By Kathleen Billings
My family and I recently moved from our home of fifteen years in Illinois to a mini-farm in South Carolina. We left behind our small established family vineyard of 53 vines, which we lovingly called, “Frutto della Vite,” – “Fruit of the Vine.” My husband, Troy, and I were overjoyed to learn that the family who purchased our home look forward to continuing the tradition of harvesting grapes and building their family memories in the vineyard.
When you work so hard to build something from the ground up and maintain the growth, it isn’t easy to let it go and turn it over to someone else. Yet, isn’t this what life is all about—sharing the fruit of our labor? Letting go and letting God lead you to the next “vineyard” to work in, building a legacy to pass on for future growth in someone else’s capable hands?
After several months of prayerful discernment, it was clear to Troy and me that God was calling us to let go of the comfortable, fulfilling life we had built in Illinois to start anew in South Carolina. We now find ourselves transplanted to an entirely new “vineyard,” where we must develop and grow a new life for our family, in a home with five acres of a blank slate. We left behind an incredible community, a vibrant parish, ministries we were deeply entrenched in, our home and backyard we poured so much of ourselves into, friends we cherish and family we deeply love.
This past weekend my husband, together with a hired worker, built an extensive trellis system on our new land to support the 100 plus grapes vines we plan to plant in the coming weeks in our newly established vineyard. The structure is now in place for the expected growth of the vines in future years. Likewise, in the two months we have been here, we have purposely poured time into networking and meeting new people to build a Catholic community of support where we can continue to grow our faith as a family.
While establishing new roots and growing into our new lives, Troy and I have been mindful of the new “growing zone” we are now in —both literally and spiritually. South Carolina is an entirely different growing zone for grapes than Northern Illinois. The climate is warmer; the soil is different, and the possible predators have changed. Therefore, we have had to educate ourselves on best growing practices here as opposed to our former growing zone, so we may provide optimal opportunity for our grapes to flourish and produce bountifully.
Similarly, we have had to learn how we can best thrive in our spiritual lives in the new “growing zone” we are now in. While the Catholic Faith is universal, the Catholic culture can vary from area to area, and there are many paths up the same mountain. We are slowing discovering how to best nurture our faith lives in the new “vineyard” God has placed us in.
Letting go of our former life in Illinois has been bittersweet.
Just like our first vineyard will continue to produce grapes under the loving care of the new owners, Troy and I trust that the friendships we forged, the family we love, and the ministries we began will continue to grow because the roots are deep and God is tending the soil. He has called our family to a new “vineyard,” and we all look forward to watching the fruits of our labor grow under the guidance and protection of our Master Gardner.
About the author:
Kathleen Billings is married to her best friend, a mother of five beautiful blessings and three more souls in Heaven. She has a BA in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Together with her husband, Troy, they direct a vibrant parish-based Marriage Ministry called BAM – Building Amazing Marriages. Kathleen’s Website: Seasons of the Heart and Home