Our property is 2 1/2 acres right in the middle of town. Having such a large parcel in a neighborhood setting means that our little farm shares a boundary with at least a dozen others. Which gives us just as many relationship opportunities in managing the fence lines.
A couple weeks ago when I was out mowing I noticed a patch of thistles that only needed a week of hot weather to go to seed (see upper left corner of photo below).
They were rooted on the other side of the fence, but–since the neighboring parcel is an empty lot, and they were leaning over the fence, and (I told myself) thistles don’t know or care that there’s a fence there–I knew they were my problem to deal with.
I headed out early one morning, suited for battle: fully covered, heavy boots, thick gloves, and a long pair of loppers. It was darn hot and I was more suitably dressed for shoveling snow than for hard mid-summer labor. My eyes burned from the sweat dripping and my fingers ached from the thorns (which still found their way through two pair of gloves).
A voice in my head protested, “This is miserable!”
But then another quieter voice, gently said, “No it’s not. I’m enjoying this…This is grace.” The second I heard it, I knew it was right. It was counterintuitive, but it was true. I was enjoying it. It was grace.
To be able to work, after so many years of illness? To labor with my hands, after months of lying on my back? To mix my sweat with the dirt of God’s earth, after such a long time of being able to do nothing but rest? This was grace.
My body knows rest. I know what it is to sit in bed and not be allowed to do the least bit of housework. I know what it is to lie on the couch and watch someone else make dinner and put the kids to bed. I know what it is to sit in the garden shade while someone else sweats over the digging and planting.
When that part of me insisted that I was enjoying wrestling with a patch of thistles, I realized that I had spent so long in forced rest that to work, to move, to sweat, to dig, to pull, to struggle felt like a gift. To be healthy and strong enough to be out in that field, to have the opportunity to create some beauty, that was a gift.
I continued to hack and haul away thistles, sweating and sucking the needles out of my fingers. I contemplated how strange it was to find joy in a task that was so miserable and realized that this. This. Is how I know I am in the right place. This is grace.