Lenten Lunches – week 2

I cheated a little bit this week. I wanted a very specific sandwich and for it I needed good think bread. For that I needed to go to the food store.

I’ll be honest, this week’s might be less what you’d find in your house, but I happened to have most of it in mine.

My grandma gave us this herbed olive oil at Christmas and I absolutely love it. My plan was to do a roasted red peppers and mozzarella sandwich with it and for it you need a really good bread so I headed to the store. I also ended up at the area where they have all the olives and stuff to purchase and ended up getting a few things there because they looked so good and that included some garlic. You don’t need to use garlic if you’re worried about offending people all afternoon but I don’t care that much so I did.

I also should note that we make pizza at our house so we tend to have mozzarella cheese on hand (especially during Lent) but if you don’t, you’ll need that too.

Anyway, this is one of my favorite sandwiches and I’m so happy to share it week 2 ūüėĀ

Pregnant & Posting, Juli

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Friendship with Christ During Lent and Beyond

My husband tends to comment about those homilies that really stick with you and talk about one from a few years ago. Normally the ones that stick with you are the ones you can relate to, the ones where it felt like your priest was talking directly to you. These are the homilies that make you think and reflect and might change your perspective or incite action.

This Sunday, my priest started talking about Lent and how if our busy schedules caused us to forget about Ash Wednesday, there was still time to decide on a Lenten sacrifice. I had already fully committed to my Lenten sacrifice (okay, confession time: feeling super guilty because Dom brought home soda for dinner on Friday and I felt bad saying “no”…) so I was ready to just listen and not really hear, but then my priest started talking about the apps on our phones.

This caught my attention because the day before I had been talking with my sister and husband about Candy Crush. My sister and I both started playing again a few months ago and my husband is against it. He sent us a video meme about how it was evil and makes fun of me for playing it so much. My sister was even shocked to learn what level I was on. So when the priest started talking about apps, I was listening. It was a quick mention about maybe taking time away from one app and downloading a scripture app or something like that but then he went on.

He began talking about how during Lent we should be looking to deepen our relationship, our friendship with Christ. And I started really thinking about how long it’s been since I sat with scripture. How long it’s been since I dissected Song of Songs and used different versions of the Bible to turn it into my own love letter. How it felt to really feel His Love and truly understand what it was to be close with God.

Lately I’ve just been living my busy life, not thinking much about God, just knowing that He’s there and not really working on building and nourishing our relationship. This promoted immediate action:

  • Step 1- stop an activity that is taking up a lot of time (playing Candy Crush)
  • Step 2- choose a prayerful activity to replace the one stopped to help build your friendship with Christ (reading scripture, Daily Mass, downloading a Christian app, there are a lot of possibilities here)
  • Step 3- really invest in the time you spend with Christ and focus only on that by being in the moment

It doesn’t seem like a difficult thing to do, but I’m already stuck on Step 2. Does anyone have any suggestions for apps? I have a book I can read when I’m at home, but I want something for those lunch breaks and other times during the day to transition me into prayer that can help me to silence everything else in my mind and focus on Christ. That might be a lot to ask but my goal is to really be able to do this more easily by the end of Lent. Let me know what you think!

Pregnant & Posting (& trying to be more Prayerful),

Juli

I’m not satisfied…

…and maybe that’s the point.

The goals of fasting can be seen various ways. It’s practice denying ourselves something good that we desire, which can strengthen us to better deny our evil desires. It’s a sign of repentance and an effective way to call upon God, as we find communities fasting in the Old Testament and receiving God’s mercy.¬† Physical and mental benefits of fasting, depending on what is given up and how much your eating is restricted, also exist. Yet the most common Lenten fasts, giving up some kind of treat or comfort, are often considered childish or superficial. I can’t count the number of homilies, articles, and conversations I’ve encountered telling me, as if for the first time, that giving up a treat isn’t the “be all and end all” of Lent.

It’s not the be all and end all. But it is one of the three ways we’re instructed to repent – prayer, fasting, and alms-giving – and today, it’s the one I’m pondering.¬† The “Daily Bread” Catholic podcast and the homily I heard this weekend got the idea churning in my mind. Any priest who pulls out St. Augustine quotes is going to get me thinking!

You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.

