Grilled Cheese Guru

That’s my new nickname, bestowed one the phone by one of my besties tonight, Leslie.

To celebrate the END of my Lenten obligations, I got some Colby-Jack and enacted one of my favorite rituals.

GRILLED CHEESE!

The best is that she was singing it to the tune of “Jukebox Hero.”

“GRILLED cheese GURuuuuuu…”

I laughed at the timing, because before she moved out of state my friend and I spent a lot of time watching movies and hanging out at our apartments whilst making grilled cheese. It’s our thing.

At work I was thinking what meal I should choose to break my fast–and decided simple was best. Something familiar I could do at home.

And here we were, catching up on the phone just three weeks to her wedding!! She is so giddy, it’s adorable listening to her.

It was a lovely, up-beat conversation and almost as good as actually spending time together.

In a great mood tonight, feeling quite blessed.

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Hit Your Knees (On Humility)

Today I woke up later than I had planned. I had set my alarm. Not sure what happened, but I did not rise.

Luckily I was off work today, so it didn’t interfere with something important.

But my immediate reaction was to get angry at myself.

“Why did I sleep in? Ugh!”

And since I’ve given up resentment for Lent, this is relevant.

This Lenten promise is drawing my attention to how often I take myself to task when it’s futile. Thus, I am making a conscious effort to nip those feelings in the bud right away.

I could either start my day feeling that I already had screwed up, or I could accept it and move on.

So that’s what I did.

I got up, and started my routine and began my tasks for the day.

And although I didn’t accomplish everything I had wanted, I still got a good amount done.

I always say “Good morning!” to God when I wake up. I try to say it with a smile. I thank Him.

Us Catholics are known for genuflecting often during Mass. It is symbol of our submission to God.

I’ve been trying to start my day by praying on my knees, and also before I go to bed.

I’ve been lazy about this. There’s no excuse– my knees are young and perfectly capable of it!

The idea is that we are taking a moment to do a physical action that connotes our humility. Genuflecting is not supposed to be comfortable or convenient.

It’s not about what we want- it’s about reminding ourselves that we are servants to Him.

Thus, I’m taking myself to task to start and end my day by hitting my knees as well as praying– every morning and every evening. As I keep this routine, it should become a spiritual reflex.

Somewhat selfishly, I also hope it will also lead to better, faster sleep!!

Do you have a morning/evening prayer routine? What do you get out of hitting your knees for the Lord?

Sacrifice is the POINT: defending Lent (and Catholicism.)

I had a quick conversation today with someone very averse to Catholicism.

I mentioned my Lenten promises as an icebreaker joke. And she promptly told me that she grew up Roman Catholic and has since denounced it– proudly. She is not participating in Lent, no way!

I quietly listened, but was not impressed. I wish I had a better memory for the details, but basically she just said the idea of Lent turns her off to religion because it’s a sign of spiritual commitment.

I ask, what is wrong with that?

Next she bragged that her family has nothing to do with Mass! She seemed to identify it with control, as even oppressively controlling. She had been told by a parish that her child could not receive the sacrament of Baptism unless she had been a member of that parish for a year, I believe? Instead, she converted to Episcopalian.

I found her indignation immature. Like she expected the benefits of Catholicism for her children without anything in return, no sign that they would be raised in the holy tradition appropriate to those corresponding sacraments.

Today I realized how deep my Catholicism truly runs– and that I’m proud.

Usually I try to be impartial and understanding of anyone who isn’t religious or Catholic.

But today, I felt no empathy. I felt both defensive and proud to be Catholic.

Because being Catholic is not SUPPOSED to be easy or convenient. That’s part of the pride for us. It is an intense spiritual discipline. One that we choose. Many distance themselves in adulthood or go to a different Christian denomination.

I’ve chosen to stay.

To draw an analogy to Jimmy Dugan’s profession of love for baseball in “A League of Their Own,”

“It’s the HARD that makes it good.”

There is definitely a lot of crying in Catholicism! If you’re the type who cries– some do.

If you’re taking a hard look at your conscience, as we are taught to do.

And for me, crying is cathartic. I sometimes weep at Mass, or alone during Adoration. Or just praying by myself.

I know He sees them, and he hears me.

Those tears connect me to Christ, to my faith walk, to knowing He sees my struggle.

So today I didn’t talk back to this woman– I just listened.

And she revealed to me without knowing just how vital my Catholic identity is to me.

Hold the Cheese, Please. It’s Working!

I’m feeling more confident in my cheeseless vow (yes, I just made cheeseless a word!) for Lent.

Last night at Toxic Hell I ordered my usual– a #9, soft tacos– no cheese. It was easy to remember. I should have also asked for more meat, there was barely anything in there besides lettuce!

And today for lunch, I ate at a local cafe. I got a really good spinach salad to balance out my fast-food snack last night. However when it arrived, I was dismayed to find shredded cheese everywhere! It was just spinach with egg– they probably wanted to dress it up a little since I asked they hold the onions and mushrooms. At first I thought about trying to pick the cheese pieces out individually, but my salad was permeated with cheese.

I gathered my ovaries and called the server over– I sent it back, kindly explaining my dilemma. She returned in a jiffy with a new salad, not once shred of cheese. I felt slightly guilty for asking her to make another, but placated myself by thinking, “Hey! Someone in the kitchen is getting a free salad right now, thanks to me!”

And it tasted just divine. It was so simple I thought even I couldn’t screw this up at home. Spinach, tomatoes, egg, ranch dressing.

