Sunday, May 27, 2012

Breaking the Fast: First Slice of Swordfish

So today, I broke the Daniel Fast, yesterday being the last day.  It felt good to know that I can have whatever I want now, but I feel no great pressure to go out and "make up for lost time".  I was, however, more than ready to eat some fish!  In a previous blog entry, I think I mentioned that I might buy some fresh fish when I went to Whole Foods.  And so I did.  Rather, the fish was frozen, but that was okay, I still bought some.  The fish of choice was swordfish, which I'd never had before.  

So based on my virgin encounter with this fish, here's what I can now tell you about it:  If you like a firm, mild-flavored fish with which you can do a lot, do not sleep on swordfish!  It's not something you're going to feed your family on the regular; I picked up two good-sized pieces for six and change per.  I suppose two people who don't eat that much could have split the portions I got, but I've eaten restaurant portions of meat the same size as the portions of fish I bought, and I just ate one of them by myself, with no problem and without dividing the portion, and I'm not uncomfortably stuffed at all.   So one portion will definitely satisfy the average appetite.  I'd reserve it as a date night food if I were in that kind of relationship.  But my research indicates that in addition to pan-frying it, you can poach it in olive oil, broil it, bake it, or use it in stews.  Once cooked, you can flake it in salads the way you would use tuna.

When you go to buy swordfish, you will notice that it is cut in steaks, which means the butcher (if that is what you call the person who prepares fish) cuts through the fish instead of cutting down the sides of the fish; a cut down the side of the fish is how you get a fillet.  The steaks I got were sliced about an inch thick.  They were a sort of grayish-pink with a distinct bud-shaped marking in the flesh.  My research indicated that when you see that marking, it should be more pink than brown.  Brown indicates that the fish is old, in which case you may want to leave it. Thawed out, the fish will feel pretty firm.  If it's frozen when you get it, you are recommended to take it out of the package, place it in a bowl, cover the fish in plastic, and thaw it in the refrigerator.  Once thawed, you can marinate it in lemon juice with salt and pepper sprinkled on for taste when you finally cook it.  Four hours is a long enough marinate time, I think.  As for the piece of skin that comes on it, the recommendation is to leave it in place during cooking to hold in the moisture so it doesn't become too dry, but do not attempt to eat the skin once the fish is cooked because it will be rubbery.

Okay, now go get your mise en place, and I'll tell you how I cooked it.  You'll need one or two swordfish steaks thawed and marinated in whatever seasonings you like on your fish.  I used the aforementioned lemon juice sprinkled with salt and pepper.  Since I also bought some chili powder yesterday, I decided to use that, too, but not in the marinade.  You'll need some oil or cooking spray to grease a skillet or other frying device.  And you'll need a plate covered in paper towels to soak up the excess oil that comes off the fish when it's done.

First, if you haven't done this already, you want to rinse the thawed fish in cool water, play it out on paper towels, and pat it dry.  You can either cook it at this point or marinate it by putting your marinade ingredients into the bottom of a shallow bowl or other container big enough to hold the fish, then cover it with plastic.  Since I don't have plastic, I used a resealable storage container.  put your fish into the container with the marinade, cover it, and go on about your business until it's time to cook.  Pay close attention to how thick your fish is cut; if you plan to pan-fry it, this will be your indicator of how long per side to cook it:  Per inch, you will cook it five minutes on one side.

To prepare, heat a cast-iron or other type skillet or frying pan over medium heat until a bead of water dropped onto it goes dancing on the surface as it boils away.  If you use non-stick spray, then you should have already sprayed your pan before you preheated it.  Once your pan is nice and hot, and if you're using oil instead of cooking spray, pour in a small amount of cooking oil, enough to slick the surface.  I do this by taking up the pan and tilting it to allow the oil to run over onto all the surface of the pan.  It doesn't take the oil very long to get hot at this point, so have your fish ready to put into the pan as soon as the oil is hot.  Very gently and carefully lay the fish into the pan or skillet and allow it to cook on that side for five minutes.  Once the fish is in the skillet, you can sprinkle your favorite seasonings on.  I used Kosher salt, ground black pepper, and chili powder, sprinkled into my hand and then onto the fish, a pinch at a time.  

At the five minute mark (for a 1-inch thick fish steak), turn it with a pancake turner and cook the other side for four minutes, optionally sprinkling more seasonings over the up-facing side.  During this time you want to layer paper towels onto the receiving plate to catch the excess oil.  At the four minute mark, remove the fish from the frying pan and put it on the plate to drain.  Don't worry about the fact that you cooked it for less time after you turned it; this will prevent you overcooking the fish.  When it flakes easily, you'll know it's done.  Have your other meal selections ready to plate when you remove the fish form the heat; it will cool quickly.

I had my first taste of swordfish accompanied by a tabbouleh salad, with ordinary mild salsa and a generous scoop of a garlic-feta dip to go with the fish, although the fish needed nothing.  The combination of the lemon juice seeping into the fish, plus the salt, pepper, and chili powder made for a very tasty piece of seafood.

I'd intended to have some oven-fried potato sticks, but as I was taking them out of the oven, I saw that they were starting to burn a little, and in the attempt to shake the baking sheet they were on, I instead tilted the sheet and spilled all but a few pieces onto the floor.  I was disgusted with myself and did not want to take the time to make more, since I cooked them at the same time as the fish so as to have them ready when the fish was done.  The few I did get to taste were pretty good, though.  And because I cooked both fish steaks, I have another piece for tomorrow, so I'll feel as though I'm having a little picnic for Memorial Day.

Speaking of which, don't forget to thank God for the sacrifices made by our war dead for the sake of this country, and for the freedoms we enjoy because of them. And don't forget to thank those of our servicepeople still living for their service also, whether or not they're still active.  Freedom is sweet, but it is not free, or is it cheap.  I appreciate having mine.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Daniel Fast, Day 21: Wrap-Up!

Hey, y'all!  It has been a long day, and Mama is tired!  And a whole lot lighter in the pocket than when the day started.  Am I complaining?  Not at the moment; I'm feeling pretty happy with my purchases at the moment.  But some of that stuff I know full well I could have have done without buying today, although if I hadn't bought it today, I would have bought it some other day, so today was as good a day as any other to get it.

Things I bought today that I could have put on the "buy later" list include a jar of bentonite clay that I plan to try on my hair as a shampoo, a 32-ounce bottle of African black soap by Alaffia that I tried as a hand soap almost as soon as I walked in the door—verdict:  YE-E-E-E-ESSSSSSS!!!—some natural toothpaste for which I misread the price and so will not buy again, a tube of Burt's Bees lip balm that has mango butter in it but which I didn't need right now because I just bought two others last month, two bags of snacks that I could have probably bought elsewhere at equal or lesser cost, and a tube of double-concentrated tomato paste.  Although, to be fair, the things that really drove up my budget are the nuts and the maple syrup.  The nuts I will eat anyway, because they've become a staple in the way of eating that I will be practicing from now on. The maple syrup is one of three, maybe four sweeteners which will all replace sugar as staple sweeteners in my food list, and it's one of those things where it becomes more cost effective the more of it you buy, which means to make it worth the price, you pretty much have to break the bank on it.

This is the last day of the Daniel Fast, y'all.  I'm very happy about that.  I have two pieces of swordfish thawing out in my fridge right now, that I plan to cook tomorrow for lunch to inaugurate my new intended pescetarianism.  With it I will have a tabouleh salad, sliced tomatoes, and fruit.  Maybe I will also brew some green tea.  I have missed my tea!  And it will be nice to have something else to eat with rice besides pinto beans, although I ate that for breakfast and supper (I missed lunch) today and liked it both times, so obviously I'm not hurting that much, just want to shake up the monotony a bit, and now I can. 

So, was this anything like what I expected?  Yes and no.  Yes, I knew that it would be both easier and harder than the typical, more complete, more arduous fast wherein I give up all foods and all liquids except water (at my current size, as much sweat as I produce, and with my bladder's tendency to spasm painfully when I'm critically dehydrated, I stopped trying to fast without water years ago); easier because I still ate, but harder because I still gave up eating things I desired.  And just because the fast is now in its last hours, it doesn't mean that I will go back to business as usual.  Instead, I start a different way of eating, for which this fast was a set-up as much as it was a sacrifice. 

Do I feel that I wasted my time?  Absolutely NOT!!!  This was good for me in a number of ways.  I lost weight; how much I don't know, but lose weight I definitely know I did.  During this week alone, I have now been in two situations wherein I was required to sit in chairs that typically were too small to hold me comfortably, if at all, and in both instances the chairs held me with a greater degree of comfort than they would have a mere three weeks ago.  I've now made a 20-minute walk part of my daily routine for at least two days out of the week, and will certainly do it more than that.  I feel better than I have in YEARS!!!  And that's just the beginning. 

