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.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Writing My Memoir

Writing My Memoir
Copyrighted art work by Betty Ann Fraley
I am writing a memoir.  It is a bumpy ride, but I must follow this road to fruition.  Part of the difficulty of this task is well stated by Lynne Sharon Swartz, who said,”There's nobody out there waiting for it, and nobody’s going to scold you if you don’t do it.”
I write because I have a burning desire to record stories that teach life lessons and the morals of the years I lived.  The critic within replies, “ Who cares about your stories?”
I respond, “ I do.”  I want my children and grandchildren to know that my writing represented the truths I discovered as I followed my journey.  I want others to read and relate with the stories and realize a universal truth, understand the plight of the poor, and the benefits of obstacles.  In my memoirs I embrace the stories I learned from my students, my new husband, and my emotional truths learned as a first year teacher integrating the New Orleans schools.  We found valuable relationships in this Black community.  We learned love and hate, sadness and joy, hope and despair.
My book pulls back the layers of our first year of marriage and reveals some harsh truths and some open laughter.  Our students gave us ten years of experience in our first year of teaching.  I have to be truthful.  Sometimes writing is more painful than I anticipated.  Sometimes it is freeing.  The process is tedious and sometimes lonely.  I may get discouraged, but the drive within continues to “push” me back to the computer to write, reveal, recollect, and recount  this experiences in 1967.  
“Writing a book is like driving a car at night.  You only see as far as your headlights go, but you can make the whole trip that way,”  E.L. Doctorow That is how I write.  I can see an event that revealed a truth and gave meaning to my life.  I work the event trying to describe the emotions and challenges of just that day.  Just one day of my year of teaching in the inner city or one day in learning to live with a “permanent” roommate or one day of coping with my students' life of poverty,  physical and emotional illness, street fights , and daily hunger. 

 One day at a time at my computer is all I can manage.  One day turns into a week of writing, editing, and rewriting.  If I just wrote one page a day, my book would be 365 pages long.  It is amazing what just working day by day can achieve in writing or discovering my own perseverance.  
My novel dictates my thoughts and my schedule.  I must leave dishes unwashed, my calendar blank by saying no to lunches, shopping dates, or even visits with friends.  I know this is a season.  As my book progresses, so will autumn and winter.  I am learning to deflect less important activities and not waste time.  When I try to watch mindless TV, the critic within reminds me I am wasting myself as well. 
My critic is the most strenuous boss I have known.  His praise is nil.  His criticism is loud and screaming.  It is strange how he guilts me into “keep writing”; yet, he doesn’t think my writing is valuable. Sometimes my critic discourages me, but he doesn’t stop me.  

I know I am writing  this story from my soul.  My soul is eternal, so it knows no time or space.  My heart reminds me why I must write. My head uses its creative source to get it on paper.  So, with my soul, heart , and head I must continue.    

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Color Escape play date with God

                                                      Copyrighted art by Sandra Lee Baron

Color Escape Retreat

As evenings cool, we are aware there is change in the air.  To accentuate and celebrate this change, my retreat partner, Monique Jesiolowski and I have designed a Color Escape Retreat.
It will be held at the Retreat House in Quincy, IN. on October 7,8 and 9. Yes, three days and two nights without kids, without hubbies, without ringing telephones, or dirty dishes.  This is a time to use God’s colors to communicate with Him.  The ponds and woods will be lit with the colors of the season.  We will learn how to use color and imagery to focus our prayers as well as to remind us through the day to continue our petitions and praises.  We will meditate and learn new body prayers using scriptures. Monique has designed body prayers to Psalms.  Again, our goal is to give you a spiritual style to take home that will keep you focused on God through exercise and prayer all through your day.
We have a special guest, Kristin Inman.  She will be using the freshest bounty to create healthy and delicious meals.  Her cooking skills are magnificent.  Your taste buds will be on retreat too.
Sandi has some special watercolor washes to teach you.  Then, God will autograph them with His words from Scripture.  We will be creating with the Creator.  
The nights will be spent in the newly built Retreat House with comfortable beds, silky linens, and fluffy towels.  All these things will be provided for you.  We just need you.
If you register by September 23rd, we will offer you a discounted price.  If you have been to one of our retreats, we will give you fifty dollars off your fee if you bring a friend that has never experienced one of our inspirational workshops.
So, contact us, women who need rested and restored.  We are ready to reach, to stretch, to hike, to nap, to create, to pray, to just be as God intended us to be.  Come join us for a wonderful weekend on October 7,8, and 9.  The cost is $300 for lodging, food, creative supplies, and a serene landscape that will enable you to relax.  
Contact Sandi by email:  or 765-289-7049

Register at:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Queen Esther

copyrighted art by Betty Fraley
Queen Esther 


  I love the story of Esther as written in the Bible.  I am enchanted with her beauty, and her new found courage. Her heart is tied to her family roots, and their destiny is dependent on her.  It must have been difficult for Esther when suddenly the fate of her people was her responsibility. 

