Table of Contents
- Message From the Editor
- Meet The Contributing Writers
- Our Choices Define Us
- Word Search – A Celebration of Freedom
- The Death of a Marriage – Part 6
- Book Nook
- Psalm 23 – A Personal Reflection
- Ten Inspirational Quotes Which Focus on Mind, Body & Spirit
- My Visit to the ER: A Diabetic Horror Story
- Word Search Key
A Message From The Editor
Most of us began the new year with anticipation and a list of all those things we hoped to accomplish. Here we are with half the year behind us. This puts us at the crossroad of ‘how do I achieve’ those things which I sat out to accomplish this year. Perhaps you are the type of individual who has checked off each thing on their yearly ‘to do list’ and you are exactly where you wanted to be by midyear. Or maybe you lost your list, along with your motivation in mid-March. Wherever you are in your journey, realize it isn’t too late to either correct or stay your course. Each new day gifts us with the opportunity to be better than the day before. Let’s dust off those lists, rewrite or modify them if necessary, and continue our trek to make this an incredible year full of joy, laughter, success, friendship, and family.
With the warm weather comes various celebrations including Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Graduations, Father’s Day, Juneteenth, and Independence Day – July 4th . As we raise our cup of lemonade or wine glass to the mothers, fathers, graduates, and those that fought bravely to give us our independence, may we do so with reverence. As we celebrate our independence, may we take to heart the sonnet The New Colossus published by Emma Lazarus in 1883. Her message of hope, welcome, acceptance, and freedom has adorned a plaque on the Statue of Liberty since 1903. Her words remind us that all are welcomed, valuable, and equal.
The New Colossus
By Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
We are excited to welcome Natalie back to the newsletter and we are honored to have our first male voice with a powerful story from Wesley. Everyone has a story. Some choose to share their stories of triumph, recovery, sickness, loss, doubt, and salvation in the hope that their stories will help light a path for others experiencing a similar journey. If you have a story to share, feel free to review our guidelines. We would love to include your voice in our next newsletter.
Meet The Contributing Writers
Bernetta Thorne-Williams is the author of several romance novels including From Dysfunction to Love, Forever Love, POOF, Etched Upon My Heart, and others. She credits her travels with her amazing husband, of over thirty years, as the inspiration behind her stories of enduring love. Bernetta has displayed her writing talents in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including Chicken Soup for the Working Mom’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Beach Lover’s Soul, and Chicken Soup for the African American Women’s Soul. She is currently one of the moderators for the Chicken Soup for the Soul Facebook group which hosts inspirational content from writers and positive enthusiasts from around the world. Looking for a romantic read? Visit her author’s page https://www.amazon.com/Bernetta-Thorne-Williams/e/B00V2NW66A%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share
Jane Rhoe is retired with most of her professional experience in health services management. She has worked as a consultant with various hospitals, state governments, and other health-related organizations. Jane enjoys traveling. Her happy places include the beach and the mountains. Her other interest includes volunteering with community organizations and boards. Jane is most enthusiastic about her growth as a follower of Christ. She is the survivor of a painful divorce and is healing one day at a time. Jane is proud of the strength and independence that she has cultivated during this journey. Jane is a native North Carolinian. Drop Jane a note at email@example.com
Natalie Huckins is a mother, grandmother, and entrepreneur. Originally from Upstate New York, Natalie and her three children moved to North Carolina twenty-seven years ago and settled in the Triangle. Last year, Natalie moved to the coast where she decided to resign from her full-time job and work solely on her business. Leaving the corporate world behind has afforded Natalie the opportunity to fully embrace entrepreneurship. With the grace of God, she has watched as her business has gone allowing her to set the trajectory for this next chapter of her life.
Natalie has a passion for writing, photography, and nature, oftentimes using her photography skills to capture the perfect moment at weddings, baby showers, anniversaries, and holiday celebrations. Next to her children, and grandchildren, Natalie states her three dogs are the love of her life.
Drop Natalie a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wesley Williams is a native North Carolinian. His hobbies include D&D and spirited debates. He is the author of Pandora’s Box which is available at Amazon.com. He is currently working on a new science fiction trilogy, Phantom’s of the Mind due to be released in 2024.
Drop Wesley a note at email@example.com
We believe everyone has a story to tell. Allow us to help you share yours. We are actively seeking articles between 800 – 1,200 words for our October 2023 newsletter. Articles containing hatred, profanity, or a political agenda will not be accepted. Please submit articles along with your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org by August 30, 2023. Additionally, are you an author? We would be happy to promote your book in our next newsletter. Send a link to your book to the email listed above and we will review it for inclusion in our next newsletter.
Feel free to submit an article for the team to review. Our guidelines are listed below:
- Articles need to be between 800-1,200 words.
- No hate speech or political commentary.
