Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why I Love My Church

I have recently been asked by several people about where we go to church in the city, and why we go where we go. It's gotten me so pumped up to think about it. So I will write about it now. In this little space here.

I've been going to Grace DC for the 3 and a half years (Hold. The. Phone. What!?) that I've been in DC. Figuring out where to go to church was sort of like figuring out my scene here, so to speak. Not that I live and bleed church life (does that sound weird? live and bleed...) but being in community with people who believe what you believe and at least "get" you on one level, actually the deepest level, is a nice thing. And something to run after. And hold tight to your heart. [He carries the lambs in his arms and holds them close to his heart. Isaiah 40:11].

Grace is a part of the same denomination that I grew up in, so it's not totally surprising that I ended up there. I know what you're thinking: she's scared to break the mold and go to a......gasp, Methodist church! Oh hush. I did church hop around town during my first couple of months here. Girlfriend (or boyfriend), it doesn't matter where you go, as long as the Gospel is preached. Preach it, preacher.

Michael moved to DC in May of 2011, right before we got married, and I told him that if he didn't feel like Grace was the place for him, I would church shop with him. But we never did. Michael wound his heart around that church the same way I did.

There are so many reasons, and here are a few, for why I love my church:

1) We eat together  -- I mean, Jesus ate. And we eat. We break bread together. We take communion together every Sunday. Michael always follows me in the Communion line as we make our way toward the front of the sanctuary each week. I can feel his eyes on my back as I tear my piece of bread from the loaf. You see, I have a slight problem. It's called Lacking-Finesse-when-Tearing-a-Piece-of-Bread syndrome. But hey, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled...so I'm taking my large chunk of bread, thank you very much. When we return to our seat, Michael shows me his little, bite-sized piece, and I show him my roll (just kidding.) In all seriousness, taking communion each week is something that grounds me, renews me, and is a reminder of what a hellacious woman I am who is in desperate need of her Savior. (Sounds strong? Ask my husband).

We also share meals and snacks and coffee, and in general, there is a lot of food love in our midst at church.
Funfetti cookies made by yours truly for a post-church coffee hour last week. They are the jam! 

2) We also hang out together. We meet in Community Groups throughout the city to eat dinner (we eat...reiteration of point #1), fellowship, pray, discuss the sermon, learn from one another, and care for each other. We go through life's mishaps together, and there are a LOT of mishaps. It is the bomb.com to get to know specific and individual people in your CG. I mean, we are all members of one body, right? (Romans 12:5). One body, many parts. And the people in my CG are living examples of those parts. Everyone is so unique and so very different from each other. I probably wouldn't have met some of my dearest friends in DC if it wasn't for CG, but I am so glad that I have!

3) We get out into the city and love on those around us. DISCLAIMER: This doesn't come naturally to me. I feel way more comfortable in my little bubble of life with the people and things around me that I choose to have around. But to live like that wouldn't be taking hold of the life that is truly life (1 Timothy 6:19). Together, we get into the messiness of DC that a lot of us pretend isn't there. I can speak to what I know -- cooking and eating dinner with the men at St. Lukes (a homeless shelter near where my CG meets) started as something that I grudgingly did out of obligation. It has since turned into something that brings me face first with the reality of our crazy world, that brings a lot of laughter around the dinner table, that reminds me that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, and that we are ALL like the foolish man who would build his house on sinking sand if not for God's grace in giving us a rock solid foundation.

4) We care for each others' babies -- not that I have one. But working in the nursery sure is fun. A few weeks ago, Michael and I had nursery duty at church. We were with the infants (which I LOVE!) and a mom just plopped her baby girl in Michael's arms, said "Sorry!" because the baby already had her bottom lip popped out and was ready to scream, and then scuttled from the room. Michael was left with an adorable, albeit very upset, little girl in his arms. It was the first time I had ever seen him hold a baby and it was maybe, perhaps, yes, definitely the cutest thing I have ever seen.

The kids at church are amazing. They get to sit with their parents for the first part of the service before being dismissed to Sunday school. When that happens, you would be amazed at how loud such lightweight people can be when running down the sanctuary, pig tails and shoe laces in tow. We are supposed to be praying with our pastor Glenn as he says a prayer for the kids and their Sunday School teachers, but I have a hard time keeping my eyes closed when those kids come pounding forward. They are so free and happy!

5) The sound system never works -- Ok, "never" is an exaggeration, but I meeeean, not by much. Every time a microphone needs to be turned on, it take about 7 seconds of silence and testing and looking up at the sound guy at the back of the church before it works. This little routine may bother some people... kind of like "holy smokes, why on earth can't they get it right for once," but I really like it when this happens. We are just human. And sometimes the sound doesn't work. And we have to wait for it to work. And it's not the sound guy's fault, and it's not the microphone's fault. And we just get to sit and relish the brokeness of our things together.

