While eating lunch with a friend the other day, the topic of spring cleaning and yard work came up in conversation. I listened as she told me all the chores she had accomplished outside over the weekend, silently creating for myself a to-do list that might start to scratch the surface of jobs badly needing to be done around our property. The conversation continued to unfold and we began discussing flower beds. She revealed that once she weeded and dug up her beds in spring, she did not have to touch them again throughout the summer. I was having a hard time with this, being as my beds tend to grow more weeds than flowers, so I asked her what was the secret for having flower beds that don’t sprout weeds. She just shrugged and told me that weeds just don’t grow in her flower beds.
How great would that be? I cannot relate to this experience at all!
By the time we finished talking, I had already begun comparing our home and property to her beautiful showcase house and surrounding grounds. You guessed it- our house and yard could not hold a candle to her home. I further was feeling inadequate in the cleaning and up-keep department around our home, as my weekends are spent trying to tackle one thing on my list all the while being interrupted twenty times by children in the process. But since my friend is quite inspiring, and since I am competitive and driven by self-improvement projects, I decided to tackle an outdoor project this evening while the kids were jumping on the trampoline.
Actually, the project materialized while I was jumping on the trampoline.
The kiddos and I were all outside enjoying a beautiful warm evening when the idea was sprung that we should all jump on the trampoline together. Since I have not been on it at all this year, I thought I would give it a go. After going in to the house first to rid myself of any fluids that might happen to escape via the jumps I was about to execute, I managed to climb aboard and join the acrobatics. It was all good fun for a while until I started to see things from my vantage point up there on the trampoline that I hadn’t noticed from ground level, down below. There was garbage hidden in the brambles along the perimeter of our lawn, old toys from last year lay broken under the tree house and a big box had been blown across the lawn and had landed under the tree line.
All of sudden, I lost interest in jumping with the kids and became very preoccupied with how disgusting this garbage was laying around our property. Furthermore, if it didn’t get picked up tonight, I would not be able to live with myself. It would be an obvious signal that I was as unkempt as I had started to see myself after comparing our yard with that of my friend’s yard. So, I left the kids to challenge one another with flips and somersaults while I went inside to retrieve my gloves and a garbage bag.
I ended up collecting a full bag of garbage in a short fifteen minutes, but along with the garbage I also ended up in a sour mood. I went from having a pleasurable evening spent with my children to feeling the need to do a chore to alleviate my guilt at not having a showcase property. And I also began to notice other jobs that needed to be done. Since I had neither the time nor the stamina to accomplish these jobs tonight, my mood sunk down even deeper. And that feeling of inadequacy persisted for a good part of the evening.
So here I am.
Night has fallen and the children are asleep. I have to slip out for a quick errand, so I rush quickly out the side door of our house and jump into the van. As I am pulling out of the driveway, the thought occurs to me that our house looks pretty after dark. Silky beams of light shine out into the darkness from our porch light. Meanwhile, from under the gable with gingerbread trim shines a light signalling that children are sleeping and adults are on their way soon. Save for these two beacons of light, our home is otherwise enveloped in darkness. But rather than looking cold and inviting, unkempt and uncared for, our house looks like a home. And all the undesirable things that I had seen earlier in the evening- the branches and brush, dead weeds from last year’s gardens, debris and children’s toys are hidden in the forgiving cover of darkness.
I realize that we cannot cover up problem areas in our life and pretend they are not there. I would not wish for anyone to take that moral away from this story. I only feel that sometimes we have to see ourselves, our homes, our person, for who or what they really are, and that a different perspective can sometimes allow us to do so. When I viewed our house and yard in the light of day, I felt it came up short in so many areas. But when I saw our house and property as the home it is- lights shining as beacons for travelling pilgrims near and far who might pass by our way this night- I was able to see our home through different eyes. Eyes that were unable to see the shortcomings but able to see the potential. In the process, I could free myself to let go and just enjoy.
And at the end of the day, it is in darkness that I can now see the light.