Girl in the Morning

The first thing she felt as she slowly awakened, was the slight, sharp point of a feather sticking through the bedcover. She shifted and opened her eyes. Early spring cold seeped in around the edges of the leather skin covering the room’s one window.

She lay there, quiet. Outside, the faint voices of birds could be heard in the almond trees her father had planted before she was born. Three of them stood between the house and the dirt street. They were budding now, softening the stark silhouettes of winter branches.                                                                                                 almondblossoms

In the stillness she closed her eyes and thought of her mother and father. Gone. They had been taken so suddenly by a virulent winter illness two years ago that she still could hardly believe it. They, so loving and devoted to one another, and to her, their only child. She felt tears threatening.

Words of scripture began to drift through her consciousness. Her father had been her teacher. Recognizing in his bright, intense young daughter an uncommon hunger for knowledge, he taught her to read. This, too, was uncommon. He ignored the remarks of friends and family about the waste of time. He copied down texts memorized from the synagogue onto stiff pieces of leather and shared them with her. The histories and the psalms, the poetry and the prophets.

He told her the ancient stories of betrayal and war. “When our people turned from the true and living God, daughter, terrible things followed.” She learned of blessing. “God rewards obedience. God blesses those who serve Him with a pure heart. Keep a pure heart always for Jehovah.”

They were as living things, those words. She sat and read them in every spare minute. They wove into the fabric of her mind and flowed from her memory through her days. She sang them as she cleaned and gardened and sat at the loom.

“God will send a Deliverer.” Her father’s voice rang in her mind. “We live in dark times now with the occupier. But, God will send a Child, a Son, a Ruler. Never doubt it.”

In the difficult days and months that followed her parent’s deaths, it was their devotion to God that had been her greatest comfort. Her father’s brother and his wife had moved into the house. Kind and attentive, they did their best for the grief-stricken young woman now in their care. She spent much time alone in those early days with the old leather pieces, reading, praying.

When a local man came calling, her aunt and uncle were thrilled. Joseph, with an unblemished reputation and a good livelihood, would be a fine choice for their niece. And she was happy, recognizing the hand of God in His provision of an honorable husband.

This morning, she prayed from the Psalms as she lay still and warm in her bed: Your righteousness, O God, is to the height of heaven, You who have done great things. O God, who is like You? She suddenly felt a joy expand throughout her very being as she had not felt since her parents died. I may worship Him, the true and living God. I, even I, may worship Him.

Slowly, she rose and reached for her wool cloak. No one stirred in her aunt and uncle’s room. A few minutes later, her feet in sturdy leather shoes, she walked into the cooking room.  Stirring ashes in the clay oven, she added sticks until a good fire burned steadily. The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children.

She stood for awhile, warming her hands. Her aunt would be up soon. Tea would appear, and fig cakes.

Reaching into a small sack by the door, she took a handful of grain. Pulling her cloak tighter, she walked out the door into the chill dawn air. Chickens scattered around the small courtyard, clucking in alarm. She tossed the grain onto the packed earth and they began their frenzied pecking.

It was light enough now to see the dark form of their cow in the tiny stable. Her big, friendly face hanging over the side of the stall seemed to smile a welcome.  “And good morning to you, soon-to-be-mama,” she greeted the heifer. Stepping through the wood crosspieces she walked to the cow and laid her head on the wide back. A calf would be born within a fortnight.

She loved the creaturely smells of hay and barn. Thankfulness welled in her.

When, as a small girl, she had heard the story of Hannah, her heart had thrilled at the sorrow and sacrifice and joy. She had memorized Hannah’s song long ago and it washed through her mind this morning especially clear: My heart rejoices in the Lord. For there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God. The Lord makes poor and makes  rich. He brings low and lifts up.                                                                                                                                                              

A shadow appeared on hay stacked in a corner, a slight shimmer, a presence. She stared at it, mystified. It slowly took form, filling the dim interior of the stable with an impossible radiance.

The Being spoke: Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you.

And it began.

At Your Thanksgiving Table

I posted this last Thanksgiving. I think it’s worth revisiting. Hope you agree.

How long since that first Thanksgiving?

Ah.

Ah.

393 years. Wow. Just think of all those calories.

This holiday is uniquely American in its foods and traditions. And what is its hallmark? Why,  family, of course.

So here are a few things to think about as you sit at the table today surrounded by the people you love. Or maybe just barely tolerate.

