Glad you stopped by on this blog. I hope you enjoy what you read and would love for you to leave a comment. Helpful suggestions are welcomed. If there is anything I can do to help you, please e-mail me @ anitawriter7@ yahoo.com

Friday, September 28, 2018

Nothing to Fear

I sat in the parking lot of the Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie and my car wouldn’t start. My phone had just died and there wasn’t anyone I knew around the area. I didn’t exactly panic, but became anxious. I grew increasingly annoyed as I tried several times to get the engine to turn over. What could I do? I said a hasty prayer and tried turning on my phone. It responded! I immediately called roadside assistance and hoped that it would connect me before the phone turned off. I was nervous because there’s always so much info to input before you got a person. On top of it, this company wanted me to do it all on-line to pinpoint my location. I prayed a little more fervently. My phone didn’t die and I got through. Now to wait for the call back. I phoned home just in case by some miracle my husband would pick up. NO such luck. I texted my friends that the writer’s meeting at my house would be delayed. A friend offered to come and get me, but I declined. I needed to be with the car.

I awaited the tow company’s phone call. About a half an hour passed and still no tow truck. Finally, it showed up. The service man tried jumping it with his special battery pack. NO go. I got worried. Oh no. What will happen next? The dealership is so far and they’ll change me and arm and a leg! It turned out that they did have to tow the car all the way to Kingston. The tow guy said it was probably the starter. Of course, the warranty had just run out and I had just paid off the car this month, but I refused to get depressed. The guy was very nice and offered to drive me to a diner where I could wait for a ride. My friend Evelyn rushed over to pick me up and we had dinner together. In the end it all turned out well, though I had some anxious and fearful moments at that time.
           Fear. It can hold you in its grip if you let it. We’re all subject to it and the slew of anxieties that result from its wake. Since God is our creator, He understands our weakness to give into fear. Concerned, He has encouraged us over three hundred times in the Bible, “Do not fear.” You could easily argue, easier said than done. After all, He’s God. Yet the Almighty goes further to assure us why we don’t need to fear

          Here are a few scriptures that God gives us reasons why we don’t need to let fear have the upper hand. Do not fear because:

            God will be with you. Joshua 1:9

God will be with you and strengthen you. Isaiah 41:10

God knows everything ahead of time. Isaiah 44: 8

God has redeemed you and will protect you. Isaiah 43:1

God has given us the kingdom. Luke 12:32

God gives us peace unlike the world knows. John 14:27

If we can get a hold of that fear, face it head on and proclaim faith in God to work it all out for good, we’re well on our way to conquering fear. If we can believe in a few of the hundreds of promises His Word offers us, we will begin the journey of trusting and   overcoming fear. If we can look fear in the face and tell it. “You’re a liar," then our false beliefs about ourselves, God and our circumstances will fall away like dead leaves.
I encourage you today to get into the Word of God and mine the treasures of His promises. One of my favorites is “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Fear eats away at faith and your mind, so don’t entertain it for long. Call on the Lord to help you.  Alongside this verse is another powerful one I quote in fearful circumstances. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Nobody can overcome God or His plans. Just contemplate that and fear will run away, so you don't have to. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Ode to Erica in B Flat Minor

This week I lost a beloved colleague, which really impacted me. I wasn't sure if I wanted to put it on-line, but I think it has some merit for others. This is for all of you have experienced such loss. I'll let the poem speak for itself.
                   Ode to Erica in B Flat Minor
Today I heard the awful news announcing—
            Your concerto was extinguished.

It took my breath away.
            How can this be?

I won’t hear your violet voice anymore
 or see your honey smile.
Your brilliant eyes won’t shine anymore.

You won’t come up to me excited about the new artist supplies
              you snagged for a song.

You won’t plan with me anymore.
Hispanic paper bag ponchos or festive decorations
                    for the children’s concerts, now in your fall.
Directing our young “scholars” onto chorus risers
                                                                      in the gymnasium no more.

