Our apple trees are loaded this year. I’m looking forward to the cool Autumn days when it will be time to pick those apples and enjoy the annual ritual at our house of my wife making apple butter, and apple sauce.

I’ve written in other places about a memory I have about our very first attempt at growing apples. We had a 10 acre field. And we dreamed of an orchard. I played the percentages. We wanted to plant a dozen trees, but we bought sixteen, figuring if four didn’t make it, and we’d still have twelve, live, producing trees.

I called my dad about planting an orchard. He’d planted lots of trees.  “The only thing you need to remember,” he said, “is don’t plant a $10 tree in a $2 hole.”

So I hired a man with a backhoe to dig me some $10 holes. “How big do you want the holes?” he asked. I said, “Man, I don’t know. How does three feet across sound?”

“Seems good to me,” he replied.

And so, he dug twelve big, wide, deep $10 holes.

It takes a long time to cover up the roots of a tree planted in a hole three feet wide and three feet deep, but we did it. We took the four extra trees we had and stuck them in buckets of dirt out behind the barn.

That night, our tired muscles ached with an honorable pain. A dozen scraggly trees in the middle of a ten-acre field; twelve trees, and a dream that someday there’d be fruit.

Several months later, we drove up to our property to check on the trees. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Stupid grasshoppers. They ate every leaf off of every tree. Not one apple. We cared for those trees as they grew. We nurtured and dreamed, and then those stupid grasshoppers ate the leaves off of my trees?

As I mumbled, and walked across the barn lot and around the back side of the barn, I saw it. Standing straight as a mop handle and leaning against the barn was one of the forgotten twig apple trees we had stuck into a bucket of dirt months earlier. And I could hardly believe my eyes.

Round and firm and nearly perfect they were. Two apples, hanging like isolated ornaments on a Christmas tree, small and green and … ripe.

I walked over to the little tree and I reached out and picked one of those unexpected apples. I polished it on my shirt as I walked into the shade of a nearby tree. And I sat down and ate me an apple. And I pondered about how things grow.

Ever had an expectation for ministry or life that didn’t seem to materialize? Ever have grasshoppers of doubt destroy your vision before it ever got a chance to take root? The best fruit our lives produce, it seems to me, may look insignificant, perhaps growing in some obscure, impossible and unnoticed place.  It may not be happening in just the way you envisioned it. Sometimes the choicest fruit is being produced in places we’d never expect.

“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

1 Corinthians 3:7

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