Read an Excerpt
Apples OF Gold
A Six-Week Nurturing Program for Women
By Betty Huizenga, Lorraine Mulligan Davis
David C. CookCopyright © 2000 Betty Huizenga
All rights reserved.
* * *
Apples of Gold in Shining Silver;
That's what our words should be.
May the glowing of Your Spirit
Reflect, O Lord, in me.
Help me to guard each word I speak;
May only love proceed,
So that what others hear from me, Lord,
Is really what they need.
May all my words be seasoned, Lord,
So richly by Thy grace,
That when others look upon me
They see Your glorious face.
HOW GOD PLANTED THE SEEDS
Apples of Gold was established in my heart in 1995. I believe the Lord clearly gave me the idea for the program and has blessed it beyond my imagination. It is a unique way to establish relationships with the young women in your church.
It happened this way.
In the spring of 1995, a dear friend asked me to go with her to cooking school at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. It is a place dear to my heart, a place I had visited several times with my husband. It is surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains, a clear mountain river flows through it, and flowers abound. I couldn't wait for the experience.
My husband and I had just sold our business and retired. He was feeling exuberant, and I was feeling a loss. We had worked together for twelve years, and I missed the people greatly. I also loved the work.
While at The Greenbrier, I took a long walk one afternoon. I asked God what He wanted me to do with my life at this time of change. Actually, I was crying out to Him from my heart. I wanted my life to have value and wanted to serve God. I found a chair on the porch of an old cabin and sat down.
The Lord began to speak to me in my mind—not in a still, small voice, but with a voice of calling. There have been many times in my life when I have felt especially close to God, but never have I felt this kind of call. As I write these words, I can still feel the experience deeply in my heart.
As I sat there, the Lord clearly and directly laid out the entire idea, program, Scriptures, and method for Apples of Gold to me. The verses of Scripture in Titus and Proverbs were brought to my mind, as well as the women who would be my partners in mentoring, and how to begin. I excitedly went to my room and began to write down the ideas that came to me. I had a confidence because I knew God had called me to start this program and He had given me a desire to be obedient.
I wrote a Statement of Purpose, which I gave to my pastor. He encouraged me to go for it.
The program is based on two passages of Scripture:
Proverbs 25:11 says,
A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
What an appropriate picture verse for a program about looking into the Word, about cooking and homemaking. We are to speak the Word in a loving and helpful way. I believe the passage also speaks to our senses. This program needs to be well done. It is to honor the Lord. The visual picture of golden apples surrounded by silver is beautiful. (After five years, I have a lovely collection of gold apples, treasured gifts.)
A friend heard a sermon based on this text. The man, a Messianic Jew, gave the following illustration. He said that when we see a silver bowl from afar, it is beautiful and shiny. We admire it. But it is only when we get closer and peer into the bowl that we see the lovely golden apples, worth far more than the silver. That is how we are to study the Word ... look inside for the golden nuggets.
Whatever we do in the kingdom of God, we should do the best we can. Yet, we do not need to be an authority on mentoring to be a mentor. We just need to be obedient. We begin with the premise that we are all in process and are learning together with the younger women.
Obedience to the Lord brings peace and joy to our lives. It also brings blessings. Deuteronomy 28:1-14 attests to this fact. Every verse talks about blessings for obedience in various areas of our life. He promises to bless our city and country, our children, our crops, and our livestock. Verse 5 says, "Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl" (NRSVB). I love that verse! The Lord cares about everything we do.
The second passage is Titus 2:3-5. It says,
Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be discredited (RSV).
The older women should be examples to the younger women, people to look up to and admire. Then the younger women will listen with respect. Did you notice that the primary qualifications are that the mentor be older and admirable? The passage doesn't say an expert or authority.
The six lessons come from that passage:
2. Loving Your Husband
3. Loving Your Children
I now had the outline and was eager to begin. But how would this all work out? When I returned home, I shared first with my husband, and he was completely supportive of the idea. He continues to be an encouragement and helper. He is always interested in new ideas and offers great advice. The day before class, he is in the kitchen with me, helping with advance preparations. It is great!
Another thing on my schedule when I arrived home was a luncheon that my daughter-in-love, Meg, had asked me to hold at our home for her MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) committee, about fifteen women. At the luncheon that day, she asked me to share what happened at The Greenbrier. The women were so excited that most of them became the first class, which amazingly began a few weeks later. We were on the way!
