It’s raspberry time. There’s a row of raspberry bushes along the fence at the edge of the garden, between the lily-of-the-valley we’ve done our best to eradicate, and the peonies we’ve done our best to preserve.

I say “row” but it’s more like a tangle that we attempt to keep 24 inches wide. We lose that battle every couple years, to the benefit of the neighbors on the other side of the fence.

These bushes started in our yards almost 30 years ago. By yards, I mean that we planted them first in Goshen, then moved starts to this yard. But our starts came from the Kies family farm in western Hillsdale County in Michigan. Before that, I don’t know where they began.

I just know that on the Sunday evening of Father’s Day, 2021, some of those raspberries were part of a chocolate/cheesecake/raspberry/graham-cracker crust dessert.

It was amazing.


I’m grateful that according to my social media feed, so many people had the best dad ever. I didn’t. Our kids don’t, either.

My dad, our dad, was good and faithful. He never made it out of the second chair in the organization where he served. He often had the hard conversations in churches, asking pastors and other leaders to be accountable to God. It probably kept him in the second chair. It often made him wonder what he could have done, how he could have been successful. And then, right after he retired, he had a stroke which took away some of his mobility, some of his verbosity. Again, it was frustrating.

Our kids don’t really remember him from before his strokes, when he was quicker of speech.

And our kids have a second-chair dad, too. I’m learning to acknowledge that I can do some things well, but, like you, I am more aware of the things I can’t do. Particularly that I can’t do as well as this person or that.

I’m thinking, however, as I look at the bowl of raspberries, as I think ahead to my second piece of pie tomorrow, that “best” is a frustrating label. Even “best for me” feels a little awkward.

Our raspberry plants are long-lasting, durable, and seasonal, with better crops some years than others. They survive without special care. They are prickly, but that’s only to protect the canes. They feed birds and squirrels and people indiscriminately. So did my dad.

Our invitation as people isn’t exactly to be the best. (Who needs that burden?) It certainly isn’t to be perfect. It’s to be, for whatever generations we have, for however we can nourish whoever we can.


Photo credit (and pie): Nancy Swanson

One thought on “Raspberries.

  1. David

    One of my favourite fruits Jon. Along with red currants, which is what I have in my garden. But if I don’t protect the red currents with netting the birds (main culprits are the blackbirds) will eat the lot before they are properly ripe. There must be a blog post in there about protecting fruit.

    Thanks for sharing about your Dad. He sounds rock solid. We need people like him who are prepared to have those difficult conversations, especially in church. Second chair doesn’t matter if it’s the chair God prepared for us.

    I’d love to have Nancy’s cheesecake recipe. We can’t get graham crackers in the UK but we’ll find a substitute.


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