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"Healing relationships for good"

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A Heart for God

Posted by [email protected] on 9 February, 2022 at 14:20 Comments comments (320)

A Heart for God

Valentine’s Day – the one day chosen for people to show their love for one another. Ads and commercials are all about the perfect gift, card or meal for the one we love. For one day, everyone’s focus is on showing love to each other. But what about God? What about the love we show Him? Scripture admonishes us to, “Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) And what about the love we should show to others. Husbands and wives anxiously await to see how their spouse will show love for them; unmarried lovebirds hope their mate shows how much in love they actually are with each other. School age children bring valentines to school in order to participate in a fun event, and sometimes with a special card for their teacher. But what they have learned about the love that God has shown for them? What lessons have they learned about the One who gave it all? “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

The command given to the Israelites is the same message given to us today: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul….” (Deuteronomy 10:12) The amazing grace of love of God should compel each of. us to love Him with all our heart. And that same love should be expressed to one another, and in all that we do. When we demonstrate the love of Christ to one another, we are also being an example of the love of Christ. As employees, how do we show love to those in authority over us and to our co-workers. In the book of Colossians, (3:23-24) Paul commands us to do exactly that when he says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

How can we be certain that we are serving the Lord out of a sincere desire to serve Him? In the book of Jeremiah, he tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (17:9) However, in the next verse we see that there is Someone who knows us better than we know ourselves. “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” (17:10) When we live according to the flesh, we cannot please God. Only when we surrender our lives to Him, through His Son, can we be assured of pleasing God in the things that we do. He alone knows our hearts. The Psalmist says “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11) Like the Psalmist, may we have a desire to serve the Lord with an ‘undivided heart’. May our hearts be yielded to God.

What are your Valentine’s Day plans? How will you show the love of God to someone?





A New Year

Posted by [email protected] on 27 December, 2021 at 0:35 Comments comments (133)

A New Year?

As I consider the state of our country, re. Covid and its’ variants, and I reflect back on January 2021, is 2022 really a new year or a continuation? I guess it depends on how one looks at a new year. Is it an opportunity for change, a promise of something greater, or hope for the fulfillment of a long-delayed dream?

The scripture found in Habakkuk 3:17-18 immediately comes to mind when considering the word ‘hope’. “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

The prophet Habakkuk ministered mainly to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Very distressed about the sinfulness of Judah’s kings, even though Josiah had instituted a number of spiritual reforms leading to a temporary return to God; Habakkuk questioned God as to why He did not punish the kingdom of Judah. Why was Judah allowed to continue on its’ course of idolatry instead of being made to account for their sinfulness? And when God responds that Judah would be punished by Babylon, the prophet then questions God about using an idolatrous and wicked nation to judge Judah. God then assures him Babylon would eventually be punished as well.

Habakkuk ends his discourse and disappointment with God’s responses by declaring his hope and trust in the Lord, in spite of the coming punishment the nation would endure; “….yet I will rejoice Even though the tiny nation would endure 70 years of exile, God would bring them back to their land, fulfilling His promise and through the prophet, Isaiah He revealed His ultimate promise: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel”, ‘God with us’. (Isaiah 7:14) As the people of Judah could be hopeful in God’s promise, we too can rely on that same hope, that God has not left us to ourselves. Through the prophet Jeremiah, He also tells us “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) ‘My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly trust in Jesus’ name.’ (Hillsong, 7/3/2012).

What are you hoping for in 2022?

Pamela Barnes


December Holidays: Stress No More

Posted by [email protected] on 27 December, 2021 at 0:35 Comments comments (17)

December Holidays: Stress No More

2021 is hurdling to an end and many have mixed emotions as the holiday season kicks off. Where will they find a job? Will there be money for the usual Christmas gift? Is travel home going to be possible with the Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19 running rampant, etc.? We seem to have more questions than answers and we are buffeted on all sides with the news, crime, family stressors, etc. I am not sure about you, but I am stressed. But as I stopped recently to catch a breath, the Lord reminded me that I did not need to stress, but to pray. Yes, you and I need not stress if Christ is our Savior and Lord. He encourages us to cast all our care on him as he cares for us. He can handle anything. Give him a try! Take him at his word!

