A Bountiful Harvest

Who could’ve imagined I would get this excited over 11 apples. Were they the best apples I ever tasted? I’m certain they were. Now it might just be because it took me eight years to get a harvest, but oh what a wonderful harvest it was. Crisp, juicy, delicious; these apples were a reason for celebration. How I got to this joyous moment is a story worth telling.

We purchased the Cross-Dubya knowing it was a reclamation project. We thought the house and outbuildings had pretty good bones. Later, we realized we should’ve removed the rose-colored glasses we were looking through when we bought it. Overgrown fields filled with weeds and very little grass showed how poor the land was. And while there were peach, plum, pear, apple, nectarine, pecan, and papple trees, many showed the effects of the 2011 drought that hit east Texas two years earlier.

After the enormous task of moving in and getting settled, I set out to recover as many of the fruit and nut trees as I could. Lots of aggressive pruning to remove dead and dying branches left most looking pretty sad. I watered only the first year; afraid shocking them with fertilizer might be too much for them. By the end of our third year, only a few remained. With each one I dug up and burned, my sadness grew a bit more. Still, my pastures and fields were green and lush again, the barn rebuilt and new buildings added. The Cross-Dubya was once again alive and prospering.

The few remaining fruit and nut trees were doing pretty well. We got a pecan harvest (almost seven gallons of them), some Asian pears, and we started adding cattle to the landscape. It seemed all was right, except for one sad little apple tree by the workshop. It had been cut back severely before we purchased the land, and no matter how much I watered, fertilized, and cared for it, there was little growth. What I can only imagine was once a majestic 12-15 foot tree, it stood out like a sore thumb alongside the tall pecan trees nearby. The once beautiful apple tree was reduced to a mere four-foot stump with a few scraggly, droopy branches extending from its scarred and bruised trunk.

Only God knows why, but I refused to give up on this little tree. Perhaps it was because each spring, a few blossoms would appear on its weak branches. I decided that if it was going to fight for survival, then I would fight for its survival too. So each year, I watered, fertilized, pruned, prayed, and begged for it to reach its potential. Last year, a few apples appeared, but they wilted away and fell before they ripened. Still, I remained faithful to caring for my little tree. It wasn’t until last year I determined what kind of apple tree it was. I thought golden delicious, but when I saw the russeting around the stem I researched more.

With this year’s harvest, I could confirm they are opal apples (originally from the Pacific Northwest) because of their resistance to browning when exposed to air. I can tell you, they make some of the best eating and baked apples I’ve ever had. While we harvested less than a dozen apples from our little tree this year, I thanked God for His faithfulness in helping me restore our little tree to productivity. The tree is nearly as tall as I am now. I probably won’t live to see it reach its full glory, but am ever-grateful to see it blossom and bring forth fruit again.

Preparing a dish of baked apples, I thought about the parallels between that apple tree and my life. After a period of spiritual drought, it left me scarred, diminished, and dying inside. And while it would’ve been easy to write me off as just another alcohol-swilling, self-absorbed divorced guy, the Holy Spirit never gave up on me. Ignored for many years, He sat silently in the recesses of my heart. He could not look upon my sinful lifestyle. Oh, He’d try to make an appearance now and again, convicting me of my choices and willful attitude, but I’d soon silence Him by choosing my will over His.

I would tell myself I was a good person, but He would not let me forget I was a child of God and that good is no measure of righteousness. It was after realizing how far my life had spiraled out of control; I reached a point when I again listened to His call to return. It wasn’t a simple journey to repentance, but the recovery it brought was worth the effort. And like that once majestic apple tree, I required lots of pruning, fertilization, and watering before I grew again.

The longer it takes to harvest, the sweeter His fruit becomes. Click To Tweet

I’ve wondered if the apples are sweeter because opal apples are that good or if it was all the time, effort, and care I put into them. Perhaps it’s because the reward grew sweeter with each passing season, as all that goodness was stored up inside until it could no longer be contained.

And just like the apple tree I didn’t give up on, God never stopped caring for me. It’s taken a lot of work, with more needed, but I pray the spiritual fruit I’m bearing will one day bring our Father a bountiful harvest. I wonder if God looks down at me and smiles in the same satisfied way I do with my restored apple tree.

God’s blessings,

Please join me each Thursday evening at 9:30 Eastern as host Coach Mark Prasek and I take a trip Around the Cross-Dubya on PJNET TV. We discuss this week’s blog post, offer insight about the lessons learned, and enjoy the fellowship of friends in the live chat room.

