We grew grapes for the first time ever this summer!
We went to the nursery looking for a vine for the patio garden. We didn’t much care if the vine actually produced anything. We just wanted a vine that would grow on the patio and be green and help the space to feel a little softer and more nature-like. We settled on a grape vine, with it’s nice shaped leaves and a little variation of color as the season progresses. It was so fun to watch the vines grow up the post on our rooftop patio, and then begin producing grapes! At first, the tiny little grapes were like those little balls on the heads my grandmother’s sewing pins. So teeny! But soon they were swelling and turning to the nicest purply blue color. And then they were so big and so full that they weighed down the vine and we feared it would break from the weight of the fruit!
I know the time is coming when we will have to cut back our beautiful vine. I'm already dreading it.
I have always hated pruning time. Billy, being a horticulture major (Texas A&M – WHOOP!), has always been the one to tend the gardens. He has to be the pruner, for sure, because I just can’t bring myself to do it. The plant always looks really great to me – right now, in the moment - but Billy seems to have this sense about what needs to happen for the plant’s future best growth. He always tells me that while the plant looks good, it is actually using lots of energy trying to grow in places it shouldn’t. And while it is producing lots of flowers or fruit, they are inferior. And so, he gets out his pruners and he goes to work. I can’t even watch. It is almost physically painful for me to see all those branches and leaves, and sometimes fruit, go tumbling to the ground and end up swept in to a big trash pile. When it’s over, I always feel so sad for the poor plant. And Billy smiles and shakes his head every time and says, “Just watch. It is going to be so much better and healthier. Just give it time.”
And, after 32 years of cringing through this process, I know he is right. It always works out for the better. The plants are always beautiful after their season of pruning and new growth. But oh, how it still hurts me to watch the process!
For us, it has been a season of metaphorical pruning. We have come to a season when the outward appearance of our work looks quite full and fruitful, but it is difficult (or impossible) to sustain at this level. We are using a lot of energy and focusing in lots of places (which isn't really focus at all). Like the circus act when the man spins plates or juggles balls… the crowd is amazed at his ability to keep it all going, and then someone throws him one more. "Wow! Awesome! Throw him another one!"
But we all know how this ends.
And so, we are in a season of discernment with our team and our mentors and with God. There are loads of good things going on. Tons of things to still be done. Bucoos of possibilities. But we just can’t do it all. We are that plant that is growing and putting on flowers and fruit, but maybe we have too much going on and we need to strategically focus our energies to produce superior fruit.
I’ll be honest. This process is causing me more than a few tears and heartache. Saying no is not my strong suit. Cutting back is really hard for me. But I also believe in the process, and I believe that focusing my skills and efforts in strategic places will yield better, stronger people this season.
For me, I’m focusing in on Development this season. Our Europe region has grown from 16 CCWs to 41 CCWs (adult workers and their families) in just a few months and that is going to take some focus on my part as Regional Consultant for Europe. Also, we added two TMS families to our team in Spain, so we now have 3 families working in Antequera. This will require a good deal of team formation and development over the course of the next year. And it’s no secret that Neighboring Initiatives are very important to me. Loving my neighbors and those around me well and building community and relationships in Antequera is never going away. It's community development at it's relational core.
So, what’s getting pruned? It’s more a matter of me having to say no when I’m asked to do things outside of my focus. More accurately, it’s me having to TELL MYSELF NO when I see something that I could do. It’s me being okay with juggling just three plates, and not allowing more plates or balls to be thrown in to the mix. When my head says “Hey, it would be really cool if …”, It means having grace with myself and reminding myself that yes – that would be cool, and yes – you have the right skills for that, but no – not in this season… maybe later, or maybe that’s a vision to pitch to someone else. I need to have a season of pruning back and focusing my energies on these few things that are going to reap big dividends, things that have the potential to have deep and far-reaching effects, not just here, but around the globe. Whew, y’all! Saying no and focusing in. That’s HARD! Because I want to do it all. Like, ALL. OF. IT.
So, pray for my pruning process. And pray that I “abide in Him and Him in me, so that I may bear good fruit.”
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
10/10/2018 10:50:36 am
What a wonderful reminder and challenge for you Laurie. You can best use your gifts as you focus. The analogy of pruning grapes is right on. Thanks for sharing your deep feelings and concerns. I know God will help you maintain your focus.
10/12/2018 07:15:49 am
What a thoughtful and thought-provoking article you have provided us from your heart. I will be praying for your attention to your focus areas. But I will also be praying for all of us. So often, we wonder why we are not as fruitful as we would like to be for the Lord, when we are running from dawn to dusk working like crazy. Could it be we too have lost the focus that we are called to serve under, and have spread ourselves too thin AND robbed others of the work God would have them do?
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In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a soccer mom, a horsewoman, and the neighborhood hospitality queen. I did "Joanna Gaines farmhouse style" before Chip and JoJo were even a thing - we restored an 1884 Victorian farmhouse in small town Texas and did shiplap walls until I thought I'd go crazy. I taught at NASA, scuba dived with astronauts in training, and studied animals at Sea World for educational purposes. I've tried just about everything, because I have an insatiable need to know if I can do it! Never underestimate a Texas girl in cowboy boots!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers via teaching and training and care, and helping displaced people to navigate their new reality in Europe.
I'm passionate about fostering personal growth, growth in community, and growth in The Kingdom. Walking alongside others and helping them to use their unique design, their gifts and strengths and maximize their abilities to fulfill their God-given purpose - that's what makes my heart sing!