The grandparents would be here in one hour for a family Labor Day dinner. With the beginning of September, my taste buds turned to fall foods despite the outside temperature remaining hotter than my preheating oven.
My plan? To serve my mom’s famous Chicken Casserole. So, I prepare the rice, then the broccoli, then the chicken. Finally, it’s time for the melted soup and cheese mixture. I added a couple shakes of salt and tasted it. “Nope. It needs something else. Yep. It needs pepper.” A couple of shakes of pepper and it’s perfect. Thirty-five minutes later, the beeping timer alerts me the main course is almost ready for our family celebration.
Standing at the stove I reflected on this past season.
The Summer was hotter than the Fourth of July firecrackers! It was a Summer peppered with flakes of darkness. Five back surgeries in seven weeks for our (Division-1 college rowing team) daughter produced a heaping helping of “pepper!” More days in the hospital than at home since June. Then, doctor appointments, X-rays, MRIs, waiting for results, disappointments, emergency room visits, more surgeries, more complications, spinal infections, daily schedule adjustments, tasks undone, tests and more tests. Yes. We tasted our share of “pepper” this Summer.
Mark 9:49 shakes it out for us: “Everyone will be salted (tested) with fire.”
While there had definitely been pepper this season, there had also been salt! Hugs and faithful prayers from friends, nurses, and doctors who became true allies. Then there were rowing teammates staying beside our girl and family circled around watching movies in a crowded hospital room. And, even homemade casseroles brought to the house!
Yes. We tasted the Lord’s goodness. God had preserved us through it all. In order to make this season “just right,” God used the perfect combination of salt—AND pepper. Now, I fancy myself a bit more of a “salty” girl. Rarely do I add pepper on my own accord. But God knows I need it. We all need it. And in the end, it makes a perfectly seasoned combination.
This Summer, we learned that sometimes tasting God’s goodness includes a serving of broccoli. You see, while growing up, our three daughters had always complained about the broccoli in Mimi’s Chicken Casserole. “Do we have to have the broccoli mixed in? It flavors everything else!”, they complained (I mean, explained!). Their father, however, had always loved it. So, broccoli stayed in the recipe.
This season, however, our youngest daughter, Tress, responded differently when life offered her a big portion of “broccoli”. Through the refining fire, God began moving her from discouragement to devotion. One afternoon Tress confided in me, “You know, mom, God allowed this injury to REFINE me, but it will not DEFINE me. Only He does that.” Wow! Perhaps God is teaching us all the difference between what we want and what we need. Tress is taking her serving of broccoli and letting it fuel and feed her faith rather than finish her flesh. She is allowing her weakened back to strengthen her heart for God!
Tress is tasting that “God can make every set-BACK a set-UP for His greater glory!” That’s a truth this mom needs to swallow too. Even in the past week, our daughter is seeing God setting her up for increased college provision, for greater eternal impact on her teammates, and for opportunities to share with peers, coaches, administrators, and even the local “press”—how God has preserved her through it all.
Mommas, I don’t know what God will include in your casserole this season. But at the end of each day, as I lay my head on the pillow, I am reminded that a package of L’Oreal Ash Brown covers my own “salt and pepper” hair. Yes, I too am a dish being prepared by The Master Chef! And, as His specialty, I am praying that my plate (and your plate) will be filled with God’s Chicken Casserole this fall…salted and peppered perfectly!
Oh, and now that I’ve made you hungry. Below you’ll find Mimi’s Chicken Casserole Recipe. Let me know if you add the broccoli or not!
- 6 Chicken breasts (skinless/boneless) cooked and cut in chunks
- 2 boxes Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice
- 3 Cups of steamed broccoli (fresh or frozen)
- 1 stick butter
- 1 ½ T Flour
- 1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup
- ½ Cup Milk
- 1 Small onion chopped
- 1 Cup Grated Cheddar Cheese
Sautee chopped onion in butter, add flour, blend well. Then add milk, and mushroom soup. Cook slowly and stir until bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Cook rice as directed. In casserole dish place rice on the bottom. Then add the layer of chopped chicken followed by steamed broccoli. (Omit broccoli if your kiddos are like ours!) Pour cheese/soup sauce over top and bake uncovered on 350 for 30-45 minutes. This will serve 6-8 people. Great for dinner parties. Salt and pepper to taste God’s goodness!