Our Story

Friday, April 29, 2011

Salvation and Devastation

First, I would like to assure you that both Matthew and I are safe, as is our home. We were both able to see the tornado from our separate locations, Matthew from our front porch and Jess, from the windows of St. Vincent's. We are very blessed and intend to pour out these blessings on those less fortunate.

Last weekend we celebrated Easter and the rising of our Savior with friends and family. It seems so long ago after the events of this week. I find it a comfort however that in our disaster we are reminded of our risen Savior. We serve a God who humbled himself and became human. We serve a God who wept over lost loved ones, who was homeless himself, who suffered beatings and rejection, and who died for our sins in a gruesome crucifixion. We serve a God of compassion and understanding, a God who has suffered the same pains and emotions we experience now. Ultimately though, we serve a God of hope as the Resurrection at Easter reminds us. This life is not the perfection of creation nor the end. We take up this hope and continue to move forward knowing that God is with us, our God of compassion, understanding, hope and salvation.

"Remember that when Jesus died the earth shook & the rocks were torn in pieces, while the sky darkened at noon. God the creator will not always save us from these dark forces, but he will save us in them, being with us in the darkness & promising us, always promising us, that the new creation will one day be complete..." -N.T. Wright

Now we find ourselves worshipping through service. Matthew has been organizing and working with his friends at Best Buy to help in the relief efforts. They get up early work until curfew. They have cleared debris, given out drinks, car chargers and pillow pets; they've grilled out to feed those without food in our area. They have given of themselves as many people in Alabama and across the country have. We have had a flood of volunteers and donations. Please continue to keep them coming and keep Alabama in your prayers. This will be a long road. As our mayor Walt Maddox said this is a sprint and a marathon. A sprint here at the beginning as we search to find survivors and house and meet the needs of those displaced. A marathon as we rebuild our community.
I look forward to helping with the relief efforts this week. This has been my work week and God has assured me that He needs me in Birmingham. My heart still is torn between the patients I love and the city I love. I am blessed now to have my 7 on/7 off schedule because over the next few years and months, I will be able to serve the community for a week at a time.
This Sunday at Mass, Father Holloway brought out the common theme of the church's readings this week, "Be not afraid". As we move forward, we must not be afraid and continue to trust in our God of compassion, understanding, hope and salvation. We must trust in the power of God and continue to lift Alabama up in prayer. We must be the hands and feet of Christ as we volunteer, donate and minister to those in need. We know that by relying on Him we can endure any trial, because we have His power with us. We also take courage that this is not the end. The kingdom of God is being perfected and is coming. Our God is a powerful God indeed.

"For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many." 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

God bless you and Alabama.

Matthew and Jessica

Monday, April 18, 2011

7 off/7 on

Sorry I've gotten behind on my blog updates.

Happenings of my first week off:
-Matthew and I watched Seasons 1 & 2 of Glee and are currently caught up and loving it. We own the albums now and jam out to them in the car.
- We celebrated our first month of marriage with a lovely early dinner at Cheesecake Factory. We just enjoyed our time talking and enjoying good food as well as playing Words with Friends against each other (one of our favorite pastimes). We probably look antisocial on our phones, but we were actually playing a game together.
- We did some exchanging and returns on gifts and I got my new red Kitchenaid mixer! I love it!

- I made some more good progress on thank-you notes. I promise everyone, they are coming! We do appreciate you all so much!
- I baked and cooked quite a bit. I'll put my recipes at the end of the post, so you can choose to view them if you're interested.
- Megan came over and we baked peanut butter cupcakes.

- We also bought a shredder, which doesn't sound exciting but we've wanted it for a long time. It makes a micro-cut for maximum security and ends up looking like confetti. It's fun to see the little shreds it makes. Also it will help us clear the clutter that we're longing to clear by shredding some of the papers we've been needing to shred.
- I got my haircut. I now have my bangs back and we cut off 5 inches. It feels so much more like me. I love it! Once I get a good photo of my hair I will post it.

Happenings of my week on:
-This week was overshadowed by the death of my cousin Joseph. He was in a car accident and will be dearly missed by the whole family. Please be praying for all of us, especially his wife, 8 year old daughter, 1 year old son, parents, and sister. It's hard to believe he's no longer with us. He cared for all of us so much and I know he'll be looking after us in Heaven. I love you Joseph. We miss you.

