Apples, Apricots, and Acts of Worship

An Inviting Hallway. Ojai Valley Inn and Spa. September, 2011.


Seeking Treasures in Shangri-La

An unexpected gift led my husband and me to spend our anniversary weekend in Ojai, a tiny town tucked snugly into the hills east of Ventura. We crave tranquility when we travel; the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa promised peace. And so we went. 
Upon arrival a smiling bellman opened my car door, greeted us with real words and escorted us to the lobby. After the check-in ritual, he led us to a golf cart, loaded our luggage, and drove us through the property, pointing out the spa, the pro shop, the gift store, the restaurants, all housed in white stucco and red tile, surrounded by impeccable gardens and paths. 
I felt myself exhaling way down to my toes. This will be a good place to spot God, I thought to myself. 
And it was easy to see Him here, in this magnificent setting, staffed by helpful people with authentic smiles and caring voices. 
Our room was edged by a balcony that offered a gaping view of the golf course and the hills beyond.
A walk-in closet provided ample space for our clothes. Built in 1923, I suspect the inn had been designed to cater to travelers arriving by train, trunks packed for a long respite. 
Everywhere we turned, we discovered an invitation to rest awhile, to relax, to drink in the calm of the day. Sitting areas called us from interior corridors.
Outside, courtyards also invited. One evening we watched a family roasting marshmallows over a fire pit here, the flames’ reflection illuminating happy faces. 
As we explored, pathways asked us to tread on gravel, to peek around the next bend, to see what came next.
Even the corners of the herb garden promised rest.
In the morning, deer browsed unmolested on the driving range. 
We found other treasures, too: soap that smelled of the herb garden at dawn, the scents still drowsy as they awaited the sun’s intensifying warmth. Sheets softer than newborn skin, covering a bed that coaxed deep, restful sleep from us. 
And the greatest gift of all: apricots. 
We’ve visited hotels that offered fruit in the lobby, or in the guestrooms. Always we’d find apples, cold-stored and sturdy, prepared to sit awhile before being claimed by a hungry visitor. Here, we found three flawless golden apricots, tree-ripened to yielding perfection, fragile, waiting in a miniature crate on an old wooden table in our room. 
All weekend I thought about those apricots. It’s safe and easy to dump a sack of apples into a bowl and leave them to be taken, or not. Apricots are different. Handled roughly, they’ll bruise. Offered too soon, they’re hard and bitter. Left too long, they’re unpleasant mush. Yes, a gift of apricots requires timing, discernment, careful handling….love.
The apricots taught me something: in my marriage, in my family, in my church, in my neighborhood, in my work….in my life: I’ve offered too many easy, sturdy apples and not enough tender, perfect apricots. 
Apricots have a place in my life plan. In my quest to make every act an act of worship, I’m going to do my best to share fewer apples. And more apricots.
1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Ephesians 5:1-2 (NASB)

I’m linking up with Ann Kroeker for Food on Fridays–because apricots are food, after all. Please stop by and feast.

Comments

  1. What a lovely idea! I'll never look at apricots the same again. Thank you for your ministry today, your blessings today, your challenge to me to hand out more perfect apricots in life.

    Linda

  2. Linda, thank you for your kind words. I'm always happy to see you here, Friend.

  3. Inspiring!

  4. Lovely analogy, Sheila – and I loved a chance to look at those fab photos one more time.Thank you.

  5. Such a restful and peaceful blessing to enjoy a time away from home and celebrate your anniversary. You are certainly correct when you say so many Inns have a large bowl of hard apples, but this one offered ripe and delicious apricots. Your thoughts on offering more apricots in life and fewer apples was an amazing and readily received comparison for me.

  6. Brandee, Diana, Hazel,
    Thanks for your kind words. I'm so grateful.

  7. With the apricot, one risks it will remain in the crate, uneaten, and not suitable for another use.

    These are hard investments for us.

    I couldn't eat the apricot without a hospital visit to follow. But you can bet I'd have picked it up, felt the fuzzy skin, maybe even rubbed it on my cheek before I set it back, still grateful foe the giving. The apple? I'd likely walk on by.

    This is a terrific, thoughtful picture.

  8. Risk…that's a good point, Lyla! I'm sorry you can't enjoy an apricot's flavor, but you've found other elements to value. That's a gift.

    Thanks for your kind words.

  9. It sounds like the entire visit was an apricot–a perfectly restful perfect give, perfectly timed in your life.

    It's beautiful, these pictures.

    I actually got a little teary-eyed. I've never stayed in a place as well-appointed and peaceful as this spa, and suddenly craved it for myself–not at your expense; only to enjoy a setting like that with my husband someday.

    I guess you could say I'm craving apricots. 🙂

    So glad you linked to Food on Fridays. It's this gentle stretch of the topic that delights me. Yes, it's about food, and yet…it's so much more.

  10. Ann, it was. Apricot through and through.

    Rich and I had never enjoyed such a place either…and we so loved it. I hope that you and your husband have an opportunity to do so. A generous, unexpected gift sent us there 🙂

    I'm glad this felt like a stretch, and not a turning-inside-out, of your carnival.

  11. The analogy to life is perfect and the pictures are fantastic. Thank you for the wonderful post. You seem to always find a way to lift my day.

  12. Red, thank you! You encourage me so.