Sunday, August 29, 2010

these feet were made for stompin'

And that's just what they did! About 2 weeks ago, right here in the lone star state, I had the distinct pleasure of crossing off an item on my bucket list: cut and stomp grapes for a wine harvest!

The Harvest and Grape Stomp was held at Delaney Vineyards in Grapevine. (You may remember I went there for my first official winery tasting for my birthday, back in September of last year.) I was so disappointed that I missed it last year, so I made certain that I was in attendence for the event this year and I'm so glad I did.

It was a toasty Saturday morning, but I was not deterred. Mindi, her mom and I set out to fill up our bucket with grapes right off the vine. We signed our waiver (lest we cut off a finger in our excitement), procured our equipment (cutters and bucket) and began the task of seasoned harvesters. It was pretty comical how excited we would get when we found a "big bunch" of grapes or found a row that hadn't already been picked over. We also took the liberty of tasting the "fruits of our labor" (pun absolutely intended) and ate several handfuls of grapes. They had teeny tiny seeds in them, but the more I ate, the more I actually liked the crunch of the seed.

We were starting to get the hang of things when Meagan joined the party with her nieces and little brother, Matt. The kids got their very own cutters and bucket and went to town on those vines.

Once we had completed our duty and filled up our bucket (and I felt like I was going to pass out from the heat), we dumped our contributions into the giant tubs, met up with Laurie Ann and headed inside the actual winery for what else, more photo opps.

After a quick stroll around inside, we headed back out into the blistering sun to stand in line for the main event, the real reason I had been dying to come, we were going to squish grapes with our bare foot. I couldn't wait! When it was our turn, we dipped our feet into a small tub of water and then cautiously stepped into the giant bin of grapes that was about one and half feet deep. I'm not sure what I expected, but my initial reaction to the slimy, mushy texture was not exactly positive. However, once I was over my initial shock, I embraced the unfamiliar feeling and stomped those grapes with absolute gusto.

Once we had our fill (and taken sufficient photographical evidence of said stomping), we climbed out of the steel tub and were enthusiastically hosed off by one of the winery staff members. After a quick peruse of the gift shop, we bid our adieus and I spent the rest of the day finding random purple spots on my arms, legs and neck.

While the event might not have been a scene out of A Walk in the Clouds, it was still a ton of fun and I got to experience something I have never done before. And I got one step further to accomplishing the items on my bucket list - check and check!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

back to school, back to school.

I cannot help myself. I have to send a big shout-out to Miss Haylee Grace who started her first day of real school today. Here she is in all her glory:

I think I might be more excited than her, but it's almost impossible to believe she's even old enough to start attending school. In the blink of an eye, she has lived nearly four years.

So, Haylee, from your 'ole Aunt Chie-Chie, I wish you a most excellent school year. May your days be filled with learning and laughter. And may your Mom always pack you an extra special treat in your perfectly pink lunchbox!

Monday, August 23, 2010

to live is Christ, to die is gain.

If you have followed my blog (or are just a part of my life), you are well aware I had a dear friend lose her precious son this past May. She has been armed with incredible courage to author a few recent posts on her blog ()putting into words her time of suffering, sorrow and pain.

As I was re-reading her latest post, I was overwhelmed by the emotions that came flooding to the surface of my heart, almost like a wave was crashing on my head. I felt compelled to write some thoughts as this topic of suffering and pain seems to keep coming up in my life, in my studies and in my time with God.

I have a myriad of thoughts swirling around my head, so it's difficult for me to convey exactly what I'm thinking, feeling and contemplating. Whenever I hear the word suffering or reflect on the trials and tribulations of this life, I'm consistently reminded of Paul's words to the church of Philipi:

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."
Philippians 1:21

What does this mean? What exactly is Paul saying? Well, Christ endured every ounce of human suffering possible. Not only did He live on this earth and experience human emotions, sickness and rejection, but He also experienced horrificly obscene torture, pain and a death that none can fathom. So when Paul says to live is Christ, it could mean when we experience life in this sinful world and all the suffering and pain that comes with it, we are sharing in His suffering.

