Picking up Sticks

The calendar says it’s Spring these days, even though the weather apparently hasn’t heard the news. And though I had to put a coat on to do so, I finally made it outside to start picking up sticks in my yard.

As a child, picking up sticks was one of my least favorite chores. I am sure there were times when my parents jsut let me stay inside and read rather than fight the fight over a few twigs and branches. Now, I consider the task one of the rites of Spring.

In these early days of Spring when it’s too early to do much gardening on my little suburban plot and the lawn is more brown than green and definitely not ready to mow, bending over to pick up winter’s mess is the first step for getting back into shape. Most of the other outdoor chores will require more energy and greater muscle tone than my flabby, winter body can handle currently. But all the stooping, reaching, grabbing and stacking is just the ticket for easing my way to Spring sveltness.

One of my other favorite parts of picking up sticks in the Spring is finding all of the refuse the earth no longer wants. Through the winter of freezing and thawing, all kinds of foreign objects are shifted and shaken up to the surface. Bits of trash and treasure left by previous owners, absorbed deep into the soil, are now spit out again.

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Last year, I painstakenly picked up various pieces of glass and bottle tops, pen caps and candy wrappers, thinking that by the end of Spring, I had removed all evidence of previous human habitation on my plot. Suprisingly, as I make my way around this same little yard again this Spring, I am finding more evidence that I am not the only person who has been here. Along the edge of a small flower bed, I saw a spoon poking out its head. It’s definitely not part of my set of flatware. I have found bottle caps off of beers I have not drunk, tags from flowers I never planted, and pieces of broken glass from windows I didn’t shatter.

That’s what winter does for the earth. Not only prunes the branches that are overgrown, but also gets rid of the clutter others have left behind. The same thing happens in my life during the dark, wintery seasons.

These past few months have often left my soul feeling bitterly cold, with seemingly little life and growth. But I am seeing Spring come around, and the work of picking up all the refuse has begun: my own branches of fear, discouragement, and hopelessness that have kept my faith from growing and the bits of betrayal, dishonesty, and carelessness that others have left strewn in my life this past year.

I’m not collecting all of this garbage as a prize to be fawned over and made much of. Rather, I am bundling these hurts and sins so they can be dumped on the curb for trash day. And Jesus, who makes much of me when I go through the discipline of this cleanup, will come and take it all away.

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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 lifeā€™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.


  • Ted M. Gossard ,

    Very well put, Charity. Yes, I can see this kind of stuff in my own life. But God is at work. I like the way you put it. And Jesus in the end picking them up and taking them away.

    Thanks, sister.

    • Jennifer L. Griffith ,

      • L.L. Barkat ,

        Outside today, in this beautiful weather, looking at the fallen sticks in my yard (and not at all picking them up but rather taking a little nap in the sun after my tea), I thought of you. You, picking up sticks. And it made me smile. I’m going to say it again… I miss you. šŸ™‚

        • addhumorandfaith ,

          A beautiful post. Thank you.

          Sandra

          • Kelly Steffen ,

            amen and well said, friend. i don’t think i’ll ever pick up sticks the same again.

            Love the analogy, but also excited for you because i know you had greatly anticipated having the strength to pick up sticks! the boys and are just did that a few days ago, but i had to bribe them with tootsie rolls!

            • Llama Momma ,

              Beautiful thoughts on life and faith here. Spring brings with it so much hope! What would winter be without spring? And what would our lives be without the hope of Christ?

              • NaNcY ,

                my least favorite chore was cleaning the bathroom.

                and i still don’t like it.

                spring svelteness…it might take me until fall to get spring swelteness.

                love you, kiddo

                • spaghettipie ,

                  Funny, I’ve been having some deep insights into sin in my life lately, without particularly focusing on digging up sin. I connect with your post and need to work on picking up sticks in my life too.

                  And I’m so glad to see a new post! Selfishly I was missing your encouragement.

                  • L.L. Barkat ,

                    I love this. And I seem to remember a similar post when you first bought the house. The cycle of life! It warms my heart to hear of you doing this once again, and once again finding something for the spirit in the task.

                    • Lloyd Irving Bradbury ,

                      when a child there wa a game of pick up sticks,a simple game of same sized colored sticks. then you tosted them in a pile….Oh I forget!……..

                      • Christianne ,

                        mmmmm . . .

                        sigh . . .

                        that’s what your words do to me. they are so, so lovely. always.

                        • Jennifer L. Griffith ,

                          What a beautiful, timely post for me…though I still have four to fifteen feet of snow still blanketing the debris on my lawn (no lie). I feel as though I’m picking up my own debris inside of my soul. Some of the same stuff that you’re picking up, but caused by a different kind of a storm.

                          You are such an encouragement to me.

                          Thanks, Charity,
                          Jennifer