Monday, September 27, 2010


How often the word "bittersweet" appears in the stories I read of people's lives and experiences. After having discovered the bittersweet plant growing on our windmill the first autumn we were on our farm (2001) I decided to name my gift shop after it. Life had given us many experiences that were both bitter and sweet. Bitter being the death of my father-in-law, and the death of a niece and later a brother...Sweet being our adventures as a family...being able to visit Boston and New Hampshire in the fall (my very first plane ride!), and the daily adventures of life on the farm, kids in school, etc. So the name seemed fitting in more ways than one...

Outside the window by my cash register, I have often glimpsed shoppers gazing on the beautiful vine on our windmill. In the fall, it is covered in orange berries. Curious lovers of bittersweet come to the shop seemingly because they want to "talk bittersweet". They want to know where I get it, how I grow it, etc. As a result, since I can't take credit for my own vine, I have done some research in order to have a response to the inquiries.

It seems growing bittersweet is a bittersweet experience. For starters, you have to have one male and one female plant. Rarely do people end up with one of each; I have heard it is difficult to distinguish between the two. Then it takes a few years before you see fruit, so it is a painfully long wait for the well~loved vines. I can imagine waiting several years and not seeing any orange berries, only to discover that you wont be getting them...

In my research, I discovered there are two types of vines, those (wild ones) that spread underground and are rampant out East. The articles I have read express frustration with bittersweet choking out other plants, and people want to get rid of it *gasp*!! (I know many Midwesterners who would love to take it!!!)

As time has gone on with our little Bittersweet Farm, and all the bittersweet stories, whether in life or in plants, I've come to understand that the bitter things have a certain impact on us and they seem to make the "sweet" things, well, sweeter! (not that the bitter things don't rightfully cause us to mourn~of course they do!)

Those who have struggled to grow the vine have a reason to connect with those who have one. It brings life~connections. My life has been sweetened by the conversations with people who come in the shop. I hope they would say the same thing!

Those of us who have experienced bitter loss, setbacks, and failures can attest to the awakening of our hearts with gratitude for the "still haves" in life. When we lose a loved one, we cherish our family more. When we experience loss of wealth or home or job, we seem to find that the things we still have are the important things anyway. We look back after recovering, and find that our endurance has increased, and so has our faith.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

If you or someone you know is experincing life's bitterness as a result of loss, come along side of them, be there for them. You don't have to say anything regarding their loss, just a smile, a prayer, a phone call is all that is needed for sweetening bitter times. And a little orange vine to dress up a home in the fall is sweet too!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What Is More Important?

I am quite certain that God loves seeing His children loving on, and enjoying one another, yielding their rights in order to keep peace and unity...being considerate...being compassionate.

Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? Amos 3:3
How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! Psalm 133:1

Jesus prayed for His followers in John 17 just before He went to the cross that we would be one as He and the Father are One.
I don't know if you are seeing what I am seeing in our "Christian world" where ideas clash like waves on the Lake Superior shore. Where people defend their rights instead of giving up something in order to not offend a brother or sister in the Lord. Where self~righteous name~calling seems the popular thing to do when someone is offended by another's choices or by a loving rebuke. "Judgememtal" and "Legalistic" are thrown around like one serving a tennis ball...people seem unbending, unyielding...
Where is the love of Jesus in His followers? Where is our willingness to lay down our lives for the brethren? Where is our self~denial? Where is our humility? Where is our desire for HIM when we are unwilling to submit to one another out of reverence for Him?
Let's read and spread the message of Romans 14 and 15. Particularly Romans 15:2-5:
Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me."For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, if it grieves me, it must grieve you more that people love things and ideas more than You and one another. Please help us to honor You by submitting to one another and walking in unity. Forgive us for our self-protective ways. Help us to be willing to lay down. To once again climb up on the altar and Romans 12:1,2 for YOU!
In Jesus' Name~Amen.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Plans I Have For You...?

This barn is on my running route. When my kids were 5 and 7 and we were homeschooling, we discovered a park about 5 miles from our home in town. It's a lovely setting on the Apple River. Just before you get to the park, you pass this (above) picturesque hobby farm.

 I asked the Lord then if we could live there someday (really, I did!) and felt like He would answer that prayer. It seemed perfect. Ethan loved, loved to be near water (it is a skip and jump from the park). He always gravitated toward flowing water of any kind. It was one of those places of boyhood dreams.
And my husband had his heart set on having a hobby farm. 

Somehow,as we continued to shop the local paper for farms, I anticipated that this farm would become avaliable and it would be ours.

But God had other plans.

It turns out for the last nine years we have been living a half mile from this farm. On a different one.

Somehow, that seems noteworthy to me.

 There is something that still draws me to this little farm when I run by, something about it is alluring. The setting is private, surrounded by woods and cornfields, and so near the little park...but the Lord said, "no". Today I found myself wondering "why?". Not a complaint, but a curiosity...hmm. What is the reason we were parked on the other side of the highway from this little farm and further from the beloved river.

So as I run past this barn, and delight in it's beauty, I the Lord who "chooses the exact places where we live" (Acts 17:26b) Not on this farm, but on one a half mile away...Why?
But I don't need an answer, because I know He knows.
And that is enough for me.
Today our nest is empty. We have just signed to put the farm for sale again. Wonder where He might take us? I hope it is near water. Oh I hope!