It’s April and spring has finally sprung! Bright, yellow Daffodils and “Naked Ladies” (as my husband’s Grandpa loved to call them) have pushed themselves through the soil next to my front steps.
I love April.
Seemingly, the songbirds that stayed all winter long do too. They are happier - now that their robin friends have returned - and you can hear it in their extra-sweet songs they sing at dawn.
I especially love the first week of April, and I’ll tell you why…
There’s a beautiful, two-story cottage-styled house with rustic brick, white trim, and black shutters that greets the residents and guests of our neighborhood. And (in a non-creepy way) I have watched from the window of my kitchen sink the comings and goings of this house for the last five years of living up the hill from them.
Every April - specifically the first week of April - they work their yard.
And I have my own version of this…
They call up their three fully-grown-men-of-sons to drive (or fly in) from wherever they are living at in the country to spend a week with them. Over the phone Mom bribes, “Dad will buy the pizza and I’ll cook my spaghetti, if you’ll come.” Their sons consent and arrive to sleep in their old bedrooms and work every day - all day - for an entire week. Over strong morning coffee and pancakes, bacon, and eggs for breakfast, they start each day with a silly, “Remember the time we…?” Dad laughs and pours himself another cup of coffee, lingering. Mom, however, is anxious to begin and shoves her boys out the door saying, “It’s time to get to work!” They know full well that she’s more bark than bite so they kiss her on the cheek or forehead as they pass her in the doorway. She’s thrilled to have them under her roof again and although she won’t admit it, she’s silently praying for the week to crawl by.
Yes, it’s either that or they simply hire a great landscaping company for $50/hour.
I like my version better.
Regardless, the facts remain that every April - and generally the first week of April - there is movement in the house down the street. Big dump trucks arrive - full of dirt and later mulch. Multiple wheelbarrows come out - as do rakes, leaf bags, and garden gloves. And from the view of my kitchen window, I watch stick and leaf piles form.
Yes, for one week straight my neighbors work their yard.
And just as quickly as it begins, it ends, and everything goes back to being a quiet house down the street.
That is until mid-May/June arrives. Then the entire yard is full of life! Flowers bloom in every color, shape, and size. And all of a sudden, the quaint house takes on a look worthy of being on the front cover of a Better Homes and Gardens issue.
Everyone can appreciate a beautifully-landscaped flower bed and yard…but not everyone can appreciate the hours and hours of hard work it took to get it there.
And that is the way we live our lives sometimes - we’ve all wanted for it to look pretty, make sense, and have people notice as they drive by. But are we willing to give up our time - putting in the long days and late nights and get our hands dirty to make it happen?
When we first moved to the neighborhood, I remembered looking at my neighbor’s yard with some jealousy in my heart: Why can’t I have a yard like that? A deep sigh escaped my lips as I had a 3-year old to engage, a crying toddler to console, and a screaming baby to nurse. Physically exhausted and emotionally drained, I thought that even if I wanted to go outside to feel the sunshine on my face and do some yard work - I still had a sinkful of dirty dishes to tackle and a living room to clean that looked more like Primary Colors had vomitted itself up in toy form.
Yes, there would be no stick-picking-up or tulip-planting for me that day.
I’ve also been guilty of looking at my neighbor’s yard and falling into the trap of comparison. Looking at their yard and then back at mine, I found mine to be…well…embarrassing - compared to theirs. Instead of grass, I had Creeping Charlie; and instead of pruned-back trees, I had fallen sticks.
But if you give things time, time changes things. Nursing babies become walking toddlers who become self-propelled children - who eventually grow into responsible adults.
Slowly, surely, you find your head - and your rhythm - and realize that the house can wait but the sunshine cannot. So you throw on everyone’s jackets and play shoes to go outside and swing for an hour. And on the way up the hill, you pick up a few sticks.
I have learned through my time at the kitchen sink that there is nothing wrong with admiring my neighbor’s yard - I’m just not supposed to look on with jealousy or comparison in my heart.
And we reach a certain level of maturity and security within ourselves when we can turn away and simply be encouraged or inspired.
And if I’m being honest, it took me a few years to get there.
Because I’m not called to work my neighbors yard. I’m called to work mine - and deal with my own sticks and leaves and weeds. And even though my neighbor’s yard may seemingly be more beautiful than mine, I know full well that I’m still in the first week of April.
In fact, I’ll be in the First Week of April for years and years to come - as I’m not done with my landscaping yet. (And if you’re reading between the lines, you’ve realized that I’m not just talking about my neighbor’s yard anymore. I’m talking about Motherhood.)
Because the First Week of April is the dirty-work years. The sweat-blood-and-tears years. The break-your-back-and-have-blisters-to prove-it years.
Yes, these are the years of going to bed too late and waking up too early. For reheating your coffee more than once and eating your food cold. For forgetting what is was like when you peed in private and re-wearing the same pants for more days than you care to admit.
Yes, these days are long. These nights are short. This work is hard. And that sun is hot.
But, if you keep at it…beautiful flowers will bloom as a result of you!
I am currently living my First Week of April, but I know one day - someday - I’ll be able to call up my three sons (plus my daughter) and say, “Dad will buy the pizza and I’ll cook my spaghetti, if you’ll come.”
And the reason they will drive (or fly) the distance from wherever they are at in the country is that I was diligent to my First Week of April.
I didn’t neglect the soil work. I sprayed for bugs and used Miracle-Gro. I took the time to pull the weeds. I was diligent to pick up the sticks. I applied mulch - every year. I burned what needed burned, pruned what needed pruned, and watered what needed watered. And the flowers? They weren’t just for the enjoyment of the neighbors - they were for us! So we often cut ourselves a bouquet for the kitchen table - simply to enjoy.
It turns out that we’re not called to our sister’s yard or our best friend’s yard or even our neighbor’s yard. We’re called to our yard! So let’s tend to it well!
Let’s be diligent to our First Week of April.
Galatians 6:9 says,
9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Now, you’ll have to excuse me. I have a certain blog-post to deliver to a neighbor with a beautifully-landscaped yard. And you can guarantee I’ll pick up a few sticks along the way.