The Ground Work

Yesterday, I was out in the backyard with my dog when I noticed something sticking out of the ground. It looked a little bit like part of a broom handle, but the dirt around the end of it was still frozen enough that I couldn’t dislodge it. Since I’ve lived here only five months, and I’ve never had a broom with a red handle, I began to wonder where it came from.

Other things have come out of the ground in recent days. Two days ago, I found a bottle cap covered in dirt, and a little blue plastic piece of something showed up a couple of weeks ago. With the alternate snow, ice, thaw, and freeze, it would come and go on my radar. Yesterday I finally decided to pick it up and throw it in the garbage.

I’ve been noticing the ground more lately since the title and deed to this little plot claim I’m the one responsible for it. For instance, last fall, I pulled up bags full of some kind of viney ground cover that was choking out the grass around my big tree in the back yard. The vegetation had even made its way further into the lawn where the previous tenants had constructed a fire pit. It was full of old bricks and charred pieces of wood along with all kinds of garbage. While I was raking and cleaning up the yard last October, I decided to haul away all of these things too.

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In the past few months, though, with a warmer than usual winter, and a lot of rain rather than snow, I’ve discovered that the sump pump from my crawl space empties right into the very area that I cleared of all vegetation. I had sewn some grass seed over the area last fall, but since it hadn’t had a chance to grow, the bare area took on more water from the sump pump than it would have naturally. Now, instead of infectious ground cover, I have gullies and troughs, sure signs of ground erosion.

As spring slowly emerges and the snow and ice finally melt, the thawing earth begins to reveal anew the misdeeds of previous seasons. Things left carelessly around, like broom handles and bottle caps, will surface again and become hazards to trip over if I don’t remove them. Damage from things removed without wisdom and knowledge of the ground itself, like viney ground cover, needs to be replaced by sowing seeds of good vegetation. And this work begins slowly as the temperatures warm and the days grow longer.

Today, I worked out in the yard about 30 minutes, picking up sticks and removing the various found objects that the earth has rejected. In just that short amount of time, my lower back started to ache a little from all the bending and stretching, and I got a little winded from walking back and forth to the stick pile. Later, when I was talking to my mom on the phone, we both agreed that it was good that Spring came slowly at first so that we can get in shape for the work warm weather calls for.

We’ve been examining ourselves during this Lenten season for more than two weeks now. Misplaced objects from the past are shifting to the surface of our hearts, and areas of neglect or unwise decisions are becoming obvious. There is work to be done in making them right , but we have to approach these tasks slowly, gradually gaining the endurance for the greater spiritual work ahead.

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Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.


  • Charity Singleton ,

    Stacey — You’re right, God’s work does feel slow at times. This is probably a dual-purpose slowness: his perfect timing holding back for our imperfect ability to change.

    Mark — I am still getting used to the idea of being an “artist.” It took me years and years of writing before I could be a “writer”! Thanks for the encouragement. Maybe I should put some stuff up here.

    I do the pulling-leaves-off-weeds things too. It’s a quick fix and actually seems to work for a time (both figuratively and literally).

    • Mark Goodyear ,

      Charity, I just came from L.L.’s blog. Great picture! Why don’t you post more of your stuff here? I had no idea you were so talented. Maybe I just didn’t know where to look to find your paintings.

      This post is very touching. My problem is that I keep trying to deal with problems on the surface, but I have yet to cut out the original root (and usually I don’t know how). It’s like I’m trying to kill the weeds by tearing off their leaves.

      • Stacey ,

        Thanks so much for the reminder that God is slowly working on us all the time. Sometimes I feel just like “Little Boy Blue” in your last post, and I just can’t stand my own squirmy-ness. Your insights give me hope.

        • Charity Singleton ,

          Eve — Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be looking forward to many more years of finding things in the back yard. A few things I didn’t mention the other day that I’ve found are an intact jelly jar filled with dirt, pen caps, lids off beer bottles, and many pieces of metal piping of various lengths and diameters. Maybe this house is actually sitting on an abandoned land fill!

          Craver — Thanks for the compliment. I’m not always sure the connections that are so clear in my head make it onto the paper. I really like the horizantal and vertical aspects to connecting the dots that you mentioned. What a great way to approach life.

          • Charity Singleton ,

            Ted — I appreciate hearing of your experiences for taking care of the ground of your heart. Amazing how slow the work can seem, huh? An old John Mayer song I love says something like, I can’t wait til the day when I can say that’s what I used to be like. Oh how I relate to that song.

            LL — You have touched on something important. When the neglect is blatant we can expect the consequences. When we have been ignorant, the consequences are delayed and often more painful.

            • Craver Vii ,

              Connecting the dots. I love doing that. Whether it’s figuring out how to “connect the dots” to bring out the humor in a situation, or “connecting the dots” to build relationships with people (that’s horizontal) or “connecting the dots” as we say, “ahaa” to what God has revealed (that would be vertical), I’ll say it again; I love connecting the dots.

              You have done a superb job here as you started by keeping us interested as you told of the ordinary, and then connected the dots to redirect our eyes to things vertical with the Lenten lesson.

              • Eve Nielsen ,

                Our yards sound similar. 6 years ago we bought our property and I have been hauling out garbage ever since. I even found and entire metal barrel buried upright!

                • L.L. Barkat ,

                  oh yes. I’m dealing with some areas of neglect right now. but sometimes we don’t even know we’ve neglected, until the fruit of that comes on, as a bitter taste to the mouth

                  • Ted Gossard ,

                    Charity, Good analogy to your yard situation.

                    Yes. I think the only way soul work gets done in such a way as to lastingly change us, is surely slow, deliberate, and over time.

                    Earlier in my life I used to place pretty high value on yanking the evil out. And getting the new in (hopefully I went that far). Like in an experience that is life impacting. Not to say that can never happen. But even when it does it needs to be accompanied with an openness, and participation in this slower work, over time.

                    After all, God works that way. And though we are participants with him in it, only he knows what he’s doing and where this project is really headed. Though I think, too, as we keep going on with him, we begin to understand alot (knowing his ways, as well as his works). Sorry for my rambling, long comment.

                    Hope you have a great and fun Spring, at your new residence.