Category Archives: Photography

My newest love. I’m a girl with a camera, not a photographer yet but I’m learning and loving it!

What’s for Dessert? A Gelato Bar!

It is time to talk dessert.

For the MVMT Dinner, we decided not to have the caterer provide a plated dessert and opted instead to put together something a little more fun.

A Gelato Bar.

I have “talked” your ear off in my last two posts about putting together an Art Deco themed event; The MVMT Dinner. So I am going to keep this one simple. Or at least I’m going to try. Really, I am. I am just going to tell you what I did (briefly – oh that is so hard for me) and let you see for yourself.

First, however, I must apologize for the less than stellar photography. A) I am not a professional photographer – although I do love it and aspire to be better at it. B) The lighting did not help. C) Running around like a, well, person putting on a dinner for 175 people and trying to snap a few pictures here and there at the same time, did not help.

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No, this gelato bar was not served on a cruise ship listing slightly to port. I did warn you.

Since I am starting this post with a disclaimer, I might as well fess up to another oops. I did not actually get a picture of the gelato portion of the G.E.L.A.T.O. bar.

I know. I set the topping portion of the bar up ahead of time and draped everything in black plastic table cloths. The gelato pans were placed in tubs of ice (black plastic dish tubs that fit two pans perfectly and actually looked great) but they were not brought in and “snuck” discretely under the tablecloth until after dinner had started. The gelato bar was not “unveiled” until dinner was finishing up and I didn’t want to be taking pictures of the gelato as guests were waiting to dish up. Okay, that isn’t entirely true, I WANTED to but just didn’t think it was in very good taste.

MVMT Dinner Gelato Bar InspirationAnyway, picture something like this – without the artful presentation on top (but I did have flavor cards). I love the artful presentation but the gelato looked pretty amazing on it’s own and I wanted it to be easy to serve from both sides of the table in order for the line to go faster. Okay, that really isn’t a good reason. I should have taken the time to put a little bit of artful presentation on top of the gelato.

Mental note made for next time. Spumoni? How does one decorate spumoni? Anyone?

The gorgeous inspiration photo above is from photographer Adrienne Gunde.

The gelato bar had nine different un-artfully decorated yet incredibly delicious flavors to choose from …

  • Triple Dark Chocolate (I suspended the “no sugar” rule for the evening and had this one)
  • Old World Vanilla
  • Sea Salt Caramel (and this one)
  • Cappuccino Hazelnut
  • Italian Pistachio (and a little bit of this one – it was just so hard to choose)
  •  Spumoni
  • Mango Sorbetto
  • Mandarin Orange Vanilla
  • White Chocolate Raspberry

I ordered the Gelato from Nick’s Gelato. The company is based in Phoenix but they ship all over the place. They were very easy to work with, even setting it up for me to drive downtown to the cold storage facility myself to save shipping and delivery costs. Budget. And most importantly, the gelato was delicious. I am a very happy Nick’s Gelato customer!

And then there were the Toppings …

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So, just in case you can’t read the crazy blurry picture above, let me tell you a bit about the toppings.

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There were caramel bits, gummy bears and peanut butter cup mini’s – boy are those dangerous – “I could never eat a WHOLE peanut butter cup but what harm could 25 minis do?” They’re small.

There were also Andes Mints pieces, Toffee bits, M & M’s, mini-chocolate chips, chopped hazelnuts, wafer cookies and Pirouette cookies.

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And of course, rainbow sprinkles. Rainbow sprinkles are a must.

I added a bit of Art Deco patterned ribbon around this cute bowl from the dollar store and then attached a pretty embellishment that I printed out on cardstock. Why? Because I had to find something to do with that perfect ribbon. I do love ribbon. Someday I might just tell you about my ribbon drawers, yes drawerS as in more than one. Remember Monica – from “Friends”? She only had ONE ribbon drawer. Actually, maybe I shouldn’t tell you about the ribbon drawers. Forget I mentioned it. Let us never speak of it again.

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The fluted bowls also came from the dollar store. To give a little dimension to the table, I grabbed small candle sticks (also from the dollar store) and super glued them to four of the bowls.

