Out on Bittersweet Farm the year has nearly come to an end. This has been a very good year, one for which we will always thank God. We completed our first year of service to the good people of Bethel in September. We moved last January into our little farmhouse in the countryside. It is a simple and peaceful place out in nature and it has been great gift from God to us. (Soon I will tell you more of the story of Bittersweet Farm—the next chapter. But that is a story for another day).
We were able to have all our children and grandchildren here over Christmas except Holly and Jesse and their family. (We visited them earlier this month to celebrate the birth of their new baby girl).
The Bethel Church has been very good to us, very loving and very generous. We will have to work hard in this parish and stay long to repay them for all their kindness to us and to our family. It has been place of profound healing for us. The spirit at Bethel is a spirit of sincere love.
We Are Happy But We Are Not Home Yet
We like to say; “Every day is a beautiful day out on Bittersweet Farm and the little light in the kitchen is always on…” but there was the flu bug that made its way around the grandchildren and some of the children, and the septic system did fail, there were a couple of cars that did not start or run right, and the time passed so swiftly… There were two funerals during the holidays and a couple people who are in hospice care and there were others who needed encouragement who were passing through especially dark valleys. Pastoral care at a time like that cannot be deferred until the holidays have passed and all the family has returned home.
All this to remind us that we are not yet enjoying the eternal state… where the sin curse is lifted and the whole earth is filled with the glory of the Lord.
When the children leave they always leave items behind. A pair of boots. A charger. An item of clothing. Headphones. When we come across these items they put a lump in our throat and a little ache in our hearts.
Some of us live very far apart, but we live in a time when communication is easy and cheap and travel is often within reach too. They come to see us. Sometimes we are able to visit them.
Each one of the children knows the Lord and that is a strong encouragement in a world that has grown so very dark and difficult spiritually. As quiet comes to the old farmhouse in the evening I sit at my desk for a while most nights and write in the peaceful quietness. We lie under thick covers these winter nights in our cool upstairs bedroom. Just before we drift into sleep we send thankful prayers upward to God. We pray that each of the children and grandchildren will ever cling to God no matter what they face.
In the morning before light I leave to preach the funeral of a sister who has gone to be with the Lord. On the way home I hope to visit a man who has been badly burned. Then Lord willing, I will return home to enjoy what we hope to be a quiet New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with some healthy, reasonable food, maybe a football game, and some quiet conversation before we launch into a new year.
For you who read our letters and stories I would love to know how I can pray for you. I trust God will pour out blessing on you in the New Year.
Summit Township, Michigan
December 31, 2018
Candy Bars for Grown-Ups
Someone locked the door to Hope’s bedroom. No one could find the key. All the windows were locked. There was no way in. There is a cold air return that opens into her room. Finally we came up with a plan. We took the grates off the cold air return and called our little four-year-old grandson, Koen.
“Koen, buddy, can you crawl through there and open the door.”
Fear on his face. Coxing. Pleading. No luck. He was not ready to crawl into the scary dark hole.
More pleading. More cheap psychology; “Are you a big guy? Are you tough?” No deal.
Finally bald, unadorned bribery. “If you crawl into the hole grandpa will take you to the Dollar Store.”
Koen loves to go to the Dollar Store with gramps and buy junk. It might be his favorite thing to do right after driving the car, driving grandpa’s tractor, and shooting his gun at things.
He immediately shot through the opening and emerged from the door with a heroic grin on his adorable little face. He stood there for a few minutes basking in the adulation due his accomplishment and then said; “I’m getting my coat. We have to go to the Dollar Store”
Keira chimed in saying; “I know just what I want and I only need four dollars.” She knew that if grandpa was going to take her brother to the Dollar Store he would never think of leaving her behind and of course she was right.
Off in the cold winter night we went keeping a sharp eye out for deer. Snow all around. Children in the back seat chattering happily. It was a sleigh ride.
We get to the store. Each child choses a toy. We grab a few other things and check out. I stop dead in my tracks…
“What is wrong with this picture children?” I ask.
They look at me puzzled.
“Do you have a candy bar Keira?”
“Koen,” I ask, “Do you have a candy bar?”
“No,” the little tyke says, searching my eyes for meaning.
“I will just tell you this… we don’t go the Dollar Store with grandpa and leave without a candy bar. That is just not how grandpa rolls. What kind do you like?”
I pick a jumbo peanut butter cup. Keira goes for the Oreos. Koen gramps gumboils. Grandpa vetos the gumboils. Running out of time he grabs a Mounds Bar.
The lady behind the counter says; “I like KitKat.”
Everybody gets their candy bar and we toss a KitKat to the nice lady who reacts wonderfully as if she just won the lottery and we walk to car feeling like Scrouge on Christmas morning sending the prize turkey to Bob Cratchit.
On the way home I ask; “How do you like your candy bars?”
Keira; “I love mine.”
Koen; “Mine’s kinda mushy.”
Keira; “Here Koen. Have one of mine. If you want you can have another.”
I ask Koen; “Do you like your candy bar.”
He says; “I think it is for grown-ups.”
“Would you buy it again?” I ask.
I swallow the rest of his Mounds bar. I’m very grown up. Keira shares another of her cookies with her little bother.
Soon we are home. They run into the farmhouse announcing their treasures to mom and grandma and aunt Hope.
Tomorrow I will leave early and when I return home they will be gone home to Wisconsin. The house will be neat and quiet and nothing will get broken and the remotes will be easy to find… No one will lock the bedroom door and our hearts will ache to hear their little voices. We will miss their antics and the cute things they say and we will miss wasting money on cheap toys and candy bars at the Dollar Store.
Summit Township, Michigan
December 31, 2108