We have been trying to grow a few tomato plants.
The seeds were planted in April still. There was snow on the ground, but the seeds were placed into little pots and kept under a table lamp by our late landlord, and I continued the process.
We had amazing gardens in Uganda and Tanzania, where things grew so easily. Here there is fast growth in summer, but it does not lead to nearly as much fruit as we grew in Africa.
So that which does grow is precious!
And we have been tending the tomato plants… through May, June, July, August… when we saw the first tiny little bits of fruit growing on the plants.
The problem has never been with the growth of the plants. They are in a hot-house like environment and they grow like they are in a jungle! After planting out into bigger pots just before we visited SA in July, we returned to crazy ‘Seymour’ like vines just three weeks later.
Since then we have been trying to direct the growth first upon sticks, then thicker strings. We found out about plucking away the little shoot that comes up in the “v” of branches and have been removing those.
Then, when we saw a few real tiny little tomatoes appearing, I became a little more serious about the pruning. I took away more and more extra growth, to give the fruit every chance of getting some more nutrients and chance for growth.
About a week ago we had a severe cutting session. We pulled down several vines that simply did not look like they would produce anything useful. I cut back branches, tried to give the plants as much light exposure as I could, and made sure the vines were supported. The little tomatoes were still green, but they were still growing.
Autumn is arriving quickly.
There has been a sudden drop in temperatures, lots of rain and the colours are turning almost overnight.
I went in to check on my tomatoes again this evening.
The tomatoes are not changing colour yet!
So I started pulling away more branches. I took away branches that were flowering but will just never give fruit at this stage.
I pulled away branches of leaves.
The vines are not looking pretty at all.
But I am desperate to see some fruit. Longing for a taste of these little tomatoes that have had a lot of tending along the way.
And God’s “AHA moment” struck.
We feel like there is pruning going on in our lives.
Parts that we think are pretty, that grow so crazy fast and even lovely little flowery bits that might possibly lead to fruit: these are being torn away.
But the winter is coming. There is a sense of desperation at time being short in my own spirit. And all that will not bear fruit: it is being stripped.
Of course this is not pleasant. But the Vinedresser knows the times, the plant and the conditions far better than the plant knows!
John 15: 1-4 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. (New Living Translation)
We have a huge sense of being on the edge of something. We are not sure what is happening.
The challenges become bigger and more… challenging…?
More and more refugees arrive and we feel drawn to them. The African chitenges wrapped over shoulders that are as out of place here as… well… chitenges in Lappland… they compel us to grab the right arm with the left, and bow in greeting to shake hands, as one does in East Africa. The trauma in eyes that many try to hide… it pulls us. The ‘otherness’ so easily visible in town resounds in our hearts, and we identify with the feelings as we still feel so very other here still too.
How privileged are we to be situated where we are at this time of world crisis? Where are you situated? Everywhere, right now, is a great place to be useful.
We do not know how much longer there is time to still bear fruit.
The time is running out. It seems so urgent.
Even if it is tiny little fruit, I long to know that there are results.
Do you also feel the desperation, the urgent pruning, where you are? May we be faithful to still bring forth good fruit in the time that remains.