  • Family is a Divine construct. It was conceived by God, designed by God, and, indeed, commanded by God. Go forth and multiply. Adam and Eve decided to obey this time, got busy, and began to do just that.
  •  Strife in families has been present from the beginning. This is an unfortunate (i.e. terrible) fact. The enemy has always had the family in his crosshairs. Why? He understands the power of blood and love.
  •  Family is the incubator of character. Here children should learn how to live, how to properly conduct themselves with other human beings. The family unit is meant to be the foundation of a civil society. More importantly, it is a type of the Church in the loving care of its members – the meaning of “is” here is, I confess, hopeful.
  • That being said, it should also be a place where we learn how to resolve our differences without killing each other in the field.  Our history together and our regard for one another should go a long way toward smoothing the rough patches. When these things are not enough, then we ought to learn how to establish firm, healthy boundaries without a blunt instrument.

“Meant to” and “ought to” are rather pollyanish, kind of utopian, you say? Well, maybe. One of the problems, as I see it, is that too many families are birthed with no goal in mind. When this is the case, kids with a wonky attitude are pretty much guaranteed. When they grow up and end up across from you at the Thanksgiving table, all your gifts of grace will then be called forth. Hopefully. And you will end the day having been tested and not found wanting. Hopefully.

I do pray, dear readers, that your celebration will be mightily blessed:

  • that laughter will be the music of your day
  • that the healing power of thanksgiving will be a balm for every sore spirit
  • that good memories will fill the hearts of everyone at your table

I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 12:6

Why Our Church Was Scanned

If outrageous imagination is the wine of madness, then come fill my cup. Sheldon Kopp, American psychologist and writer. (1929-1999)

Your comfort zone is where outrageous imagination goes to take a nap.

Don't settle.

Do the work.

Recently, my pastor, Nicolas, who is also my son (just so you know), had a young man come and assess our church – its culture and its modus operandi. This is his ministry. Mind you, we have a good church. Huge changes since the transition two years ago. Great staff, great congregation, great attitude, great update of the building. It’s great. We’re all great.

But if we are going to fulfill our considerable potential, there’s going to have to be some outrageous imagination coupled with the willingness to make significant changes.

So Brandon Stewart shows up with his wife, Lindsay. Tall, 30-something, hipster (alright, I’m no expert, but he seemed pretty hip). You might not look at them and think, “Wow, these folks are extremely knowledgeable and experienced in helping churches fulfill their potential.” But you shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking they aren’t.

We found out very quickly that here was a young man

  • who had done his research and knew the culture/demographics of our city
  • had an unsentimental eye from the moment he drove into the parking lot until the moment he left
  • has a no-holds-barred approach to How to Get it Done for God’s kingdom

He and his wife met individually with members of our staff on Saturday, asking questions. Many questions. Taking copious notes.

On Sunday, they walked through the front doors and began what I think was a Scan. They scanned the Frontline Team and the lobby. Then my daughter-in-law, Dana, escorted Lindsay through the Sunday School facilities and she scanned. The couple walked into the Worship Center and began scanning the entire space. You could almost hear the beep, beep, beep. Then the service, the Worship Team, everyone who said anything throughout the service. Then he preached. We scanned him and were challenged by what he had to say. Afterward, he walked through the building and scanned some more.

They met with our entire staff on Sunday evening. Some of what we heard:

  • Every church has a culture, by design or default.
  • What is culture? “This is how we do things here.”
  • Vision is the church we want. Culture is the church we have.
  • Your church culture must be carefully disciplined to align with your vision

They met with Pastor Nick and Dana on Monday for an excruciatingly honest verbal assessment of Christ Tabernacle. They discussed concrete steps for taking our church to the next level. A ten-page written report followed.

Bam.

But I will tell you this. I awoke very early on that following Monday morning with a palpable sense of joy. Why? Because we’ve been vetted and we’re up for the challenge. All of us.

Because, as the apostles quickly found out, a 400 b.c. system doesn’t work in a 33 a.d. world.

Makes the point.

Makes the point.

And what may seem like outrageous imagination is simply God showing us what He wants done.

Do you sense God scanning your life? Are you up for significant change?

Are You Underestimated?

Imagine the 14th century b.c. Imagine arriving from your simple dwellings in the Nile River valley to the splendor of the palace of Rameses II. Stand before that figure seated on that throne in your worn sandals and homespun robes and hear him tell you to start killing newborn Hebrew males.

I'm sure they would even have resisted Yul.

I’m sure they would even have resisted Yul.

