Macaroni and cheese and the comfort of gracious guidance

macaroni and cheeseWhile cramming for unexpected exams in my forgiveness classroom this week, I thought I’d share another excerpt from my new essay collection, Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want, about finding comfort where we think we are, even as we’re learning the only real comfort lies in our one, healed mind. A lot has changed in my imaginary journey to the one home we never really left since I wrote this piece a few years ago, but I still think I need comfort here, sometimes, and I still love a mean plate of macaroni and cheese on a chilly day. 🙂 Hope you enjoy!

Although we had been languishing in a state of suspended animation these last few weeks of summer refusing to vacate to fall, the nights had finally cooled enough to don sweaters. A devoted fan of bare feet, I found myself resenting the imminent requirement for socks and shoes combined with the beckoning chores of an expiring garden. Then, too, I had not slept well, silently griping about a host of trivial annoyances, leading me to once more pronounce myself unloved and unloving, an all too familiar state A Course in Miracles has helped me identify as just another symptom of the constantly resurfacing guilt in my mind over the fantasy of running away from our eternal home and slamming the door behind me. I was downright homesick, bereft over autumn’s fading palette and my seemingly unrequited love for God, and craving comfort. It was time to make macaroni and cheese.

I still have the Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls given to me around age seven that includes the first recipe for this ultimate of American comfort foods I ever made. It calls for eggs, I think, and a block of that fluorescent substance revered in the 60s and 70s for its apparently infinite shelf life, supreme melt ability, and complete lack of potentially offensive sharp cheddar character. Back then I was thinking about mushroom clouds and our proximity to the probable commie target of New York City should the cold war further escalate as I struggled to chop that squishy faux cheese into cubes. Coupled with the alarming propensity for close relatives and the President of the United States to abruptly meet their maker, an entity I found myself compulsively doubting despite my efforts to impersonate a virtuous—on good days possibly even convent-bound—Catholic girl.

By the time I parted with the church and what I considered its God’s at best conditional love in high school, I had perfected my macaroni and cheese to the point that even my father—a cook in his own right as well as our family’s most critical diner—could not resist seconds. Stirring crumbly white cheddar we bought in bulk on visits to the Adirondacks where the rest of our tribe continued to reside, I weighed the chances of actually ending the Vietnam War. Experimenting with the fragile ratio of crunchy top to creamy middle in my casserole, I considered the forsaken morality of an electorate capable of returning a criminal like Richard Nixon to office despite The Washington Post’s persistent, detailed disclosures about Watergate.

Over the years, my recipe for macaroni and cheese has morphed to keep up with my developing taste for bolder flavors and an inherited cholesterol count that has forced me to find lower-fat alternatives to whole milk, and full-fat cheese. But the impetus for making the dish in the first place—my desire to find respite from a world of unrelenting conflict while filling a nagging feeling of emptiness sometimes referred to as the human condition—remains. When I listen to the ego, I seek to distance myself from the world of hatred I see, identifying and condemning it “out there” in an effort to redeem an inner state of relative innocence. But it never works for long. Soon enough I find myself feeling unloved and unloving anew, grabbing my keys and heading out the door to purchase the ingredients for cheesy goodness I know will provide at best fleeting relief.

And so, I choose again, as the Course is teaching me to do. I choose a different inner teacher as I stand at the counter whisking béchamel and cooking pasta. A teacher who continues to assert that it is not the boxes of Halloween decorations still strewn about the dining room from yesterday’s decorating blitz or the recent political poll that showed a homophobic candidate neck in neck with someone who more closely mirrors my personal views. It is not a stubborn recession that continues to devour our retirement accounts and worry over how to pay for my daughter’s college education or seemingly endless email demands that has forced me to the stove but my fear that I have slammed that door on God for good and will never be welcomed home again. But my fear is based on a lie the teacher capable of providing the only real comfort I really want will expose if I but look with him.

We are nearing the end of the workbook lessons in a Course class I am teaching, a year of learning to rely on the internal teacher of inner peace always available to help us correctly identify all problems as reflections of the only problem: believing we could differentiate ourselves from eternal, unified love. And the one solution: looking with our inner teacher at our projected guilt in all its costumes and seeing beyond the ego’s illusions to the eternally open door of our one and only home. As the Introduction to the workbook’s final lessons eloquently reminds us:

His is the only way to find the peace that God has given us. It is His way that everyone must travel in the end, because it is this ending God Himself appointed. In the dream of time it seems far off. And yet, in truth, it is already here; already serving us as gracious guidance in the way to go. (From paragraph 2)

The tiny, mad idea that we could separate from our source and squander our creator’s love was instantly corrected, even though we seemed to follow our tortured mind into a nightmare of competing interests and tenuous, hard-won, and always temporary survival. Our loving inner teacher retains the memory of our shared, eternal truth, a truth we gradually awaken to by learning to choose his gracious guidance whenever we find ourselves holding something external responsible for our internal distress.

