Rainy Day Writing

                 While looking through some papers of things I had written in the past, I discovered a piece of notebook paper dated 6/25/2019.  On it was the description of a dream.  The page underneath it was a dream I recorded on 6/28/2019.  It read, “I had a dream. Oscar was whole, and we were happy.”  I burst into tears.  I remember this dream vividly.  I thought it was a message of hope that although my husband appeared to be debilitating, he would somehow miraculously recover.  Six months and two days after recording this dream, my husband died in a hospital ICU on a ventilator.  He had contracted pneumonia again and, with his other health conditions, would not recover.  A part of me believes it was COVID-19 related even though COVID-19 was not yet an identified diagnosis.  At any rate, my husband left me that day.  I am grateful that the night before coming to the hospital, our last words to each other were, “I love you,” the last words I would ever hear him say.

                I held out every hope that by some miracle, my husband would fully recover from every ailment and raise from his sickbed whole and complete, a testimony to the power of our God.  Alas, that was not our reality.  On December 26, 2019, I said goodbye to my husband and partner of twenty-six years.  He had fought long and hard, and the toil was evident.  I believe in Jesus, who raised people from the dead, yet my husband died.  I also believe in a Christ who welcomes those who wish to return to their true home of origin after completing their earthly assignment. 

                Oscar lived a vibrant life.  One of the doctors who treated him in the ICU during his final days explained that although his chronological age was sixty-seven, his body showed the age of someone over age one-hundred.  All of that was not the result of sickness and disease.  It resulted from a man determined to accomplish all he was sent to earth to do and believed that he only had a short time to do it.  I am amazed how he extracted one hundred years worth of life out of sixty-seven.  I imagine he was tired.

                As I reflect on some of our conversations regarding the goals and desires my husband wanted for his life, I can honestly attest that he saw them come to pass.  He wanted to join the army and be a hero.  He joined the military and received a commendation for service and an honorable discharge.  He wanted to be what he described as a “good man” and be a husband and father.  He accomplished that twice, even raising children that were not biologically his.   Being a believer in God and serving Jesus was not something Oscar bragged about but demonstrated in his willingness to help others and his refusal to turn a blind eye to injustice.  When his mother refused to allow him to march with other students in downtown Birmingham during the Civil Rights Movement,  he worked to register people to vote.  In a former coal mining community where many people were renovating the houses they rented from the coal company, Oscar built his own home from the ground.  He endeavored to seek higher education and graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a Bachelor of Science degree in Art Education.  With this degree, he served the students of several Birmingham City Schools as an art teacher.  Full of life and faith, Oscar made others laugh, see life for the joy that it could be, and counseled many to stay the course. He often recounted how he believed God had called him to preach, but he did not want to do that.  Never donning a pulpit, Oscar delivered a message of faith in God through his love for people and his desire to see everyone do well.   I imagine that in his final days as he lay in that hospital bed, Oscar recounted the events of his life and was satisfied with what he had accomplished.  And with that and God’s inviting approval, he left.

                Now Oscar is whole and happy.  His life on earth was complete, and he took up a great deal of space in mine.  I miss him dearly.  When I think of him, I remember how he loved life and lived it to the full, true to his authenticity; his only competition was himself.  Each stage of his life saw him evolve into a glorious human being.  He elevated others, and God promoted him.  Today and for all eternity, Oscar is whole and happy.  Although we are not together today and for all eternity, I am complete and determined to be happy.

This Time of Mourning

            My friend died from COVID-19 pneumonia and other complications.  She turned thirty-eight years old in February while in ICU on a ventilator.  She is not the only person I love to die from this deadly plague. Several relatives, ranging in age from teenager to elder, have transitioned from this earth during the last few months, some from COVID-19, others from various other diseases.  All of them are beloved. 

            I believe that to die is not to cease to live.  Death is a vehicle to transport the spirit from one area of existence to another.  Those I love who have died are now in the ancestral plane, more alive than they have ever been, without pain, disease, or the stress associated with life on earth.  They are free indeed.  Agony is the term I use to describe the task of adjusting to their absence.  Simultaneously, gratitude and joy sometimes flood my soul as I remember how each one enhanced my life. 