In Philippians 4:6, God’s word reminds us “not to be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” In other words, pray, not stress. So as worry and stress tugs on your heart, stop to take a breath, and bring it to God. He can do anything but fail. So, be encouraged that he cares for you when the month has more days than dollars, when the doctor’s diagnosis is dismal, when the spouse has walked away, and in any circumstances, you find yourself in this December. God is always the answer!

In addition to bringing everything to God. Here are a few other tips for reducing your stress levels this December.

1. Grieve – If you lost someone this year and this is difficult for you, recognize where you are, and allow yourself time to grieve. Grieving is a natural part of healing and acknowledging that you are hurting is ok. You may also be grieving the loss of freedom to travel and spend time with loved ones due to COVID-19. If you need help getting through your grief, consider talking with a professional counselor, Pastor, or call our ministry at 404-500-9204.

2. Pamper yourself – Treat yourself. Order a fancy meal at home, have a movie night, take a luxurious bubble bath, or do whatever you like during your time of rest. It is ok to enjoy your own company and recharge.

3. Avoid toxic thinkers – As the saying goes, “misery loves company.” If this is a difficult time for you, try to avoid negative thinkers and connect with people who are positive-minded this time of year. You know what and who you can handle during this time. Honor yourself by choosing whom you spend time with this December.

4. Start a new tradition – This time of year is a perfect opportunity to start a new tradition, such as virtually reaching out to others who are alone, cooking a new recipe or cuisine, and organizing things you have meant to do. By creating a new tradition, you create new opportunities to connect to others.

5. Video chat – With so many ways to communicate, we have several methods to stay connected. These programs can include FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, or whichever program is easiest for you to use. Learn to use different technology or try out a new way to stay in touch. Schedule a time to talk and connect with friends and family as much as you want. I have designated Sundays as the day of rest, reconnection, and relaxation. As such, I set alarms to remind me to connect to family and friends. Try this and let me know if it works for you!

6. Express your needs – People can’t provide support if you don’t let them. It can be challenging to be vulnerable and let others know we have a need. Although you might be nervous to ask for support, you might be allowing someone the opportunity to show kindness. Be willing to be open to new connections.

7. Volunteer – Helping others is a great way to connect with other people and experience fulfillment. Even if you are socially distanced, consider donating to a cause you care about or participating in a virtual race to benefit a charity. Volunteering, even virtually, can help you build connections and get to know people who share your interests.

8. Budget- Set a holiday budget and stick with it. Believe me, people will survive if they don’t receive a holiday gift from you this year. Don’t go into debt and get caught up in the hype of consumerism. This is not what Christmas is about.

9. Pray and pray some more. Jesus is the key that opens all the hidden treasures of God’s wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:1-5). Ask for his help. After all, he knows everything, is everywhere and owns it all.

So, don’t stress, just pray!

So, what are you doing to cope with your holiday stress this holiday season? Please share!

Merry Christmas,

Dr. Meg





Thanksgiving and Gratitude

Posted by [email protected] on 11 December, 2021 at 16:35 Comments comments (357)

Gratitude, thankfulness or gratefulness, from the Latin word gratus "pleasing, thankful", is a feeling of appreciation felt by and/or similar positive response shown by the recipient of kindness, gifts, help, favors, or other types of generosity, to the giver of said gifts. Wikipedia

Gratitude means thanks and appreciation. When you feel gratitude, you're pleased by what someone did for you and also pleased by the results. Unlike indebtedness, you're not anxious about having to pay it back. To show biblical gratitude is to give goodness and grace to others, as the giver has first received from God. It means to extend the joy of receiving to others and God through gestures of kindness and goodness.

As a Christian, it’s important to have a solid understanding of thankfulness and gratitude. And once you have a firm foundation, you can participate in a deeper and more God-honoring way of living out thankfulness and gratitude as scripture describes them. As you pursue growth in this area of your life, you will find that choosing to have a heart of gratitude not only honors God, but blesses you. Grateful people experience more joy in life and are more of a joy to be around. But becoming grateful is not easy. Gratitude isn’t natural, it must be cultivated.