6) We celebrate the bodies in our midst -- Quite literally, we do this. First of all, when a couple gets married, at the end of the service the minister will announce that we have a marriage hoist. A MARRIAGE HOIST! OH! YIPPEE!! That is what I think, and then I start squirming in my seat and craning my neck to see who it is. The newlyweds stand up, and the whole church claps and whistles as the husband beams at his blushing wife. It is just precious.

And then... and then. On occasion, the best thing in the whole world happens. If I'm craning my neck for a marriage hoist, then Michael is literally holding me down in the pew when the best thing happens: We celebrate a new body. A brand new, little squirt of flesh that is warm and squirmy and doughy and just beautiful. Let me paint you a picture. Remember the Lion King when Rafiki hoists Simba up high for the whole kingdom to see? Wait, better yet, I should just show you exactly what I mean:

The Simba-hoist happens at church!

(I googled these words exactly: "The Lion King Simba Rafiki hoist" - and a link to this picture came up from Shannon's blog. This is Shannon's husband and their adorable baby boy as he was hoisted at Grace!)

We're not planning on having a baby anytime soon, but man oh man, it sure would be the bees knees to have my bundle of joy Simba-hoisted at church. Maybe one day...

7) We meet in Chinatown. Grace is right in the middle of downtown. The city is all around us, within us, coming in from the outside, going out from the inside. I really love that about Grace. Cities are the cultural, intellectual, and political hubs where ideas and movements and culture is shaped, and the church is right there in the midst of it. Not above it all with a "holier than thou" kind of approach - Lord knows that just isn't the way it works - but right in the thick of it. Hunkered down and hanging on. Knowing that we are useless until God makes us useful. Can I get an Amen?


I love my church. But, there is no perfect church. So stop looking for it. Pick one and go! And invest your time and your heart and your money there. We have a God-shaped hole in our hearts and that means that nothing, nothing at all can fill that hole except for God. And being in a church community is a bangerang place to start.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

UVA Toms

Dang it. I graduated way too early. Had these Toms been in existence while I was at UVA, I think my time there would have been a 10.5 instead of a 10. Although I'm honestly not sure if it is possible that my college years could have been more fun.

I also probably should have gone with the white ivory Toms when I got married. Burlap + Monique Lhuillier is... well... is... me!

No regrets.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pass the Parm

I was making a salad for dinner last night, and this thought popped into my mind:

"Above all else, put on parmesan cheese, which binds it together in perfect unity."

I am not kidding.

10 points if you know where that verse comes from (the real one, not my edited, salad one).

It's a very fitting thought for this salad because the parmesan cheese really does bind this salad together. You know that feeling when your body is craving something so much? Sometimes you know it (GIVE ME PEANUT BUTTER OR GIVE ME DEATH) and sometimes you don't know it until some goodness hits your mouth and goes straight to your soul. The latter happened for Michael, my brother and I while at the beach a few weeks ago. We ate a salad that not only cleaned our insides but also blessed our souls and awakened us to a whole new world of dietary fulfillment. I could see farther, run faster, think clearer, and basically felt like a brand new spring tulip.

Watch out, world!

Recipe forthcoming. It was another cheesefest movie night tonight in the Catalino household and I'm sleepy. Off to dream about love. And probably some cheese.

Friday, August 17, 2012


I think I was a little too ambitious with my beach reads. I only read two books, not seven. I can attribute  this two-book phenomenon to one of two things:

1) The lightning fast reader that I imagined I once was is no more.


2) Maybe my memory is selective and I over-exaggerated and never really did read the exceedingly high number of books in summers past as described in this post.


I did read In the Garden of Beasts. I wouldn't rush out to read it unless you have a strong hankering to know what life was like in 1933-34 Nazi Germany. Reading typically affects my dreams (ummmm Hunger Games?? Geez louise), and in this case, I had scary dreams about speaking in hushed tones, Soviet spies, and living under hidden but pervasive oppression. Good thing I started the week with The Pioneer Woman. Let freedom ring in America! And in this case, in the Oklahoma prairie where she lives with her Marlboro Man.

Really though, In the Garden of Beasts was a heavy read. So heavy that last night I walked across the street to one of my local havens and rented Letters to Juliet. Michael even watched it with me. To his credit, he did NOT know what a cheesy movie it is. But also to his credit, he is my best friend and watched it with me just because he loves me... I think I'll keep him around.

And you won't believe it, but I cried. Cried. Watching Letters to Juliet, maybe one of the sappiest movies of all time. What is wrong with me? At least it was at the deepest part of the movie (which is still very light) when Charlie accuses Sophie of not understanding pain because she has never experienced real loss. Wrong thing to say, Charlie.

Charlie bit my finger...

Anyway, here is a pic of Michael. Today completes his first week as a student again. Second year of med school and my man is looking good.

