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Needlework by S. Staples; photograph by K. Farwell

 

Once again I feel that urge to write. This morning’s sermon got me to thinking—–which is sometimes a dangerous thing. Usually I either think “rebuttals” and “disagreements” (when I am in my critical persona, one I learned from my mother) or I find myself embellishing one of the ideas presented. Today was an embellish day. The sermon itself was a wonderful one that did an excellent job of explaining what Lent is all about. I had not thought of it as an opportunity to exercise and strengthen my temptation resisting skills until I heard this morning’s sermon by Rvd. Edie.

She explained that temptation is a process. First, we become aware of an idea—-you know, those ideas commercials, for instance, are always planting in our heads. The second step is entertaining the idea—–this is a crucial step where the idea/temptation builds its strength and attractiveness to us primarily by us actively focusing our attention on it. The last step, of course, is to act on the idea. She discussed how we need to exercise and strengthen our attention skills and our ability to  intentionally re-focus our attention away from the idea that tempts us so that the last step of the process for us is choosing not to give into the temptation.

This is where I started embellishing as I listened to her sermon. As a person who practices the 12 steps of recovery I am quite familiar with these steps. When I see a commercial for a candy bar I can focus my attention on that and even begin to taste it with my imagination. Then my mind can build on the idea by telling myself, “Oh, come on, one little candy bar” won’t hurt you.” If I keep my attention going down that road, it won’t be long before I act on the idea and actually find myself eating that candy bar—-and another, and another until I make myself sick.

For a long time I have been telling myself and others in recovery to “follow it through” when the idea of having a drink comes to you—-not with thoughts of how wonderful a drink would be but with memories of what really happens to us when we take that drink and keep drinking. I have to do the same thing with thoughts of eating foods with flour or sugar in them. Giving in to either obsession has the potential to kill me. I wish I was exaggerating—-but I am not.

So, here’s the “kicker.” Those of us in recovery get to exercise “healthy attention” every day of our lives one day at a time. There is no magical end after forty days when we can go back to having what we’ve been practicing avoiding without facing deadly consequences. With all that exercise, you’d think we would develop immensely strong will power. Instead of exercising my “self-will” (which has, historically, been what has always gotten me in trouble) I have learned I can only be empowered to make healthy choices if I turn my will over to God and let God focus my attention and guide my actions.

I don’t always do so perfectly. Letting go of self-will is sometimes a daily struggle especially with food.  After all, I have to eat every day to live; therefore,  food triggers in my life are much stronger because of my daily consumption than they are with alcohol because that daily consumption ended for me over three decades ago.

I am learning to let fleeting thoughts of “wouldn’t it be nice to eat….” float right through my crowded mind. Contemplative prayer has helped me with that because I am learning not to fight my thoughts—-just to acknowledge them and to let them “float by” without giving them undue attention. I am learning to focus my attention on consenting to God’s love—–in my prayers and in my daily life. And that includes focusing my attention away from tempting food or alcohol thoughts.  It is not that I have given up certain foods or alcohol for Lent—–rather I have given them up for life and for living. I can only do that one day at a time by turning my will and my life over to the care and love of God as I understand Him/Her. May God bless and keep you.

