"By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge it's rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." Proverbs 24:3-4

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Chicken Casserole (A Family Favorite)

Recently I received in my comments, the request to share some of our favorite family meals. 
Just so all of you know, I love getting your comments, questions, and suggestions.
You're always welcome to leave them for me, and I'll do my best to create posts accordingly.

Today I'm sharing a chicken casserole that I've been making for years. It's simple, yummy, and kid-friendly.

Just a heads up, I'm no Martha Stewart! And, I don't follow a recipe. (I almost never do.)

I don't like being bossed!

(Hmmm... Maybe that's why nothing I cook is ever all that exceptional....)

Well, regardless, I made it for our supper the other night and just snapped pictures as I went along, so I hope that'll be helpful to you!

To start, you'll need 4 things:

-Chicken tenders
-Cream of chicken soup
-1 package of Italian seasoning
-A crockpot


Mix together the soup and the seasoning in a small bowl...

         

(Remember to snack on chocolate candy while you do this... ;)




        

Spray your crockpot...


Then spread half of the soup mixture in the bottom...


Fill the crockpot with the chicken tenders...

            

And spread the remaining soup mixture over the top...

           

This will cook on low for a few hours so do this around lunch time.


Whenever I've been in a pinch and in need of a super quick supper, I'll serve the chicken just like this with mashed potatoes and a vegetable side. It's great this way! 

           

