Invite All Your Senses to the Feast

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I’m sitting here, leaning firmly against squishy homemade flannel bags filled with field corn; bags I’ve warmed in the microwave, each of them aligned with a sore spot in my back or neck. And I am sighing with gratitude and comfort. I’m breathing in the first truly cool air we’ve enjoyed in central California for a long, long time. I can hear the first tentative drops of rain hitting the patio just outside my door. Ah, yes. So many of my senses are engaged at once, I’m trying to pay attention to each one.

It starts to feel like I’ve been at a banquet, I’m thoroughly sated with deliciousness. Even though I’ve lived a long time now, this kind of satiety is a new experience for me—feeling full merely because I’m paying attention to the details of my day. For decades, the only “full” sensation I knew was caused by overstuffing myself with food. That kind of feeling full was important, very important.

Early in my life, I internalized the idea that food was comfort, reward, gift and friend. I come from a long line of strong women, all of whom loved food. They also used food to do all kinds of things it was never designed to do. I never really knew any other way of thinking about food, and when I heard someone say something that ran counter to my internal understanding, I was mystified. I distinctly remember admiring a very slender girl in my high school youth group and hearing her say, “Eating is a nuisance. I only do it because I have to. I don’t like interrupting my life to stop and eat.”

Say what?

I could not wrap my head around that whole way of thinking about food and feasting. Nuisance? Interruption? For me, meals were central and for good reasons: family togetherness; the beauty of a well-balanced plate of colorful things to eat; the soothing of hunger pangs; the tender taste of well-loved favorites. Food is a very good thing, one of God’s best gifts to us. I think that’s why food and food imagery are so central to the word pictures in scripture.

I always knew that food was WAY more than an interruption in my life. Unfortunately, it soon became too much more. I’ve written before about this journey of mine, and I won’t bore you with the details, but when food becomes solace and/or rebellion, then the true meaning of feasting has become seriously twisted. The gift has been misappropriated. Food is necessary and food is a great gift; feasting is a recognized sign of celebration, joy and human connection, in our Bible and in our larger culture. But food was never meant to substitute for love, acceptance, happiness or even healthy anger.

The truth-I-am-so-slow-to-learn is this: there are many ways of feasting, most of which do not need to involve food at all. The phrase, “feast your eyes,” is a true one, one of the truest I know. Those of us with even one eye that works reasonably well are among this planet’s most blessed people. Ditto to ears, mouth, hands and legs. With these physical gifts, we can celebrate the beauties that are all around us, every single day. Yes, there are also sights, sounds and situations that are far from beautiful, and we are called to do all in our power to help soften the rough edges of life in the communities where we live and work. But over and around and even in the middle of those rough spots, there is always evidence of Beauty. God shows up in the most surprising places.

Wherever you live, whether you love it or barely tolerate it, there are places nearby where you can feast your eyes, your ears, your skin, your heart. A tree, a full-blown flower, a sturdy weed pushing its way through the concrete, the clouds drifting above you can all be inspiring. The breeze on your face, the moon in the sky, the cries of a healthy baby in the apartment next door, these, too, are gifts. They can fill us, if we can learn to pause just long enough to let them.

I still love a good meal. I always will. But I am so relieved and grateful to learn that stuffing myself is no longer required in order to feel full and well fed. Savoring the things that go in my mouth is still a joy and a pleasure. And there is nothing in the world wrong with pleasure! But the best kind of feasting? Well, that can happen in myriad ways, thanks be to God.

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Diana Trautwein
Married to her college sweetheart for over 40 years, Diana is always wondering about things. She answers to Mom from their three adult kids and spouses and to Nana from their 8 grandkids, ranging in age from 3 to 22. For 17 years, after a mid-life call to ministry, she answered to Pastor Diana in two churches where she served as Associate Pastor. Since retiring at the end of 2010, she spends her time working as a spiritual director and writes on her blog, Just Wondering. For as long as she can remember, Jesus has been central to her story and the church an extension of her family. Not that either church or family is exactly perfect . . . but then, that’s what makes life interesting, right?
Diana Trautwein

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Diana Trautwein
  • Your story encourages me, and I know that I’ll be returning to this post, because one of the things I need to keep feasting on is TRUTH, and there’s certainly an abundance of that here.

