This late summer was filled with canning and baking – mostly apples baked into cakes, canned for pie filling, and made into apple sauce, but also peaches prepped and frozen for pie, grapes made into juice, and the final produce from the garden. In early October, the frosty weather began and I decided to pull the grapes from the vine and throw them into the juicer. Caleb has a book called The Secrets of the Vine for Little Ones, in which Bruce Wilkinson walks the little reader through Jesus’ words in John 15, where he compares himself to a vine and us to his branches. This particular day, I found it a wonderful opportunity to teach this story to Caleb while he and I harvested the grapes from our vines. (To be completely honest, I went out during his naptime and got most of them, then brought him out for the low hanging fruit!) On this chilly day, we were treated to occasional downpours of rain, most of which we missed by being sheltered by the old vine and leaves under which we took cover. He took such joy in this task of filling up his little wicker basket with grapes and then the final zucchinis, yellow squash, cucumbers and tomatoes. All the while, I took even more joy in watching him squish around in his rain boots and coat, pointing with animation and excitement “OH – Mama, Look – another cherry! (cherry tomato)” and hopping off to collect his treasures.
Time seemed to stand still that afternoon as I watched my little boy drink in the small pleasures of life with such exuberance. I was filled with such joy and thankfulness. Thankful for that moment – for the small things – for the big things, for life and the chance to live it. I guess I was in awe of creation, of life. It is these times that I want to hold on to. Let me never lose the joy of those moments. Let me always bask in their beauty and take refuge in their memory.
When, God, do we change? When do we lose this childlike innocence, this joyful abandon? When does our spirit become hardened and calloused? When do we begin to force ourselves to take even a moment of respite – a moment to stop and smell the roses or pick grapes from a vine or apples from a tree? Out here in the country, old apple tree after tree is filled with enough apples to feed an army, yet though wait eagerly to be picked on the branches, eventually they let go of hope and fall to the ground where they rot, useless to all but bees and worms. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if those very apple tree owners buy apples at the grocery store to fill their fruit bowl.
Is it the small choices we make each day that harden us over time? Jesus calls us time and again to be like children. Why do we allow ourselves to lose that childlike innocence in the first place? So easily led astray from the promised land, we are. So quickly we wander out of Eden. God, you show us the clear and simple path, calling us to take shelter in you, to take refuge. Yet, we choose to stand in the rain, be weathered by the storm. No wonder we are referred to as sheep! One of the dumbest animals in the kingdom, constantly being led astray, wandering off repeatedly in the same wrong direction. In this instance, I feel called to thank You for loving us anyway.
The economic outlook is bleak right now. This is likely the first time in my lifetime that financial times have been quite so hard, as we experience a worldwide economic recession. If it was tough before, I hadn’t noticed – practically speaking anyways. Now, we work for a small company tied very tightly to the residential construction industry, which has for all practical purposes, come to a screeching halt. We have had several rounds of layoffs and now with eight employees, we are all tightening our belts with a 20% pay cut and a significant increase in the amount of medical insurance we are covering. I sat down to do the budget last night for about six hours. At times it felt like I was trying to squeeze milk out of a dry old cow, as time and time again I scrutinized each budget category to figure out where we could nip and tuck. (Thank goodness for Quicken, so that there can be actual data and realistic assumptions to support scrutiny! I’ve been using it for about 3 years now, so I can see some pretty good trend and averages.)
What’s funny in all of this though, is both Jason and I seem to be approaching this new challenge with somewhat of an anticipation, excited to see if we can do it. It is an opportunity to force ourselves into modest and humble living, stretching every penny to the max. Perhaps in this we can learn new boundaries, so that we are not always wondering where the money went so quickly with often nothing exciting or new to show. Perhaps in this time of darkness around, with many losing jobs and struggling, our lights can shine brighter. We may not always be able to serve steak, but we can and will always welcome anyone to our home for food and fellowship.