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Year Three, Day 222: Pneuma

My cough is easing up. But I was plagued by the blues all morning. Luckily it was my day off. I only had a few items on my agenda. First of which was my morning hoop session.  Second, lunch with my son. I am also heading to Vancouver shortly to spend the night with my daughter and Baby Gracie.

I woke up very early - the Prednisone works better than coffee!  But 5:00 a.m. was definitely too early to get vertical. Especially when I would be helping with my granddaughter later on.

So, I checked emails, played a few games of Words with Friends, checked out the breaking news and drifted back off to sleep.

I finally dragged myself out of bed about 9:00 a.m. I practiced a bit of piano. I have one more homeless party to play for on Saturday. This one I am quite looking forward to. I have played this one twice. It is a lovely homeless meal/party put on by members of an Episcopalian church. They even give them gifts!  Since it is a church, they welcome sacred music. We have a bit different group. They all agreed that we could drop "Frosty the Snowman", "Silver Bells" and "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let is Snow!"

Thank you Jesus.

Actually there is freezing rain and possible snow in the forecast for this weekend. I'm fine with that. Just can't bear to play or hear those songs one more time!

We have a french horn, cello, flute, and me on the piano.  We've already brainstormed via email some lovely classical pieces that we can put together easily, plus a few sacred Christmas carols.  I will bring along some Scott Joplin rags if we need filler.

The crowd is always very grateful to have music. But mostly we are background. They are there to be served. A hot meal, at tables in a warm building, served by loving, giving people.  They like to visit amongst themselves too. Even so, some of them usually come up and thank us, or ask us musical questions.

It is truly one of my favorite Christmas traditions.

That and Christmas Eve pho.  I started taking my kids out for pho every Christmas eve when they were quite young. I would often be required to play the piano for a Christmas eve service at whatever church I was employed at.  Few restaurants were open. But Pho Hung always was. And we were regulars there.

This year, we are carrying on the tradition. My son's girlfriend and her family are even planning on joining us!

Then I am going to relax and enjoy my day of solitude on Christmas day. I am really looking forward to the new Star Wars movie with a bag of buttered popcorn - my diet can take a break that day!

But what I really want to talk about today is breath.  "Pneuma" is the Greek word for breath. It is often translated as "spirit" or "soul". It is also the root of "pneumonia" which is what the nurse practioner thinks may have damaged my alveoli.  Interesting.

As I was out walking today, I let my mind drift. I was trying to get to the bottom of my discontent.  I thought about my lungs.  I thought about my toxic thoughts.  I thought about how I was working on my diet (I had gained 6 pounds since Baby Gracie was born, but with my new diet I am pleased to announce that I am down 4 pounds!), to detox and remove mucus from my lungs.

Suddenly I felt a rush of wind. It was a cool, but clear day. And the wind just then felt crisp and sweet as I inhaled.

And I thought:  "Perhaps I need to detox my brain from defensive, negative, self-deprecating thoughts."

And then the pieces started to fall together. It makes sense that I am having trouble breathing.  I remember when my children were quite young, they both spent Christmas day with their respective fathers. I was alone. I didn't want to be sad. But I was.  I missed my kids.  But I also needed a break. I went to see a movie alone. I saw "Waiting to Exhale" with Whitney Houston. I cried almost the whole entire movie. But afterwards, I felt refreshed.

I told myself that I would live my life more in the moment, instead of holding my breath, waiting for my prince to come.

But here I am again, holding my breath. What am I waiting for?  That needs more introspection. But I stopped dead in my tracks when I realized I taught my piano students how to focus before a peformance with a breathing technique I have developed over the years.

I have them practice walking to the piano. Sitting on the bench and finding their hand position.  Imagining in their minds how the first few notes will sound. And then, taking a deep breath in, as they do imagine they are breathing into the present moment. As they exhale, imagine they are breathing out any thoughts that are not the music.

I have done that focus exercise for years before I perform. It works quite well. (Hmmm...I should have done it at the homeless concert the other night!)

But with my COPD, I have been distracted.  And my thoughts have descended.  I have been quite negative in my thinking.  And my prayer life has suffered.

I read from my devotional book at lunch (Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst) and was greatly inspired.  Then I read from my bible.  And then I prayed. And then I breathed. Slowly, in through my nose. I told myself to breathe into the present moment.  Breathe into God's presence.

At the end of the chapter, "Miracles in the Mess", Lysa quotes Psalm 46: 1-10.  The last verse says, "Be still and know that I am God".

And from that moment on my day changed. I breathed more freely.  I felt peaceful. Every time my thoughts started to droop, I took my "pneuma" breath.

And instead of checking social media or playing Words with Friends while I waited for the bus, I read my bible.

Wow. What a difference!

I stopped feeling so anxious and agitated. Pulled in so many directions. I felt connected to God.  I felt grounded in the present moment. I smiled at people.

I was sitting at the bus stop, breathing, reading my bible, when the bus pulled up. I took a deep breath and smiled, stepping on board as the doors opened. I pulled out my bus pass to show the driver.

I didn't even bat an eyelash when I looked up into the smiling for HFKAR!

For those of you that do not know who I am talking about. He is a middle aged, very charming, very handsome Latino bus driver who I had a bit of an encounter with last summer.  It ended badly. So I don't usually enjoy running into him.

Today he was just another person to smile at.  We chatted a bit. I wished him a Merry Christmas.

God is speaking to me. I am listening.  And somehow all the silly Christmas songs, decorations, commercials, crowded shopping malls are not bothering me.  I have rediscovered my connection to God, through Jesus. Whose birth we will be celebrating in a few days.  That is what I will be celebrating. It is ok if others are not.  Instead of resenting the overcommercialisation of Christmas, I am suddenly feeling the need to celebrate my faith.

And breathe!

Talk to you tomorrow.



"Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!"
~Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)

P.S. Here is today's hoop video. Day 185! 


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