- No degrading comments about race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, gender, or identity will be accepted.
- Be respectful and helpful in your article.
- No articles containing foul language or profanity will be accepted.
- If your article is selected for publication, you will be notified.
- Articles remain the property of the author
OUR CHOICES DEFINE US
"It's not where you start or even what happens to you along the way that's important. What is important is that you persevere and never give up," Zig Zigler
The choices we make, both the good and the not so good, come with their own consequences and rewards. It’s imperative that we don’t hold others accountable for our choices or mistakes. Rarely is the decision making out of our control. When we were children, our parents made decisions for us. Those which they thought were in our best interest. I was raised in the ‘I say so corporation’. My mother would entertain the ‘why’ question briefly before she defaulted to the standard and effective ‘because I said so’ portion of our conversation which meant the debate had come to an abrupt end. Yet, I never doubted the decisions she made were in my best interest.
In addition to our parents, teachers, and guidance counselors also attempted to make decisions for us. Not all of which are in our best interest. I learned at an early age that I had a voice, and I could use my words to express my disagreement in a polite yet firm matter. Not all of my teachers appreciated my vocalization. Seriously, when your name is Bernetta, and people want to call you every name that begins with a B or V, (yes, a V; I have been called Vernetta more times than I can count), you learn to have a voice. From the time I started kindergarten I needed to correct others on the pronunciation of my name. Talking about hitting the ground running just to be seen, heard, and recognized.
I grew up in a time when, based on the color of your skin, your guidance counselor would encourage you to seek a trade instead of pursuing a college education. I learned that some people cheer on your success was others want to label you ordinary instead of extraordinary not because of your intellect, but because of your hue. As someone who has fought for my identity all my life, there was no hesitation when I told my counselor, firmly, but politely ‘no thank you’. I may have been one of the first students to tell her that and I hope I wasn’t the last. You don’t have the right to assign my future based on color, ethnicity, nor gender.
Not everyone is a fighter, nor have they been put in a position where they need to fight for themselves or others. However, we all have choices to make, and those choices will affect the direction of our lives. Some of those choices affect our life more profoundly than others. Who we opt to hitch our life wagon to is important. Some people marry wisely, while others marry in the hope of changing the person they are marrying. If we don’t like them before we say ‘I do’, those two little words won’t magically change them into someone we will love, honor, and respect. I tend to believe that we see warning signs, which some ignore, preferring to bury their head along with their doubts in the sand. The problem with that kind of thinking is that sand shifts, oftentimes exposing what is underneath. We can’t select the wrong person and then blame others for that choice.
Professionally, we can dream big. However, our dreams mean nothing if we are unwilling to put some action behind our aspirations. We can’t resent or blame those who appear to have made it professionally because we have not. Sure, some begin their trek further down the road to success than others. They come from affluent families with money, their college education is guaranteed. Some work to pay for college, and others work while attending college or incur student loan debt just to advance their education. Just because we begin our journey further down the road doesn’t mean our journey will be unremarkable.
The choices we make direct our path. Thus, it’s not where we begin in life, but the decisions we make based on considering the choices before us. We can spend our time and energy bemoaning our birth and circumstances, or we can invest our time and talents into striving to live our life with intent, purpose and joy.
Life has a way of teaching us unexpected lessons during pivotal seasons in our lives. Such lessons came during my tenure working with foster and adoptive children. Despite the upheavals in life, some people, especially children, are more resilient than we give them credit for being. Hence, how we begin life isn’t nearly as important as how we live life.
I watched some children come to the realization that their parents couldn’t or didn’t want to parent them. Once they reached that conclusion, they were able to allow themselves to be loved and to extend love to others. I also watched some children, sometimes siblings, refuse to let go of their anger and hurt. Those were the ones who broke my heart. In their minds they were unlovable and so they made that a self-fulfilling prophecy. Bouncing around from foster home to foster home, or group home to group home until they aged out of the system. Unfortunately, some of those precious children couldn’t release the pain nor disillusionment associated with their past.
I watched as twin sisters took different paths. One became a nurse giving back to others while the other took the self-destructive road of vengeance which cost her years of her life as a guest of the State. I saw a young man gifted with the ability to draw anything. If he saw it, he could reproduce it. He was consumed with being like his biological dad. A father he never knew, yet his dad’s reputation for being tough was like a valiant mantle that he too wanted to wear. Despite the fact that his dad was incarcerated, he cast a long shadow over his son.