To better understand how the Bible defines and differentiates gratitude and thankfulness, we’ll look at several verses and get a deeper feel from the original Greek text as well as the context in which the words are used. First, take a look at Colossians 3:16-17. Verse 16 uses the word, “gratitude,” and verse 17 uses the word “thanks” (or giving thanks). “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts,” (Colossians 3:16, NIV). “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him,” (Colossians 3:17, NIV). “He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so” (Mark 8:6, NIV). Jesus also used it at the last supper. “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body,’” (Matthew 26:26, NIV).


In giving thanks, we acknowledge the Giver as well as the gift, and the Giver of all things is God. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:4-10, NIV




National Wellness Month

Posted by [email protected] on 11 August, 2021 at 10:15 Comments comments (664)

15 Ways to Celebrate National Wellness Month

Sheryl Kraft


August is Wellness Month, and more specifically, Wednesday, August 15, is National Relaxation Day!

And yes, every day should be wellness day, but too many of us let self-care and wellness take a back seat in our busy lives. If you already practice wellness, then maybe you need a reminder. I try really hard to remember to incorporate wellness into each day, but my feeling is that there's always something new to learn and discover. In honor of Wellness Day, here are 15 ways to support your wellness. Some include product recommendations and others are things you can easily incorporate into each day.

1. Drink more water. Water lubricates joints (especially important as we age!) and transports nutrients for energy and health. Some people (guilty as charged) don't drink enough water because, well, it's a bit ho-hum. These water infusion drops from Pure Inventions will change all that. They have zero calories, sugar or artificial sweeteners. Flavor your hot, cold or sparkling water with flavors like coconut, blueberry and white tea and add some sprigs of mint or other herbs for a really yummy and special drink. Cheers! Also available through Amazon.

2. Nourish your skin. Your skin—your body's largest organ—takes a lot of abuse, especially in the summer when the heat and humidity can make it wilt. I stopped and smelled the roses and recently tried out two new products from Lancome: their Rose Sugar Scrub and the Rose Jelly Mask, which both made my tired, weathered skin feel like it was blooming again. The rose-scented scrub is super-gentle and the fragrant overnight mask is wonderfully hydrating and luxurious.

3. Get outside and exercise. Yes, it's been pretty hot, but consider swapping the air-conditioned gym for an outdoor workout instead. You'll reap the benefits of a psychological boost that an indoor environment can't compete with. There's been lots of research that points to the therapeutic benefits of exercising in "green spaces."

4. Streamline your snacks. Eating between meals is OK and won't pack on extra pounds—if you do it right. That means swapping out those ready-made smoothies and granola bars for things like air-popped popcorn, celery or carrot sticks, and making your own smoothies using fresh or frozen fruit or veggies and plain yogurt or milk. Another easy way to have your snacks and eat them too: Never eat directly out of the bag or box. Take out a sensible portion, put it in a bowl (a pretty, decorative one makes snacking even more special), then put the rest away. Out of sight, out of mind. These Frozen Ball snacks, filled with fruit and nuts, are amazing and come in six flavors including salted maple and dark forest.

5. Toss the pantyhose. I love wearing dresses and skirts with bare legs in the summer (who wants to wear pantyhose when it's so hot?) but this so-called midlife has gifted me with various spots and spider veins that I'd rather cover up. And since my legs never tan (nor would I even try) I'm so glad I found a way to cheat on the sun. Vita Liberata makes a genius product called Body Blur, which manages to erase all those pesky imperfections in one fell swoop. Smooth it on, and you're good to go, flawless legs and all.

6. Practice deep breathing. Stress has a way of hurting your health—and interfering with your breathing. You may not mean to do it, but when you're stressed you hold your breath or take much shallower breaths. And then? Your whole-body tenses, creating muscle tension and maybe even pain. There are so many ways to breathe, and the 4-4-8 technique is just one of the many: 1. Breathe in through your nose for a count of four, bringing the breath into your abdomen. 2. Hold your breath for a count of four. 3. Breathe out through your mouth with a whooshing sound for a count of eight. Ahhhhh.

