January 5, 2016
Okay, okay. I’ll admit it. My first recipe of the new year should not include pasta and a heaping load of cheese. I know resolutions, specifically those including smoothies and waistlines, are on the minds of many. Mine included. I gently stepped on the scale yesterday morning. Because the alarm clock and back to school mode wasn’t enough for a cold Monday morning.
I also quietly inserted leftover Christmas candy into my mouth not long after. The candy is here. It needs to be consumed so that I can move on with my life and my goals.
Sitting in the fridge were also two containers of Ricotta cheese. Leftover from a festive lasagna that never came to be. And so it had to be used. And it was. In stuffed shells.
Make up a batch and then we can get to the recipes that contain green things and whole grains and air. Until then, it’s cheesy yumminess compliments of holiday leftovers.
1 Box Jumbo Shells
½ pound Ground Beef, cooked and drained
2 16 oz containers Ricotta Cheese
2 Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
2 24 oz jars of Spaghetti Sauce
Shake of each: Parsley, Oregano, Garlic, and Basil
Salt and Pepper
Cook shells according to package directions. Drain and allow to cool for a few minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, combine beef, ricotta, 1 cup of mozzarella, egg, and spices.
Spread a layer of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of 9 x 13 pan. An additional small dish will be needed for the full recipe.
Fill each shell with cheese mixture.
Place shells on top of sauce. Top with remaining sauce and mozzarella cheese.
Bake 35 minutes on 350.
Hints and Tips
*Recipe serves 10. It easily halves to serve a smaller crowd.
*Undercook shells by about a minute so they will be sturdy enough to work with.
*Leave out the ground beef if a meatless meal is desired.
*Italian sausage or spinach are welcome additions.
December 24, 2015
Things that don’t really belong in the house sometimes end up in our house. If you have kids, specifically boys, or a husband, specifically a handy/crafty one, you know what I mean. I’m talking about sticks and rocks and other things that are intended to maintain their existence outside. Or items that belong in the barn or the outbuilding. I don’t really need sandpaper on the kitchen table or a cordless drill where I fold laundry. Let’s compartmentalize here people. Keep the dirt and bugs out.
And yet, once a year, I delve in. I typically initiate the process.
We even pay to bring a tall, living, outside thing, inside. It drips with sap and smells like the mountains. It belongs in the woods. We put it on display smack dab in the middle of the living room floor.
The Christmas Tree.
And while I know there are all kinds of reasons why the Christmas tree has made its way into seasonal décor, when you think about it, it’s just odd.
It’s a tree. In your house.
For the first week or so after we decorated our tree, I experienced a tiny gasp anytime I walked into the living room and saw it. All decorated, lights shining. This year, we have the tallest, fattest tree we’ve ever chosen. My darling husband bought new lights this year. I confessed to him that I settled last year with his rendition of “putting lights on the tree” in an effort to avoid marital confrontation.
So there it stands. Not long ago, the tree grew, possibly on a mountainside, among other trees with its roots delving into the earth below. Now it stands between the couches and end table, lights twinkling in front of the window.
Sometimes Christmas invites in what seemingly doesn’t fit. It offers unexpected beauty in our ordinary places. That is the origin of Christmas after all. The King coming down to a stable. Majesty in a manger. The Heavenly Host visiting the ones in the field.
From the outside, it all seems so out of place. So odd. But take a step closer. You’ll see the perfection of the scene. The baby, the God-man, born to a world in need of a Savior. The invitation of Christmas.
What do you need to invite into your Christmas this year? Possibly something that seems to not fit. Forgiveness for bitterness? Love for the unlovely? Joy among sorrow? Quiet in the chaos?
Or perhaps, it’s Christ Himself. Invite Him into your Christmas. Unwrap the gift of His love, forgiveness, and completion. He truly belongs in our hearts.
"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Luke 2:10-12
December 8, 2015
In the midst of all of this holidaying, I got to do some celebrating of my own last week. Had myself a little birthday.
Let me be honest. My guys. They spoiled me. I had a day to shop and do lunch and put all laundry on hold. We went out to dinner and laughed and spotted Christmas lights on the drive home while we sang to the radio. We threw school-night bedtimes out the window.
And one of the best parts of my day? My gifts. (Hang with me. The non-materialistic aspect is coming.)
The boys picked out what they wrapped up. Hairspray, a Christmas tablecloth, ponytail ties, and a chores coupon book complete with smiley face stickmen.
Chris crafted a beautiful wooden tray. Then he really upped the celebration by adding HGTV to our TV lineup. We ended the night with homemade chocolate chip cheesecake.
These people. They know me. That’s what did it for me.
They chose gifts and places and memories that were a reflection of me. They composed a day just for me.
And then December third came and another birthday was a year away. But not the days made just for me.
God provides those every day. It’s an aspect of His character that continually amazes me. He is the God of the Universe and still the One who orchestrates each detail of my life.
He knows me.
He understands my strengths and flaws. My passions and struggles. He sees the tender places of my heart and the ones I would like to hide.
And He knows the exact time and place I should have been brought into this world thirty-some years ago. He knows. He ordains our days.
Maybe every day can’t contain cake and candles. But let’s stop and celebrate, if only for a moment, each day, the life we have been given.
"Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:16
December 2, 2015
I knew as soon as we did the exercise in Bible study, I would need to affix the Scripture in my memory. It would become a go-to.
And sure enough, a few weeks after plastering the verse on my hands, it came back to me. “For not all have faith, but the LORD is faithful.” (2 Thessalonians 3:2)
Packing lunches and finding socks and gathering raincoats was disrupted by my own questioning and replaying and grumbling. One of those mornings when I needed to shove away my own ramblings and replace them with the truth.
So I went back to the ink and the promise that I had written on my hands.
“For not all have faith, but the LORD is faithful.”
I thought it. And then I just said it. Over and over as I continued the process of getting myself and a five year old out the door. He followed and listened and filled in the blanks when I purposely left out words for him to chime in.
We made it to the back door with shoes on and keys in hand when I offered one more time, “For not all have faith, but Walker, the LORD…”
“But the LORD has faithful,” he answered.
Outwardly, I froze.
The LORD has faithful.
Inwardly, I cried out. Oh, LORD, find me faithful. Let me be one of those You find to be faithful.
I am flawed. I am a mess. I can’t even make it out the backdoor some mornings before the grumbling begins. But when all else is stripped away…the rough edges, the critical spirit, the harsh words. LORD, find me faithful.
You, LORD, are faithful. And good. You have penned my name in Your book. You have gathered my tears. Your Hand has outstretched to protect me.
LORD, have me as one of Your faithful ones.
November 30, 2015
We gathered around the table and opened our little informal meeting with a bit of a formality. “Thanks for coming” we greeted. And then we dove into the heart of the matter.
Yes, scenes often open with thanks.
“Thanks for calling” the voicemail recordings recite.
“Thank you,” we mouth to the stranger who holds the door for our entrance.
“Thank you for your attention,” we offer in emails and letters.
The thank you’s come first. They open the way and clear the path to what’s ahead. The gratefulness sets the tone.
How appropriate that we open the holiday season with Thanksgiving. The offering of thanks to prepare our hearts and heads for the joyous expectation.
As we travel through December, in search of the twenty-fifth, may we keep the end of November with us. And finish the season the way we began. Hearts filled with thanksgiving ushering Him in.
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