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64 thoughts on “A Bountiful Harvest

    1. This I pray Mr. Warren. While I often think I have such a long way to go, and so much more I want to accomplish for Him, I pray daily that I’ve made Him proud of my effort that day. Like the words of the song, I try and live my life out “One day at a time, sweet Jesus…” God’s blessings my friend.

    1. So very kind. Thank you Ms. Lori. That verse came to mind quite often as I pondered and worked on this post ma’am. Along with a few others. I love it when God takes time to show me things He needs me to understand.

  1. I have no doubt that God is smiling down on you, J. D. His deep and abiding care for all of us is exemplified so beautifully in your story about caring for the little apple tree. The Lord will help us to bear fruit that will honor Him.
    Blessings!

    1. I keep praying He leads me to do just that Ms. Martha. I love how He showed me that even when I lay fallow, He still loved and cared for me; and coaxed me to begin growing once again.

  2. J.D., this post is just beautiful! Having just gone apple picking last week, my son and I were wondering how long it takes to get fruit 🙂 The parallels you have drawn out are powerful ones. Some of our lives take longer to produce fruit than others, but we can be sure our Gardener tends to us with great detail and the harvest will come. Grateful to have read your words this morning!

    1. Aww… Thank you Ms. Joanne. Such kind words ma’am. It’s my understanding that most fruit trees take between four and five years until they bear fruit. My guess, based on the trunk size, is that this tree was probably 10 years old when we moved here in 2013; so it had already produced a few years of fruit before the severe drought hit. It took eight long years for it recover enough to begin bearing fruit again. In that, I found the lesson God wanted me to have. I shouldn’t give up on wayward friends and family members, in the same way that He never gave up on me. God’s blessings gentle lady, and I hope you and your family enjoyed those apples. My wife Ms. Diane and I used to love to go apple picking with the youngsters (nephews and nieces) up in Illinois years ago. I loved having all the fruit trees here, and hope to replace many that were lost in the next year or two. One day and one thing at a time though.

    1. You and me both Ms. Gail. Sometimes I am moved to tears of joy when I think of how much of a reclamation project my life was/is. I am floored by his patience and care in my re-creation. 🙂 God’s blessings ma’am.

  3. As I read this encouraging and inspirational piece, J.D., I couldn’t help seeing beyond what went on at the Cross-Dubya. I was thinking about how Jesus felt when you began to respond to His Spirit and to show signs of life. The hope you felt when the buds began to form on your little stump of a tree and signs of fruit began to appear was felt in Heaven when you began to make a turn. And then the joy you felt when you finally harvested a few apples pales in comparison to the celebration in Heaven when you finally broke free of the world’s grip on you. I can relate to much of your story and though I don’t have an apple tree, I’m sort of one myself, and I rejoice that the dried up stump the Lord decided not to pull up and burn may not be a total loss. The choked back tears that came with this picture, weren’t from grief and regret for the bad days, but from the joy of knowing what goes on in Heaven when a harvest finally comes. The One who planted you and me is not going to let the drought of sin and selfishness rob Him of eventually feasting on the fruit He designed us to bear. I may not be able to chomp down on a bowl of your baked apples, my friend, (though I’d love to do that) but my heart got nourished again with your words, and that lasts longer than the apples would anyway.

    1. Oh how the parable of the prodigal son applies to my life my friend. I wonder how God reacted when I wanted to pick a fight with Him following that lonely Christmas, far removed from my family and all that I knew. Were my angry cries and clenched fists met with His loving embrace. I think so. God knew that as much as He would’ve preferred not to, He had to break me into a thousand tiny pieces and recast me on His potter’s wheel. Not sure that I walked away with a limp (like Jacob) that week, but I sure knew I had been in a battle for my life, and that I would never again be the same willful human I had refused to fully surrender those 20+ years earlier. I think of how so easily God could have given up on me, walked away, and shut the doors of heaven to me. Yet He didn’t. He had promised me in His Word that no one could ever snatch me from His mighty hand (John 10:28), and He kept that promise. Even when I was the one trying to extract myself from His hand. Thank you so very much for all your encouragement and for reminding us that we are never alone in this life. God’s blessings old friend.