Dog Jackets for Warmth Photo compliments of K. Farwell It is 7 or16 degrees cold outside (depending on which reading is correct, my thermostat or the local TV channel’s weather app) and 40, 54, or 66 degrees “warm” inside my house, depending on what room you happen to be in. I could use my central air and fix that, but instead I prefer to use a gas stove in my living room which should be a bit cheaper in the long run than my central heating.  That means my dogs got to put their winter jackets on this morning.  We got about 6-8″ of snow here by the time it ended yesterday.  I am too lazy to bundle up and go outside to measure the actual depth. Suffice it to say by yesterday noon the street between my house and the school across the street was undetectable—–and the school driveway “do not enter” sign looked  like it was  only a foot off the ground. Why all that minute detail? I wanted to set the stage for my television saga which began last night just as the Westminster Dog Show was starting. I had thought perhaps the snow that kept falling until about 11 AM yesterday might mess up my satellite television reception. Luckily, the snow was blowing the opposite direction than the “dish” part of the satellite that is high up on my roof where it cannot be reached to sweep the snow away. You can imagine my surprise when I punched in the numbers for the dog show channel last night and instead got a “no satellite signal” message. Then I went to the TV in my bedroom, and it was still working. So I punched in a new channel and got it without a problem. Then I punched in the numbers for the dog show. Guess what? All of the sudden that TV also had “no satellite signal” message.  I found this exceedingly strange, so I called DirecTV. After telling their computer I wanted to talk to a real person  at least three times I finally got to talk to a woman who tried to be helpful. First, she had me look for a “genie control box” that was supposed to be on the floor behind one of my television sets —-she even directed me to an online photo so I would recognize it when I found it. It was not behind either set.; so she had me look in my basement. It was not plugged into any outlets there, so I told her I didn’t have a “genie” even though she was sure I did. She said they’d been installed in all systems in the past 2-3 years.  My system was first installed before that time, but by then I knew better than to argue with her. The “tech assist” lady went on to explain that no one could be scheduled to come to my house until all the snow was gone…..which probably won’t be until sometime next week. Besides, she explained, your loss of signal is probably due to snow even though it stopped snowing eight hours earlier….and, yes, according to her, one TV set can work for a while before getting a delayed loss of signal even after the main set has stopped getting the signal. Isn’t that amazing? Want to know something else amazing? When I woke up this morning, my bedroom TV was once again getting satellite signals, and it has been doing so for about three hours now even though the main television (the one that is supposed to control what both sets do) is still not receiving a signal. I’m sure if I called there would be some off the wall explanation of why that is normal when it snows, but I hardly think it is worth the bother now. I will just watch TV in my bedroom when I need to see weather, news, or my favorite soap opera. There’s always “DirecTV everywhere” I can view on my laptop, tablet, or I-Phone….but it’s “live streaming”  is a bit limited. I think perhaps God is trying to tell me things other than television are much more important.  I didn’t have television in the house where I grew up until I was about ten years old,; therefore,  I know it is very possible to have a great life without television. So, I will patiently wait until the snow melts before trying to get DirecTV to come fix my system. I may even ask them to deduct a week from my bill. Who would have thought that many years ago when I stood outside with my father and uncles on a starry night  just to see a satellite move across the sky for the first time that I would eventually be so dependent on the orbiting wonders that I would find their limitations this exasperating? May peace and blessings come to all of us, and may those of us who are isolated due to weather conditions  use some of  the freed up time to  nurture our relationship with God. May God bless and keep you.

Teddy Bear

Photo compliments of K. Farwell

I thought I was almost through grieving my father’s death—–and then came this morning. I was searching for a number in my telephone contacts and discovered I needed to delete “Daddy” from my contact list on my telephone. It has taken me over three months to have the courage to do that. Guess that makes me a number one “wuss.” I punched “delete contact” and cried.

It is not like I am a child. I am a grown up—-at least that is what my calendar tells me. In fact,  it is telling me next week I am one year older and am well over the age most people are when they become grandmothers.  So, why am I still “Daddy’s little girl” who cries because her father has died? Maybe because I love him. Maybe because it is part of the normal grieving process. It would be more worrisome were I not still grieving. I know all this theoretically, but the pain is still intense. Understanding it doesn’t make it any easier.

My recovery program tells me to “get out of myself and into service” when I am feeling sorry for myself. So today I am going to help lead another support group, and I am going to do some sponsor work tomorrow , and lead a recovery meeting on Saturday.   I am staying busy at home, too. I am busy crocheting projects for my business and for gifts—-and I am enjoying “squeaky clean abstinence” in terms of letting God guide my eating. I am even exercising. But there are still moments my mind wanders to what is painful in my heart.

At least now smiles come as often as tears with the memories. For that I am grateful. And I realize “deleting” my father from my contact list does not mean I am deleting him from my heart. Somewhere in the Bible it tells me there is a season for everything, and this is my season for grieving. It is part of my life journey, and Got is traveling right along beside me. Writing those words  triggered a sigh along with a bit of tangible relaxation. Once again, God is with me helping me live life on “life’s terms” as is so often said around recovery tables. I could not do so without God’s help, and I am very grateful for God’s unconditional love. God bless and keep you.

baby photo

 

Photography courtesy of K. Farwell

I have been working on this forgiveness challenge thing (https://www.forgivenesschallenge.com), and it is helping me look at what happened in my last marriage and divorce a bit differently.

