I am one of those weirdos that loved high school and who thinks teenagers are awesome.  Not scary, not something to dread, but truly, wholly, amazing.

Good thing that my husband is in youth ministry.  Because our house is constantly filled with teens and I wouldn't have it any other way.

So what is a girl to do, when after church one Sunday, my husband mentions that we are having a pasta night for twenty (which turned out to be more like 30) of our student leaders?  That night.  That for sure he told me about, but me in my scattered A.D.D. I didn't write it down, shop, prepare, much less remember?

I get water boiling.  That is what I do.  Because pizza and bbq's are always nice, but a cozy, home cooked meal is always better.  That is, an easy home cooked meal is always best.

You might not have teenagers yet, but one day you will.  How great would it be your house was the house that they all want to come to?  They don't need much.  A comfy couch, food, Just Dance on the xbox...  They will never leave.  While they are there you will get to see who they are, their hopes, their dreams, their fears.  Then too, you might learn to love instead of fear those the world often dismisses.

 Step one:
Try not to mentally curse the man at the appliance store for talking you out of a double oven.
Because a convection microwave that can bake an 8x8 dish is NOT THE SAME as two full size ovens.
I bet he would have listened to Mrs. Duggar when she said that she would use two ovens ALL THE TIME.  Sigh.  It did work better for the space, but at least once a week I wish we had two.
 Step two:
Lots and lots and lots of food.  More than you think you need.  Way more.  Garlic bread from Costco.  It's ridiculously good.  Impossible to mess up.
 Step three:
My grown up friends always clean my kitchen and do my dishes for me.  Teenagers?  Not so much.  So I am so cool with boring old paper plates.  When the boys want to fight over who gets to do the dishes, my happy fiestaware will come out.  Until then, sorry earth.
(Public service announcement:  if you happen to have teenagers and you really want them to be invited over again and again, brainwash them in to doing other people's dishes.  Who knows, maybe they will realize what a huge blessing it is and start helping with your family's dishes unprompted.)
 Step four:
Two words:  Sonic Ice.  Drive on through and pick up a few bags for only $1.69 each.  Nothing says awesome like rabbit pellet ice.  Nothing.  Except TWO OVENS.
 Step five:
Fun sodas, full of sugar and food coloring.  Lots of kinds.  Combine with Sonic ice and you are suddenly a superstar.
 Step six:
Set everything out and watch it disappear.  Quickly.  Messily.  I made a super easy baked ziti cheater recipe, with penne, red sauce, half & half, ground beef and lots and lots of parmesan and mozzarella.  Just thrown together and then covered with cheese and more cheese.  Easy to prep before hand.  Even easier to cook if YOU HAD TWO OVENS!!!
 Step seven:
Sugar.  A requisite.  These are our version of a local restaurant's Pizookies.  Pie tin.  Cookie dough.  Bake.  Easy and mindless, and again with the TWO OVENS!!!!
Step eight:  Pile on the vanilla bean ice cream, grab spoons and let them attack it family style.  What could be better than that?  I know, TWO OVENS!  Then nobody would have to wait for their batch to cook...

Step nine:  Put your little ones to bed with the lovely soundtrack of Lady Gaga on the Just Dance game downstairs.  Then try scrubbing Lady Gaga out of your mind as your try to head off to sleep hours later. Still be haunted by it for days and days.

Step ten:  Be glad that you had the opportunity to be a part of their lives.  To laugh when they text each other while sitting in the same room.  To know that there is not enough money in the world that would get you to play Just Dance, but the simple fact is, an open door, dinner and a comfy couch is really all they need to let you see into their world.

Want a little peek into the crazy that is youth ministry?
To see one of our students use his gifts and talents in a mighty way?
Ariel Amaro is a name you certainly will hear in the future.  He is sheer brillance with a camera and we are so very, very blessed to have him be a part of our team.
This is why we do what we do.
Each and every one of our student is such a blessing, there is no place we would rather serve.


  1. Wow!! You really are amazing.
    Can I have a more specific recipe for that easy pasta you made?? What a great dessert idea with the cookie tins. I want our house to be the house that my kids' friends love hanging out at.
    p.s... I agree with you about the double ovens . . . my life would be sooo much easier!!

  2. I love your post, it gave me a good laugh. I have two ovens and no microwave. I couldn't go back to just one oven now. I use both nearly every day. Incidentally, my mom has a microwave and only uses it for popcorn. That's one heck of a big popcorn maker....

  3. awesome. i love teenagers, too. cuz...i still kinda feel like one...?? hmm. i had 2 ovens for a few months. it was niiiice around thanksgiving and christmas. other than that? notsomuch.