    The picture the Bible paints of Esther up to this moment is that she is a very compliant woman.  She was eager to please others.  Esther 2:19 explains that she continued to respect  Mordecai, her uncle who reared her, and follow his instructions even when she had become queen.  The picture I have always imagined was an uncertain young woman.  She was not mature and her beauty and sweet nature were her gifts.  She was timid and unsure of herself.  

    Through various circumstances, she was advanced to become the Queen of King Xerxes.  Esther had not told anyone her heritage.  Chapter four describes Esther’s time of stress.  When the king’s decree to destroy all Jews was published, Mordecai, like other Jews wept and wore sackcloths and mourned.  Haman, a high court official, had initiated this plan because he thought Mordecai had undeserved rewards.  Haman was determined to have revenge.  Because of the king's edict, Mordecai urged Esther to go to  Xerxes and beg mercy for her people.

The story continues with more stress, turns, and surprises.  I will share those in a later blog.  I just want to discuss Esther’s dilemma this week.

Many times I have felt unprepared for something God has asked of me. I, like Esther, did not have innate courage,or I didn’t think I did.  Then, God intervened and used circumstances, people, and timing to give me courage.  I was anxious and fearful to go  to Kazakhstan the first time. I worried about leaving my children and grandchild and never being allowed to return.  My heritage had taught me to fear Russians, and now God was asking me to go to their original land and share with their teachers some American strategies of education.  I didn’t feel prepared , and I didn’t know the language of the Kazakhs or the Russians.  God made the way.  The teachers I taught knew English.  I didn’t need to know their language; they knew mine.  I stayed in one of the Kazakhs' home and that family broke down any barriers I had about Russians and Kazakhs hating Americans. They extended the warmest hospitality I had ever received. God placed many translators in my path and made my way easy.  I just had to go. 

       Esther had to go to court without being summoned by the King. This was punishable by death.  She risked going because Mordecai instructed her to do this to save all Jews.  
Now, my issues were not as important or stressful as Esther’s.  Yet, I had to take a chance.  I too was a people pleaser, and I didn’t know the courage within until God gave me the opportunity to serve in a new capacity.  Both Esther and I were women, who knew what was required of us.  I learned from this Bible story a lesson  on how God cares for us.  He intervenes for us.  He is fully capable of what happens in our “real” world.  Because of Esther’s story, I knew God would make all provisions needed.  He did.  For this I am grateful.  Thank you Queen Esther for teaching me to trust and take that first step.  I knew God would take the second one.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Pureness of Simplicity

Copyrighted art work by Sandi Baron.  " The Bequeathed Barn"

    There are moments in my life that are cherished because I took time to stop and hear the sounds of the birds, feel the embrace of the breeze, or smell the scent of fresh cut hay.  Old barns call to me,
" Come sit by my side and take a moment to know yourself and the meaning of today."

    Another such pleasurable moment is when I slip under linens that have absorbed the sun and fresh air while drying on a clothes line. I am delighted when I see an Amish clothes line holding bright blue and black frocks.  I remember distinctly the clothes lines in Israel.  They were outside the apartment windows. I would look four stories up and there would hang colorful quilts outside the owner's window.  Clothes lines provide a visual amusement, simple but lasting.

    I enjoy singing and hearing a guitar or banjo player pluck favorite old tunes .  The rhyming words sung by the player invites all to sing.  In a pub in Ireland, I felt so welcome because of the minstrels and their Celtic melodies.  The musicians had no high tech sound systems or elaborate stages.  The Irish were passionate about their music, and this created happy hearts for those who listened and joined in the songs.  We became one with the music and the musician.

    Because of our explosion of technology and scientific discoveries, our society is convinced that something must be complex to be significant.  Our culture advocates that the more sophisticated the process, the better the product will be.  Our whole lives have become computerized.  We talk to answering services more than we talk with people.  Now, I respect the ability of a phone to do all that our smart phones can perform with their various apps.  I think that I Pads are convenient and quite nifty.  My computer is my best friend.  But, all these gadgets make our lives so busy that time passes quickly.  I can only stop time when I choose to enter into a simple act like singing or smelling fresh linens.
    The Bible uses "simplicity" to mean purity, sincerity, and generosity.  These things relate to our
soul. All have to do with singleness of our soul.  Paul feared the Corinthians' minds would be drawn away from the simplicity that is in Christ."  (2Corinthians 11:3)  In my technical world, I am afraid that I too may be drawn away.  I spend many hours writing, posting, reading blogs, and face book.  Google has become my leader and teacher.  Google finds me recipes, famous quotes, definitions, and lost friends. I could be isolated with my laptop and not even reach out to another living person.  That is truly being drawn from the simplicity of Christ.

    I must keep my heart guarded and my soul fresh as line dried laundry.  When I become blurry or confused , it is because I am seeing double.  I see and hear the world's direction and feel the tug of Christ simultaneously.  Then, I stop and singularly focus on Christ. I ask Him what I can do for Him this day.  I seek holiness.  My Creator has put holiness into my soul.  I just need His presence to activate what is within.  My goal is to know God in everyday experiences.  He matters.  His direction keeps me directed.  Just like the Celtic singers engulfed me in their music, God engages me in His word, His presence, and His direction.  I am refreshed by the simple act of sitting with God .