He’s the Vine. We’re the Tomatoes.

22 Jan

Weekday mornings are rarely pretty in the Martin household.Tomatoes

From the moment the kids stagger into the kitchen 15 minutes behind schedule already, we careen toward our 7:30 departure like a puppy skidding on hardwood floors.

There’s the constant prodding for the kids to fix their own breakfasts, the sudden discovery of homework assignments left undone, waffling plans as they study the school lunch menu, heated debates about clothing choices, permission slips thrust in our faces, as my wife and I battle to get ourselves ready for work.

To this oasis of calm we recently added a three-month-old miniature schnauzer whose morning exercise involves sneaking into bathrooms to unwind entire rolls of toilet paper.

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably seen this movie before.

Our solution?

Adding one more task to the to-do list.

I recently bought a book of short reflections by Fr. Thomas Keating, a contemplative prayer guru and monk in Colorado. It provides a brief page of readings and scripture for each day of the year, all focused on improving our prayer lives. My plan was to start each day by reading it. As you might imagine, morning’s not the best time.

But neither, really, is afternoon or evening. So my wife suggested we get the whole family on board. And for the past few weeks, that’s exactly what we’ve done: spend the last two or three minutes before we stumble out the door – usually to loud, baseless complaints from my son that he’s going to get a tardy slip – wrestling with the wisdom of Fr. Keating’s Daily Reader for Contemplative Living and the wads of toilet paper in the schnauzer’s mouth.

During one of our first mornings doing this, we discussed a well-known passage from John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches…” Keating writes: “The chief thing that separates us from God is the thought that we are separated from Him … We fail to believe that we are always with God and that He is part of every reality. The present moment, every object we see, our inmost nature are all rooted in Him.”

To make this a little more understandable for the kids, we discussed how some of the vegetables in our backyard garden never grow while the rest can’t flourish without the vine. After about 90 seconds of discussion, my 10-year-old son summarized it this way: “He’s the vine. We’re the tomatoes.”

I like the tomato image better than a branch actually, and the vivid contrast it offers to our perpetually distracted lives. It calls to mind long summer evenings and the sleepy chirp of crickets and the promise of slowly, quietly growing from the smallest of blossoms into greater fullness than we ever thought possible.


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8 Responses to “He’s the Vine. We’re the Tomatoes.”

  1. Erin January 23, 2015 at 9:21 am #

    I love the imagery of the tomato! Your son is wise. Love this!

    • Stephen January 24, 2015 at 8:52 pm #

      Hi Erin — some occasional conversations my son’s had with Fr. Francis must have rubbed off on him!

  2. Christopher T January 23, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

    Great post! It’s true, there’s often never a “good” (nice, quiet, relaxed, etc.) time to do many things, so we have to force the important stuff in and prioritize what we really should be busy with.

    • Stephen January 24, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

      Hi Christopher — great to hear from you, and thanks for chiming in. You’ve always struck me as a guy who knows how to prioritize quite well!


  3. Marcy January 28, 2015 at 12:49 am #

    What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing! You’re an inspiration!

    • Stephen January 29, 2015 at 12:54 am #

      Hi Marcy — thanks for stopping by the blog and for your kind words! Hope to see you back here again and that all’s well with your family. Was great to see you at the reunion.

  4. Jane January 30, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    Hi Stephen,
    I believe we have the same scenario in our home on a daily basis. I am so glad to hear we re not alone. Evan’s wisdom is so simple yet so precise… We are to be the fruit of God’s vine and the fact that Evan saw it so clearly means that he is receiving lots of good information from his wonderful parents even during the daily chaos. We miss you guys lots

    • Stephen February 2, 2015 at 2:14 am #

      Jane — great to hear from you! I know you have plenty of wisdom to share about managing the daily chaos. We stopped by and chatted with Eddie for a few minutes today; we miss you guys too.

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