I ran into this young man several years ago in downtown Raleigh. I saw someone cross the street when I did, and I thought, “why is someone following me?”. At that moment I started looking for government buildings I could duck into depending on the fact that they had security guards. I had my state badge making entering a government building easy. As I opened the door to a building, the person called my name. I hesitated, allowing the door to close but still stood near the entry. As he approached and said my name again, I was taken aback. I would love to say that I saw the talented child in the man standing before me. In actuality, I saw an aged man. It was easy to see that life hadn’t been kind to him or perhaps I should say, he hadn’t been kind to his life. It was one of the most uncomfortable five minutes of my life as he shared with me some of the mistakes he had made in life. I wish I could say that I listened with compassion and understanding, but in truth I wanted the conversation to end. Yet this was a young man I once saw so much potential in. I think he sensed my discomfort, as he ended with, ‘it was nice to see you again’.
I have wondered through the years if I failed him that day. Then my mind drifts back to me trying to convince him to remain in his foster home. There are funds for foster children that pay for college, as long as they maintain a C average. I had secured him such funding. He was aware of his potential and the options before him if he chose to remain in placement. He was adamant that he wanted to go it alone and be as tough as his dad. He couldn’t or wouldn’t get out of his way long enough to give himself a future. Breaking a destructive cycle is difficult, but it can be accomplished.
Yet for those who chose the path of releasing their past, they bloom. The same could be said for many of us. Whether from a two-parent home or a single parent home, we tend to look for others to blame for our circumstances. People will hurt, disappoint, break our trust or a covenant, and even abuse us. That pain and disillusionment can hinder our emotional growth, locking us in a self-made purgatory.
As difficult as it is to fathom when we’re going through our personal storms, we have a choice. We can either lash out at others, blame God, or we can pick up our broken pieces and allow others to help us. The only sure way to get through any pain is to recognize it, accept it, go through it, and release it. Otherwise, we’re continuing to absorb the poison of our pain into our daily lives, causing us to stay fixated on the pain instead of looking towards the horizon of better days.
In Genesis 2:16, God gave man freewill and by chapter 3:6, mankind had proven that we make horrible decisions. The amazing thing, despite our ability to make horrible choices, is our capacity to make good ones. We can choose to release the past or we can opt to carry it around like a deformed badge of honor. For me, despite the anxieties associated with making choices, I choose to trust my unknown future to a known God.
Written by Bernetta Thorne-Williams
A CELEBRATION OF FREEDOM
THE DEATH OF A MARRIAGE – Part 6
27 May 1972
19 July 2019
MFH (my former husband) and I had brief discussions about retirement. We finally got serious and decided to settle in a small town near the ocean and Wilmington, North Carolina. There we started to build our dream house. I was so excited to soon live so close to the ocean. We would spend time between the Midwest and small-town North Carolina, where our new home would be.
I told my director that MFH and I were seriously discussing his retirement, although the exact timing was yet unknown. After she and the Chief Executive Officer discussed me relocating, they asked me to continue working for the company until I had a firm date to leave, and they could hire my replacement. I happily agreed to do so for what ended up being 12 months. Since there was no comparable position at the company near our new home, I interviewed and was hired as a project director at headquarters in Washington, DC. I could work from home most of the time with regular travel to the sites for which I was responsible. More icing on the cake was that MFH and I would be together – At LAST! When I worked from headquarters, he would drive me to Washington. My other sites were in Winston Salem, NC, Farmington, CT, Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN and Palo Alto, CA.
MFH retiring! I had wonderful fantasies that depicted us spending as much time as possible together, getting reacquainted, and going to the beach very often. We would drink life’s blessings and explore this wondrous world together – no briefcases or PowerPoint presentations necessary!
However, things began to change and not as I expected. In fact, things got strange. One major strange change – he had never seemed interested in handling our household finances. I had assumed responsibility for balancing the checkbook (to the penny) and paying the bills many years ago. However, he suddenly declared he wanted those responsibilities. When I asked him if he was sure, he told me that him taking over the finances would take some of the pressure off me since I traveled quite frequently. Numerous households have a husband overseeing the financial expenditures. As this was never MFH area of interest, should there have been warning bells sounding in my head? In hindsight, a bell the size of the Liberty Bell should have sounded loudly and persistently. Sadly, we only truly allow ourselves to clearly see things when we are faced with the ugly truth glaring at us. Sometimes, we can’t see the ugly truth until it’s glaring back at us.
Our life began a downward spiral when MFH retired. Although we had discussed our retirement in abstract terms, when it was time for him to retire, we had no discussion about it; formal or otherwise. He waltzed in one day and announced that he had retired. I started laughing and asked, “You are joking, right?” All he said was, “No.” I was dumbstruck after that shocking announcement! It took me some time to process, “he retired.” However, once I got beyond being tongue-tied and found my voice again, I started a barrage of questions. Surely, he had more to say. I was incredulous, stunned, furious, hurt, and betrayed! I felt like fighting while at the same time feeling as if I had already been knocked out in the first round. Why did he not discuss with me that his retirement was imminent? Financially, what would that mean for us? What did he think I would say? How did he think I would feel and react? Did he even think about me at all? And by the way, who was he?
