This spring, we planted Macintosh and Delicious apple trees to replace an old tree that fell this winter. The fruit from that tree was tart, suitable only for making pies. And, speaking of pies makes me think fondly of my mother-in-law, who held the gold seal in the baking department. No one could surpass her cooking skills, especially when cooking for her grandkids. She knew what specialty each child liked and always ensured it was freshly baked in the kitchen whenever they visited.
If I close my eyes, I can see her and my boys picking apples from our tree. She would have a scarf tied around her head (that’s when my sons first heard the word ‘babushka’). One of the boys would carry a pail to put the apples in, but each son tried to climb to the tallest branch, not to pick the apples, but to scare their grandmother as she hollered for them to “come down here, right now!” Afterward, they would talk excitedly about the delicious pie their Nana Freeman would bake and whether a dollop of ice cream would be an added treat.
But apples weren’t the only fruit featured in her pies. We gathered pears and cherries for preserves over the years from those trees, despite the decades of harsh winters, dry summers, and fierce winds. We appreciated what those trees had to offer over the years, after the deer made their selections, of course.
The year following my husband’s brain surgery, we planted a heritage apple tree on the farm – a Limbertwig tree. As that tree grew, I discovered its apples resembled crab apples in size and taste.
Now for the tale of the Limbertwig tree…
My Grandpa Thomas grew up in the mountains of North Carolina on a farm with an orchard. Grandpa was a man of few words, but everyone listened intently when he had a story to tell. He once told me about picking those Limbertwig Apples, storing them in the lining of his coat, and taking them to school to share with his schoolmates. The kids gave him the nickname Tom Orchard.
I try to imagine my grandpa, born in 1900, as a boy. Even as a youngster, he must have been lanky and fond of sharing what little he had with his friends. I no longer recall the names of any of his classmates, but I do remember the broad smile on his face as he told the tale of how he became Tom Orchard.
After he died in 1990, I tried to find a Limbertwig tree, but to no avail, so I planted a Dawn Redwood to symbolize Grandpa’s tall stature and silent strength.
In 2005, the year after my husband’s brain surgery, Roy’s Uncle Jack and Aunt Shirley traveled north to visit us, along with their daughter Catherine and her husband, Ben. They surprised us by bringing a Limbertwig tree all the way from the state of North Carolina to our farm here in Michigan.
Can you imagine my surprise and delight when Aunt Shirley told us the variety of apples this tree would bear?
She explained that a local nursery specialized in heritage fruits and vegetables, and when she saw the Limbertwig tree, she had to bring it to me.
She had remembered my tale of Grandpa’s Limbertwig tree long ago. Aunt Shirley shocked me when she said, “Jackie, I have always listened to your stories. And they matter to so many people. I want you to have this tree as a reminder of that.”
You can believe I have worked hard at nurturing that apple tree, investing time in pruning, watering, and fertilizing the tree. Talking to the tree about its true heritage is now part of my gardening routine. We topped the tree this spring in the hope of a greater harvest, and I’m eagerly awaiting the blossoms and signs of fruit (hoping the deer don’t have their feast first.)
A few things I know from this tale remind me of my spiritual walk.
The best time to work on your tree is when it is small and malleable. The same is true in following Christ. Our lives become stronger and healthier when we are rooted firmly in God’s Word at an early age. But if that wasn’t the case for you, there are certainly ways to catch up, grow, flourish, and produce a crop that will honor the Lord.
Consistent watering and fertilizing help expand the root system, so the tree can develop strong and sturdy branches. Regardless of age, we believers need the nurturing and support found with fellow believers who encourage and uplift each other.
The Limbertwig reminds me that stories matter. We each have a unique story to tell and an important purpose as we journey through this life. Words are incredibly powerful – they can build up or tear down. We must use them wisely. And when we share our stories, we inspire, encourage, persuade, warm, and illuminate truths we have discovered.
Do you have a story you would like to share with others? Please share it in the comment section. I promise I’ll listen, just like my Aunt Shirley listened to me – and I may stop by and bring you a basket of apples at harvest time!