    1. That’s funny Ms. Connie. Ms. Diane and I say the very same thing about you and Mr. Guy. 🙂 Thank you! And yes, I thought they were Golden Delicious apples too, but when I cut one in half and left it sitting on the counter for three hours, there was hardly any browning at all. That was enough to convince me in was an Opal. Not certain of course, but most Golden Delicious apples, and yes, they’re named aptly too, will brown within about 30 minutes. God’s blessings, and safety when you travel to be with Mr. Neal’s little guys.

  4. It’s no wonder to me why you refused to give up on that apple tree. God the Father never gave up or ever will give up on you.

    “I wonder if God looks down at me and smiles in the same satisfied way I do with my restored apple tree.”

    Wonder no more! He delights in You as He gazes at the beauty of what HE made. And like a good Father, He’s satisfied with your desire to look and behave even more like Him. You are a fruitful apple tree for so many!

    1. How very sweet Ms. Mary. I pray I might one day become the man you describe here ma’am. God’s blessings my friend. I pray God sees me as He has planned for me to be and not for who I am today, a messy work in progress. Potential? Yes. Perfection? Not until that day. 😀

  5. Such a beautiful message of faith and perseverance, my friend. I love the connection to the Holy Spirit who never gives up on us. Those of us who try to grow things always receive an amazing blessing when God shares the gift of harvest with us. Wishing you continued blessings.

  6. J.D., this post brought many smiles as I thought of the Spirit’s work in my life and the lives of loved ones. He redeems wasted years when we turn to Him. Like you, I long for a fruitful harvest so that none of His blessings are wasted. When I see gorgeous fall apples this season, I’ll remember your post and carry its value with me.

    1. This makes me happy Ms. Jeannie. Am so pleased that you enjoyed the post ma’am; as I do yours also. It’s sure going to be something when we meet all the folks we help plant seeds of faith into when we get home isn’t it ma’am.

  7. What a beautiful message, thank you for all your weekly blessings in your posts.
    God be with you and Ms Diane. Will be praying for you both.

    1. What kind words Ms. Sylvia. I say the same thing about your posts ma’am. I’m so glad that statement spoke to you also ma’am. My goodness is not what gets me into heaven. Thank you so much!

  8. Oh my goodness! I love this story and your analogy. What a testament you are for God’s work in our individual lives. You are in full bloom, my friend, and blessing everyone and everything around you.

  9. Such a great picture of how God never gives up on us, just as you never gave up on the little apple tree. And I know you are bearing much spiritual fruit for the Kingdom, J.D.!

  10. Hi J.D.,
    This is such a beautiful post. It encourages me as I wait impatiently for growth and a full return to the things of God in the life of someone I dearly love. Perhaps that long, slow harvest will result in the sweetest fruit.
    Peace and grace,
    Tammy

    1. I join you in those prayers Ms. Tammy. As our days grow short, I pray God moves in a mighty way in my family and extended family. While I’ve come to believe that God will remove all memory of those who never found their way to Him upon our glorification, my heart breaks now knowing some will not. We can’t stop trying to reach and praying for them though can we my young friend? God’s blessings ma’am.

  11. Let me just say, J.D., there is no need to wonder if God smiles at you and is satisfied with your restoration. The answer is yes. A thousand times, yes. I believe His blessings upon you, your answered prayers, your amazing and dedicated ranch, your relationships, even your cows, donkey and dog are visible reminders of God’s joy in you, His faithful messenger and servant. Beautiful story of not giving up. God honors perseverance in beautiful ways.

    1. Without question, I believe myself to be far more blessed than I deserve my friend. And while I can’t earn His love, grace, forgiveness, or salvation, I hope that something I do each day brings Him glory and gives Him reason to smile upon me. God’s blessings sweet friend. Please know that your friendship is counted among my blessings each day.

  12. This story reminded me of the parable of the barren fig tree in Luke 13:6-9. That man didn’t want to cut down the tree but wanted to keep caring for it. Your perseverance paid off and you got those sweet apples. Isn’t it great that God doesn’t throw us out but keeps on feeding us and pruning away the dead works until we can produce a harvest for His kingdom? So thankful for your apples!

  13. Great life lesson JD! And just think about the watering and fertilizing you have been doing to others you have an influence with. You might not get to see the fruitful harvest until you are in glory!
    Bee Fruitful my friend!

    1. Oh how I pray just that Mr. Ben. “Use me Lord. Pour me out and refill me as many times as You see fit Father. I am here but for Your purpose.” Amen my friend. Thank you for being such a great role model for so many.