Suddenly I was exhausted. I did not want to hear his voice or look at him a second more. So, I turned and went to our bedroom, locking the door behind me. He offered to discuss the matter, but what was the use? He had retired without my knowledge or consent. This was yet another life choice he made for the both of us without any input from me. I stood my ground and stoically held my silence. I could hear Mama’s voice telling me, “Never go to bed angry.” Sorry Mama, MFH’s neglect to tell me was intentional and willful deceit! Sorrowfully, it could not be fixed before bed that night. I felt so insignificant, so devalued! I certainly did not feel like an equal partner in our marriage, so I went to bed hurt and angry. I cried myself to sleep that night.
Time passed and as usual, I let it go. However, I never got over his willful exclusion of me in a decision which impacted both our lives nor did I get over feeling devalued as his partner. I did not ask again why there was such an abrupt retirement, or any other questions regarding his retirement. Nor did he offer any information. However, I suspected his retirement was not voluntary.
With retirement, I suggested he take some time to examine his desires and priorities. He got that look, “Oh you just made me angry and hurt my feelings at the same time.” I had the nerve, according to him, to ask “If our marriage fit any of his desires and priorities.”
Instead of doing as I suggested, which was in part, not to jump into anything right away, but let us make each other a priority in our marriage, take some time to decompress, and see what life had to offer, he called me excited saying, “he had a surprise.” He would not tell me anything about the surprise until we saw each other that weekend. I was at one of my out-of-state sites and would not be home until the weekend.
His surprise was about him taking steps to become a franchisee. And mind you, not a franchise that he could quickly turn a profit, but one that he had to sink quite a bit of money into, with no guaranteed quick profits. I tried my best to talk him out of it, to no avail. He went into that good night hook, line and sinker. The venture mostly consisted of collecting DNA samples from clients wanting to determine paternity.
After a little more than a year of working at headquarters, I became victim of one of the company’s notorious layoffs. My project was nixed and so was my job. After getting the news I was so dejected. It seemed as if my whole life was falling apart – my personal and professional lives. MFH attempted to cheer me up, so we headed to the beach.
In the process of rebounding from being downsized out of a job, a thought came to me that I could hardly wait to discuss with him. I know; I was rarely treated with the same courtesy. I announced, “Since you have retired, I am going to retire, too!” Emotionless he looked at me and said, “You cannot retire, you need to keep working.” I could not contain myself and exploded. “WHY?” I asked. “At least I am giving you the courtesy and respect you did not give me when you retired or made the decision to become a franchisee.”
He told me I needed to keep working to help with expenses. Whatever the reason, he was adamant about me continuing to work. I reminded him why he should not have retired. And since the franchise was his idea, he needed to cover the costs of that, too. Since his retirement was water under the bridge, he needed to find a ‘real’ job and bring in a decent salary instead of us watching that franchise suck money out of us like a vampire. I continued my rant about his selfishness, the size, and expenses of the accoutrements of the house we built! Our dream house no longer held the same loving feelings I once had for it. Nightmares come to mind more often than our dream home. We should have downsized. I asked, “How much do we really need?”
Okay so I needed to continue working. I asked him why he was not looking for real employment to help with expenses instead of letting that albatross of a franchise drain us dry. I found out that the bills we had were not his, but ours! I found out later there were additional credit cards I knew nothing about, many of them in my name, too!
I looked for jobs near where we lived, but none paid nearly as much as my former salaries. So, I ended up accepting a job with the state in Raleigh. Raleigh was one and a half hours to and from; three hours per day from our home if traffic cooperated. He was all over the state and sometimes out of state to cover the franchise appointments. He (and sometimes I) collected bodily fluid samples from clients. We were paid $450 per collection of which the franchise corporation received $200. Rarely did a client’s visit cover the cost of the visit trip due to gas, hotels, rental space, depending on where the sample was to be collected. We collected samples from all over the state and even Florida a couple of times. One of the conditions of the franchise contract was that franchisees had to have commercial office space for clients to have the test. Thus, there were office expenses for rent, office furniture and supplies.
While I was looking for a job (10 months), I had several illnesses: H1N1 Flu, Aspiration Pneumonia (hospitalized) Shingles and Cholecystitis. In fact, I was a month late starting my job with the state due to longevity of the Shingles. My immune system was worn down by stress.
I suffered with cholecystitis for the first year of my job with the state. To accrue enough sick leave, I waited a year to have my gall bladder removed. Many colleagues were so kind to donate hours for sick leave to me.
Eventually (more like two years), we sold the house and moved to Raleigh. I suffered a plethora of feelings during the sale of our beautiful dream house. Finding an apartment near downtown and my office was a relief. The three-hour drive was over! The enormous gasoline and maintenance costs for my car were cut.