            This time of pandemic and unrest in the United States has caused many to experience anxiety.  I am no exception.  It started with my “skin crawling” uncontrollably.  After several weeks in therapy, the crawling ceased. Later there were “knots in the stomach” that still show up from time to time.  On some days, I find myself grinding my teeth.  The urge to cry and the occasional loss of appetite visit also. 

            I long for the comfort of my mother, my father’s strength, and the support of my husband.  I feel like an orphan set adrift in the expanse of the ocean.  Connections seem impossible yet; I keep seeking.  I keep praying and pouring myself out to God without pretense or posturing.  Learning to listen intently for God’s voice and accepting the grace God offers has become a high endeavor.

            While I feel undone, I do not feel as though I am falling apart.  There is an examination taking place on the deepest parts of me.  From thoughts to words, to actions, every component is surveyed and set right where necessary.  This process is exhaustingly challenging and essential.  Learning theory teaches us that learning takes place at the point of disequilibrium or frustration.  So, what am I learning in this process? 

            I am learning that above all else, God requires that I be my authentic self.  I have spent many years attempting to be what I thought God wanted me to be, only to discover that God wanted me to be me.  The song “Yes, Jesus Loves Me” takes on a new meaning.  Jesus loves me, disheveled, disconcerted, discombobulated.  I do not need to have it all together.  That discovery is freedom.

            Through grief and disappointments, my heart is tender for others. Compassion is replacing judgmental thought and words.  The world is more than what I see around me.  My prayers are on a more global scale as I realize that what I am experiencing now, some others have experienced, and worse, their entire lifetime.  Prayers spring forth for those who never have enough to eat.  My heart wrenches for young children who have been left orphaned by pestilence and war.  Everyday things that I took for granted and thought were my right, like indoor plumbing, have become moments of worship and supplication.  The urging to pray awakens me from my sleep and presses me throughout the day. 

            Reflection, rediscovery, and reset are the order of the day. Some firmly held thoughts are undergoing restructuring.  New paradigms are replacing old thought patterns.  Marvelous people with diverse ways of knowing and understanding have entered my life.  God is universal, and the Divine is divine. 

            Mourning continues but not without purpose.  Mourning offers the opportunity to remember the expressions of love that are no longer earthly tangible.  Mourning evokes an appreciation for time spent together. In mourning, we find tears and laughter.  We discover sadness and song.  Mourning may be in darkness, but therein also resides The Light.

Sitting With Loneliness

                For the last few days, loneliness has come to keep company with me.  Loneliness just sits and says nothing but its presence is unnerving.  Loneliness is an unfamiliar visitor to me.  I have never really sat with it before.  I grew up in a large family.  I have five brothers and sisters and a host of cousins.  We all grew up together so there was always someone to play with and to talk to.  I got married and for a while, we lived with my family.  My oldest son was born in the house where I grew up and it was full.  When we moved out, I was working so there were people around and then our little family was together.  After the divorce, I moved back to my parent’s house and my youngest was born.  We moved out, from the “woods” to the city, where I taught school and had my sons to care for.  When I remarried our families blended and that house was full.  The children began to leave, yet there was still Oscar and I and work.

            When Oscar became too ill to live at home alone, I retired and came home to care for him.  Though I dreadfully missed the hustle and bustle of school and the clamoring of children, I did not feel lonely because my full attention was dedicated to caring for Oscar.  During that time our love grew exponentially, though it was one of the most challenging times of both our lives.  I was always busy doing things for him or thinking about and planning the things that needed to be done.

            The passing of my mother left a gaping hole in my heart that I have yet to find the words to adequately express.  Her passing was sudden and unexpected, though quiet and peaceful.  The necessity to remain focused on caring for Oscar, whose health was beginning to debilitate, caused me to compartmentalize my mother’s death and set it to the side.  There was no long period of mourning and consequently little time to “fall apart,” a somewhat necessary event at the death of one’s mother.  Later that same year when Oscar died I found myself grieving him and my mother simultaneously.  I am thankful for my strong faith in God and my therapist.

            Getting therapy was one of the best decisions I have made in my entire life.  Trying to navigate grief is difficult, to say the least.  Navigating grief amid a global pandemic as you are aware of the hundreds of thousands of people who have died, six of which are your family members who all died within a period of two months is a pain that I can only describe as excruciating.  So, today as I am writing this, I am sitting in the unwelcomed presence of loneliness. 

