For weeks I haven't had to worry about mowing my yard or trimming the bushes or pulling weeds from the flower beds. The drought here in the Midwest has all but taken care of the yard work for the season. Even the watering became almost futile a couple of weeks back. Now I just take the watering can to a few herbs and flowers.
But a few days ago, I noticed that here and there my lawn was looking a bit shaggy. In some places, the grass or weeds were a little taller than the rest of the lawn, and at the end of the driveway, several hardy weeds were standing about a foot taller than all the rest, apparently a drought-resistant collection of vegetation.
Rather than gas up the lawn mower for just a few patches, I charged the battery to my weed eater, and then tackled the unruly patches by swinging the electrical tool back and forth until the lawn was smooth again.
When I went after the foot-tall weeds at the end of the driveway, though, the weed eater was impervious to the woody stems that had grown thick from weeks of neglect. I tried and tried to cut down the dozen or so weeds near the mailbox and down in the storm sewer, but eventually gave up.
The only way I was going to be able to get rid of the weeds was to set the machine aside and use my hands to pull them. This was no impersonal air attack by the weed eater. This was going to be mano-a-mano.
Only the plants don't actually have hands.
At the beginning of this year, I prayed that the Lord would give me a word or phrase that might carry me through the 365 days of 2012. As I prayed, I actually got three words, three words that continue to help turn "my present reality into a future possibility." The three words? STAY IN THIS.
When I first began to think about those words, I wasn't sure I really needed to commit my word for the whole year to the principle of perseverance. In fact, I've been persevering through trials and tragedies for years. A person doesn't survive cancer or long-term singleness or even a writing career without a good dose of stick-to-it-iveness.
And honestly, when you set up your word for the year to be "stay in this," aren't you just begging for something bad to happen?
But now that I am more than half way through the year of "Stay In This," I am starting to see that the Lord wasn't asking me to persevere through difficult circumstances. That's a lesson I have been learning for years.
This year, the Lord is asking me to stay engaged in life for blessing. He wants me to stay in this so I can watch him do what I never dreamed He would do in my life.
A new job, a new relationship, a new diet, a new lease on life. I've been writing about these things off an on, even confessing how hard it is for me to receive good things from the Lord after having received so much bad over the years.
But it wasn't until I was pulling weeds in the front yard in the middle of a drought that I realized how all of these things are what were waiting for me if only I would stay in this, this life that can be so disappointing and so rewarding all at once.
When I was just planning to mow down the weeds at the end of the driveway with the weed eater, all I saw was how unseemly they were, making the yard look like nobody cared about it. But when I actually set about pulling the weeds by hand, I realized they weren't so ugly afterall.
In fact, all of the weeds had some kind of flower blooming. White, purple, and yellows petals adorned the tops of these predatory plants. The fact that they had survived the drought meant they were scrappy. But scrappy and beautiful? It made it harder to pull them.
When I was telling my mom about them, I said, "I don't think I've ever even seen plants like these around here. They were actually kind of pretty."
"Well, they probably have been growing there all along," she said, "they just usually get cut down when they are smaller by the lawnmower, along with the grass and the other weeds."
"Ahhh, I hadn't thought of that," I said.
It took a drought for me to see how beautiful they could actually be.