Saturday, March 30, 2013

We Spent Good Friday In A Garden

After an unseasonably chilly week for a Florida spring break, the sun shone brightly and gave warmth to Good Friday, so we drove out to the glorious Bok Tower Gardens for the first time.  Our little family immensely enjoyed the fresh air, bright sunshine, and stunning views.

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.

In The Garden, Hymn from 1912

It's quite a walk up the path to the top, but an invigorating one.  We stopped and looked and explored and suddenly there it was in all its glory, this cathedral like tower to the sky in the midst of nature's splendor.

We made it just in time for the carillon to ring out its three o'clock concert, and played a fun game of frisbee as the bells serenaded us.

It was an exquisite afternoon.  On the way out Madi commented that Jesus gave us a beautiful day on His special day.  I had to agree, and in my heart marveled once again that the special day she spoke of was the day Jesus gave His life for us, took the sins of the world upon Him.  The day love made the ultimate sacrifice.  It was in a garden that Jesus asked God to take the cup of suffering from Him, yet surrendered to the will of His Father.  And it was in a garden that He was betrayed and arrested, taken away to the cross where He took my place and yours.

So I suppose it was fitting that we spent Good Friday in a garden.  Though we spent it in freedom, in laughter, in celebration.  Because we know the rest of the story.  Death was defeated by love, sin was conquered, the stone rolled away.  Jesus Christ is alive and He has set us free!

Happy Easter!  I pray that you too have in surrender been set free.

Lovingly, Jennifer

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cinnamon Glazed Pecans

I am a huge fan of nuts, pecans being one of my favorite varieties.  When we were driving home from our recent trip to Maryland, we stopped in North Carolina and were able to meet up with an older couple very dear to our hearts.  We had the best time catching up over lunch at Cracker Barrel, and I had the good fortune of being sent home with two bags of pecans they had shelled themselves!  

I've been snacking on them, and the other night I had a hankering for cinnamon glazed pecans, one of my very favorite treats to get when visiting Disney's Animal Kingdom.  I looked up some recipes and ended up using this one.  No joke, they tasted exactly like the ones I get at Animal Kingdom!  Not to mention the house smelled amazing.

Cinnamon Glazed Pecans

Preheat oven to 350.  

Melt 1 stick of butter and pour on aluminum foil lined baking sheet.

In large bowl mix 3 egg whites, 1 cup sugar, and 1 tsp cinnamon.

Add 4 cups pecans and toss until full coated.

Spread pecans on baking sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Enjoy!  They taste unbelievable when warm!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Roses In Our Room, Good Morning Daffodils, And Other Snapshots Of Travel And People We Love

Quite a few months ago, Jimmy told me he really wanted to take a trip to Maryland this winter to go snowboarding and see faraway friends, both of which he misses greatly.  I said that sounded great and encouraged him to go.  As we got into winter and realized it would soon be spring, he started talking more about this trip and how he would love if I could go with him.  I wasn't sure if it would be possible, as there are a lot of details that have to fall into place for me to leave town.  Our first plan that we thought might work out was to hit the road on Valentine's Day and drive up for a long weekend. Things looked good and we were getting very excited - then we found out our friend who Jimmy wanted to go snowboarding with would be in Nicaragua on a missions trip during that time.

We examined the calendar once more and found the only other possible weekend. Thankfully and surprisingly, everything fell into place and we were able to getaway together, just the two of us, to go back "home" for a whirlwind road trip.  God's timing turned out to be absolutely perfect.  It was an incredibly blessed trip.

One of the great blessings was being welcomed beautifully and lovingly.  We stayed first with our good friends Jim and Ginna, who truly have the gift of hospitality. We were greeted with roses in our bedroom, a kind note and some thoughtful gifts, and most of all warmth and love.

It was great to be back in my home state, a state I will always love, and the company of longtime friends.

We enjoyed time in Annapolis, one of our very favorite spots on earth, including lunch with Jim and Ginna and a cozy coffee shop date just the two of us.

That evening we got a table for twenty at Red Robin and were surrounded by old friends and good food, then headed to our friends Joey and Stephanie's house to play cards with some couples.  These couples spent countless nights around our kitchen table playing games when they were in college and our children were babies.  Now it was their babies asleep in the other room and their table we laughed around until our sides hurt.

The next morning God sent me flowers, or so it seemed to me.  I was the first one downstairs and was greeted by this sight...

Daffodils have been my favorite flower for many, many years.  In college I would look forward to trips home in the spring because my drive down the country roads from Virginia to Maryland would be decorated with rows and rows of yellow daffodils.  Every year Jimmy would bring me bouquets of daffodils during their short season of life.  But you don't see rows of daffodils in Florida.  I think of them every spring.  My friend Donna who lives in Lynchburg even lets me know every year when the daffodils are in full bloom and decorating the roadside.  So when I woke up and was greeted by a beautifully set breakfast table and a fresh bouquet of my favorite flower,  I couldn't help but thank God for His extravagant love, even in the details.

After a leisurely homemade breakfast and laughter over coffee refills, we headed to DC on a gorgeous Saturday.  Our first stop was Georgetown so I could finally visit the famous Georgetown Cupcake!  That was a definite treat!

Then we enjoyed as much of DC's rich history and as many beautiful monuments as we could fit in a few hours.

We ate dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill, a favorite DC restaurant of ours.  We hold a few very special memories at this historic restaurant, and had the most beautiful table for eight by the front window.

DC is such a magnificent city at night.  We said goodbye to dear friends in the glow of the nation's capital, then headed west to stay with our friends Dave and Allyson.

Allyson and I have literally been friends since I was around four years old and got marbles stuck in the sink of her play kitchen.  We have been friends through the changing seasons of life and ministry, and served as staff wives together for a few years.  We have many dear memories with her and Dave and their family. Several years ago they even came down to Florida and the four of us went on a cruise!  I hold the fondest of memories from that trip. It was a joy to spend quality time with them again.  I can't adequately put into words the encouragement we find in our friendships with other pastor's families.  It's a unique bond and source of refreshment and nourishment.

We worshiped together, talked and talked and talked some more, ate Mexican food, made a late night donut run in our sweatpants, and hung around the house with their family.

Then the boys headed to the mountain while the girls headed to the outlet mall.

I even ended our visit in their sweet home napping by the fireplace with their dog Daisy while Allyson made dinner for everyone.  Talk about a rare treat!

We said more goodbyes then made the sixteen hour trip home.  Both the drive there and back were filled with rich conversation and sweet time with Jimmy.  I was reminded once more how he is my very best friend and confidant.  An added treat was that we got to eat lunch with dear friends in North Carolina on our way back.  And actually, our time with old friends continued after we returned home.  Joey and Steph, whose home we had visited briefly, were in town for a vacation and they spent Friday night with our family.  I am so thankful we have been a part of each others journeys in life and ministry. That is a gift!

Then my dear friend Laurie came into town!!  I got to spend the day with her and my friend Nanette at the breathtaking Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot, just walking and talking and taking in beauty.

Then Jimmy's dad and family came into town for spring break, and we have been enjoying visiting and making memories with them the past several days.

We even got to enjoy a Disney Easter parade and lunch at the new Be Our Guest restaurant for the first time thanks to their generosity!

Now here I sit, realizing once more as I look at these photos and reflect on these recent visits and memories that God is so gracious and generous.  He is a God of relationships and beauty and detail.

We are blessed.

We are thankful.