            Just like many other people, I hate the unfamiliar.  Whenever I have had to enter an unfamiliar situation, whether the first day of college, the first day of work, the birth of my firstborn, I experience a time of profuse crying.  Disequilibrium grips my brain and I seemingly fall apart.  I have come to realize however that this is the process my mind uses to wash my soul of fear and allow courage to enter.  Today is one of those days.  Loneliness has come for a visit and because it is unfamiliar to me my first response to its arrival was to cry.  Now, that I recognize it, although I find it a horrid guest, I refuse to turn from it.  And though I do not necessarily want to offer it a cup of coffee, I am willing to sit with it and learn whatever it has come to teach me.  Now that I have identified what it is by calling it by name, I am not afraid because I realize that it has come to give me further insight into the path ahead. 

            What does this have to do with LIFE – Living Inspired Free Enthusiastic?  Well, avoiding the unpleasant things that come into our presence will cause us to simply go around in circles.  The disequilibrium our mind experiences, if not resolved, will cause our thought processes to circle down into worry, complaining, and even depression.  Those are not good ingredients for LIFE.   However, identifying and recognizing even the most horrible experiences as a part of your present reality unleashes the mental power to move forward step-by-step towards resolution.  A balanced mind is a joyful mind.  Joy will always result in inspiration, freedom, and enthusiasm.  So, do not run from unpleasant, scary feelings like loneliness.  Face them.  Sit with them.  Learn from them.  Be healthy.  Be whole. Live LIFE.

The Gifts of Fasting and Prayer

21 Testimonies of 42 Days of Fasting and Prayer

In December 2020 our pastor, Rev. Dr. Tyree Anderson, called the church to a 21-day period of fasting and prayer in preparation for the approaching new year.  I have learned through the years that fasting as a discipline is most effective for my spiritual and intellectual growth when I fast “to” something in addition to fasting “from” something.  I decided that one of the areas I needed to enhance was my ability to speak to people with words that build up in opposed to words that tear down.  I set out to speak only words that edify.  I was not at all surprised when many days I had little to say.  It is amazing how easy it is to speak words that serve to hinder people.  In addition to fasting, our pastor gave us a list of scriptures to read and specific things to pray.  Afterwards, I found that this time in prayer and fasting enhanced my ability to see the world around me in a different, more truthful light.  It also aided in my ability to effectively communicate with my adult children, who often report that I am not good at listening to them and that my words are often harsh.  Holy Spirit continues this work in my life.

                In January 2021 a mentor, Rev. Dr. Kris Erskine called a fast for his church as well as “The MoveMent,” a group of believers who meet each morning via a variety of social media platforms to believe God for two things “the Radical and the Ridiculous.”  I joined the fast with a decision to fast from sugar and fast to better physical health.  Along with this fast there was Bible teaching and prayer each morning.  I have followed the MoveMent since it began.  This time however the teaching was deeper and stouter, challenging us to grow up.  It was as Dr. Erskine loves to say, “Phenomenal!”  At the completion of the fast, the participants were asked to submit a list of 21 testimonies of how God has worked in our lives during this time of fasting and prayer.  Below are mine.

  1. I published my first children’s book entitled, Yes, Junior.  Available at Amazon.com
  2. My youngest son got a new job.
  3. My oldest son developed and attitude of helpfulness.
  4. I got some unexpected money.
  5. I completed grief counseling (last meeting will be February 6, 2021).
  6. I learned to drink black coffee which is much more beneficial to my health.
  7. No one in my house, nor any of my siblings, nor any of their children have contracted COVID-19.
  8. I began journaling using the guided journal Self-Love NOT Self-Loathing by Dr. Dimple J. Martin.
  9. I am experiencing more happy, joyful moments that sad ones.
  10. I am eating practically no meat.
  11. My ear is more opened to hearing the truth.
  12. I am developing the capacity to not force my way, but to allow Holy Spirit to make the way.
  13. I am becoming more politically and socially aware.
  14. Began studying for the Praxis in Educational Leadership to renew my certification.
  15. My appetite for unhealthy food stuff has further diminished.
  16. I have earned some money on some investments.
  17. I am experiencing greater assurance that God is working on my behalf.
  18. I am gaining a better understanding of what it means to believe in Jesus.
  19. I am near the completion of another book project.
  20. I am being delivered form the desire to engage in unfruitful arguments.
  21. I am learning to be honest with God and people.