Scoops

I found these great little topping scoops at Michael’s in the wedding section.

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I framed the table with a tall floral arrangement at the beginning of the toppings bar and a three-tiered silver tray filled with the wafer cookies at the other end.

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I purchased all of the toppings, every single one of them, at Wal-Mart.

Gelato. Toppings. What am I forgetting?

Oh, yeah – I got a little ahead of myself there. Before the gelato, before the toppings, the classic question “cone or bowl” had to be answered.

But don’t answer too quickly because these cones were dipped in chocolate …

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Cone or bowl?

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I dipped the “business end” of sugar cones in melted chocolate, some milk chocolate and some white chocolate, and then placed them on sheet trays lined with parchment paper to set. To serve them I bought a decorative cardboard 3-tiered stand and stacked them up.

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I also got to use my ribbon and hot glue gun again to attach a little bit of embellishment to the glass hurricanes I put spoons in.

Art-Deco-DetailingJust a bit more Art Deco flair!

So, there it is a fun and really easy to do Gelato Bar for an event big or small. It was such a hit that I am going to do an ice cream bar for Nathan’s upcoming birthday party and also tomorrow night for our first Cub Scout meeting. And yes, I will probably do the dipped cones again. I really love those little guys and am happy to spoil them a bit.

Ugg … “word count” over a thousand, my queue to wrap things up. So much for brevity.

But before I go, I just have to ask one question – Cone or Bowl?

Or Waffle Cone Bowl?

You didn’t see that one coming, did you?

 

 

 

Sharing Spring in the Sonoran Desert

Yesterday, we did our best the celebrate Cinco de Mayo or as my sweet friend who made a pinata out of a paper gift bag and hung it over her railing for her kids tagged it, #gringodemayo. She is one of the funniest people I know.

Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to make the blackberry margaritas I mentioned on Friday. Between it being a late evening for my husband on his National Guard “drill weekend” and an afternoon Cub Scout leaders meeting for me, it just didn’t happen. So we made do with chips and store-bought salsa, a glass of red wine and quick and easy soft tacos on whole wheat tortillas. #gringodemayo

Maybe next weekend I’ll get a Mother’s Day Blackberry Margarita?!

While it was a busy weekend, it was a beautiful spring weekend, moderate and breezy and so enjoyable. We are just on the verge of the summer heat and many of the spring blooms are beginning to fade. So, I think it is about time I share with you a little of the beauty of the Sonoran Desert as it comes to life with color each spring.

My camera and growing interest in photography have given me a new appreciation for just how fantastic this unique landscape is and how blessed I am to get to enjoy it everyday. If you think the desert is brown and desolate, take a look, you might just change your mind …

Ocotillo-Blossom

Ocotillo

Ocotillo-Blossom-2The Ocotillo is one of my favorite desert plants. I love the architecture of its long thin spines and the beauty of the orange tufts that appear at their tips each spring.

Palo-VerdePalo-Verde-in-Bloom-2Palo-Verde-in-BloomPalo-Verde-in-Bloom-3We are on 2.2 acres and have more Palo Verde trees than I can count. Well, I probably can count them I’ve just never actually had the inclination to do so. What I can tell you is that in the spring, our property is ablaze in the beautiful yellow blossoms that cover these gorgeous trees. Palo Verde means “green stick” which characterizes the deep green trunk and branches of the tree.

Staghorn-Cholla-Blossom-2Staghorn-Cholla-BlossomThe Staghorn Cholla produces some of the most beautiful blooms in the desert. I think they  look a bit like wild roses. I love the contrast of something so lovely and delicate coming from a plant that is so harsh and hostile.

Teddy-Bear-ChollaHostile? Very. Cholla are pretty vicious plants, particularly Teddy Bear Cholla like this one. An ironic name as this is not a cute and cuddly plant. The thousands of barbed spines give it an almost “fuzzy” appearance, hence the name “Teddy Bear” Cholla. They are also called “Jumping” Cholla as sections of the plant almost seem to jump at you as they get drier and lighter in order to be picked up in the wind and seed. They are beautiful but they are not a plant to be tangled with. Literally. Those spines are painful and we’ve had a few run-ins prompting us to remove many of them from the property. This one sits right over the eastern wall of the backyard where it doesn’t cause any trouble.