I've become more proactive about avoiding as many unnecessary and artificial preservatives and additives as possible.  I'm eating more plant matter than ever before.  I can now eat plain fruit or vegetables and nothing else and still be satisfied, and I'm more readily satisfied on far less.  I now know that I don't need to eat meat to be satisfied.  As a result of not eating it, my cholesterol is going to go down overall, and my bad cholesterol specifically.  I'm going to continue to see a drop in weight, because I have replaced the volume of meat I ate with a greater volume of legumes, nuts, and seeds as a result of which I will take in fewer calories in exchange for way more fiber, which will help to sweep out the fat I do take in and relieve my liver of having to work as hard.  That energy from there can now go to other things, and I will be healthier overall.  I'm emptying my gut regularly, with less effort in a lot of instances, and more than one time in most days.   

There is no more reason for me to mentally prepare myself for the possibility of being in a wheelchair; rather, I can focus on regaining my legs and strengthening my left hip and knee, so I can stand straighter and walk with better form so as not to throw myself out of gait and off balance.  As I get stronger, I will walk farther and become healthier.  I have so missed walking :-(!  Because my body will be healthier, I will feel better, because I will expend less emotional and mental energy on dealing with pain and  tiredness.  Rather than needing strength for bearing pain constantly and having it as a way of life, I will now have strength to put toward other things.  I can explore options that I thought had slipped beyond me forever. 

And the whole thing started because God's Holy Spirit prompted me to begin to search out ways to protect my liver, prompted me to begin the Daniel Fast, and touched my back and set this healing in motion.  He is so very good!

Since I promised to tell the story of how I was healed, it wouldn't be a complete wrap-up of this fast if I didn't tell that story.  So here it is.

I mentioned my new church, Miracle Life Ministries International, which is in walking distance from my residence.  They had a prophetic conference during the last weekend in April, and when it was announced some weeks well in advance, I made it my business that I would be present.  And so I was.

Of the conference generally, I must say that it was a phenomenal experience, and if you missed it, I'm sorry for you.  I benefited greatly from it in more ways than just the healing itself.  I have known that prophecy was one of my spiritual gifts, and I have used that gift over the years, but I needed more boldness and more assurance in my ability to exercise the gift.  I received this boldness and assurance as a result of my participation in the conference.  The whole conference was divided up into sessions: the Friday evening session, the Saturday morning session, and the final session that evening.  Everything God had for me manifested during that afternoon session. 

First there was the moment during which we were all—at least I was—in the Spirit.  The Spirit moved in a wave of anointing across the room.  I was sitting in my chair, I know I was; but then, in an instant, I became aware of being in a reclining position, being lifted up in that position, and being held.  I could fee myself being rocked very slowly and gently, as if I were a small child being held.  The sensation was amazing!  I felt that I weight next to nothing as I was held and being rocked.  I have no words to write that will do justice to that moment; it was brief but indelible.  I do not think I will ever forget it, how it felt to be held like that.  I knew it was God, my Abba, who and come by His Spirit to love me like that.  It was so sweet!  Gentle, warm, tender,  I've never felt anything quite like it, although there have been other moments that I had forgotten that were also very beautiful and special, when the Holy Spirit had visited me in the past.

Then later, during a time when the chairs were moved back to make room for all the people to stand and receive the laying on of hands, I was in a moment of intensely focused worship, hands up, eyes closed, when someone came, took my hands, pulled me forward until I was bending, then the guiding hands took my shoulders and drew me further forward and down until I was doubled over from the waist.  The hands then touched my back.  Those hands belonged to a person, a woman.  This I know.

I don't know how long I stayed bent over, head, shoulders, torso, and arms hanging down to the floor, but I stayed there until I felt the release to rise.  I straightened, arms upraised, head back, back arched, and as I continued worshiping—all this time I had not stopped—there was suddenly a sensation of flickering heat, in the area of my back from whence had originated so much pain and trouble!  It intensified and moved along my back from that area and around in it, and I began claiming by faith and in the Spirit what I wanted:  Total healing of my back, that I would stand and walk and dance, that there would be no more pain, and only the healthy end-of-the-day weariness of a strong, healthy body that had worked hard and well.  Power and strength and ability to walk, so that I could begin to take care of myself and do those things that would help me become healthy in my body.  I claimed it in the Name of Jesus!  And the pain left, and, what else can I say, it has not been back from that moment to now.  And yes, I have been standing, and walking, and dancing in the Spirit.

That all happened before the Daniel Fast, but as I said earlier, the fast itself was part of something greater that God set into motion for my health, so this was a step in a series of steps.  The actual journey is underway, has been well underway for awhile now.  I'm excited to see where He takes me, and I'm so grateful for His mercy, His love, and His grace in not passing me by but helping me, and loving me, and just showing up so big, as He has done. To God be the glory!  I'm so happy right now!  Thank You, Abba! 

So now I think I'll grab a handful of nuts and maybe some fruit, and then I'm going to get ready for bed.  Thank y'all for coming with me on this journey.  I hope you've enjoyed what I've shared and that some of it was helpful to you.  It's a journey that may not make sense to some who are more legalistic or less sacrificial-minded, but for those who undertake it by faith, with true intent and a sincere heart, I think you will find it well worth the doing.  I wish you well, and all God's best to you in Jesus' Name!  Amen!


Daniel Fast, Day 20: Wind Down

Breakfast today was yesterday's mix of cashews with raw and roasted almonds and dried Bing Cherries.  Lunch was the same as breakfast.  After I'd been home for about an hour, I enjoyed a snack of pistachios and sliced mango, then T and I headed out for a movie.  At the theater, we shared a generous bag of salted popcorn, his share of which he topped off with a sizable fountain Coke.  Later after he got me home again, I answered the popcorn with come pintos and brown rice.  More dried cherries sealed the deal.

I'm not gonna be long at this, because I'm tired.  A little relaxation in front of the computer is what I want before I call it a night.  I'm all showered and slathered in shea butter, and when I decide I'm done being up, all I need to do is go lie down.  Nice!

One more day, y'all!  One more day!  All I can think about right now is some broiled fish with some rice and mixed vegetables or a salad.  I've planned a return trip to Whole Foods for tomorrow, and this time, I have money, I know I do.   Tomorrow will be a little bit of redemption for two weeks ago when I went and was so embarrassed when I left, not to mention very disappointed because I couldn't get a lot of the things I went for.  This time, I trust, will be much better, and I'll get to leave wearing a great big Kool-Aid smile.  I hope.  Maybe I'll find some fish I like while I'm there.

And now I know T reads my blog.  At least, I know he has read it at least once.  I'm happy 'bout that :-).

Okay, g'nite, y'all!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Daniel Fast, Day 19: What Feeds My Spirit

Breakfast today was a mix of raw and roasted almonds with roasted cashews and a banana.  Because this was eaten at my desk at work, and I pretty much ate the whole time I was sitting there, I wasn't very hungry by the time I got home, and even if I had been, the walk from the Rite-Aid was a little more arduous than in previous days, and I was literally too tired for a whole hour afterward to do anything but sit down and rest my face on the front of the flat screen monitor.  When I finally did feel like moving, I put on some brown rice and snacked on the pintos I'd put into the crock pot first thing after getting up this morning.  When the rice was soft enough to eat, I scooped some up into a bowl, spooned in some pintos, and covered it all in the juice I created by the use of entirely too much cooking water, and that was supper.  The flooding of the beans was by design; I like them soupy like that.  It made a wonderful bean gravy for the rice.  I haven't put a snack together, but it's time for one.