As we approach the Lenten season, our pastor has instructed us to begin to think and pray about what we will fast from as we prepare to celebrate the life of Jesus by remembering his death and resurrection.  I believe I will fast from unhealthy practices by fasting to a more consistent exercise routine.  I need my body to be stronger so that it is fit to carry out the upcoming work that will be assigned to me. 

I have learned that fasting and prayer are wonderful gifts that make the mind and body alert and energized.  In addition to these assigned times of fasting and prayer I also engage in intermittent fasting which I began as a treatment for diabetes.  I am determined to be all that God has created me to be and to accomplish all that God has assigned to me.  That is LIFE – Living Inspired Free Enthusiastic!

To Whom Do I Matter

LIFE Requires That You Love Yourself First

                During these times of isolation and irritation many are seeking to understand to whom they matter.  Times are stressful and people are tightening their circles of friends and influencers. Social media sites are filled to with comments of people “cutting people off.” People are evaluating the significance of each relationship in which they are involved.  Trust issues are rising as instincts move toward self-preservation.  Still others do not seem to be concerned with their own preservation or the preservation of anyone else as they flaunt their bare faces in public, declaring their right to be free from mask wearing and social distancing.

                Things are weird.  People are dying slow, painful deaths alone in hospitals and nursing facilities.  Others have not been outside their homes for months and long for the accustomed visits from friends and loved ones.  Media stories giving conflicting information, render sound decisions difficult to make.  Those who thought they would live forever have come face to face with their mortality, sometimes questioning how they have lived their lives thus far and how they can live better if the future is granted to them. 

                Life has become a rollercoaster of change.  Up, down, twist, turn, loop the loop; what we rely on as facts change with the blink of an eye.  As soon as we are sure of the right thing to do, news reports inform us that we must do something different.  In this great time of tossing and shifting many people are finding it troublesome to hold on to familiar bonds.  Simply trying to survive the arduous stress of these times has left some so tiringly exhausted that they lack the vigor necessary to maintain relationships.

                These times have left and will leave many alone and without connections on which they have learned to depend.  Death has invaded many families, violently taking away loved ones that members refer to as “the rock,” or the “backbone,” of the family.  Financial strain has caused husbands, wives and lovers who swore their love was unbreakable to trade partnership for separation and disregard.  One is easier to feed than two or three or five. 

                Many are alone, afraid, distressed, anxious and unhappy.  They are in crisis.  Yet, there is good news.  Although crisis is a time of disaster and calamity, it is also a time of opportunity.   Times of crisis can serve as a catalyst that help you to realize your own value and your inner ability to not only survive crisis but to thrive at life.   This time is perfect for self-examination; not to figure what is wrong with you but to better learn what is right with you.  This is the time to discover or rediscover your gifts, skills and talents and make them work for you.  Once unveiled, you can develop your gifts, skills, and talents to the level of excellence.  This might mean taking classes, watching videos, spending time in prayer, meditation, and discovery.  What if this is the time for you to do what you have always dreamed of doing? 

                Spend time improving yourself.  If you have always wanted to be writer, then get a notebook or computer and start writing.  Write every day.  Read books about a variety of things including writing.  You must spend time practicing your craft.  One of the wonderful things about this time is that many universities and colleges are offering courses for free or little pay.  If you have always been curious about something, maybe now is the perfect time to learn about it. 

                Set goals.  Have grand expectations for yourself.  It may sound outdated but making a list for the day can be motivating by keeping you on task and providing data for daily accomplishments.  Computer apps can record your progress on goals that you have set from the number of steps you walk to the number of calories you have eaten to the number of books you have read. 

                Maybe before this pandemic you were the go-to person.  They called on you for everything and you were always there.  Truth be told you basked in what you thought was your importance in someone’s life while at the same time you were wearing yourself out as thin as a sheet of rice paper.  This time of isolation is the time for you to learn to say, “No.”  Just face it.  Oftentimes others use us, and the benefits are not reciprocal.  And we allow this to continue as we, in a state of sheer exhaustion, complain of not being loved or cared for.  This is the time for that to cease.

                During this pandemic you are learning how strong you really are.  You are discovering your resolve, your stamina, and your perseverance.  You are also discovering that you were sent to earth with specific gifts and talents just for this time.  All the things that are happening to you, in you, and around you are showing up your own uniqueness and value.  They are also forcing you, if you take time to notice, to see these wonderful gifts in yourself.  Now, the question is will you love yourself enough to cultivate your gifts, talents, and skills, and live in the purpose for which you were born?

