It’s late September and the word is that the cabernet sauvignon harvest in Napa is looking to be “in near-perfect condition as we head into the second half of September and we are contemplating an early finish to what promises to be a spectacular vintage” according to the Napa Valley Vitners.

The cab sav grapes are the last one’s to be harvested, needing the most time in the sun and on the vine.  They seem to hang onto summer, soaking up every last ounce of it, needing the beauty and warmth of the sunshine to sweeten and ripen them for harvest.

Something about those grapes hanging on the vines feels succulent, life giving and restful to me.

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It’s late September and the grapes are ready for harvesting and then the crush.

Those succulent, vibrant grapes, filled with life will be plucked from the vine and crushed to produce the layered and nuanced wine that I want to pour into my glass to be savored and enjoyed.

Summer must end for the grapes, and it must end for me as well.

The harvesting has begun, the plucking and dropping into buckets.

Packing boxes, college dorm items, back packs, pencil boxes, notebooks and lists.

Little girls excitedly entering into the first days of school; filled with hope and the life giving joys of summer, ready to connect with friends and start a new year.

For me, the return of routine, the hopes for quiet spaces again.

The crush came to soon for my ten year girl.

It came as friends didn’t warmly welcome her, as the playground became a tortuous space of aloneness and questions.  It came in all the familiar ways it does for ten year old girls.

For me, the awareness of the crush came unexpectedly and sacredly.

It came in a dark auditorium where I sat with dear friends, my daughter, her beau and my husband.  The achingly tender words that had been part of a playlist that carried me through the frozen tundra of last winter quietly came from Audrey Assad as she stood at the piano up on the stage.

Good to Me

I put all my hope in the truth of Your promise
And I steady my heart on the ground of Your goodness
When I’m bowed down with sorrow I will lift up Your name
And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy

Because You are good to me, good to me

I lift up my eyes to the hills where my help is found
Your voice fills the night – raise my head up to hear the sound
Though fires burn all around me I will praise You, my God
And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy

Because You are good to me, good to me

Your goodness and mercy shall follow me
All my life
I will trust in Your promise

Without any warning the tears began to well up and run down my cheeks.  The sorrow of disappointment and loss felt weighty in the cavity of my chest, the presence of God so palpable, the tears that just kept coming seemed the only option available to me.

The crush.

“The foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy.”

The bible equates wine with joy.

Without the crush, there is no wine.

Without the crush, there is no joy.

This feels like a paradox for my heart.  The reality of the crush seems to stand juxtaposed to joy.  How can this be?

And what about those damn foxes.

As I sat in the dark of that auditorium I felt the reality that despite my attempts to neatly order my inner world and move ahead the past year brought things that shook my world and caught me off guard.

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There’s been some shattering.

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And, yet alongside the disheveled barrels and broken bottles of joy the vineyard has grown, the grapes are succulent and the harvest is promising.

It’s all a lot to hold to be perfectly honest.

I know my metaphors are plentiful and I suspect for you who read here there is a curiosity about what exactly has happened and what am I talking about specifically.

I hear you.

And, the specifics are not that different from what any woman holds…loss of friendship, unexpected betrayal, places of wondering if you heard God right when you thought He spoke so clearly.

You’ve all been there too.

Tonight as I sit and write it feels little less lonely and a bit lighter, naming the reality that I am not that unlike all of you.

I am sipping a favorite cab, Louis Martini Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.  My family has been drinking this wine for 45 years.

Grateful for the crush, and all the memories marked by the sweetness of this wine.

Grateful for the crush, and the joy that is yet to come.

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Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12).  Married for 27 years, she is mother to five kids.  After nearly a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is.  Founder of Seized by Hope Ministries, she writes here.

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