Thought I Should Post An Update!

I think I may be past due updating this blog, ha!  So much is/has been going on, and I quite frankly put the blog at the bottom of the to-do list.

First, we are no longer at seminary.  Financial issues, dissatisfaction/concern over the way the seminary is handling certain issues, and frankly losing confidence we are where we are supposed to be have led in this decision.  We are still in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex area, and intend to be for another year.

First, we have reached the point where we are unable to pay tuition costs due to a lot of medical and other bills that have been steadily piling on over the last several months.  Guy has not received any kind of scholarship or other supplemental aid to pay for tuition costs while we have been down here, and trying to come up with approximately $2500 per semester for tuition and books has become impossible.

We are also fully recognizing that trying to depend on Jessi to bring in enough supplemental income is not the most stable thing to do, due to health issues, but also that she doesn’t have enough marketable job skills to make much more than minimum wage.  To that end, Jessi has returned to school, studying at Le Cordon Bleu in north Dallas.  She is working on her Associate’s degree in Patisserie and Baking, and is making good grades – and good food!  We were dismayed to hear that the school will be closing, but she will have the ability to complete her degree before this occurs.

Our hope is that, after Jessi graduates, we can move to North Carolina for Guy to resume and finish seminary at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC.  We had considered SEBTS before choosing SWBTS in Texas, but we were fed a lot of old/false information and based our move on that.  It is a choice we deeply regret.

Our other big problem at the moment is again Jessi’s health.  Two months ago she started having numerous symptoms that are leading us to push for medical testing for multiple sclerosis.  She had similar symptoms that lasted several months 5 years ago, was tested for MS then, but they couldn’t diagnose it at that time.  Due to all the medical debt we owe from her gallbladder surgery last year, we cannot pursue this through regular insurance, and are instead at the mercy of the local VA system.

We are in a very dark valley right now.  We covet prayers and any support we can receive right now.  Being far from family and home is very tough, and we feel very alone in this fight, this limbo land we are in.

Anyway, that is our update.

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Prayer Request

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

We have had a very hard 2 months. I (Jessi) has been sick since the beginning of April. What started out as a cold/flu/virus turned into constant abdominal pain. I have had an ER visit and an Urgent Care visit due to pain, have seen 2 OB/Gyns, got established with a primary care doc, saw a gastroenterologist, have had lots of labwork/abdominal ultrasounds/upper and lower GI scopes, and now have been to a surgeon. The diagnosis that took 2 months to determine is that I have a gallstone and my gallbladder needs to be removed. I am scheduled for surgery this Thursday (6/25) for that to be done as outpatient surgery.
I (Jessi) have been off work since mid-April, due to the necessity of narcotics to control the pain. Since I work in security, my supervisors don’t feel comfortable with me being on narcotics while on duty, so I have been on medical leave this whole time – unpaid. Medical bills are coming in, and we’re facing some hefty bills due to crazy insurance and large deductibles. We still have an ER bill to pay on from Guy’s ER visit last year, and a billing issue with the dentist from 2013.
We are facing a need to not do classes for Guy this fall semester. We don’t have the money to pay for his tuition with the mountain of medical debt now before us. Guy is starting to look into the possibility of either a new job or a second job. I should be returning to work within a couple weeks, barring any further complications after my surgery. I am starting to wonder if finding different work would be a good idea as well, as my campus job doesn’t pay well.
With not attending classes in the fall, we are also faced with the possibility of needing to find somewhere else to live. We could stay where we are for 1 semester without attending classes, but they generally increase the rent during that time. If we were unable to send Guy back in the Spring, however, we would be booted from housing. This is something we’ve been considering anyway (moving), but now it is becoming a huge concern, due to coming up with a deposit and prepaying rent, etc. plus moving costs.

This is our latest update, and we are hoping to be able to soon share how God is working everything out according to His plan. But prayer is what gets us through!