Albeit, a tad bleary-eyed. But this was taken at 7am on a Friday morning. Pretty handsome for 7am.

There is a little thing that I discovered in our first year of marriage and promptly capitalized on. Two words.

Wrinkle. Free.

Booyah. Wrinkle-free shirts are the jam. I don't have many sworn enemies, but let me tell you what, the iron and I do not get along. An easy fix? Wrinkle-free shirts for the hubs. It's like magic. They do not wrinkle in the dryer AT ALL. I'm in love.

Speaking of sworn enemies, the political scene has been rather acerbic lately. Regardless of my political beliefs, I think it would be pretty cool to have the VPOTUS with my maiden name. Also, I think Paul Ryan is the spittin' image of Steve Carell.

Well, kind of. Call me crazy.

But let's be honest, I'm way more politically interested with what's happening across the pond:

There is definitely NOT a child in that belly.

Good grief, maybe I need to start doing Jillian again. Confession: I didn't get to 30 days of the 30 Day Shred. I got to day 28 and then I was at the beach. I did go running a few times while there, so that was something, but those final 2 days of Jillian were couched. However, my friend Molly said that Jillian says to take one day off a week -- which was news to me! So if you think of it like that, then I actually did complete the whole Shred. I was definitely feeling shredded while it lasted, but that workout is just not sustainable.

I have way better things to do, like make lasagna. Or sing in the shower. Or go to happy hour with a friendy. Which I am off to go do!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Beach love

First and foremost, please listen to this. It will better capture the following photo synopsis of our week in heaven Ocean Grove, NJ.

Hear ye
I have something to say!
Power salad. Talk about cleaning your digestive system. Or talk about feeling like a million bucks.  You decide. 
One word: Texture 
Surprise visit from Michael's brother, Grant! Sorry ladies, he is off the market and soon to be wed.
Cheesy Smile Man is off the market too. 

Grover and Lucy

Love a man in pink...
Mom and Andi. Two LOVELY women.
Casino. Coming to a theater near you Fall 2012. 
Goodnight, muggles!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Lessons Learned

Guys guys guys! I figured it out. What to do in a pic to avoid the awkward "I'm on the end, what do I do with my arm" thing:

Be the weirdo just stand in front of everyone!

Problem solved.


Sarah and Steve are leaving the big city lights and moving to Colorado. Watch out Denver! You are getting some good ones.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Beach Reads Extravaganza!

I am incredibly stoked to go to the beach this coming week with my fam. By nature of my dad being a pastor, holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving weren't as steeped in tradition as I know they can be since my dad often had to lead services at church. Therefore (what's it there for?) our summer beach trips have always been some of my fondest memories.

After 20+ years of going to North Carolina with the Cox clan, we've been switching it up for Michigan, and new to the beach venues this year is New Joiiisey. Holy smokes, Jersey shore?! Yes, yes, yes, only think less gold chains and guido and more family ice-cream cones and gin rummy.

I know what you're thinking:

Ryan Family = They party hard.


Our beach trips wouldn't be complete without one crucially important piece: beach reads!

We typically each have about 4-7 books and often swap books by the end of the week. This year, I'm overly excited about my exceptionally baller choices:

I live for the library.

The break down:

In the Garden of Beasts: The true story of the American Ambassador and his family in 1933 Berlin. I predict there will be a film adaptation...
The Night Circus: Romance and magic. I'm thining this is going to be Water for Elephants (the book is much better than the movie) combined with The Illusionist.
Pioneer Women: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels:  The title says it all. I've been told that I will fly through this book. Ree is my hero.
The Meaning of Marriage: I thiiiinnk this will more or less a review of Keller's sermon series on marriage, which Michael and I started listening to ummmmm maybeee liiiike 2 months into our dating relationship. Hey, when you know, you know. Regardless of that, I'm excited to read this book with Michael after one year of marriage under our belts. We have much to learn! (As if you could ever stop learning about marriage...chaa right).

However, before I even get to the aforementioned gems, I need to finish my current read:

Considering the fact that I interact with oncologists on a daily basis, it only made sense that I read this book. But what began as a book that I felt obligated to read because of my profession has morphed into a amazingly readible story about the history of cancer, doctors, treatment, and of course, the patients themselves. Everyone has been affected by cancer, whether personally or through friends or family, and this book puts the entire cancer world into perspective. I can't recommend it enough!

Thrown into this mix of this literary goodness, Michael and I also will be practicing our espanol with our toes in the water.

Que divertido!

I felt rather ambitious a few weeks ago (that's why the Jillian Michaels kick began in the first place) and decided to renew my ability to speak Spanish. So what better way to do so than in the sunshine?? Talk about maximizing productivity.

Adios, home slices. Keep calm and carry on, and tell me some of your favorite beach reads too!