Your soul mate on piano,
                    accompanying squeaking violins and plucking guitars
                                                                  No more.

You won’t greet me in the hallway with flowing dresses and silver-grey hair
              Shining in the light like an angel.

You won’t make any decadent chocolate desserts and cheese cakes anymore.
No more cranberry muffins you gave me the recipe for,
No more pastries, cookies and chef specialties anymore.
You won’t lay out a feast made for a king anymore.

How can I bear not to see or hear you in the hall?
            I wish you would have told me before

                         what was really going on
                         as you wasted away, and
                                                                     slipped away from us.

How could I be so blind?

                          A colleague said you were happier now.

Why can’t I feel that way this time?
Why can’t I see you in heaven?
I’ve seen others before.
Perhaps sorrow covers my eyes like a veil.

I hope and pray you are dancing with the angels, 
                      Shining bright like the stars of heaven.

When I lay my head down for my final rest,
I hope to see your smiling face and hear your lilting island voice
                            singing in the chorus, I pray. 
Baking exquisite cakes for the King of Kings.

Maybe you’ll be organizing the African piano cadre or the 
            Mexican Hat Dance?
If so, I’ll clap my hands with you.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

I've Got Brain Damage, So What's Your Excuse?

This week, I hosted Janet Johnson Schliff, the author of What Ever Happened to My White Picket Fence. She addressed our writer’s group, and I was impressed by her ease of communication and all the materials she brought with her, especially the placards with witty sayings. My favorite was OCD: Obsessive Chocolate Disorder of which I am plagued with. The crux of her story is that Ms. Schliff suffered a massive brain tumor, the size of an orange, for almost twenty years. Standing before us, she didn’t appear to have a brain injury because of her fluent and sometimes verbose conversation, but she explained that this is part of the problem. Looks can be deceiving. Even after a number of years since the operation to remove the brain tumor, she still suffers from memory loss, fits of anger over small issues, misinterpreting or having little tolerance for people’s criticisms and so forth. She also gets easily overwhelmed because of processing everything around her, but our small group made her comfortable, as well as my dog because she owns one for emotional support.

Though Ms. Schliff is witty and engaging, her book, What Ever Happened to My White Picket Fence, recounts her struggle with and the encroaching effects of a brain tumor that slowly grew undetected by doctors and eventually disabled her over a twenty-year period. Once an award-winning special education teacher, she had to give up her beloved career.  Janet developed a dastardly disease, Mysophobia, which made her very fearful of germs so that she couldn’t be out in public without many precautions. This eventually led to her acquiring an Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) along with other physical and emotional disorders. 

Yet the focus of Janet's talk that day was for writers and how to promote your writing and your book. Ms. Schliff has taken a very different approach then what is espoused in many seminars. Though she works to do something every day in promoting her book, she does not use social media at all. Her publisher place it on Amazon and she does not promote it through them. She prefers the personal touch because her team of doctors highly recommend that she does not use computers as she can’t deal with so much information. She contacts people in person—librarians, doctors, editors, pastors, friends, businesses, newspapers, radio announcers etc. It’s amazing how well connected she has become. It all started with an article about her in a local newspaper, The Daily Freeman. An editor saw her story and offered to help her write it, which she wrote out longhand, without the use of a computer!

Since its publication in 2017, the book has sold out on Amazon seven times and also in numerous bookstores in the Hudson Valley. At a speaking engagement at Barnes and Nobles, they had to keep bringing more chairs for people to listen to her presentation and towards the end there was standing room only! The manager of B&N stated that no other author has ever had more people in attendance. Many librarians have told her she had the best presentation they’ve ever heard. One of them even cried, touched by her story and her book. It is very moving.