I asked several good friends to be mentors, and they graciously agreed to partner with me to start Apples of Gold. They are a great source of encouragement and joy.
When the first group "graduated," they were asked to pray about someone to invite to the next class. (Because kitchen space may be limited, this is a good way to handle class sign-up.) It is good for each new woman to know that her friend has prayed for her, and felt led to invite her to the class. It also eliminates the problem of the leaders choosing the next class when so many want to attend.
APPLES OF GOLD MISSION STATEMENT
The primary purpose of Apples of Gold is for older women to nurture younger women in the Word of God, the Bible, and to encourage them to obey that Word.
The program is based on the principles taught in Titus 2:3-5, which teach six ways to enhance our spiritual and personal lives, the lives of our family, and the lives of those around us.
The title of the program comes from Proverbs 25:11, which states:
A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
The secondary purpose of the program is the practical application of these principles:
Sharing hospitality with others
TAKE A LOOK AT AN APPLES OF GOLD CLASS
I wish you could visit us before you begin your own Apples of Gold classes. Here's what you would see:
We begin each new series with a luncheon with all the former graduates and the new class members. We call this Applesauce. Each new woman is introduced to the mentors and to the other members so that when class begins the next week, she knows where to come for class, who will be there, and what is expected of her. We ask for a strong commitment, faithful attendance, quality time spent studying the lesson, and a desire to obey the Word of God.
The mentors are present at each meeting, which gives opportunity for the young women to get to know them. Some great friendships have developed among the women.
We meet in a home, which I believe is a very important part of the success of the program. It is a safe haven, it is not church, and the atmosphere encourages conversation. The cook has an easier time if she is familiar with the kitchen. One Apples of Gold program holds classes in several different homes, which I believe is a bit more complicated, but it seems to work just fine.
There is no charge for the program. This, of course, is an option, but I believe if the program can be underwritten, it is best. I know some have the idea that free means unappreciated, but it is my desire to make this program a gift to the busy moms. And it is appreciated! Offering the class at no cost makes it available to all, which is important from a ministry standpoint. It puts everyone on an even plane. It also teaches generosity to all who participate.
We begin at 11:00 A.M. About 10:45 A.M., the women start arriving. They are greeted at the door with a warm welcome and a name tag with their name written in large letters. The first greeting is an amazingly important part of the ministry because it creates a safe, comfortable, and joyous environment. As they walk in, they also receive the recipes and any additional handouts for the day. Some classes give out an Apples of Gold three-ring binder for the extra pages. Ours is green with a gold apple on the front and the words Apples of Gold printed on it. A folder with a gold apple stamped on the front will work just fine.
There is much conversation and laughter. The women are enjoying a day out, one made especially for them. They are welcomed, loved, and pampered for two-and-a-half or more hours for six weeks. I am always impressed with how lovely the women look. For them, it is almost like going to a party.
This is what one woman wrote in the photo album I was given at one class:
Apples of Gold was for me a really special time at a rather difficult time in my life. The cooking class was great, and insights in the Bible study were very helpful. However, for me the best part was simply having time for me, and being pampered a bit. God knew that's what I really needed the most.
When the women arrive, I am already busy in the kitchen. Usually I have prepared some treat ahead of time to whet the appetite. It also helps in making conversation. We begin to cook. As I demonstrate the recipes, the women follow along on their own copy of the recipe, adding their own notes as we go.
This is not a basic cooking class, but one that challenges us to try something different and new. It is meant to be a confidence builder, to teach about new seasonings, ingredients, and techniques, and how to use them in new ways.
I am the only one preparing food; the others are watching, much like the cooking school I attended at The Greenbrier. On occasion, we may try to roll pie crust, make egg rolls, or work with a piece of bread dough to get the feel of it.
At times we have prepared Italian, Greek, Chinese, and American food. We have made breakfast, lunch, brunch, and dinner recipes. We talk about working safely with such foods as chicken, and the importance of clean utensils and dishcloths. We prepare food from scratch, and we learn shortcuts. While we cook, the women are asking questions about shopping and menu planning.
This is the time we get to know one another. It is very comfortable, and I believe it is the main reason for the success of this particular program. We are not in a formal setting. It is just great fun!