I love this story. I love the refusal of the two midwives, Puah and Shiphrah, to be intimidated by one of the most powerful men in the world. I love their quiet, fierce resistance to evil.

Consider the consequences:

  • Their courage made it possible for a large population of men, saved as infants, to eventually leave Egypt. They were led by Moses, a man also miraculously spared.
  • Those men had sons and grandsons born and bred in the desert.
  • Joshua trained those tough, sturdy sons in the military arts and took back the land of Canaan in a brilliant military campaign whose strategies are still taught at war colleges in the United States.

Resist the devil and he’ll flee. Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome it with good. Not just clever Biblical maxims, but powerful spiritual truths.

If you’re in need of a shot of courage, remember Puah and Shiphrah and all the midwives who stood with them. Dig deep. Let the enemy look at you and underestimate.

Exodus, chapter 1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silent Birth

The Call

My phone sounds at 9:44 p.m. on Saturday evening.

It is the day after Valentine’s Day. The family was over the night before for an evening together. Our daughter-in-law, Jennifer, at 40 weeks, was having some back pain. A good sign. The first child for her and our son, Aaron, will be here soon. We are anxious to meet our baby girl.

“Mom, where are you?” It’s Aaron, and his voice is urgent. “Upstairs getting ready for bed.” “Is Dad with you?” An odd question. “He’s downstairs.”

“There’s no heartbeat and we’re on our way to the hospital. Maybe she’s in the wrong position or something. Can you meet us there?” The words tumble out in a puzzle that my mind struggles to assemble.

Jennifer, a registered nurse, has had a perfect pregnancy. I have never seen a young woman more filled with the joy of expecting a child. An appointment the day before with Claudette, her midwife, confirmed that Jennifer was in perfect health, the baby in perfect position with a strong, regular heartbeat.

“We’re on our way.” I call for my husband, Sam, to come upstairs and tell him what Aaron has said. He is gone in a flash, taking his truck. I am fumbling for clothes, grabbing keys, in the car, on the road. Praying a one-word prayer: “No. No, no, no.”

Truth

In a small room at the hospital, Jennifer is lying on the single bed, Aaron standing beside her. Tears. “I was having fairly regular contractions and Claudette came by to check on me.”

No heartbeat.

A nurse arrives with an ultrasound machine, all apology and I’m not really trained for this and it’s not the machine we really need which they are bringing down soon. She places the wand on Jennifer’s stomach. A hiss fills the room.

We are uncomprehending. Please bring the machine that will fill the room with the strong steady beat of our baby’s heart.

The nurse leaves with her machine.

We are here, Sam and me and Aaron and Jennifer and the blessed mound of the baby. “Sometimes she turns and it’s hard to hear the heartbeat.” Yes. Find words to fill the thickening silence.

Time passes. Nurses assure us the doctor will arrive soon. I can’t understand why there isn’t more urgency, medical personnel running in and out of the room like in the movies. In the deep recesses of my brain I hear the faint throb of a drum, the threat of doom.

The doctor on call appears, tall and young and pregnant. She is careful and quiet with us. A nurse arrives with the second machine, the one with the truth. She moves the clothing away from Jennifer’s belly and applies the gel.

What is this? Why are we here? Suddenly I have complete clarity and I am horrified. Is it possible there is no heartbeat?

The screen is visible to all of us as the nurse begins to move the wand with one hand while tapping buttons with the other. Images jerk into view, then disappear. More moving, more tapping. The doctor is staring intently at the flickering screen. We are suspended, all of us in that room, in a growing desperation. I hear the whoosh of planets and the rush of the stars.

The nurse. “I’m so sorry.”

A primal cry. Jennifer writhes into Aaron’s arms and there is the wracking sound of hearts breaking.

Realization

The doctor, nurses, midwife all withdraw. Our arms are around each other. How quickly life is shattered. A tiny heart is stilled and we are plunged into darkness.

Later, in the hallway, the doctor tells us how very sorry she is. And that in the majority of these cases, no cause of death is found.

Aaron leaves to call Jennifer’s parents. Frank and Cecilia are five hours away. The drive. How will they bear it? This is their first grandchild and they have been ecstatic. Blankets, beautiful little dresses, some of them Jennifer’s from when she was first born, all have been arriving over the past months to help fill the nursery. The nursery, with its soft gray walls and lavender accessories.

I call our oldest son, Nicolas. He and his wife, Dana, will come immediately. Jessica, our daughter, will stay, for now, with their sleeping children.

