We tried a produce co-op this week. My homeschool friend told me that several moms go in together and split the cost of lots of fruits and veggies for their families, and she invited me to join in. My husband is kind of a health nut, and I am more of a "Let's eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal right before bed kind of girl", so I literally told him to just call her and let her know if he wanted them to pick some up for us too. He did, so she did, so now we basically have a 90 acre farm's worth of produce in our fridge. And the other fridge. And the kitchen island. And the window. And the desk. Basically, everywhere. I'll admit, I did eat a salad the other day, and I really like all the fresh berries in my vanilla yogurt, so...I guess we will call that a win.
So, this morning, my little boy asked me to peel and cut one of our 97 kiwis for him (ok, so we only actually have 17, but still), so I told him to choose the one from the window that seemed the most ripe to him. He asked what "ripe" meant, so I said that it would be the softer one. He said "so it should be squishy?" We concluded together that none of them are "squishy" and that if it was squishy, it probably wouldn't be good anymore.
I began peeling and cutting the fruit he chose and thinking more deeply into the conversation we had just had. I've been going through a season, for at least a year now, of what I have been internally calling "The Softening". I've noticed that I just don't get so worked up anymore over things that I might have had a strong emotional reaction to in the past. I don't get angry as quickly, I don't feel as impatient, I don't take on so many things that I'm left feeling desperate. I even felt deeply hurt and angered by a loved one recently and I didn't respond at all, initially. I chose to keep it silent within me as I prayed about it and asked a friend to pray with me and for me. It was about a month later that I felt soft enough to bring up the issue and express how it made me feel and also, that all was forgiven. This way of handling something that ultimately had to be addressed, was so much more beautiful than any fight I could have started and it was received far more graciously and humbly.
That softening is just the first step in my "ripening" process. This morning, as I cut off that thick, furry skin from the kiwi, I thought how much it's like me...like all of us. We soften slowly, and it starts from deep within. It starts while we're growing. It starts while we're still attached to the vine. I recently heard it said that "The blessing is not the fruit; the blessing is the Vine". Knowing that Jesus is the Vine to which I'm connected helps me to choose to ripen slowly. I'm well aware of all the changes going on within me, and I know that if I choose to release and drop off too soon, I'm still going to be the unripened, hard, sour version of myself that is undesirable to those who I was meant to fill. For me, the softening comes from serving in whatever area I see a need, from quieting myself when I want to be heard, and even from speaking up when I'd rather stay silent.
The willingness to be softened opens doors for God to move. How certain are you of what is going to happen next in your life? Where do you know you'll be used? Is there a big change coming? Will strong winds blow that may try to force you to release from your Vine before it's time?
HANG IN THERE!!! There is a plan and a purpose for your life. Stay put until you know that you're making the necessary decision with a ripened, wise heart and a soft, tender compassion. When the Vine releases you, you'll know you're ready.
Today's Prayer: Father God, continue to soften me. To ripen me. To hold tightly to me until you see that I'm ready to be dropped into the exact placement that you have for me. Give me grace to hang on with integrity, and have mercy on me for the times that I have tried to release in a season that I was unprepared for. Continue to prepare me for the mission you have for me. Grow me in sweetness and fill me full of your love. Let every seed that will eventually be given from me fall onto ground that is ready to continue those things that I'll never see grow. You, Father, are the Master Gardener and I trust You completely to grow me and change me, according to Your will for my life. Amen.