    • pastordt

      Such kind words, Michele. Thank you!

  • Pingback: Redefining Terms — SheLoves, November()

  • I love how you share vulnerably, yet stand in strength. It really is a gift to me to see that there is never a time when we’re meant to have “all the answers” … And, YES, let us bring all our senses to the feast.

    • pastordt

      Thanks, Idelette!

  • “There are many ways of feasting…” so true, so true. I love seeing part of your journey in this Diana!

    • pastordt

      Thanks, Claire!

  • Rea

    Over the past month or so I have slowly been learning how to feel full and well fed without food. Mostly that’s involved a LOT of slowing down, a lot more paying attention to my inner world.

    • pastordt

      Exactly right – slowing down is essential. Thanks for reading and commenting, Rea.

  • Anne-Marie

    “But I am so relieved and grateful to learn that stuffing myself is no longer required in order to feel full and well fed.” Wonderful! And a gentle reminder to seek wholesome input in so many ways. It’s easy to slip into being sated by BBC shows when it’s getting so dark and cold up here. Not junk, but not as good as a walk, a board game, even a book. When low in energy, it’s easy to stuff with less-than-nourishing fare. I love your descriptions early in this post. And the self-care implied. You are always a nourishing writer to read. Thank you!

    • pastordt

      Thank YOU, Anne-Marie.

  • Nicole A. Joshua

    I’m also still learning this Diane. In fact, thanks be to God, when my eating and cravings increase, I now am more conscious of it and stop to reflect on what I’m sad or unhappy our angry about. I too am beginning to revel more in the feasting of friendship and nature’s beauty. It’s good to know I have wise company such as yourself who are on this journey with me.

    • pastordt

      Becoming conscious, a key phrase. So important to all of life. I’m glad you’re learning this lesson in regard to eating, because it’s a huge help. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Emmanuel xx

    • pastordt

      Amen. Thank you, Bev.

  • HBurns

    Thank you Diana for the beautiful truth and wisdom you share here today. I am writing this as morning is breaking in complete splendour over the mountains and glowing upon the ocean and my senses are alive and full. I identify so much with your story and I am learning to that feeling physically full is never a substitute for true heart satisfaction. Your words are filled with life. Thank you so much. xoxo

    • pastordt

      You’re very welcome, Helen. And thank you for this lovely comment.

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Perhaps as we are further along this road of life do we finally learn to ‘stop and smell the roses.’There’s so much to ‘amen!’ here, Diana. The struggle/challenge, love/hate relationship with food for one. But also the recent realization (in the last 2-3 years) of the joys to be had by simply paying attention to the beauty in the world and feasting my eyes….on the beauty right in front of me, filling up my soul first, the part of me that is always seeking fulfillment. So lovely, friend.

    • pastordt

      Thank you, Jody, for this lovely comment.

  • This is a new way of thinking about feasting for me, and I love it!

    • pastordt

      I’m so glad, Alina.

  • Saskia Wishart

    Oh I am also feeling motivated to find new ways to ‘feast’.

    • pastordt

      Good for you, Saskia.

  • Nancy Ruegg

    I’m still on the learning curve for engaging more of my senses more of the time, to enjoy the buffet of God’s bounty all around me. (Sometimes I get moving too fast to fully engage my senses.) But you are so right, Diana: savoring the sights, sounds, aromas, textures, as well as tastes–with a grateful heart–satiate the spirit much better than just stuffing the stomach! (Too often “stuffing” passes by the tastebuds so quickly, we’re missing out on much of the pleasure.) Thank you for this timely reminder. i want to create moments like yours, at the beginning of your post, where all five senses are firing, and my heart is praising!

    • pastordt

      I’ve gotten better at those moments, but am FAR from ‘arrived!’ It’s a steady learning curve, that’s for sure.