Yes, of course, I felt angry, hurt, and abandoned at the time my divorce occurred. However, as a result of being freed from a relationship that was slowly killing both of us I was given a new life.  What I went through has empowered me to live life my life fully as a survivor. Most importantly, hitting that emotional “bottom” over ten years ago triggered internal spiritual growth that has given me a true relationship with God. It has given me the choice of viewing others with compassion rather than blame or the fantasy that they can do better if I just love them. I no longer feel the need to play God or to form any relationship that has an element of me addressing someone else’s needs and issues while  ignoring my own.

Today’s forgiveness challenge had participants going through a guided imagery exercise that instructed people to hold the person they are working on forgiving as a baby in their arms….a baby pure, unblemished, and  full of potential, love, and hope. It had them, if able, to hold that baby, to bless it, and to wish it happiness. And, lastly, having done this, it asked them to let the person go. I was able to wish my ex-husband blessings and happiness, and to raise my arms and release him to God.

The exercise felt very real to me. It allowed to view my ex with compassion and forgiveness…..and to let him  and my resentment towards him go.  I felt immense relief and gratitude.  After his abrupt departure from my life over ten years ago , I used the Big Book’s resentment prayer endlessly—-or so it seemed. And, yes, to a great extent doing so worked. However, those who know me will tell you I have a very active and sarcastic tongue when it comes to talking about my ex-husband. I am hoping the forgiveness work I am doing now  is changing that.

I am learning to look at situations a bit differently. I am beginning to view actions rather than people as bad. I am learning to try to view all people with compassion knowing I am in no position to judge because there is much in my life and actions that also needs forgiven. I am learning I can choose to re-direct my thoughts from blame and anger to ones of compassion. God bless and keep you.

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I have the mid-winter blahs. Big time. Can’t blame it on the sun not shining or on ice or snow. I have once again started eating healthy—-which for me means no flour, sugar,  or carbs that are high-glycemic and weighing and measuring what I am going to eat before I eat it. In a couple of days I should be feeling a lot better. However,  these first couple of days of detoxing  from the way I was eating has made me depressed and irritable ——plus I have had to spend too much time in bathrooms.

What’s really gotten to me is taking care of my dogs. Boo had a growth removed from in front of his left ear about a week ago. That first night after surgery he spent crying and throwing up. I could not console him. He was and still is having to wear a cone to keep him from scratching his surgical site while it is healing.  In addition, one of my other dogs, Gus,  is a “licker”——he likes to lick and groom  or  “parent” other dogs almost non-stop.  Therefore, I had to put a cone on Gus to keep him from licking Boo’s surgical site.

Thankfully, Boo adjusted quite well to his cone, and he has learned to eat, drink, sleep, and climb stairs in spite of wearing it. I thought Gus had adjusted to his, but for the past couple of days he stopped eating and seemed listless. Last night I finally got him to eat by hand feeding him a little at a time by letting him lick  a few bites off of my hands. He seemed better today, but when I had a friend come over,  I took off the cone to see if that was what was depressing him. I waited to my friend was here  because it originally took the two of us to get the cone  on Gus in the first place.

A few minutes after removing Gus’ cone I noticed his whiskers under his lower jaw were pinkish red—-as if he had been eating something bloody. Then I looked at his mouth. To my dismay I found sores—-places rubbed raw—on both sides of his lower jaw. He must have rubbed himself over and over again on the inside seam of his cone without me knowing it. I will not put the cone back on him, and now I have to watch them closely or keep him and Boo separate for another almost entire week.

My friend and I put warm salt water on Gus’s raw spots to help them heal, but I know that too hurt him. I am feeling so guilty! Gus has already forgiven me, but it will be a while before I can accept hurting a dog in my care to this extent.  Of course, I’ve checked Boo’s mouth closely, and he has not rubbed any raw spots on himself.

I know I live one day at a time—-even days like today. One could say I’ve had a “semi-bad” day today—-but I am warm and dry, I have a roof over my head, my bills are paid, I have good friends, and I am healthy, at least for today. I am sober and clean. I am abstinent from foods that are unhealthy for me. My dogs love me in spite of their present condition. They have repeatedly shown me the meaning of the term “unconditional love.”

