The focus at our house the last week has been the landscaping. Memorial Day means different things to different people. For some it is graduation, for others a wedding, for others remembering a fallen comrade. For me, it is my deadline to have the landscaping cleaned up and mulched. This spring has been slow in warming up with a few warm days scattered among many more rainy, cold days.
As the holiday approached, we put final plans in place to finish the work by Monday. The highlight of our plan is Saturday when our children, spouses and fiance’ will come and provide manpower in exchange for food. It’s a great trade off – for me, anyway.
In preparation for Saturday, Dave and I kept a tally of all the tasks needing to be finished before the mulch could be put in the beds. I focused on a specific task during the day and when he arrived home in the evening, we worked on something together. Our goal – to be ready before Friday evening so we could enjoy an evening out with friends before the long day of mulching (50 yards of cedar mulch) and planting (10 flats of flowers) on Saturday.
Every year I am struck with how wild the landscaping can become over the fall and winter. Several years ago, we cleared out a narrow area, approximately 3 feet wide, along the one edge of our yard and transplanted hostas and astilbes from another part of the yard. It was an effort to provide a bit of cushion between our yard and the wildness of the woods.
This year, as I worked on this narrow bed to prepare it for mulch, I marveled at how the landscaping is so similar to my life. When I invited Jesus into my life, he began a beautification process. The person he created me to be was hidden under layers of coping mechanisms, bad habits, wounds, laziness, fear, pride, arrogance – you know, rubbish. So he started removing the years of accumulated leaves, sticks, vines, weeds and decay to reveal clean soil. Then he planted in flowers, shrubs, trees, fruit and plants to bless others and glorify him. And he covered the soil with the mulch of his Spirit to protect me from unwanted weeds and brush growing up again.
As I was cleaning out the bed, I noticed how quickly the woods reclaims the area if I am not vigilant. Vines crawled along the ground and wrapped their tentacles around my plants. Weeds grew up and spread out, some easily disrupted and discarded, other not so much. Some weeds actually look quite attractive and harmless at first. Bright green leaves smile and twinkle in the sunlight, hoping to impress me with their innocuous looks. But underneath is a root that amazes me every time. Even the smallest of these plants has a root that seems to go on forever. I think some of them are rooted in another time period entirely. I attack them with ferocity and perseverance. I know what is under there. The root even looks deceptively friendly, making its appearance as a root vegetable – somewhere between a carrot and a parsnip. But it is strong and sturdy and not willing to give up easily. And even when I finally dig it out, I know there is a remnant left behind. I can just tell.
As I struggled through the digging and pulling and cutting and pruning, I am reminded of my heart. The beautification work of the Holy Spirit is amazing. It is complete and thorough. But when I am not attentive, old habits, thought patterns and coping methods begin to sneak into my life. Like a vine crawling from the woods into my landscaping, they seem insignificant at first. But just as the woods will take over in a very short time, I can revert to old patterns.
At times people have commented that our landscaping must take a lot of time to maintain. And I suppose it does. But there is a little secret that makes it almost effortless – attentiveness. First, we regularly clean out the beds. And by regularly, I mean yearly, not weekly. Secondly, mulching is imperative. Weeds are less likely to grow in an area covered with mulch. Thirdly, a regular sweep through the yard to pull out little weeds and check our plants keeps everything looking great and ensures we don’t have enemy takeover.
So how does this relate to my emotional, mental, spiritual and physical well-being? Just as a once-a-year super clean out is necessary in my landscaping, so a once-a-year evaluation of present heart issues is imperative. By staying in tune with where I am in the deepest part of me, I avoid losing sight of the beauty God put within. I see problem areas that need attention and I see strong areas which bring rejoicing.
Last year, we had to reseed about 1/3 of our lawn because there wasn’t enough sunlight getting to the grass to make it prosper. In addition to the reseeding, we removed 6-8 trees that contributed to the heavy shade in the yard. In a yearly sweep of my heart, I might need to replant good habits and do a major renovation of my commitments. It’s a good practice and will ensure health for the long run.
After I do a deep clean sweep, I need to cover my heart with spiritual practices that prevent weeds from taking root in my life. These will change as seasons in my life change. Sometimes I spend more time in quiet meditation than others. Sometimes I practice more prayer, reading, intentional activity or solitude. My exercise routine might change or attentiveness to my diet may take a more prominent role. Whatever it is, these disciplines keep the soil of my heart moist and the weeds of life from germinating and causing me problems.
Finally, a routine sweep through my heart allows me to see issues as they pop up. Last week I wrote in “Walk a Mile…In my Shoes” that I sensed increasing uneasiness in my spirit. When I stopped to take a sweep through my heart, I identified the cause and could root it out. Too many times, I ignore it and the uneasiness grows and develops. Before long, it is an established pattern. That is much more difficult to identify and eliminate.
What does your heart need? Are you in need of deep cleaning, a full sweep through your routines, habits and patterns? What is causing you dis-ease right now? What needs to be eliminated? What needs to be reseeded?
Are there disciplines or spiritual practices you would benefit from in this season of life? Do you need more time alone or intentional activity? How deep is the mulch covering the fertile soil of your heart?
Have you done a routine sweep through your heart? Do you know why you feel uneasy? Is it something you said to a friend that was unkind and requires an apology? Is it something someone said to you that stirred up a forgotten desire? How will you respond?
Today as I look at at my lawn and landscaping, I am at peace. It is ready for summer. I have prepared it well and it will give me many hours of relaxed summer gazing. Sure, I will walk through it every now and then and pull a few weeds. When I mow lawn, I will be attentive to problems that develop. But for the most part, I will enjoy the natural beauty of the landscaping and whisper, “Thank you, Jesus!” every day for making all things wonderful.
Until next time…
May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.Numbers 6:24-26