “ Oh, I am answering customer emails and doing other computer tasks.”
I replied, “ Wow, you have time to read a whole book by the end of the day.” 
“Well, Mrs. Baron, honestly most folks don’t keep me on hold for thirty minutes.  Have you found that gasket yet?”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Soul Work for Writers

Soul Work

Soul work comes in various  forms through different people.  I recognize God's mercy to me because He has sent so many friends and set me in a family that has shaped my soul. meditations are on soul shaping.  I marvel at God's constant interventions even when I am so unaware.  For example, I have been working on the Midwest Writers Workshop .  The event was last weekend.  Each monthly meeting is focused on how to make the next workshop better.  It involves monthly meetings  discussing finances, speakers, authors, agents, and what sessions are needed to meet the needs of aspiring writers as well as published authors.  Sometimes the meetings are filled with laughter, and we munch on cookies made by Barb, one of the committee people.  Other meetings drag on as we get snagged on a detail or budget need.  However, by the time the end of July roles around, we have an organized program, gifted speakers and agents, and tasty food to inspire the participants.  As they walk through the door for the intensive sessions, my heart feels warm and my emotions are high.  I marvel who God sends each year.

I think of the specifics that are involved.  The participant must have this weekend free, have money to register as well as lodging and transportation.  They are hand picked.  This year we had more than a hundred new folks and many  repeaters.  The returning veterans are like family.  We hug and celebrate the beginning of a new understanding of writing, publishing, and  progress.

I have been involved as a participant for over twenty years and have been on the committee the last three years. I never realized when I attended as an eager student how much went into the planning .  Now, that I am on the other side, I perceive that helping the writing community is such a privilege and gives me so much fulfillment.  We hammer away at the statue each month molding it into an art form.  We spend endless hours discussing, writing, searching the internet, and planning.  At the end of this building and organizing process, an opportunity is created for writers. The process brings forth a statue like in the photo.  Many hours are needed.  Many hands are used especially the hands of Jama Bigger, our director.  The sculpting tools are not chisels, but instead, the minds, words, and hearts of the committee.

I know that this is like God's work on our soul.  We make choices.  We pray.  We write, reflect , and meditate.  We study  God's word, and ponder His part in our  own story.  His intervention and grace creates soul growth.  He sends friends, books, movies, and family to use as his "faculty".  Simple objects and gentle folks mold our souls into the image God intended. We are His "workshop" .  He forms us into His image.  All of us are writers involved in life.  God gives us opportunities to share His love through our words.  Soul work.   I realize that my husband  helps God mold me.  Do I know the person ahead of me in a long line just might  be there by God's design?  Soul work is happening each moment of my life.  I realize how much God cares for me.  "He will perfect that which concerneth me."  Psa 138:8