After working all those years, having to pivot into a new job, and the sale of our dream home was overwhelming. Even with all those obstacles, the biggest shock I felt was disbelief because my marriage might be crumbling. I felt terrified! I had never lived alone. I went from my mother’s home to a home I created with the man I thought I would love forever. All I knew was being married. Where would I go? How would I support myself? We were so deep in debt, and I did not come close to realizing just how deep. I was the one who turned down promising promotions to support his career. I did not see leaving him as an option at that time. Like so many women of my generation, we are taught to endure our marriages, not thrive. I felt that I needed to try and save our marriage. I prayed for endurance and patience throughout my marriage. My goal was to save our marriage. It soon became clear that I was the only one fighting for our marriage.
So why did I stay in that sham of a marriage? I stayed to obey the covenant I took before God and man. Wives are told they should stay with their husbands because God made man the head of the household over the wife, and she is not told there are certain circumstances she may leave. I may have portrayed to my family, friends, associates, and colleagues that I am well educated, bright, intelligent, savvy and self-assured but in my marriage, it’s obvious that I was not held in such esteem. I often think of the saying “… book sense but no common sense.”
How could I allow MFH to deceive me? He could do it because I stopped trusting in myself. When asked why I stayed so long, I am told I could name many reasons, but love was not one of them. To me that speaks volumes.
MFH wanted to attend the church in which I grew up attending. The church was at least an hour (greater depending on the route one took) from Raleigh and most Sundays we drove separately because he had become consecrated as a Deacon and was responsible for overseeing one of the ministries and some other duties. He said he inherited many problems with the ministry. I was also involved with several ministries; many requiring meetings after I left Raleigh weekdays or Saturdays and Sundays.
I ate and spent most of my time alone on weekends and most other days of the week, as there were many problems with the equipment in that ministry. Although there were other volunteers in that ministry, he ‘felt’ he needed to be at the church for every service, special program, wedding, and funeral. The reason I was left alone during the week plus Saturday and Sunday was because he had not one but two Veterans’ meetings every day of the week. One meeting started at 3:00 pm and the second meeting began at 6:00 pm. These meetings were to assist veterans with improving their disability ratings to get more social service and medical service treatments. MFH led me to believe the meetings were like Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. You could find one every day.
I kept trying to talk him into becoming involved in a church in Raleigh and volunteering in the Raleigh community. I gave him pamphlets about various volunteer opportunities. There were two churches less than a mile from our apartment and of course many more only minutes away. We visited a few, but he was adamant about staying at the then current church.
I was trying to think of every reason possible to try to cut costs and he apparently was not. His reasons for continuing church and veteran’s meetings out of town were yet to be revealed to me.
Stay tuned for the finale of Death of a Marriage in our next newsletter.
Written by Jane Rhoe
POOF – Promises. We have all made them. Some we honor and keep and others we forget and dismiss. However, a promise to your father is a promise of a different sort. One that should not be entered into lightly; especially when that promise has the potential to offer redemption. POOF (Promise On Our friendship), a childhood word created by a devoted father and shared with his only daughter becomes the catalyst that leads Samantha on a journey into her father’s past and careening into her own future. Jake McDaniel is drowning in debt in the small town of Bishop, North Carolina. Samantha sets off on a collision course with Jake, hoping to honor her POOF by changing Jake’s life for the better. From the moment they meet, Jake is attracted to, but untrusting of Samantha and her motives. Despite Jake’s misgivings, Samantha forges ahead and in the process, she wins Jake over. What started out as a promise to her father soon becomes an undertaking that helps Samantha and Jake realize that love requires a leap of faith. For life is never simple, and oftentimes the situations that we find ourselves in today are the result of ripple effects from the past. Amazon.com:bernetta thorne williams
The Secret Is In Surrender: Bearing the Fruit of a Healthy Marriage:
It’s safe to say that we all want a better marriage. When it comes down to it, most of us are willing to do whatever it takes. What if the secret to a happier, healthier marriage involves yielding and surrendering more than it involves fighting and striving? Do we believe that God is for our marriages? Do we have enough faith to trust Him to help us? The Secret Is In Surrender: Bearing the Fruit of a Healthy Marriage: Perry, Kim: 9798986482507: Amazon.com: Books
PSALM 23 – A PERSONAL REFLECTION
Psalm 23:1-6 (KJV) The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever
I have read, quoted, and heard these verses more times than I can count. Next to the Lord’s Prayer, it’s probably the most well-known Bible passage. For the first time after reading it, I asked myself: “Self, what does that really mean?” I am sure it means different things to different people, but I wanted to dissect it and apply it to my life and how it fits into the world God has allowed me to create for myself. It took a while and I had to do some soul-searching, but below is what these beautiful verses mean to me. As you reflect on your life, what do they mean to you?
THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD– I have been taught that a Shepherd is one who “cares” for the sheep in a pasture. I see Jesus as the one who cares for me, one of his sheep. The pasture is this world we live in. Jesus, watches over me. He protects me and keeps his eyes on me. While I sleep, he remains awake looking for dangers that could cause me harm. I SHALL NOT WANT– He is so precise and perfect in his duty to care for me that there is nothing I need. He feeds me and keeps me safe. In times of turbulent weather, he guides me to safety. I am good! HE MAKETH ME TO LIE DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES. – I love this part! I get to rest when I need it. Not only do I rest, but I rest in green pastures. That signifies that I am in a lush, comfy pasture as opposed to dry, brittle grass. He makes sure I am comfortable with the best accommodations! HE LEADETH ME BESIDE THE STILL WATERS– We need water to survive. Jesus makes sure my thirst is quenched. I am conscience of the adjectives used in this passage. The water he leads me to is “still.” I do not have to worry about being caught up in fighting for anything I need. The water is calm, making it easy for me to retrieve it. HE RESTORETH MY SOUL– I know this can mean different things to different people. My soul is that which is almost undefinable, yet it defines everything that I am. The best description I can offer is that it is the part of me that is directly connected to the Lord. He feels what I feel and knows my thoughts; good, bad, happy, or sad. He is me, and I, Him. When my soul is out of sync, he restores it to where it is functioning as it should be so I can function in this world. HE LEADETH ME IN THE PATHS OF RIGHTOUSNESS FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE– Once again, He is leading me. In this verse, He is leading me towards righteousness, which means he is pulling me away from danger. Sin is danger. Nothing good comes from it. Lies, bitterness, jealousy, greed, etc. are all the things that Jesus pulls me away from and in the direction towards Him, who is righteous. When I choose to follow His lead (because I falter due to my imperfections) it is for His name’s sake, not mine. I can be an example to others of how Jesus wants us to live. YEA, THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH, I WILL FEAR NO EVIL; FOR THOU ART WITH ME. Wow! That’s a mouthful! So, I would imagine that all of us, at some point in our lives, walk through the shadow of death. What is the shadow of death and where is it? It is that which we should be apprehensive about and it is everywhere. Anywhere you are, the Shadow of Death is nearby. More specifically, it is what I call “blind danger.” I have been in relationships that were not balanced from the start, yet I proceeded (without caution) believing the scales would balance themselves out. This includes friendships, partnerships, and marriages. I have walked through the Shadow of Death many, many times; yet each time as each relationship began to crumble, I knew I had nothing to fear. Despite my poor judgment, Jesus was with me through the end. THY ROD AND THY STAFF THEY COMFORT ME. Some people carry a Smith and Wesson for protection; others carry knives or bats. Jesus, the Shepherd, had a Rod and a Staff. Confession time- I had to do a little research to help me understand part of this one, however, I already had my theories, which were not too far off. The Rod is the Shepherd’s tool of protection. It was used to ward off danger (such as wolves). It was also used as a form of discipline on those few wayward sheep who were stubborn about following the Shepheard. In short, the rod symbolized authority and power. Think of Moses’ rod and how much power God placed in his hands. The staff is my favorite. I always thought of the staff as a “gentle reminder.” At times when I was lost and not sure which way to go, I felt the long arm of Jesus wrap himself around me and gently guide me back to the comfort of safety. THOU PREPAREST A TABLE BEFORE ME IN THE PRESENCE OF MINE ENEMIES. You know how some people say, “success is the best form of revenge?” That’s how I have always interpreted this part of the passage. I probably should not admit this, but sometimes I smile at my success when I think of those who have tried to make my life difficult in the past. Jesus blesses me, not always in my time, but when it matters most! THOU ANOINTEST MY HEAD WITH OIL; MY CUP RUNNETH OVER. Over the past several decades society has been learning more and more about the healing power of oils. Jesus and his followers knew that oil was soothing, healing, relaxing and it heals the mind. The image of Jesus anointing my head with Jasmine, Myrrh or Eucalyptus oil makes me smile. As if that is not enough, he gives me more than my cup can hold; more than I need or deserve. My cup overflows. It is such a fulfilling feeling! SURELY GOODNESS AND MERCY SHALL FOLLOW ME ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE AND I WILL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER. I learned that we cannot take everything at face value and need to look deeply at the verses we are reading. Despite the ups and downs and the disappointments in my life, Goodness and Mercy have followed me throughout my life. Goodness is what I received because of the positive things I have done in my life. Mercy is what I received because of those things that I have done that were not so positive. With all my imperfections, mistakes, sins, and lapses in faith, He still gave me refreshing water, food to drink, a nice place to lie down, protection, and a home with Him forever and ever.