As Ms. Schliff  was addressing a group of writers, she included many tips—keep index cards handy for story  ideas, always carry a journal, keep pen and paper on your nightstand in case you get an inspirational thought, use post it notes for short ideas, call yourself an leave a message when you’re out and about to record noteworthy incidents, speak at community centers, bookstores, libraries, research agencies and groups that your book/story addresses, keep your book fresh in people’s mind and do something every day to promote your writing. For a newbie, she had some great ideas!

While Janet has slowly recovered, she still has many after effects of the tumor, but she attests to God aiding her healing. Though she wrestled with many issues, such as relationships, having to terminate her career, anger issues etc, she is learning to accept, move on and spread some kindness to others. Janet hopes that her book illustrates that a little bit of kindness goes a long, long way. She left us with two thoughts. One witticism that she had printed on one of her t-shirts, I’ve Got Brain Damage, So What’s Your Excuse? The other profound, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” She gave us a lot to think about. So, what’s your excuse for not implementing your ideas?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Unforgettable Gifts From Ireland

When my daughter and I decided to take a trip to Ireland, I didn’t really know what to expect because I knew very little about the country other than the Potato Famine, The problems between the Catholics and Protestants and the pubs of Dublin. While all of those are important facts, Ireland has so much more to offer than I expected. In Dublin I learned a little more about the history of Ireland and the contention between the Catholics and Protestants being more than just religion, but cultural and political. I was surprised to learn that Ireland had enjoyed unprecedented economic growth in the 1990’s to mid 2000’s, though there was a sharp decline afterwards. Not being one for a lot of boring details, I’ll leave that discussion for the history buffs. What I learned and experienced goes far beyond that.

In the seven days that we journeyed from the East coast to the West I fell in love with Ireland: its dramatic landscape, lovely people, complex history, Irish music and most surprising of all, its delicious food and drink. Dublin educated me about Ireland’s roots being steeped in Viking and Gaelic cultures as well as its Christianizing influences initiated by St. Patrick, but not limited to his influence.

After the tour, my daughter and I explored the city for our selves and enjoyed our first pint of Guinness at the only Victorian style bar, Ryans, which was a nice refresher.  Afterwards we set out for St. Patrick’s cathedral and enjoyed a dinner of fish and chips on the lawn. I saw how our St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City was modeled after this original one, while history oozed from its stones. I purchased a medal with St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer on the back: 
One important attraction I planned to see was the Book of Kells located at the historic Trinity College in Dublin It did not disappoint. Built in, the college itself boasted classic European architecture and design. The exhibit was thoughtfully laid out in progression as you wound through cobbled stone rooms illustrating the various pages and books alongside informative text. As you approached the actual Book of Kells, light box replicas of the pictures filled the walls. The process for making the paper and the book’s hardbound cover was explained as well as the binding methods. As you approached the interior rooms, the various stones used for producing the different colored inks were displayed. When I finally arrived and saw the actual pages, I nearly cried. I couldn’t believe I was looking at this ancient text and illuminated manuscript from around 800 A.D. The open page from one of the four gospels was brilliantly illustrated. My heart leapt for joy!

After the tour, my daughter and I explored the city for our selves and enjoyed our first pint of Guinness at the only Victorian style bar, Ryans. It was refreshing after a long walk. After a brief stop at Stephen's Park we headed for St. Patrick’s cathedral and enjoyed a dinner of fish and chips on the lawn. I saw how our St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City was modeled after this original one, while history oozed from its stones. I purchased a medal with St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer on the back which is a powerful statement: 
“Christ be with me, Christ within me. Christ behind me. Christ before me. Christ beside me. Christ to win me. Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me. Christ above me. Christ in quiet. Christ in danger. Christ in hearts of all that love me. Christ in mouth of friend and danger.”