Rich or poor, ancient or modern, we all eat.¬† Every person understands the feeling of craving, whether the deep hunger of an empty belly or the sudden out-of-the-blue urge for (insert comfort food here).¬† Feeding that craving gives us all pleasure and reward. Satisfaction. Sometimes, even blissful relief.¬† If you just had exactly what you wanted, and it was as good as you’d hoped, you’re awash in warm fuzzies. I’m convinced¬†that is what we’re called to fast from.¬† Giving up that visceral satisfaction is what God wants from us in Lent, and at appropriate times throughout life.

That satiation, that sensation that we’ve met our needs, that satisfaction is in some way a lie. We have cravings that can be met to teach us that every craving must have some way to be fulfilled. But our deepest yearnings can’t be fully met in this world. The Church (and through her, the Lord) gives us times and seasons for each side of this lesson. The Christmas season, the Easter season, weddings, and the like show us what satisfaction is. We rejoice, we fill our bellies and fulfill our wishes to prefigure Heaven and to recognize the Kingdom of God breaking forth already in this world. But our culture of rushing from celebration to celebration, of sharing treats and triumphs and hiding longing and loss, is so lopsided a truth that it becomes an outright lie.

There is no snack, no essential oil, no impulse buy, no Netflix original series, no spouse, no fitness routine, no career change, nothing big or small in this life that will fully satisfy us. Lent is one of the times we’re called to remember that.¬† The gnawing in my stomach on Ash Wednesday before dinner can tune me in to that spiritual emptiness I’ve gotten very good at ignoring. Destabilizing our routines of self-comforting and self-rewarding gives us space to analyze whether we’re drawing our comfort from God and storing up a reward in Heaven.¬† Realizing our addictions to “creature comforts” can increase our understanding and care for those who don’t have what we have. So fasting, done well, leads us to desire prayer and alms-giving and can give those two obligations a clearer focus.

I’m grateful that Juli sparked the fasting conversation here, and I hope I’ve contributed something of value to it. As the Eastern Christians call it, have a “great fast”!

Lenten Lunches – Week 1

I know it’s sometimes difficult to get variety on Fridays during Lent when we’ve subtracted meat from our diet, especially for someone like me who rarely enjoys cooking and doesn’t take time to meal prep. I could honestly eat pizza every night and probably will have my fill of it during Lent so I wanted to add variety to my lunches.

My plan is to pack something different for lunch every Friday that may be unique, creative, or just a comfort food. It also will preferably be something I have regularly in my house.

Today’s lunch may sound like something only a pregnant woman would eat, but it is a sandwich I learned of in high school when I started reading (the late) Sue Grafton’s alphabet series. Those who know it, probably know where I’m going with this…

Peanut butter and pickle sandwiches!

I love peanut butter and I love pickles and I honestly love this sandwich – and not just because I’m pregnant. I started eating them my junior year of high school and convinced my best friend to try them too and I think I even made her a believer.

Either way, it’s a good start to my Lenten Lunches.

What did you pack for lunch today? What are some unique dishes I should try? Any vegetarians out there with some good recommendations?

Pregnant & Posting, Juli

The Lent I Didn’t Fast

Ash Wednesday

It’s Ash Wednesday and I’m not fasting. I mean, I was planning on it, up until last night over burgers and chocolate lava cake at Applebees when my husband so kindly pointed out – “you’re pregnant.”

Thanks. I wasn’t sure what was making my belly grow so big.

“You can’t deprive our baby of food.”

“Oh I didn’t mean¬†fasting¬†fasting.” (I’ll have to stop lying and be a good Catholic) “I meant I’d eat like small meals spread out throughout the day.” (Good idea, self) “When the baby’s hungry.” (Good save). “And I’ll still abstain from meat. I mean, I barely eat meat anyway right now.” (I have an aversion to chicken and eat mostly egg salad sandwiches, veggie paninis, or pizza. And, obviously, the occasional burger, which I will not be eating on Ash Wednesday or Fridays during Lent).

So anyway, it’s officially Lent and I’m Catholic and pregnant. Many of my friends have gone through this already and it’s strange to me that we never talked about it – the fasting bit anyway. But, I mean, look at the Gospel from today and I suppose you would see why. No one really¬†talks about Fasting. We wear these ash crosses on our heads and silently acknowledge each other (or look at someone and suddenly go “Oh my gosh, I almost forgot that was today! I’ll have to go to Mass after work!” Which so often happens to me because I prefer morning Mass to evening Mass and have the ability to go before work) but we really don’t have much conversation around Fasting. Or, at least, I don’t.

