Like Blackberries on the Vine

Two years ago, I planted blackberry bushes along the fence in our backyard. I bought them on a whim on our 10th anniversary. I could tell you something lofty, like it was a metaphor for having a fruitful marriage, but the truth is I bought them on impulse while at Whole Foods to pick up some goodies for dinner that night. I ran to the store for steaks, and came home with blackberry bushes.

And they have been fruitful, though it takes them time to get established.  Last year we harvested a dozen; this year we’ve harvested several pints, and there are plenty more to come.

My girls love to pick those berries. With no prodding from me, they’ve made the picking part of their morning routine: dress, breakfast, sun hats (not that they need them at the early hour) and then out the door with their “picking baskets” in hand. They spend longer than needed pouring over the vines, and come back to the kitchen with baskets full of luscious deep purple berries–and quite a few more that are only partially ripe.

I chided them for those: Don’t pick before they’re ripe. Easy enough, right?

But then one morning I went with them to pick those berries–and found out that it’s not easy to tell if a blackberry is completely ripe. Sometimes it’s obvious the berry isn’t ready: the top half will be purple, the bottom half pale red. But othertimes, it’s much harder to tell. Blackberries don’t ripen evenly.

That morning I wished I’d never chided them, as I picked berry after berry that wasn’t quite ready. The parts I could see were ripe–but blackberries don’t ripen evenly, and many parts of the fruit were still developing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about ripening this summer. I’m speaking at the Influence Conference this fall, in the heart/voice track, about the journey that is the 20something and early 30something years. I’ve been thinking a lot about what women in their twenties and early thirties want to know, need to know, about their lives and faith and families and work. I’ve been thinking so much about what I wanted to know then, about what I still want to know now. I’ve been thinking about what those years are like.

They’re like blackberries.

Looking back on my twenties, one of my biggest shockers was that I didn’t ripen evenly. I didn’t know then that nobody does. I graduated from college, and I thought that made me mature–and I was, in some ways. But in other ways, I needed more time on the vine.

I was ready to get married at 21, but I had no clue about so many other parts of my life. I knew what I liked but didn’t know what I was good at. I was ready for marriage, but I hadn’t yet learned to develop good boundaries. I would learn these things, in a few years time. But I wanted to know then. I didn’t know that we don’t ripen evenly.

I was sorry I chided my girls for picking those berries before they were ripe. They didn’t know those berries don’t ripen evenly.

And I’m sorry I was so hard on myself when I was in my twenties. I thought that I was supposed to have it all figured out by then, but I didn’t know that I wouldn’t ripen evenly either.

Can you relate to this? What do you know now that you wish you had known at 21?

more posts you might enjoy


Leave A Comment
  1. Alison says:

    I love this metaphor. At 33, I feel like I’m still “ripening”. There are so many areas that I feel like I need growth in.
    Something I wish I had known in my early 20’s was to have more grace with others. It’s something I’m still learning, but I wish that I had known then to consider more than what I could immediately see. Everyone has a different story, a different upbringing, a different history, all of which influence their actions & point of view.

  2. I AM 21, and thank God I realize that there’s a LOT I still don’t know. I’ve learned a lot in the last few years, but there are so many more experiences ahead of me still. I’m just thankful that God’s with me every step of the way. 🙂

  3. Diane Vigna says:

    I wish I had known it was ok to take my own path. I rushed to get engaged, because that’s what you did at 24/25. Thankfully, I did listen to my gut and called it off, but ended up moving away from the town in Kansas where I lived, because NO ONE was single by choice it seemed. When I married my true soul mate at 34, I knew I had been right to wait.

  4. DFrazzled says:

    I understand completely.

    I simply love that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.

    Our lives are a series of “ripenings,” each season given to us in a certain time to teach us certain things and leave us with the gift of that lesson. Just as each week in the summer or fall gives it’s own fruit (you can’t harvest pumpkins in May or June with your strawberries), each season of your life will produce differently. The key is to see all of the seasons, and all of the fruits, as good. Maybe not what you expected—but good.

    • Anne says:

      You’re so right about the seasons. Even though I was told that a woman’s life has different seasons back when I was 20, I don’t think I believed it! I’m finally beginning to accept–maybe even embrace–the concept.