I'm feeling very happy about having made it down to my last two days of fasting.  But I made a discovery on my YouVersion Bible app for cellphones that I wish I'd known was there when I started the fast:  Bible/devotion plans!  Not that I didn't know the Bible plans were there, but I hadn't looked at all, and I didn't know about the devotion plans.  Wow!  More than the typical handful of plans I've seen on other sites or in other programs, too, lots, and lots, and lots of them!  There's even a plan suitable for a 21-day fast, which this is.  I wouldn't even look at it.  I'm just gonna save it and hope I remember it's there for the next time I do a Daniel Fast or any other type of fast that lasts 21 days.
Typically, I just pick a book of the Bible and listen to it during my commute, whether riding, walking, or waiting.  Since downloading YouVersion, I've covered all of Apostle Paul's letters, all the books of prophecy, and the Sermon on the Mount.  Now I'm in the second of the Books of Moses, Exodus.  I already finished Genesis.  I enjoy using YouVersion because, although not all the versions of the Bible are narrated, there are several that are, and most of those are actually rather well voiced.  The English Standard Version has become my favorite.  The man narrating is able to alter his voice just enough to distinguish not only between different speakers, but also emotional states without over-dramatizing to the point of distracting from the fact that I'm listening to the Holy Scriptures.  And it's nice to know that Alexander Scourby, as great a narrator as he was, isn't the only one who can bring the Bible to life for me as the listener.
However, I also like reading devotions sometimes.  These aren't narrated, though, so accessing them while in transit will greatly depend on light levels wherever I am.  Since cellphone displays are notoriously hard to see in bright natural light, and the display on my phone became known for being particularly invisible by professional consumer product reviewers before it ever hit the market, that will be something that I'll have to save for when I'm inside or under outdoor conditions where it's shady.  However, I'd like to begin a devotional plan or plans that will carry me through the summer.  There are so many from which to choose in YouVersion that it'll be a major, albeit enjoyable, undertaking to choose which ones to follow.  Who knows, there's one in there about food; maybe I'll start that one the day after my fast is finished, to keep me on track spiritually as I begin to put together my new way of eating.

Now, what shall be my snack right now?  I know there's gonna be some fruit in there.  And I liked the brown rice and almonds I did some days ago, maybe a little of that . . . . 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Daniel Fast, Day 18: The Medicine Edition

For breakfast on this 18th day, I combined roasted almonds and cashews together and had some dried cherries to go along with them.  Lunch was sunflower seeds and pistachios, followed up by an apple and a banana.  I ate the last of the cooked pintos for supper, and chewed on more cherries as I headed out for a Bible study.  Now that I'm home, I'm feeling a little peckish—that's British for hungry—and I'm thinking about some more pistachios and some strawberries.

I wasn't going to go to the Bible study tonight, but now I'm glad I went.  Besides getting an exhortation based on the account of the Prophet Elijah's last moments on earth and the simultaneous beginning of the ministry of the Prophet Elisha (2 Kings 2), I also got to spend a few moments in the company of two ladies whom I'm beginning to like a lot on very short acquaintance.  One of them is a dealer in essential oils and other things from a site called Young Living.  I've just come from a quick look around, and I think—I intend—that I shall be purchasing, either directly from the site, for from my new friend, because that is how she makes her living, at least in part, I think.  

While we were all talking together, she poured into my hand a single drop of an oil blend that smells absolutely exquisite, the scent of which filled the whole sanctuary space so that one of the brothers came over to investigate.  After she talked about an essential oil product she shared with someone who had suffered from post-surgical hip pain, I told her about how I came to be on the Daniel Fast, about my concerns for my liver due to the strong medicines I take for chronic pain, and about a discomfort I've been experiencing in the area approximate to where the liver is in the body.  She dropped a single drop of another oil blend in my left hand, had me emulsify it by rubbing my right hand over it, then sent me to the ladies' bathroom to place my hands over the area in question.  She says that this will help me.  I hope so.

The products on the site are certified Kosher, and she likes that about them.  So will many others. Depending on shipping and price, I think I may start building my stock of desired essential oils for skin and hair. The medicinal properties found in many of them will also be of benefit to me.  Who knows, maybe I will find one or more that will help me protect my liver, until I can wean myself off the medicines I'm taking for pain from which I believe God has now healed me.  

Essential oils are just one of the many items from the earth itself given by God to man for our health, comfort, and pleasure.  Foods are another.  I forget which Greek philosopher it was who said, "Whatever can be cured with food, seek not to cure it any other way," I think it was Hippocrates, the "father of medicine"; but in a less toxic world than ours it would be excellent advice.  Certainly it was very excellent advice in his day.  It is advice I mean to follow after these days of the Daniel Fast have ended.  I'm looking forward to that.

I'm also looking forward to the fulfillment of the vision seen by Ezekiel (see ch. 47) and Apostle John (Revelation 22), when all the world will be able to eat from the tree of life and be healed by it, as was seen in their shared vision:  The tree (or parallel rows of the same type of tree) will grow on either side of a rive that will flow from the sanctuary of God, and a fresh, different crop of fruit will be harvested from it every month.  The fruit will be for food, and the leaves will be gathered for "the healing of the nations."  Yeah, I'm really looking forward to that :-)!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Daniel fast, Day 17: The Gift

Yippee!  My palate is happy right now!  Let's see, for breakfast, I had two snack packets of mixed nuts.  Lunch was more of a snack, but what a snack:  Cashews!  Yes, cashews!  Not roasted in cottonseed oil!  And they were so good!  I ate only a few, along with a few dried Bing cherries, which were not overly sweet and quite tasty.  Supper was a plate full of salad made of mixed greens, tomato chunks, roasted sunflower nuts, strips of green bell pepper, slices of cucumber, and a first, olives!  They were the sliced black ones, but I don't care, I love olives.  I dressed it in EVOO and red wine vinegar with salt and pepper judiciously sprinkled on.  A Red Delicious apple completed my meal.  Biting a flat surface into my apple and sopping the excess vinegar and oil on my plate with it led to a nice little taste discovery, which I mean to try at my earliest convenience.  The combination of the tart wine vinegar and the sweet apple is gustatory synergy, y'all!  The vinegar makes the sweet more intense and enhances the flavor more than if I ate the apple alone.  Simply amazing!  But I got hungry again a few hours later, so I finished up with a veritable feast:  Baby carrots with black bean, traditional, garlic, and red pepper hummus flavors; roasted almonds and cashews; and dried Bing cherries paired with large, fresh-from-the-store strawberries, every one of them sweet.  My mouth is happy :-)!

And my soul is happy, too, for the gift I was given tonight.  As part of a discussion about parenthood and parenting, the question was raised regarding the do's and don'ts of single parenting, and the topic of surrogate male figures was raised.  It was generally agreed that female-parented boys benefit greatly from regular association and interaction with older boys and men of good character, because it takes a man, it was felt, to teach a boy to be a man.  The problem, as passionately and extensively expressed by a participant, is finding men of good character, especially when one's own male relatives don't exemplify it, as was her experience.  In that case, suggested others in the group, participation in a local church, boys club, Big Brother-type organization, or other group designed to foster and nurture female-parented boys go a long way to helping Mother in her quest to raise an upstanding man of capability and good character.  

I then raised my hand.  "I was only a mother for 19 weeks and 5 days, but given what I knew about my co-progenitor, I knew from the beginning that I needed to protect my baby.  Male role models were not an issue for me; I had my father, five brothers, and a lot of good male friends, but children need protection from people passing into and out of their lives, not being there for them, and I was determined to protect my baby from this."

So I then related how it was that, when I discovered I was pregnant, I went to my baby's co-progenitor and, after informing him of my pregnancy and my fidelity as proof of his genetic contribution, I offered him the following:  "You don't have to be involved if you don't want to.  I will take this baby, and I will raise my baby to the best of my ability, and we will live and be happy.  But if you choose to be involved, it begins now, and it is total.  You will not pass in and out of my child's life when you feel like it!"  To me, then as now, paternal involvement is more than a few dollars for a box of Pampers every now and then as an afterthought, you're there when you remember it, and the rest of the time we don't see you.  The first requirement is that both parents be committed to the child.  The child deserves to know both parents and the history and heritage that make the parents who they are.  However, when the non-custodial parent consistently demonstrates an unwillingness or inability to do his/her share, the other parent is required to protect the child as much as possible from the resulting instability and emotional upset that can and does result from an uncommitted parent playing ping-pong with the child's heart.  Having my child be well-adjusted and healthy in every way was far and away more important to me than having in his life an unstable force as represented by the type of person that was the co-progenitor simply for the sake of him saying he knew his daddy.

I firmly believe and stand by my position and decision now as much as when I reached them, but, "Since I was a mother only for such a short time, I recognize that I perhaps can't speak to this like the other mothers that raised their children," I acknowledged.  But "Mothers and their children deserve to know that they have someone in their lives who is committed to them," the guest moderator confirmed.  "This is not about marriage, this is about commitment:  The child deserves to have the commitment of both parents."  On that note, we ended the discussion, and I closed the meeting in prayer, thanking God for His example to us as our Father and asking, among other things, that He empower us to walk out His example in the lives of our children, whether they be of our bodies or of our hearts.  

