Courage, dear heart.
She sat next to me at the coffee shop counter, perched upon a tall wooden bar stool, feet dangling above the floor. The mid-morning sunlight streamed through the large window and warmed our chilled skin, wrapped up in Patagonia and toboggans.
I let my mug of piping hot coffee linger beneath my nose, my small, stubby hands wrapped around both sides. The warmth brought feeling to the tips of my fingers and steam floated up whimsically, fogging up the bottom part of my already smudged lenses.
“I just didn’t think it would be this hard.”
I searched her eyes as her long lashes fluttered downward, looking at her steeping cup of cinnamon tea. She reminded me of the tea bag. Steeping. Waiting. Wondering.
She was broken in the beautiful way that we break right before God picks up the pieces and creates a work of art. But she couldn’t know that. Because in the midst of our pain, we rarely see the color the maker is painting into us. The life. The strength. The beauty.
We only see the broken.
Her words were so familiar. I’d spoken them before. I was twenty-one, sitting on top of an old, mossy picnic table, my knees hugged tightly against my chest. Staring off into the distance, I focused on a deer bending down into the brush—dense summer woods decorating the horizon. Surely, He has good things for me. And then again, a year later. After seven-in-a-row weekends of weddings and a stack of job applications that had gone unanswered. And not too long ago as I planned baby showers and perused through Facebook posts of lives that all seemed to be full of change and growth.
The light from Mother’s kitchen created a sort of halo at the top of her head. “Do you feel like God’s forgotten about you?” I leaned back against the iron chair. “I don’t believe that, but sometimes it feels like it.”
Courage, dear heart.
Sometimes it takes time for our heads and our hearts to reach the same understanding. It takes time to recognize that there are seasons of pruning and there are seasons of fruit. And then there are the seasons of wine. Where the richness of our growth is enjoyed because the vine is no longer overgrown, wild, and bare.
A good gardener and winemaker carefully prunes his or her vines so that they produce the best fruit. They let them grow wild. And then they prune away and pick away any fruit that tries to grow, often for several years. They do this with purpose, knowing that if the grapes were to grow too soon, they would be suffocated. Weak. Unhealthy. They want the fruit to be sweet and ripe and rich. To grow strong and healthy. They want the fruit to be the best that it can be because a good winemaker knows this will produce the best wine.
To anyone looking upon the vineyard during those wild years of pruning though, it would appear to be unkempt. It would appear that the gardener had forgotten to tend to his vineyard—to his branches.
But I assure you, they are not forgotten. And neither are we.
The door of the coffee shop opened, letting in a little gust of winter wind. And my heart swelled with a prayer of thanksgiving for the beautiful story being written before me. For, I knew that one day that the woman sitting next to me—so full of grace and strength and humility would wake up and realize just how strong she actually was. How bold and content and grateful she was for her season of pruning. She’d wake up and realize the fruit all around her and that God had simply been waiting until she was ready.
I know this because this is the season I am in. This is my year of fruit and wine.
My year of immense richness and blessing and joy. I feel it—the pruning of the gardener—the strengthening of my heart and spirit and mind. The prayers that are beginning to be answered. The dreams I’m beginning to have of paths that lie before me. I hear the quiet whispering of His voice.
“Courage, dear heart. I’ve been with you all along.”
And this is what I pray for you also, in whatever season you are in.
Courage, dear heart. Your year of fruit and wine is coming.