When I was a waitress, back during my college years, I often heard and learned to use the phrase “in the weeds.” We used it when we were exceedingly busy — as in just short of complete chaos at the greasy spoon restaurant where I served breakfast and lunch. I might have used it as a cry for help.
Recently, I’ve spent most of my weekends “in the weeds” — literal ones in my yard, and I’ve found in those weeds what I termed “a metaphor for my life.” Getting into the yard to pull, rake, and bag weeds is evidence of the hope I’ve found in this near chaos.
The weeds in my yard were so pervasive, even my sons stopped looking at them as “money in the bank” and started seeing them as the futility they were. I had lost hope of ever truly beautifying my lawn.
Until my husband decided on pavers.
(And, no, I don’t mean he decided to pave the entire yard, although that would have been an alternative to weeding.)
After 20+ years in our residence, my husband decided it was time to pave the mulch circular driveway.
Ever thrifty, we had requested loads of free “mulch” from the city each of those 20+ years. The “mulch” was, essentially, chipped lawn debris — fallen trees, mostly, and whatever plant parts that came with them. At the city’s convenience, it dumped two truck loads of such debris on our driveway, and my children spread it to make our drive drivable for another year.
Most recently, the mulch drive was a hotbed for weeds.
My father euphemistically called weeds “volunteers.” To him they were plants that simply volunteered to grow where they were not planted. Weeds don’t make me feel euphemistic. Weeds were meant to be pulled.
And during summers, back when I was teaching, I did just that. Despite my allergy to poison ivy and my lower back pain, I tackled the yard, pulling weeds to fill one wheelbarrow at a time. I prided myself on returning some semblance of order to the yard — and then I returned to the classroom and turned my attention to lesson plans and papers to grade. The lawn returned to a state of disarray until my next summer vacation.
Until one day I didn’t call summer a vacation and started a new, year-round career. Even so, my sons and I would take on the yard every so often but with an increasing sense of futility. The last major cleanup gave me a weed-free lawn for about two weeks, and I didn’t have the heart to try again until my husband announced pavers.
Pavers are multi-colored concrete bricks of various shapes and sizes, rather like tile for your yard. They are sturdy enough to hold large RVs, steady enough to maintain a flat surface despite erosion, tree roots, and sinkholes, and versatile enough to form driveways, sidewalks and walls.
Most important to me is that their presence means the absence of the city’s “mulch” and the introduction of new weeds. I only have to battle the remnants of what we’ve grown through the years plus whatever weed seeds the wind and animal feces contribute. By beautifully separating my yard into sections, the driveway lets me tackle one patch of weeds at a time.
The pavers are an infrastructure that serve a purpose plus give me hope that I can win the battle for my yard.
Recently, I’ve been awaiting a new infrastructure to do the same thing at work. We’ve had some changes in leadership and some hints as to changes in the organization that might follow, and it’s left my particular position a bit unclear. I’ve suffered some nerves and entertained feelings of futility that have made me feel as if I’m “in the weeds.”
“Some clarification is all I need,” I would say to myself. “Once the structure is in place, I’ll be much more able to chart strategic paths for me and my department.”
“It’s as if my yard is a metaphor for my life,” I excitedly told my walking partners one dark morning. I felt so deep and poetic as I went into an explanation of my yard of weeds and the difference the infrastructure of a paved driveway has meant to me. I then connected that experience to what I hoped might happen at work.
They seemed to get it. But then I made the mistake of mentioning this same extended metaphor to my husband.
“You see what I’m saying?” I concluded.
“Sara, you’re the manager,” he answered simply. “You’re supposed to build the infrastructure and lead the way.”
Oh. Yeah. There’s that.
I mentioned this to my walking partners and they said:
“He’s right. You better start moving those piles of pavers.”
By this time, I could laugh with them at my metaphor and determine to move metaphoric piles of pavers at work to build order, direct my team, and just plain get work done well. Like tackling the weeding, it was a change in mindset, a decision to get out and make a difference one weed at a time. For me, it started with prayer, an ask directed at God for vision and clarity as I moved forward in my work day.
(To be clear, I hadn’t lounged around the office prior to that just waiting for infrastructure, despite staying out of the yard prior to the promise of infrastructure. That whole “my yard is a metaphor for my life” thing fails at that point. I had been plugging away at projects and making progress, but inside I felt anxious and unsettled.)
This past weekend, as I saw marked improvement in the extensive azalea beds that grace our front lawn, I breathed in a hope that wasn’t reliant on pavers or my own management skills or that still pending structure at work.
As I breathed out, I started singing an old, familiar hymn:
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand…”
I realized then that I had allowed myself to fret and fume or look at the weeds and get overwhelmed — instead of remembering the “infrastructure” Jesus the solid rock is to me.
He was there all the time, my true hope, the solid rock, the infrastructure of all my days. Not a platitude or simple song reference — although the song lyrics help me remember — but a person, a power, who is present.
My yard isn’t a metaphor for my work life so much as it is a metaphor for life. Just as I needed the infrastructure of a paved driveway to give me hope that I could do battle weeding in my yard, I need an infrastructure to give me hope that I can win life’s battles too.
So while I may be “in the weeds” on any given day, I’ve got hope because I’ve got a Solid Rock infrastructure.