Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

A Different Kind of Advent

posted by mpratt
Image courtesy of nuchylee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nuchylee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Prepare the way! Advent is here – four weeks of waiting and watching and listening…and doing all manner of things to get ready for Christmas.  Because Advent comes every year, we’ve probably memorized all of the Scripture readings, song lyrics, and steps to making a beautiful Advent wreath or food basket.  About now, we rummage through recipe boxes and websites to find the traditional recipes we make each year.

Yes, there is much familiar about this Season – and wonderfully so, when it comes to family and other traditions that we cherish and want to pass along to loved ones.

But, ideally, Advent is also a season of spiritual development, a time when we reach a deeper understanding of God’s presence in our lives and the import of the Gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. Yes, ideally, come December 25, we should be noticeably different from the people we were today, as Advent dawned.

Far from the “same old, same old,” Advent is, at its very core, a time to reach for newness, to add something significant to our spiritual selves, and to embark on an adventure of prayer, reflection, reaching out, and looking in that leads us to places of the spirit and of life that we never could have imagined without Our Lord’s guidance.

Where this Advent will lead each of us is for God to know and us, individually, to discover. But if we keep our focus on this Season of light, love, and preparation, we will be able to move through each day guided by His hand and inspired by His heart – a heart that knows us each by name and has bestowed upon each of us wonderful gifts just ready for the discovering.

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

Peace at home is peace at heart

posted by mpratt

CrecheforblogSoft rain is pattering against the roof, punctuated by the occasional seagull screeching in flight.  The Christmas music is on. The tree is lit. It’s a fittingly quiet day after a very good Thanksgiving – and a blessedly peaceful one, too.

Outside, today and throughout the weekend, according to the news, people will be traveling, shopping, and moving to and fro. Traffic will undoubtedly be thick in many places. There will probably be a fracas or two in stores where shoppers are elbowing their way toward “BIG” bargains.  You might be part of the crowds, the early holiday energy and festivities (hopefully not part of the fracas!). Yes, even as you – we – still grapple with significant health challenges, holiday activity (and sometimes tempers and stress) enter into our world.

All the more reason to hold peace closely and carefully – at home.

For some people, this might be very difficult. Home might not be the obvious place of warmth and comfort, nor the center of familial harmony. Yet it is this corner of the world over which we have more control. Traffic, store lines, angry outbursts from frazzled fellow shoppers – these are things that move and exist beyond our control. But home? It’s so very important to keep it simple, serene, as health-filled as possible, and uplifting after long days outside, out there.

How can we achieve this harbor of peace if it does not now completely exist?

Start with a corner, even a small one. Make it a place to where you can turn when things get tough. Keep a Bible there, a cherished photo, a candle. From that corner, work outward to other parts of your home. Place reminders of the spiritual aspects of this Season – a manger scene, an angel,  a brightly colored bow. Pray as you go, especially for calm and peace. insist in your heart that this homespun harmony can flourish, will flourish, with God’s good grace.

I once asked a friend whom I greatly respect and whose work is 24/7 and highly stressful, “How do you  manage to stay so positive and strong with the heavy burdens of your job?”

“I don’t allow any conflict at home,” she said.

Leave the stress out there. Cultivate goodness and encouragement at home. Strengthen a prayerful presence at home. For, truly, peace there is peace at heart.

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

Chronic Illness and Pain: Camera Shy?

posted by mpratt

Maureen Pratt Author PicWith apologies to the beloved Christmas tune, “It’s the most photographed time of the year!”

From now until the New Year, millions, if not billions of pictures will be snapped. Hours and hours of video will be shot. And you, like it or not, just might find yourself staring at the lens of a camera or video contraption, wondering things like, “Why do I have to be on prednisone and have such an ugly, round face?” or, “Great, I was up all night with all this pain and now they want a family portrait!”

Or, maybe you might run from the scene completely – camera shy to the core.

You don’t have to suffer from a debilitating medical condition to dread having your picture taken. I know many perfectly healthy – and attractive – people who shrink from the lens, so you’re in good company.

But there’s something about Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and all the other occasions til the beginning of January that brings out the inner Ansel Adams in people. Some relatives, friends, even total strangers simply must capture the moments on film. Camera shy or not, people are expected to join in.

In some ways, it’s nice that people take the time and make the effort to photograph precious events. I have recently spent many hours going through boxes of photographs, and there are many pictures I am delighted to have of relatives and friends who are no longer alive and of events that were happy and special.

But if you live with chronic illness and pain and feel you are “appearance challenged” in any way, getting your picture taken takes on a whole other dimension. Perhaps you’ve gained weight. Shed your hair. Had bad dental problems. Lost your confidence. Medical bills have sapped your financial resources, and you don’t have “party clothes” or the money to get your hair, nails, and makeup updates. Maybe, too, you are depressed, not happy about your situation in life, no matter how festive the time of year, and you know your smile doesn’t reach your eyes…even when you can muster a smile.

Perhaps, when the photographer says, “Cheese,” you’d rather say, “Bah! Humbug!”

I understand all of this. And I’ve cringed a time or two when the cameras come out.  Certainly, it’s okay to decline to be photographed. After all, it is your image and your prerogative.

But before balking, think about the occasion and the people involved. As bad as you might feel, are you with people you love and who love you? Are you grateful for the time God has given for you to be together? Are you surrounded by comfort? Affection? Laughter?

Would you, years from now, like to find a picture of this moment in your box of memories?

Sitting for professional photographers or being in the newspaper or television is one thing. Capturing a beloved moment, to revisit later, is another – and is often well-worth overcoming your inner camera shyness. If you can invite boldness, and get a copy of whatever scene is snapped, you might find that, on one of those really bad, bleak days to come, the photograph can invite  many positive feelings to help you through.

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

 

Chronic Illness and Pain: Be Forkful!

posted by mpratt
Photo courtesy of Apolonia/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Apolonia/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hold onto your waistlines!

One of the most challenging parts of the holidays is eating, especially if you have a restricted diet to begin with. The temptations – “Just one cookie won’t hurt,” “You can always work it off afterward,” or “I only make this at Christmas, and it’s a special recipe passed down for generations” – abound and as the days move along, our willpower gets sorely tested.  Guilt (people go to such trouble with holiday dishes), a feeling of responsibility (“there are starving people in…”) and sometimes embarrassment at being “different” because of your diet can all come into play.

But, along with all of this holiday “chatter,” there is also the truth: Because of your health issues, you need to be careful about what you eat.

Sound egotistical? Unreasonable? Ungrateful?

No, not at all.

At the personal level, you are the one who has the health issue, and you, not anyone else, will have to deal with the aftermath if you go overboard (ignoring your diabetes, for example). At the social level, yes, there is peer pressure galore at this time of year. But there is also an overarching spiritual focus that asks us to cultivate peace, good will, understanding, love, and charity – what better way for you to foster this than to gently but firmly explain your situation and ask for understanding instead of unhealthful encouragement?

You can help others be more practically caring by offering to fix a dish for a special meal – and sharing it with everyone.  You can still engage in the conversation and caroling of an event, even if you cannot enjoy the array of sweets prepared for it. And when you are able to, you can minimize your portion sizes so that you can have a taste of the season without overdoing.

To reinforce your willpower, talk with your doctor before the holidays about what he or she recommends in terms of diet. Use your support system to encourage you and bolster your resolve as the days of the holiday season unfold. And use your other senses to celebrate this time – the smell of crisp air and pine trees, the sound of bells and laughter and music, and the feel of soft sweaters and warm hugs can go along way to making the Season sense-ational while you avoid a dietary disaster!

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

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