We reclaim our innocence, the enduring memory of our creator’s love as we learn to hold the maker of the bomb, the sender of the email, the condemning politician, the sloppy one among us harmless for our loss of peace. As we learn from our gracious guide to recognize and answer our own call for love in every seeming fragment of the ego thought system cast and perceived outside the eternally united mind.

When we choose our true and only comforter, we gently smile at our preposterous mistake, see the door to our father’s love as it is rather than the way we dreamed it up, and are redeemed of a crime that never occurred. I’ll eat to that!

Macaroni and Cheese:

-1 14.5-ounce package macaroni (preferably whole grain)

-2 T unsalted butter

-2 T all-purpose flour

-2 C skim or 1% warmed milk

-2 ½ C grated low-fat sharp cheddar

-½ C grated Romano cheese

-2 heaping T Dijon mustard

-¼- ½ t cayenne pepper

-coarsely ground black pepper to taste

-freshly ground or Panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 x 12 inch glass pan with cooking spray. In saucepan, cook macaroni according to package directions. In another pan, melt butter and whisk in flour until incorporated, then whisk a little longer. Add small amount of milk to form a paste (resembling cake frosting) and allow to briefly bubble. Very gradually add remaining milk, whisking constantly. Cook for a minute or so at a low bubble. Turn off heat and gradually whisk in cheeses and remaining ingredients. Drain pasta and mix with sauce, spoon into glass pan, and top with bread crumbs and additional pepper. Bake for 30 minutes until top is slightly browned and crisp.

Enjoy with your gracious guide.

Thank you, Gary Renard, for adding my new collection of ACIM essays, Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want, to your Recommended Reading list: 

Honored that Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want, is now available at the Rocky Mountain Miracle Center in Denver, Colorado, where I teach regularly on Tuesday nights. Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want takes up roughly where my last ACIM essay collection left off, and conveys my growing faith that no matter how wrenching, wild, or wacky the dream of our lives may appear, we always have a choice about which inner teacher we are looking and listening with: the ego, the part of our mind that believed the “tiny, mad idea” of separation from our source had real effects. Or the “right mind” that remembered to gently smile at the bizarre thought of it. If you’re thinking about buying a book and live in Denver, please consider purchasing a copy from the RMMC to help support their great work. The new book is also available on Amazon.

Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want, and my previous book,Extraordinary Ordinary Forgiveness, are now also available from the ACIM Store:

I enjoyed talking with Bruce Rawles recently about my new book; Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want, and the importance of cultivating a relationship with the inner teacher of forgiveness in our one mind. You can watch the video by clicking here: or on my home page. Other recent videos are available on my Videos page.

Also had a good time talking with CA Brooks, host of the 12 Radio show Simpletales, about my new book and recipes for true forgiveness. You can listen to the audio here: on my Audios page, where you’ll find additional recordings.

Although A Course in Miracles is clearly a self-study program and the one relationship we are truly cultivating is with our eternally clear and loving right mind, a mentor can help Course students apply its gentle forgiveness practice in their lives. In phone sessions I help students identify and transcend the ego’s resistance to healing our split mind through forgiveness. By looking with and listening to our forever kind inner teacher we learn to recognize and release the unconscious blocks we use to push unwavering, all-inclusive Love away, begin to see everyone and everything as the same in God’s heart, and gradually awaken to our true, whole, eternally innocent natureFor information on individual ACIM mentoring; please click on the mentoring tab on this site. (Please note that no one is ever turned away for lack of ability to pay.)


  1. Thank you Susan.
    Excellent! Great recipe for forgiveness and macaroni and cheese, what more is there to long for!

  2. I have a mean recipe I got years ago from a beauty queen of the Bahamas turned chef of a small hotel on Harbour Island off the coast of Eleuthera in the Bahamas I used to go to every year for 23 yrs.

    Forget issues of cholesterol but golly the jalapeno peppers added in and extra cheese was a hit when it was Mac night at home–my 4 boys could wipe out a giant pot of this stuff.

    Also there is increasing evidence that lower cholesterol may be related to an increase in Alzheimer’s disease. You see we come up with conflicting data over and over and never think at we can probably eat anything in moderation–but the ego is an addict, glutton and, let’s face it, just plain INSANE. If my wife didn’t have huge issues with cheese and her gallbladder, mac ‘n cheese would appear on our table once in a while but it’s just not worth a trip the ER so I practice forgiveness and abstain unless we go out. Really good Mac ‘n Cheese is as hard to find as a good Course student. I should know, I’m not one ! LOL

  3. Thanks for your kind response, Annelies! Hope you are having a comforting day on all levels. 🙂

    And, Jim, I just harvested my little backyard crop of jalapenos and will try adding those next time I whip up the mac & cheese. (Roasted green chilies are also awesome additions!)

    It’s funny; I realized when I was editing my most recent book (in which this piece appears) that several of the essays included recipes for comfort food classics. No coincidence, since they were written during the couple of years when I was feeling a lot of loss around my daughter going off to college, and frantically looking for substitutes to fill that void we think is created by special relationships vacating. But are learning can only ever be filled by connecting with our only real relationship within. That said, give me a plate of pasta to share with our imaginary inner teacher and I’m a happy Course student! 🙂

Speak Your Mind