A Challenging Season

This holiday season brought challenges, loss, and lessons to my family. Just before 2016 ended, my stepdad (far right in this picture from Christmas) passed after a recent late-stage cancer diagnosis. His death has been very hard for us all to accept.

There was a lot going on when I arrived in Atlanta. My mom was attending to Lee’s needs, doctors’ appointments, and the rest of life, while I helped them close on their new house and orchestrate their move, since they had been living on a houseboat and were expecting to be in their new house and have company for Christmas.

Can you imagine combining the stress of a large-scale move and preparing for Christmas with the emotional weight of your loved one’s illness and death, all at a time that you thought might be filled with joy? It was a lot. For everyone. Once the move happened, I just kept cooking. That was how I could provide for and nurture my family. Cook, cook, cook, cry, hug, cook.

I tried to stay aware of letting the grief and sadness be present, and not to try to change them or deny them. I allowed myself to grieve and love with my family.

When I’m home, I have regular practices that keep me at my best. I work to keep my mind, body, and soul healthy and thriving with meditation, exercise, gratitude, service, meal planning, and healthy food & drinks.

Well, the first thing to go out the window when you’re caring for others in a stressful situation is self-care. The second thing to go out the window is the immune system. Stress is so harmful to the immune system and adrenals, and it took me a week or so before I realized that I was not caring for myself, and my immune system and adrenals were suffering. It was hard to even remember to use my tools, let alone make time and space for them. But once immunity and adrenals go, everything else follows, so I finally started to make my needs a priority.

I began to incorporate my morning routine of meditation, prayer and writing again. As soon as I let these things into my life, my acceptance grows and my fears shrink. Once I let the morning routine back it, some of my other tools followed. I started meal planning, taking quiet time for myself, meditating, and exercising. The meal planning is so important for me. In an emotional moment, it’s easy to make a bad food decision, and it’s so important for me to stay on course. When I get stressed, my go-to is food. I want to snack and eat sugar. I make it my priority when I’m with my family to have healthy food ready to nourish our bodies. I’ve been loading up all of our meals with superfoods to keep our bodies strong in stressful times.

Our meals have been such a blessing. I’m so happy to be at that table with my mom, my nephews, and my sister. No matter what is going on, we can all sit down together at the table and really be present with one another. To add to the comfort, I made some of my grandma’s family favorites like our pumpkin bread, roasted chicken, and browned rice. It’s amazing what a little nostalgia can do to add some love to the table.  I feel so grateful for these meals with my family. I don’t know what we’d do without them.

I feel so incredibly grateful for my faith. I don’t know what I’d do without it at a time like this.  I feel blessed to surrender and stay in gratitude. This holiday season I was reminded to stay in the moment, to embrace love and gratitude every day, to take little moments whenever I can, and to surrender.

I am wishing you all much health, prosperity, health, abundance, joy, and love in 2017.

XO Chef Amber

“I surrender my path to the hands of the universe” #Spirit Junkie

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