  4. My mom's house growing up was always the hang out spot for me and my sister's friends. Some of the boys would even leave my mom a grocery list for which chips and soda they liked better lol. The house was always full of laughter and guitar music. Good times!

    I have the goal of one day making my house the one they all hang out at. I can't wait!

  5. Can you please post your baked ziti recipe. It looks delicious! :)

  6. haha - awesome! Being a youth pastors wife I totally hear ya!! (although I only have one oven that's broken - but a great bbq)!!

  7. The clip is amazing! Very professional. Can't believe it was a teen. He definitely needs support to continue with his talent and natural gift.

  8. Thanks for the lovely reminder of how amazing youth ministry is! I used to be a youth minister before I moved to this city (where it's so widely catholic, yet requires youth ministers to have a masters degree if they want to get paid...) I miss it. There's nothing like working with high school kids. It's great! :)

  9. hehe....until you have your OWN teenagers!!
    You can do whatever you like....buy what they like, cook what they like, do and say everything right (according to their love language, according to their mood, according to their demands....)but your OWN teens can somehow have a mental block to accepting it as love, from you. It is a phase of worn out knees.

  10. i am sending someone on an airplane to you this afternoon....make sure you pick her up.


    i hope to have this feeling one day.
    i really do.

  11. My husband is also a youth pastor, I love our teens and the fact that someone is ALWAYS around. And I would completely agree, the easier the recipe, the more our teens love it. I'm sure they absolutely love you and your girls.

  12. My husband and I just laughed together over this post, because it's so true (my husband said even the Lady Gaga thing). We are totally relating- my husband is the senior pastor in our church, but he's filling in as youth pastor, too- and he loves it. Me, not so much. I'm one of those scared of teens people. But, boy have I been streeeeetched out of that comfort zone, lately.
    It's encouraging to see there are other people that genuinely love this age group- I thought there was something wrong with my husband- ha! Kidding :)
    But, seriously, thank you for sharing this part of your life. It is most definitely an example for me.

  13. That video was gorgeous. Absolute talent and inspiration.

  14. Hey Julie, how do you really feel about double ovens? You are too cute. I checked out Ariel's page. Just amazing. So very talented. Now for the best part.....I HAD NO IDEA THAT SONIC SOLD THEIR ICE!!!! This day is just getting better!

  15. so fun! my parents always had people over- church youth group, church college group, me and my sister's teams and random friends... and i loved it! (plus, they got to know who i hung out w/ and what i was doing- win, win, win). now my husband and i dream about doing that for our kids and others that we 'adopt' as our kids. love it.

  16. What a great post! I'd love for my house to be the one that all my kids frends want to come hang out at!

  17. oh i hear you on the two ovens.... i wish i had them at least once a week.

    i loved this!!!

    we feed teenagers/college aged kids every sunday night at our house. it started as just snacks when they were still in hs but now that they are in college i have started making them dinner. prep ahead and keep it simple and as you said make a TON of food. they like to eat. i keep plates, saran wrap, and baggies out so the kids can take leftovers back to their rooms if they want to... and it helps keep me out of it :o)

    just dance is always a hit. there are weeks when we have to tell them to go home so our kids can get to bed but i wouldn't change it for anything. my life is richer and our kids' lives are richer for overcoming my fear and intimidation and letting these teens into our lives.

  18. You are awesome. That is how I feel after reading that blog. I often wonder myself why people dismiss teenagers. It is such an important part of life. Trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be. It's a very sensitive time as well, so we need to support and encourage teenagers. I am right there with you! Thanks for sharing!

  19. A very wise man once told me that "if you want to know what is going on in your own teenager's life, then feed and entertain their friends. With the food you gain the power!" I will take his advice, and your advice and do that! AND Ariel has mad skills!

  20. This post seriously hit my in so many different ways. My parents always had the doors open for us & our friends. It's where we always hung out. Always. In fact some of my guy friends would come over to hang out with my dad sometimes, like to watch games or whatever. Our house is already always full of kids and I'm pretty sure it will stay that way. :)
    I LOVE teenagers! Youth ministry is the best. I've been in youth ministry since I left youth group. We always say the youth group kids are the cooler, older cousins my kids will never have. :) We love our youth group!
    Aaaand, the video - awesome! What a great talent to have in your group!

  21. My husband is a high school teacher & we are involved in a ministry with high school students as well!
    They. Are. Awesome.
    This post was an encouragement this morning! Thank you.