IMG_20180214_103524I’m increasingly torn between spreading Catholicism by posting my “#AshTag” on Social Media and “going to my inner room, closing the door, and praying to God in secret” (paraphrasing Matthew 6:6). Every year I’m more confused about whether I should “wash my face so that I do not appear to be fasting” (paraphrasing again, Matthew 6:17) or if that is almost like I’m washing away the sign that keeps myself in line and reminds¬†me that I’m fasting (or in my case this year, not fasting) and abstaining from meat. It reminds me of the reason for Lent. Although this whole 40 days is leading up to Jesus dying for us on the cross and then celebrating His Resurrection, Ash Wednesday is the time to begin that reflection. So maybe the cross on my head is a reminder to myself of Jesus’s death and resurrection and I should proudly show it off. So I suppose I’m somewhere in the middle. Keeping my head held high and showing off my Catholicism today while not pushing it on Social Media. Although, one could argue that I am posting on Social Media through this blog where I feel fairly anonymous (anyone reading this already is well aware that I am Catholic) but I really just needed to get the words out and on paper.

I’m not a Theological expert, college was pretty long ago now, so I welcome my friends to chime in on the matter. What are your thoughts on the public posts for Ash Wednesday? Should we be more open about fasting or not fasting? Do you use the cross as a reminder to yourself, or are you more interested in reminding others? What time of day do you go to Mass? And, most importantly, are you fasting and abstaining today?

Pregnant and Posting, Juli

P.S. Happy St. Valentine’s Day

Bible Study

I may have talked about this before, but I lead a Bible Study¬†for young adults at my church. For the most recent lesson, I was preparing by reading 2 Kings and came to a realization that I wanted to share and ask anyone still reading to think about answers, answer themselves, whatever they want…

I threw down my Bible in frustration. Why were we still reading about how Israel continues to make mistakes in patterns…over and over again. Later I realized…God is reiterating this point because humans do that constantly–make the same mistakes over and over again. We are imperfect beings who are perfect in God’s eyes. He treats us like His children, forgiving, patient, kind, and sometimes punishing, and yet we still continue the cycle of sin. Is it easier to sin in today’s world? Maybe. If it is, it’s probably because we know God’s compassionate and forgiving nature.¬† If it isn’t, it’s because we know the repeating history of sinfulness. Many of the people of that time were unaware or unfamiliar with the consequences of sin because by the time they began to sin again, the previous generation of sinners was gone. We don’t have the luxury to make that mistake.¬† Maybe luxury is a bad word for it, but we do have the luxury of knowing and understanding the benefits of keeping God’s commands and the consequences of going against them. We have the Bible. Yet we still sin. Why is that?¬† “Human nature” isn’t a good enough answer anymore.

Thoughts?  Questions?  Concerns?

God Bless,
Juli

Mardi Gras

Bon Mardi Gras!

So tomorrow marks the beginning of Lent which means today is Mardi Gras (exact translation: Fat Tuesday). ¬†Celebrating Mardi Gras for Catholics is more than just a party, it is a day in which we should all reflect on and determine what sacrifices we will be making this Lent. ¬†While thinking about Lent, I remembered our 40 Post challenge from last year and how much has changed since then (I started slacking on the posting A LOT!). ¬†This past winter I was a part of a Young Adult Book Club at my church and we read¬†Blessed Are The Bored In Spirit¬†by Mark Hart. ¬†One of the chapters asked the questions “When have you been courageous in your faith this year?” and “In what ways have you personally answered the call to act from your heart?” ¬†I had begun a response, but never finished it and now feel it is relevant to post today.

This past year has been such a wonderful year of my life. Last Lent I began attending daily mass, a choice that changed my faith life for the better.  This was a courageous choice for me because I had tried to do it the previous year and was disappointed by something that happened.  What had happened really put me off from attending mass at my church and so I stopped going during the week. When I made the decision to go again, God graced me with patience and love for others and enabled me to make daily mass a part of my life.  By going to mass daily, I began giving more over to God and growing in my faith life.  I met so many wonderful people and made quite a few new friends who are such an inspiration to me for my faith to grow and prosper as theirs has.  Additionally, it has helped me to make decisions in my life separate from just in church and gave me the courage to make another decision regarding my faith life.  I soon signed up to start reading at mass, something that scared me terribly.  Public speaking has always been a fear of mine, but I was feeling called to help out in another way. Soon after I signed up, I was approached by a friend of mine at daily mass and asked to read during the week. I began reading on Tuesdays every week and about two Sundays a quarter.  Although I was still a little anxious about reading on Sundays, on December 23rd I read and was told that I no longer seemed nervous at all. I also felt a lot less nervous.

