Yesterday, Valentine’s Day, was as horrible as it could possibly be. This happens every Lent, like clockwork. If you start writing about how holy your kids are, by the time you hit publish at the end of you day, you’ll be wishing you didn’t have kids. If you ask for patience, your patience will be tried. The more you try to be humble, the more you fall into pride. It’s that paradox again.

I think that Murphy’s Law is God’s way of giving non-believers their own version of Lent, they just don’t recognize it as such. Maybe when they fall victim to it, they are actually just suffering in some way as part of their redemption. I wouldn’t be surprised if it really is all just part of the Lord’s economy of salvation.

Perhaps it’s to reach a new level of humility. Why do I write about my kids doing holy things? Is it to point to God’s everlasting goodness, or to my awesomeness as a parent? Do we do what we do for God, or for ourselves?

Quoting my friend,

To this day, I’m sometimes still figuring out whether I am using for the benefit of the world whatever knowledge and skill I have developed or for my own vainglory.

I go back and forth between those moments as well, and I doubt we’re the only two people questioning ourselves. Perhaps what really counts here is awareness, which is the first step to holiness. Perhaps what He’s really asking from us is a sincere seeking for the Truth. God takes what we have and works with it. He makes all of it beautiful.

The human condition, unfortunately, wraps us up in so much doubt — we ask this question because we recognize just how far we are from loving unconditionally and we worry whether it will ever be within our grasp. We look with wonder at those great conversions, and wonder, is there something like it for me? Do I need some Damascus moment, or to get pummeled with a spiritual 2 x 4? I sometimes wish God would just pluck me out of the latest mess I’ve gotten myself into, and drop me on some virgin land, where I can stand in the open air and breathe… just pick one moment, like when winter ends and spring begins, cool air seeping through my lungs at the same time that the sun warms my face. If only salvation were that easy….

It’s embarrassing to admit that I have asked God to send me a cross, and then begged piteously for Him to take it away when it came. He must be endlessly amused at my false bravado. These days I ask instead for Him to shatter that cross into a million toothpicks to prick me and wake me up every moment for the rest of my life, because it’s probably the only way I can manage to say yes to it all. It’s obvious I am not like Papa Ben who can turn away from something as huge as the papacy. (I wonder if he’s turned away from Fanta as well.)

All this musing reminds me of our journey through the world of food allergies. My husband was diagnosed with allergies in 2004. But eight years later, it seems I still have not been able to love him through it perfectly, the way I ought to, the way only God can.

So yesterday, for Valentine’s Day, I made him two desserts: one that’s healthy for him, because it contains no wheat, but is really a half-hearted effort because I know I can do better and just haven’t expended the effort to do so; and another that I know is bad for him, because of all the dairy, but is sooooo delicious and which he loved last year. It’s also my farewell to the world of wishy-washiness, and a step into the world where I embrace this cross that’s been given us, because I’ve given the Lord enough excuses.


Coeur a la Creme with Raspberry Sauce

3 ounces white chocolate, chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1.25 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

10 ounces frozen raspberries, thawed
3 tablespoons sugar

Wet cheesecloth, wring it, and line mold.
Melt white chocolate in double boiler and set aside to cool.
Combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup cream and the confectioner’s sugar in mixer bowl. Beat until light and fluffy, then add the white chocolate and beat a couple more minutes until smooth. Transfer to bowl.
Beat remaining 1 cup cream to stiff peaks and gently fold into cream cheese mixture. Spoon into prepared mold, smoothing the top with a spatula. Fold cheesecloth over. Place on a rimmed sheet pan or dish. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
To prepare the puree: Blend raspberries, including their juice, plus the sugar, until smooth. Transfer to sieve set over a bowl, pressing on the solids. Cover and chill ~4 hours.
Unmold creme onto rimmed serving platter. Pour raspberry sauce around creme.

Wheat-Free Brownies

4 tablespoons coconut oil
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2/3 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
Chopped almonds, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare 8-inch baking pan (round or square, doesn’t matter, but know you’ll have to cut them differently 🙂 ) by spraying, lining with parchment, and spraying again.

Melt coconut oil and unsweetened chocolate in double boiler. Remove from heat and allow to cool a few minutes.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in another bowl.
Add sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract into melted chocolate, whisking until smooth.
Combine melted chocolate mixture, dry ingredients and Greek yogurt, until smooth.
Pour into prepared pan and bake about 30 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes before turning out onto cutting board. Let cool completely before cutting.

In typical foodie fashion, this represents a kind of conversion as well. This next year I will do my best to refrain from running away from this cross, or from meeting the challenge only halfway. Fr. Dubay talks about two levels of excellence, and by doing this I hope to aspire to both.

Lesson learned: While there are those of us who can embrace the cross wholeheartedly the second it hits their shoulder, I am clearly not one of those people. Pride said, “Where’s my cross, Lord? Bring it!” I hope I’ve learned enough to whisper softly now, “Bring it, Lord, please, but if You would, only bit by bit. And with a hearty helping of grace as well, because there’s no other way I can do it.”