Later that evening, my heart was set on hearing some traditional Irish music at a typical pub and we discovered Whelan's. I don’t usually drink or go to bars, but I wanted to see what Dublin’s pubs were all about. I thoroughly enjoyed the fiddle, flutes, drums, friendly people and Irish accents. Anyone who knows me will understand it took a lot of self-control not to get up and dance! Just one of the good things Ireland gave me. A lighter look at life and a little more restraint.
Though our tour of Dublin was brief, it left me feeling fulfilled and with a deeper insight into Ireland—its history, struggles and its people looking for a bit of fun, craic as they call it! As we ventured out onto the roads in our rented car, my daughter soon discovered how narrow, twisty and completely blinding the secondary roads of Ireland can be. My heart was in my throat that first day as my daughter gripped the steering wheel, and I prayed the entire time that we wouldn’t meet any stupid Americans driving on the right side of the road! We almost did, but they were Irish and God spared our lives. The gardens of Powerscourt Estate, and the little town of Glenmalure were our first destinations. They were magical to me, with their castles and beautiful gardens, small winding roads sweeping with tall grasses and wildflowers, pastures dotted with sheep and family style pubs. The Wicklow Mountains with thier stone peaks and emerald slopes of a glacier valley intoxicated me with their beauty. I fell in love with the landscape instantly.

I began to truly understand why the Irish have such longing in their hearts and ballads for their songs. The countryside and many lochs woo them never to forget, but the mists and the ocean spray make it a hazy dream like experience. Though many dreams were dashed the Irish had a comeback as I mentioned earlier. A century after the potato famine destroyed a million lives, Ireland enjoyed a time of great prosperity, which they call the Celtic Tiger. There was far less poverty than I thought there would be and a lot more progress, though I’m a romantic and love the little whitewashed cottages. 

The people I met who live in Ireland love their country and their land. All in all, I found the Irish to be kind and gentle, “not a problem at tall.” The humility they suffered at the hands of poverty, and the oppression they endured shaped not only a strong people who did what they could to survive, but a humble nature. Not that they are perfect, far from it. They have been known for their pubs and heavy drinking. They also had violent clashes between the Protestants and Catholics, but they seem to be gentler now that they are separated into Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The younger generation is more tolerant, though they do consider themselves Northern Irish if they live in that region. However, despite some of their flaws, I fell in love with the Irish people, both young and o
On the way back from a walk on the Burren, a rock covered stretch of 60 miles along the
Wild Atlantic, my daughter and I stopped at a restaurant/pub that was packed with a long wait. My daughter asked if we could sit at the bar and so we did. The fish I ordered was so fresh with a delicious balsamic, beet sauce and sea chowder was better than any I’ve ever had in Maine!  The quality of the food and their amazing tasting dishes was my biggest surprise. From buttery, melt in your mouth croissants and scones to lamb stew, fresh fish, mussels and oysters.
Though I’m not a fan of the last, the mussels were soft and delectable. According to what I read, the Irish had a real revolution in their thinking towards food from mere substance to a pleasurable experience. In the economic upturn, there was a lot of French cuisine, but now the Irish have taken to using their own fresh food items and creating their own unique sauces. The lamb stew with mashed potatoes had a wonderfully seasoned sauce as well as the mutton. It just made the whole experience much more enjoyable and I fell in love with the food. As an aside, while we were at the pub a very old grey-haired lady was escorted to a table next to us. Everyone greeted her and catered to her wants. It touched me and my daughter so to see how much she was respected and it was one of those aha moments that encapsulated my changing view of the Irish people and helped me fall more in love with them.

So in exchange for my time journeying though Ireland, she gave me several gifts—an appreciation for its great natural beauty, seeing the hand of God in its making, the awe and splendor of its land, an appreciation for the people’s kindness and hospitality, a deeper understanding of their love for their country, the enjoyment of the creative spark of lilting music and ballads full of longing and whoa. The dance in their hearts with a limerick in their spirit and an ancient history in its Medieval castles, completed the package. It was just my luck and the providence of God that opened up a whole new world and gifted me with Ireland!