I realize I just made a list of things for which I am grateful. It worked. I no longer feel like moaning and groaning with self-pity. Now I am grateful for the gift of living today. I this moment and all of my moments are a gift from God. I also know I cannot live one day at a time without God’s love and support. I don’t keep myself clean and sober or abstinent—–God does when I am willing to let him. I am grateful for the gift of willingness that makes today’s moments possible. God bless and keep you.

 

 

 

 

Daddy's Poinsettia

According to Teleflora (http://www.teleflora.com/poinsettia/flowers-plants/poinsettia-detail.asp), “… in today’s language of flowers, red, white or pink poinsettias, the December birth flower, symbolize good cheer and success and are said to bring wishes of mirth and celebration.” In my church, it is an annual tradition to purchase Poinsettias in honor of someone who has died or in celebration. I have never purchased one or taken one home. This time I did so to honor the memory of my father who recently died. Now, if the Teleflora folks are right, I can hope that in addition to honoring my father this magical flower will also bring laughter and happy times to those of us who mourn his passing.

However, the time spent at church this morning focused on something much more important than magical symbols. A group of us attended a class on forgiveness and reconciliation. My  12 step involvement has repeatedly focused my attention on making progress in the areas of forgiveness and acceptance. Therefore, I  thought I was coming to this class with a good deal of “advanced work” that might give me “an edge” over some of the other participants. But of course, as every good “evolving elder” should be able to do, I was able to open my mind and heart so I could encounter some new ideas about forgiveness.

This morning I was introduced to a new take on the forgiveness/memory continuum—-and that was the suggestion that one of the pathways to forgiveness is to work at being able to experience a memory without simultaneously experiencing associated  emotional entanglements such as anger and hurt.

Another highlight of this morning’s class was the fact that forgiveness is not about fairness, justice, or apologies from those who have hurt and/or wronged us—-and that the process of forgiveness evolves over time. This process is nurtured by being part of a community that understands what you are trying to do and supports one’s involvement in this process.

This hit home with me because I realized that this has actually been my experience. In the past eleven years or so I have been actively supported both by my 12 step community and my church community in making the journey from a very painful divorce through hurt, blame, and anger to my current level of moderate acceptance. I can now think of what happened as a memory; I no longer get bombarded by waves of hurt, anger, or blame.  I can remember the important lessons I learned, and I can honestly say I am truly moving on. This could never have happened without my faith, my church, and my recovery program. Hopefully, I’ll get a bit quicker at my “forgiveness participation” as I continue on my life’s journey.

I want to close by wishing all my readers love, peace, and acceptance of God’s grace, love, and blessings during this year of 2015. In the past year this blog has been viewed about 2100 times with visitors from 39 countries, mostly from the US, Iceland, and Canada. Thank you, my readers,  for helping me believe in my writing.

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Ah, the winding down of the hectic holiday rhythms our culture perpetuates year after year. Slowly re-storing Christmas decorations, trees, etc. to their “usual place.” Time to take a deep breath, relax.  So I thought.

Friday night, stomach acid erupted up my esophagus and rudely wakened me in the middle of the night. I assumed it was acid reflux and I quickly downed a couple of TUMs. That wasn’t enough to calm things down, so I forced myself to swallow pink gooey Pepto. Then I was able to sleep a couple of hours before I was jolted wide awake with projectile vomiting. For you non-medical folks, that is the kind of vomiting that is so forceful it travels across the room as in the movie “The Exorcist.”

This meant I had to get in my car and drive to the local ER because the last time this happened it threw my heart into a “tizzy.” I was immediately wheeled into the ER where they started giving me  IV fluids. For most, this is a somewhat simple procedure, but for someone with “poor veins” who is dehydrated this is sometimes next to impossible. Oh yes, bloods were drawn. Again. And Again. When one is dehydrated, this almost becomes a form of torture. What these medical folks were calling “a Rainbow” suddenly gave a whole new meaning to what had, until then, been my almost magical concept of “rainbow.”

When IVs were finally started and all bloods drawn,  I was rolled on my gurney to x-ray for abdominal x-rays and chest x-ray and returned to my cubicle.  After a few hours and several trips in to check my IV—–the IV fluids were moving R..E…A…L…L…Y  slowly—–it became clear I would remain on my back in my own little cubicle of life-saving grace until the IV bag was empty. Thankfully, my priest came and  stayed with me during part of this ER experience, and her presence, prayer, and support were very comforting. She helped make everything “endurable.”

