In my opinion, the Lemon Cucumber are the best tasting of all cucumber varieties. Have you ever taken a bite of a cucumber only to realize it tastes bitter? You spit it out and remind yourself to cautiously check each cucumber before it enters a salad on your table. Did you know that the lemon cucumber is never bitter? It is true! Any lemon cucumber you take a bite out of will be refreshing, cool and crisp.
I discovered the lemon cucumber about ten years ago and have planted them every year since. If you read the description of a lemon cucumber, it will say the similarity to lemons is only in color, shape and size, yet my taste buds disagree. They say that the lemon cucumber has just a hint of lemon, which makes it perfect as cucumbers go. Happily, this variety also produces well in the cooler weather of my Pacific Northwest garden.
As I have written in other posts, I am a survivor of childhood ovarian cancer. At age 13 the disease took my ability to have children. In the years since I have had moments of deep sadness, longing and even anger as I wondered, “Why me?” so very many times. I confess that there have been times when a feeling of bitterness has stung my heart.
As mentioned in my earlier post, M is for Melon and Miracles, we pursued adoption and in time were able to adopt four children. But oh the waiting! The self-doubt and despair! The anger at the circumstances, the paperwork and the process, and anger at society! It was a long five years before our first child, and then again long years in between each child. We cried tears of deep sorrow during those many years of waiting, we felt every emotion in the anticipation of contacts and even expected placements that almost happened, and of birth parents who changed their minds. And ever present there was the enduring stress of not knowing and of feeling powerless.
Through this and many other trials I encountered bitterness. Bitterness occurs when we feel someone has taken something from us that we are powerless to get back. Bitterness is fermented un-forgiveness. In any part of your life where you are struggling to forgive another, those unresolved feelings can “mature” and deepen into bitterness.
Has it ever crept into your life? Perhaps you have experienced bitterness with family members who don’t live up to our expectations, Or maybe you have experienced a taste of bitterness with your spouse when he/she doesn’t do all you think he/she should. What about harbored bitterness for those that have offend our children? (Mama Bear Bitterness, right?) When life is hard, bitterness is so easy to embrace. The more we cling to our past injuries, the more we allow the pain to pool and fester. Bitterness will rob us of the joy we can find in anything.
And then there is a deeper sense of bitterness that we can encounter–what may begin as anger can become bitterness towards God for our seemingly unanswered prayers, or for our inevitable trials and challenges.
Lemon cucumber and cucumbers in general will produce fruit within two months of being planted. The plants can look relatively sparse and immature, and yet a cucumber will suddenly appear. I wasn’t expecting any cucumbers on our plants for a couple of more weeks, and then the Midnight Gardener came in last night with our first cuke of the season.
Bitterness is the same. It will produces destructive fruits quickly. When we ruminate on past circumstances or events, too much bitterness can become a part of who we are. This thought cycle, if not challenged, can suddenly produce unexpected fruits of hatred, sadness and hopelessness towards ourselves, or towards a person or set of circumstances that are really out of our control. Bitterness has the potential to take us away from our faith, our trust in God and His plan for us. It can also rob us of meaningful and purpose-filled relationships.
What can help us root out bitterness, despite all we have been through? As I contemplated this question in my own life, four prominent answers have become clear:
1. First and most importantly for me has been faith in the enabling power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. I believe that through Christ’s atonement we can gain strength beyond our own and overcome life’s challenges with help from God.
2. Humility to ask for help. When we are clearly unable to stop overthinking the past, letting go of destructive, constant negative thoughts or scenarios, we may need to seek help from someone we trust or a mental health professional. Staying in the present, maintaining our thoughts in the moment, not in the past or the future, is key. I am a person who has to battle with this challenge and I have needed help and finally asked for it.
3. Choosing joy and remaining active. Happiness has been something I have had to work at choosing every day. I personally must maintain a routine of physical activity (walking, swimming, Yoga) to experience joy-filled days. Also actively making time for service helps me choose happiness with ease.
4. Endurance. I know the last part does not sound glorious! It is absolutely hard work but we have to dig our heels in and fight bitterness.
Adding just a hint of lemon to food or a beverage just brightens the flavor. Cucumbers with a hint of lemon for example are delicious. When we add love and compassion to our everyday lives these will cool a heart filled with bitterness.