  5. Penelope says:

    I might have been more understanding of others! I thought I had all the ‘right’ answers – theologically that is. That my upbringing and teaching meant I ‘knew it all’ and that the beliefs of others were ‘wrong.’ I was very judgmental and intolerant. And unloving. My fault, totally. Fortunately others were more loving towards me and now I know that there is so much more of God than we can ever know or understand and that we need one another! I also thought that others judged me by how neat my home was, how clean my children were and how ‘together’ I looked. It was such a battle each day and totally exhausting. And wrong! I am now helping my children with THEIR children and trying to let them know how well they are doing – even if they don’t’ have everything ‘together’ all the time!

  6. Leanne Penny says:

    This is such a fitting metaphor for our twenties and for becoming our ripe and juicy selves. Although some days I feel like a dried blackberry.

    • Anne says:

      A dried blackberry? That doesn’t sound good. I hope you find your way to ripe and juicy, sooner and not later.

  7. cassondrajw says:

    I’m 21! I think it’s also important to know that it’s OK if you’re not “ripe”. I recognize I have a lot of growing to do, and that’s totally ok. You only get old and wise by being young and….well not stupid, but just young and naive. Love this post and the blackberry analogy : )

  8. I’ll be 30 next year, & one thing I wish my 21 year old self knew is that 21 is YOUNG! I thought I was so old then. Now, I look back & think, sheesh, what was I thinking? I also wish I wouldn’t have set boundries because of my age. I still fall in the trap of thinking, “I can’t do that because I’m too young or too old.” Age, I’m learning, is very much an attitude as much as it is a number.

  9. mandie says:

    oh goodness…I’m a week away from turning 30 and this last decade has been SO hard, mostly of my own making. I still don’t know what I’m doing. I just said to my husband last night that each time I apologize for something like not cleaning the kitchen or cooking each night, etc., that I should remember how far I’ve come in the last six years since we’ve been married…that first year I knew NOTHING. Not a darn thing. We need to learn this grace thing, and I think that we’re going to all learn it from each other. I’ve been reading Grace for the Good Girl and it’s helping me to be kind to myself- something I so wish I’d known all along, but am so thankful that I’m experiencing it now and not in thirty more years.

  10. Katie says:

    I wish I’d known that it is always possible to save money, even if you start with 1% of your income. I wish I’d known not to panic, especially about a “reliable” car. I wish I’d known that *I* have to take responsibility for my *own* bills; there are people who don’t make much who still save a little for emergencies and pay bills on time, and I should be one of them.

    I wish I’d known (even by 28!) the immense value of NOT ANSWERING everything. Even if I feel I’ve been humiliated, I probably shouldn’t say in a public forum that I am feeling upset. If I feel like I need to go off FB, I shouldn’t explain all the issues involved because some people take it wrong. I wish I’d known to be more…mellow. Able to let the storm pass, even when I feel (and am) cruelly rejected. Able to rise above drama rather than responding in kind.

  11. Sarah says:

    I was VERY hard on myself and it’s taken several years plus two kids for me to start to ease up and relax about things. My perfectionist nature is hard to quite, but I’m a work in progress. I enjoyed my 20’s but now that I’m over a year into my 30’s I think these are shaping up to be my favorite decade yet! (So very excited to hear you speak this fall!)

  12. Kelsey says:

    I’m 23 and this was a good reminder to be patient with myself and others. I’ve always been “old” for my age, but it’s nice to remember I’ve got lots of time to figure it all out!

  13. Tim says:

    We don’t ripen evenly … awesome, Anne.


    P.S. new guest post at Hope you can take a look.

  14. Beth says:

    I love the feature that takes those of us who haven’t been with you from the beginning back to old posts. This is still a timeless reminder five years later.

  15. Kathleen Gaughran says:

    … still ripening and soon-to-be 80. I was in my thirties when it dawned on me that there was so much more to learn and to be. It was a surprising and joyful realization and it made me laugh to think how certain of being “grown-up” had been at each marker moment along the way!! Now, the belief in possibilities was encouraging.

    Currently I am reading Richard Roher’s FALLING UPWARD – which he refers to as “the inevitability of a further and fantastic Journey.” There are still pages to write about the things I wish I had known and give thanks for the ones I already know.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.