Serve

I have become passionate about the power of small changes to make big differences in our lives. Shifting just one thing can ripple out over time and change the trajectory; alter a future. Change is so hard for most of us - I write about this a lot. I am fascinated by the question, "What is the thing that makes some people able to change and others not?"

When I sink, which I do from time to time, I know what to do now. I sunk last summer like a rock. But, for the first time in my life, I didn't run. I felt strong enough to sit with that horrible uncomfortableness and let it do its worst. And what I heard when I got still was, "serve."

So I prayed, "Show me how to use my talents to help this ailing world." I got nothing. For three months I prayed and got nothing as the country devolved into a polarized, political hell. But I waited. This is unlike me and a sign that growth in your forties is possible. I waited and I figured, "I will just do nothing until it is clear what I am supposed to do." I walked the dog.

Then it fell in my lap, clear as a bell on a cold day. Help fix the community center next to the housing projects where I used to volunteer with a bunch of moms.

"Too big!" I protested. 

"Yes, for you, it is." 

Too big for me, but not too big for God and a community of loving people. A community who stands up and says, "What happens in every neighborhood matters." That community was you. So, while the country was arguing over abortion and candidates who sold our country out to the banking world, we raised $28,000 to change a community.

Exceeding my abilities and expectations, the roof went up. Since that time, I have been working twenty hours a week at the community center teaching the same things we teach at The Homestead Center - health, wellness, and personal growth.

I braced myself. It had been a long time since I worked in poverty populations as a teacher in Jackson, Mississippi. I told myself I was not there to "fix" people but to walk alongside them. There are some really horrible things happening in those neighborhoods including babies sleeping in piles of dirty laundry, drugs, women being sold, and violence. Last week, a woman answered her door wearing a sheet wrapped around her. 

I love what Sheila Cassidy writes about our understanding and our role in suffering:

"What then is the message from this dark, still point, from the eye of the hurricane? I believe it is this: suffering is, in the same way that life is, It is a fact; denying it or ignoring it will not make it go away. I do not know if it has a meaning. Deep in my heart, I believe it has but I don't really know. But I do know: more important than asking why, we should get in there, be alongside those who suffer. We must plunge in up to our necks in the icy water, the mud and the slurry to hold up the drowning child until he is rescued or dies in our arms."

The thing is, there are some really beautiful things happening in that neighborhood too that defy all stereotypes. Like the dozens of participants who would trade their disability checks - most of which are legitimate - for a job at Dollar General, if only they could get one. We write resumes, we become references once a participant has proven themselves reliable, and we fill out online applications. The problem is, there is no one to call. Everything is computerized. You can't find a person to talk to and say, "Hey, this guy is worth taking a chance on."

Like the laughter. When all expectations for things getting better are absent, laughter is a commodity. I watched with new eyes, as Mike and I sat outside eating lunch, a group of guys working on landscaping. They probably make minimum wage for a business owner who was able to build a new house. There is no possibility of moving up, but there they are - good looking sunglasses, laughing! They are enjoying the hell out of their jobs. How many of us can say that as "professionals?" 

Like the community and acceptance. We have some crazy and down and out folks coming through the community center doors. Men who talk to invisible people as they try and concentrate on the cooking class. Women who need a bath. They are welcomed by the rest of the participants WITHOUT judgment. They are congratulated for small successes, "Girl, you got a job back at McDonald's? Well, that is All Right! Good for you!" When you are at the bottom of how the world measures success, and unlikely to ever leave, there is a peace and acceptance like I have NEVER encountered.

I am not romanticizing the situation. Most of the people I work with have a much higher tolerance for pain than I do. I would crack and crumble under the weight of doors that never open, under the stacks of reality piled on top of you from the minute you come into the world. But, the inability to change is exactly the same as it is for those of us who come to The Homestead Center. We get stuck. We battle addictions and physical and mental illnesses. We get tired and lazy. We don't believe we can do it. The difference is the size of our safety nets. When middle/upper-class people fall, we have the possibility of a soft landing, a dozen re-dos, a family or a community with connections that can help us.  

There is something the participants understand that I don't, which absolutely astounds me. How to find happiness, joy even, in the middle of misery. I struggle to be okay and I have everything.

I am so thankful that when I heard, "Serve," I listened. I probably won't change the trajectory of many lives at the community center, but they have certainly changed mine.

Supertalk Mississippi and The Homestead

A few years ago, we hosted a workshop called The Mind Body Connection for counselors who were looking for the latest research to use in practice. I met an amazing man, Buddy Wagner, at that workshop who said, "I decided that it shouldn't take years to help clients in talk therapy. There had to be a better way!"

That better way turned into a weekend-long retreat at The Homestead called Beating Anxiety and Depression. That workshop was so popular, we created an online course through the non-profit and added counselor, Lynn Peterson, to the project.

This year, we took that content and produced a book and workbook you can use at home. Here is an interview with Richelle Putnam at Supertalk Mississippi and President of the Mississippi Writer's Guild, Susan Marquez on some of the techniques included. Start at the ten minute mark and pass it on!