Another way I think I have been courageous in my faith this year is through my young adult ministry – LIFT (Living In Faith Together). ¬†We officially formed the group over the past summer and have met pretty much once a week since then. ¬†In the fall we began a Bible Study and I was asked to lead it. ¬†Although I had never done a Bible Study before and didn’t really know what to expect, no one else really wanted the role and I felt it was an important activity to take part in. ¬†The program flows pretty easily and it is more of a facilitation role, but the study and reading of the Bible has really helped me to grow and understand more about the roots of my faith. ¬†Although we’re not even through Genesis (I know, it’s a little drawn out), the depth of the study is such that the points that are made are¬†ingrained in my mind.

Being called to facilitate and to read are both really awesome ways in which my faith life has grown, but something that I really value that God gave me this year is my Religious Education class. ¬†Once a month I get to teach 6th graders religious ed through a program my church calls “Becoming¬†Disciples”. ¬†This program is family-integrated, which means they have three home lessons and one in-class lesson a month. ¬†The kids that I get to teach are such a wonderful group and I enjoy every class I have with them. ¬†More often than not we run out of time because there is so much I want to discuss. ¬†The real blessing in teaching this program though, is that I get to relearn so many things and relate my own experiences to them as well as listen to the experiences of my 6th graders. ¬†They are so talkative, but many of them show such an understanding and love for the Word and ask such wonderful questions! ¬†What I am now looking forward to is helping revamp the 7th and 8th grade program with a friend of mine and continuing to teach next year ūüôā ¬†Teaching this class has been something I look forward to and get so excited in preparing for it that I almost feel as if it’s for me and not them.

This upcoming Lent, I look forward to letting more go to God and renewing my faith through sacrifice and service to attempt to become closer to Christ in His rising again. ¬†I will try and post more this Lent since Lent is my time for reflection and what better way to reflect then to write about it. ¬†If you so choose, maybe you can answer these questions this Lent. ¬†They really helped me look back and see the good in my life (I am not going to bore you with all of it, I just wrote a short novel up there) and understand and respect how far I have come this year. ¬†I’ll leave the questions for you again down here:

When have you been courageous in your faith this year?

In what ways have you personally answered the call to act from your heart?

God Bless, *JuLi*

The Journey

Last week I took a break from my stumble through of Victor Hugo’s¬†Les Miserables,¬†(You have to, it’s a really hard book and my English major brain was getting tired, you know like you do after you go back to the gym after not going for a while. It was all, “The hardest thing we’ve read in the past year was Edith Wharton and now you’ve thrown¬†this¬†at me?”) and I read a brilliant book called¬†The Year of Living Biblically¬†by A.J. Jacobs.

Jacobs is a writer for Esquire magazine and described himself as an agnostic secular Jew. He decided to spend a year living the Bible as literally as possible. The results are amazing. Jacobs creates a list of rules for himself that come from the Torah, he consults (though often defies) The Talmud (the ancient Jewish teachings put together by rabbis interpreting the laws of the Torah), puts together “a spiritual advisory board” of rabbis, priests, ministers, and scholars to help him get by and of course grows a crazy beard.

Jacobs is irreverent but earnest  in his quest to find some sort of spirituality  which I adore. He focuses mainly on the Old Testament, (and finds deep connections to his  cultural faith) but spends a good amount of time in the New.

I’ve never really read the Bible, to paraphrase comedian Jim Gaffigan, “I’m Catholic, one of the best things about my religion is that people read that stuff to us.” It’s something I’ve always meant to do and always get caught up singing¬†Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat¬†songs when I get halfway through Genesis. (It was Red and orange and pink and blue…) But I think that next year I’m going to put a real effort in to actually read the bible.

But first I have to finish Les Mis. 

 

A Single Girl’s Prayer

From the looks of things lately my career is starting to get back on track, after six months of floundering. This is nice for me.