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In the Kitchen – Smoked Sausage, Butternut Squash and Wild Rice Soup

When I bought wild rice for the first soup, I could find it most economically in a large bag – way too much for just one recipe!  Then I stumbled across this recipe (thank you, Pinterest!).  Smoked sausage, butternut squash, wild rice… quintessential late autumn/winter foods.

SMOKED SAUSAGE, BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND WILD RICE SOUP

Courtesy Emeril Lagasse and the Cooking Channel

Serves 10

1 medium butternut squash, about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

12 cups chicken stock

2 1/2 cups chopped onions

1 cup wild rice

3/4 pound smoked sausage, such as kielbasa, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

2 cups fresh corn kernels

1 1/2 cups half and half

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 400*F.  Season the squash with 1 Tablespoon of the oil, salt and pepper.  Place on a baking sheet and roast for 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.  Peel and seed the squash.  In a blender, puree the squash with 2 cups of the chicken stock.  Puree until smooth and set aside.  In a saucepan, over medium heat, bring 4 cups of the stock and 1/2 cup of the chopped onions to a simmer.  Stir in the rice and cook until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally with a fork.  Remove the rice from the pan and cool.  In a large saucepan, over medium heat, add the remaining tablespoon of oil.  When the oil is hot, add the sausage and brown for 3 minutes.  Add the remaining 2 cups onions and corn.  Season with salt and pepper.  Saute for 3 minutes.  Add the remaining 6 cups of stock and squash puree.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Skim off any fat that rises to the surface.  Stir in the rice and continue to cook for 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat, stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the parsley and serve.

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On the Road Again

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!”  For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.  A thousand may fall at your side
and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you.  You will only look on with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.  For you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place.  No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent. For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.  They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.  You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down. “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.  “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.  “With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation.” Psalm 91

As I write this, we are preparing to leave for a trip to Pennsylvania.  Guy has signed up for Revive This Nation for a second year, and we have been assigned to preach at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Elizabethtown, PA.  It is a congregation of around 40 members, mostly middle age and older people.  This church does not have any young families, kids, or youth.  Guy will be preaching a series of 5 sermons, from Sunday morning and evening through Wednesday evening.  He has chosen the theme of “If My People.”

We will be leaving for PA Friday morning, March 6, and arriving back in Ft. Worth on Saturday evening, March 14.  The trip is supposed to take 21 driving hours, so we are breaking it down into 2 days’ travel each way.

We are looking forward to the trip.  It is located in a very historical and picturesque area of the state.  We will be within easy driving distance to places such as Gettysburg, Hershey, and Lancaster.  We have planned an extra day in our trip just to sight-see!  We hope to tour the Hershey plant and poke in lots of shops in Amish country.

Classes seem to be going pretty well for Guy, but he’s really feeling the stress and pressure of taking 3 classes this semester.  I’m hoping that, with Revive This Nation almost done, he will be able to take a little breather and then have a better handle on his studies.  He has a midterm that he must get done by the 9th, and then he’s looking at a project for his Teen ministry class and a large paper for Hermeneutics.

Jessi is staying busy with her work, and is working on learning the music for her Opera Workshop class.  She is still busy sewing together a quilt top, but hopes to have it finished up soon.

Jessi is still planning to go to Romania in July.  I have 20% of the cost of the trip raised so far.  I will be re-posting my shingle of “Baker For Hire” here locally and on Facebook when we get back from PA.

Also, thank you for continued prayers for mom with her surgery in January.  She is in rehab at The Maples in Springfield, and seems to be doing quite well.  We had a small scare last week, when we thought that she had developed an infection and would require surgery to take care of it.  Fortunately, there’s no infection, just a stopped up drainage tube that was cleared out and will hopefully be removed tomorrow.  She will hopefully be going home sometime next week.