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Father Knows Best

So many people today are floundering, searching for meaning and purpose or looking for direction and self-fulfillment. I get it. Back in the 70’s I was on that same track. Lost in the world of “doing your own thing,” I sought happiness in the things the world had to offer and landed in a big mess. It all started with the lie that you need to find yourself. At the time I thought that was the right course. I didn’t know that God had the ability to teach me what is best for me and direct me in the way I should go (Isaiah 48: 18).

Listening to my own inner being, I “lost” myself in seeking adventures, traveling, getting high and having fun. At the ripe age of nineteen I set out with my Geodesic dome building, hippy boyfriend to India. He made it there and crashed and burned in six weeks with a severe case of dysentery, which brought him stateside. I didn’t go seeking the holy guru but stayed in Europe and wandered the land by EuRail, hitchhiking, staying in hostels and backpacking through Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Holland, Spain and Greece. I joined the hundreds of other seekers as we traversed the planet experimenting with Tarot cards, numerology, astrology, Eastern mysticism and mind-altering drugs. We sought the pleasures of island life in Ibiza, lived in a cave in the Canary Islands and visited a hash farm in Morocco as a Spanish senorita. Yet I grew discontent and lonely, but I had no idea why. I had no clue that His Son said, Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:19)” I wanted to grab life and explore all it had to offer.
Though I had known Jesus as a child, I din’t accept him as my Savior and therefore, I didn’t have the Holy Spirit to enlighten me on spiritual matters and give me the power to resist “the pull of the World.” So, I continued in my sin. I changed my major to art, simply because I started doing sculptures and a friend told me how great SUNY New Paltz was for art. I got out of the hick town college I was attending and moved to the “enlightened” college town. There I met a dreamer like me and moved in with him. When that relationship crashed, I went down into a sink hole. Everything that I thought this progressive lifestyle would offer me, turned to dust. Ironically, two years later my no longer a boyfriend invited me to a Christian meeting on campus. After and few months I became a believer. I realized that God the Father was the one true God and Jesus Christ was indeed His Son.

Though “New Age” philosophy had promised me peace and joy, I didn’t find it until Jesus Christ entered my life. He immediately delivered me from the path of destruction I had traversed, and slowly lifted me out of my depression. I began to read the Bible and that’s where I began to understand the plan God had for me and for others. Knowing Jesus brought great enlightenment, peace and joy. Though I balked at times about His way of doing things, I learned that the “Father knows best.”

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Resting in God's Grace

This summer I’ve been praying about what God wants to teach me. So far, one verse has come to mind. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Those who know me understand that being still and doing nothing is very hard for me. I’m a type A person and I like to accomplish my goals. I usually have a goal list set up for the summer, but I’ve felt that this summer is to be different, which it has been. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a lot of fun things, but I’ve also rested in the Lord a lot more than usual.

Since I love to garden, I’ve had to pull out quite a number of weeds this year because of all the unusual sunshine we’ve been having here in the Northeast.  As I’ve been working, I feel that Jesus also wants to pull out some weeds in my own life. I’ve been asking Him to show me what they are. I know busyness is one of them. During the school year, I felt like a marathon runner on a never-ending treadmill; I daily called out for God’s strength and grace(Song  from Laura Story), which He supplied.

The year was very challenging in other ways too, filled with many art projects and emotionally needy children. I know that God now wants me to rest in Him—reading, praying and listening for His gentle voice, but it’s difficult after a year of non-stop going. You get into the habit of always doing. Yet I know this is what God wants for me. The challenge is to allow Him to slow me down in this fast paced, goal-oriented society. I can get so caught up in doing things rather than just being a child of God.

It’s been a struggle, this resting and doing “nothing.” I didn’t make my goal list for the summer or start a big writing project. Once I got through this cloud of ceaseless activity, I felt released from a great pressure to perform and allowed God to simply love me the way I am. and help me to relax. It’s had a healing effect on both my body and mind. My hands are recovering from doing a lot of work and my mind is more at peace.

