Our first fall in the Adirondacks, I discovered bittersweet growing in our backyard. I wasn’t aware of its name until I looked it up, but I found it intriguing. A beautiful vine with yellow casing opening to red berries and it’s called bittersweet? Why did it have such a paradoxical name?

I may not have understood at the time, but the idea of bittersweet is much more real to me today.

There were so many sweet things surrounding the holidays. We enjoyed Thanksgiving in Dad and Mom’s newly renovated home, where I played with my eleven-month-old nephew. My dad sat at the head of the table and my husband was beside me while we ate, and I did not take that for granted. Our tree is decorated with each ornament telling a story. I look forward to my children opening their presents, and seeing the surprise on their faces.

So where does the bitter come in? I wouldn’t describe myself as bitter, but it seems like there are so many circumstances that are right now: dear friends losing a brother, a coworker facing her husband’s cancer diagnosis, feeling the void of the first holiday without a family member.

The holidays are supposebly the most wonderful time of the year, and there are so many things we can find joy in during this season. But, it can also be extremely hard and at times dark. The shadow of the cross is there, in the midst of His joyous arrival.

I feel that shadow. As much as I enjoyed having Thanksgiving with my family and as much as I was thankful for all that God had brought me through, I am still hurting. This fall was hard. My heart is weary and worn. I am deeply grateful for all that God has done but I am not over it yet. My husband is just beginning to lift more weight but, I feel as if my heart can’t take the weight of any more sorrow.

Instead of being bitter, I am slowing down. I’m trying to be more sensitive and understating of myself and other. I know my greatest need is just to stop and listen and be still. That is where sweetness will come. I am learning that bittersweet can not only be ok, but it can be beautiful, just like the wreaths and decorations made from those striking vines that grew in my backyard.

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