Prayer Requests:
*  Safe travel.  We are taking one of our cars, will be on the road a total of 4 days, staying at 2 hotels and a house.
*  Revival services.  Pray that hearts and minds will be open to the working of the Holy Spirit.
*  Relaxation and rest.  Things have been rather stressful of late, and we are hoping that this trip will also work as a much-needed vacation for us.
*  Mom as she recovers.
*  Continued support and funding for missions.
*  Continued prayer for our infertility struggle.  We had some testing done, but have been asked to repeat one test in 3 weeks.  We will then hopefully be able to start medications.

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We’ll Be Home For Christmas…

You can count on us!  We don’t need snow, or mistletoe, although presents under the tree are always appreciated!

We have been working diligently over the weekend: shopping, wrapping, cleaning, packing, and getting ready for a week at home for the holidays!  We leave tomorrow evening, and will be reaching Springfield early Wednesday afternoon.  See?  We are ready!

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Let me share with you some of what we’ve been up to this past month.  It’ll give you something to read while we travel.

Thanksgiving came and went.  We were invited over to share Thanksgiving with another seminary family.  He’s retired Army, and they have two young kids.  We had a great time eating and getting to know them better.

We had a booth at the 1st Annual SWBTS Craft Bazaar.  Jessi spent 2 weeks making, making, making!  I made five different flavors of popcorn and three different kinds of nuts.  The turnout wasn’t quite what we or any of the other vendors had hoped for, but I still sold about $110 worth of food.  All the money has gone towards my mission fund.

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We survived the fall semester!  Both of us are now out of class until late January, and we are so enjoying time to work on projects and read whatever we want!  Guy made A’s in both his classes, and Jessi made 3 A’s and one B.  We are so appreciative of your thoughts and prayers during the semester.  When the homework really bogs down and we feel we can’t cram one more fact into our noggins, we know that your prayers help sustain us.

Guy is working hard as usual at his job, trying to get everything done before we leave to come home.  He’s enjoying reading books for fun, and has pulled out his fly-tying materials.  He’s planning to do some hiking and fishing while home, so  that’s keeping him motivated, I think.

Guy is now a Sunday School teacher!  He was asked to substitute for 5th grade boys for one Sunday in November.  While teaching, he was then asked if he’d be willing to teach all month… then the day or so after asked if he wanted to teach full-time!  He is now teaching a class of about 10 boys each week.  I can see where this is really stretching him and hopefully helping him see where God may be directing him in his vocation.

We also had a small scare with Guy the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  We had gone to the store because we needed charcoal and ingredients for making the brine for the turkey (he smoked it – it was so good!).  As we were putting groceries into the car, he inadvertently slammed the door on his finger hard enough that the door latched.  We wound up with an unexpected ER visit.  Thankfully, he didn’t break the finger, but he’s still dealing with some stiffness, pain, altered sensation, and bruising to the joint.

Jessi is almost through the training stages of her new job as a dispatcher for campus security.  I have my final training day tomorrow (12/23), and should be cleared to work solo after that.  I will go to commissioning school in January.

Jessi has raised $409 so far towards the trip to Romania, July 18-25.  The total cost is projected at $2200, so that means I am 18.6% there.  I’ve been acting as a “Baker-for-Hire”, baking various things for people in return for money towards the trip.  So far, I’ve had the proceeds from the craft bazaar, a coconut cream pie, a pineapple upside-down cake, a Bulgarian Christmas bread, and 10 apple pies for a wedding.  I plan to advertise my services more aggressively once I get back home from our visit to Missouri.  Here’s some pics of all of those pies!

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We are attempting again to work with a doctor to see about the possibility of us having children.  We have had only one appointment so far, and need to get some testing done, but the doctor seems hopeful that we can get pregnant.

Prayer Requests:

*  Safe travels to and from Missouri

*  Funds for Romania trip

*  Some decisions regarding studies for both Guy and Jessi

*  Infertility workup and treatment; sanity and peace during the process

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In the Kitchen – Smoked Salmon Chowder

Guy loves smoked salmon on his bagel, whether it be a piece of the fish or a cream cheese spread.  So when I saw this soup, I immediately thought of him.  Now, I will admit, the cost of 12-16 ounces of salmon is kinda expensive… but I need to spoil him occasionally (plus it’s payday week!).

