Lent is here. What does that mean to you? Anything? Something? Nothing? To me it is the start of something. Its the start of something I can not put into words. It is a time of saying sorry. Whoever you have to say that to; whether it be God or someone you love, someone you dislike, yourself. It is a time to repent, ask for forgiveness and start fresh. Its a time of self reflection, getting closer to your God, your inner-self, your family, your friends. Lent takes us from the darkness of February into the brightness of spring. If you let it, it can refresh your mind, your body and your spirit. Lent is meant to last 40 days and take us from Ash Wednesday until the Thursday before Easter Sunday. Catholics in particular are asked to use this as a time of fasting. This means we are to eat only one large meal on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday with no meat and not to eat meat on Fridays throughout Lent. Fish is allowed. We are also asked to give up something for Lent. Something we like, something that will be hard for us to give up, something that will be a challenge. Examples of simple things can be chocolate, coffee, alcohol, tv time, internet time etc. Lots of people I know say to me, why? Why do you do this? What do you get from it and does your GOD really care? I can not answer that for everybody. I can only answer from a part of me that says it matters. It matters to my GOD and it matters to me. Not a lot of people in my close circle understand or for that matter agree with it. That does not matter to me. This is for me. I spent most of my teens either not believing in God, or not seeing or hearing Him. I didn't believe that He was with me, on my side. In fact at one point I may have even thought that people who believed in Him were "weird". Looking back, I simply just did not understand. One of my best friends in high school was gay and coming out at a time when it was still "big news" to come out. He struggled with the views of family, teachers, fellow students, and even some "friends". This created a question in my mind that stayed with me for a very long time. Basically I wondered if God would accept my friend that was so important to me. Questions circled my mind almost to a point of insanity. In addition to that I just didn't feel like God was helping me, I didn't feel like he could be real because others would always say things like they heard Him, or He blessed them and I could not see any of that in my life, so either He wasn't real or He just didn't like me. I would always consider myself to be a "good person", good enough that I usually knew right from wrong, most of the time I was kind to others, and I really felt other peoples emotions strongly as if they were my own at times. I thought this was enough to be considered a good person, and while it might be, its not enough to develop a bond with God. Something inside of me started to change in my mid to late twenties. I wanted to get closer to God but I didn't know how. I was so busy, working so hard and having life changing events that I thought I just didn't have time. As I continued on my journey of life and got a little older I started thinking of it more and more. Looking back, I now know He was with me all along. I always heard him, I just didn't listen. Once you start to listen and to speak to Him it opens up your mind and your heart to let Him in. I started going to church, just to see how I would like it. I remember sitting in the pew and feeling sooooooo emotional that I had tears welling up in my eyes. I was so embarrassed, I was hoping no one could see me. After I left church that day I swear to you I felt so light. I felt as if something really heavy had been lifted from me and I found a peace that I had personally been searching for, for a very long time. Next I had to go to confession. I almost threw up on the way there because the thought of talking to a priest and telling him all of my wrongs and my flaws and my sins was the equivalent to something like getting a million paper cuts on the same hand. I did not want to do it. It did not go smooth, it was not easy, and I cant tell you right now that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It was, in fact it was even worse; but then it was over and I was free to go to a pew and bow my head and close my eyes and be alone with my thoughts and prayers. It can all be so complicated, what to pray, what to think, how to act. I have days when I get mad at Him, when I ask myself why I believe, when I doubt His work in this scary world. Then I think of all I have, I think of how many ways I have changed on the inside since opening my heart to Him and I feel good again. I realize now that it doesn't matter what anyone else's relationship with him is. It doesn't matter, all that matters is mine. Its personal, its growing, ever evolving, ever deepening, it gives me strength, confidence that was never there, peace of mind that I never had, goals, ambitions and a feeling of constant acceptance. So yes it matters to me that I give something up for Lent. This year Ryan and I as a team have decided to give up eating out. To some, in fact most; this probably seems like no big deal. We are not most. We L-O-V-E eating out! Whether its date night, quick dinner no dishes, social event, brunch, breakfast, lunch....subs, burgers, the list goes on and on, but its one our our favorite things to do together. We normally eat out at the very least twice per week. To some this is a waste of money, but to us its so much more then just a meal out. Its more then a hobby, its a passion. Truly probably more so mine then Ryan's but he is a good sport and loves food so has adopted this passion of mine as his own too. So for a few weeks I was trying to think of what to give up this year and I was kinda stumped. Then over dinner one night(at home!) the two of us starting talking about it and I blurted out how about eating out, instantly I thought what the heck did you just say! He looked at me with eyes that told me it was signed sealed and delivered before the words even left his mouth. "It will be hard he said", but we can do it I thought. And so here we are. 39 more days to go. At three meals per day that's only 117 more meals. We had to lay some ground rules for this. What constitutes eating out...does a muffin in the morning, a $2.50 slice of pizza, a bag of chips for the drive home? Mainly yes! Coffee is okay(lets face it, we are human) and if we feel way too overly HANGRY a small snack so we don't faint or tell someone off is okay it just means we have to pack more food the next day so we don't have to do that again. If family takes us out its okay too(not dropping any hints here) we just cant go out alone or together for any meal for the next now 39 days. I promise you this is going to be very hard for both me and us. It ALREADY is painful to think of. However, at the end of this Lent season we will have gained something inside of us that could not be done any other way. Believe me I know this from last year! Last night at Ash Wednesday mass the Bishop said a few things that stood out for me, but one of the things he said about fasting was that even if we only ate one piece of bread that day and one glass of water( I mean, get real) but even if that was the case we would still be far more fortunate then some as the bread would have been fresh and the water clean. WOW, no more self pity party about giving up eating out! I am going to use this time to work on recipes at home, research new places I want to try, and get back to enjoying the simple basic foods you can make/eat each and every day. Today for lunch to bring to work I made a simple quinoa with chickpeas, brussel sprouts, aspargus, mushrooms and cabbage. I added some light Greek dressing to flavour it up and it was so delish and so satisfying it will get me through today without any thoughts of trying that new restaurant that recently opened around the corner from me and always seems busy when I look through the window. No thoughts of that place at all, none, not here.....39 and counting. Happy Lent everyone from this foodie girl!!