7. Cut back on sugar. Can you guess how many teaspoons of sugar the average American consumes each day? 22 teaspoons. (Unbelievable, right?) It's not just from the sugar you put in your coffee, but from sources of hidden sugar like salad dressings, alcohol (a glass of rose has 7 grams!), juice and pasta sauces. Excess sugar consumption is linked to diabetes and heart disease and can make you feel tired and grumpy. The number to aim for is six teaspoons per day, says the American Heart Association. You can still get your sugar fix but do it smarter: add blueberries to your yogurt or cereal, drink plain water instead of soda and sweetened tea (see item #1), use spices like cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice in place of sugar and roast veggies like parsnips, carrots and tomatoes (which turn sweet when roasted).

8. Care for your cuticles. When cuticles are dry and jagged, it's tempting to pick, chew or cut them. And with that, you're risking infection or irritation. Your cuticles are there for a reason—they provide a barrier and protect your nail matrix. Rather than cut them, you should gently push them back with a wooden orange stick. To keep them healthy, give them The Cure, an ultra-nourishing cuticle repair cream from nail guru Deborah Lippman.

9. Treat yourself or someone you love to a spa treatment. You can't compete with a spa for the ultimate in self-care and relaxation. Need I say more? Oh—one thing. Here's a promotion that'll save you 18 percent on $250 or more.

10. Give yourself a massage. A massage not only feels heavenly, it's a powerful friend of your health and well-being. If you can't get to a spa or it's too costly, you can still indulge with one of Wahl's products, which allow you to take matters into your own hands. Its deep-knead massage wrap is the perfect way to get a spa-like heated, shiatsu-style massage on your neck, shoulder, back, legs or calves, complete with heat to soothe your sore muscles and six massage nodes to soothe your desire for a massage with varying pressure. Guaranteed you and your massage wrap will be friends for life.

11. Slow down. It always feels like there's not enough time to get everything done, doesn't it? But when you spend your days in a feverish rush, you miss out on special subtleties and nuances that speed by and elude your notice. (I realized that the other day, when I decided to take a simple stroll—not a power walk—through my neighborhood. Never before had I really seen the gorgeous trees, flowers and architecture that I soaked in along the way.) Slow walking is actually a way of actively meditating. And yes, you can meditate without really trying.

12. Be kind to your eyes. Too many people neglect the health of their eyes, and each year about 50,000 Americans go blind, mostly from treatable or preventable eye diseases like macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Make sure to get annual eye exams, eat a well-balanced diet, and, if you smoke, quit. Also wear sunglasses and use safety eyewear or protective goggles where necessary. If you work at a computer, look 20 feet away from your screen for 20 seconds every 20 minutes and take a 15-minute break at least every two hours.

13. Stretch. Beginning your day with a good stretch is like sipping a good cup of coffee (if you're not a coffee-drinker, then I'm sure you have your own special way to begin your day). Aside from preserving mobility and independence as you age, stretching helps keep your muscles flexible and strong and protects your joints and muscles from injury. Stretching may seem overwhelming and time consuming, but the most important areas for mobility are in your lower extremities (your calves, hamstrings, hip flexors in the pelvis and quadriceps in the front of the thigh), say experts at Harvard Medical School.

14. Read food labels. It's an easy—and effective—way to check in with yourself and your nutrition and stay accountable to your health. Sometimes those "hidden" details can be shocking, like how much sugar is in a slice of bread and how much salt is in some cereals. Decode food labels with these seven easy steps or read this helpful book by dietician and nutrition expert Bonnie Taub-Dix, Read It Before You Eat It.

15. Pamper your lips. Your forehead, eyes and neck are not the only things prone to wrinkles and fine lines. Your lips, which have thinner skin surrounding them and have no oil glands, are fair game, too. And with the passage of time, lips lose volume, making them even more vulnerable. Resist the urge to lick your lips or breathe through your mouth, which can dry them out even more. Make sure to always protect your lips with a lubricating lip cream or balm, especially when you're outside. Plain old petroleum jelly makes a good lip moisturizer, or you can try one of the zillion of other products out there.

I hope you find your special way toward wellness, today and every day!


Reclaiming the Narrative of Black Fatherhood

Posted by [email protected] on 21 July, 2021 at 19:40 Comments comments (29)

July 21, 2021

Fathers play a critical role in the healthy development of children and families. This is why it's important to address structural and systemic barriers that prevent Black men from being fully present in their children's lives—so that all families have a chance to thrive.

