My clematis plant is heavy with blooms. It’s never been this beautiful before, never beget this many blossoms. I stare at it from my kitchen window, counting the flowers and noting the shades of purple that each one is clothed in.
Every summer, I marvel at how the thin, rubbery, vines of this plant wrap themselves around my trellis and then send their leaves and buds shooting out. It reminds me of a fist, some fingers curled in, holding on, some pointing out. The whole effect is marvelous.
The way those vines curl up and around and hold on before the blooms even appear. The way they scaffold their way towards the sun. The way their strength claws and clings while the flowers slowly come to life.
Those vines enchant me. How do they hold on so tight? How do they support the weight? How do they find the sun and send the blooms towards it?
How do they hold on while sending out?
I finish the dishes and load my kid’s in the car. It’s their first day of Vacation Bible School and I’m thrilled and devastated at the same time.
I’ve waited nine and a half years for them to all be able to go to the same activity together. Finally, they’re old enough. Finally, they can all go experience something together. Without me.
I’ve looked forward to this for years. Dreamed of a whole week of mornings to myself, but as I leave the parking lot, the smell of my children’s sunscreen still lingering in the van, all I can think about is how fast nine years went. How odd I feel to be without them.
All I can think about is how hard it is to hold on to them and send them out at the same time.
I come home and water the flowers.
I’m determined to keep them alive this year. In years past, I‘ve watched my garden wither and reassured myself with the excuse that I’m too needed inside to worry about the life outside. My children. They came first, and the flowers, well they fell away in the hot Colorado sun.
This morning they aren’t here though. This morning I can tend to the garden.
I walk out and smile. Another blossom is unfurling, slowly opening towards the sun. Slowly showing me the contents it’s held like a treasure chest up until now.
The vine it’s clinging to has cradled it at an angle that catches the morning light perfectly. I pour water down by the roots and think about how those tough, twisted, tenacious vines will drink it up and send it towards the flowers. How they’ll gather every last drop into themselves and then give it away.
They know the flowers need them. So they drink of the water I give, hold it and then send it out.
I pick up my kids a few hours later, kissing their heads and smelling sunshine and sweat in every follicle of their hair. They smell like summer and I breathe in deep, finding comfort and joy in them.
They tumble into the car and we talk about what they learned. That they’re treasured by God. That He knows them.
And comfort and joy fill me all over again.
They go outside and play in the yard while I make lunch. I watch my daughter walk over and smile at the clematis plant. I watch her finger the newest bloom and marvel at it. Her brothers nag her to come back to the game and she does. I know her heart is over by the flowers though. She loves them as much as I do.
I watch my children play and the flowers bloom. More aware than usual that these days are short. Shorter than they used to be. Soon these babies of mine won’t run in my yard. Their babies will.
Do the vines feel what I feel? While they climb up the trellis and build the very structure for their flowers to live, do they think about how those buds will leave? Do they ponder what it will feel like to whether the winter days without the beautiful lives they supported? Do they think ahead to the next season, the next generation with longing colored in sadness?
We both have wrapped ourselves up and around, sent out life and love, dug deep, and reached high to create this beauty that’s coloring my backyard.
I’m filled with sadness as I think about us, about mothers and vines. I ask myself again, How do I hold on and send out at the same time?
And then I think of another vine. The strongest and truest vine I know.
“I am the vine, you are the branches,” his voice whispers to me.
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.”
I close my eyes at his voice, letting his words sink in. Remain in Him, the one who gave me these children in the first place.
The one who called me to drink of the living water he gives and pour into their budding hearts. The one who has given me the strength to grow and come alive as I build a scaffold for them to bloom.
Remain in him and he will remain in me.
“Apart from me, you can do nothing,” he says gently. And don’t I know it. Apart from him, there’s no raising these children and there’s no launching them either. Apart from him, we would all wither away.
“The one who remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,” He promises.
How do we hold on and send out? We remain connected to the truest vine of all. To the vine that has held on tight to love, that climbed its way out of the grave like a flower does the ground, and then carried us up towards the light of his grace.
How do we hold on and send out? We remember that apart from this vine, we can do nothing so we might as well let him hold us fast, let him show us how to whether each season. We might as well let him hold our hearts through it all.