Then the class instructor, who flows freely in the gift of encouragement, gifted me in perhaps the most precious way anyone could have done:  "I want you to know that it doesn't matter how long you were a mother to your baby.  What's important is that you were the best mother you could be to your baby, because you saw the need to protect your child, and you set out to do it.  That's what good mothers do, and you did it."  In tears over her acknowledgement of my mother's heart toward my baby, I thanked her, telling her how I prayed every day that God would help me be the best mother to my baby that I could be.  "Well, He answered your prayer," she declared in assurance.  "And your baby is waiting in heaven to acknowledge you as his mama."

After you have done your utmost best and right in a situation wherein you've faced heartbreak and disappointment in the end, to have others acknowledge good about what you've gone through can do much to soothe pain and heal hurt that you didn't know you still carried.  The gift of such acknowledgement is extremely precious.  Allow the Lord to lead, of course, but when He presents to you the opportunity to so gift another person, be grateful for the moment, and be your utmost gracious in the giving; it is a great and rich and sweet blessing.

Daniel Fast, Day 16: Lessons

Okay, here's something:  A fast within a fast.  How'd that happen?  Well, a visiting prophet wound up his second service Sunday night by asking us to do a "light fast" this morning until about midday in preparation for his final service tonight.  So breakfast was nothing at all.  Lunch was roasted and salted almonds with a Pink Lady apple, a break from the usual Red Delicious.  Supper was pintos.  Just that.  Now, I'm snacking on dry roasted and salted pistachios, a different nut altogether.  I'll also be crunching on another Pink Lady apple.

And, as quickly as he came, T has left again.  T's story is an example of why no one should ever take the attitude about anything they do, good or bad, that "I'm not hurting anybody".  Nothing, and I do mean nothing, happens in a vacuum.  For every action you take, there are consequences, to yourself and to other people.  And while you may choose your actions, you cannot choose the outcome of your actions.  Don't bother asking me what T did, I'm not telling you.  Ever.  But because of it, even though it happened way before I even knew he existed, he had to make a mad dash for safety back to a place he didn't want to be, and I'm left, once again, with no notion beyond tomorrow (because he has to return for some things he left) when I will see him again.

T's religious philosophy is also an example.  The power of positive thinking versus the presence of a powerful God.  With a notable exception, that being his lack of belief in the efficacy of prayer, which is based on his belief in an omni-permeative but non-relational god, T subscribes to the system of belief created by Ernest Shurtleff Holmes, creator and author of The Science of Mind, the name both of the philosophy and of the text that introduces and explains it.  A careful and thoughtful reading of their statement of "What We Believe" by anyone who is well-versed in the Bible will appear almost to be a modernized expression of certain Biblical concepts.  One might be lulled into thinking after awhile that there is not much of anything wrong with what it states.  It takes parsing what is said and digging deeper into what they say about key Christian concepts to spot the deception.  Also called Religious Science, and taught and practiced at places of worship called Centers of Spiritual Living, The Science of Mind affirms and teaches, among other things, that God lives in everybody; that God shows or demonstrates Itself (not Himself) in and through all creation but is separate from it, and the perceivable universe is the body of God; that heaven is experienced based on your life circumstances and hell does not exist, or only exists to the degree that your life is out of order; that because God is the only power, the devil cannot exist, and therefore anything for which we might blame him, or anyone else, is the result of our own faulty choices, and any negative or sinister experiences we have are simply the manifestation of superstition and faulty or primitive thinking or belief.  Jesus was a great "Master Teacher" who was the best expression of God.  Yes, He was a son of God, but so are we all; and yes, He was divine, but so are we all.  Sins are just mistakes we make, and we are punished by the consequences of those mistakes, not for making them.

By their teaching, one can influence one's circumstances by what one thinks, because the Universal Mind, aka the Law of God, is in direct contact with and influenced by thought.  This, combined with one's personal divinity and permeation by Spirit, would make it seem to me that, on a particular day he described, T should have been able to divine his purpose and thus dispel his feelings of aimlessness and being lost and without purpose simply by changing his thought.  Yet, for all his divinity of self, he spent a chunk of time driving around and going nowhere, feeling as though he had no reason to live.  He has many similar moments.  A true, right-thinking Christian would have known to take that to our Lord, to pray, to stand on faith in God, Who knows the plans He has for all of us.  At the end of the day, the power of positive thought, without being informed and transformed by the power of Holy Spirit and the Word of the true God, leads to nothing more than a vivid but ultimately vain imagination.

Because of T's choices, in action and in thinking, I'm left with God's response where I'm concerned.  God's ordinances are about protection of His children from the consequences of sin into which we might otherwise fall if we did not obey Him.  One of His ordinances is unity of spirit between any two people, especially relationally, as expressed in the First Letter to the Corinthians wherein Apostle Paul instructs, "Do not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever."  Granted, this is mainly thought to apply to marriage, but it can also apply to close friendships, which T and I had.  Because I am His child, and T and I clearly walk on different spiritual paths, which has profound implications for the rest of our relationship, God has determined to protect me, and so He does. Therefore, I do not seek to, let us say, "throw myself under the bus" by stubbornly persisting in trying to maintain our relationship beyond what boundaries God would allow, although I can and do still love T very much.  So what happens when, through no fault of my own, the "bus" comes crashing into my abode?  Well, the "Wrecker" much come and remove the "bus". So while T's departure is on one level the result of consequences of past actions, in the Spirit, the bus has now been towed away.

Yet, I do not forget one last thing:  The impact of hitting the bottom.  I know that for every prodigal, there is a pigpen.  The prodigal who looks at the husks, remembers the father's bread, and humbly returns seeking only to serve experiences the father's grace and restoration to sonship.  And God is a most gracious Father.  And most able by the Holy Spirit to convict through the revelation of the husks and the remembrance of the Bread of life.  He it is, the only One, Who can bring this about in T.  And He has promised, as surely as T repents and returns, to restore him to sonship also.  The bus can be restored.

And what are my lessons while all this is happening?  Well, there's faith, and discipline, and patience . . . .

Monday, May 21, 2012

Daniel Fast, Day 15: Races

Breakfast was strawberries.  Lunch was sunflower seeds and oven-baked potato chips.  Supper was sunflower seeds and strawberries.  And a few drops of a fresh batch of strawberry goosh.  We're talking far less than last night, and last night I had just enough to swallow maybe twice.

Basically, we had to rush to get through the strawberries.  Who knew that fresh-picked strawberries could start to mold literally overnight?!  The good news is that I got to eat plenty of them over the last 24 hours, and I'm really happy about that.  I love strawberries.  And I got a break from almonds and beans.

This is starting to wear on me.  I'm pretty certain it's mostly due to the monotony of my menu.  I didn't prepare very well for this, and I have yet to eat the frozen veggies I bought from Whole Foods.  I think it's mostly because they remind me of the cashews I really wanted but didn't get.  I truly was disappointed about that.  I'm looking forward to another chance to go back to Whole foods to buy maple syrup and some of the flours I didn't get before.  And some fish would probably taste very good right about now.  But I'm still hanging in there.  I know that when I'm done, I'll be very glad that I did it.

I also know that this was, in large part, to help me set myself up for a dietary overhaul.  I cannot go back to eating the way I ate before I started the fast, that's certain.  I'm going to be eating a lot more beans, for one thing, and I know that there are a lot of different kinds of beans other than pintos, so one thing I want to do is purchase different kinds.  Hopefully, they'll taste enough different one kind from the other that I'll eventually develop a keen taste to be able to distinguish the flavor of one kind from the flavor of another kind.  And I'm going to be sure to keep a good variety of produce on hand so I don't get into monotony and ultimately rebel against boredom.  

Meanwhile, I have six more days to complete, and I want to finish well.  I'm determined to complete this fast, to the glory of God and the joy of myself and my body—and a healthy future.  Can I please tell you how good hope feels?!  Thank You, Abba!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Daniel fast, Day 14: Strawberry Goosh For Summer

Breakfast was different today.  I had roasted and salted sunflower seeds and a banana.  Lunch was grits and beans.  Supper, well, that was fun:  I learned how to do oven-baked potato chips, and I ate two small spuds' worth of them.  I also had pintos, the last little bit of guac, a few sunflower seeds, and a few fresh, just-picked-today strawberries.  T went to a strawberry farm, and he brought home a good quantity of them!  

And the first thing he wanted to do with them was make strawberry goosh.  He practically sailed through the door, carrying them in a flat pallet box hoisted high on his shoulder, headed straight for the kitchen, and he didn't stop until we had a blender full of this marvelous concoction.  To understand why he was so insistent, you have to understand the history and the procedure of strawberry goosh.