My wife and I have been married since 2019, but we’ve known each other since we were 14-year-olds. We are raising a blended family. She has a daughter who is 9 and a 7-year-old son. I have a son who is 8, and together we have a 2-year-old son.

The pandemic has profoundly shaped my parenting experience in numerous ways. I had to transform my house into a combined virtual school, daycare, and work setting. The last year has negatively impacted our seven-year-old, who is autistic, mostly due to disruptions to the in-person support that he needs to truly thrive. Navigating these evolving dynamics, while working, running a household, and trying to stay sane has been extremely challenging. But being present in my children’s lives makes every moment worth it.

My father left when I was 3 years old. Because he wasn’t in the picture for my upbringing, in some ways, I am trying to reach an ideal as a father that I couldn’t actually see as a child. Something inside pushed me to be different, to counter the “absent Black father" narrative.

When I was younger, my perception of a father’s role was very different than it is now. I grew up in Newark, New Jersey, where norms for a Black child, a Black young adult, and a Black man could be stifling. The limits were very clear on what society deemed appropriate for a Black man, and how you were supposed to interact with others. I was never comfortable with those unwritten rules.

Once I began surrounding myself with other fathers of color, I started to realize I wasn’t alone. Media, television, and popular music perpetuate this idea that Black dads aren’t in their children’s lives, and that’s simply not true. Good Black fathers do exist, but it’s taken more time for our experience and contributions to be recognized.

It is so important and powerful for a child to have a father figure. I see that my kids’ view of fatherhood is being shaped by what they see in me.

Parenting in a Pandemic

Before COVID-19, my wife was working full-time at a university. After giving birth to our son, I supported her decision to leave her job so that she could dedicate more time to care for our children and our home. Caring for four children, including one with special needs and another who just learned how to walk, especially during the pandemic, is not a one-person job. It requires flexibility and patience. Even tasks as simple as taking out the garbage become complicated if the timing isn’t perfect.

One of our most challenging times during the pandemic was when my wife became ill and we worried that she may have contracted the virus. As we awaited her test results, she was quarantined in our room for several days while I took on the responsibility of caring for our children and for her. During that time, my family depended on me most as a father and husband, but I still needed to work in order to provide food and housing for all of us.

It’s difficult to give 100 percent of who you are to each of these distinct roles, and I struggled silently in fear of imposing guilt on anyone who depended on me. Even after my wife recovered, I suffered through many sleepless nights, anxious about who I was letting down each day—my kids, my wife, or my coworkers?

As I became better at expressing my feelings to my wife and colleagues, I also gradually began to better balance my roles. I didn’t want to be that dad who is always working and isn’t present in my kids’ lives, and they all understood that. I’m grateful to have the flexibility to be the best father, husband, and professional that I can be. Every day during my lunch period, I put my youngest down for a nap. Feeling his small hand grab my finger as he says “Dada, go to sleep?” is my signal that it’s time for the highlight of my day. My wife and I alternate helping our school-aged kids with their homework, preparing lunch, and taking the entire bunch outside to play. The silver lining in these times is how closely I get to watch my kids grow up before my own eyes.

Supporting Caretaking with Policy, Culture and Leadership

I recognize that I am blessed to be able to find balance. Many obstacles prevent fathers from being fully present in their family's day. Because of the environment I grew up in, I intimately understand the forces holding people back. I’m referring not just to a culture that only encourages men to pursue a very narrow set of traditionally masculine career paths, but also systems that make it difficult for men to take time off when they have a new baby or a sick parent. There is no question that policymakers can do more to break down those barriers with reforms like paid family leave.

There’s a role for employers here, too. It’s really important to build a culture that doesn’t just extend paid family leave benefits, but also encourages employees to use them when needed. I used to be nervous to take time off when someone in my family got sick. This added anxiety and stress made the situation even more difficult. I no longer feel that way, and wish others had that autonomy. I am grateful that I can take time off and be an active parent and caregiver during this devastating time.

There’s also a cultural piece—caregiving responsibilities can impact someone’s career growth. It’s so important for those in senior positions of power to understand this. Even if you have the right policies in place, people may judge or subtly dismiss those who actually take time off to provide care. Supervisors must lead by example, and be aware of implicit biases.