  22. I do want our house to be the house, thanks for the tips.

    I have to say, 2 ovens are great, UNLESS they are so small they don't fit large cookie sheets, turkeys and the like. I mean really, what was the point of installing super small double ovens??? Dreaming of the day when I can replace them with 2 LARGER ones. :)

  23. Loved seeing this part of your life Julie. What an amazing eternal investment you are making in the lives of those youth. I know that every teenager who walks through your doors must leave feeling so loved and blessed (and full)! Thanks for sharing this. Your family shines for Jesus so brightly! :)

  24. What an amazing blessing you guys are to those students. Listening, feeding, being there...that's priceless. Um, and I am SO with you on the double oven :)

  25. I loved everything about this post! And I agree... two ovens would rock my world.

    Oh, and I have to echo the request for the recipes. For the record, I make at least one of your recipes at least once a week. The monte cristo sandwich recipe has changed my life. :)

  26. LOVE

    this is just full of so much awesomeness
    is awesomeness a word?
    who cares
    it is now

  27. I think I've repeated the phrase "double oven" so many times around here that my youngest thought that is what you called a regular oven!
    We are huge fans of Sonic Ice. I use it for parties, teacher appreciation luncheons. It's so yummy!
    My oldest is now a teen, and I agreee Food is their love language. Who knew!

  28. You = me. SO, SO much. Baked Ziti and Pazaooki are our "go to" dishes. Although I've never added half and half? You need to post that recipe... And I forgot approx. 50% of what my husband tells me as it relates to large group gatherings. The late night Lady Gaga?? lol. There are a few perks of having a deaf kid. Sleeping easily through the chaos = one. High schoolers will always have first place in my heart. Love this, Julie! :)

  29. I hope my outlook for my children when they are teenagers will be as good as yours! Oh and the cookie pies you know what is up!!

  30. Oh...Sonic Ice. My Sonic doesn't sell their ice, but Braum's has the same kind of ice and they sell bags of it! YAYA!

  31. I have a few things for you:

    1. I want to eat at your house... right now... that all looks so good

    2. Pouring into the lives of teenagers makes such a difference in not only their life but yours. God is smiling at what you guys are doing.

    3. that video is auh-mazing. Seriously - off the charts.

  32. you may have just changed my life in this post. sonic sells their ice!!!! what the what?! i had no idea. totally buying some today.

    i pray that my church's youth ministry could be as amazing as what your husband has created at your church. seeing THAT was inspiring and not scary in a single way.

  33. blessings to you for serving so many kids on short notice! i have 6 kids of my own and i am just now getting that feeling that i might need 2 ovens someday!

  34. Awesome! I thought we were the only ones who called it 'rabbit pellet' ice.

  35. LOVE this post! My husband is a youth pastor, too, and we have "Supper with the Smith's" twice a month...the students come over to our house to eat dinner and play Rock Band. It's true, they never want to leave. :) What an awesome life! :)

  36. Love your post. We worked with teens for years before kids and switching churches. They lived in my house. I learned SO much!! I hope to use all that knowledge when mine are teens. I like teens too. And I wanna have *that* house that they all go to...even if it means a big screen tv and ping pong table in my dining room. :)

  37. I want my house to be that house. My house growing up was never that place and I fear mine won't be either because I'm not sure how to make it that way. The houses that were like that, well still are even though we are adults. There are a few of my friends parents that we are all close to because of their generous open doors.

    Oh and that video is amazing. He certainly has a strong career ahead of him.

  38. While we are in the midst of deciding whether or not the next "life-step" includes staying in kids and youth ministry...this post spoke to me.
    We get it all wrong when we think...I wonder who they'll be when they grow up ~ they're SOMEBODY right now!
    Heart and hugs to you xo

  39. i love teenagers too! my husband is in student ministry and it is so much fun! that dessert idea is the bomb!!

    thanks for sharing!

  40. I grew up in a youth minister's house and would not trade the experience for all the "fancy" things in the world. I love youth! My dad is now a director at a camp and gets to watch youth groups worship, play, and learn everyday. I hope I still love youth when I am 60, too!

  41. That video is amazing,
    and not just because of the
    {which is RAD!}
    but because of the ministry behind it.
    You guys are doing awesome things
    for the Lord.


  42. You Rock!!! An awesome, safe place for teenagers....much appreciated by the parental units. Love the cookie tin idea...again...you ROCK!!!

    Kim XO

  43. I imagine your home is super warm and cozy! That garlic bread is now on my must try list!

  44. As one of said youth leaders, let me just say I love your home. You and Jason are so welcoming to all of us, and I LOVE that you feed us homemade goodies. You guys make a huge difference in our lives because you take the time to care. Thank you <3

  45. i just love you Julie.
    you are a treasure.

  46. I always enjoy "meeting" other youth leader wives:) Blessings,

  47. I'm thankful for people like you when I was in youth group!

    I'm now in college ministry and am mystified by the middle and high schoolers at my church. Maybe I need to get over that and branch out...

