It was February and cold. He was apologetic almost about the picture he was sending me. I don’t know why I even asked for it because I knew the photo would only be a sliver of “what could be”. But I’d found his listing on Craigslist and thought I ought to know what I was getting before I said yes to 50 strawberry starts. The picture he sent was this:
It loosely resembled a bunch of dead brown twigs with tiny hints of green mixed in. It was, as photos go, completely unimpressive. I can’t possibly express in words though, how I felt when the picture showed up in my inbox. I’d had a burning desire for these berries, like I absolutely had to plant some. Seemingly illogical and over the top to me, I’d pondered it over and over but couldn’t will it away. I stared at the picture and could so clearly imagine “what could be”.
At breakfast with a friend that same week, I tried to explain myself to her, tried to make it make sense. As I laid out my heart, my hurts, the parts of life that felt broken and a little bit dead, it suddenly made sense to me and I blurted out through tears:
I just need to put something that looks dead, in the ground and watch it come to life.
I do. I need to. And it can be illogical and weird to want to plant 50 currently-dead-looking strawberries. But the truth is, dry and brittle and fragile describe some pieces of my (imperfect and always-more-room-to-grow) heart. They are brown and ugly and in their lack of vibrant life, they aren’t much to look at. Some pieces have been cut off so that new, healthier things can grow but that doesn’t mean the cutting part isn’t hard. It’s always hard, the pruning.
But there is watering and patience and attention I’m giving those berries and my baby veggie seedlings and the raspberries that look like 12 inch sticks in the ground at the moment. When the days full of sun come, they will thrive. There is some sweetness I feel that somehow we’re on the same journey, me and the berries. Its been a challenging winter and we’ve been hunkered down, dormant, waiting, reaching for deeper roots that will enable us to go forward.
We both have fruit to bear and though mine is far less tangible that the bright red June-bearing Shuksan Strawberries, the impact has the opportunity to pay dividends that reach farther than the taste buds and into the hearts of my husband and children and others. The ones who share my home are the most frequent recipients of the fruit of my heart, for better or worse. When challenges arise that seem too much, I am tempted to forget what I know to be true – if it wasn’t challenging, I wouldn’t be so keenly aware that I can’t do it alone. My need for grace, for help, for a God who is bigger, stronger and perfectly able to handle the mess is most present when life is hard.
There are a few varieties of berries that are deemed “everbearing” – these beauties don’t just give fruit once but if picked, they fruit again. That’s the other kinship I feel to my berries, in particular the Caroline everbearing raspberry we planted last weekend. I want my life to keep bearing fruit, to never be done growing and offering the sweetness of grace and forgiveness and compassion to everyone my life runs into.
Whatever parts of life might look dead, feel dead and seem hopeless….can I just remind you that they aren’t? Even as one in the thick of hard things, I believe wholeheartedly that God can breathe life where there is none and give hope in the most unlikely ways. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, he can’t handle.