C.S. Lewis writes, “God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.” He also assures that "we were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, 'Blessed are they that mourn.'” I can absolutely guarantee this life will bring you heartache, pain and sorrow, but to live is Christ! I absolutely hate what my friend is going through and I absolutely would give anything for things to be different, for there to be a different outcome for things to have turned out the way everyone expected. It just doesn't seem right or fair or loving or just...

But what about the other end of the coin: "to do is gain." This is what brings me to perhaps the thesis of my post. Christ created us to be in communion with Him, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are made in His image and will ultimately be reunited with Him or we will choose to reject Him and live in isolation for eternity. The purpose of living is not to generate an income which will allow us to make ourselves more comfortable. The purpose of living is denying ourselves comfort in an effort to make others more comfortable.

This world is NOT all there is, but how on earth can we possibly live in a state of mind that protects us from grieving when we lose a loved one, worrying when we lose a job, fearing when we don't know what the future holds, suffering when we experience pain. The only way we can even have a shred of hope is to believe Paul's words, that "to die is gain." We will gain everything when we are in the presence of our Holy Father, our beloved, our sacrifcial lamb, our glorious and righteous Savior. All our tears will be washed away and there will be no suffering or pain.

If we truly believe that to die is gain, what on earth can we fear? If we are convinced "nothing can separate us from the love of Christ," how would we live our lives? What would we value? What would others say we value?

I will close this rather inarticulate and discombobulated post with yet another quote from C.S. Lewis:

“Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.”

I share this quote with my friend, Kori, and hope there might be some comfort in those words. She has ultimately given away her son, to the Lord, His purposes and His will. In that regard, Smith really is hers for eternity. She has firmly proclaimed that God is still good, despite what the circumstances may be. What Satan meant for destruction, God is turning to good by using Kori and her response to sadness and suffering. She is faithfully pointing others to the cross of Christ.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

thoughts on love and life

“To love at all is to be vulnerable.

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.

If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.

Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change.

It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

C.S. Lewis

If you have a gmail account, you will recognize this quote from my profile. While I adore a number of quotes from C.S. Lewis, I have found this particular one of utmost relevance in its applicability to my life and those around me. There is such a world of truth in those few statements, and I find it almost insulting to add anything to the sentiments expressed...

However, I did say "almost," so I shall share just a few thoughts. If you really think and meditate on those words, you would quickly see that all the suffering and pain (at least emotional) would completely subside in our lives if we "gave our hearts to no one." If we locked up our hearts (resulting in an inability to love), we would not care what others thought. We would not suffer when others felt pain, sickness or disease. We would not mourn the loss of life...or the loss of salvation, for that matter. Break-ups, betrayals, back-stabbing, gossip - it would all cease to affect us. What a blissful, zen-like life we could artificially fabricate, right? Wrong! So wrong!

If God is love (I John 4:8, I John 4:16)) and we ceased to love and locked up our hearts, not only would we be denying ourselves the greatest joy in life, but we would be denying God. He (love/agape) is our reason for existence. Our purpose on this earth is to seek after Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength (Deut. 6:5, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30). Again, if God is love, it is our primary endeavor to seek love, above all else (John 14:21)! Yes, to love is to be vulnerable. Yes, if you love someone, you will get hurt. I can say that with 100% assurance and with all the confidence in the world.

However, if God is love and Satan is the opposite of Christ, then a life without love is a life pleasing to Satan (I John 3:10). It is a life lived in darkness, isolated from the community we are called to live in, according to the text in the scriptures. It is a life shrouded in depression, void of emotions. There is no life and there can be no joy.

To love means to open yourself up to pain, but it is in the pain that God can reveal His perfect love and His plan for redemption.