                God and the entire universe are waiting on you to understand that the person to whom you matter most must be you.  This is not selfishness; it is self-love.  Selfness means I love only me.  Self-love means I love me and therefore I possess the capacity and the strength to love others. You must love yourself to the point where every gift that is in you is displayed and every purpose for which you were born is accomplished.  Be number one to yourself and watch your dreams come true and the entire universe stand up and take notice.

Thanksgiving Reflections

Beginning the Holiday Season Without My Husband

                During my therapy session we discussed how I planned to handle this first Thanksgiving without my husband.  I was given the assignment to create a blog post the day after.  As I am writing this my son is in the next room playing music.  I make a note that I need to purchase a pair of noise canceling headphones.  This is not my usual writing time and usually my son is at work and I have the entire house to myself.  However, since it is a holiday, everyone is home and there is noise in the house to which I am not accustomed.  One more thing through which to persevere.

                After leaving my therapy session I began to think about Thanksgiving and what it would entail.  For about three days I felt a considerable bout of sadness.  I subscribe to “One Fit Widow’s” page on Facebook.  It always has timely advise for those of us dealing with grief and how it has irreversibly changed our lives.  A resent post dealt with the effects of being overwhelmed and how overwhelm sometimes comes over us and we find it difficult to interact with the world.  This sometimes causes us to feel as though we are not accomplishing anything and that in fact, we are throwing away time and opportunity.  Yet, it cannot be pushed to the side and is simply something we must go through and allow to pass at its own pace.  That post and a post by Candice Benbow explaining that she was withdrawing from social media and other activities during the week that marked her mother’s death,  helped me to realize that I was in the process of being overwhelmed and that my best bet was to just allow it to happen and if I have to spend a day or days on the couch covered with a blanket, it’s okay.  That’s what I did.  I decided that to deal with what might be a challenging day, I needed a day of complete rest.  So, I spent the day before Thanksgiving on the couch in front of the television under a blanket.  That evening I planned what I would wear to dinner the next day, what time I would leave to go to my sister’s house, and prepared to gather the items I was to bring to dinner.  I had a few opportunities to fall completely apart but the rest and prayer made it possible for me to successful maneuver those situations.  

                I started Thanksgiving just as I start every day, in prayer.  A few days earlier I returned to the practice of keeping a prayer journal.  I have been beset with anxiety which manifests as discomfort in my core with bouts of gas and lower to mid-back pain.  There is a scripture that advises us that instead of being anxious we should tell God what it is we need and want to happen.  I started a list.  Now, each time I experience anxiety I think about what it is I need or want to happen, and I add it to the list. 

                I got dressed early and went to the store to acquire the items I needed to take to dinner.  I was fortunate that there was a store near me that had everything I needed.  I felt accomplished.  I was ready to go to my sister’s house but was having difficulty locating my adult children concerning our time of departure.  My sister suggested that our brother come to get me and that my sons could come when they were ready.  A marvelous idea!  I always enjoy time with my brother and the conversation during the ride was great.  Good conversation always works wonders for me. 

                My sister and her daughter had been cooking all day preparing for dinner.  She and her adult children live in the house we grew up in.  That house always provides comfort for me.  We greeted each other with hugs and laughter, and I was able to watch football on television with my brother and simply relax.  My sons, grandson and future daughter-in-law arrived soon after and the house was filled with even more laughter and conversation.  There was so much food!  All the traditional fare and a few things that I had never seen on the Thanksgiving table.  I ate a little of all of it and mindfully enjoyed every smell, taste, and texture. 

                Conversation is always on point when my family gathers.  There is little or no talking during the actual eating of dinner.  But, afterwards, we delve into all types of topics.  We talked about the pandemic and how it was affecting our lives.  We talked about the elections and how we felt that present leadership was adversely affecting our ability to move forward as a country.  We talked about local politics.  We talked about racism, white supremacy, and our own effort to attempt to fathom what is really going on with people in this country.  At one point there were several conversations going on at once.  We know how to do that.  There was however no religious conversation and no coffee drinking.  That was probably since my other brother was not there.  He generally requests coffee.

