Love at the Bait ‘n’ Bite

Nevertheless I am continually with thee:
thou hast holden me by my right hand.
Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel,
and afterward receive me to glory.

— Psalm 73:23,24


Back again from our favorite retreat. It’s a huge wilderness lake in the North Woods of Minnesota. We boated, we tubed, we swam. We fished, we kayaked, we blueberry-picked. We talked, we laughed, we practiced our loon calls. We caught crawdads and marveled at their icky but wondrous wriggling bodies.


We took the kids to the spot where you can put one foot in the United States and one foot in Canada; humorously, the Canadian side is to your south because of the curving international border.


A tough two-mile hike to a landlocked lake was rewarded with sightings of a beaver and a big turtle. We got up at 2 a.m. and gaped at the stars. Not one but two magnificent bald eagles flew up from a tall tree on the site where our family used to have a cabin, and circled our boat. To me, it was a sign that we were where we were supposed to be, doing what we were designed to do: loving nature and each other.


As if you can’t tell, up there is where I feel happiest. I refresh and renew, draw closer to God, and let Him baby me as only He can. He delights me with His beauty, and He makes me laugh. Somehow, on vacation, I pay better attention to Him.


In one small Minnesota town, I saw a new entrant for my funny business name collection. It is led by the Virgin Mortuary of Hemet, Calif., and Tightwad Bank of Tightwad, Mo. This one is the Cease Funeral Home of Park Rapids. Now, that’s branding!


We also picked up a five-DVD set of old Twilight Zone shows for the kids to watch in the car on the 13-hour drive home. Remember the gremlin one, and the lady fighting the little robots? These were new to the 12-year-old girls, and boy, did they scream. They hid their eyes with 42 pillows, blankets, stuffed animals and sweatshirts, but they still peeked out from time to time, and screamed. The North American Aerospace Defense Command posts were on high alert because of the decibel levels emanating from our car. At least we found a surefire way to keep my Beloved awake and alert for all those highway miles hauling home the boat, the stuff, the fam, the friends, and the very happy and still-wet Labrador.


But my favorite souvenir was a little story of romance in the North Woods:


On the one rainy afternoon during our week, we dipped into an adorable gift shop we have visited many times. It’s a timeless log cabin, complete with an outhouse behind and a spiral staircase to a loft. There are all kinds of cabin knickknacks, blankets, rugs, candles, Native American crafts, needlework, toys, Minnesota books, Christmas decorations, fine coffees and candies . . . a delight for all five senses.


You can tell the owner is a Christian by the sayings on the plaques and by her gentle smile. This year, we found out how she wound up there:


Turns out she is from Illinois. Her family started coming to that lake in the 1930s on vacation. She loved it completely. But, as responsible young adults must do, she finished her schooling and got a job, back in the city. A few years passed, and she was making pretty good money in a pretty good job. But her life was a little blah. She was kind of in a so-so routine. She prayed about it, but nothing much changed.


Then she came to Minnesota on vacation with her family.  She came to the Bait ‘n’ Bite – a combination restaurant, quick shop, hardware store, mayor’s office, barber shop, gas station and bait shop. You know, the type of store with the big sign out front that says something like “Eat Here – Get Gas and Worms.”


Well, she brought her purchases to the owner, an older man, at the cash register. They chatted. Out of the blue, he said, “Hey! We’re looking for a new employee. Why don’t you come to work for us?”


To live here, amid all this beauty, instead of the same-old, same-old city lifestyle? In a snap, she said yes. She didn’t think twice. She wasn’t even scared.


Have you ever had one of those moments where you knew your whole future hinged on whatever decision you made? She plunged into the unknown. She loved it there, knew she belonged there, and trusted God to fill in the blanks.


The No. 1 “blank” was love.


Who knew? The Bait ‘n’ Bite owner’s son was a hunk and a half. They fell hard for each other, like Paul Bunyan dropping a huge white pine with a wham!


And so they got married. And she has lived there for decades now. She says she has never had a spot of doubt that it was God’s plan for her life, all along.


Instead of a boring office job in the city, she has an adorable log cabin gift shop that makes people happy, giving and receiving. She’s meeting people from all over the world who come to the North Woods for the tall, tall trees and the sky-blue water.


They come for a chance to renew, refresh . . . find peace . . . and find and grow love.


In the shop owner’s smile and her dancing eyes, you can see the delight of the Fisherman . . . who knows just what bait will make anybody bite. †

By Susan Darst Williams | | Relationships | © 2020