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LIVING WITH A GRAPEVINE
A tended vine bears good fruit in due time

A Commentary by Constance Vanides

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser" (John 15:1)

The almost-summer sun has begun to cast its heat upon the south side of our house. When first we planted the Thompson Seedless grapevine we realized it would need something to climb onto, to cling to, as we expected it to send forth branches. So we planted the vine alongside a shade arbor, designed and built by my husband.

The arbor served to protect my bonsai plants transported from a cooler southern coastal climate to the hot summers of an inland valley. The lattice construction was adequate for the first few years of the vineís growth. In its seventh year, overhead extenders were added to the arbor to support the vigorously growing branches. As a bonus, we also received much-needed shade.

Today, not quite summer, I look up to see branches reaching to the sky, standing straight up, not knowing where they will land. "This is another beginning," I muse. Not unlike newly-birthed Christian believers, the new leaves are tender. Their light yellow-green appearance says they are ready to be picked for the traditional dolmathes; like my mother taught me to make.

My memories turn to that Mid-eastern delicacy made with a vegetarian filling of lots of chopped onions braised with rice in olive oil and flavored with dill, parsley, lemon juice, and sometimes mint, currants and pine nuts. Truly a gourmet treat, not for children, who, like me, had to learn to appreciate the tangy taste of the grapeleaf wrapping and all the time and work that was involved in the preparation.

The wind jarred me back from reminiscences as the branches, whipping about, needed to be tied down and trained in the way they are to climb on the overhead. Theyíre brittle, these branches. As they struggle to stay connected to the vine, I am reminded of Jesusí words: "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:4,5)

How like the grapevine the baby believer is! He needs all the help he can get just to hang on and continue along the right path. Young beginnings of fruit clusters need to find the right location to hang, to develop as they go.

Soon, the sunís rays will get hotter and the leaves will toughen as branches thicken to support the expected heavy clusters of fruit. Early growth continues to need much attention from skilled hands that have known many seasons of change.

And then, thatís it! Branches bearing fruit are released with the Creatorís power to be all they were meant to be. Still attached firmly to the vine, they continue to grow. Tied down, watered, tenderly cared for, the branches send out tendrils that feel their way along, attaching firmer still, until the fruit grows and ripens, fully perfected and ready to serve! Until that time, Iím content to enjoy the leafy stuffed dolmathes.

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© Constance Vanides