They say that the primary ingredient of becoming a good writer is... writing. You have to write. And keep writing. Each post on my blog is writing practice. This is my 500th practice.
For Christmas, I got Jan Karon's A Continual Feast: Words of Comfort and Celebration, Collected by Father Tim. It is going to help me continue my education as a writer. My assignment is to write about the quotations in the book. Here is the first quote I've chosen.
"If we are going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed; you cannot drink grapes." ~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, Reading for September 30.
Father Tim adds, "The very cream of Chambers."
A bare, black vine spends the entire winter spat upon by sheets of torrential rain. In the spring, it grows branches. During each branch's second year (after it's been pruned once and survived another winter of pounding rain), it produces grapes. The grapes mature, and then they are severed from the branch and sent to the winery.
At the winery, they are de-stemmed. Then they are crushed into juice, beginning the fermentation process. The juice is dropped to near freezing temperatures to separate the wine crystals. Then it is heated up to separate unstable proteins. Then it is put into airtight barrels to ensure that it receives no outside air, and it sits there for six months.
It just sits there. Waiting.
It appears to be still.
Probably a little bored, I'd say. Maybe frustrated.
But while it's locked away in that airtight barrel, unable even to breathe, the fermentation process is in full swing. Proteins are broken down, yeast cells and fine particles have time to settle. Thus, wine that went into the barrel cloudy, comes out clear.
While the wine sits and waits and ferments and turns clear, it is tested, to see how it's coming along.
After fermentation, the wine is refined to remove microscopic particles that could cause it to become cloudy again.
Then it is given preservatives... to preserve it.
Then it is filtered, to clarify and stabilize it.
Then it is bottled.
Then it is shelved.
It sits on the shelf for two to eight years, appearing to do nothing but gather dust.
But it is not just gathering dust. The harshness of its youth is being replaced by a softness, the color brightens, and it becomes multi-layered, meaning the taster can more easily identify the various fruit, floral, earthy, mineral and oak influences that create the peak flavor of the wine. It gains a rich complexity brought about only by time.
Finally, at long last, it is poured out. Finally, it is the best wine.
"If we are going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed..."
But not just crushed. So much more. We have to bud, grow long, be pruned back, wait out the wet winter, bud again, bear fruit, be severed, be de-stemmed, be crushed, turn sour, drop to near-freezing temperatures, be heated excessively, cooled, sealed in suffocating darkness, sweetened, tested, refined, preserved, filtered, bottled, shelved, softened, brightened, and aged to rich complexity.
Then we have been made into wine.
God made this process. Every part of the process is vital. Not just the easy parts. The hard parts, too. The crushing, the suffocating, the waiting, the refining.
What part are you at?
On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines...
In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the LORD, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
Whatever part you are at, you may trust God's process. Rejoice in His salvation.