Monday, August 16, 2010

a touch of randomness

I wholeheartedly feel that where there is credit to be given, it most certainly should promptly take place, ideally in a public forum (when possible). Therefore, I have to offer up a hearty thank you to the very talented Jon Bailey for updating my sad, tired and lifeless blog header. Due to his insane skill level, it took him a grand total of 2.5 seconds to create a couple of options, but it means so much to me as I make my bold attempt to revive my blog.

On another note, I have been meaning to share a blog with you, my dear reader, for some time now. It is The Art of Manliness ( and the wisdom offered is in no short supply. While I am clearly not a man, I have absolutely enjoyed every post I have read thus far. There are so many nuggets of gold that I can hardly pick my favorite posts; however, I shall give you just a couple to peruse at your leisure:

1. Roadmap to the Perfect First Date
2. How to Apologize Like a Man
3. The Unclassified Laws of Etiquette
4. How to End a Relationship Like a Man (please, please take notes)
5. The Case for Marriage
6. Be a Modern Knight: Protecting Your Lady in the 21st Century

Okay, I shall demonstrate some restraint and stop myself there, but honestly, if you have a son, a brother, any sort of male in your life, kindly direct them to this website and urge them to take copious notes. It is phenomenally written and most assuredly, thought-provoking. You could even read the posts together and use it as a springboard for an open dialogue between you and your son (or whomever).

The "art of manliness" in our society is sadly a lost art (kindly pardon the redundancy) and it is a crying shame that so few boys are being raised to be men who are strong leaders, consistently displaying strong character, conviction, integrity and a desire to be chivalrous. Once again, I find myself climbing onto my rather worn out soapbox, so save me the effort of another detailed diatribe and go to the blog.

And please, feel free to share with me some of your favorite posts from the site. As always, I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

hello old friend.

Well hello there. Didn't expect to have you dropping by, but I'm glad you haven't completely and entirely given up on me (and "abundant life") yet. It seems while making a conscious effort to focus on real life, I inadvertently made the unconscious choice to let the blog go to hell and a hand basket in the interim. I do so apologize to those who hang on my every word for their entire life's happiness, but I hope to catch you up (via photos, of course) on the less than glamorous life that has been going unreported.

Up first on the docket is the celebration of my little Dora, errr, I mean my little Mere-bear's first year of life on this earth. Words cannot describe how precious she is to our family and ever time I look at her, I never cease to marvel at her uncanny resemblance to doo-doo-doo-doo-Dora. How she came from the fruit of my sister's womb, I will never know, but she's beautiful in every way and those big, brown eyes get me every time. She's a glorious gift from our generous Heavenly Father.

Mere's Birthday

Of course, like all good summer's, there has to be some lake time and plenty 'o fun in the sun. This summer has been no different, and I have used it to channel my inner child by playing pool games, jumping off the diving board and doing copious amounts of underwater handstands...ahhh, the good life.

A Myriad of Sunny Memories

In light of starting a new job, Hailey and I hit up the ATX for a couple carefree days which included brunching, lounging, great food, live music and of course, dancing. There were trips to Town Lake, Barton Springs, Bess Bistro, South Congress Cafe, a Spazzmatics concert and our infamous bat caper...such a fun time. Oh, and throw in the bonus of seeing Friday Night Lights being filmed - totally brill.

Let's see, what else can I catch you up on? I have no doubt you can hardly stand much more excitement. I have started co-leading a community group at church which has been such an unbelievable blessing. I am honored to be a part of these girls' lives and have already had such fun memories with them.

Goodness, I'm drawing such a blank. Other than the standard summer parties, pool time, barbeques and such, I've just been enjoying the summer sun and spending plenty of time with the loves of my life: my precious Hay-Hay and little Mere-Bear. I cannot imagine what life was like before they were here and before I was an aunt.

I am truly blessed by a heavenly Father that is both great and good. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. His steadfast love never ceases and His mercies are new every morning. Apart from Him, I have nothing and in Him, I have everything.