Hygge - Cozy Attentiveness

Hygge - Cozy Attentiveness

This luxurious pause between what was in the old year and what could be in the new one is as big a rest as my busy soul ever takes. My husband is not so lucky. He is grinding away in the basement of the hospital unaware of the mist rising on the lake outside, but maybe he'll get to come home before it gets dark and have hot chocolate with us. Maybe it is enough to know he makes this comfort possible for our family.

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Herbal Tea Recipe for Hormone Balance and Women's Health

Hormone Support Tea Formula

I order my dried herbs at Mountain Rose Herbs. I trust them, and they have excellent customer service. I order in bulk and mix the herbs together to make this tea I drink daily. If I have time, I will make an infusion to drink throughout the day.

I also take chaste berry extract in capsule form daily as well. All hot flashes and mood swing around my period disappear when I am consistent. I also notice better skin and significantly decreased cramping.

Tea Recipe

1 part oat strawThis herb has been widely used as a natural diuretic, a gentle tool that may help decrease bloating. Diuretics are also said to be important tools that aid the cleansing process by helping to support the kidneys and urinary tract. It is an excellent source of B vitamins, nutrients essential for energy production and mood stabilization, and calcium needed for bone strength. Oat straw is also used to calm the nervous system, relief anxiety, and reduce irritation.

1 part stinging nettle - Stinging nettle root extract is a powerful herb that has been shown to slow or stop the spread of prostate cancer cells. Use of a stinging nettle tonic for the female system goes back to Native American women who used it throughout pregnancy and as a remedy to stop hemorrhaging during childbirth. It is considered one of the best women’s all around tonics for the female reproductive system, excellent for young women just starting their monthly cycle, as well as women entering menopause. Stinging nettle is packed with vitamins and minerals and helps to keep testosterone circulating freely.

 

1 part red clover blossoms - Several studies of a proprietary extract of red clover isoflavones suggest that it may significantly reduce hot flashes in menopausal women. Also, menopause increases a woman's risk for developing osteoporosis (significant bone loss) and some studies suggest that a proprietary extract of red clover isoflavones may slow bone loss and even boost bone mineral density in pre and peri-menopausal women.

1 part red raspberry leaf - Red raspberry leaf tea is well known in the herbal world as being one of the safest and most beneficial herbal remedy for women, even during pregnancy. It can be a great aid to women’s health, particularly when it comes to toning and strengthening the uterus. Red raspberry leaf tea contains an alkaloid known as fragrine, which can help strengthen the uterus as well as the pelvic area. This can be beneficial to women during menstruation periods, helping to ease pains and cramping.

1 part calendula - calendula has traditionally been used for menstrual irregularities, painful periods and premenstrual breast swelling and tenderness. As gentle on the skin as it is on vaginas, calendula may soothe symptoms of vaginal thrush when not easing your child's latest scraped knee. This soothing herb can be used internally and externally, in ointments and creams, teas and tinctures.

Herbal Tea - Teas are a favorite way to consume herbs. Made by brewing a small amount of herbs (typically a teaspoonful to a cup of water) for a short time (generally 1-2 minutes), teas are flavorful, colorful drinks.

Herbal Infusion - An infusion is a large amount of herb brewed for a long time. Typically, one ounce by weight (about a cup by volume) of dried herb is placed in a quart jar which is then filled to the top with boiling water, tightly lidded and allowed to steep for 4-10 hours. After straining, a cup or more is consumed, and the remainder chilled to slow spoilage. Drinking 2-4 cups a day is usual. Since the minerals and other phytochemicals in nourishing herbs are made more accessible by drying, dried herbs are considered best for infusions.

Best Books for Authentic Living: Searching for Authentic Voices

I am encouraged to stay in the murkiness of being alien by my writers. Anne Lamott says, “Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you're going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.” 

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Finding Your Purpose and Moving the Needle

Romantic getaways are a bit different for us. We are seekers at our cores, Mike intellectually and me spiritually. We like to learn new things together. I'm sure I married the right man because who else would agree to go to a mindfulness retreat with me for our one weekend away from the kids?

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Teach Your Child About Bullying

Teach Your Child About Bullying

Is there a solution to something that seems as inherent in humans as it is in flocks of chickens? Is it possible to deny our nature and choose something harder and often unrewarded? I suppose I believe it is. It is why I take my children to church every Sunday. It is why their father, who does not go to church, passes onto them a moral code that is stronger than those of many religious people. 

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December 2015 Homestead Happenings

This past fall has been full of some of the best workshops and retreats The Homestead has offered yet. Marion Sansing packed the kitchen with her Whole Foods Retreats in September. Glennon Doyle Melton made us yearn for our authentic selves in the Breaking Open Retreat in October. And in November fifty folks came out and looked at the night sky in Backyard Astronomy, and Mike and I enjoyed fifteen couples who were ready to put sincere efforts into their most precious possession - each other. 

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