Monday, August 29, 2011

Kick Drum Heart

Saturday morning, I dropped off Amy Noll at the airport in Atlanta for her to go study abroad a year in Spain.

I have been in a bit of a rotten mood for the last few weeks in anticipation of this day and I realized that I had been working so hard at holding it together, not letting the emotion of her departure get to me that I have not been a lot of fun to be around.

The last 18 months with Amy have not been the easiest to walk through since her brother died and I have not been paying any attention to that. At least not until Amy walked through the doors of the Atlanta airport.

Then, I drove about an hour down the road and started crying.
I realized what a friend she has been.
What a leader in other's lives she has been.
And how different our lives will be without her around.

None of this will be easy.
It really was like dropping my child off at college.
I have been praying like crazy for her and am so hopeful for many many things that will come her way in the next year.
But there is this space. This space that she took up (quite often) in our lives that is empty and now I have to figure out what is next.

While I was driving and feeling sorry for myself, I started listening to an NPR podcast called "All Songs Considered" and they asked the question: What Songs Make You Feel Good?
This was answered by their listeners and they had to explain why the particular song made them feel good, put a smile on their face or changed their mood.

It got me rolling again.
And thinking about my own songs. So here we go:

Ooh La La: by The Faces

This is super early Rod Stewart. Which means nothing, except it is crazy to hear his voice. I love this song because I think the lament fits at every stage of life "I wish I knew what I know now, when I was younger." "You have to learn and that's all there is to say..."

Vineyard: Jackopierce

Click on the button to go hear the song. This makes me think of college and I can't help but smile every single time I hear this song. It is actually impossible for me to 1) skip this song and 2) not sing it at the top of my lungs

Fat Bottomed Girl: Queen

Sue me. It gets me. I am hammering my steering wheel or pounding out the miles to the song on my ipod. I can't help it. I LOVE THIS SONG. Hard. I have since I can't remember when.

Dog Days Are Over: Florence and the Machine

This was part of the show I was listening to and it really has been one of my favorite songs for a year or so.
I love the idea that the Dog Days are Over. And there is no time to look back. It is so biblical in that approach to embrace today and not at the sadness that was. It is my wish for Amy Noll and my own wish for myself.
It strikes a nerve. And it has a killer drum beat.

Speaking of drum beat:

Kick Drum Heart: Avett Brothers

This explanation might sound dramatic, but whatever. Coming off of Matt's sabbatical, I know that we have been called to this ministry and to being in relationships with people-whatever form that might take. What happens in the middle of that sometimes is you end up getting kicked emotionally, but sometimes you find gold among the rocks. And I love the line where he says "it's not the chase I love, it's me following you." That is how I feel about this calling to people. I don't love chasing people for Jesus. I love following Jesus as he leads me and Matt and other Young Life leaders to hurting people to share with them how Jesus fits into their hurt and leads them to wholeness.

My life is like a kick drum. My heart gets so excited that it about pops out of my chest. But also, it hurts because sometimes it ends up getting kicked.

It is the give and take. And when you have to say good-bye to someone you love for either good or bad reasons, you take it . And the hurt has to be nursed for a little while. Not too long, but long enough to want to be healed.

So, I'm hurting. How could I not? Look at all of this life we've had with Amy:

And I'm excited.
There is a lot coming up for this little heart of mine.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

J'taime Paris

Maybe I shouldn't explain the Paris pictures? 
I think they speak for themselves...
Well occasionally I will interject.

 So we went on the bike riding tour of Paris with Fat Tire Bike Tours and we walked over to get our bikes and this girl looks at Matt and says, "Were you at Frontier Ranch last summer?"
He answered yes and she started crying.
Her husband and her took off for the summer to work in Paris and she was missing the trip with her girls to Wilderness. She couldn't believe that we were there. We couldn't believe that SHE was there. 
The world gets SMALLER.
 Look at that handsome man on his manly bike. 
We can't say enough about this tour. It was so fun! Wild really to ride bikes with 20 strangers around round abouts and down crazy busy streets. But we loved it. And it gave us the confidence to rent bikes and ride them the rest of our trip. It was a really fun way to see Paris. 