Strawberry goosh actually started one weekend last summer as a Sunday lunch idea on my part.  I had bought two pints of strawberries, and we had some for dessert.  I also thought to make some lemonade, but I didn't get around to making it before sitting down to lunch.  I remember the lunch being good without it, I just don't remember what lunch was, other than the strawberries.  Having the strawberries for dessert made me think that I might like to try strawberry lemonade, and I determined to have it for supper.  I started with my basic lemonade, which I make with one part bottled lemon juice, one part natural sweetener (sugar, agave nectar, or equal half-parts of the two), and six parts cold water.  I put in the lemon juice and sweetener, mix well, then add in the water, mixing as I go. To make it nice, I will sometimes add vanilla to it, and lately I also add root beer flavoring, just a little of each flavoring.  You gotta try it :-)!  Well, to get back on topic, on this particular evening I'm describing, I put the lemon juice, sugar, and two parts water, all by cup measure, into the blender, as well as about a dozen medium-to-large strawberries, stems removed.  I blended this thoroughly, poured it out into an 8-cup measuring bowl, then added four more cups of water.  The resulting beverage was quite tasty.  

Later that evening, T came over, and he was thirsty.  "Got anything to drink?"  I offered him a red party cup of strawberry lemonade.  He tasted it—then proceeded to drink his way through the rest of what what was left in the 8-cup measuring bowl!  Yup, he enjoyed it that much :-).  He was contrite and offered to make more, following my instructions.  Except that he put a whole pint of strawberries in!  And then he spotted my raspberries, declared, "Mmmmm!  Raspberries!  I like raspberries!" and he threw those in, too!!  I gotta give it to him, the resulting beverage was considerably thicker, and it was delicious.  Well, it couldn't have been more than a couple of days later, after I'd had the chance to go for more strawberries, that he decided he wanted more of "that strawberry stuff", but there wasn't any more.  So I made it again, using the whole pint as he had done—and it went down nearly as fast as before.  The next time, maybe a few days later, that he went to make the beverage, he decided to add a tray of cubed ice to crush in the blender along with the lemon juice, sugar, and strawberries.  So strawberry goosh was born.

We drank may pitchers of strawberry goosh all through the summer.  To some we added oranges, and I seem to remember peaches getting added once.  And every time, it was the same response:  "Strawberry goosh!  I love strawberry goosh!  I don't know what I'm gonna do when we can't get any more strawberries to make it."  What can I say?  The man loves strawberry goosh!  So now we have gotten through the winter, spring is here, and now we have strawberry goosh!

Yes, I said "we".  The instant he got it made up tonight, he asked if I wanted any.  Of course I answered no. What else was I gonna answer?!  I'm doing a Daniel Fast, after all.  He knows this.

He knows this, but, "No?!  Aww, come on!  You've gotta have some strawberry goosh!"  And he was not taking "no" for an answer.  So, for peace' sake, I agreed to a taste.  He was satisfied to pour me enough for a couple good swallows.

I see by this, and by the Cherry Berry Chiller incident at the restaurant, that I'm only going to get through the last seven days of this fast if I can avoid taking any meals with him wherein there are any special treats that he decides he must share with me.  Strawberry goosh is "our" special treat; we practically created it together, we drank it together, and I wonder if on some level he associates it with me somehow.  Maybe so, maybe no.  For sure I taste a lot of strawberry goosh in my immediate future.  Before then, however, I need to complete this fast.  Once I have completed it, then I can enjoy evenings over strawberry goosh, and other things, with a whole heart and a clear conscience, having done what my Abba bade me.  Pray with me, y'all!

Oh!  I almost forgot to tell you how to make the potato chips.  Okay get your mise en place, which, as I told you once a long time back, means get your mess in place.  You'll need some baking potatoes, olive oil, coarse salt, some paper towels, a cookie sheet, a mandoline or some other way to thinly slice the potatoes, and your oven heated to between 450 and 500ºF.  I set mine to 475ºF.

Make sure to clean the potatoes, especially if you don't plan to skin them.  Skinned or not is all up to you; me, I didn't.  Lay out sheets of paper towels and slice the potatoes 1/8-inch thick.  If you're using a knife, you want to be able to see the knife through the slices as you cut them.  Lay the slices on a sheet of paper towel and place another sheet over the slices of potato to pat them dry.  Oil the cookie sheet, place the potato slices on it in a single layer, drizzle on more oil, sprinkle on some salt, and place the sheet of potato slices into the oven.  Let them cook for 15 minutes or until light-medium brown.  Remove promptly and allow to cool.  It may require doing it a few times before you finally figure it out, but having tried this, I'm definitely making my own chips from now on.  Even the ones that didn't crunch up completely tasted good!  And I bet I'll get some nice potato sticks out of this, too!

Until next time . . . :-)!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Daniel Fast, Day 13: Know!

Today's breakfast was grits, lunch was raw almonds, and supper was pintos and grits.  T and I hit Mickey D's again, and this time he bought me something called a "Berry Cherry Chiller", which the cashier told me "was made with 100% fruit juices and natural flavors".  She assured me that it had no sugar.  I accepted the offering because T wanted me to have it, and I was thirsty.  I knew I'd know sooner or later whether or not it had sugar, because my system would react to it.  well, it has sugar.  Oh, well, what can I say?  I didn't want to fight, and he wanted to give me a treat.  Thanks, T :-).

I've been seeing a therapist, a minister who does therapeutic counseling.  The first few weeks, it seemed quite random, and while I was a bit confused by that, I didn't mind much, and I felt very quickly that I could trust him enough to trust his process.  I'm glad I did, because I'm learning a lot and taking a lot of things away.  His way is to allow the session to be client-driven.  I talk, and my words give him, piece by piece, a picture of me.  Whenever he wants clarification on a point, he will ask a question designed to cause me to enlarge further upon what I said.  When he sees something relevant, he points it out. Bit by bit, I tell him who I am, then he tells me what he sees, and I see me through his eyes.  We can then either explore that more deeply, or I can go off in another direction.  Having never been to this type of therapy, or any formal type of therapy, for that matter, before this, I have no idea of how therapy is typically done.  I thought it would be structured, that I'd have to answer a lot of questions, do a lot of things, and sit through a lot of painful analysis about myself.  Rather, this feels more like church.  The time becomes precious, the feeling is relaxed, the space sacred.  I feel more healed, more renewed.  I know all therapy doesn't go that way, and my heart goes out to those who have had negative experiences.  

It helps to have another person in our life who can look at us and see us for who we are, objectively, honestly, and lovingly.  Every person needs that one person.  If you have him/her, hold that one precious.  If not, do not be unfair to yourself by giving up on life and love before you have found that person.  It requires a willingness to be vulnerable, but what but deception has a mask ever accomplished?  Even hiding is a form of deception, because it implies absence that is not true.  Before the next time you swallow liquid courage, or paint yourself brave when you feel that you are not, open wide, take a deep breath, tell the devil to get behind you and take his fear with him, and strip off the mask.  After all, God, Who sees even the heart, already has seen behind the mask.  You have not fooled Him.  He already knows you just as you are, and better than you know yourself.  Objectively, honestly, and lovingly.  And He wants you to know Him.

For what are you waiting, then?  Time to be introduced :-)!

Father God, my Precious Abba, my sister-to-be is afraid.  My brother-to-be is ashamed.  They have been wrongly told that they are nothing, that they are ugly, unfit, that they have nothing of which to be proud.  Worthless.  Unloved.  Unwanted.  These are all lies spoken by the devil out of heedless mouths.  Draw them to You and show them Your truth about who they are in You, for it is in You that all Your sons and daughters have their identity.  Holy Spirit, draw them to You by Your gentle conviction, guide them into Truth, and guard them from the deception of believing that they have no purpose, from taking in vain the Name of the Lord by ascribing to Him cruelty and deception by believing He put them here for no purpose.  Teach them Your way through the witness of those who truly walk in You, and bring them to Life.  In Jesus' strong, sweet, lovely Name, Amen!

Daniel Fast, Day 12: T Time

So if you're bored with my menu, you'll be happy to note the differences today, even if they're only slight.  Breakfast was pintos and rice.  Lunch was special:  Cooked cabbage spiced with pepper and I don't know what else, and black beans and rice cooked in coconut creme.  There was also meatloaf and a dessert of strawberry cobbler with ice cream, but I didn't partake of those.  The Jamaican-style feast was provided courtesy of the husband of a co-worker who, for whatever reason—the reports of unmitigated delight and greedy pleas for more, maybe—has decided that he likes to cook for us occasionally.  So lost was my palate in delight that not only did I forget that I wasn't supposed to eat white rice, but I forgot times two!  It was scrumptious!  I know now what my milk replacement will be.  Later I had carrots and hummus, and I wrapped it up with a final meal of my own brown rice, raw almonds, and an apple.