I'll also say that whenever I make chicken noodle soup, chicken tortellini soup, or any other chicken casserole, I'll cook the chicken this way first. For years I always used canned chicken, and that works just fine, but when I started making my chicken recipes with homemade chicken, I realized that it makes a huge difference! My staple chicken recipes taste better when I slow cook the chicken first.

~~~~~~~

After several hours it's time to make the casserole. 

You'll need a chicken flavored stuffing mix...

             

If you've never made this, it's very easy. Just boil a little water and butter...


            

And stir in the stuffing mix...


           

Set it aside and pour a small bag of frozen broccoli (thawed) into a 9x13 pan...

           

Get out a cutting board and scoop the cooked chicken out of the crockpot...

(Working in batches)

          

And chop it up...

          

Spread the chopped chicken out over the broccoli...

          

I don't discard the drippings leftover in the crockpot because I like to use it in the sauce that I make. I know it's mostly fat but I don't care! That's where the flavor is!!!

         

I pour it into a small bowl...

        

Along with a can of cream of chicken soup and a splash of milk...

       

No, I don't know how much milk, (I knew you were going to ask me that, eye roll) it's just enough so that when you stir it up, the consistency is like this...

       

(I also added some pepper.) Pour it over the broccoli and chicken...

      

And sprinkle on some shredded cheddar cheese. Be liberal with the cheese!!! :)

     

Now, all that's left is the stuffing. It's been patiently waiting... 




It goes on top...


Into the oven it goes, uncovered, for 30 minutes at 375*

           



           

I spend the 30 minute cooking time cleaning up the kitchen and setting the table. Whenever I can, I like to tidy the kitchen before we sit down to eat. It doesn't always work out that way, but when it does, we can enjoy our meal in a nice environment, and I don't have a huge mess hanging over my head.

I've noticed that my kids like to play in the kitchen. There's an old Dolly Parton quote that goes something like, "When I was a child I always wanted to be in the kitchen. It was warm and that's where my mama was." I like to fantasize that that's the reason my children play in the kitchen, haha. 


          

So I let them play and spread out their toys, and by the end of the day the kitchen's in need of good tidy...

          

After 30 minutes the casserole comes out of the oven. It looks like this...



I guess this doesn't really look much different than when it went in, haha, but the stuffing is crispy, and the cheese, chicken, and broccoli is warm and gooey.


And that, my friends, is all! 

I love making casseroles! I find them to be quick and easy and they're almost always hearty and yummy! I would really love it if you'd let me know in the comments if you try it! 

I don't cook fancy or complicated meals, but I do believe that it's my job to nourish my family's bodies and souls. It's especially needed after a long day, so I tend to make comforting foods. It's another facet to the well-lived and well-rounded home life that I'm striving for.

I appreciate all of you who stop here! One of my goals for this blog is to continue to pour out ways that we can elevate the importance of home in a world that doesn't see much value in it. Home cooked meals made by mom is one way. It doesn't have to be gourmet, it just needs to be made with love!

Thanks for reading sweet friends,

~Courtney 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Stay-At-Home Moms and the Great Commission

There is increasing hostility against stay-at-home moms in our day.

We get looked down upon from both sides.

Unbelievers scoff at us because they feel we are wasting our lives and talents on laundry and boo-boo kissing. They shake their heads and think, "Poor girl, she needs to find herself, get a career, and become liberated."

Some Christians, unfortunately, don't hold us in much higher esteem. The moment that Church-People find out we're home, they'll do what they can to yank us from it. Even though it will pull us from our homes and families, they will expect us to say yes to signing up for church activities and mission trips, all in the name of (you guessed it)...

The Great Commission.

Jesus tells Christians to,
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Matthew 28:19 (KJV)

I'm going to try to write today about something I've believed for years. That is, that Christian mothers don't need to leave their responsibilities at home in order to fulfill this command. There are ways we can live out The Great Commission and still be home caring for our families.

Some would argue, "But Jesus said Go! Doesn't that mean to literally pack up and go?"

I would answer that in two ways.

First, scripture also teaches that women are to be "Busy at home." (Titus 2:5) And that there is a time for everything, "A season for every activity under heaven." (Ecc. 3)

(For example, if you're a young mother at home with babies and toddlers, this wouldn't necessarily be the right season of your life to travel to Africa!)

And second, there are ways we can go, and still be home! "Go" isn't restricted to physically getting on a plane. This is the point of today's post. I'm going to share 5 ways that Christian mothers can "Go and teach all nations", while still prioritizing our homes and families.

1. Leave reading material at Doctor's offices




            

I get a monthly devotional that always comes with an insert that has the plan of salvation written on it. I tear these pages out and save them for the next time I have a Doctor's appointment. With four kids, plus myself, I feel like I'm always at the Doctor or Dentist. I just simply put them in my purse and leave them on a table in the waiting room. 

