LifeGiving “Table” When There’s Monday Night Football

(If you want the recipe, skip all the words and scroll straight to the bottom.)

It all began with a quick snapshot of an almost overflowing pot of Chicken Tortilla Soup…and then there were recipe requests. (I personally like those kinds of comments on Facebook.) I was going to quickly type it out in the comments, but then I thought, “Maybe this instead…”

October 3, my mentor Sally Clarkson launches her next book, The LifeGiving Table, along with its companion The LifeGiving Table Experience, A Guided Journey of Feasting Through Scripture. I have sat at Sally’s table, in a chair or on a sofa in her home, and at a table covered with white linen at her conferences. I remember sitting many mornings before the sun and the kids (barely, ha!) woke up, devouring every word of encouragement she would share in her blogs and books. I desperately needed the guidance of a wise, godly momma who had gone before me.

The LifeGiving Table causes my heart to leap as I think fondly of my own table. Most days one end serves as my desk, full of binders and books and the computer I’m currently typing on, while the centerpieces fight to make things shine beautiful and inviting. And I chuckle because I do believe our table is inviting…inviting mason jars filled with sweet tea, sippy cups filled with chocolate milk, coffee cups full of something strong and bold, homework papers, pencils and pens, plates of food, and food and crumbs that fall off the plates. Here kids, who normally tell each other to go away, decide to finally want to play with each other as they sit across the table from each other at dinner! Here we talk about Sunday sermons and thoughts from His Word, we challenge kids who aren’t motivated, we correct and discipline children who are testing waters and crossing boundaries; here we pray over meals and fight to sit beside each other as well as tell each other to “Stop that!” and “Sit down!” and “Ask for it to be passed, don’t reach across!” At our table we share wisdom, reveal foolishness, get loud and stern, get loud and laugh. We also get to fill our benches every now and then with friends close by and some from far off. Some meals are fun and exciting and others leave us wanting to try again. But, through it all, it is at the table.

 

 

He prepares a table before me… (Psalm 23:5a)

The table. I have often dreamed of mission fields in far off places. Some on dirt floors and dusty roads. Yet, it is here, at the table, that my stomach has felt the butterflies of excitement over the victories and successes in my children and husband’s lives. It is here that I have felt the wind nearly knocked out of me as we have faced struggles and disappointments and hard realities and sin. I have belly-laughed over those wooden planks and wept tears of frustration and despair. I have studied God’s Word with Nathan, the kids, and friends. We have piled 9 kids and 4 adults who finally met each other after a few years of emailing. The table. It could tell stories. Our stories. Though they are not all pleasant, they are all made good and beautiful by His hand.

I am thankful for the table. After all, it gives life. Nourishment physically, yes, but nourishment for a tired soul too. A Welcome home! for our family. Encouragement and acceptance for others. A common ground for all. We can do life here, and interestingly, we keep coming back for more life together.

I am still learning to open my door wider, to extend invitations, to delight in the making of meals. Nathan’s Aunt Eva has always been great at this; I love her for it. I hope to get there someday; I pray I do.

But last night, Monday night, our “table” was a four sided ottoman in the basement, surrounded by overstuffed couches and recliners. It’s football season and while I may not always love the three-four days a week my tv is taken over, I actually do like this season. My Uncle Davey used to watch college and NFL football every weekend, and when I would stay the weekend with them (as often as I could), I would sit right down next to him while he explained “downs” and player’s positions. This is also the time of year when autumn would show up with all its beauty and make me dream and think life was full of wonder. So yay football and yay autumn!

I married a man from Dallas; therefore, we are Cowboy fans. It’s like a birthright. Anyway, tonight we took our bowls of soup downstairs with napkins and waters and cheered as our team stood in unity and in respect of our nation and others. Then we carried on with life…talked about why we wanted the kids to be in the room when the Star Spangled Banner was sung, finished up homework, dipped out seconds into our bowls, added some cheese quesadillas, took showers, put new sheets on beds, cuddled with dog and children, and prayed a bit past bedtime. (The parents stayed up way past their bedtime to see their team take the win. Life will be good in the Stephan home for a week, y’all!) We’ll make it back to our table tomorrow morning before school; it’s always a good place to return to – a place away from the distraction of tv and the duties of the day, but sometimes we take the LifeGiving part to a different table. You?

Just remember, please remember, to return to the table.

“You are to construct a table…Put the bread of the Presence on the table…”  (Exodus 25: 23, 30)

“The table and the bread were a picture of God’s willingness to fellowship and communion (literally speaking, sharing something in common) with man. It was like an invitation to share a meal, an extension of friendship. Eating together often is an act of fellowship. God was willing for man to enter into His presence to fellowship with Him, and this invitation was always open.”  ~ The Tabernacle Place

 

Okay, now for the recipe:

Chicken Tortilla Soup (usually on a whim!)

Ingredients

Olive oil/mediterranean oil/whatever oil you have on hand/cooking spray…

2 chicken breasts (I usually pull mine out of the freezer and plop them in the bottom of the slow-cooker, you know, cause on a whim!)

1-2 cans of diced tomatoes

1-2 cans of tomato sauce (if you use 2 cans of the diced tomatoes, use 1 can of the sauce and vice versa)

2 cups of chicken broth

1 can or 2 cups of frozen corn

1 -2 cans of black beans (can drain, don’t need to)

1 small can of green chilis (cause they were in the pantry and I was like, “Yes!”) (optional)

1/2 to whole green and red pepper, chopped/diced

1/2 a medium onion, chopped/diced (do the whole thing if you desire)

1 Tbsp of minced garlic

1 Tbsp of chili powder

1-2 tsp of red pepper flakes

2-3 tsp of chipotle chili powder (to taste really)

2-3 tsp of cumin (to taste also, I like more!)

2-3 tsp of salt (you got it, also to taste…go without if you want!)

Sour cream

Shredded cheese of choice (colby or jack for us)

Corn chips, tortillas, or nothing

_________________

Instructions

Pour about 1-2 Tbsp of oil in the slow cooker and spread over the bottom and sides (really this just keeps things from sticking, but I’m sure it adds to the flavor in some great way).

Place chicken in the bottom of the cooker.

Add tomatoes, sauce, broth, peppers, onions, beans, corn, chilis, garlic, and spices.

Cover and cook on low if you have all day (about 8 hours), on high if you don’t (about 4-6).

Before serving, carefully take chicken out and shred it in a separate bowl and scoop it gently back in to the cooker.

Serve with sour cream, cheese, corn chips, or nothing at all!

_________________

Alternatives

You can already have the chicken cooked and shredded or put it in not frozen. Cooking on low would be your best bet if you do this.

You could even replace the chicken with beef or pork or not have meat at all.

Yesterday I literally grabbed what was in my pantry – make it your own! I also grabbed some leftover black beans from another meal we had had and some salsa and tossed them in.

Salsa or Rotel – use these instead of diced tomatoes, peppers, and onions, cause they are already diced for you! Use 2-3 cans.

There are certainly other spices out there, experiment and/or add your favorites!

Thanks everyone for your interest. I’m sure Pinterest has this recipe available in numerable variations, but y’all know how to make a girl feel good by reaching out and asking me personally! Community. It’s still a really good thing!

And don’t forget, you can pre-order Sally Clarkson’s new book, The LifeGiving Table right now! It goes great with Chicken Tortilla Soup;).