  14. I thank God for you faithfulness and example, and willingness to share the good and bad parts of your life. I wish these posts could be all bound in a book that we could share with others. What a marvelous Christmas gift it would be!

    1. Aww shucks. I think the greatest blessing is your friendship ma’am. I’m so very glad you are okay for your ordeal the other day. God was certainly watching over you. We never know what God has planned for tomorrow my friend; and I thank you so much for your encouraging words. Might I add that your and Mr. Lynn’s life of love and devotion would be a bestseller and help many see what the Lord has done.

  15. I am so glad that God looks at me the way you viewed the apple tree. I love how He sees in us something no one else sees. And that He takes the time to lovingly prune us and nourish us back to life. Beautiful post JD and I hope you enjoy the fruit of your labor for years to come.

  16. J.D. I will say that you are one good apple! Thanks for sticking with the hard work of getting the tree to grow apples. It reminds me of the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree in Luke 13:6-9 about how how the keeper of the vineyard didn’t cut down the fig tree immediately, but gave it time to be pruned and fertilized so it could bear fruit. God is a good gardener. Thanks for sharing!

    1. You are the second person to point that out Ms. Joanna. What an honor it is to think anything I wrote makes someone think of one of Christ’s lessons. As I mentioned to Ms. Barb, I never considered that wonderful parable, but maybe it was written in my heart and came forth in my writing. 🙂 What a nice thought that is. Thank you ma’am. You’re a pretty good apple too my sweet friend.

  17. As always, a most enjoyable blog! I’m sure the apples are delicious because of your hard work and prayers. I believe God will bless you next year with an even bigger harvest. I also believe He is pleased with the spiritual harvest you are producing for Him!

    1. I pray He will be Ms. Edwina. I don’t know if we will know until that day my friend, buy I pray the impact we have will be worthy of that “Well done My good and faithful servant” for each of us ma’am.

  18. I can almost taste your baked apples, sir. The Lord, who sees the end from the beginning knows those who are His and is relentless toward us. He’s not surprised by your fruitful life, even if you are. We taste & see that He’s good, and offer a taste to others.

    1. Oh, how I pray I do just that Ms. Dottie. If another person can be encouraged to seek God through something I’ve done in my life, then I will feel as though my life mattered. It really does come down the “kingdom work” we do my friend; and I’m grateful to be watching you and learning from your example my friend. God’s blessings.

  19. Wish I could come over for some apple pie. I admire your hard work and perseverance, J.D.. It truly does represent the work of reaching others for Christ. Sometimes it involves a lot and sometimes outreach is a piece of … apple. As in …when we moved to Idaho 5 months ago (from CA–yes, hate me!), I wondered what the orange leaves were which were suddenly appearing on one of the trees in our front yard. I looked more closely and amazingly saw peaches growing. Didn’t know it was a peach tree. Shows what I know. So I’ll bring peaches and you provide the apples.

    1. Oh my friend, then you haven’t got to experience the beauty and smell of peach blossoms in the springtime yet. Oh, is God going to make you smile next spring ma’am. It’ll be a difficult winter for you, especially if you and Mr. Larry are from southern CA, but the thaw makes the spring colors and smells even brighter and better my friend. It’s a deal. I LOVE peach cobbler. Will trade willingly with you sweet friends. God’s blessings; and thank you for your always encouraging and kind words.

    1. Thank you Ms. Jeanne. I think about the many times I’ve given God cause to “give up” on me, and then I thank Him for loving me so much that He refuses to do so. God’s blessings dear lady.

  20. Such a sweet message, brother J.D. We work out in the physical (caring for the tree) what God works out through the Holy Spirit. I love how you saved the little tree and now it’s bearing a crop for you. Yes, may we bear sweet fruit for Jesus through the Holy Spirit’s cultivation, pruning, and fertilization in our lives. Blessings for a fruitful week!

    1. Amen! What a great thought Ms. Karen. As long as we’re alive on the inside, our outside will eventually bear fruit! Thank you so much for adding to our conversation sweet friend. God’s blessings.

  21. J.D., I love this story of your little apple tree. Bearing fruit after all this time is a beautiful depiction of the care and love the Lord gives us as He prunes and cuts back to allow for new growth to take place. I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit’s patience and power in my life to grow me into the image of Christ. Hallelujah!

    1. And such beautiful fruit God is producing through your surrendered life sweet friend. Thank you so much for your kind words; and I’m pleased that you could relate to the post. God’s blessings Ms. Karen.

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