                As the evening concluded I found that I was full of food, ideas, new thoughts, and joy.  That’s and unbeatable combination in my book.  My oldest on drove the car so I didn’t even have to do that.  After calling my sister to inform her that we had all made it home safely, I put on my night clothes and went to bed.  I ended the day just like I started it, in prayer.  I was thankful to God for the love and comfort of my family.

                When I arose this morning, there was a tinge of sadness and a few tears.  I miss Oscar and Daddy and Mama.  There was music though coming from my grandson’s room, then from my son’s room.  I drank my morning coffee and Red Velvet cake was my breakfast.  After my morning devotional I sat down to write this blog.  My son was playing hip-hop on his phone, M&M, I think.  Later I recognize the lyrics from a familiar song, “Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge. I’m trying not to lose my head.  It’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.”  I begin dancing in my chair as I wrote.  Cancel the order for the noise cancelling headphones.  The sounds of my family are the perfect solace for my soul.

Sorrowful Souls

Don’t Fall Asleep on the Sad and Depressed

                I am prompted to write this blog piece because these are extremely difficult times.  Thanksgiving is tomorrow, Christmas is fast approaching, and the New Year promises more of what we have experienced in this present year.  People are sad, depressed, and anxious.  We are being urged to limit our contact with the people we love during a time when we most need the people we love.  Our traditions are being forced to changed along with our understanding of how to navigate in the world. 

                This year has been hard for all of us.  There are some who were experiencing depression and anxiety long before the upheaval that COVID-19 has caused.  For me it started on January 5, 2019, when my mother died quietly in her home.  I was already providing primary care for my husband who had suffered multiple strokes in previous years.  On December 26, 2019, my husband died.  Since then, like so many others, I have struggled to make ends meet.  Family members and friends have become ill and some have died.  The ongoing racial tension, inability to gather with loved ones, and the seeming lack of compassion for fellow human beings weighs heavy on the mind.  

                Recently on Facebook, I saw several posts meant to encourage people during this holiday season by admonishing them to choose to be happy. “Happiness is a choice,” I have heard many times.  I understand exactly what this is meant to convey, and I believe there is no malice intended in the statement.  Yet, there are people among us who are not just a little “blue,” but actually clinically depressed and no one knows about it because they have internalized the statement, “choose to be happy,” and pretend to be so.  They want to be happy.  After all who wants to be depressed.  They just cannot bring that feeling to the surface, and in an effort to not “ruin the holiday for everyone else,” they suffer in heart wrenching silence.

                “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (NLT). These are the words Jesus spoke to his disciples just before the soldiers came to take him away to be executed.  Despite all the good he had done; he was betrayed by one closest to him.  Knowing his impending predicament, Jesus asked his friends to simply stay awake and be present with him while he pray and wait.  Their response was to fall asleep. 

                They like many people did not know what to do with Jesus’s sadness and grief.  It appears that the Church today has a difficult time dealing with people who are experiencing sadness or depression.  For some reason we have come to believe that faith in God requires us to either always “be happy,” or at least always “look happy.”  People are being forced to face the difficulties of life and the emotions that accompany those difficulties alone.  Many are distressed and choose suicide as a vehicle for relief.  The Church must become more comfortable dealing with the sadness of people and provide comfort for those who are sad or depressed.

                This holiday season I urge you to beware of the sadness and depression of others.  Stop trying to make people be happy so that you can feel comfortable and escape your responsibility to show compassion and comfort.  “In this world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.”  Jesus said this but we do not seem to grasp the insight that “be of good cheer,” is sometimes a process that may require having someone to talk to, long hours of therapy, or just someone dedicated to being present.  Do as Jesus request and as the Holy Spirit urges.  Be present for someone and be a comfort to them.

Note: If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or need someone to talk to please utilize the resource below.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255              Emergency 911

                          

Thinking About Eating

Mindful Eating Enhances the Entire Eating Experience

                I want to talk with you about thinking about what and how you are eat.  Mindful eating is an approach to eating that is based in the Buddhist meditation of Mindfulness.  It has been utilized and achieved success for some who are challenged with obesity or eating disorders.  It is also a wonderful technique for those who, like me, engage in emotional and external eating.  Anxiety often triggers me to eat, even when I am not hunger.  I am also triggered by the sight and smell of food.  Recognizing this about myself aids me in resisting the temptation to overeat and encourages me to engage in some other activity.  I am not one hundred percent effective at this, but I have made tremendous progress and it is evident in my feelings and my figure.