SMOKED SALMON CHOWDER

Courtesy Pinch of Yum

Serves 6

3-4 Tablespoons butter

1 onion, chopped (about 2 cups)

5 carrots, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)

3 celery stalks, sliced into small pieces (about 2 cups)

1/2 cup white wine

6-7 new potatoes, washed and diced

1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)

2 cups milk

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup cream

12-16 ounces smoked salmon

1.  Heat the butter in a large pan over medium high heat.  Add the onion, carrots, and celery.  Saute until fragrant and soft.  Add the white wine to deglaze the pan and get all those yummy browned bits up in the mix.

2.  Add the potatoes, thyme, and 2 cups of the broth.  Simmer until the potatoes are fork tender.  Whisk the flour into the milk and add to the pan (this helps it thicken up a little bit – more flour=more thickening).  Add 1 cup of broth and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the soup starts thickening just slightly.

3.  Add the cream and smoked salmon just before serving.  If you let the salmon simmer with the soup for too long, it will get mushy.  Taste, adjust, and add the last cup of broth to thin out the consistency of the soup as desired.  Season with salt and pepper.

 

Yummy!  I made this today (Monday), and it took less than 2 hours to prepare, even with a near-wrestling match with the carrots…  I must admit I was a little worried about the taste of this soup, because I personally find smoked salmon to be a little strong for my taste.  However, the milk and cream and veggies add a wonderful counter-balance to the salmon, so that the smoked flavor isn’t overpowering.  This would be a wonderful soup for the holidays or for when you’re having company for dinner and really want to impress them!

 

Also, I’m toying with the idea of creating a cookbook!  Any suggestions for recipes would be appreciated.  If I haven’t tested and liked the recipe, however, it’s not going to be included!  This will be my Winter Break project between semesters.

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In the Kitchen – Miso Wonton Soup

It’s time for installment #3!  We are almost out of this soup.  Guy and I love going to the Japanese Hibachi restaurants – the ones where they have the huge flat top cooking surface and cook your dinner in front of you.  I have always been a fan of the soup they serve before the meal, and for the longest time didn’t know what it was called or how it was made.

Well, now I know!  It’s called miso soup, and miso is a fermented soy paste used in Asian cooking.  The most difficult item for me to find, ironically, was the miso paste!  I have yet to find an Asian market down here, although I know there’s probably several I haven’t located yet, lol.  I found the paste at the Whole Foods in Colleyville, TX, and then located it again at Central Market closer to home.  One bag of the paste gives 20-1 Tablespoon servings, so this will stretch for several makings of this soup, which will be great for those nights I make Asian and want something to go with it.

MISO WONTON SOUP

Courtesy The View From Great Island

Serves 4

28 ounces (about 3 1/2 cups) chicken broth

2 cups water

Approximately 16-20 mini wontons (I found a package of chicken mini wontons at Trader Joes)

2 Tablespoons miso paste

1 baby bok choy, thinly sliced

6 scallions, thinly sliced, white and some of the green parts, too

1 carrot, sliced paper thin

1.  Heat the broth and water to a simmer in a saucepan.  Add the wontons and simmer gently until they are heated through.  This will just take a few minutes.

2.  Add the miso to the soup and stir until dissolved.  Add the veggies and bring the soup back to a simmer.

3.  Serve hot.

This is a terrific quick-to-make soup.  I added a few mushrooms sliced super-thin, since I like those in my miso soup from the restaurant.

Also, here’s a terrific tip for slicing the carrot.  The original recipe says to use the 1/8 inch setting on a mandoline slicer to slice the carrots… I don’t own a mandoline, so that was out, and I wasn’t the craziest about having to carefully slice this carrot with my knife.  It was then that I started thinking about my potato peeler.  Yes, the same one that I used to peel that carrot.  I washed it off, and then started “peeling” super-thin slices off that carrot.  It worked great, and I got the same results that I would have if I’d had a mandoline.