These false archetypes of what a leader looks like can influence decision-making. Even a well-meaning supervisor could ask themselves, “Should I avoid giving more responsibility to someone who is a caregiver?” They may have good intentions, but that outlook could hold someone back. It’s not just about having the right policies on the books; it’s making sure they are implemented equitably as well.

Bringing it Home

I’ve also seen what male caregiving can do to help a family grow and thrive. When my wife was raising her son who is autistic, as a single mom, her caregiving role was overwhelming. Depending on the resources available to you, based on where you live and your level of support from family or friends, single parenthood may be extremely tough. You may be constantly putting out fires, burned out, and strained. You may not have the flexibility to plan for the future if your present feels like a nightmare. How can you think about investing if you can’t even pay the bills? There were little to no resources available to her and her children in the city where she lived, so she relied heavily on her mother to navigate through that phase of her life.

For me to take on the role as her partner has had a great impact on me. I also see that my wife now has more freedom to dream. She became a certified life coach, discovered her passion for psychology and is taking college courses. We launched a podcast together where we have real, honest, and transparent discussions about relationships, family, and careers. To hear her aspirations and see her grow is breathtaking. At the same time, our son’s development has gone through the roof. This has been so uplifting for all of us.

As someone who has been impacted by false narratives, and is working to bring about a new one, I’m grateful to be involved in this work. In my life at home, I know that I may not always have the perfect words to express how I feel on command, but my children know that I love them, and my wife does too, because I show them every day. There is nothing more important to me than that.

Like me, many men of color take pride in caring for their children and families. To read more about our experiences, check out the new brief A Portrait of Caring Black Men and Every Family Forward’s Man Enough to Care series, including their thought provoking survey of real men who care for others


Dwayne Curry, Author


Is Your Community a Food Desert?

Posted by [email protected] on 6 June, 2021 at 16:00 Comments comments (281)

Is Your Community a Food Desert?


When you think of deserts, you might think of barren places with extreme temperatures and little precipitation where plants and animal life is minimal. Food deserts are very similar in that there are few to no options for accessing fresh fruits and vegetables. They exist in impoverished areas where families and communities struggle to grow and develop healthy. Food deserts are common in areas with smaller populations, higher rates of abandoned or vacant homes and where residents with lower levels of education, lower incomes and higher rates of unemployment live.1 Sounds familiar? Sounds like predominantly Black neighborhoods? According to a 2014 study at Johns Hopkins University, food deserts are a disproportionate reality for Black communities. The study compares US census tracts of similar poverty levels and found that in urban areas, Black communities had the fewest supermarkets, white communities had the most, and multiracial communities fell in the middle of the supermarket count spectrum.1 If you live in a food desert, you can help raise awareness that your community is not a reflection of a healthy America and that many people with type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions are dying because of this healthy food disparity. Begin talking to local retailers about selling healthy vegan foods, and share ideas with local policy makers (city councilmembers, county commissioners and state legislators) so that food equity becomes a reality in your community.2

Yoko Allen



1. The Annie E. Casey Foundation. February 13, 2021 Food Deserts in the United States.

2. Food Empowerment Project. Food Deserts.






Healthy Eating

Posted by [email protected] on 1 May, 2021 at 15:30 Comments comments (1611)

Healthy Eating


By: Laurice Howell, DrPh., RDN, LD

Healthy eating should not be exhausting or an occasional act. You can make a conscious decision to choose healthy foods every day, and once this habit is established it becomes automatic.

Start by being a label reader. Look for foods low in salt, sugar, and saturated fat. A high intake of salt, sugar and saturated fat is associated with poor health. Packaged foods are generally high in these ingredients, that is why it is important to read labels so you can learn which packaged foods are healthier choices.

Processed foods and convenient meals such as frozen dinners are sodium laden. Instant food products such as instant grits and cereals are also extremely high in sodium. Choose foods with sodium 140mg or less.

Determine how many teaspoons of sugar are in a packaged product. To do this divide the grams of sugar by 4. For example, if a food package states 12 grams of sugar it would have three teaspoons of sugar. Also, look at the ingredient list, if the first, second, or third ingredient is sugar, the product is high in sugar. Look for products with lower sugar content and purchase food packed in their juice.