Prickly-Pear-in-BloomPrickly-Pear-in-Bloom-2Another cactus that we have in abundance is the Prickly Pear.

There are many varieties with different colors of blooms and pads. Soon the blossoms will be replaced with an edible Prickly Pear Fruit. I haven’t used the fruit yet but maybe this year, you’ll see a few “Prickly Pear” recipes here at Welcome Company. Sonoran-Desert-LandscapeWe have a little garden of this particular variety with its delicate yellow blossoms (which I think is the New Mexico prickly pear), right outside the front door.

Agave-1We trim and manage our own landscape which means several trips to the dump each year where they recycle the yard wast into mulch. On one of our dump runs, I rescued about 15 of these little aloe plants that had been thinned out and discarded (probably by the same landscapers that hurriedly mow down with hedge trimmers prune all of the neighborhood and commercial landscaping into unnatural geometric shapes leaving it looking like a horrible martian landscape – I’ll do my landscaping myself thank you). I guess bringing something home from the dump technically makes me a “picker” but I couldn’t just leave them there. They have recovered well and look great!JasmineOne of my favorite things about spring is the Jasmine that grows right outside the living room windows. Jasmine-2After dinner when we are sitting down watching some TV or reading, the heavenly scent of the jasmine blossoms floats in through the open windows and perfumes the evening.

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Red-YuccaThe blossoms of the Red Yucca are long-lasting and attract humming birds which we love to sit and watch from the back porch.

Yucca

But the delicate white bell-shaped blossoms of the Blue Yucca are short-lived. I wish they lasted longer but I look forward to their return each spring.

In fact, most of the blossoms I’ve shared with you don’t last much beyond the spring. Which is part of what makes spring so special.

Luckily, we are blessed to have many plants in our desert landscape that provide us with beautiful color throughout the year.

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When we moved out here nearly three years ago, the back yard was a wasteland and the landscape neglected and out of control. We have worked hard and it has been one of my greatest joys to care for it and watch it come to life.

I’ll share a little more of that journey with you this week.

One last thing …

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A few days ago, I was sitting at my desk working on a post and looked up, spotting this guy through the french door window. I raced for my camera, switched the lens and somehow managed to get these two shots of him. When I saw him through the door, I thought he was a hawk but he turned out to be a huge Turkey Vulture.

Pretty Incredible place we live in.

The Saguaros are just starting to sprout the beautifully unique flowers that will soon crown the tops of their bodies and arms. I can hardly wait to share those photos with you.

And keep checking in because one of these days I’ll get that hawk picture I’m after!

No More Bird Watching in my Pajamas!

My sweet husband, apparently unimpressed with my Ninja skills and tired of my less than socially acceptable early morning wild life photography in my PJs, called me in from the backyard this morning to have the kids give me my Mother’s Day present early.

A new 55-300mm lens for my camera. How did they know? You’d think I’d been talking about this lens for months. They know me so well, it was just what I wanted.

You see you have to get VERY close to your subject to get a great picture with an 18-55mm lens. Which is fine when your subject is a cake but when it is a quail, well that’s when Ninja stealth is required.

Giddy, I popped that lens on and raced out the back door; still in my PJs. Here’s what I got …

Quail

I love quail and we have them everywhere!

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This may be an indication that we are getting old but we love to sit on the back porch and watch the birds as they come to the feeder hanging from the Palo Verde Tree in the center of our back yard. We each have our own chair. Side by side. We always sit in the same spot. We are old.

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Pretty soon we will have bird watching books and I will be able to tell you every species of bird that comes to visit.

So very old.

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I can tell you that these visitors are Peach Faced Lovebirds and a Mourning Dove who have landed to enjoy breakfast at the just filled feeder (it will be wiped out in only a couple of hours). There is something in the mixture that the Lovebirds are partial to, you should see the seed fly as those sassy birds fling it out in search of their favorite snack. We joke that they are picking out the cashews – mixed-nut reference, no body wants the Spanish peanuts. I know you know what I’m talking about.