You could use tracts instead, I suppose, and this wouldn't have to be limited to Doctor's offices. Salons and Spas have waiting rooms, too. And restaurants and gyms have places you could leave behind reading material. It just seems like I'm in Doctor's and Dentist's offices far more frequently than any of those other places, haha. 

2. Blog/ Social Media

Just technology alone can reach all nations! And you don't have to leave home!

 The NIV version of The Great Commission says, "... Go and make disciples of all nations." (That has a little bit of a different tone to it than the KJV that I quoted earlier.) When I think of what I looks like for a woman to make disciples, I think about the Titus 2 command where women are teaching women. If you read about what they are to be teaching, there's an emphasis on home and family. 

I have always tried to use my blog and Facebook account to shed a positive light on homemaking, to teach good things about life at home, and to point people to the Lord.


My blog stats show me that I am well on my way to "teaching all nations". I've had my blog for two months now and these are the countries it has spread to. It excites me to think about everyone it'll reach as time goes on.

I pray over each post that I create and for the people who will be reading it.

3. Sponsor a child

We currently sponsor four children through Compassion International. Each child lives in a different country; Uganda, Togo, Philippines, and Colombia. Compassion centers provide safety, meals, and bible teaching for these children because of their sponsors.  All things these kids don't receive in their homes.


These children live in poverty and in cultures that practice witchcraft, idol worship, and forced marriages.

I personally hand write letters to each of them regularly. I've been doing it for years. I send them scripture, tell them about Jesus and that He loves them and has a plan for their lives.

4. Witness to strangers and workers that come over

We've had many Plumbers, Electricians, Computer geeks, Masons, Craigslist buyers, etc... come to our house through the years. Micah and I made a decision years ago that no one would leave our house without hearing about Jesus. 

            

Just today we had a masonry worker stop over to look at our family room and give us quotes on converting our fireplace to woodburning. (We're really close to beginning the renovation on this room. This is a peek at the "before".) 

I was standing back because I didn't want the poor guy to know I was snapping a picture, but the point I'm trying to make here is that there are many opportunities to witness to strangers without leaving home.

Side note: Whenever I begin to feel sheepish about sharing the gospel with a worker at my house, these two thoughts have helped me in the past, (maybe they'll help you, too). 1. You're on my turf, pal! And 2. I'm paying you to be here! :)


I have saved the most obvious and the most important one for last...

5. Our own children!

            

I know this flies in the face of our liberal and tolerant society, but if I can be honest here... I absolutely expect that each of my children will come to know the Lord as their personal Savior and will leave my house with hearts that want to love and serve Him. 

I love the vision that my friends J.D. And Veronica wrote about in their book, Ready to Launch; and that is that our goal should be to, "Prepare our kids to leave home and carry on the mission of God." (I did their 7-week bible study twice! So that means they're my friends, right? ;)

"Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are the sons born in one's youth." Psalm 27:3-4

The study points out that arrows aren't meant to be held onto by the warrior, but shot out and set free toward a target. My target for them is that they will become God-seekers, truth-pursuers, and warriors for the Lord themselves! I am training my children in the ways of the Lord so that when I set them free, I will have yet another way to teach all nations.

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Matt. 28:19

Well, my friends, as I conclude, I pray that I have given you hope and encouragement about your role as homemaker. Don't let anyone make you feel bad about staying home! Our homes are a gift from the Lord, meant for us to enjoy, and we really are doing kingdom work!

I did not share these five points today to wave around as if to say, Look at me and what I'm doing! 

NO! NO!

I've been doing these five things long before I ever had a blog or the idea to write about this topic.
I just simply shared them as ideas of how we can fulfill The Great Commission at home. If you have anything more you could add to this list, please share! I would love to hear about what you do to share the gospel or disciple others while being home! I look forward to your comments!

~ Courtney



Friday, March 25, 2016

Perennials

Preface:
Neither Micah nor I are gardeners in any way shape or form or by any standard whatsoever.
I feel greatly under qualified to write a post that resembles or has anything to do with gardening.

Ok then, why am I considering reading this? You ask yourself.

Good question.

Why do you read anything that I write? 
I'm an expert at Big Fat Nothing!

(Now don't you feel good about following my blog?!)

The lovely couple who owned our home before us were gardeners, however, and we inherited some wonderful perennials upon moving here.

They must have known what they were doing because we always have something in bloom from early Spring until Fall.

Thanks to the pictures that I took last year, I will be able to show you!
(Since I wasn't a blogger last summer, I don't have pictures of everything, but I have enough to put together this post.) 
Going through pictures while preparing for this post, made me super excited for Spring to arrive! I hope you'll leave my blog today feeling uplifted and excited for Spring, too!

These are the Perennials that grow around our home....