Foods that are high in saturated fats include red meats, dairy, butter, ice cream and baked goods, limit use of these foods. Avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils, these contain unhealthy trans-fat. You can find this information by reading the ingredient list. Use healthy fats in moderation. Healthy fats include olive oil, soy, corn oil, sunflower, and peanut oil.

Eating healthy also means eating more fruits and vegetables. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Go for fresh fruits and vegetables. If you cannot find fresh fruits and vegetables look for canned or packaged fruits and vegetables that are low in salt, sugar, and fat. Limit the use of refined grains. Go for whole grains such as barley, wheat, oats, brown rice. Make ¼ of your plate whole grains.

For protein foods include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts, quinoa. Limit red meats and avoid or limit processed meats such as bacon and sausage. Make ¼ of your plate protein foods.

Keep yourself hydrated by drinking enough fluids throughout the day. Try drinking two 8oz cups of water before each meal. This will keep you hydrated and make you eat less. Skip sugar drinks and limit juices to two serving per day.

When cooking your meals cook mostly baked, broiled, steamed, boiled, or roasted foods. Limit frying to cut down on calories. Remember, you can form a habit of choosing healthier foods. This will do your body good.


Forgive and Forget

Posted by [email protected] on 6 April, 2021 at 16:50 Comments comments (40)

Forgive and forget!

By Betsy Rodríguez MSN, DCES

Many people view forgiveness as an offshoot of love -- a gift given freely to those who have hurt you.

Forgiveness, however, may bring enormous benefits to the person who gives that gift. If you can bring yourself to forgive and forget, you are likely to enjoy lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, and a drop in the stress hormones circulating in your blood. Back pain, stomach problems, and headaches may disappear. And you'll reduce the anger, bitterness, resentment, depression, and other negative emotions that accompany the failure to forgive.

Of course, forgiving is notoriously difficult. Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive. It is not an easy process. And sometime forgetting may not be a realistic or desirable goal.

Despite the familiar cliché, 'forgive and forget,' most of us find forgetting nearly impossible. Forgiveness does not involve a literal forgetting. Forgiveness involves remembering graciously. The forgiver remembers the true though painful parts, but without the embellishment of angry adjectives and adverbs that stir up contempt.

Forgiving (and Forgetting) Crushes Stress

Angry seems to carry serious consequences. As I said before, when focused on unforgiving responses, your blood pressure flow, your heart rates increase, brow muscles tense, and negative feelings escalate. By contrast, forgiving responses induce calmer feelings and physical pleasant responses. It appears that harboring unforgiveness comes at an emotional and a physiological cost. Cultivating forgiveness may cut these costs.

But how do we cultivate forgiveness? You can’t just forgive. However, you can create conditions where forgiveness is more likely to occur. There are specific practices that diminish hostility and self-pity, and increase positive emotions, so it becomes more likely that a genuine, heartfelt release of resentment will occur.

How to Encourage Forgiveness

I encourage you in the practice of gratitude -- the active effort to acknowledge what's good in your life. Gratitude is simply focusing your attention on the positive things that have happened and that creates a biochemical experience that makes it more likely that forgiveness will occur.

Stress management, whether through meditation, deep breathing, prayers or relaxation exercises, also helps quell the stress of anger and resentment

You can also change the story looking at you as a survivor who is hopeful about the future rather than as a victim with a grievance. You can change, 'I hate my husband because he didn't love me,' to, 'life is a real challenge for me because I didn't feel loved as a wife’. This statement makes forgiveness so much more possible.

The goal, however, is emotional forgiveness, in which negative emotions such as resentment, bitterness, hostility, hatred, anger, and fear are replaced with love, compassion, sympathy, and empathy. Reach for forgiveness- Revenge is based on powerlessness and it's doomed to failure.

I encourage you who are reading this blog to read the scriptures that offer biblical guidance on forgiveness and how important it is to forgive others as we have been forgiven by the blood of Christ. With the grace and mercy shown to us, we are always able to start new with God. When we repent, we are given full forgiveness of our sins because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Considering our new beginning, God commands that in return, we forgive others and extend grace as we have been shown grace. It can be one of the hardest things we face in life! The pain and hurt others cause us is real and great. But, the pain of living with bitterness and unforgiveness can poison your soul and destroy you. When we forgive others, we are not saying what they did was OK, but we are releasing them to God and letting go of its hold on us. Forgiveness does not forget, but it does set free from bitterness and grudges.