I still haven't decided how I ought to feel about my dear Mr. T.  For a little while, at least, he's back.  I'm happy to see him.  For as long as he's around, I mean to enjoy his company, and I pray I can do that without us fighting about things of the Spirit versus things of his spirit, which is part of why he called us quits in the first place.  I didn't think we needed to be fighting, and I tried, we both did, to avoid doing it, but given the circumstances, it's quite understandable.

We believe different things about God, for one thing.  But that's one very huge thing.  For both of us.  And for as long as that is so, for the two of us to walk in agreement is a major challenge.  "How can two walk together," Paul the Apostle asks, "Except they be in agreement?"  Well, they can't.  Not easily.  I don't really have it in me to write out a Bible study lesson about it, but know that while it's extremely important to be able to love my neighbor as myself as Jesus taught—and, as He taught, my neighbor is the person whose path He causes to cross my own, whoever that is—it is also extremely important that the ones closest to me be on the same wavelength with me Spiritually; the closer we are, the more closely in the Spirit we need to agree and flow.   T and I are able to flow together in most things, but in Spiritual matters, we have clashed.  

I won't go into details, but just to give one example, although we both believe of ourselves that we are a Christian, T sees God as an elemental force that permeates all things and people that exist, intelligent but non-relational.  I serve a God who is Creator of all things and people, evidenced by them but distinct from them and reigning over them, Who has created man as a reflection of Himself and Who desires loving relation with man.  T thinks the Bible cannot possibly be the word of God and that it is unreliable.  I believe based on the evidence of my own life and the observable and observed evidence I've seen in other lives around me that it is impossible for the Bible to be anything else but the word of God, and it is, evidently speaking, the most reliable set of documents in existence.  

I have prayed incessantly that Holy Spirit would capture his heart, open his eyes, and cause him to change his mind.  That isn't necessarily one of my prayers for the Daniel Fast, but it is interesting that, in the middle of it, T has returned to prominence in my life, just as I have begun to enter a new season in my Spiritual journey, after accepting his passing out of the mainstream of my life into the periphery, far out on the periphery, perhaps out of it altogether if God willed.  

I'm concerned for the both of us, but I'm not afraid for myself.  I know that Holy Spirit will guard and guide me.  I know that Holy Spirit can convict.  I have my Abba's assurance that He has heard my prayers concerning my friend, and I know that He will answer, in authority and power.  And I know far, far better than to get cocky just because of how God has impacted my life so richly in the so recent past.  I've heard it said, "When God gets to blessin', the devil gets to messin'."  Whatever happens with T—and I'm believing for good, especially regarding the outcome of things of the Spirit where T is concerned—"As for me and my house, we shall serve the LORD."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Daniel Fast, Day 11: Halfway Point!

Breakfast was raw almonds.  Lunch was pintos and rice with guac.  Supper was more like a snack, a handful of baby carrots dipped in hummus.  I dipped into all of them except the garlic because I went to Bible study afterward, and I didn't want to smell.  Afterward, I went to Mickey D's and got their Southwest salad, custom-made for myself.  It has mixed greens, black beans, corn, and cheese.  I had them leave off the cheese, as well as the cilantro-lime sauce that normally goes on it.  As for dressing, I opted for balsamic vinaigrette, which I subsequently did not eat because, being reduced-fat, it contained a handful of things that aren't permitted on the fast, including sugar.  So I ate the salad undressed.  Warning:  the corn is sweet.  I have a sneaking suspicion that sugar or some other sweetener has been in contact with it.  Probably not a good idea to eat anything else from there until the fast is done.

But I have now made it to the halfway point, and I'm very happy about that.  I also walked home today from the stop on my alternate travel route, and I only paused once or twice, and only for a few seconds or so.  I'm also happy about that achievement.  I'm hoping for the day when I do the walk without stopping for anything other than traffic lights, which I don't count, because of course, you have to stop for those.

In other interesting developments:  Remember my friend, who became not-my-friend, sort of?  Well, he's how I got to Mickey D's.  Let's just say we're having a "throwback" moment.  On one level I'm happy, and I can't say I'm all that surprised.  How I ought to feel about it, as distinct from how I do feel, is something I'll sort out as best I can in a quieter moment.  If you are in Christ, then please pray for us.  All I will say more is that I never decided to stop being his friend, whatever he may have decided.  He remains precious to me.  It is what it is.

I'm writing this way later than I usually do, and I have to prepare for the morning and whatever it brings.  So sweet sleep to all.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Daniel Fast, Day 10: The Brown Rice Edition

I said it before, some time back, and it's still true:  Too many starches in the system make me cranky, and pasta and rice are the worst offenders.  I discovered today that the rice being brown makes zero difference.

Rice is permitted on the Daniel Fast if it is brown.  The distinction is important.  A grain of brown rice is a grain of whole, intact rice, with all the parts God gave it when He created it, except for the outermost layer, called the hull.  White rice, by comparison, is the starch capsule that's left when all the layers under the hull are removed.  This is done by polishing the rice until it is white.  Once the rice has been polished white, the remaining starch capsule is enriched with a few vitamins to save it from being nothing more than just another source of empty calories.  However, the resulting product is still a very poor source of nutrients and fiber compared to how it would have been in its unpolished state with only the hull missing.  Pair brown rice—or any other whole grain—with a legume, and you've got a "complete" protein.

But brown rice, as nutritionally dense as it is, is still rice.  And when I finally bought some today, cooked some, and ate maybe a 1/3 cup amount over the course of an hour, I became a little irritated.  I actually needed to listen to some music to distract myself. Since no one had done anything to me, and nothing upsetting had happened, I finally figured out, after a few minutes of listening to the calming music selection I'd chosen, that I was reacting to the rice.  The good news was that I was able, within maybe a half hour of becoming symptomatic, to ingest a large salad composed of mixed lettuce greens, tomato chunks, cucumber slices, and sunflower nuts and dressed with apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper, followed by a sweet, crunchy, Red Delicious apple.  This mitigated the effects of the crankiness and I mellowed out quite nice.y.  Also, before eating the rice, I'd had a light lunch of baby carrots and sliced cucumber with black bean hummus and red pepper hummus.  Breakfast, since I'm telling you everything else I ate today, was a bowl of pinto beans, and I just ate a bowl of pintos mixed with the brown rice.  I'm going to bed shortly, and since not only do I take melatonin nightly, but I also am due to apply a fresh patch of a transdermally applied medicine that makes me sleepy, I do not anticipate that I will be unduly bothered by any recurring crankiness from eating more of the rice.

In fact, I'm beginning to be tired enough that concentration is a bit of a problem just now, so I think I'll just stop right here and call it a night.

I will say, before I go, that while I was shopping for the rice, I came upon the little section reserved for gluten-free store offerings, and I found some pasta made from brown rice:  Lasagna, rigatoni, rotelli, fettuccine, spaghetti, a good selection.  There was also some made from corn and quinoa, and I kid you not, those were the only two ingredients listed.  I'd like to try that!  I also found some selections of grains and flours from the Red Mill Company.  I even saw some soups from Amy's Kitchen, and at a lower price than at Whole foods!  Someone's getting the message, at least a little bit, about what some of us want to eat.  I like that.  it makes it possibly easier for me to become a pescetarian after I've completed this fast.  I just wish I'd eaten that summer sausage roll first :-)!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Daniel Fast, Day 9: Just Checking In :-)

So I went on strike from eating almonds today, as much as I could.  Breakfast had almonds in it, but it was mixed nuts, and I got a good variety of them in that little packet.  I think I'm gonna do it again tomorrow :-).  Lunch was pintos and grits.  Supper was early due to having to go out for the evening.  I had pintos and guac.  I like that combo so much that I'm eating it again for a snack, with an apple to follow.  I love guacamole :-)!  I just wish I had some pita chips or other tasty flatbread to use as a dipper!

And I don't really have anything else I truly want to talk about.  So in the event nothing else comes to mind, I'm just gonna enjoy my apple and wish y'all a good night and sweet sleep.  See y'all tomorrow, God willing!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Daniel Fast, Day 8: Happy Mother's Day To You, Too

I grabbed some raw almonds on the way out the door for the walk up the hill out of the driveway and across the street for church.  When I got back I made myself a lunch of pinto beans with guacamole and a veggie plate with mixed veggie salad and baby carrots topped with plain hummus.  By my side I have a bowl of pinto beans and grits..  I'll be eating them as I type this out.