-It was a good week at work. I am getting more comfortable now that I'm out on my own and the group of ladies that I work with is so wonderful. I am certainly blessed.
-I also came home one night to lovely chocolate chocolate chip pound cake that Matthew had baked for me. Isn't he sweet? I posted two pictures. One so you can see the beautiful cake and one so you can see my lovely new cake stand (thank Bonjour family!) Matthew had also hung a lovely tile from Bronwyn and the Higgins side of the family with our new pot holders! I love it!

-I've also been enjoying to the Kindle Matthew gave me. It has the ability to read my books to me and so I plug it in to the adapter in my car and listen to my books on the way to and from work. I love it! The screen is very easy to read both inside and outside. It looks so much like an actual page. I can relax at home and read or take it out by the pool.

Now I'm back on my week off. We've been having lots of rain lately and so yesterday Matthew and I just pulled our lawn chairs out onto our patio area and just watched the rain. It was lovely!
We're looking forward to Easter with Matthew's side of the family. We take family photos at Easter, so I'll be posting those for you guys. Belated congratulations to Marty & Sherrye Johnson on 30 years of marriage. We love you!

Recipes-I'm typing these the way they appear on AllRecipes. I am including my edits at the bottom, so you can see the changes I made.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork

1 (16 ounce) can cranberry sauce
1/2 cup French salad dressing
1 onion, sliced
1 (3 pound) boneless pork loin roast
1. In a medium bowl, sitr togeth the cranberry sauce, salad dressing, and onion. Place pork in a slow cooker, and cover with the sauce mixture.
2. Cover, and cook on high for 4 hours, or on Low for 8 hours. Pork is done when it the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
*Jess's edits*
I added a spoonful or two of minced garlic as well as salt and pepper. Also, my slow cooker has a probe thermometer that measures the internal temperature, so the slow cooker heats up until the internal temperature of the meat reaches the desired temperature and then the slow cooker switches to warm mode, rather than potentially over cooking. I love this feature. It only took about 2-2 1/2 hours on high for me this way. It was very tender and flavorful. We served it with veggies and crescent rolls.

Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp and Basil

1/4 cup olive oil
1 (8 ounce) package angel hair pasta
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 pound large shrimp-peeled and deveined
2 (28 ounce) cans Italian-style diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3 tablespoons chapped fresh basil
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Cook pasta according to package directions including a bit of olive oil to prevent from boiling over, and drain.
2. Heat remaining olive oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic, stirring constantly, until the garlic is tender, about 1 minute. Do not let the garlic burn. Add shrimp, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove shrimp from the skillet and set aside.
3. Stir tomatoes, wine, parsley, and basil into the skillet. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until iquid is reduced by half, 8 to 12 minutes. Add shrimp, and continue cooking until the shrimp are heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve the shrimp mixture over the pasta. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
*Jess's edits*
I actually made a lot of edits to this depending on what I had around. I also got my first lesson in deveining shrimp-not my favorite activity, but it certainly is good to know how to do it. I found tomatoes on sale and with a coupon that were crushed italian tomatoes with basil, so I used these and I suggest it, because the crushed texture naturally forms a sauce. I had parsley flakes rather than fresh parsley, so I used this and thought the basil from the tomatoes would carry. It didn't however and the sauce was basically just tomato at this point, so I searched my pantry and found-oregano, thyme, italian seasoning, garlic powder and more minced garlic. I have no measurements for this because I just started throwing it in and tasting as I went along. I do suggest having basil. It was the only thing I felt was missing, but it did come out great. The shrimp stays quite warm even in the bowl on the side so be careful not to overcook the shrimp. I felt putting in the warm sauce just brought it to the right temperature. I am quite proud actually that I made my own marinara (kind of) and I'm excited to do it again.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes (courtesy Martha Stewart)

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 ounce (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup natural, creamy peanut butter
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add peanut butter. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.
2. Reduce speed to low. Mix any remaining wet ingredients (sour cream and vanilla) in a bowl if needed. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with wet ingredients and ending with dry. Scrape sides of bowl. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.
3. Bake cupcakes until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks. Cupcakes will keep, covered, for up to 3 days, unless otherwise noted.*
4. Once cupcakes are cool, top with peanut butter frosting (see recipe). Place a dollop of jam in center of frosting. *Decorated cupcakes will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 days.
Yields 18 cupcakes.
*Jess's edits*
This recipe came with a recipe for peanut butter frosting as well, that I haven't tried yet. We topped them with either chocolate frosting or jelly (get it peanut butter and jelly?). It was really good. They came out with a great texture. Enjoy everyone.

I also tried a pot roast this week. That did not come out very tender, once I make some changes that work. I will let you know.

Love, Matthew and Jess