Love, Like a Juicy Apple

Catherine McNiel

He runs through the lawn, toddler body wiggling and shaking as only a running toddler body can. He stops to rest a soft, sweaty head on my leg, just a moment, then points at me yelling, “I want you! Do you hold me, Mommy? Do you hold me?”

This boy is a scoop of ice cream, an ice-cold lemonade on a hot day. So delightful, so impossible to put into words. His every movement demands I experience him for myself.

My children love like a crisp autumn apple. Like juice dribbling down chins, grinning while chomping on soft white fruit. They love with sticky hands grabbing my face, my clothes, my body, smearing sweetness in my hair and just-washed sweater.

For my kids, love is not an idea, not something to think about or feel. Love is a full-body contact sport. Skin-on-skin. Tiny hands reach down my shirt, pushing away layers of clothing looking for milk. Tiny bottoms wiggle onto my lap, arms reach around my neck, slobbery mouths trace the lines of my face.

Love is something my kids give and receive with their bodies. Demanding that we reciprocate so they can survive the vulnerable days of infancy and childhood. They entreat us with arms and voices lifted high, to care for their bodies with our bodies, all day (and night), every day (and night).

This exhausting autumn-apple love is life changing.

God, the divine, the ultimate sovereign power of the universe, would like us to think of him like this. Like a loving, nurturing, hands-on parent. The creator of all there is, introducing himself to us not as aloof and indifferent, but compassionate, gracious and abounding in love.

Inviting us to touch him with our sticky hands and squalling voices, he invites us to taste.

In Psalm 34 we are implored to taste and see that the Lord is good. Not listen to. Not think about. Not contemplate or memorize statements. Taste. Like a toddler exploring a crisp autumn apple. God’s goodness and love, dribbling down our chins, sticking to our hands, getting in our hair.

Taste is intimate. We bring something solid into our hands and mouths. We know and enjoy it from inside our bodies. Taste is tangible, sustaining. God’s love and goodness, like a parent, like a juicy apple, is tasteable.

We need love like this. Our troubles, fears, failures – these are as tangible and real as the ground beneath our feet. How can we continue on day after day, without a love we can feel on our skin? The rest of Psalm 34 describes us perfectly: We are hungry and he feeds us. We are afraid and God offers refuge. We are crying out and he meets our needs. We are brokenhearted and the Lord comforts us.

My children are afraid, hungry, crying out, brokenhearted on a daily basis. They reach for me with their cries and their hands. And if I’m honest, I do, too.

God invites us to taste his goodness right here and now, amid trouble, not once when we have it all put together. To reach out for him. To love and be loved like apple juice dripping down a child’s chin.

After all, he made us. We’re his scoop of ice cream, his ice-cold drink. The flavor of delight goes both ways.

Catherine McNiel writes to open eyes to God’s creative, redemptive work in each day – while caring for three kids, two jobs and one enormous garden. Catherine is the author of Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline (NavPress 2017), and loves to connect on Twitter, Facebook or at

This article currently appears in the fall 2017 issue of The MOPS Magazine. If you didn’t get a copy and would like your own, you can subscribe to get The MOPS Magazine in your mailbox every season. If you subscribe, forward your receipt to and we’ll shoot a copy of the current issue in the mail to you for free … just because we like you.