Strawberries Without Sugar

Type II Diabetes has forced me to appreciate simplicity in my food choices.

I remember being a small kid and dumping literally spoonfuls of sugar into my Rice Krispies cereal at breakfast, then scooping it up from a layer at the bottom of the bowl. I remember cutting up strawberries and then dipping them heavy into the sugar bowl. Coating my orange slices in it. I even baked them for Thanksgiving a few years ago! “Naranja y azucar,” remains one of the only Spanish phrases I remember.

Now I get excited about a sale on strawberries grocery shopping on Saturday night, because I use them for my oatmeal. I’ve also cut up half an apple and included Swerve brown sugar replacement.  But once I tried strawberries, I was hooked.

I preferred that easy preparation. No substitute sweeteners needed. Apples are more tart.  But strawberries are decadent as is, plus they’er so bright and pretty. It’s rich enough that I don’t need anything extra.

They can be expensive. But we all make small allowances. As recently as six months ago, if I had a little extra cash I’d prefer to buy something: new clothes, make-up. Go out to eat. Now whatever I have I’m eager to invest in food or something I can use to cook.

And that’s what adulthood is: learning to recognize the beauty in front of you, in the details you never considered prior. Adapting to a more practical life style– in your budget!

And although this is considered “burying the lede,” I got some TREMENDOUS news today! I had a blood test done to check the levels on my anti-rejection liver medication. And though I must wait another month to get my A1C checked, because you need three months of data for that, today I found out my most recent Fasting Blood Sugar level.

In a little over two months, it has dropped from a dangerous 655 to 135!!!!

HALLELUJER, as Madea would say! The nurse was pretty nonchalant — “It’s still elevated.”

But I know how hard I’ve worked. How I’ve quit fast food and soda and over hauled my whole way of eating. How water is all I primarily drink now. I am absolutely *thrilled with these results!!

It gives me some reassurance that, YES, I’m doing this right. I’ll keep on this path.

I’ll continue to enjoy my strawberries without sugar.

The Beauty of “War Room:” Don’t Believe the Bad Reviews

Last Wednesday I heard about the Kendrick Brothers’ movie “War Room,” at choir practice.

Our choir director said it was a prayerful movie and that anyone of faith should go see it. That despite the title, it had nothing do with actual, political war. That an unbeliever who saw this movie would be convinced of the power of prayer.

I was sold immediately. I’m a believer, but it sounded like just my kinda movie.

Thursday night, the next day, I was invited to my parents’ for dinner, along with a longtime family friend. She’s a mother of five, a grandmother and a devout Catholic woman– I grew up next to her family.  I had planned to invite her and my step-mother.

Once I brought it up, SHE said she had heard about the movie and planned to invite ME! We both enjoy movies and are single. My step-mother ended up canceling, but she and I kept our plans.

We decided to share a medium popcorn and she asked for butter– just like me. Apparently there wasn’t enough salt, so she poured a heaping pile of it in some napkins, then folded it up into her purse so that we could disperse it in the middle as we ate our way through it. It made me laugh.

I was so glad she went with me. Like me, she’s a movie talker!

After, she wanted to stay and watch the credits. We were the last to leave. Afterward, we went for dinner, which I hadn’t been expecting. I had the best time.

I won’t spoil it- -but I will share a few details.

It’s an ambitious movie that works because it’s focused on one small family, and the way the one family member’s decision to surrender to a disciplined prayerful life transforms the family’s circumstances in every area.

The hero is an elderly woman named Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie). I think she deserves an Oscar.

She’s got the sternness of Madea, with a little more empathy. She’s a small woman of fire– but she commands just as much respect as Madea. She’s the kind of woman who commands your attention. The kind of woman who refuses to accept your facade, no matter how good you think you are at hiding the pain. The kind of woman who reminds you that you deserve love. That you are accepted and forgiven, no matter what. The woman who teaches you about God’s grace.

Miss Clara notices something amiss in her realtor, Priscilla, and buts into her business in the loving way that older people tend to do. She wants to know about her marriage, her daughter, if she has a relationship with the Lord.

It parallels “Fried Green Tomatoes,” in that a woman’s life is set right by a deep friendship with an older woman, a mentor, who helps another adult woman who feels a bit lost.  This woman could have given up on a marriage that was held together only by contempt. Their own daughter felt unloved as a result of their constant fighting– there was no affection present at all. On the brink of infidelity, both partners in this marriage might have abandoned hope and ended up divorced.

But Priscilla (Elizabeth Jordan), the wife and mother who befriends Miss Clara, is so desperate she is open to prayer,

Miss Clara challenges her to fight FOR her husband, rather than with him. To fight in Jesus’ name.

And it’s Priscilla’s devotion to changing HERSELF, accepting her husband and loving him as is, and praying unceasingly for him, her daughter, and her own change of heart– that is what inspires.

It’s about acceptance, surrender, owning responsibilities, about amends.