Finally, the doctor came in to discuss my x-rays with me. If I hadn’t felt so bad, I would have laughed. This had to be one of the most comical x-ray result discussions on record.

In the past,  when I have experienced this type of vomiting and dehydration it was due to a partial obstruction of my gastro-intestinal system that, in turn, usually sent me via  ambulance to an advanced metropolitan medical center in St. Louis where I would stay for at least a week under the always looming threat of emergency abdominal surgery. My x-rays, thank God, did not show a partial bowel obstruction this time.

I was so relieved to hear I  did not have a partial obstruction this time that it took me a while to realize the doctor was telling me my x-rays revealed I was absolutely, totally, “full of a LOT of shit.” Evidently, I have a “redundant colon.” I was told a redundant colon means that back in my size 5X days my colon expanded to a super large size—–and when I finally lost weight my colon had lost its elasticity and stayed stretched out. Now, because of that and numerous surgeries I lack nerve stimulation and intestinal elasticity/peristalsis to “move my feces” along and out of my body in a timely fashion. Of course, a bit keeps moving through, and since “daily evacuation” occurs, I have no clue things are “building up.” Evidently, my body only knows it is “filled to capacity” when there is “no room in the inn” —-at which time it reverts to projectile vomiting to remove fluids out the other end of my body.

Due to this x-ray finding  I was then treated to a VERY hot old-fashioned 1000 cc soap suds enema. And yes, it worked. I completely filled a portable bedside commode. My recommended discharge prescription was daily use of multiple laxatives accompanied by the use of rectal suppositories three-four times per week. Then, to top it off, I was told to give myself a couple of enemas every week whether I think I needed them or not.

The whiny kid in me wanted to complain, but being alive and living with all this anal fixation is better than dying or having to have surgery and having a colostomy to tend. To be honest, this is not the way I wanted to spend my post-holiday wind-down or even the rest of my life, but I am grateful for medical intervention and thankful God continues to let me live one day at a time in spite of the damage I have inflicted upon my body through the years due to “self-will run riot.”

 

February 8 2014 001

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

Reality Bite

Well, today is turning out to be a bit different than the routine Monday I expected. First, I paid mid-month bills, and read, yet again, the reminder that my car’s license tags needed to be renewed. So, I decided to be different this year and get all that “stuff” done early rather than at the last minute. For a change, I was able to find proof of having paid county property tax for the past two years. That meant all I had to do was get a vehicle inspection done. So, off I went to get the inspection. As inspections go, it was relatively quick and painless.

So, I found myself standing in line and get my license plate renewed. While I am waiting, I decided I’d better check my driver’s license while I was there. Sure enough, in a couple of months it was due to expire. I decided to get my driver’s license renewed while I was there.  That meant I got to stand in another line. I am “vision challenged” so I always try to listen to those standing in front of me “reading the letters” for the eye exam. I don’t think of it as cheating. I rationalize that I am “studying for my exam.”

I have another trick I always use when having my eyes tested by the state. Since my eyes do not like to work together and my right eye is my “good eye” I always shut my left eye and take the test with my right eye. To my dismay, that didn’t work this time. I read the line I saw, and was asked to read the letters in the column on the far left. I said there was a column at the far left with numbers in it, and the person testing me said, “No, the column to the right of that.” I said that column was blank. She said, “No, it is not blank.” So I said a quick prayer and  opened my left eye. Magically, letters appeared in the column that had been blank,  and I had no trouble reading them with both eyes open.  Thankfully, they decided I could see well enough to drive .

Next,  I got to have my photo taken. I had not planned on having my photo taken when I left the house, so I was dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt—-and I hadn’t combed my hair since I got up.  I had washed my face, but I had done nothing to enhance my appearance makeup wise.

I posed for my “photo, ”  and the camera  flash “went off” early—at the count of two rather than three. Consequently,  I knew this photo would be one I would not like because I would look a bit startled. But that expectation did not prepare me for the shock I got when I looked at the copy of the photo that would be on my new driver’s license. They had handed me a picture of my mother. I wanted to give it back to them and tell them they’d made a mistake.

