Monday, October 17, 2011

Abide in Me

This post is really supposed to be about how we made juice out of the grapes we grew from the vine that our former neighbors gave us several years back. The problem is I'm finding it impossible to write about the fruit of the vine without my mind immediately going to John 15. It was one of my favorite chapters of the Bible growing up and it remains a favorite to this day. I vividly remember sitting near our pool in our backyard at 1527 Frank Kenny Road reading that passage over and over again. I really wanted to grasp the 'abide in Me' part. I remember thinking that the whole text evoked in me both a peaceful feeling and an unmistakable dread. Although I wasn't fond of the idea of being pruned and what that might actually mean in my life, I especially dreaded the possibility that I could be a fruitless branch that would eventually be cut off and cast in the fire.

Fast-forward many years, and I find myself marveling at how brilliant Jesus was to compare himself to a vine.. Yes, absolutely brilliant, but not surprisingly so, right?.  After all, as I've been reading in Colossians, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible...He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." The God-man knew then and the God-man knows now...and He's making known to us the many spiritual implications we can draw from the business of vinedressing.

Here are some of the lessons I've learned:
  1. that a vine doesn't produce any fruit for the first few years (we can't summon fruit on our own strength)
  2. that the vinedresser must prune the branches so that new shoots will grow the next year (we must die to self if we want to grow---trials act like God's pruning in our lives to cause growth)
  3. that when the right time comes, it's almost effortless for the branches to produce fruit if they are solidly anchored to the vine (when we're focused on knowing Jesus and listening to the Helper He kindly left us, He transforms us from within and low and behold, we discover it´s become surprisingly easier to be kind, joyful, peaceful)
  4. that the branches that extend too far from the vine cannot bear as much fruit (when we let ourselves drift away from our Savior and ignore the nudges of the Holy Spirit, we lose our opportunities to grow and may even stop producing fruit altogether)
  5. that one has to wait patiently for the fruit to ripen and be just right so it can reach optimum sweetness (God, who's begun a good work in us, will perfect us to the end. He is patient with us.) 
  6. that no matter how much fruit a branch may bear, its sweetness ultimately depends on the variety of the grapevine it grows out of (when we're grounded in Jesus, our fruit ultimately points others to the awesomeness of the Only True Vine and not to ourselves)
So there you have it.  My John 15 Reflections in a nutshell. Or is it a cluster? ;)

Okay, I can now proceed to the actual story.
Or maybe I'll just let the pictures tell the tale.

Our vine in July heavy with clusters.

Clusters are looking healthy. We are ecstatic!!

"Oh, wait, now they're purple! My favorite!"
Lou's Bimart Special comes in handy. So does his iron cast stove and propane hose.

Are we a bit excited, boys?

We filled this pan to the rim three times with all our clusters!! 

Say goodbye to purple grapes and hello to yummy grape juice
 (that's what coming down the hose)!

This is what we ended up with, still only partially diluted and
made out of genuine concord grapes, water, and a bit of sugar!

Every drop of juice is accounted for. The question kept coming,
"How many grapes do you think it took to make this much juice?"

Must. Enjoy. Every. Single. Drop.

 Thanks to our rationing, we still aren't even halfway done enjoying every single drop of juice.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cor Deo Walkathon 2011

This past Friday, all four of us ran/walked in our kids' school walkathon.  We ran a combined total of 32 miles, weaving around the walkers and the strollers so we'd be able to maintain a good pace. What was most impressive was Isaiah's determination to break his personal best of 10 miles at last year's walkathon. He managed to beat it by a quarter of a mile. What endurance for a little guy who's got very little meat on his bones! And what a gift to be developing such mental fortitude at a pretty young age! I ran 11 miles & my legs felt pretty stiff by the end...and I'm supposed to be a runner. Mmm-hmm.. 

Brielle managed to run/walk 4.25 miles before getting lured away from the 'track' by a huge jumping castle that was set up in the gym. Although my sources tell me it probably took major physical prowess to climb this castle more than a dozen time, Brielle still has got her work cut out for her on the mental fortitude department. She dished us and it took us a while to figure it out.  I think we'll have to sit her down and explain the ins and outs of a walkathon a little better before next year's comes around (I know, I know, she's only six, almost seven...just sayin' ;).

Watching our kids running got me thinking...I can't recall ever participating in a walkathon growing up. I have entered marathons and paid the entry fee for many races as a grown-up, but for the first time in my life, I ran to raise money for a cause. For the first time, I can say I basically got paid to run!  I would say it's about time, right?

No, but seriously, what really got me motivated to run it this year (and force a sick Andrew to run it, too ;) is the fact that
#1We love our school and want to keep it affordable by raising money to offset tuition
#2 My generous family pledged hefty per-mile amounts that made each mile count big time
#3 Getting my exercise in while raising money sounded like something I couldn't pass up

So, we ran it,  and now comes the hard part: the pledge collection. AWKWARD, right? It shouldn't be, but it is. Oh well, it's good for the pride. These things are always good for the pride. Mine could use a pretty good beating down right about now. ;)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Teach Them Diligently

From September of last year to this past August, we had the privilege and honor of being second grade teachers during the Sunday School hour at our church. Privilege? Honor? Okay...I admit it. I didn't think it was when we signed up.  Andrew was the one who felt the conviction after studying the book of Matthew that teaching the children is a biblical mandate ...and so he was definitely taking the lead on this one. Honestly, I got on board rather reluctantly.

What came as a surprise to me is the fact that I ended up really enjoying it. Yes, it was a huge commitment to be on at 10 am every Sunday for an entire year....but it was also a huge blessing to share that responsibility with Andrew and to have Isaiah as one of our pupils. It was such a treat to hear Andrew's take on passages from Luke and Acts and to have Isaiah in the class to listen to his dad speak passionately from the Scriptures and about things pertaining to the Gospel. I myself even sometimes felt more convicted and admonished during the Sunday School hour than during the regular church service (no offense, Pastor Scott ;). 

And now it's all over. It's not that I'm sad we are done...bcause it's quite freeing to be able to linger in the church foyer and visit with friends during the Sunday School hour. Yet, part of me also feels like we are missing out. Or rather, that Isaiah is missing out from hearing his dad speak from Scriptures in an organized setting with a bunch of other kiddos listening in. 

That is why I'm thankful for the Band of Brothers, this class for boys that Jason Chupp, Andrew, and many other dads are putting on every month to teach our boys not only manly skills like hammering and such, but also godly character. I'm thankful for the purposefulness of it and for the fact that it's scheduled.. There are teachable moments at home...along the we sit...that we literally pounce on whenever we can...but to have a group of kids together hearing the same thing and knowing they're in it together...that's a gift! It's what second-grade Sunday School felt like...and it's what I want to see continue.

So thankful for my husband and his friends!!