Colossians 3:13- “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.




National Nutrition Month

Posted by [email protected] on 12 March, 2021 at 21:50 Comments comments (330)

March is National Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme is “personalize your plate”. The goal of the month is to celebrate the diversity of Americans as unique individuals with personal needs; also, it’s to promote creating nutritious meals to meet individuals’ cultural and personal food preferences. Across March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the nation’s largest nutrition organization, is recommending that Americans give attention to key weekly messages. These messages include avoiding distractions while eating, hydrate healthfully, take time to enjoy your food, include healthful foods from all food groups, learn how to read the Nutrition Fact Panels, use a grocery list to shop for healthy foods, plan healthful eating while traveling, reduce food waste, practice proper home food safety, and thrive through the transformative power of foods.

As I reviewed this list and considered all the clients that I serve, I applaud the national movement to improve the nutritional intake of Americans and as I usually do, I plan to do my best to celebrate the month and help my clients, family, and friends to follow the key messages, personalize their meals, and ultimately improve their health. However, even with the best intentions, this goal will be harder than ever before to achieve since we are in the middle of a syndemic. As I connect with Americans during this syndemic, many are reporting mindless eating, excessive weight gain, feeling traumatized, and experiencing growing unforgiveness related to personal, work-related, and marital or other relational transgressions. Many have been locked into their homes for almost a year, and families are fraying at the end because of the dynamics existing in the home. The need to address these issues and other relational concerns are long overdue. In other words, it is time to implement trauma-informed care for all our clients, since business as usual will not get to root cause issues that have surfaced during this syndemic. But where does one start? What to do to get people on track and to even give the key messages related to National Nutrition Month a second chance. I am glad you asked. Here are a few ideas to try this month.

• First, complete a forgiveness assessment if you have not done one before. See more at:

• Next, ensure that you develop weekly or biweekly menus for your household. Doing so will guarantee that you save money on your food budget.

• If you are unemployed and need food assistance, take the time to apply for these benefits. Also, check out the Aunt Bertha app, 211, church pantries, and food banks to fill any needs that you might have.

• Build a social support network, believe me even in the pandemic, this is possible with virtual Zoom parties, Facetime, Family recipe contest, Pajamas parties, etc.

• Keep a running shopping list in your kitchen and only buy what you need when you go shopping. Remember to wear a mask, keep social distance, and never go shopping when you are hungry.

• Be open to trying new and exciting ways to transform your foods. You would be surprised by the many ways that spinach for instance can be incorporated into your meals. Try something new each week!

• Be mindful and know what you are eating and why.

• Do not eat while you are watching the TV. We suggest that you get up and exercise at each commercial break.

• Take time to sit at the dinner table and have a conversation while you eat your meals.

• Get an accountability partner to check in on you and to encourage you to stick to your meal and exercise plans.

• Weigh-in each day or week, so you can know what is happening with your weight.

• Keep a food diary. Do something that I have done, log the food before you eat. Try my Fitness Pal, Fitbit, and other similar apps to help to keep you accountable. As you log food across the day, you would be surprised at what you will refuse to eat as the calorie, and fat tally keeps mounting. Give it a try!

• Find new ways to cook your food. Believe me, oven-style fried chicken tastes just as good as the one deep fried.

• Use fruits, vegetables, and small servings of nuts as snacks to keep the munchies away.

• Drink more water than sweetened tea or other beverages.

• Put down the fork between bites and give yourself at least 20 minutes to enjoy your meal. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to signal to the belly that it is full. So, rushing will add more calories and eventually more weight. So, stop to taste the flavor of your foods.

• Be mindful, creative, and eager to try something new this National Nutrition Month. Doing so can build healthy habits that can last a lifetime. Won't you give it a try?

Could you share with me what you have done to eat healthily during the pandemic, and one thing you will do differently this nutrition month?


To the best meals ever!

Dr. Meg