About passing on your faith and what you’ve learned with others.

It’s about creating a physical space in your life to be with God and his Word– to pray for those you love most.

It’s about the Bible.

It makes me want to overhaul my own space– to create my own War Room. To eliminate the clutter.

To put the focus back where it out to be: on God.

I heard a lot of “That’s right!” and “Uh-huh,” and “AMEN!” in the rows surrounding us.

I know I will see this movie again.

Please, give it a chance. Even if you’re a non-believer. Especially if you are.

Several Little Prayers, Hands Held, and Myriad Kisses: Leslie and Joe’s Wedding

Tonight, my best friend said “I do!” to the man for whom she prayed to meet.

In fact, they both pray. That’s what makes it so amazing.

The glue of their relationship is good, old-fashioned faith. It was so refreshing to behold.

I wanted to speak up at the reception, but was too shy. So this is my belated well-wishing speech.

The best moment of their wedding, for me, was just before the vows.

They had begun standing facing each other, holding both hands. I noticed he caressed her hands with his thumbs. They were both so calm. And mostly, they made eye contact the entire time.

The intimacy was astounding, just witnessing it.

As the officiant prayed over their impending marriage, Leslie and Joe stepped in together. So naturally– like magnets. Their arms and hands were relaxed. Toe-to-toe, their foreheads touched gently. With closed eyes and flickering smiles, they leaned on each other and listened.

Together, they prayed over their future as husband and wife. Just watching them, I had a deep feeling of peace.

The reason Leslie is my best friend is likely the same reason she captured Joe’s heart: she’s a woman of indefatigable faith. Knowing her has inspired me and helped me grow in my own faith. And although she’s a Non-Denominational Christian and I’m Catholic, we always find the middle ground: a love for God and Jesus. She knows her Bible. She has deep convictions, to which she adheres. But she truly loves and accepts people with unconditional love and friendship. She’s the one I call when upset– I know she’ll listen quietly, with attention. She doesn’t gossip. Your secret is always safe with her. And she always remembers.

She makes sure to “like” or comment on every post I write– because she knows how much it means to me.

She’s been my rock– always reminding me who I am, to never settle. To rely on God’s timing. To remember that what I want– a sober, Catholic man– IS possible. And that I deserve it. She makes me laugh. She enjoys doing the same corny things I do. She moved to Texas not long ago because she felt God calling her to go and I miss her dearly. She indulged my propensity to take silly pictures every time we got together. As single gals, we spent a few Christmas Eve’s together. They were our Christmas sleep-overs. We’d watch a movie, cuddle up with her American Bulldog, Hodgins, and then in the morning, wake up and listen to Bing Crosby on vinyl and make pancakes. We bowled together on NYE, both sober. We went to see a hair metal tribute band at several venues. One time I got horrendously lost, and it took me seriously a full HOUR and a half to arrive. Rather than do the easy thing and venture inside to watch the show, Leslie sat at a table near the door, keeping a vigil until I arrived. Because that’s the kind of friends she is– she cared more that I got there safe. She wanted to be available to text or answer if I called, to help direct me. Talk about a wonderful selfless gesture. And when I arrived, she didn’t glare at me or lecture me about making her wait, like many would have. She merely ran at me in a full-force hug, squealing with glee that I was THERE! It was a St. Patrick’s Day show. We ran in together and danced front row and took pictures as always.

She is the Elinor to my Marianne. She and I watched “Willow” together– my first time ever! She loves Madea.

Leslie is a prayer warrior. How many times we’ve cried over the phone to each other, prayed it out. Or when I was dejected or feeling frustrated, she’d text Bible verses to me. She gives her full attention. She’s always excited to pray. When she does pray for me and with me, her words sometimes surprise me, because she always sees the best in me– things I don’t always notice in myself, but desperately needed to know. Affirmations that fit right into my heart.

Before she moved, she bought me a little red pin button that says “You are Loved,” in red and white, so that I wouldn’t feel alone without her.

You see the light of Christ in her, if you’re lucky enough to know her. She’s the kind of woman who shines a light for God without trying. It’s in her generosity, her patience, her empathy.

Her beauty radiates. She is a woman comfortable with herself, secure in the love of God. She knows that she is the Daughter of a King.

She was the first person ever to call me her “Sister-in-Christ.”

My dear Leslie, I wish all the joy and blessings that the hearts of you and your Joseph can hold.

I love you, I miss you, I look up to you.

Although I was flying solo yet again tonight– I usually am at weddings– tonight I felt hopeful.

And although I’ve questioned myself for ending relationships because of religion, tonight I was reminded that I’m on the right path.

Because you showed me that I deserve and want a man who will also pray WITH me, and FOR me.

You showed me, and all of us, that it’s POSSIBLE. Thank you.

I leave you with *my* favorite Bible verse, which I feel you embody:

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

And I’m delighted that I caught the bouquet!!

That’s gotta be good foreshadowing.