We make bird jokes and laugh at our “cleverness”. We are old.

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Luckily, there is quite a cast of characters gathered below just waiting to clean up the mess.

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I have to tell you about these little guys. I have no idea what they are other than absolutely adorable; remember, I don’t yet have a bird book.  They are still babies but are old enough to fly and are starting to forage for themselves yet are still little enough that they make quite a fuss for their mom’s attention, fluffing up their feathers, flapping their wings and sqwaking for a nibble. Watching their antics is so much fun; could it be because their demands are somehow so very familiar.

Old people use the term “antics” when referring to the actions of the young.

Morning-Doves

This one is my favorite. Mourning Doves, perched just outside the back gate, waiting patiently for me to move away from the bird feeder. Incidentally, I have always thought they were “Morning” Doves until a google search just revealed that they are in fact “Mourning” Doves; boy do I need to get that bird book. I find that somewhat depressing and much prefer “Morning” Doves.

Cottontail-Rabbit

Ooooh, and there was a bunny too!

So for now, I will no longer need to build the “blind” I had planned or sneak around in my jammies and slippers disturbing the wildlife.

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These two pictures were shot a few weeks ago with my smaller lens. I was crouching down taking a picture of a hibiscus blossom when this little guy came in right next to me to get a drink.

I simultaneously heard him and saw him out of the corner of my eye.

He didn’t even know I was there.

Ninja.

Pretty good for an old lady.

Disclaimer: This post was in no way intended to offend the aged. I have three young exhausting children. I am tired. Don’t judge.

How to Make a Bran Muffin Look Pretty

Grandma Ibby’s Bran Muffins are not pretty. They are delicious but they are not photogenic. Not at all. They are also not overly exciting as far as culinary creations go. In fact, I saw many a similar recipe in the church/fundraising cookbooks I have been combing through lately and am pretty sure they were another 1960’s-70’s homecook’s staple.

So, now that you are intrigued and can hardly wait to make them, I will tell you that while they may not be pretty or exciting, they are delicious. D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S. My mom made them for us often and usually served them with a light, crisp Waldorf salad – I will most certainly have to tell you about that soon. And that Waldorf salad/bran muffin combo is by far one of my absolute favorite childhood meal memories.

So while I am excited to tell you about these muffins I do have to say, they were a challenge to photograph. Who says hummus and oatmeal are the hardest? I’m telling you, its bran muffins. I actually considered trying to artfully arrange some of the bran cereal with the other ingredients but a shot of flour, one egg, baking soda and a pile of shredded bran is about as exciting as the wall in the doctor’s office after 45 minutes of waiting; just staring at the mint green wall.

Making these bran muffins look pretty was important to me. Add that to the long list of comments that in my career driven 20’s I could never have imagined myself making. Get off of your brother’s head. Why are you standing on the table? No, NO Legos in the toilet. Don’t bite your toenails. You get the idea. Sorry, that last one might have been a little gross for a food post; unless you have boys, then you get me and are no longer grossed out by much.

You see, I have really been working on my photography skills, particularly my food photography skills, and my knowledge of the Nikon D3100 that is just begging me to use it to its full potential.  So, I am reading, studying and learning all there is to know about how to photograph food. Not because I want to be a professional photographer or because I’m obsessive or because I think everything needs to look perfect but because it is fun! Okay, so it is also because I like it when things look sort of perfect. Okay, and I’m a little bit obsessive. Do you think they make a bumper sticker that says “I ♥ Depth of Field?” No?

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All-Bran Muffins

Ingredients

  • 3 cups 100% Shredded All-Bran
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Butter and flour or spray with baking spray, 2 muffin trays.

Mix together 1 cup of the All-Bran and 1 cup boiling water and set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Add in the egg and mix to incorporate. Add the buttermilk and wet All-Bran mixture, mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt and then mix the dry ingredients into the wet. Fold in the remaining 2 cups dry All-Bran.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Yield: 24 muffins.

