Super Easy Chicken Casserole

This is the meal that I make pretty much every time I jump on the casserole-making-wagon for a new mom, or someone fresh from the hospital. It's easy-peasy, I've never heard a complaint, there's little chance of allergic reaction, and NotPasta. It's super easy to throw together, and I almost always have the stuff on hand for it, mostly because you can substitute just about every part of it (you'll see).

I was planning on posting this later this week, but my buddy Beth asked for our favorite go-to meals in her 5 Questions post, and she also says that writing is like life, and rarely goes according to plan. So, here's my chicken casserole, today instead of later.

  1. Take whatever size pan works for your family. I use a 9x9 for 2-5 people, a 9x13 for my family. 
  2. Put chicken breasts in the bottom. These can be frozen, trimmed, whatever you've got available.
  3. In another bowl, mix together one can of cream of something (chicken, celery, and mushroom all work) with a can of milk (refill the can with milk). If using a 9x13, you might want to use 2 cans. 
  4. If you want, throw in a frozen veggie. We've used peas (the fave around here), broccoli, green beans, asparagus, and corn. 
  5. Pour cream mixture over the chicken, making sure the chicken is covered. 
  6. Top this with cheese. Monterey Jack is our fave, but we've also used Colby Jack and Mozzarella with good results.
  7. Top the cheese with bread crumbs. Just enough to cover it. Unless you are my husband, who made this recipe recently. This is our conversation when I got home from work: Me: Wow, that's a lot of bread crumbs on top. Him: Yeah, but you normally use about half of a can, right? Me: Well, yes, but that's when we don't buy the can from Costco. (It still tasted good, so don't worry about the amount!) 
  8. Cook @ 350 about 1 hour, longer if the chicken was frozen.
Seriously, my kids all love it. It's reasonably nutritious (more so if you're not using pre-made cream of chicken and bread crumbs, but do what works for you). It also works to freeze or refrigerate and cook later.  What more can you ask for from a casserole?

Update 4/2/13: I cooked this tonight, and decided to take a picture for this post. I went to get my camera, and came back to this!

SAHM Checklist

I've been trying to get organized lately. Which, for me, means lots of checklists. They help me. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I can check something off of a list.

I'm also a brand-new SAHM (that's Stay-At-Home-Mom, if you're unaware). Ok, well, I had several practice runs, aka summers, because I was a teacher. But, I always viewed that as a vacation, a time to breathe slowly for as long as possible, because once the schoolyear starts it's a marathon to the end of the year. So it was a bit different.

I've been pinning lots of cute organizational thingys and even printing and using a few. Then, I decided I needed my own checklist. (Now I just need someone with skills to make it all cutesy for me. Anyone?)

Here goes:

  1. Get out of bed, even though all you really want to do is snuggle with kids and watch cartoons all day.
  2. Get big kids to school.
  3. Get big kids to school on time!  (that seriously deserves its own checkmark, amirite?)
  4. Feed kids breakfast.
  5. Feed kids lunch (school lunch counts).
  6. Feed kids dinner.
  7. Feed kids a snack.
  8. Feed anyone that is not your child, including yourself.
  9. Extra checkmark if one of those fits into your definition of truly healthy.
  10. Extra checkmark if you actually made a school kid's lunch and put it in a lunchbox. And by "you," I mean anybody in your house that's not a Lunchable. (you still get a checkmark, just not an extra one, k?) And by "lunchbox" I mean anything the kid can use to get the lunch to school - shopping bag, paper bag, actual lunchbox, styrofoam doggie bag/box, whatever. 
  11. Extra checkmark if anyone sat at the table with anyone else.
  12. Extra Extra checkmark if the whole family sits at the table and eats together. 
  13. Stop and listen to at least one child while they're telling you something incredibly long and boring interesting to them.
  14. Get the kids to play out of doors for at least 20 minutes.
  15. You get out of doors for at least 10 minutes. 
  16. Accomplish any one thing on a typical "cleaning list."
  17. Take all the kids anywhere.
  18. Shower.
  19. Wear real clothes (you define.)
  20. Wear make-up (or "do" your hair, whatever you want that feels like a little extra).
  21. Fit in some form of exercise.
  22. Take a deep breath for yourself.
  23. Keep kids alive. 

There. A checklist that is actually do-able. What would you add?

Lost at Sea

I've got 7 drafts unpublished, and 2 tabs open with my blog on them. All unfinished.

A friend suggested a method for getting through writer's block. It was a good idea. But I knew it was not what I needed.

What I need are answers. And I don't have any. Writing is my therapy. My soul pours through my fingers to the virtual page. Writing is where I figure out what I'm thinking, what I'm feeling.

But, I can't figure that out right now.

Deep within, I feel like my writing is my gift. Whether I do it for me or for you or for God, I feel like it's a gift given to me by Him.

I haven't been able to write because I haven't felt Him. I feel like I've been having a one-sided conversation for months, maybe even years now. From the first time since I was a teen when I allowed myself to doubt, I've been on shaky ground. At times, it's been more solid than others. Those are usually the times that I write. - the times that I'm confident enough to put my emotions and thoughts out there. Because, once I'm certain of them, I don't have to worry so much about how they will affect others.

I don't remember what that solid ground feels like right now. I feel like I'm on a boat, drifting this way and that, to the right and to the left. Alone and lost.

