Time to Turn Back?

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Looking for blueberries in the north section of Dolly Sods Wilderness Area

Looking for blueberries in the north section of Dolly Sods Wilderness Area.

Blueberries: the day of hiking in Dolly Sods was all about the blueberries. Two miles into the hike, I was starting to get nervous about finding berries. We passed the patches that provided last year’s bounty of berries to take home. (See that post titled I Hope There are Blueberries in Heaven by clicking here.) This year, the same patches were not hopeful as the berries were sparse and past their prime. It felt like we were looking in the wrong place. Was it time to turn back?

Just when my answer became a yes to turn back, we met some fellow hikers. Our containers and meandering off the trail identified us as blueberry-pickers. The hikers cheerily informed us that we were very close to a great patch of plentiful blueberries. Their encouragement pointed us in the right direction. Thank goodness we held out hope and did not turn back too soon.

Sometimes we turn back too soon in our faith in response to our circumstances or expectations. Maybe we think we are on the wrong path because we aren’t experiencing the blessings. Or we are sure something better has to be elsewhere. Or we get discouraged because we no longer have the vision in front of us. Maybe we are simply tired of walking.

Those are the times that we need to push forward in faith, expecting good things around the next bend of the path. May the encouragement of others refine our desire to continue following God. Let’s remain committed to wherever God is leading so we can bask in His presence.

 

Ruth 1:16

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.

 

Exodus 13:21-22

By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

 

A Bucket of Blessings

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Huckleberries

My husband’s family is from the mountains of West Virginia. I fell in love with the people, the natural beauty and the wild huckleberries (blueberries to us mid-westerners.) It was the perfect trio: picking blueberries with good company in the fresh mountain air.

Picking wild blueberries is work. The plants are low to the ground. The patches are spread out yonder. Sometimes the locals are protective of their turf and will scare you with warnings of snakes in their favorite patch. (Thank goodness I never saw a snake!) Picking blueberries requires patience as it takes forever to fill a bucket because wild blueberries are the miniature version of the store-bought kind.

Year after year, I would pick blueberries with my husband’s grandmother and her dear friend Barb. We would pick to our hearts’ content or until it was time for our family to leave West Virginia behind. I remember one year in particular. I shared my many plans for all the blueberries I was picking. Then I asked Barb what she was going to do with her berries. She replied that she was picking for a friend. I wasn’t surprised as Barb was always doing nice things for other people. Barb had many friends.

On the last day of our vacation as were getting ready to pack up and head home, Barb approached me. With her bounty of blueberries picked over the previous week, Barb handed me the container and shared, “These are for you, friend.”

I didn’t see it coming. We had toiled side by side for a week. While picking, I remember thinking that “this friend” must be special to receive such a generous gift. And come to find out, I was that friend! I had been satisfied with what I was able to pick, but Barb had something else in mind: a bucketful of blessings that I didn’t expect. I was floored by her expression of love.

I thank God for His blessings poured out on me in blueberries and in other ways. God blesses us with the help of others as we muddle through life together. God surprises us with blessings in the most difficult places. God brings people into our lives at just that right moment to remind us of His enduring love. God opens our eyes to see Him when all we can focus on is our circumstances. God intends extra blessings even when we are content with what we have.

God fills my bucket of blessings to overflowing.

 

John 1:16

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 

 

Psalm 23:5-6

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 

 

I Hope There are Blueberries in Heaven!

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Picking a Blueberry Patch in the Mountains of West Virginia

Picking a Blueberry Patch in the Mountains of West Virginia (Berries with a Beautiful View!)

I have always looked forward to picking wild blueberries in the mountains of West Virginia. I first got hooked years ago when my boyfriend-turned-fiancé and now husband of 26 years took me to meet his grandmother, “Grams.”

The evening walk with Grams and Grams’ dear friend Barb included blueberry picking and girl talk. When Gram’s arthritis kept her from long walks and stooping over to pick berries, it was just Barb and I. And now and then, my two boys would join us. After Gram’s death, we spent our West Virginia vacations with Barb and I kept picking berries.

In good years, I gathered enough berries to make a batch of jam. One year, we celebrated my youngest son’s birthday with a blueberry pie. The family favorite was always Grams’ recipe for pancakes with blueberries thrown in. I thought we would pick blueberries forever. For Barb was my scout to find the berry patches and to let us know when to plan our yearly visit in order to fill my freezer with berries. But Barb died suddenly and I lost my best blueberry-picking buddy ever.

A couple years passed and the desire to pick berries lingered and grew. This year while on vacation, I was determined to find blueberries and to start a new tradition of berry-picking with my daughter-in-law. It didn’t happen. Wrong time of the summer. Wrong place.

On the next to last day of vacation after the kids left, my consolation was a hike in Dolly Sods with a beautiful view of Canaan Valley. And a surprise. Ripe blueberries along the trail. A trail I was not familiar with. A trail that I have never ventured on before. My heart swelled with joy at the sight. Enough berries to eat out of hand. Enough berries to take home and make Grams’ blueberry pancakes.

I smiled at my taste of blueberry heaven. Then my eyes welled up. It wasn’t just about that blueberry goodness. I missed Grams. I missed Barb. I missed the time that has gone by so fast. It was about the good memories. It was about the connection with those I loved and lost. It was all about the feeling that blueberry-picking evokes in me: love and longing. I hope there are blueberries in heaven for my berry-picking buddies are waiting for me.

 

Ezekiel 47:12

Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.

 

Revelation 22:1-2

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.