                I realize that it is Thanksgiving week and many of you are not interested in talking about being mindful of what you eat when there is about to be mounds of food set before you.  You are thinking about getting your turkey or ham and who is going to cook what.  You’re probably doing your grocery, pulling out your recipes and creating your plan of action.  Since Thanksgiving is a time when we concentrate so much on food, I think it is the perfect time to begin the process of thinking about eat food. 

                Mindful eating entails thinking about what you eat, where you eat, when you eat, why you eat and how you eat.  It requires that we process every aspect of eating and that we eat with intention and purpose.  Mindful eating has helped me to better appreciate my food, making my food more enjoyable and beneficial.  There are steps to mindful eating that you can check out in the article referred to below.  I take heed to those steps and in this article, I am going to tell you how I do it.  No, I am not an expert and I may not follow these steps with every meal, but I am becoming more proficient.

                I practice Intermittent Fasting (IF), so I rarely eat breakfast and my first meal is generally not before 11 a.m.  I spend a portion of the morning thinking about what I am going to eat.  I think about how I am going to prepare it and what ingredients and cooking method I am going to use.  I envision myself putting it together and the pleasure I am going to experience preparing and eating it.  I rarely eat food that is not prepared at home.

                I place my prepared meal on a small plate.  Dinner plates hold far more food than most of us require.  Salads are usually served in a pasta bowl.  I look at my plate for several minutes.  I take in the colors, shapes, and textures.  I note in my mind whether my plate has a variety of colors on it.  That is a goal for me.  I smell my food, even attempting to identify the spices and herbs used in preparation. 

                I am learning how to eat in a quiet place, free from distractions including television and other electronic devices.  I always give thanks for my food, mindful of those who have nothing to eat and equally mindful of how much food is available to me and how easy it is for me to access.  When I pray over my food, I ask God to bless those who have nothing to eat and to use me to feed them.

                I chew my food slowly, attempting to savor every bite.  Chewing slowly helps to prevent overeating by giving the brain time to realize that you are eating.  Chewing quickly or gulping down food can cause overeating because by the time the brain signals that you are full you have already eaten too much.  I eat until I am no longer hunger.  I do not feel guilty if there is still food on my plate.  I simply save it for a future meal.

                When I finish eating, I think about how the food makes me feel.  Did I enjoy the meal?  Will I prepare this again?  Was it satisfying?  Do I feel energized or sleepy?  I try to listen to my body’s response to the meal.  I drink water afterwards.  I say, “Thank you,” again to God.

                That’s it.  That’s how I practice mindful eating.  It really helps me to eat intentionally and with purpose.  It makes me mindful of the people involved in ensuring that my food is accessible and safe.  It increases my desire to eat more “real” food and fewer processed items.  I believe it increases my body’s ability to utilize food more effectively and efficiently.  You should try it.  Start with one meal and see how it works for you.

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mindful-eating-guide#bottom-line

The Work Continues

                It is the week after election season 2020.  Since it took until the weekend for the winner to be declared, many are struggling to overcome the effects of their jubilant celebrations.  Still others refuse to accept the fact that Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris are the president and vice president elect of the United States.  They continue to make accusations of fraud, filing lawsuits, and even threatening ballot counters.

                Although we are no longer subjected to the atrocious speeches of the President of the United States, we must not turn our backs and forget what his words and actions revealed about the inner workings of this country.  We recognize America as a grand experiment of democracy, yet we must come to finally realize that this country is not the flawless beauty that we so often want to believe she is.  These past four years began the process of removing the makeup, lashes and hair extensions that disguised the ugliness of America’s systematic soul.

                We also had our rose-colored glasses snatched off and replaced with suitable corrective lenses.  Now we see things that were always before use but dim and unidentifiable.  Some of us have even undergone internal cataract surgery and now our vision is being flooded with light.  We thought we could see but now we can really see.  Sight is always a wonderful thing.  After the past four years many of us have emerged not only with sight but insight.