But what becomes difficult for me is that when everything else in my life is going well, it leaves me time to contemplate my loneliness.

Don’t get me wrong, I have amazing friends, and a loving and supportive family. But I am single, and there are times when I get very deeply lonely, I miss the love and support of a real relationship, something I have never known.

So I composed this prayer. Like most of my prayers it’s a little bit irreverent.

Dear Lord, please grant me the patience to wait for my husband
I know I am impatient to meet him.
I know that this must happen in your time not mine
But maybe send him in enough time that we can have our time
Before it’s baby time

Grant me the strength to sit at a bar by myself
And not accept drinks from sketchy dudes because I am lonely
Usually such dudes do not even want to get dinner
And I am better than that
However, also grant me the clarity to tell the difference
Between the sketchy dudes, and the ones who are just shy
Or maybe just had too many shots that night

Also please keep me away from shots.
Generally, that prevents a lot unwanted behavior

Please give me compassion on first dates
First dates are awkward for everyone
So it’s OK if it isn’t perfect
Also, grant me grace to hold my tongue
And maybe not talk about Batman the whole night

Give me the confidence to order real food
For you gave us the gift of carbohydrates, oil and fire
Thus french fries are a glorious gift from you, and should be treated as such
You also created lettuce, but I’m pretty sure it was Satan that decided people should consider chicken¬†Caesar¬†salad a meal

Please place me in the path of a good, kind man
The kind of man who isn’t afraid to admit he watched¬†The OC,¬†and is nice to his mother and sisters
The kind of man who is either taller than I, or doesn’t care if I’m taller than he in my super high heels
The kind of man who loves that I watch football on Sunday, but doesn’t expect me to know the name of every guy on the field
Let him drink beer, but know what kind of wine he likes and not use “gay” as a term for “stupid”
Let him love or at least be open to the music of Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Buffet, and humor me when it comes to Madonna and Lady Gaga

Please Lord, let him love me
Let him love my sour moods and my laughter
Let him love you, and my love for you.
And finally Lord, grant me the clarity to know when it’s him.
Don’t let me walk away.

Amen

Turn Me On, I’m A Radio

Months ago I would have laughed at you. Last year, I would have dismissed the very idea. But a few weeks ago, in very little bits, I started listening to Christian radio. It doesn’t hold first position on my dial, but it has a spot on my presets. In fact, this station provides some needed refreshment.

Like many of us, my commute takes me through the same locations twice a day. My coffee may vary in temperature. I could be less tired than the day before. Sometimes the sun hides behind a cloud or doesn’t rise until I have parked. But my daily ritual remains unchanged.

The radio is the great variable, my tool to an enlightening ride. For most of my life I have taken pleasure listening to the radio. I have even gone so far as to install a shortwave receiver in my car so I can pick up broadcasts from around the world. Unlike print or television, radio acts a companion on the journey. Distant outposts broadcasting exciting new music on long trips, sometimes offering just the right song, or conversations that might expose some new insight or point of view. I sincerely believe in the transformative power of radio.

Mostly I listen to the morning news to catch up on the stories that work or life precluded me from following. Aside from “college radio”, real variety is limited since a number of stations play some form of rotation whose selections differ solely based on genre.

I have found that the most promising stations are often out of range, in a foreign language, or on the AM band. And since I can only get reliable shortwave reception at night, I decided to give K-Love a shot.

Since I was surprised at the content and tempo of the songs, I could only listen for a minute or two at a time. Returning to contemporary music and talk provided a comfort rooted in familiarity. In honesty, I was not used to hearing the promise of God’s love or other Christian themes presented with such cheer and simplicity. After listening for a week or so I made a discovery: I had forgetting the need to trust in God.

Our maker has made mankind promises, it is contingent upon each person satisfying mankind’s commitment. The covenants of the Hebrew Scriptures form three concentric circles. God promises His presence, love, and gifts, in successive order, to man, his family, and his people in exchange for man’s trusting obedience in Divine Providence. Scripture repeatedly illustrates that God keeps his end of the bargain.

Our own concerns easily make this message unnecessarily complex. We approach the guarantee of God’s love with exceptions, scenarios, and what-ifs attempting to find some gap. In His goodness, God will not exclude someone for his fault. God isn’t the IRS or some cranky librarian. He loves us, accepts us, and welcomes us back home.