The children. Three-year-old Natalia has named the baby Kanga after Roo’s mother in Winnie the Pooh. As the months have gone by, when she sees her aunt she wraps her arms around Jennifer’s belly, kissing Kanga hello and goodbye. I see, in a brief instant, that we are facing a long journey of sorrows.

Nicolas and Dana arrive. Dana is also Jennifer’s birthing coach, her doula. This was to be a home birth with a midwife and calm and oils and a big tub for birthing already inflated in their living room. Sam and I wait in the hall while they go to Jennifer and Aaron. Large framed photos of babies stare at us from either side of the door. I stare back at them as though viewing beings from another world.

Praise

In the room, Aaron looks at us, his face a mask of tears. “Her name is Vanessa Marie.” This was to be a secret until she arrived. Vanessa Marie. Beautiful. It is her name.

Later, I am standing alone by the bed in the dim room. Aaron lies with his arm around Jennifer and their baby. I lay my hands on them and begin to pray. Then, Aaron’s voice, broken: “Thank you, Lord, that we had her for nine months. Thank you that we could be her parents. We praise you, Lord.” I hear Jennifer, her voice distinct between sobs: “I thank you, Lord, that I could carry our baby. Thank for the time we had with her. We trust your will.”

How to comprehend this?

I realize in that moment: this is what it means to raise your children to know God. This young couple on the threshold of the joys of new parenthood is lying together, crushed with grief, yet without a word of why or how could this be. Without a word of bitterness. With praise and thanksgiving.

This hospital room is holy ground.

Pause

Decisions. No, Jennifer will not be induced. Yes, she will receive drugs to help with effacing. Yes, morphine for pain and, hopefully, some rest for what lies ahead.

Nicolas, Lead Pastor of our church, leaves for home. He must be up in a few hours to get to the church to prepare for the service. He will have the painful task of telling our close-knit fellowship the terrible news. Jessica arrives a short time later, her face swollen from crying.

We wait. Aaron and Jennifer sleep, their forms quiet in the dim room. Dana will sleep on a mat on the floor. The doctor urges Sam and me and Jessica to go home and rest as it will likely be many hours before the onset of hard labor.

It is 2 a.m. At home, I lie down on the bed as though in some disembodied state. My phone rings at 4:30 a.m. Jennifer’s parents have arrived and need directions. Jessica appears and says she will lead them to the hospital. I follow a short time later.

At the hospital, I open the door to their room. Jennifer is awake with mild contractions. Frank and Cecelia are seated, hunched in exhaustion and grief. I hug them. There are no words.

No Normal

There is a moment in these early hours when I am standing at a window by the elevators watching the lightening sky. The hospital staff is changing shifts. Here on the 4th floor overlooking one of the parking lots, I see the small figures of nurses arriving and departing. It is such a normal, everyday thing, going to work, leaving work. Yet nothing is normal. Nothing is normal! I want to scream. There is no heartbeat, there is no heartbeat!

Instead, I turn from the new dawn to go to my precious son and his precious wife and the long, long hours ahead.

Onset

A larger room has been prepared where Jennifer will labor and deliver. It is filled with early morning light, a bit too bright. I help one of the nurses tape large squares of blue plastic over the windows. The staff is quiet and tender with us. Anything we need, anything at all.

Time passes. Jennifer, Aaron beside her, begins breathing through contractions with soft moans. I look at Cecelia wrapped in a palpable cocoon of sorrow and think that she is the living embodiment of every mother whose child has lost a child.

Aaron will not leave Jennifer’s side. At times, they seem to be together in another realm. Intense, focused, moving toward the inevitable.

There is a moment in the hallway when I am standing with Jennifer’s father. He looks at me with swollen, red-rimmed eyes and gestures in despair: “To think they throw them away. They just throw them away.”

Pause

In the late morning, Jennifer asks Dana and me to go to their home and let their dogs out. When we arrive and open the door, the stroller and car seat and big birthing tub are the first things we see. I go upstairs to open the dog’s crate, but I cannot help but walk down the hall to the nursery. The beautiful, light-filled room so lovingly prepared is peaceful. Waiting. I step back, quietly pulling the door closed.

Downstairs, I see Dana deflating the tub, another act of finality. Jessica will come by later and remove all of the baby things to a spare room.

We meet Jessica at my house. Showers. A little rest, then the girls leave for the hospital. There is a knock on the door. Our dear friends, Frank and Paula Magarino, have just come from church. Paula is Jennifer’s cousin. They arrived yesterday from Crescent City with their two girls, hoping the baby would be born while they were here. I had called them in the early morning.