My mother called me on this Mother's Day, and she wished me a Happy Mother's Day.  Today being that particular day, that makes sense, right?  I mean, considering that she is a grandma, and she couldn't be that if her kids didn't have some, right?  Well, my particular case doesn't quite go that way.  What she's acknowledging, in my case, is my baby that I miscarried nearly 23 years ago.  

When I'm asked, I don't tell people I have any children, because technically, my baby isn't with me.  Never lived outside the womb.  I carried him for 19 weeks and 5 days total, just short of halfway. And then he was gone, miscarried.  I can almost be passive when I talk about it, as long as I don't have to go into detail.  

There are those who will tell me that I should be over it.  There are others who will tell me that he's the lucky one, not having to grow up in the world as it is right now, with all its war, turmoil, economic uncertainty and upset, all the sex, drugs, etc., etc.  Or they'll tell me that I'm lucky because I didn't have to shell out money on someone who would eat my bread, drink my water, sleep in my shelter, and turn on me behaviorally and spit in my face, so to speak.  No one to be a nuisance, or a college-educated drain on my wallet who for all his smarts can do no better than to come back home, grown but not a man.  Any one of a thousand scenarios that could have played out didn't because he never saw the light of day alive. 

It kills me that when people say things like this, they so often tell me the bad that I avoided.  It kills me how cynical some people get to be about the gifts they have.  Children are a gift.  A good gift.

And it's not their fault if you weren't prepared for them when they arrived.  That they cost money you don't have.  That they demand energy you don't have—or want—to give.  That they are more of a responsibility, and less of a return on emotional investment sometimes, than you expected.  That the situation into which you brought them to fix is now made many times worse for their presence in lives where they ultimately were not wanted for themselves alone but rather as a genetic trinket to wave under the nose of someone who really, really, really needs you to get out of his face, because if he did feel anything under all the lust, even the lust is now all gone, and any peripheral emotional spasms have long since ceased and disappeared.  

And sometimes with all the care and planning that you put into having them, raising and teaching them, nurturing and loving them, stuff still happens.  They're people, not puppets you control.  Not automatons for whom you can write a program and upgrade the software.  They're little people.  They pick up everything through their senses, even when those senses don't work exactly the way they're supposed to do.  They grow up and have experiences and opinions you didn't teach them.  They ultimately make decisions that make us feel 10 feet tall or sink us so low that we have to reach way up to touch bottom.  They're little people, with all that is implied.

And the true mother's heart cherishes every one of her children, whatever feelings they may provoke in her moment to moment.  She doesn't romanticize them, but she cherishes them.  She wants for them every good thing, however well or ill they may act.  And when she loses one, by whatever means, she still carries them with her in her heart.  In her heart, their lives are eternal, no matter how long or short they are in time.

So please, don't tell me which of us, I or my son, was "the lucky one".  Because each child is unique, each one precious, and each one is the product, in large part, of what that child experiences at the hands of their parents and those others whom the parents allow into that child's life.  Yes, there are all those other influences over which the parent may have no direct control, but that doesn't negate the parental influence where the parent is there to exert it.  I was raised by my parents for the first five years of my life, before they put me in a boarding school where, for the next 13 years, other adults spent more time with me than they did.  However, I never forgot where home was, and I never forgot who Mama and Daddy were.  Whenever I was with them, they reminded me who I was and whose I was.  They loved me, nurtured me, lessoned me, and poured themselves into me the best they knew how.  To this day, their influence remains strong, woven into the fabric of the adult I am now.  And though I am independent of them, I know full well what would have been my son's first lessons.  I know because they were mine, from Mama and Daddy.  What you pour out into and onto your children, they give it back to you.  In spades.  Through repetition and perpetuation.

I only had a brief time to parent my baby, but I did the best I could in the time I had.  I tried to eat nutritionally, to take care of myself, to follow my obstetrician's directives.  Above all, I loved and wanted him, and I prayed every day that God would help me be to him the best mother I could be.  My last prayers, as his defenseless little body was being pummeled and crushed inside me by the force of medically-induced labor after my natural rhythms stalled, were pleas to God for His mercy on my child.  And when I was offered the chance to hold him and say a proper farewell, I did right by him the best I could.  I held and admired him, his delicate little hands and feet, his little face that marked him so strongly as bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh..  I mourned him long and deeply for many years.  And when the guilt that I felt over his coming, and his going, became more than I could bear, I did the only other thing that I could do for him:  I gave the guilt, and my son himself, into the hands of my God, to do away with the guilt, and to hold my little one safe forever.

There are unknown thousands of thousands of women whose hearts have a place reserved for a child their arms cannot hold.  Some of those children are still alive somewhere, some are in eternity.  And the majority of people who know you probably don't know your story.  But my mother knows my story.  And today, she honored my by letting me know that she has not forgotten, and it was an act of love from her.  I say this because although the circumstances of his coming were not the way she and my father taught me it should be, with a husband by my side, his ring on my hand, his name on my signature, his honor to cover and protect me, my mama was there for me.  She loved me.  And had he been born at term, she would have loved him every bit as much as she loves her other grandchildren; this I know with everything in me.  I say it again:  Her remembrance is a gift of love.  And I thanked her.

Maybe you are such a one, a mother whose child, on earth or in eternity, is in your heart but not in your arms or in your life.  Maybe you have never acknowledged yourself a mother because you felt that not having your child meant that you didn't qualify to call yourself that.  The lord knows how rarely I think of myself in that way.  But I am a mother.  And, if you want that title, so are you.  So if you have no mother to tell you, then from me to you:  Happy Mother's Day!  Hold up your head.  Carry this with you forward and celebrate big next year.  You are not forgotten.  God has not forgotten.

Your child and your heart are safe in His hands.  God has not forgotten.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Daniel Fast, Day 7: Whole Foods Un-Funny Money Shopping Trip

Today's menu:  Breakfast was eaten on the run, or to be more accurate, on the walk, as I attended my first Frontline service at Miracle Life Ministries today., and all I had was a handful of raw almonds.  Lunch was eaten seated at a table at Whole foods, and it was a repeat of breakfast.  The service was wonderful.  The shopping trip, not so much :-/.

You see, yesterday afternoon a little past 3 p.m. I stopped in at the bank to check my bank balance and saw that it contained a decent amount.  I wanted to set my budget for today's trip at a specific amount, but prices being what they are at Whole Foods, I knew that there was a strong possibility, no, a probability, that I would blow right by that amount.  But that would be okay to me.  

So I went through the aisles gathering various things I thought I wanted.  Shopping backwards, I picked up cold foods early in the search, right after I picked up some produce.  Unfortunately for me, it took me longer to shop than I planned, and it was a good four hours later by the time I finished.  What can I say, decisions take time, and I made a lot of them.

So I went through the line with my purchases, not blinking when I saw that my total was double my original budget.  The money was in the bank, right?  WRONG!  The card was rejected!  I had the cashier to void the whole transaction and continue with other patrons while I sat aside to figure out what had happened.  

I used my bank's telephonic banking system to check my balance again.  I guess that a bunch of the people to whom I'd made payments via banking card or check all chose that period between 3 p.m. yesterday and 4 p.m. today to collect their money, because I was down by a massive amount.  I don't embarrass easily, but I was wincing inside as I returned to the cashier and asked him to do the re-ring.

I started with the frozen vegetables and cold prepared food that I'd selected.  Four hours riding around in my cart had done it no favors in terms of preservation, and I didn't think it was fair to make others suffer the effects of my slow time-taking and miscalculation.  In addition to a package of chopsticks, the frozen and cold prepared stuff was all I ended up buying.  Needless to say, I bought no nuts.  I apologized my way through the whole thing.  For their part, the cashier and his co-worker who came over to help were relieved that I was right-minded enough to pay for the stuff I did get.  

Which made me wonder, off on the periphery of my mind:  "Just how often do they get stuck with spoiled cold groceries because people ride them around in the cart for the longest time but then decide that they can't or won't purchase them?"  It would not have been fair to put them back after thawing them out in my cart, and I fully intended to buy them anyway, which is why they were in my cart in the first place, so it was no skin off my nose to have them rung up first.  When I shop for things like that, I make good and sure I'm absolutely going to get them before I walk out the section where I got them.  On the flip side, I would not want to be the one being stuck with possibly spoiled groceries because someone else rode them around in a cart long enough to thaw them out, only to change their mind and put them back.  And if the people in the store have a good conscience about the matter, there some things they wouldn't restock anyway, because keeping them away from the cold for so long would allow for the possible multiplication of harmful pathogens to begin, and others would then be made sick.  Which would make the alternative be for the store folks to throw out those items.  And where would they make up the loss?  Yup!  Right out of all our pockets!

