Walls, Toilet Paper, and Encouragement – Part 1 of 3

Walls.

Meant to keep out.

Meant to keep in.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) kept out.

All of us kept in.

Walls divide.

Walls protect.

Is the boundary good?

Is the boundary bad?

If vulnerable and unloved, how can safety be found?

If kept safe and loved, how can free-roaming be practiced?

What lessons we learn,

What answers we get,

We are doing it together.

 

In light of the suffering and shutdowns this week, I’m doing a little thinking and sharing in three posts. Thanks for joining in.

I’m spending a lot of time praying. My prayers are for the world, so I’m praying for you, too.

 

Chicken Broccoli Cheese Casserole the Way My Texan Mom Made It

Welcome to 2020, where every person deserves a go-to nostalgic dish.

Here’s my Texan Mom’s recipe for the dish she made us kids a gazillion* times while we were growing up.

It’s got the good stuff kids like (chicken and cheese) and the stuff they don’t (broccoli) hidden in a sauce that makes it all go together.

Healthy? Nope!

And that’s probably why it’s delicious.

That, and because it takes 30 minutes in the oven to meld together like real food. Happy sigh.

Check the bottom of this post for ways to prep this in 12 minutes. (There are, in fact, shortcuts and cheats.)

 

Chicken Broccoli Cheese Casserole the Way My Texan Mom Made It

Bake Time: 30 minutes @ 350-degrees

Pan: 1 “9×13” casserole pan

Meat: 1-2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast (fully cooked and chopped into bite-sized bits)

Vegetable: 1-2 lbs broccoli (fully cooked and chopped into bite-sized bits)

Sauce:
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1c mayonnaise
2T lemon juice
1c shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Topping: 1c shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:
Cook and chop chicken. Set aside. Cook and chop broccoli. Set aside. (My Mom would boil these together in the same giant pot. Just an idea.) Mix the sauce together in a large bowl. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350-degrees while you do the next step…
In the 9×13 pan, spread the cooked and chopped broccoli on the bottom. Spread out evenly.
Then add the cooked and chopped chicken over the broccoli and spread evenly.
Finally, over the chicken, add your sauce mixture as evenly as you can. Spread the sauce to all corners and into any gaps. As it cooks in the oven, it will seep down.
At this point, sprinkle the cheese topping over the casserole, or decide to add the topping on during the last 10 minutes of cooking. (I like crispy bits in my cheese so I add it early.)
Cook casserole in the preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.
Pull out carefully and let cool for 10 minutes before serving to adults, longer for children.
This serves 4 and might leave a bit behind for leftovers.
Leftovers will keep about 5 days if refrigerated properly.

 

Okay.

Cheats and shortcuts.

I discovered over the years that I could use rotisserie chicken chopped up to save me the “cooking chicken” step.

Then I further discovered I could use frozen, already cooked, already cut chicken, as long as it was barely seasoned. And those steamer bags of frozen and cut broccoli? They work just as well!

So, to recap: I can buy frozen steamer bags of broccoli and (pre-cooked) frozen chicken that comes in bite-sized bits, steam-bag cook the broccoli in the microwave while I make my sauce, then layer it all: steamed broccoli, FROZEN PRE-COOKED chicken, sauce, topping, then cook it in the oven!

The whole thing. Easy peasy, without the peas.

And just like the picture, I make this thing in bulk. Because y’all. It freezes really well. Just gotta cover it good and eat it before the 5 month mark.

All I’ve got to say is “Thanks, Mom!”

 

*My Mom actually didn’t make this bad boy but 1x a month. “A gazillion” was taking artistic liberties in light of nostalgic wishes. Maybe I should’ve said 8-12 times a year. Yeah. 

Inspiration Series 02

Inspiration has been coming at me in a rush this year, so I’m feeling the need to do a blog over the ones that stick. I hope this series has some nuggets of “inspire” in it for you. 

My year started with a bang.

So much so, it would’ve been easy to hide from all the new things.

Many. Many much new things. (Bad grammar for emphasis.)

If it weren’t for the ongoing messages from Father God’s heart to mine about being brave.

And the messages were everywhere.

Delivered to me through people, comments, random things I’d see on social media, stuff I’d read, songs I’d hear (maybe I’ll dump ’em in a playlist for you later), things I’d think I’d hear in prayer, and through car sightings.

(Uh, yeah. Still haven’t figured out the car one fully, but get this: everywhere I look, I’m seeing Dodge Challengers. Yeah, that might not seem like anything to anyone else, but to me, that car is closely tied to NCIS: LA, and the big ex-Navy SEAL that drove it. One brave dude, always running toward trouble instead of away from it. Anyway, rabbit trail over.)

One of the inspiring messages about being brave came from Ps. Tim Ross.

I love listening to Pastor Tim because he is so real and raw and funny. And his voice inflections just bless me. A true Son, that one.

He gave a talk at the First Conference at my church on growth spurts and David and Goliath. I simply cannot get it out of my head!

Yeah, it inspired me that much.

It’s too good to not share.

And maybe you were needing a kick-in-the-pants dose of brave, too. So. Here.

I’ve skipped into one of my favorite parts of the talk. [Minute 21:34]

Watch the whole thing on YouTube if you get a spare forty minutes. 🙂

endkevianaelliot

Faithful

2019.

Reeling, I entered it being a funeral coffin.

That’s what I called myself for months, because that’s what I felt like after I miscarried our fourth baby.