“The church,” Frank says, “took it hard.”

Mystery

Sam and Nicolas arrive from the church. Babysitting has been arranged for the grandchildren.

The nature of this loss is that nature will proceed. Aaron and Jennifer, within a few short hours, have had to accept that their baby will not be born alive and that she will be delivered as though she were. We deal with this reality by getting through the next minute, then the next.

We touch Jennifer, massage her back, make her as comfortable as we can, gently speak the name of the Lord over her and over Aaron. In truth, here in our extremity, I find it difficult to actually pray. Yet on a deep, interior level, I know that we are being lifted and held in the presence of God by the prayers of others. It is the very mystery of prayer. God is here. And He will not leave us.

Silent Birth

As the contractions intensify, Jennifer rises again and again from the bed and lifts her arms around Aaron’s neck. As she breathes through the pain they rock slowly from side to side in a kind of tragic dance. The two of them, fastened together in their love and their covenant, endure the unendurable.

In the late afternoon, as the final stage of labor approaches, Jennifer is moved to the other bed to deliver. Sam, Frank, Nicolas, and Jessica wait in the hallway. Nurses bring supplies. The atmosphere intensifies. A young resident appears. He has a quiet manner and, instead of standing over Jennifer to speak with her, he kneels at eye level beside the bed.

I watch Jennifer as she labors to deliver her baby. How to comprehend the reserves of strength and endurance? I look at Aaron, holding her hand, his face stricken. How to fathom the devotion and the sorrow?

VanessaFootprintOur voices fill the room with encouragement: “You’re doing so well, Jen. Just little more, this time, a little more.” The faces of the doctor and nurses are grave and I see eyes brimming in these final minutes.

A cry from Jennifer, and Vanessa Marie emerges, beautifully formed, still, and silent.

Tender Mercies

A nurse is ready with a blanket as the doctor hands her our baby. She wraps her up and pulls a beanie over her tiny head.

I go out and tell Sam and Frank, Nicolas and Jessica that Vanessa has been born. As we return to the room, the curtain has been drawn as the doctor finishes post-birth with Jennifer. A nurse quietly asks, “Who would like to hold the baby?” Frank holds out his arms with an eagerness that breaks my heart all over again. His tears are the first to fall on her small bundled form.

One by one we hold her.

A pediatric neurologist appears, asking permission to take the baby and examine her. Some time later he tells us he finds no discernible cause of death.

I’m holding the baby when a nurse approaches. “I’d like to give her a bath.” Cecilia and I watch as she lays Vanessa on the other bed. There is a sacred quality in the way the nurse sponges her tiny body and washes her hair. She slips on a diaper, wraps her in a fresh blanket, and replaces the beanie.

Later, we will leave them together, Aaron and Jennifer and their daughter. When they call for the nurse an hour later, it will be the last time they see Vanessa Marie in this life.AaronJenVan

Morning

When I arrive at 9 a.m. the next morning, Jennifer is dressed and sitting on the edge of the bed. She and Aaron are calm, wrapped in an inexpressible weariness. Her doctor was in early, staying to listen, and to answer, if possible, every question. Tests results will take a couple of weeks. They will provide no answers as to the loss of our baby.

Nurses appear, visibly moved, to say goodbye. Aaron leaves to bring the car to the front entrance.

When he returns, a social worker enters with kind condolences and a list of services available should they be needed. The necessary questions, asked ever so gently, still slice like knives into the flesh of raw emotions: Do you have a mortuary? Gravesite? Instead of bags of baby products and a pink bundle of new life, Aaron and Jennifer must deal with the details of death. It is a relief when she leaves.

A nurse enters the room with a wheelchair and Jennifer sits down. I look at her, dreading what I know is coming. Her hands rest in her lap. She lifts them briefly and lets them fall again in a small, sudden gesture of futility. As we move down the hallway to the waiting car, her face is wet with tears.

The Dress

Cecelia wants to purchase a white christening-style dress for Vanessa’s burial. We drive together to a shop called Reverie Baby where the friendly owner, Kristi, greets us. “We are here,” I tell her, forcing the words out, “to purchase a dress for our granddaughter’s burial.” For the next 45 minutes we look at beautiful little gowns. Cecelia is struggling. At one point, I see her, back turned, head bowed, leaning against the counter. But she finds the perfect one with delicate daisies and tiny pleats. She adds a soft lavender blanket, a bunny, small tokens of love.

