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What I learned from a trip to my backyard.
 
No, this is not an essay I wrote for an assignment in a grade school class.  It's very now.  I just came from my backyard.
And I have the mosquito bites and sun-kissed cheeks and nose to prove it.
 
We live in a charming house that is --- well, old.  Built in 1879, this quirky and unique structure narrowly missed being consumed by the great conflagration in 1885 that scorched its way from the Bay clear to the Gulf of Mexico, and it survived the Great Storm of 1900, the powerful hurricane that obliterated much of the Island and claimed more than 6,000 victims in its fury.  Truly, it is a delight, and we consider ourselves blessed, to live in this home ... or, more precisely, to be caretakers of this home, preserving the history that was and providing a bit of the history that will be.
 
But, the caretaking requires more than a deep appreciation for this abode.  And our available funds have been dedicated to the more pressing and less desirable necessities of maintaining our little piece of history... the unseen things like plumbing and electrical.  The to-do list is daunting, and so, what has suffered is the backyard.
 
So, on this stunningly beautiful spring day on the Gulf coast, I headed out to the backyard to soak in a bit of the East sun and to spend some alone time with God.  And, in the midst of a moment of quiet, I saw how the backyard is so very much a reflection of who I truly am much of the time.  Allow me to elaborate.
 
Our backyard (like many others' yards, I suppose) is fenced with an 8 foot wooden fence around its entire perimeter.  A stranger would find it difficult to see our backyard.  But that's okay, because we're a bit embarrassed by it.  More like, ashamed by it, really.  We don't even desire for our friends and family to see the backyard either.  The grass is long gone, choked out by more varieties of weeds than I have fingers.  The bulk of the yard is a matted mess of cockleburs that hitchhike on the soles of our shoes and our pantlegs until they invariably nestle themselves in our bathmat or bedside rugs, where they await their shining moment to pierce the flesh of a tender underfoot.   The fenceline provides ample growing stakes for the wiry, climbing weeds and vines that have overgrown their potential and now reach well into the trees, and that are attempting to take upon themselves to bend the majestic tree tops into a stooped-over, undesired bow to the earth.  Even the orderly and tight herringbone pattern of the 127-year old brick walkway is disrupted by protruding tangled bundles of weed-matter that yield the feeling of chaos.  Yes, it's very easy to simply close the backdoor and try to forget about the condition of our backyard.
 
I admit my spiritual life is often like my backyard.  I may have a grand appearance to the casual observer ... the spiritual curb appeal.  But what's behind the facade is, at times, choked out spirituality.  The result of nothing more than neglect on my part.  Failure to devote the time and attention needed to allow the good growth to take root.  It can seem easier to be distant from God, to fill up my day and night with activities that leave little room for the workings of the Spirit, than it is to address the briery thicket of emotions that surface when I take the time to be quiet and sit in stillness with God.  From where I stand looking out the kitchen window, overhauling the backyard can seem to be an overwhelming notion.
 
But as I sat out in the backyard this morning, I remembered that even pulling out a few weeds at a time will free the soil for new and abundant desirable life to fill in the space.  And that's all God really asks of us.  To recognize where we've let the weeds creep in, and to try and pull them out to make more room for the Spirit to work its wonders in us and give us renewed life.  Even only pulling out a few at a time.
 
As I sat there in the backyard this morning, looking around at the weeds and reflecting upon this nature-made spiritual mirror, my eyes spied an area of turned-up earth over in the corner of the yard, the site of a recent plumbing repair.  And I was reminded of the rich and fertile soil that lies within, just beneath the surface of our yard . . . just beneath the surface of me.

 

Grace and peace to you as you journey.

Yours in Christ,  

~~Jennifer

3/14/06

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