~~~ May ~~~

The first to arrive of course, are the Tulips and Daffodils.



                

I always clip them and bring them into the house. 



             

This is a picture of our backyard patio in very early May last year:

             

We planted Phlox in a few places last year, which is the purple plant that you can see in this picture. I really hope they're successful!

The Lilacs are the next to arrive. We've never planted lilacs. They just show up year after year. We have two varieties. A light purple:

            

And a dark purple:

           

In this picture you can see the light purple lilacs blooming in the background and also the Hosta's popping up. We have a lot of Hosta's! Micah's sister planted five for us as a housewarming gift years ago and Micah keeps splitting them and planting more around our yard. We love them because they're hearty, low-maintenance, and they look nice. Again, this is May:

          

Moving on, we have two Iris beds. They're different varieties so one bed blooms in May, the other in June. Micah planted these. This is our May blooming Iris bed:

          

~~~ June ~~~

My favorite flower... Peony's! I wait patiently all year!!! I can hardly stand it! When are they going to bloom?.....

       

We tried splitting this bush for the first time last year. Other than that we have not planted peony's. We have three well-established bushes that I'm so thankful were here when we moved. 

This beautiful light pink variety:


(Do you see why these are my favorite?! :)



A white variety:

                 

And a vibrant, hot pink variety:

                

Here they are in my dining room with my June blooming Iris's:



               

In this picture you can see what the Iris's look like in our yard:

              

Above the Iris's are our Wild Roses. They want a turn! They come in June, last until September, and are in several places around our yard. 

(Soren's showing off his S'more, haha. Oh man, all of this is making me wish it was Summer!!!)

             

I tried to do better at pruning the roses last year. I would go out almost every evening once the baby was in bed, and clip away the dead spots. I found it to be quite relaxing, actually! Who knows, maybe I'm well on my way to becoming a gardener?!



              

Aren't they pretty? We have light pink ones, too:

             

Another June blooming perennial is Salvia:

             

These started as three small bushes when Micah brought them home several years ago. If you want an aggressive ground cover that takes no effort on your part, you might consider Salvia. I would say these have tripled in size in only a few years. One down side to them, though, is that bee's love them, so I don't clip these for the house. (I don't mess with bee's. I'm a big, fat chicken!)

~~~ July ~~~

The hydrangea's are here! The hydrangea's are here!

Wooooohoooooo!!!!

Another well-established plant that we happily inherited:

               

I go nuts over these every year! 

               

They're always all over my house...

               

I can't help it, though! 

              

Look at how wonderful they are!!!

             

I really like them mixed with the roses in a bouquet:

             

We also have one Butterfly bush that blooms purple every July. I don't know where Micah got this plant. It just showed up here one day, haha...

            

~~~ August/ September ~~~

I'm combining August and September because I really don't have a whole lot blooming for the first time in August. The one and only exception is my pink Lily's. I have a small patch of them in my back patio but I don't have any pictures of them. I'll admit, they're not my favorite. I never clip them for the house because they're too strong smelling and they're messy! 

If you're using this post as research for perennials you're interested in planting, (in a northern climate) I'll note that the Hydrangea's, Wild Roses, Salvia, and the Butterfly bush are all still in bloom through August. 

As Fall approaches, I have two plants that bloom for the first time. One is a Black-eyed Susan. The only picture I could find of it is this one that I had saved in PicStitch:



            

I really like Black-eyed Susan's and the color they give in early Fall. The Hydrangea's in the picture above it are a different variety than the ones I showed you earlier. These are really fun because they're white all summer but as Fall arrives they turn pink! By mid to late Fall they're a beautiful, deep plum color!

My other hydrangea's are lime green by September, and the roses are still hanging on. This picture was taken in early September last year:


           

I always know when Summer is over when this Monkshood plant blooms. It's the absolute very last of everything all around our property to bloom. It looks like this:

          

This plant is amazing to me because while everything else is dying and the temperature is dropping, this plant is in full bloom!

When it's finished blooming, and the air begins to turn crisp, I say, "Farewell until next year" to the long run of blooming plants around my home. It's bittersweet, and I have to get creative with what's left to clip and bring inside.

I tend to always go to a certain plant, that again, was put here by previous owners. I don't know its name but it grows red berries from late Summer until late November. These clippings make a great Fall centerpiece:



            

Or back door decoration:


By this point in the year, I'm always ready for a break. I'm sick of the heat. I'm sick of the watering. I'm sick of the work!  Well, to be honest, heat and watering would be accurate, but work....? Most of the time I find myself standing in my garden thinking,... And what exactly am I suppose to be doing to these plants?.... Oh look, the cat! He needs petting......

             

And the next thing I know I've just wasted 45-minutes of my life sitting on the garden bench doing this:

           

See?! I'm not a gardener. The truth is, I'm just a flower-clipping, bouquet-making, cat-petter. 

And I've just been exposed. 

(I'm so ashamed!!! ;)

Because I'll go into the house after this and Micah and the kids are all, "Where have you been? What have you been doing?!" And I'lI snap back, "I have been hard at work, gardening!!! Leave me alone!!!"

But... I'm sure my secret's safe with you. Right, friends?

;)  ;)

So.... These are my Perennials. They help make life interesting. They remind me of God's faithfulness. They add richness to our home-life. AND, they inspire me to want to live better! Maybe this year will be my year! My year to become a gardener!!! Wish me luck, girlfriends! I'll need it! (Because I'm already thinking, Hmmm, I don't know... Sounds sweaty.) 

~ Courtney