We have a grapefruit tree in our backyard.  Over the past 9 years it has grown taller and wider and increased in grapefruit production.  All good things considering the first few years after moving in we weren't even sure which citrus grew on it.  I remember one spring when Diane, my green-thumb mother-in-law, asked how often I fed and fertilized the fruit trees.  The fact that I didn't know what she meant was answer enough.  So she taught me a bit about caring for citrus and pruning for future growth.  And whamo!  The next season brought our first harvest of grapefruit, if 12-15 counts as a harvest.  I was so excited!

So the next year, I put on my gloves and headed out to feed and prune my trees.  Success again and we more than tripled our production.  I was beginning to think I had missed my calling.  But something happened the next year at pruning time.

I made my way out back only to discover that it had already budded... beautiful, white fragrant buds all over.

How could I possible prune any branches now?  I would waste all that potential fruit.  Pruning is for dead branches and these were certainly not dead.  So I skipped the pruning, fed and fertilized, and held my breath.

Guess what?  We ended up with branches loaded with grapefruit!  So many in fact, that by the time we were able to pick all of them the tree was already budding again, preparing for the following season.  So you guessed it... no pruning again.  Plus the tree looked healthy and full and, well, it worked last time.

Sure enough, the tree was heavy with fruit the following year.  We picked and ate and shared with friends...and then did it all over again the next few years.  I have friends that get excited about my tree every year, knowing it will yield the best grapefruit ever and that we ourselves will never be able to eat it all.  It's true- ask around.

Beautiful story...but wait, there's more.

I noticed last year that it was becoming more difficult to penetrate the center of the tree to reach all the fruit simply because the branches were so many, wrapping around and into each other.  So much going on underneath that I wasn't able to get to it all.  So throughout the year, rotten grapefruit would start to fall to the ground.  Fruit I hadn't even been able to see, let alone pick in that mess of beautiful branches and leaves.

This year as I have been harvesting, I'm finding bushels of fruit again...but every once in a while I pick one that obviously was left from last year.  It's either rotten or dried up and hollow inside.  But it's mixed in with the fresh new fruit.

In the past 6 months I have been sensing the need to make some changes in my life...

To cut things out.  Simplify.  Focus.

I would entertain those thoughts for a time, but they would quickly get squeezed out because I had too many things to do.  Who has time to simplify and cut things out when your planner is full and your hours are limited?!

But I reached a point when I was forced to make a decision...respond to what I knew was the right thing to do, or continue ignoring it.

My dilemma was not in understanding why cutting things out was necessary...especially those things that are a negative impact on my life, like cutting out junk food or reality TV.  After all, pruning is about cutting off the dead stuff, right?

My problem was how to cut stuff out of my life that was "good" stuff.  Teaching and leading and having an impact.  How could it ever be the right thing to cut productive activity out of my life?  Places that produced positive results or ...healthy fruit?

And then I found myself fighting with a grapefruit tree.

A beautiful tree overloaded with branches and leaves and fruit.

So crowded with branches and leaves and fruit that it was impossible to even access it all...realizing that inevitably some of it would end up on the ground, rotten and hollow before next season.  And it made we wonder...maybe it IS worth it to cut off a few productive branches now, in order to allow the tree to more effectively grow fruit that can be picked and enjoyed in the future.  Maybe it IS possible to have too much good stuff.

I can be a slow learner, but I think I might try pruning that tree again in a few months...give it room to breath and stretch.  Make space for new fruit even if it costs some old fruit.  And maybe cutting out productive activity from my life is necessary too, in order to make space to breath and stretch and focus on something new.  At least I'm hoping that's true.  Because I just hacked off a few big branches and it's feeling a little bare right now.

Annabelle Chinchen