The town of Dothan, Alabama has many unique amenities, and Maria’s Vineyard is one of its loveliest. Situated on the outskirts of town, this magnificent property is reminiscent of a Tuscan countryside. Maria Cherry had the remarkable vision for creating this vineyard which was started in 1993. Today 42 rows of 12 varieties of organic muscadines (aka southern grapes) thrive. A plentiful supply of trees is also found on the vineyard grounds: olive, fig, Asian pear, apple and citrus. In the summer months, figs are sold while the muscadines are harvested from the end of July until October. I had the opportunity to photograph the vineyards in February of 2013 while on a garden club excursion. A few days ago I photographed the vineyard arrayed its glorious fall harvest.
Maria renovated the existing home on the property after she purchased it. It was totally refurbished and redecorated, and upon entering it you feel as though you have just set foot inside a villa in the Italian countryside.
After Maria Cherry’s untimely death, the vineyard was sold. Today Veronica Philpot along with her husband and parents operate the business. Her five children even help out in the day to day operation. Veronica, a gourmet cook and talented floral designer, has helped make the vineyard a popular venue for weddings, receptions, fundraisers and other social gatherings. A rustic outdoor pavilion has been added to accommodate larger groups.
While walking through the rows of lush grape laden vines in the autumn’s early glow on a recent early fall afternoon, I was reminded of their rich symbolism in application to the Christian life. Grapevines were often used to symbolize the fertility of the land, and their abundance represented God’s favor. Vines were typically pruned after grapes had set on the branches which resulted in stronger branches that would eventually produce an even greater yield at harvest. The trials and afflictions God allows in our lives are there for a purpose. The gardener stops weeding and pruning his vineyard only when he expects no more yield from it. Freedom from suffering yields to uselessness. We can learn many lessons from the Master Gardener.
Vines pruned after the harvest –
Yield a fruitful harvest indeed –
To ensure that a vine produces fruit a gardener must cut off dead branches, inspect for signs of disease and insects as well as prune the branches for maximum fruitfulness. What a beautiful picture of His love and care for us! Jesus is the source of life and strength for the Christian as He works through every circumstance to produce rich fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. A fruitless life is a life tragically wasted.
When we question the trials in our lives, remember the vine and learn from it. Have a blessed Sunday!