My dad is a walnut farmer. I've learned from watching him that it takes 10 years of labor for a walnut orchard to reach maturity. Ten years of working from dawn to dusk. Ten years of nurturing and protecting the trees from the elements. Ten years of pruning and watering and fertilizing. With each passing year the trees grow taller, healthier and more laden with walnuts. And finally, 10 years after the saplings are planted, my dad's labor is rewarded with mature trees and a bountiful harvest. Sometimes when I look at my children, I feel like I'm raising nuts.
And many days waiting for the harvest is just plain exhausting.
It's often hard to see evidence of growth through the weeds and brambles. The hitting. The arguing. The screaming. The scowling. The selfishness. The backtalk. The downright disobedience. On days when Claire seems to scream from sunup to sundown and Henry and Adam are more interested in testing me that honoring me, I feel like the work I pour into these little nuts is for nothing. And then, in grace filled moments, God opens my eyes to see buds of maturity.
Like when ...
Henry gently rescues Claire from her crib in the morning when she wakes.
Adam laughs from his belly. A laugh of pure, unfiltered joy.
I hold Claire in my lap and she looks deeply into my eyes, places her hand lovingly on my heart and says, "Dis is my momma right here."
Henry controls a surge of anger and a small squabble doesn't turn into more.
The three big kids sit and watch me nurse Emily, eager to hold her, but patiently waiting until her belly has been filled.
Thirty seconds of prayerful peace fill our home when their heads bow and hands fold over a bowl of mac and cheese.
In an act of kindness, Henry helps Adam learn his letters as they sit together reading a book.
Goodness pours from Claire as she offers her big brothers a slice of her (slobbery) apple.
These glimpses of grace fill me with the strength I need to labor on. And I am encouraged to keep pruning away at the undesirable and encouraging the desirable as I patiently wait for my little nuts to mature.
* * *
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.