There is something special about the dead of winter when I have time to rest from the garden. During the searing heat of July and August, keeping up with the produce that is coming in by the bucket full, mowing the yard and community garden, and thinking about finishing the growing season’s fall crops, keep my hands and mind busy. Winter is different, though. Whether we have ice and snow or sunny, deceptively cold days, winter allows my body to rest and my mind to plan for the next growing season.
As I look out the window on the many dreary days that winter brings, I cannot help but think about the next growing season. The occasional warm, dry day brings me outside to haul compost or work on the fall clean-up list that didn’t get done before fall had ended. I can think back through the previous growing seasons and figure out what varieties grew best and what I want to do again for this year. Even if the previous growing season had been a bust with either too much rain or not nearly enough of it, or if pests or birds stole from my crop, I still dream about the next year’s growing season. Winter allows the time to dream and to plan for the spring that is right around the corner.
I have always loved growing things. As much joy as I get out of producing fruits and vegetables, I always feel like those are just a bonus. I enjoy being outside, hearing the birds, feeling the warm spring sunshine my back, getting dirt under my fingernails, but mostly I enjoy watching things grow. Seeing the bright green lettuce emerge from the dark soil of early spring makes my heart happy.
Some people don’t have the patience for gardening. In our instant gratification culture, it is hard to plant a seed and know that you will be harvesting something in two or three months. During those months, you have to pull weeds, water, and keep the pests from eating the plant. Why spend that time working with the plants and soil when you can go get a perfect looking one at the grocery store? We miss out of the connection to the soil in our overly busy lives.
Over the past decade, I have come to the firm opinion that growing plants gets you close to the heart of God. There is something peaceful about a garden that quiets a nervous soul and lets you commune with your creator. I have held on to the belief that since God first communed with man in a garden, that He still has a special place in his heart for those who will spend time with Him in a garden.
As I started reading through Beth Moore’s new book Chasing Vines, I couldn’t help but get excited about it. I mean, it is a book about soil and sun, and God making things grow. The book is anchored around John 15 where Jesus says that He is the vine and we are the branches. If we remain in Him, we will bear much fruit. The book launches from this promise and then Mrs. Moore takes us on an adventure of growth and fruit bearing with a beautiful mix of scripture, agriculture, and personal narrative.
As with any good gardener, God the ultimate vinedresser, looks to find the perfect spot for us to grow. Beth Moore encourages us that where we are in life is where we need to be, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Nothing is overlooked when our heavenly Father picks the perfect place for us.
He does everything He needs to do to ensure that we are fruitful. That includes inspecting our fruit to see if it is good or bad. If we have bad fruit, he composts it and turns it into nurturing soil for our lives. The good Vinedesser knows that to be fruitful, we will need rocks for drainage and nutrients, pruning to keep us producing fruit, trellises for our support, deep roots to keep us grounded, and fertilizer to help our fruit be the best quality it can be. As Mrs. Moore unpacks each of these in her book, it becomes very obvious that things that we thought were going to kill us actually were needed to be fruitful.
The chapter that spoke to me the most has to be the chapter on pruning. I have a little experience with growing peaches and I know how much pruning is needed to help my fruit tree to produce the best fruit. This last year was the fourth year for my peach tree. Fruit trees start producing fruit year three and are at their full potential at year five. As the peaches set on at the start of the spring, I knew the tree couldn’t possibly sustain all of these tiny peaches. To get the largest number and best quality peaches, I had to prune off over 100 tiny peaches and hope that summer storms would not remove more of the harvest from the tree.
We had a very wet summer and the fruit on my peach tree grew to an amazing size for the tree. It even came to the point that I had to apply supports to my tree to keep the fruit from breaking the tree into pieces. As much as it hurt my heart to do so, this fall I cut the tree back significantly. I knew that it needed strong branches to bear the best quality fruit. I know it didn’t make sense to the tree to lose all of its long branches, but as a gardener who wants a healthy tree and great quality peaches, it had to be done. I had to cut back the tree to the essentials of what it actually needed.
In the same way, Beth Moore talks about our pruning. She talks about our callings from God. There are many different phases in our calling and I remember this one vividly “Don’t’ be surprised if you experience an ironic sense of lostness just when you thought you’d found what you were looking for. This can be its own form of pruning. It reminds us that what we really want is God. Neither the arrival nor achievement can keep us satisfied. Only abiding can.” (154). She goes on to say, “With God as Gardener, pruning is always a hands-on endeavor. He can’t let us go when He’s cutting us back. His tending is never impersonal.” (156).
Beth Moore beautifully crafts a book that helps give you a better perspective into the heart of God. A God who doesn’t want you to take an easy way, because He loves watching you grow. If you are a gardener or gardener at heart, this will speak straight into your soul, confirming so many things you knew deep in your heart. Again, and again, you will see the goodness of God in what he does to bring about a life that bears much fruit and points the world around us to Christ.