So quickly, I’m training myself to immediately specify to NOT include cheese- and when surprised, I have the gumption to stick to my plan. I never could have anticipated how great that would make me feel!!

Years ago when I worked as a weight loss counselor, I was pretty disciplined about eating. I followed our program and kept a food diary– measuring out so many servings of each food group and 8 glasses of water a day. It worked! I felt better, I had more energy, my skin looked better. But I didn’t stick with it after leaving.

If it’s this easy to stick to eliminating cheese, that gives confidence to continue eating healthier!

This is the best Lent ever, thus far. 🙂 Who thought I’d be happy to give up something I loved so much??

However I must admit, later on I tried the Orange Crush cake from Jewel that someone offered– and I didn’t feel a smidgen of hesitation about enjoying every bite!

Cheese Relapse: Back on the Lent Wagon

So I didn’t last 24 hours with my Lent promise to forego cheese!

I had left-over mac n’ cheese in my fridge, which I had made Fat Tuesday as my last indulgence.

I couldn’t stop rationalizing.

“It’s only cheese POWDER, does it even count as real cheese?”

I could have offered it someone in my building. Or my parents, who still send me home with food when I visit.

But wouldn’t it be sort of rude to offer someone a half-eaten meal?

I could have thrown it away! I have no problem throwing away other leftovers I don’t feel like eating.

Thus, I did the only ethical thing: I finished it.

Ha! I called a friend who reassured me, “Jesus wanted you to have it!” Bless her humor.

The next night, my father called and invited me over to their house for pizza.

Ahh! When I made this decision I hadn’t realized I’d be giving up PIZZA!

But I was proud to stand firm in my rejection this time.

He wanted to know, “Why give up cheese?” It’s practical. It’s protein!

And that’s EXACTLY why I chose it– because I eat it so often. Because it IS impractical.

He accepted my answer and I thanked him for the invitation.

Last night after work, I went out to eat and ordered a strawberry salad — MINUS the bleu cheese crumbles.

Proud! It’s getting easier to stick to my plan.

I see this as an opportunity to also abandon my usual comfort foods and try new things.

The neat thing about Lent is that it forces you to become hyper-aware of behaviors you otherwise wouldn’t even notice, had no you not vowed to monitor them.

What are you struggling to remain vigilant about avoiding this Lent? Any good (simple!) cheese-negative recipes I should try? I’d love your advice!

Happy Lenting.

Right On Time: A Surprise Package/Faith Affirmation

Today I got a for-real surprise package in the mail!

When was the last time that happened? Even better, it was wrapped in brown paper. The kind we all used for book covers in grade school, like the paper bags we used to get at the grocery store. It was just wonderfully nostalgic.

A longtime friend of my father sent me a small devotional that she said had helped in the past. Not along ago, I called her for the first time in years. Talking to her was easy and so refreshing– she has that same incredible faith that my father does. She and her husband have been close friends of my dad for my entire life. She got through cancer and still works and has a bright attitude. You can hear the smile in her voice.

I thought she would send me her book, but she actually bought me one! And wrote a little inscription inside. What she wrote reminded me of the notes my Aunt Mary Jane (a Catholic nun everyone just called “Sister,”) used to write to me– about how God has a plan for me. I miss hearing that– it never gets old. It’s always comforting.

There was such warmth and love in that message she wrote.

The book is “Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence,” by Sarah Young.

And it arrives the second day of Lent. Not a coincidence, methinks.

I think I’ll incorporate reading this each morning into my Lenten routine. Something uplifting to start my day.

Although I’m strong in my faith, I still have moments of uncertainty. Receiving this gift from a strong Catholic woman I’ve known all my life was just what I needed!

Thanks, Lord. Thanks for speaking to me through our family friend to remind me that you’re listening.

I can’t wait to call and thank her!

My First Prayer Group: Listening to God’s Voice

I changed my mind about not blogging. Don’t I always?

I just got home from my very first prayer group!! It’s part of a Lenten focus.

It was very intimate– just three of us.

We had a sheet of questions about a scripture, and it was a delightful discussion.

I’m glad I went with my gut and cancelled Bible study. As much as I enjoyed it, it wasn’t set up the way I was hoping. It was a Power Point presentation, where the teacher talked and we listened. Granted, he was VERY excited about the material– but we didn’t have a group that asked questions. And since I know NOTHING about Scripture, I was too intimidated to ask. Usually I’m not. But I was then.

I had hoped for a smaller group, more interaction. Active discussion.

When I went to Mass and heard about this group at the same time, I knew it was a sign. And I was right. I missed last week by accident- this is the second week. But I’m definitely hooked.

It was really interesting, since it was held in a Catholic Worker house. Perfect setting.

Very quiet, easy to see and hear one another. Surrounded by Catholic literature about social justice. There’s a framed picture of Dorothy Day nearby, in another room.

God was talking! These two men have a lot of knowledge about Scripture and theory– they provided a lot of wonderful insight about historical and philosophical contexts. The discussion was great.

It was easy for me to personalize the questions to my own experience, something the man hosting it complimented me on.

I suppose I’ve never thought of it as a talent, but I realize that for some people that’s something they struggle with. It may be hard for them to connect to their feelings and intimidating to admit personal experiences. Although we found common ground right away, as they did share a little bit.

But it’s a first meeting. We’re all just starting.

It felt so wonderful to be able to sit and talk to two men and hear their perspectives. Both committed to social justice.

There’s a lot of hope out there folks. You just gotta go where the light is.