 We didn't make it to the Louvre. We just rode bikes on the grounds. It was closed on Monday. Which blew my mind. But we got to see it. It was pretty. So yeah. Moving on. 
 We rode bikes on the Champs Elysee. Again, bucket list material. This is the little Arc d'triomphe...not the giant one. But it made me laugh to ride through it. 
 More bikes. We really liked them.

 The next day we went to watch the final stage of the Tour de France. On the left hand side of this picture you can see Cadel Evans in yellow. That's about as good a shot as we could manage. It was incredible to be a part of. I would probably not do it again...but I loved seeing it in Paris. Tres cool. 
 Then we were up for some sightseeing!
 Sacre Couer
 Notre Dame

 Saint Chapelle

 Eiffel Tower again. 
It was an amazing trip.
I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
We loved it. We loved going with another couple. We loved everywhere we stayed and all that we got to see and eat.
I don't think there was anything that we did that we thought, huh-never again!
Which is a great way to end a vacation.

Coming home, the lessons are just now starting to manifest themselves.
But initially-our first thoughts were:
1) Americans eat a LOT of fast food. Ourselves included. That probably needs to stop. Slow down. Enjoy your meal. Enjoy your company. It will be okay. Stop scheduling everything right up to a meal so you can't enjoy it.

2) We all have huge yards, but no gardens or fresh food to show for it. The French are obsessed with freshness. With where their food comes from. Almost everyone that has a home in America could have a little kitchen garden, but hardly anyone wants to because they "don't have the time". Take the time. It will be healthy for you, your heart and your body. But also, it tastes amazing.

3) We are a temporary culture. We all know this but going somewhere that buildings have been standing since 1200 really makes you sit up a bit. Even their young buildings were placed there in the 1800's. We consider those to be our oldest and most revered historical landmarks. Everything else is temporary. What if we started to value the long-term and not the short run?

4) The French tax their residents $117/year for each television they own in their home. The result? A very quiet, well-read country. I can tell you, if we did that in America, our tv(s) would be OUT.

More to come. Don't you worry :)

Alp d'Huez

If you cycle, watch the Tour or spend any time around us then you are familiar with Alp d'Huez.

Alp d'Huez is the reason for the entire trip that we planned to France.
All four of us wanted to see it, smell it, walk it, yell on it and be crazy for one day in our lives.

Call it bucket list.
Call it what it you will.

It was all of the above.

 The Alps in one word: HUGE. 
I can't summarize this part of the trip for you enough. 
But we felt like it was a time of high adventure. 
 For us to get to Alp d'Huez, we managed to get tickets from our resort on a bus, to another resort Alsuice (?) maybe and then board a lift (those you see above) and then ride these INSANE lifts across three mountains to the resorts town of Alp d'Huez. It worked out so perfectly, I have no idea why people would do anything else. We walked straight down the mountain, past the barricades and secured a perfect picnic spot with all of the people who had been camping all week. Suckers. 

 These guys were there. Fantastique.
 We made it!

 These were some American's from Portland that we met at our resort. They gave us the scoop on the bus tickets to get over to Alp d'Huez. Traveling Mercies. Trail Magic. Portland Trailblazers.
 They were a gift to everyone on the mountain that day. Trust me.
 Even wanted their opinion. 
 That my friends, is Alberto Contador. 
 And Sammy Sanchez. And Rolland. These guys wore the polka dot jersey and white jersey by the end of the day. Super fun. The green jersey guy went on to win the stage. We never would have guessed that. 
 This is Frank Schleck. And in the left hand corner is Cadel Evans. He won the yellow jersey the next day and was the eventual winner of the tour. It was chaos trying to photograph this and not get hit by the cars, the riders and the other spectators. I did my best. Thomas Voeckler
 This is a caravan car. The caravan comes around an hour prior the riders and throws out all kinds of free stuff from the tour sponsors. This is a sausage sponsor. We ate lots of sausage while were there. No cochonou. But we loved their ads and their car was crazy cute. 
This is Jenn and me after the Etape sponsor threw us buffs. Don't we look cute? 
Once the riders passed us by, we hung around for a little bit...but then we had to get a move on.
We had been on the mountain for a solid 10 hours. We needed to get back to our apartment. So we go back on the insane lifts that made us scared for our lives. These lifts were so fast, we were white knuckling it the entire way, but I did manage to snap one picture so you could see the view we were entertained with while we dictated our last will and testament to each other. 