Though it is a rest from human activity, it can be a time to allow God to probe your inner man and show you areas that need to change. For some this can be frightening, setting them on a path to doing things to change. Yet God has revealed to Me it’s more about surrendering and allowing His grace to transform us.

God showed me that I was able to appropriate His amazing grace to get through a busy year, but that I also need to utilize grace in the more restful times. In the beginning of the summer, I purchased the very popular book by Phillip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace. Though I haven’t started it, I think God is revealing its message to Me through other means. Today, I came upon the online devotion from First 15, "The Simplicity of Grace." It spoke volumes to me about what God is trying to show Me. He’s done it all for us! We can rest in His work of reconciliation and forgiveness. We do not need to prove ourselves to God. What we do for God should be born out of our love for Him and what He has done for us! This is so freeing.

God’s love and grace go hand and hand. They bring such freedom to our spirit and soul. They help us to rest wherever and whatever we’re doing—in the middle of a difficult situation, at home or at church, with friends or family and even enemies! I think that God’s grace may pour down more abundantly when we are confronting darkness, though it is ever present even in times of blessing.

Today, many American Christians are faced with this same dilemma—to rely on God’s grace and rest in Him during a time of prosperity. Often prosperity tends to makes us more self-reliant, so the challenge for us in our business and success is to continue in His grace and rest from our own good works.  How about you?

I’d love to hear about your experiences with resting in God and His grace! Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Ths Significance of Birth Names

Thirty- two years ago a very sweet and gentle child was birthed into our lives. My labor was the easiest of all three and even surprised my friend who accompanied me while my husband hoped to get to the hospital to witness the birth. He arrived just in the nick of time to see his beautiful daughter born. We held her in our arms in awe, so calm in comparison to our feisty son! When it came to naming her, we have an interesting story behind her three names, Mara Lynn Elizabeth.

One early afternoon about two weeks before my due date I went for a walk up the road and sat down by a gurgling brook. I wanted to pray about the birthing process since my first labor had been very long and painful. As I sat on a rock a distinct impression came into my mind. You’re carrying a girl, not a boy. This was before gender relevel parties, and I was shocked. I had already chosen an unusual boy name, Moses, and had not looked for any other. My first son’s name was Aaron and I thought the two would make a dynamic team for the Lord. Not only did this revelation coma to me, but a gentle voice spoke to me, “Name her Mara.” Mara, I thought. I never heard the name before. I immediately got up and walked briskly back home, contemplating the revelation.

I went right to the baby name book and discovered Mara means bitter. Bitter, I declared! No way am I going to name my baby girl bitter. I told my husband and he said to pray about it. I did. I looked up the story in the Bible associated with the name, and interestingly it involved Moses. When the people got to the bitter waters of Meribah (the name Mara is derived from this), he threw in a stick and the waters became sweet. That’s it, I thought. She will be a sweet child to soothe any bitterness away. Yet I wanted a name associated with water to confirm this. I found it, Lynn, which means cascade of waters. Perfect!

When I went into labor and held my baby girl in my arms I wasn’t so sure about the name. I didn’t want her to be called Marilyn. We waited for three days to name her. The nurse came in and nudged us. My husband thought that if God told me to name the baby Mara, we should! So, we decided it would be best to name her Mara, but then my husband also wanted to add another name, Elizabeth. It was the name of his sweet sister and had many good associations. Elizabeth was also the mother of John. So, her name became Mara Lynn Elizabeth Estes. It reminded me of the name Miriam, the sister of Moses, who was drawn from the water.

Some people wondered why we gave her two middle names. Though it was a mouthful, I knew the reason why. Of course, one of our friends misinterpreted the name and thought we were bitter over having a girl, but that was so far from the truth! She turned out to be a very sweet little girl, gentle and contemplative! God knew it all beforehand. Isn’t that just like Him!