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So, I am still a novice photographer and have a long way to go but I’m sure having a good time. I am absolutely inspired by so many of the photographs of my fellow bloggers; food, nature, architecture, landscape, you name it, you guys are amazing. Photography is such a true individual expression and I love that when I sit down to go through my reader, I can almost always tell who’s post I am about to read, just by looking at the featured photo.

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I would love it if you would share with me any tips, thoughts or ideas you have for taking great photos. Or even if you’d just like share what you love about taking pictures; whether you consider yourself a photographer or not.

Blackberries

I did my best with the bran muffins. But really, it was the blackberries that stole the show!

Enjoy!

She’s in France Celebrating her Six Month Blog-iversary!

Today is my 6 month Blog-iversary. Do you think the term Blog-iversary will ever make it into the dictionary? Ginormous has if you didn’t know. Anything’s possible.

Six months. Already.

I feel like I have been blogging forever but at the same time I can’t believe six months has passed since I clicked the “publish” button for the very first time. Boy was that an equally thrilling and terrifying mouse click. Anyone?

And yet click I did; despite the uncertainty, doubt and nagging little voice saying “what are you thinking?” Thankfully, I’ve gotten pretty good at discerning the voice of truth and ignoring the other one because as it turns out, Welcome Company is exactly what I needed.

Six months of writing, stretching my limits, finding me again. So much to be thankful for.

Pansy

I told you a while back, in a post titled What is Love, about a book I had started but had been unable to finish.  A book about giving thanks and finding joy in all aspects of life; “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp.  A journey of writing down one thousand things I am thankful for and in the process, learning to pay attention to all of the ways God shows me everyday that He sees me, that I matter to Him as a unique individual creation, “all the ways He whispers, ‘I love you.'”

“He who is grateful for little is given much laughter … an it’s counting the ways He loves, this is what multiplies joy.” – Ann Voskamp

I know I have a lot to be thankful for and I am thankful for a lot. Big stuff. A God who loves and sustains me. My husband. My children. My home. My health. Their health. We have been through some tough stuff (Beauty from Ashes), desperate heartbreak and difficult battles. But we are a season away now and there is so much laughter and joy. So much and yet still, I am so often stressed, tired, irritable, anxious, edgy, self-pitying. In need of escape.

Why? One of the ongoing jokes around here is that whenever a kid is yelling “mommy, mommmmy, mooooommmmmy … where are youuuuu?!!” The answer is quite often “France.”

She’s in France.

About ten years ago, my husband and I went to France and I fell completely, utterly and hopelessly in love. The food, the wine, the landscape, the history, most of the people. You name it. I love it. Vive La France! So, we joke that whenever the stresses of everyday life become too much, I go to France. Closing my eyes and escaping to cook and hike and shop in the open markets, study at the Le Cordon Bleu Paris, drink a good burgundy on a picnic blanket in a lavender field, restore a provincial farmhouse. Free from the mundane, the routine, the demands.

Don’t worry, by escaping I don’t mean that I am actually going to abandon my life and run for the airport. I am really not trying to be dramatic. I love my life. My husband. My kids. I am blessed. But I am also honest. And yes, in the midst of sassy back-talk, pre-teen door slams, housework, laundry, homework battles, endless kid fights over you name it and a mounting list of all that demands my attention, France sounds pretty good sometimes. And besides, my passport is expired.

A mom can get lost. Lose herself in the day to day. In the mundane, the routine, the demands. Before she knows it. Just ask one. Any mom. Ask her. Your heart can be filled with love to bursting. You can know that every sacrifice is worth it. But you can still feel lost.

But what if I didn’t have to escape.

What if I chose to write about all in my life that I have to be thankful for? All that I have to offer. To further explore and expound upon my gifts, my heart, my joy. To create a place that is me. A place to share this unique person God made. To find her again. Not an escape but an outward extension of who I am beyond the blessed role of wife and mommy. I am wife and mommy and I love being her, she is who I was born to be but she is not all that I am.

When I am lost, I am caught up in the stress of the moment, of the day, of the world. I have dropped my focus from the one who offers me peace. The one who reminds me who I am in Him. The one who’s whisper says don’t listen, you have a voice, a story – I have given it to you … click the mouse.