Dress & bonnet, blanket, bunny, Bible.

Dress & bonnet, blanket, bunny, Bible.

Kristi will not accept payment for the dress.

The Service

The day of burial dawns soft and sunny. When we arrive at Jennifer and Aaron’s home the house is filled with family members, some having arrived from many hours away. We leave together in a long line of vehicles.

At the memorial park, we pull into the cul-de-sac and step out. A large crowd of church members and friends waits at the bottom of the gentle slope. And something tiny and white. Jennifer glimpses it and turns into Aaron’s chest with a sob. A few minutes later we sit in chairs in front of the small casket adorned with flowers.

Sam speaks first. I think of the many times he has, in pastoral ministry, stood before grieving families with words of comfort. But we would never have imagined this day. Through his own tears he speaks of the gift of hope, of resurrection, of a sure reunion with this child we love so much.

Nicolas follows. “Her eyes were never open in this life,” he says. “But, just think, when she did open them, the first thing she saw was the face of Jesus.”

Comfort

There are times when grief is a tide sweeping away everything before it. I see Vanessa Marie’s perfectly round face crowned with curly reddish hair. This is not all there is. The soft arch of tiny brows above eyes we would never see in this life. We see through a glass darkly. The impossible softness of her cheeks. But then face to face.

I had purchased a small pink Bible to be buried with Vanessa, inscribing a paraphrase of David’s words in II Samuel 12 after the loss of his newborn son: You cannot come to us, but we will go to you. Someday the veil between this life and the next will be torn away. Aaron and Jennifer will be reunited with their firstborn daughter. God will have wiped away all tears and banished all memory of this parting.

For now, we remember with sorrow and with thanksgiving.

The Lord gives.

The Lord takes away.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

Note to My Readers on Our Loss

solideogloriaOn Sunday, February 16th of this year, our granddaughter was stillborn three days before her due date.

I began an account of her birth almost immediately, but found I could only work on it for short periods of time. Grief must do its work and the writing, while cathartic, was painful. There is a fine line between conveying the truth of an experience like this with all of its deep emotion, and coming off as maudlin. Special thanks to my Writers Group, Janis Coverdale and Jeanette Breaux, for reading the story with such love and care, and helping shape and edit with such skill.

My purpose in writing our story was to honor the child we lost, to honor her magnificent parents, and to honor the Lord we trust. I will publish it tomorrow. It is long, but I hope you will read and, indeed, share it.

Soli Deo Gloria. All glory to God alone.

Why Terroir Matters

Or something.

Or something.

What? you say. Terrier? No, terroir. And it isn’t a canine.

Let me explain.

In Sonoma County, where I am blessed to live, 60,000 acres of vineyards flow over hillsides and along valley floors, acre upon acre, in perfect symmetry.

For me they are a constant reminder of John 15: I am the true Vine. I understand this to mean that He is the rootstock.

There is mystery of Word and Spirit in plant and process.

And everything matters in the vineyard.

I think about this as I head out through the Dry Creek Valley. Now, in early February, the last leaves are falling from the vines and microscopic critters in the soil are consuming them away.

Pruned vineyard blocks stand bare and tidy and uniform.

Recently, a woman came into the winery where I work and, with a look of concern, said, “The vines look all dry and dead. Are they okay?”

Granted, unpruned blocks look like a host of crazy aunties with their thin, hair-like branches reaching wildly in all directions. Or, as writer David Darlington puts it: “like a collection of fright wigs.”

Are you okay?

Are you okay?

Dry Creek is one of 13 appellations in our county. These are smaller regions with their own – here we go – terroir (tare-wah), a nice French word for the combination of:

  • soil composition
  • day and night-time temperatures
  • amount of rainfall
  • angle of the sun

These characteristics are specific to each appellation.

Terroir is the sum total of natural influences brought to bear on a vineyard in its particular location. The farmer does everything in his power to cooperate with those influences. Why? Because those unique qualities are revealed first in the fruit, then in the glass.

Understanding this, I want to cooperate with God, here where I am planted:

(Oops. Left behind.)

Oops!

  • submitting to pruning as the only way to maximize my potential
  • understanding that drought or flood or loss will ultimately make me stronger and more resilient
  • acknowledging that the soil and temperature and rain and sun are working together to make me both unique and useful

It might be hard to see in the stripped-bareness of winter as the vines go to sleep. But all things are working together for good.

The vines are okay.

Do you have a good understanding of where you are planted – and why?

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