"They're gone! Gone!" I wailed as I burst into the shop. Sunshine poured through the doorway, flooding the workbench where my husband stood entrenched, savoring the warmth of early spring. The hum of the grinder smothered my words, but the distress on my face commanded his immediate attention.
"What's wrong?" he cried, casting off his goggles while trying to ascertain which mode to adopt: fight or flight?
"The grapes -- our beautiful arbor." Summers in the cool shade beneath the twining vines, luscious clusters of Red Flame and Himrod tantalizing us to pluck before their prime, the annual Concord crushing party in the fall -- raisins, table grapes, grape jelly, grape pie, grape juice -- all flashed before my weeping eyes and vanished like snowballs in a blizzard.
"What's wrong with the grapes?" he asked in fighting stance, poised to meet his adversary.
"They're gone! All gone! The whole left side of the arbor!"
"For Pete's sake, calm down and tell me what happened!" he pleaded.
"I was weeding in the garden, and working around the grapes I found a gopher's den and the vines are standing like normal but clipped at the roots 'cause the gophers wintered there and destroyed our whole arbor!" My words tumbled down the path as I raced behind him to the garden.
So many dreams, so much work -- demolished. Thoughts of investment and hope, the joy of fruitful labor, satisfaction in the harvests of autumn swept across his face while he examined the scene of the crime. "I knew I should have tried those gopher windmills," he confessed, taking the blame as usual. He brushed the dirt from his knees and shook his head in resignation. "Look at those fool vines, standing there as proudly as the rooted ones on the right, but with as much hope of growing grapes as a rooster laying eggs! Good for nothing but the fire," he muttered.
He was right. At a glance, both sides looked the same, promising the riches of summer fruit. But time would expose the truth: the right side drawing life from the soil to produce an abundant crop in stark contrast to the empty poverty of the vines on the left, severed from their source of supply.
"What was it Jesus said about vines?" I asked. "I am the vine, ye are the branches. . ."
"That's in the Gospel of John, I think," my husband answered. "He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing."
"That's the one! Uhhhhh. . . I was just thinking. . . without Jesus we have nothing, so with Jesus, we have everything. As long as we're attached to Jesus, no matter what our credit report says, we can't be poor, can we?"
"I guess not," he answered, drawing me into his arms. "Withdrawals from his account never bounce. Don't worry," he added. "I'll find another job."
"Just in time, honey. Until then, fruit will keep coming whether we work at it or not, 'cause we're not poor dead vines like these -- we're connected. Jesus is only pruning us to make us stronger!"
Suddenly the pile of bills I was avoiding shrank in my mind. I smiled, remembering that stupid thing my daddy always said when my needs exceeded his budget: "You ain't rich till you've been poor, darling." Then he'd wink at me, adding, "Rich in faith, that is!" And I'd know that he couldn't give me what I'd asked. But standing there beside those vines, it finally made sense. I slipped his words from their hanger and draped them over my shoulders like a jacket against the storm.
"Who do you want to invite to our harvest party?" I quipped.
"All that will come," my husband replied. "All that will come."