                The truth of the evil division that has for centuries vied for the soul of this country was laid bare before our eyes.  Our hearts ached when we saw it.  We often stared in disbelief, yet we could not deny what we were seeing.  Finally, the great God of the universe was equipping us to see the revealing truth that we tried so hard not to believe.  This country, that asserts that it is the servant of justice is, in reality, the servant of mammon.  Many hearts were broken and left to bleed as we witnessed what was in abundance in the heart of America.

                I too rejoice that we have a new presidential administration.  My hopes are high, but I refuse to turn away from what is still painfully true even as we feel a sense of decency about to ascend the steps to the White House.  Over 200,000 U.S. citizens have died from COVID-19 and the number is projected to rise significantly during this winter season.   Millions of Americans are unemployed, about to lose their homes, are unable to feed their families, are presently homeless and the people who represent us in Congress are playing power games with each other.  All of them are employed.  None of them are about to lose their homes.  None of their children are hungry and when they are diagnosed with COVID-19 they seem to bounce back as if they simply had the sniffles.

                This country has been in pain for a long time.  Many citizens, particularly those in positions of power are under the mistaken impression that restoring the economy is the cure for every illness.  Application of the principals of mammon will not cure America of her ailment.  At best it will only serve to reapply the makeup that makes her appear to be healthy.

Saving the soul of America begins with the same action that saves the soul of any human.  Repentance is the first step towards rescuing America’s soul from utter destruction.  It is more than an apology.  It is restitution and restoration.  It is challenging, laborious work and the citizens of America must insist that it is done and assist in its doing. 

We have been graced with the opportunity to truly push America towards a greatness that she has never fully realized.   As faithfully as we fought to ensure that citizens registered to vote and voted to elect a president and vice president that as many have said will “restore decency” to the White House, we must fight to ensure the equitable treatment of all citizens.  Now is the time for every citizen to get involved in the restructuring of democracy in America.

Voting Season is Ending

Tomorrow is the end of the election season in the United States. We will either have a new president or we will continue under the present administration. this election season has been unique to say the least. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic there have been rallies with people in close contact, many not wearing masks. In other places campaign rallies and town hall meeting have been virtual.

There have been instances of campaign buses being run off the road. Demonstrators are blocking the highways to ensure that people not make it to the polling places. People have been encouraged to watch the polls to make sure that everything is going “right.” People are still trying to decide who to vote for or whether to vote at all. While others are prepared to sit all day if necessary, to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Our pastor has called for a 24-hour prayer vigil for our church from 7:00 PM November 2nd until 7:00 PM November 3rd. He has encouraged us throughout this season to exercise our right to vote. Exhorting us to be accountable citizens.  He has spent time teaching us why voting is important and how as Followers of the Way we must do justice in this world. Our pastor is also leading the way as our church prepares snacks for those persons who will be standing in line to vote on tomorrow.

The congregation has received instruction on specific things to pray for during the vigil.  Each congregant is asked to pray for one hour within the 24-hour period.  We are to pray for

  • God’s will to be done.
  • Safety at the polls.
  • For the hearts of leaders to be broken, filled with God’s love and God’s people to be revealed.
  • The aftermath of the election

On yesterday I took time to pray and prepare for the vigil which begins tonight.  I thought it important to think about what I would specifically be praying.  I created an outline and listed the items for which I would be praying under each heading.  Upon completing the outline, I observed that my heart is most concerned with the aftermath of the election.

It has been reported that some have said that if the candidate they want is not elected there will be violence.  In response I will pray for the safety of all citizens and each elected official.  Beyond that, my heart’s major concern is that after the election citizens will simply resign to their lifestyle and abandon the political process until the next “critical” election.  I am equally concerned that citizens fail to realize that the work that must be done to improve our lives and our society must be done by the citizens.  We cannot assume that elected officials will make the changes necessary to improve society where we live.  Rather we must hold elected officials accountable for enacted laws that make it possible for us to exact the necessary changes.

Voting is important to the foundation of our democracy.  Yet, democracy is much more than voting.  Democracy is observing the condition of society and having the construct to make changes to that society for the betterment of that society.  Democracy requires continuous conversation, continuous movement, and continuous restructuring.  Democracy is challenging and important work that is done by citizens every day at every level.

If you have already voted, thank you. If you plan to vote on tomorrow, make a plan.  If you have decided not to vote, that too is your choice.  Whichever applies to you, my hope is that you decide to activate your power to work to restructure democracy for the continued benefit of the citizens.  Voting is not the only thing that has to be done.