So you see, folks, when you spoil food in your cart that you then don't buy, don't think you've saved yourself anything.  You join the rest of us in paying for it later, in higher food prices.  And while that's only one small way that food prices may be affected, it is a way that can so easily be prevented!
(1) My frenemy—I HATE that word; I rebuke myself in the Name of Jesus for calling him that, and I will not anymore use it about him!—my once-and-will-be-again friend T, when I told him over the phone about this, answered, "That's why, when I go to the store, I check while I'm there how much money is in the bank, before I start shopping."  I'll be doing that myself from now on, you better know!  And I suggest you do it, too.  If you don't know the number to your bank's telephonic banking system, then you can get it from a teller the next time you go there.  Program it into your phone so you always have it.
(2) I shopped backward, in that I got cold things first.  Now that would have been okay if I'd had the money to buy those things.  Having discovered myself to have less than I'd originally been told, however, if I'd shopped so that I got the cold things last, I would have been able to get at least one bag of nuts, and I might have been able to swap out some of the other cold things for other things I'd picked up and wanted.  I could have, for instance, turned in all but a few of the frozen vegetables for a few fresh produce items, or a bag of brown rice or a bag of whole grain flour.  I could have ended up with a variety with which I would have been more pleased, and the cold things would have been able to go back to their places because they would not have had so much time to thaw out and warm up.  I will avoid doing that from now on, and it will be easier to avoid in that particular store now, because having walked most of it in my shopping trip today, I now have a better idea of the layout.
(3)  Which brings up the wisdom of taking time to become familiar with a new store's layout by simply visiting it and walking through it a time or two before you try to do a massive grocery shopping trip there.  Knowing what's in the store and where to find it before you need to know will make it easier to get through your trip in a shorter amount of time, even if you don't have a list but do have a general idea of the things you want to pick up while you're there.  
(4)  Deciding which things are must-haves and which things you can get another day if you find yourself unable to get them today makes it easier on both you and the cashier if the bank balance takes an unexpected hit and you're forced to leave something behind.  Deciding to be polite and gracious with the cashiers about you doing the right thing can also go a long way to soothe their feelings about having to restock your intended purchases.  From remarks they made between them, I knew he'd already had to repeat a similar scenario with re-rings and restocking at least once, and possibly a few times before I got in his line, and it was not his fault that my bottom line went belly up, so it did no good to take it out on him.  I apologized so much that the lady actually started saying things like, "No, no, don't worry about it, things happen."  And as I walked away with my one less-than-half-full bag, she actually said, "Bye-bye, thanks for shopping, and thanks for buying the frozen vegetables!  See you soon!"  Since she may indeed see me soon, as I plan to return when I have enough money to get some of the other things I couldn't get today, it makes me feel good that I still managed to leave behind me a good enough impression that they don't mind if I come back.

Oh, before I forget:  As soon as I got home and got sorted out, I fixed myself a small plate with a generous scoop of all of the four kinds of hummus in the sampler pack I got (one of the cold prepared food items) and dipped a lot of baby carrots into it.  There was traditional, garlic, black bean, and roasted red pepper hummus.  All of them were good.  And while I've been typing I ate some pinto beans that I cooked last night and paired them with a generous serving of guacamole (the other cold prepared food, and the one in place of which, had I not shopped backward, I could have gotten my much-desired cashew nuts).

Friday, May 11, 2012

Daniel Fast, Day 6: Little Notables, Big Excitement

Okay, you about know how this goes:  Breakfast was a handful of raw almonds and an apple.  Lunch was more raw almonds and a banana.  Snack was more raw almonds and a serving of grits.  More about them in a moment.  Supper was pinto beans and an apple.

One thing of which to be aware is the role starches play in your eating.  I'd had a low-level headache and felt unsatisfied for the last two days.  That stopped when I ate the grits.  I prepared them by putting a little extra virgin olive oil and a generous blend of Kosher salt, ground black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder into 1 1/4 C water in a small sauce pan and stirring 1/4 C grits into the water after it came to a boil.  Then I turned it down to a low setting for about five minutes until the grits were thickened to my satisfaction.  I'm ashamed to say that I wolfed them down, but the belly thanked me sweetly and settled itself down quietly to wait for the beans.  The beans were worth the wait.

It's a known fact that fats can help the belly to feel satisfied.  Combine them with some good quality complex carbs, and you have a wining combination for satiation, not to mention one half of a whole protein, with a legume being the other half.  I will not soon diss the grits again, I promise.  I just know better than to eat a whole lot of them at once.  Too many starches in the system at once make me cranky, and the more refined they are, the worse the effect.

Another thing:  I've been stopping up toilets.  That's all I'm gonna say 'bout that :-/.

I've scheduled my trip to Whole Foods for mid-day tomorrow.  I'm excited.  I always welcome an opportunity to go to Whole Foods.  Cashews, here I come :-)!

In all seriousness, I'm beginning to feel better and better, I think.  Concentration was a little better, and tiredness was considerably less.  I also got in another walk via the alternate bus route today.  It went even better today than it did a few days ago, and in uncomfortable shoes, too, YAY!  I am well on the way to being convinced that walking is a doable thing for me.  That, to me, is very exciting!

More to come later . . . :-).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Daniel Fast, Day 5: Fighting Back Against Food Boredom

Okay, we'll start with today's menu.  You can skip this part if you want; it's very short and very similar in most particulars to the other four days  Breakfast was the usual generous handful of raw almonds and the other of the two bananas I bought yesterday.  Halfway through the morning I also got to eat some strawberries prepared from fresh as part of a brief but sweet celebration of someone's birthday.  The person in question mostly follows a vegan diet, thus the strawberries instead of cake, which also insured that I could join the festivities.  Lunch was another handful of almonds.  Supper was another can of string beans drained, rinsed, and sauteed in olive oil and seasoned with Kosher salt and ground black pepper.  Instead of roasting almonds today, I simply dropped some into the sauce pan after it got good and hot and the oil had heated.  I let them sit for about five minutes or so while I swallowed a couple of pain pills and a fistful of supplements, then I dumped in the string beans and the salt and pepper.  I shook everything around in the sauce pan and let the string beans heat through, then I turned off the heat under them and left them in the pan while I cut up a mango.  So my meals have been tasty, if scant and monotonous.

I'm trying very hard not to think of the food.  However, supper was late, not because I was particularly busy with anything that couldn't be interrupted, but because I'm beginning to get bored enough with the food as to not be interested in eating it.  That's not good, especially at only the fifth day.  So This weekend, I need to see what I can do about this, because I don't want to sabotage myself and I refuse to give up.

Here's my plan of attack:  (1) Since I typically visit a food pantry or two monthly because of not always having enough to buy groceries like I want to do, I'm going to do that again this month, even though I know that at least half of what I get will be stuff I can't use.  The reason is that I know that I will probably get some fresh fruits and vegetables, and those, at least, will help me shake things up a little.  (2) I'm also going to go to Whole Foods and shell out an insane amount of money on other nuts.  I like cashews, walnuts, macadamias, sunflower nuts, and pecans in addition to almonds, and I expect to find at least the cashews in bulk and raw.  To me, they taste like bread when they are roasted, so I will also be experimenting with roasting them.  They will be a break with almonds so that I don't get burned out on a nut that has served me well for several months now.  In fact, after a recent battery of blood work, the doctor told me that while my overall cholesterol was up—no surprise there; he's been at me about that for the last several years—he was very pleased to note that the good cholesterol was up, which is to be desired.  I have no doubt it is due to all those almonds, roasted and raw, because almonds have that effect on cholesterol.
(3)  While I am at Whole Foods, I will investigate some other yummies that I can eat for this fast and bring home some of them, if I can.
(4)  At some point, I'm going to have to break down and make, or buy, some hummus.  That's the only way I'm going to consume the boatload of baby carrots in my refrigerator.  Buried under the hummus, the baby carrots are tolerable.
(5)  Of course, I also need to keep some fresh fruit around so that I can keep my sweet tooth somewhat satisfied.  It will also make a great accompaniment to the nut du jour at breakfast.
(6)  And let us not forget the main purpose of all this:  To draw closer to God, to get into His Word, to pray, and generally show Him some love, as this is an act of worship as much as anything else.

Wow!  I have now written more in a week than in the two years preceding!  Let's see what comes next, shall we :-)?