So, that is what the 23 Psalms means to me. Have you ever looked deeply into certain Bible passages? It does not have to be the one I chose. It can be any passage that you remember that brings about special feelings within your soul. Once you start breaking down the scripture, you might just find out something new about yourself.
Written by Natalie Huckins
TEN INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES WHICH FOCUS ON MIND, BODY & SPIRIT
- “You do not just wake up and become the butterfly. Growth is a process,” by Rupi Kaur.
- “Change by its very nature is threatening, but it is also often productive,” by Betty Ford.
- “Turn your wounds into wisdom,” by Oprah Winfrey.
- “Self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you,” by Katie Reed.
- “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream,” by Malala Yousafzai.
- “Sometimes it takes only one act of kindness and caring to change a person’s life,” by Jackie Chan.
- “To be successful is to be helpful, caring, and constructive, to make everything and everyone you touch a little bit better,” by Norman Vincent Peale.
- “Faithfulness to the past can be a kind of death above ground. Writing of the past is a resurrection; the past then lives in your words and you are free,” by Jessamyn West.
- “Any bridge to the past that refuses to burn just gives the enemy an invitation and an entry point back into your life,” by Femi Olorunnisola.
- “Trust is a big word for me. Loyalty and trust, for me, are everything. It’s the core of what I’m about and what the people around me hopefully are about. It’s a certain thing that gives you a sense of security. It’s the biggest factor in everything I do,” by Tommy Mottola.
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MY VISIT TO THE ER: A DIABETIC HORROR STORY
Arriving at the ER, I stumbled through the entrance, my vision blurry from the relentless pain pounding in my back. I barely avoided bumping into a woman, swaying sideways to avoid the collision before walking up to the receptionist. The woman at the desk stared at me with suspicious eyes; probably afraid I was a drunk wandering in. Although, there was nothing in my appearance which indicated that I was anything other than a potential patient in need of medical care.
“Hello,” I tried to sound normal, but another flare-up of pain made me grit my teeth. “My name is Wesley and I think I’m in trouble.”
This story doesn’t start at the ER but years earlier. At the age of twelve, too young to have any thoughts about my health or morbidity, I began showing symptoms of Juvenile Diabetes. It started with an unquenchable thirst followed by a need to urinate almost every ten to fifteen minutes. Within a few weeks, my weight drastically dropped. My parents took me to the doctor where I was diagnosed.
What is diabetes? I’m going to keep this explanation as brief as possible. Type 1 Diabetes, also called Juvenile Diabetes, is a condition where your pancreas fails to produce insulin. That’s quite a problem because your body needs insulin to process sugar and carbohydrates. Without insulin, a substance calls ketones begins to build in your body and left untreated, ketones will upset your blood’s chemical balance … in essence, it will start to poison and damage your organs. I understood none of this when the doctor first tried to explain diabetes and its side effects. I actually misunderstood him and thought it was a temporary condition … like a cold and in a few days, I would be over it and free to eat what I wanted without having to prick my finger. But as the days changed to weeks and the weeks to month, I finally realized diabetes would always be a part of me.
During the first few years of my diabetic diagnosis, I would like to think I did a decent job of adhering to all the restrictions. It was difficult not to under the watchful scrutiny of my parents. I checked my blood sugar according to a designed schedule, which I soon grew to resent. I always took my insulin because I knew if I didn’t, I would feel sick after consuming any food. But what I disliked the most was the change in my diet. That I couldn’t eat my cookies or drink my sodas. There were a few huge fights with my parents as they saw me treating my diabetes with a cavalier attitude as I entered the teenage years. Like most teenagers, I went through a rebellious phase and my diabetes was one more thing for me to rail against. My friends didn’t need to monitor their food intake, so why did I? My parents found a local teen diabetic group which sponsored healthy, fun social gatherings. I went and for the most part I enjoyed the group. However, I resented the stigma associated with the group. I endured my parent’s watchful guidance when they were around and snuck junk food while they weren’t. This pattern of appearing to be compliant and sneaking food continued until I was old enough to make my own decisions. From the age of eighteen to a few months ago, I almost never tested. I saw the endocrinologist only when it was time to get more insulin. She tried to steer me in the right direction but eventually realized I wasn’t interested. I was used to drinking milkshakes every day, and usually a nice dessert at the end of dinner. I managed to stay slim and looking back, I realized that was probably a symptom of my out-of-control diabetes.
A year ago, I started to feel a tingle in my feet but only when I slept. It was easy to ignore but then some days, it would change into a persistent itch. My sense of balance also seemed slightly off. I was more likely to stumble or slip. I dismissed this as the aches of getting older … until one night, the itchiness became so persistent, it kept me up for three days straight. The great thing about the internet is all the priceless information at the tip of your fingers. It took me three minutes to put in my symptoms and for my phone to belch out an answer. Diabetic neuropathy. A condition when uncontrolled blood sugar permanently damages your nerves. That should have been the wake-up call I needed. In hindsight, it was foolish that it wasn’t. I was on a runaway rollercoaster. I was too scared to get off, instead I watched it descend with me strapped into an abyss. I knew I needed to go to the doctor … yet I was afraid he would tell me I had permanently destroyed my health along with my life. So I retreated into ignorance. Told myself that if I doubled down on insulin, I could fix this problem myself.