  48. sounds wonderful!

    love that cookie idea-
    sandy toe

  49. Loved this post. I do have a teenager and we have the house that they hang out in and I love it. It is so much better than I ever imagined. Teenagers are not nearly as scary as people think! lol. I also had two ovens in our home in California (our dream home, but whateves) but had to give it up to move to Virginia and I miss it terribly!

  50. Julie I love that you love this. And so fantabulous that you have them all over because you just never know how much it means to them....those moments linger in an impressionable teenage mind. Truly.
    and second:
    I SO would have had your back @ appliance store!! 2 ovens is NECESSARY! A million times more than a micro although handy, not necessary. The only other request I have is dble washer/dryer, but only because I could get 2 loads done in same amount of time I'm home as 1 ....and I wash clothes for 7 people. Oi'
    love this. love you. your fab.

    -Ada in Coastal Cali

  51. LOVE IT !! That video made me want to go back to youth group !! How awesome that you are speaking into the loves of these kids. You are planting seeds that will never leave them. Bless you !!

  52. I LOVE this post. My husband is in Youth Ministry and we have youth eating at our house all the time. I would really appreciate the recipes for the baked ziti and the cookies - I continue to make things too complicated and get way too stressed out to enjoy hanging out with the youth. I'd be so grateful for your help.

  53. Where to begin?!
    I too ADORE teenagers. They make me laugh and keep me on my toes.
    Pizooki's are our favorite. Love the idea of making them at home. Duh! Why didn't I think of that?
    I'm completely with you on the two ovens. It was one of the requirements when we were house hunting. I'm so sorry that silly man talked you out of it. Shame on him!
    That video ROCKED!
    I could go on, but duty calls.
    Thanks for sharing Julie!!!

  54. I loved this post so much! I too was a youth minister and get the same feelings about teenagers. All you need is an infinite supply of food you would never eat and a heart for where they are. Thanks for reminding me of my loves!

  55. Great post, my daughter just turned 12 and I am thinking I need to remember this when I need to think quick.
    Thanks for sharing!

  56. as a fellow youth pastor's wife, i so "get" and appreciate this!!!

  57. Working with youth is amazing, isn't it? You are a true blessing to those Tweens and Teens! They will never forget your family!

    Those games in that video look like So. Much. Fun! The peanut butter and marshmallow totally caught my eye!!!!

  58. I have to share with you what I found when searching for supplies for my daughter's birthday. Do you have Party city there? They have affordable eco-friendly (biodegradable) products now. The prices aren't bad either. The StalkMarket stuff is even compostable (do you garden yet, Julie??? LOL) and the flatware is made from potato starch so it breaks up in the landfill. The earth thanks you!!! Boo plastic! :) http://www.partycity.com/category/shop+by+color/eco+friendly+tableware.do?sortby=ourPicks&size=all&pp=80

  59. Julie, some of my best memories are of youth group and our incredible pastor and his wife. :) The couples that made the time to take us under their wing; leaving their homes open for us to just drop in any ol' time; they are still so appreciated!
    Although we wanted to be in youth ministry, you can't "make a living" out of it in the great Northeast, so Erick is a high school teacher instead, making an impact for Christ every day.
    Ariel's work just blew me away! That is one talented kiddo!!

  60. As a teenager myself, this post made me smile. Yup,feed us and love us,you've got that down pat! Hahaha. Thanks for the smile :)
    P.S. Not all teens are against helping clean up...

  61. i was already going to say this was so awesome and then i saw the video and about had tears in my eyes seeing the joy in those teens! i love your perspective of teens - that they're something to get to know rather than fear. even with toddlers, i'm like, omg they're real PEOPLE! so are teens and instead of resenting them for wanting to be their own person we should be like, wait, let me in. let me be reminded of how rad life is at your age. thanks for your post about great people, food i want to make, and sharing the wonderful video. hope this means your fam is all feeling better!!

  62. Ha I totally understand! A few weeks ago I was cooking dinner for some missionaries and realized I would need 3 ovens to go through with my plans. Needless to say, that dinner menu got scrapped.

    It's so nice reading about your positive experiences working with youth. My babies are 13 months but I have big plans to be THE house. It kind of already is! Toddlers and teenagers alike find their way to our door and I LOVE it. Youth are such a force for good in this world. Thank you for sharing that inspiring video!

  63. LOVE the cookie idea!! I'm going to make them for a pizza party i'm doing for our youth on Sunday night! Could you give me more specifics on making them? I would hate to have bunch of angry teens if i mess them up!

  64. I can't wait to make these cookie desserts and pasta dish. Can you give me the recipe for both? Also, I tried to find garlic bread in Costco. Couldn't find it. Where is the bread in Costco? Thank you for your help.:)