And as I write, and photograph, and create I find so much to be thankful for. There will always be stress but nestled among the challenges and frustrations, I find His blessings just waiting for me to see them. Right in my own backyard. No escape needed.

And I begin to notice. And write them down starting with one, heading to one thousand.

Red-Geraniums-1

1. A bright red geranium.

Orange-Marmalade-1

2. Orange marmalade.

3.Black coffee.

4. Breakfast on the patio.

Gracie

5. My furry child. My son’s best friend.

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Love-Birds

6. Noisy, colorful Peach-faced Love Birds who visit to dine on the seed block.

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7. A broken fountain filled with fresh herbs.

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8. A clutch of quail eggs laid under the lawn mower.

Rock-Trough

9. An old rock water trough on the back of the property just waiting to be filled with flowers.

Peaches

10. Peaches growing, ripening.

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11. The Arizona Sky.

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As the sun rises over the mountains and peeks between the branches of the mesquite.

Arizona-Sky-2And as it sets, lighting the sky ablaze with color.

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The most beautiful sky in the world. Right in my own backyard. No escape needed.

I am so thankful.

In six months, I have published 73 posts, watched my readership grow and been overwhelmed by the encouragement and support I have received and the friendship and connection I have found in the blogging community. I really love you guys. I have been so inspired by your work and look forward to your visits and comments more than you could ever know. You are incredible.

I love this blog and the creative outlet it has given me. I love that I am compiling a story for my kids to look back on and that I am preserving precious family history. I love that I am finding me again and I would write even if it was only my mom who was reading. That being said, I am blessed by all of you – each and every one – who have graciously followed along, who read regularly or even just visit once in a while. I am so thankful for you.

Ginormously thankful.

“As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible. Joy is always possible.” – Ann Voskamp

Pool Season Begins with My Polar Bear in His Underwear

Sunday evening, after all of the Easter festivities had wound down and Sara and David were getting ready for bed, my husband decided to do a bit of quick swimming pool maintenance. Nathan was still playing outside (no school for him the next day) and of course, when he saw his dad inside the pool fence (the most highly coveted back yard destination), he was more than eager to “help” daddy with the pool. “Helping” daddy quickly led to Nathan stripping down to his underwear and leaping unabashed into the water.

Cold water.

Rather than fish him out and warm him up, we decided to let him have a go, be a kid.

To him, it was a 110 degree summer day. Lip quivering in pure joy.

This child is a polar bear.

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He had so much fun and seemed to avoid any sort of hypothermia so last night, we officially declared the start of pool season! Well, at least for the crazy little people who are willing to brave the 73 degree water. I, however, am not crazy and will swim at 90 degrees thank you.

The crazy little people I live with …

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Sara, how’s the water?

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COLD!

She made it about 10 minutes and was the first one out. Smart.

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David made it a few more minutes but was soon done and snuggled up in a towel. Warm.

And then, there is Nathan. Wild.

I have a significant amount of grey hair. I would like to share with you why that is …

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A fearless and impulsive boy who LOVES the water but is built like an anvil; 70 pounds of thick, solid iron that should sink and yet, swims like a fish.  My husband said it best when he compared watching Nathan swim to watching a helicopter fly; “It defies all logic and yet, there it is, flying” – or swimming as it were. I guess it doesn’t hurt that he is also strong as an ox!

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“What!? I not cold!”

He would have swam and leapt and dove and splashed and cannon-balled all night if we’d let him. But pool season has only just begun. There will be plenty of days ahead for all of that!

Not to Condemn but to Save

Good Friday. A Holy and reflective day for the followers of Christ.

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But why is it called Good Friday. What is good about the suffering, humiliation and death of the son of God? I remember my pastor from childhood posing that very question. A question that has undoubtedly been asked thousands and thousands of times.

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And the answer? Love. The answer is love.

“God so loved the world that He gave His only son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

Perhaps the most well-known verse in the bible and for good reason. But do you know what verse 17 says?

“God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.” John 3:17

Not to condemn but to save.

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Forgiveness. Cleansing. Resurrection. Rebirth. Salvation. Life. Love.

For ALL of us. He came for us all. All broken. All hurting. All sinners. All stained.