We had an amazing time. 
We were thrilled beyond what could have been expected and we couldn't wait for more.

The next day, we encountered crazy traffic on the way into Grenoble as all the people left the area and were trying to follow the tour some more. We were trying to catch our train to Paris, so we were a little stressed, but had no real problems as we left with plenty of time. 

So we managed to get to Paris in a few hours on the TGV. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wine Safari

On our first Monday in France, we engaged the services of Mike's Wine Safari. This personal tour came highly recommended from Rick Steve's and we rolled the dice on an entire day to devote to craft of wine making and tasting. It was entirely worth it. And obviously we drew some spiritual parallels all day thanks to the book "Scouting the Divine" and the multitude of scripture that directly speaks to wine and wine making. 
Mike is not only an incredible sommelier, but he knows this region inside and out. He took us to several towns and gave us a great tour and history of the region that we would never have had on our own. 

 Our first stop was in the town of Gordes. This is the home of some very famous people and the film "The Good Year" was filmed here. We had some cafe (to which I am now addicted) and visited the local sites for a bit. 
This picture shows why I rented the lens (24-70mm) from The wide angle in low light would never have been captured on any lens I have in my kit. You can rent lenses for any camera you have, you can even rent a camera! I loved having this lens, but I probably wouldn't buy it. It was huge, heavy and I was super scared to break it all the time. But, I loved having it for this trip and it was a fun treat to rent it. 

Down the road we saw a beautiful Cistern Abby that houses monks living in complete silence and have since the 12th century.

 Lavender at the abby. 

Next, we went to Tara Domain Vineyard.

Here is Mike. Imparting all of his wisdom to us. 
Here are the highlights about wine from the Luberon region in the Cote de Rhone. 
  • wine started in the Luberon region when Bordeaux wines were suffering due to imperfections. 
  • The government created a standard for the specific regions (the AOC) to highlight those winery's that hit the "standard mark" set forth. So Bordeaux wines taste specifically different than a Chateneuf de Pape, than a Cote de Rhone etc. 
  • The Cote de Rhone-Luberon AOC wines have to be 80% Grenache grape, 20% syrah. Otherwise they are a table wine or Vin de Pays on the label. 

  • The SOIL is the most important aspect when it comes to wine production, not grapes. The poorer the soil, the better. If it is good, easy soil, the grape vines get lazy and you have grapes that are tasteless, devoid of flavor.
  • Hard, tough, rocky soil in a drought produces a rich, full of flavor wine because those grapes had to fight for life and nutrients. 
  • Once pollination takes place, the vintner calls it "100 days of war" because they can do nothing but wait for the fruit. Their lives revolve around the weather conditions and pests. 
  • The soil in the Cote de Rhone, is almost ALL composed of rocks and there was a severe drought in place. Take note of the 2011 wines. This is predicted to be a very good year for wine.

At this vineyard, only three people maintain all of these grapes. During the picking season, they obviously hire more people. But their job during the year is to prune and maintain the fields-noting insects, disease and weather conditions.
If they see a bad vine, they must remove all traces of the bad vine and leave the field fallow for seven years.
Mike shared with us, the quickest way to go lose money is go into the wine making business. If you plant a new field, you can not take the grapes to bottle for 4 years. That is the rule in France.
He said, 10 years before you can really get anything going. 20 before you have a reputation. Maybe.

We loved everything they offered here. 
Of particular note was the Rose. 
None of us was a fan prior to our Wine Safari day. After that, we found out how to pick out a bottle and what to look for. 

Wine Cave Sign. 

Syrah grapes at La Citadelle Domain. Another full scale vineyard and winery that we visited outside of Menerbes. We loved their wines-especially their more expensive ones. 
Our haul from the day. 

In addition to his 1/2 day and full-day tours, Mike offers a week long tour throughout the south of France where he takes you to vineyards and introduces your palate to varying wines PLUS the food to pair it with properly each evening which he prepares. He happens to be a chef as well. 

Look for this to be an excursion that I blog about sometime in the next 20 years.