Frances and I recently concluded a trip to south Tennessee and north Georgia where we visited dear friends and hiked in the Smokies for two days (referenced in Friday and Saturday's devotionals). Words cannot express the blessedness of this time in our lives, particularly with our friends, but also in the beauty of God's creation as witnessed in the mountain vistas and autumnal foliage of Tennessee and Georgia.
"What an odd coincidence!" Record this statement in the category of "What I Did Not Think" when discovering the supplementary gift of God I now report to you regarding our wonderful journey. About a week before we left for the trip, the thought came to mind that this time of the year not only graces us with the hues and colors of fall foliage. It is also the season of apple harvest. Those of you in more northern locales of the United States know this far better than do I. We live in the southern region of the United States, where our climate does not allow enough cold hours to successfully cultivate apple trees. I love apples, as I've referenced in these messages over the years (particularly God's own favorite, the McIntosh. Yes, Mike, it is God's favorite!). I've always wanted to visit an orchard to pick apples, but I've never been in the apple-growing country at the right time of the year to do so. It's been a lifelong dream, and as I arrive at the threshold of my 58th year this coming Wednesday, I didn't know if it would ever happen in this lifetime.
I rejoice to report that it did! Several days before our trip, I decided to repeat my autumn ritual of visiting the websites of apple orchards just to look at photographs of the trees at harvest time. The first site, Mercier Orchards, looked like a great place (it is!). I was amazed by the beauty of the produce and the multitude of apple products featured on the website. "Hmm," I thought to myself, "I wonder where Mercier Orchards is?". Again, remember that this was the first website I decided to view. The answer came. "In the mountains of Blue Ridge, Georgia." Or, in terms pertinent to my heart, 76.3 miles from where we would be staying for several days with our dear friends Bryan and Peggy. Moreover, this past weekend would be the last public apple picking opportunity of the season. Odd coincidence? I don't think so.
We made our way to Mercier on the last day of our trip. Even more wonderfully, our friends Bryan and Peggy joined us to make a blessing all the more blessed. I don't have words to express what the experience meant to me. It's like that when you stand in an orchard of apples that both whispers and shouts to your heart of a Love so graciously generous as to not only meet our needs, but fulfill many of our desires. Indeed, as I gazed upon beautiful acres and acres of apple-laden trees, tasting and picking one variety after another, and as I reveled in the experience with people so dear to my heart, I found it difficult to control my emotions. I'm having that same difficulty as I write this account of a gift that our Heavenly Father chose to give from the abundance of His glorious heart.
I love the line from the old hymn that affirms, "Out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth and giveth and giveth again!" He does, and this past Saturday I stood, overwhelmed, as the undeserving recipient of such generosity in a place of grace that will be with me always. I write no more, but will rather find another place whereupon I kneel to yet again offer thanks and praise to the One who "giveth and giveth and giveth again."
"Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thy heart."
Weekly Memory Verse
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous. Nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.