Not one better than the next.

Not one clean enough to sit in judgement over another.

He came in love. He washed us clean and called us to follow Him and only Him.  And He called us to love.

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Why then do we claim condemnation as our own? Why? When even God Himself, did not. It breaks my heart and convicts me to live differently.

I recently read a post by Christian author and speaker Jen Hatmaker that was like a breath of fresh air. Nail on the head kind of stuff. I hope you will click the link above and read it too. I would love to know what you think – whatever you think.

I am blessed by those in the Christian faith who, like Jen, think outside the boundaries of convention. Who believe that Christ calls us out of the pews and our freshly ironed Sunday best to reach deeper, do more.

To LOVE. Not just to say it but to DO IT.

To get dirty. To stand up for the enslaved and oppressed. To embrace the hurting. To minister to the sick and impoverished. To care for the widow and the orphan. To love those who, in the eyes of the world, would be deemed unlovable. Not just to “add a little Jesus to our already awesome lives.” As my current pastor, Mark Connelly at Mission Community Church, has said.

That is what being a Christian means to me.

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Not to condemn but to save. No strings attached.

” … this world needs some Good News, but they can’t decode what is actually good about us. Good is finding a safe place to struggle, to doubt, to ask hard questions. Good is food when you’re hungry. Good is warm, kind, genuine love extended, no strings attached. Good is clean water, medicine for your sick baby, education, family. Good is community, even before ‘belief’ binds us tight. Good is sustainable work, dignity. Good is Jesus and His backwards, upside-down ways.”

Unafraid. Unthreatened. Unreserved. Arms wide open.

“The skeptic, the cynic, the doubter; my arms are wide open. Their questions and disbelief don’t scare me; I am unthreatened. The loosey-goosey, tambourine shaking, barefoot liberal who loves Jesus and the earth and votes straight-ticket Democrat? I love her. The young adult generation who is leaving the church but running to Jesus in unfamiliar, new ways – I gather them to me like a Mama because they are going to change the world.”

Perspective and compassion. Not judgement.

“I am not put off by creed or denomination or sexual orientation or terrifying doubt or outright anger or nationality or socioeconomic status or issues or weirdness or politics. I’m not going to make a deal out of a glass of wine when 25,000 people will die today of starvation.”

Renegades. Closer to the margins.

 “… we need some renegades closer to the margins, building bridges, creating safe spaces to question, wrestle, rethink.

He is everything good and gracious.

Bring me your doubts, your fear. My Jesus can handle it all and then some. He is all of our dreams come true. If you don’t believe me, start in Matthew and read until the end of John. Jesus is a hero, a brother, a Savior in every sense of the word. He is everything good and gracious. His love for us is embarrassing, boundless, without standards at all.”

He is ALL of our dreams come true.

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If you don’t know my Jesus, YOUR Jesus, if you think something like … Christianity wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the Christians;  I invite you to take another look. If reading up to this point you have determined “Oh man, she’s a Jesus freak, I thought she just blogged about food and her kids” … It’s true. You are correct. Jesus freak here. But perhaps that means something different than you might think. Something different than perceived notions or past experience has impressed upon you.

I hope that you will take another look.

What puts-off and offends is not Christianity or Christians it is legalism and judgement. That offends me too. And I promise you. That is not Jesus.

Take another look.

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I love the church and do not mean to sound as if I don’t. I believe we are called into community to live as a body of believers. To gather together, to do life together, to worship together, learn together, grow together. Community. One body. Inclusive. Even if we don’t always see eye to eye. Even if we don’t agree on everything. That is Grace.

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Because Jesus is our savior, not our religion. Because He died for us. For you and for me. Both sinners, both struggling, both redeemed in Him, both made new. Because He loves us. And He wants us to love each other, differences and all.

Be blessed today, this Good Friday. Share a little grace, show a little love. Remember what has been done for you.

If you would like to talk with me or prefer not to comment here publicly or if I can pray for you in any way, please e-mail me at welcomecompany@cox.net.

And, if by chance, you are a renegade, closer to the margins, Jesus freak too – I’d love to know it!