It happened almost three months to this day. I was lying in bed, trying to get some sleep when the most agonizing pain I ever felt slammed into my back. Hot knives digging through my skin, scraping themselves against my skeleton, I bolted upright with a scream that echoed in my room. I pressed my hands on my back. I ran into the bathroom and looked at the mirror to see if I had somehow gotten stabbed … no signs of damage but I could still feel the knives. I thought the pain would lessen in a few minutes, but it only increased. After a few hours, I was almost delirious with pain. I thought about going to the ER but didn’t think I would make it. As I writhed in agony, on top of my bed, I had a chilling thought. What if this was it? What if this pain was always with me? How would I live like this? Would I even want to live?
The night waned on and at the break of dawn, the sun just starting to peak through my curtains, my mom called. Their car battery had died, and they wondered if I could come by to jumpstart it. I couldn’t tell them I was in too much pain to drive so I agreed, trying my best to sound normal. This is the part of the story where I need you to suspend your disbelief. As I slowly got dressed, the pain completely and abruptly disappeared. Not gradually … not over time … as I was trying to tie my shoe, the pain vanished as quickly as it came. I walked out of my home befuddled, got in my car, and drove towards my parents’ house. As I was driving, I almost wondered if I imagined the pain. The fact that it disappeared as soon as I needed to leave seemed too convenient. Was it psychosomatic? Was it because I hadn’t slept well the last few days? As I arrived at my parents’ house, I had already convinced myself it was a fluke that would never happen again. My parents met me and were able to charge their car battery. My dad went out while my mom invited me for breakfast. I think she could see how haggard I was and wanted to do the motherly thing of pressing me about my health. I was at the table; she had just made a joke and I had laughed when I felt the pain again. Just like before, it felt like a creature trying to claw itself free from my skin. My mom saw the change in me; she asked what was wrong. I was almost on the verge of tears as I explained about the pain and how I thought it was a symptom of neuropathy. She listened and asked if I needed to go to the ER. Once I responded yes, she then asked if I wanted her to go with me. I did need to go the ER … but I thought I was too grown to have my mother come with me. That decision almost proved costly as I tried to drive myself to the hospital. The pain made me press on the gas twice as hard but thankfully, my parents’ house was only a few minutes’ drive to the hospital.
I parked the car, stumbled into the ER … and this is where our story continues.
The receptionist looked at me with professional curiosity. I didn’t blame her for not reacting to my statement. She worked in the ER, where people would regularly come in broken and bloodied, and here I was, seemingly unharmed but whining about pain. She gathered my information, asking me to take a seat and that someone would be with me shortly. Time marched on at a snail’s pace as I sat and tried not to whimper at the pain. I got lucky; I only had to wait about twenty minutes before I was ushered into the back where a nurse took my blood sugar … my blood sugar was in the 500s. For anyone who is unfamiliar with how bad that is, they recommend diabetics seek medical assistance if they’re about 240. I was double that and the worse part was I didn’t even know it. I was used to guessing my sugar based on my feelings, but I had become so desensitized to high blood sugar levels, that I could no longer tell a difference. They gave me insulin and hooked me up to an IV to flush my system. Eventually, a doctor came by and asked who was my endocrinologist. I had to pause guiltily. I haven’t seen mine in years. He asked when was the last time I tested which led to another guilty pause.
This is the last time I’ll ask you to suspend your curiosity. The doctor left and when he returned, he asked if they made an appointment with an endocrinologist, would I go?
“Yes!” I vehemently nodded my head. “Anything to get healthy!”
As soon as I said the statement, the pain disappeared. The next day I was at a new endocrinologist, trying to explain why I hadn’t been the best diabetic. He listened patiently, put me on new medication but warned I would need to change my diet and eating habits. I was on the edge of irreparable damage, but I could still live a healthy life if I started making the right decisions.
It’s been several months since one of the most horrible nights of my life, and I’m cautiously pleased with my progress. I test regularly; watch what I eat and avoid the evil temptations of sugary food. The most interesting part of the story … I never did get an explanation as to what caused the pain in my back. The doctor explained it couldn’t have been neuropathy, because if it had been, it would have meant the neuropathy had advanced to a stage where nothing could be done. I hadn’t felt the pain since. One of the theories, shared by my parent, was that the pain was God’s way of pushing me in the right direction. Sometimes we need to go through our own horror story to understand what we should be doing.
Written by Wesley Williams