I am trying to consider this morning as an excursion into “reality therapy.” My program of recovery tells me acceptance is the answer. I need to accept I look exactly like my mother looked at this age, and, yes, I am “that age.”  I need to be grateful that I am alive. My ego needs to get over itself. I always think of myself as an evolving elder——and today I realized my mind has emphasized the word evolving and neglected to acknowledge and accept the “elder” part. Hopefully, today I have made progress in combating my character defect of “procrastination” and in acknowledging my character defect  of false pride. God bless and keep you.

Week of Daddy's Funeral Oct 22 14 021

Photograph courtesy of K. Farwell

Funny how you can have one dream—or a similar variation of the same dream—over and over again. For about a year now I have been having a repeated dream involving trying to live in the home of my childhood leaving it to find another place to live. The characters in the dreams are sometimes my parents, sometimes my ex-husband, and always friends whose names I cannot remember.

This morning I had an “ah-ha” moment when I finally realized what these dreams have been trying to tell me. I was on the way to pick up a friend to take to church with me when I realized I was singing along with the radio, and the words I was  singing  were: “I’ll be home for…..” . That is as far as I got. I couldn’t finish singing the song. I realized I no longer have a home to go home to for Christmas or any other time. My dreams have been trying to tell me I am truly “emanicpated” from my childhood. I am an adult; I have no living parents.

Instead of being sad, I started smiling. God has been kind to me; I now have a home…..my own home…..and I don’t have to go any further to “feel at home.” I can stop looking for the “dream home”—-the home of my childhood and/or the mystery home I have been seeking in my dreams. Realizing I am exactly where I am meant to be—-that I am finally home is like taking a deep breath and relaxing. I don’t have to “go out and seek my fortune” or pursue any other material goal. I am home. I can rest. I can take time to nurture my soul. I can be at peace. The antagonistic characters in my dreams are just figments of my imagination who no longer exist in my current reality.

Have I come to the end of the “fairy tale?” You know, the part where you live happily ever after? I doubt it. Accepting where I am as I am is a bit more realistic than believing I can find the perfect person and/or the perfect place to make my life complete so  I can “live happily ever after.” My happiness is my own responsibility, and I know I will continue to have “good days” and “bad days.” However,  I am very lucky indeed to have a comfortable home, good friends, a church family, and a loving God  to walk with me through those days. May God bless and keep you.

 

Advent candle

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

It is time to write again. Everywhere I go I seem to run into what I think of as “Christmas Frenzy.” I have come to believe how we celebrate Christmas is more pagan and commercial than Christian. That is OK, I suppose—–but that just turns it into another commercial day off from work.

I grew up in a church that never used the word Advent. Now I am a member of a church that makes a big deal out of Advent. Up until now, I just thought it was all “pretty.” You know, the lighting of a different candle every Sunday, special music, a bit of greenery sprinkled here and there. But I always wondered why they made such a big deal out of it.

This time I get it. It is about nurturing our soul so that “Christ” can be born again in our inner being and manifested in our interactions with each other. I have been learning about the benefits of going inward and listening in the silence expectantly for several years now. Now I am able to see Advent as a way of celebrating this activity. I am grateful it is, for the most part, not commercialized. Sure, you can buy Advent calendars or sign up for online, expensive “spiritual” courses on the topic of Advent. But the real Advent is a recurring “Event” in our souls and in our lives. This particular season reminds me to give “God time” to my inner being so I can “feed” the “infant God-oneness” that I am allowing to become part of me so that it manifests “inside-out.” Meaning if I nurture God’s will in my inner-self, then it follows, I hope, that God’s love will manifest in how I think and how I behave.

That is all theoretically very impressive. But what does it mean, really? Does it mean remembering to  mediate, to  immerse myself in centering prayer,  and/or to practice yoga each and every day? Does it mean praying my rosary? Does it mean being friendly and giving to others—-considering all persons as my family because we are all one in God’s family?  I don’t have the answers, but I do what I can.

However, as for putting my newly discovered meaning of Advent into practice, I have to confess that I do not remember to nurture the “infant” within my soul as often as I should; nor do I let its trusting, child-like love manifest in my thoughts and actions as I should. But, at least I can toss out that word “should” and realize that whatever I do to feed and share that “infant” is progress.  That progress, however small, is my personal “birthing process” that will allow me to celebrate Christ in my life every day—–and yes to appreciate the true meaning of Christmas.  God bless and keep you.