By Debbonnaire Kovacs, Nov. 25, 2015

Advent again already! Can you believe it? One of the choirs I sing in is learning a Celtic carol which eagerly repeats the words, “Light the candle, Jesus is coming! …Will you be ready for Him when He comes?” Whenever we practice it, I wonder again why Adventists in general don’t make more use of this season.

This week’s passages include:

“The days are surely coming,” says the LORD, “when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’” Jeremiah 33:14-16

As I read, I remembered a personal journal entry from a few years ago, which I have excerpted to share, with the personal reflections trimmed and “genericized,” if you will.

Italicized portions below are direct from my 2010 personal journal. [Explanatory notes are in square brackets.]

[For a writing assignment, I was watching grafting videos on YouTube…and crying.]

The grafting that I saw was done on a well-grown, mature nectarine tree. Its fruit wasn’t satisfactory, either in taste or in consistency of production, so the nursery owner cut it down, right? Nope, just chopped off all its branches, all the fruiting abilities it had spent its life developing (with the help and under the care of the nurseryman), leaving one “nurse branch” to keep the tree’s system alive, and even cutting that one back. He then grafted in three different kinds of nectarines he liked the fruit of, taped them up, put protective bags over them, with holes for ventilation and so that he could check on them, and left them a few weeks. He put three small bud grafts on each of the large, cut-off branches, so he could choose which to keep later. He said the next important step was patience. “Wait, give it time, water it, feed it, and let it grow.” This bud-grafting was done, by the way, in late winter, just before the tree would break dormancy and begin its spring and summer growth.

When he came back a few weeks later, most of the grafts had taken, some beautifully, but on one branch, two of the three bud grafts had been lost, and the third was just barely leafing out. He trimmed those which were growing well, (one was actually trying to produce two tiny fruit! He took them off.) He removed the remains of their protective bags, and cut out all the sucker growth at the bottom of the tree, activated by his heavy pruning. At this point I learned that the tree was already grafted onto rootstock, because he mentioned that the suckers were from rootstock, below the original graft. He left the puny graft, saying it was doing “okay” and might do better.

Six months after the original graft, the tree was amazing to behold—6-7 feet tall, bushy and beautiful. I couldn’t believe how much growth had come so quickly. The nurseryman said cheerfully that it was doing beautifully, but was way too big. And proceeded to lop off several feet of height and most of the inward-facing growth, which is where I started crying.

[Naturally, my tears were not for the tree. These grafting and pruning lessons struck a deep chord in me spiritually]:

He said, “I know some of you are saying, ‘he’s ruining that tree!’ But this will help it grow much better, produce better, and we want it to remain below seven feet, so we can manage everything from the ground.”

He then showed us the original weak graft. The one that had taken had now grown six time its original size, but was, of course, still much tinier than all the other grafts. He said he thought he knew what had happened. The wood of the branch itself might be rotting, and they would probably lose the whole limb, its graft with it.

So I thought he would just cut it off. Instead, he cut back the strong growth of the other branches that crowded it, even more than he had before, so that the weak graft would be “exposed” (his word) and get more sunshine.

[To me, this triggered the painful, godly counseling I had had to go through, in which things I hadn’t even known about were dug up out of my soul and exposed to the light.]

“If it’s going to make it,” he said, “this will give it a better chance. If it doesn’t make it, we’ll end up having to cut off the whole branch, back to the trunk.” Which would mean none of that particular variety of nectarine that he had wanted.

“Now,” said the nurseryman, “all we do is wait. The tree has just been irrigated and fed, and we’re going to leave it alone now, to make the rest of the growth for this summer, and next spring we’ll see what we get.”

Well, plants may automatically respond to pruning by growing double the number of new branches, but me? After the first several times, I respond by hiding out in the cellar and refusing to grow at all if you’re going to chop off everything I put out there.

Jesus said, “Have I pruned you again since then?”

I looked back and started counting. There were the several chop-offs in a row that I memorialized and wept over in that long-ago journal…[losses I had felt were specifically unjust in light of how hard I had worked to bring them about, and the prayers I felt had been answered.]

Nope. In twenty years there’s never been another harsh pruning. There have been pains and difficulties and things to weep over, but they haven’t had that burning sense of injustice ever again.

The Big Question (What does it mean to trust, and can I really trust God?) has continued to hang around, and to influence my living, but it was all from nagging things in the past left unresolved. My fear of trust remained active, but not because of ongoing evidence; in fact, I felt guilty for still having the questions when my life has been on an upward track for a long time now, and I would always stop to remind God and myself that I AM VERY GRATEFUL for what I receive, but that I still wanted those old questions answered, and not in heaven, either!

So…is the Big Question answered, once and for all?? Did it require seeing a video of a particular kind of heavy pruning that wasn’t about removing dead wood or crossing limbs, or weak growth, or lightly nipping tips to produce bushiness, which was all I knew about pruning before (and I didn’t like that either–I don’t even thin carrots or lettuce!) [I do now. Just saying…]

That reminds me. I thought about those lost limbs and wanted them not to be burned, and Jesus said, “You can feed them to the goats! They love them, and that way the tree has given herself for good, all the way around,” And I thought of [a woman for whom my greatest loss ended up being a lifesaving blessing].


I am the planting of the Lord, and he is pleased with me.

You are the planting of the Lord, who is pleased with you.

 If you are interested in watching the videos: