Our home sits on a lot that slopes gently toward the lake in our back yard. As we considered the style of home we would construct on our ground, we realized that the natural incline provided us an ideal terrain for a porch deck to overlook the lake from a main level and also for a patio that could give us a great view of the water from a walk out basement. We built the house so that we could view the lake from any door or window on any level along the back side of our home.
Our neighbors to our right and to our left also have lots that slant toward the water. Where the lots converge, small indentations or valleys were created. To the natural eye, these small hills and dales create a naturally-flowing landscape. However, water from a good rain utilized the ground’s angles for another function. The small basins served as a natural conduit for excess water to collect from each lot and flow into the lake. Over the years and despite a thick coverage of grass, the basins have eroded to form two washed-out gullies.
Last week, my husband Dennis decided that the time had come to reinforce the water channels with new dirt. The depth of the ruts had begun to create difficulties as he cut the grass. The children had to jump the gaps while playing in the yard or risk a twisted ankle. Naturally occurring or not, the day arrived when he needed to fill up the washed-out places in our yard.
Borrowing a friend’s pick-up truck, Dennis brought in tons of topsoil. Dirt, although lying cost-free all around our yard, was not free when he went to a landscaper to acquire it. Dirt, although seemingly of inconsequential weight as it rests upon our lot, weighed a ton when scooped into and off the bed of the truck. Dirt, although effortlessly nestled into place throughout our yard, had to be moved from the truck to the ground through great effort.
After a half a day’s labor, my husband had successfully filled the eroded channels. He knew that the fresh beds of dirt would run off quickly unless he could get grass to grow and serve as ground cover to inhibit the erosion. He chose to purchase carpets of sod. So, again he borrowed the truck. Again, he paid for grass that freely grew in our yard; transported heavy rolls of grass that were seemingly weightless while growing on our lawn, and exerted great levels of energy to position the sod next to the grassy areas that grew effortlessly around the yard. After a full day of filling in the furrows and cramming full the crevasses, the ruts that had been formed throughout time were repaired and the back yard was restored to its original merit.
Dennis and I closed out the day by sitting on our porch deck swing and surveying both the lush lawn and the neighborhood pond. He talked about the labor of the day. I commented upon the benefit of his labors. We both agreed that untended ruts are a danger to all who traverse the landscape. In that vein, our conversations moved into a life lesson that we have both experienced and frequently observed in the lives of our congregants.
A Rut – now there’s a hole into which we all fall! Whether our holes are relational ruts, habitual ditches or emotional ravines, they need attention. When we allow the natural run off from the rainy seasons in our lives to produce channels and gorges in our thoughts, our souls or our hearts, we find ourselves too frequently stumbling in the unintended ruts. The good news is that the right soil and the right seed applied through a little extra effort can fill up the gaps. Jesus told his disciples to examine the soil of their hearts and to sow the good seed of the Word of God into their heart’s soil. He cautioned them to put in the effort of insuring that the seed took root and grew. Into this kind of heart, Jesus promised, good kingdom fruit of righteousness, peace and joy could grow. Today may just be the right day for you to begin repairing the ravines from the gully-washing experiences in your life.
My husband has just completed a long recovery process from a foot injury that required reconstructive surgery. The whole season lasted almost 10 months, and most of the time he was confined to a wheelchair. During that bound-to-the-chair stage, he was constantly discovering. He had to discover how to accomplish personal hygiene. (Don’t try to imagine that.) He had to determine how to get in and out of the car, the house, the bed. (I’m sure you can image that.) He had to learn how to call for help from me 20 times each hour without over-playing his sympathy card and over-stepping my patience. (Let your imagination sore on that one!)
As so many normal activities were curtailed, Dennis was somewhat forced to learn a few, new skills. One of those newly acquired aptitudes was the use of a social networking app on his cell phone. He added just about the maximum number of friends on his social platform as the application allows. He learned to post his own messages and reply to all posts from his friends. He also figured out another feature on this platform, which is a place where items can be bought and sold. This marketplace is the tech version of a yard sale.
Perhaps I need to pause her to inform you that Dennis is a salesman. He has always been one. We jokingly say that I married him because I bought what he was selling. My mother said he could sell ice to Eskimos. His business success can be rightfully attributed to his salesmanship. And even in ministry, his ability to present a vision and ask for the congregation to buy in was part of his ability to keep our church in unity of purpose.
Now that you know that characteristic of my husband, engage your imagination again. He found deals on the marketplace. He found treasures through his phone app. He determined that he could buy at a bargain rate and sell at a profit. Just about every skill set that he had ever used could be utilized. He could sell from his seat!
How joyful he was on his first buying and selling deal. He sensed a rush of endorphins and the desire to reproduce the experience. This perfectly-suited endeavor for a retired salesman quickly became Dennis’ new hobby. The dictionary says that a hobby is an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure. Yep – this marketplace fixation fit the definition: done regularly – check; done in one’s leisure time (imagine how that fits with wheelchair bound) – check; done for pleasure – check. Yep – this marketplace fixation definitely fit the definition – Dennis found a new hobby.
Within the first week, he had purchased a set of Lenox china. The pattern was named Eternal. Can you believe it? I had soup bowls in that same pattern that I had purchased years ago to compliment a different Lenox pattern. I laid his deal on my table and described how this purchase should probably remain with me rather than finding another buyer. (Somebody’s endorphins were flowing!) He graciously agreed. After all, he had bought the set at a great deal.
His next purchase was crystal made by Fostoria. Fostoria! Oh my gosh. My mom had bequeathed me matching Coin Glass Fostoria pieces. You guessed it! My collection expanded because of his hobby. Wait! What? A Haviland Limoges Tea Set? I never had but always wanted – yep – that’s now mine. I must admit that I’m okay with Dennis’ new hobby because I now have a hobby of my own – collecting his deals. Check!