Enjoy!

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In the Kitchen – Lasagna Cheese Soup

Welcome to installment #2 of the soup journey!  (And yes, I know that I’m posting recipes 1-3 at the same time – we started eating soup 3 weeks ago!)

If you love lasagna, but have difficulty trying to get the noodles boiled and hate the fuss of doing the layers of sauce, cheese, and pasta, then this soup is for you!  Guy describes this as deconstructed lasagna, and that is a very good descriptor!  Enjoy!

Lasagna Cheese Soup

Courtesy Kitchme.com

1 1/2 lb ground beef

1 onion, chopped

14 oz can chicken broth

14 oz can diced tomatoes

15 oz tomato sauce

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 1/2 cup lasagna noodles, broken

4 oz Italian seasoned croutons (optional)

2 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1.  In large 5 quart saucepan, brown ground beef and onion.  Drain.

2.  Stir in chicken broth, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, brown sugar, salt and black pepper.  Bring to a boil and turn back to simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.

3.  Add broken lasagna noodles and simmer until noodles are tender, approximately 20 minutes more.  Stir in Parmesan cheese.

4.  Ladle soup into bowls and top with croutons.  Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and serve immediately.

No changes needed to this one!  Guy loved it, and that’s all the feedback I need!  Enjoy!

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In the Kitchen – North Woods Wild Rice Soup

Hey, y’all!  The days are getting colder, daylight is getting shorter, and that means only one thing – it’s officially soup season!  Between trying to keep a hot meal available when I’ve got a late rehearsal and plenty of leftovers throughout the week so we aren’t eating out a lot, having soup on hand makes life much easier.

I decided to try a different tactic this year.  Enter the Soup-A-Week plan.  Yep, I’m making one soup per week (along with other meals as well – I promise I’m not starving Guy!) that we can enjoy for dinners and lunches.  I even went so far as to plan out each week’s soup in a spreadsheet.  I have a different soup planned for each week through the end of April – no repeating.  I was also careful to space out the main protein of each recipe – even I get tired of having a variety of chicken soup 3 weeks in a row.

But the best part of this is: you will (hopefully) get a new soup recipe each week, along with notes of my suggestions for tweaks and honest opinion as to taste, lol!  So here goes the first in a long list of soup recipes.  Bon appetite!

SLOW-COOKER NORTH WOODS WILD RICE SOUP

Courtesy Betty Crocker

Serves 6

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)

2 medium stalks celery, diced (1 cup)

2 medium carrots, diced (1 cup)

1 cup diced smoked turkey (6 ounces) – you can get the deli counter to give you REALLY thick slices of deli smoked turkey, and dice it up

1/2 cup uncooked wild rice

1 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated fat-free milk

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup frozen sweet peas, thawed

2 tablespoons dry sherry, if desired

1.  In 10-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Cook onion in oil about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.

2.  Place onion, celery, carrots, turkey, wild rice, tarragon and pepper in 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker.  Pour broth over top.

3.  Cover and cook on low heat setting 6-8 hours or until wild rice and vegetables are tender.  Stir in peas last 15 minutes of cooking.

4.  Mix milk and flour; stir into soup.  Cover and cook about 20 minutes or until thickened.

This soup was really good, and started our soup journey.  Probably the only changes I might make would be to add or substitute some parsley in place of the tarragon.

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New Job!

Jessi just found out she’s got a new job!  I’ve been trying since we moved down here May of 2013 to get a job with Campus Security at Southwestern.  Well, as they say, good things come to those that wait.  I started working on the paperwork for a job as a dispatcher.  It’s a part-time position, and I’ll be working days, 7 am – 3 pm.  I’m not certain of my start date yet, as we’re juggling the paperwork with dispatch and deciding training dates around my last 4 (Four?!) weeks of classes.

I just wanted to share that bit of great news!

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