Thing is, I've had this compass right next to me the whole time. I glance towards it from time to time, and then I consult others and see what they think this compass says. I'm afraid to look for myself. The times that I have looked at it, I've not looked long. I've not looked with my heart and my emotions in the game. It was purely intellectual, only academic.

I'm afraid I'll read it wrong and go the wrong way, that I'll misunderstand and go in the wrong direction and run over people in the process. That I'll head in what I think is the right direction only to find myself headed straight for rocks again. And I'm even more afraid I'll read it right and still not know which way to go. I'm afraid that I'll look at that compass and see that it's broken, false, untrue. If that happens, it seems my entire boat will crumble before my eyes. I'll drown, taking others with me. My husband, my children, my family. They may come out alive, but not without scars.

I'm afraid that I'll open up my Bible and not be able to reconcile The Old with The New. The Judge with The Lover. The Lawmaker with The Radical. I'm afraid I'll open that Bible with fresh eyes and those eyes won't like what they see. What then?

What now? There's no living this way, floating endlessly. Sure there are blue skies and beautiful water at times, but there's got to be more to life than floating through it. I need Truth to guide me.

What I took for granted is that I don't have to have my entire course planned out. I'm a thinker, a lister, a planner. It seems ridiculous to take a trip and not know where you're going! (Seriously, this Mama to 5 freaks out at the thought: What clothes would we bring? What extras? How many outfits? We better not need passports! What about medicine? Food? What will be available where we're going? ... You don't ever want to be around when I'm packing for a family vacation.)  I already told you I recently read this post: "The Scandal of the Evangelical Heart" by Rachel Held Evans, one of my new favorite feminist Christian authors.

Wait, what? She's been asking these kinds of questions for 10 years? She's been in this sea for 10 years and not found land. But she's ok with it. Because she's being true to her heart and her head, which I didn't realize was my battle until the moment I read that. My heart so desperately searches for God, but my head understands so little of Him.

So I turn to the compass. What have I got to lose?

My Tiny Little Faith and I

The familiar words wrapped around me like my favorite childhood blanket. I stood in church, singing the words, enjoying the melody, but tormented on the inside. Something inside of me burst out, "Oh, how I wish I could believe like I used to again."  I prayed that same prayer I've been praying for so long I can't even remember: "Please. Just show me. Show me that You care about all of this. Show me how the God of the Old and The New are the same. Because, honestly, I'm just not seeing it right now, God." 

What's funny is this prayer is so much closer to the intended meaning of the word "prayer" than nearly any other prayer I've routinely said as an adult. There's earnestness. A deep desire for truth. A heart searching for a response. Pleading for some small answer.

My prayers of the past were much more like rubbing a lamp for the magic genie. "Lord, please help me with this." "Lord, please heal that person." I'm ashamed to admit I even prayed to find the right size of the right color at department stores, or for the kids to just find their stinking shoes! And truly believed it was God when it happened. What a silly little faith that was. How useless to anyone. Do I even want to worship a God who cares about if I get the shirt I want? I don't know. Especially while I know there are so many more things that need a big God to fix them.

There was a  part of me that thought that I don't even need the truth anymore, just a conviction, and I could move forward. But I know that's not true. I've tried that. I've told myself that this is what I've chosen and there's no changing that now. What would it do to my family, my life, my kids if I suddenly decided I didn't want to be a part of this Christian life anymore? I don't see how me "being true to myself" would do anything good for my kids. So I shoved the thoughts, doubts, and fears down. Told myself to just believe.

I tried it again a few Sundays ago. My little conscience on my right shoulder whispering, "Just believe. That's what faith is."

Suddenly, as if I had just woken up, I told that conscience NO. No. I can't "just believe" in a God I don't know. I can't have faith in a God I don't understand. I don't have to understand everything. We're not talking about knowing my entire future. We're talking about understanding something fundamental. Is the God I worship one of anger and revenge? Or love and peace? Or, somehow, both? If it's the latter, I need to see how. I need to understand how this puzzle fits together. Or I can't do it. I can't simply force myself to have faith when my doubts are so huge. I don't care if I understand the Trinity or the Virgin Birth. But I have to - need to - understand the person of God. I need to know if he cares about me and my daily life. I need to know if he punishes Pharoah when He was the One who "hardened his heart."

It's as if I've had this Tiny Little Faith that I thought I just needed to boss around. Then, that day, my Tiny Little Faith gave me the finger and threatened to leave if I didn't start listening to her. So, I'm listening.

As Rachel Held Evans wrote in this blogpost: "The Scandal of the Evangelical Heart": "The bravest decision I’ll ever make is the decision to follow Jesus with both my head and heart engaged—no checking out, no pretending."

That hit me like a ton of bricks. If I don't have both my head and my heart fully engaged in following God, if I just try to bully around my Tiny Little Faith without trusting the legitimate questions I had in my heart - then I was just pretending. That's not authentic faith. It's playing at being a Christian.

I'm also going to follow some of my other favorite bloggers (Beth Woolsey, writing Five Kids is A Lot of Kids at and Fiona Merrick, writing Tea With A Friend at and just throw my insecurities, my doubts, and my fears out there. I'm not even sure why, other than, reading these other women's doubts made me feel like mine were just a little less scandalous. Maybe because life - even the confusing, doubtful parts - is so much better when done together.

Let's walk this path together, friends.