The Promised Land (is in Our Front Yard)

(Monday management post on a Tuesday.  Read on to see why....)

The yard was a mess.

And in spite of our good efforts, its large size coupled with unending weeks of summer rain had made for an autumn train wreck in the beds, shrubs, and hedges.

But we had a bigger problem. David's increasing work responsibilities (plus coaching two football teams, chairing two boards, raising five children) have kept him from the yard, which he actually seems to enjoy after the intense quantitative wonder powers he burns through in the office.  And although I have been spotted on the riding mower once or twice, you can imagine it's not practical with a baby in tow.

And, I have to admit, the yard has been a point of contention for me.  I frankly have wanted to get outside help for 17 - yes, seventeen - years.  My upbringing included paid lawn crews, his...well, didn't.  I think the worst argument we ever had involved my ill-fated attempt to hire a lawn man when David was still in his suit-and-tie job in South Florida. While I'm not a marriage expert by any stretch, I have learned from experience when not to push him for things that will never happen. 

So I pray instead.

And yesterday, God came through for me in a big way. In His perfect timing,
our maxim of saving not spending and
our values of joyfully giving and
our desire to serve those in need and
our real-time problem of imminent lawn disaster
all converged to one point with the triumphant arrival of the white van of Promise Land Ministries.

Sure enough, Monday morning, my lawn-saving chariot rolled down the lane laden with scruffy men and a lengthy trailer of equipment.  But this was a different sort of group.  They're from a halfway house down south of Tallahassee, and, while I don't know their life stories, most are former drug or alcohol addicts, trying to gain a second chance and transition back into the world.  The ministry offers yard work in exchange for donations of any amount, and uses funds to provide these young men with a Christian environment, some sort of income, food, shelter, and the focus of a structured day's work.

They arrived, piled out, and, to be perfectly honest, my initial reaction was one of trepidation.  This was not exactly the typical crowd that's come down the driveway to visit, I'm embarrassed to say.  There were teeth missing and ratty clothes and soiled ball caps and a lively assortment of tattoos.  But as I stood watching them cheerfully grabbing their various equipment and getting to work, the fear dissipated and was replaced with this heartbreaking thought:  that young man is someone's son.  There is a mother out there somewhere worrying about him.  He might look world-weary to me, but I am a witness to how he is trying his best on our unwieldy hedges, taking extra care to shape and trim, not knowing how much the final "donation" is going to be.  How can I thank him for this willing act of service?

Unexpectedly, I stood in my front yard on a random overcast Monday morning and was being offered the chance to minister to someone's son. To His Son. 

All the while, they reciprocated by being an answered prayer to me and blessing our family with their labors. 

This man is the group supervisor.
He likes ice cream sandwiches, come to find out.

They are watching us,
these sons of the world.

So I decided to put away fear and the culture gap between this WASPy housewife and those workmen who have been held by addiction, and to treat them as guests.  At the same moment, David came downstairs and verbalized my thoughts: "Why don't you go ahead and order them some lunch?"  We were finally in a place of unity over an initially divisive issue (yard work) rather than stuck in a place of consternation and frustration.  

We search with complexity for how to know the Lord's will, and He reveals it to us in simple Monday moments.

Out came the table cloth and plates, and when the food arrived, they eagerly sat down and with one action, clasped hands and prayed. 

That's about when I started to cry.

Oh Lord, thank you that have brought these guests and willing workers to my table and they have acknowledged You before me.  I am grateful that after seventeen years of hoping, it has led to this worthwhile moment in time.

When Josh woke up from his nap, we joined them at the table and, wouldn't you know it, most of them are fathers themselves.  Seeing our baby in their midst brought up tales and descriptions of the little folks in their world that they happily shared with me.  The two year old twins, one boy and one girl.  The 53-inch tall five year old (whoa!).  The common thread of children was the bridge between our worlds.  Reading between the lines, Josh's presence seemed to inspire them and remind them of why they are fighting back to normalcy: those children they have brought into being who need a strong and healthy father in their lives.

And when my kids jumped in the car at school pickup later on, it was great fun to recount the day's strange and wonderful events.  I teared up a little at the touching moments; they teared up a little that they would be off of yard duty for the near term.  Score one for Monday.

P.S.  One nice fella found something in the pool's overflow tank.  You guessed it.

For more information about this charitable way to get yard work done, contact Ed at www.promiselandministries.org.

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