A few weeks ago, our neighbor texted us to see if we were interested in starting some grape vines as he had extra. My husband, full of wisdom and realizing we were about a week away from having our third child, looked at me and said, “I was about to text him back and tell him no ‘cause we’re not, right?... I mean, you’re 9 months pregnant and we said we’re taking a break from the garden this year.” He was right. I knew he was right. But how could I say no to free fruit plants?? After a “brief” discussion, a flutter or two of my eye lashes, my wonderful and gracious husband agreed to dig up a row of old plants that had been struggling the last few years to make room for these new grape vines. We texted him back, “Absolutely!” Our neighbor agreed to drop them by later that day. To say I was excited was an understatement. I’m sure I spent the morning entertaining myself, imagining various names for our new vineyard. Sure, I realize it was just one row... but a girl can dream, can’t she?
When the doorbell rang, I made my way to the door. But my enthusiasm quickly turned to confusion when he entered the house. There, in our foyer stood our neighbor with what looked like a pale of… small twigs? What on earth?! I had envisioned beautiful grape plants, but what he brought us were sticks. I kid you not. No leaves, no roots. Honestly, they looked like something you would use to play fetch with your dog. Well, maybe other dogs. Definitely not our dog. Jackson doesn’t play fetch. He finds large branches in the woods and roams through the front yard chewing them into mulch. Let’s just say, it makes cutting the grass an adventure. But… I digress.
Our neighbor must have read the confusion on my face. He smiled and informed me that these were not traditional plants with roots and leaves; they were “hardwood cuttings.” He assured me that looks can be deceiving. While these cuttings may not look like plants, they would soon sprout roots and buds if we kept the ends damp and quickly got them into the soil. He estimated that these cuttings would yield grapes within three years. Further research on my part confirmed what he told us. Apparently, growers (viticulturists) prefer to use hardwood cuttings over seedlings to propagate vines for two reasons. First, vineyards can increase their yield at a faster and more cost effective rate. Second, cuttings help maintain the purity of the vine by reproducing an exact replica of the parent plant. In other words, cuttings maintain the genetic integrity of the parent plant’s DNA compared to seed born vines or introducing new vines to an existing vineyard. Isn’t it funny how first impressions can leave you eating humble pie?
The next day, we put these cuttings in the ground and watered them. Over the next few weeks, we noticed small buds forming and growing. By late last week, approximately four weeks after putting these “sticks” into the ground, leaves sprouted. Life was coming forth from what had appeared to be dead.
Of course God would have me pause and reflect on this as we approach Easter. The story of the crucifixion is a reminder to us that not all is as it seems. When they crucified and buried Christ, they assumed He was dead. They assumed they had won. For His followers, they assumed all hope was gone. But on the third day, hope sprouted from the grave and declared that suffering and death no longer had the final word! What a powerful message. It’s especially encouraging for us in the face of what we are experiencing in our world today. I know I don’t have to convince anyone of the havoc that fear, pain & death are having through this pandemic. But for those who walk with Jesus, we understand that the appearance of death does not mean this is how the story ends. We have been promised a living hope that is alive within us:
“What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.” (1 Peter 1:3-5 MSG).
This Easter season, I want to encourage us to reflect on this hope. Choose to invite Jesus to help you see past the fear, pain, and death the world is fixated on. Choose to fill your mind, heart, and soul with the goodness of God and His promises of a hope and future (Jeremiah 29:11). Take time this Easter season to reignite your connection with Him. Make time to listen to the Holy Spirit through prayer, scripture, worship, and time in the beauty of His creation. Choose to remember that you are called to be salt and light in a world gone mad.
I want to encourage you to take some time to ask the Holy Spirit how to offer this living hope to those around you. Don’t be quick to dismiss the role you play. Sometimes our beginnings are humble buds that have yet to become something more. Maybe hope is taking groceries to an elderly neighbor. Maybe it means enjoying an expended meal together with your kids. Maybe it means calling to pray with someone who’s facing more difficulties than you. Whatever God leads you to do, remember to exhale, breath in deeply, and rest knowing that you are a cutting taken from the true Vine; you carry his DNA. He has planted you in good soil and the Master Gardener is working to grow you up.