I hated myself, my life, my enemy, my world, and my God.

Everything felt like death surrounding me.

I laid in bed, day after day, night after night, crying.
Hating.
Wishing.
Struggling.

I personally knew God’s goodness. His faithfulness. But at that point, I wrestled with why we’d lost another baby. Why He’d let this one die when I cried out for Him to save.

Enter God.

From January 10th until January 19th, He took me, His highly-visual Daughter, on a series of imaginings. Through a whirl of fictional situations, so vivid in my mind I had to write them down. He whispered to me a title and encouraged me to add names. He showed me a place in outer space and asked me to share in the conflict. Who was good, who was bad. And at the end of ten days, I knew.

I had a story perfectly etched of 40 days in the life of an orphan.

I started writing.
In the middle of the miscarriage pain.
In the throes of hormonal angst.
In the vastness of confusion.

I became focused on writing only, and I hated anything that got in the way of it. (Especially the sleepless nights that meant I wouldn’t be able to write well the following day.)

Then, something amazing happened.

Midway through the first 50,000 words, my review of what I’d written came to a halt in realization. I was my main character, and God was the father-figure. He was holding me in it all and helping me heal. Same as the father-figure helped my orphan chara.

Everything shifted for me.

From hate to understanding.

God stood with me in my pain.
So intimately and carefully, He’d helped craft a story to lovingly draw me into my healing.
Healing—not just from the miscarriage—but from my insecurities.
I cried more.

I’d been seen.

And I was held.
Loved.
Kept.
Known.

It was beautiful in a way only a loving God could give.

Speed up to December 31st of 2019. Here’s where I ended the year:

  • The hormonal-crazy of the miscarriage completely gone – yay!
  • God expanded the story from 40 days to 40 years
  • God brought me a bosom friend to co-write
  • Co-writer and I wrote 431,073+ words in one year

Y’all.

God met me that January where I lay, angry, bitter, sorrowful, and lost, and gave me what I needed, and stayed.

It’s so like Him to love like that.

So very like Him to meet me.

So very like Him to meet you.

So very like Him.

“I entrust my spirit into your hand.
Rescue me, Lord, for you are a faithful God.
” Psalms 31:5 (NLT*)

endkevianaelliot

 

*Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004, 2007, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Inspiration Series 01

Inspiration has been coming at me in a rush this year, so I’m feeling the need to do a blog over the ones that stick. I hope this series has some nuggets of “inspire” in it for you. 

Today’s bit inspired me to keep working on the things the Creator has outlined for me to keep my hands on.

Part of the reason I follow Love and the Outcome is because Jodi does such a beautiful job balancing her life as a Daughter of God, wife, mother, music artist, and master social media encourager. And when she doesn’t, she’s real about it and shares the pathway. The why, how, what, and trust she exudes is worth gold.

So, here’s the bit:

Mmm. So good.

Hit me right in the “Barbie schedule.” (My non-God-directed calendar plans. Pretty, but not up to Daughter Code.)

It was a friendly nudge to return to God weekly and daily to check what He wants going on.

Many hugs, y’all.

 

endkevianaelliot

You, Husband

To: My Mister
From: Forever Yours
Note: Forgive My Rambles on You

Do you remember the first time you saw me? An actress of a receptionist, I wondered if you’d see anything worthy in me, but I was so jaded, I decided later I didn’t care. Months later, your eyes were still on me, wanting to see my heart. Even when I didn’t recognize you as marriage material, you didn’t miss it. You came after me. You tell me I’m worthy, and I finally believe it. Mister, you are good at seeing people. I’m so grateful for that.

Do you recall our first huge fight? We were both so full up with emotional energy I wondered if we would ever come down from orbit. You ended up in the living room, I ended up in the master closet. But not for long. Why? Because you came after me. Carefully, gently. Willing to be wrong. Willing to be broken with me. Willing to forgive. Willing to work through it. Babe, even when you are right, and I’m wrong and being stubborn about it, you never get haughty or puffed—you reach out with love and grace. Who taught you that? I will always be grateful for how you come after me emotionally.

img_2507
My Husband takes pictures of statues of historical figures at the Bible Museum

Do you know the way you do things—simple things, funny things, serious things—it blesses me, all your quirks. How you are a kid with me: my playmate. How you laugh: nerd laugh! How you eat: my man with steak. How you run your fingers through your hair when your mind is a million miles away figuring out the latest puzzle. The way you hold your guitar. How you throw a sheet across the bed to make it: tucking corners in with a vengeance. How you pump the gas, always concerned with if I’m comfortable while you are attending to it. How you can’t stop talking to me when you are excited about something: I’m your closest confidant. How you pet my arm when I’m talking about something and you need to break in and interrupt, but you don’t want to hurt my feelings. Oh, the way you vacuum, load the dishes, throw the trash, sweep a mess! You might as well melt me like butter on a stove.

A thousand special things create you, the real you that I see every day.

I appreciate them all, but I can never seem to say the right thing to convey it. Imagine that. A writer that struggles to find the right words for the one she loves the most.

Maybe that’s the truth of the mess, the heart of the matter?

You are so perfectly suited to being my husband, my best friend, my playmate, that I’m lost in it all.

You’re a dream to me, Mister.

And I value you far beyond all these dreams.

The Creator gave me you, and I freaking love you.

Happy Birthday. 

Here’s to more years for you and I to explore, laugh, love, cry, grow, see, do, and create together.

endkevianaelliot