We cook for forty-five minutes to one hour. It is important to keep to a schedule in order to finish the lesson completely and have adequate time to eat our lunch. After the cooking class, we have our lesson in another room. This gives the cook and helpers time to clean up, finish cooking, and put the food out for lunch.
The mentor for the day is well prepared for her class. Again, she makes everyone comfortable with a warm greeting, a smile, and perhaps a good anecdote. The young women have also prepared ahead, so it is very important that the mentor sticks to the lesson and does not sidetrack too much with things that are not included in the lesson.
She may share some personal experiences or stories that apply to the lesson, but it is important to finish the lesson each week. Some sharing is good, but remind the women that they will have time to share and ask questions during lunch. We always want to focus on what the Bible says on a topic to keep on target.
Sometimes, though, the Holy Spirit is moving in the group, and it is evident that a certain topic needs to be discussed right now. These can be forever moments, and we want to secure them in our hearts.
The lessons are pertinent. They are for the women. They are about how God wants us to live. We are not trying to change the behavior of our spouse, but our own behavior. Our response is our responsibility. When someone is consistently obedient to God, and her family can see that obedience, there are results that are of God's doing.
After the lesson, we have lunch in smaller groups around tables where we eat the food that we saw prepared earlier. I try to set the tables in several different ways. Sometimes the tables are set with good china; other times nothing matches exactly. I use different silverware and plates. Find a way to make the table look lovely with great napkins or flowers. We want everyone to feel that they can entertain with what they have on hand, adding a little creativity.
On each table there are Table Talk questions for discussion. The questions keep everyone involved in the conversation and not feeling left out. It is often at this time the women really share their hearts and changes are made in their lives, with forever results.
Here is an example of how one woman was changed:
It is with great pleasure and privilege that I have an opportunity to tell you what an impact Apples of Gold has had on me and my family. All I need to say is "laundry" and you know the rest of the story. But that was only the beginning.... The mentoring sessions were convicting and inspiring. I was truly challenged in many areas, and I am so excited to see what God is going to do in my life. The cooking class was a huge inspiration and help to me. The "dessert" was having a few hours out just for me (something I have never done before). I felt loved, nourished, and pampered, and I had a great time of fellowship. God knew I really needed that.
Early in their marriage, there had been a disagreement about how the laundry should be done (sort of a toothpaste argument). The wife made a comment that if he didn't like the way she did the laundry, he could do it for himself. So he did, for nine years. The day we discussed "Loving Your Husband," one of the Table Talk questions was, How will I show more love to my husband this week? She was so convicted about the laundry incident that she left immediately, went home, and did all her husband's laundry. When he arrived home that evening, their daughter, who had helped with Mom's project, greeted Dad at the door and led him into the bedroom to see all his laundered clothing. It was life changing! This had more to do with relationships and problem solving than doing the laundry.
After lunch, everyone is free to leave, but many linger.
The exciting thing is that the program is taken to heart. Women are entertaining who never had a dinner party before. They call me for recipes and menus, and I love that. At Christmas time, Julie had her husband's entire department for dinner. We worked on the menu together. It was a smashing success and a great encouragement to her. Another woman had a Christmas open house. Other women decided to start the tradition of a certain menu for Christmas dinner.
The following quote from a letter gives another testimony to Apples of Gold.
So many positive things have happened in my life since and because of my Apples of Gold summer. Much confidence was gained that went far beyond the kitchen. Apples of Gold was truly a life-changing experience.
New commitments are made to marriages and children, women are convicted about overspending and poor management of their households. The "Purity" lesson is challenging in today's society, as is the "Submission" lesson. Loving children who don't want to obey can be difficult. I believe the lessons help women with these issues.
Many husbands have called and written notes as well. One husband wrote:
I know that this [the letter for the photo album given me] was meant to be written by the Apples of Gold graduates, but I wanted you to hear from a family that has received many benefits from the gift that keeps giving. If you asked Wendy to rate Apples of Gold, she would place it on the list of her most cherished experiences. When she came to your house, Wendy felt that a little bit of heaven reached her as you taught, served, encouraged, mentored, and loved. After each session, she would be so excited about all she had learned watching you cook, and she would pass on the words of wisdom she had received from the mentoring hour.
Excerpted from Apples OF Gold by Betty Huizenga, Lorraine Mulligan Davis. Copyright © 2000 Betty Huizenga. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
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